Bobby Rondinelli talks about his new band, The Lizards and past work with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and BOC…and his audition with Kiss.

1) Your latest release is Cold Blooded Kings how has it been received?

It’s been received pretty well I think, everyone seems to like it. The critics have been pretty kind to us and the fans seem to like it too which is good news.

2) The album has a very live, organic feel to it. Did you record it in the good old fashioned way where all members were playing live in the studio?

Well, the album was originally a bunch of demos. When our other singer left the band we had a tour scheduled pretty quickly afterwards and we wanted to get some stuff out there with our new singer Mike DiMeo. Those demos wound up being the album. We always play together in the studio and what needs to be fixed gets fixed. As they were only intended to be demos, they have turned out to be more organic than they would have been if we had scrutinised it in the usual way. The demos came out really well and there was only a minimal amount of touching up and overdubs done back in the studio.

3) As far as the song writing goes, who are your main writers or do you all contribute as a band?

Randy and Pat write a little more but we all put stuff in and contribute in different ways as a band and help with the arrangements.

4) Which is your favourite song on the album?

I’m pretty into “Hyperspace” but “Down” is a great song too.

5) You’ve toured extensively over the past year and came over to Europe with Glenn Hughes. Did that go well?

For the most part they went very well. There were a few dodgy gigs but most were very well received. Nobody threw any tomatoes at us and nobody got hurt!!!

6) You played with The Lizards while still a member of BOC for a while before officially joining them. How did you manage to fit this in with BOC’s hectic schedule?

That kept me busy for a while. It was kind of tough!! At the start The Lizards weren’t really bothered about touring. They were just writing and doing some local gigs and an occasional tour. Sometimes I’d fly from one gig to the next gig with the other band and it got a little hectic you know. It eventually came to the point where it wasn’t going to happen anymore. As you know BOC had a very hectic touring schedule so it became harder and harder to do both.

7) What made you finally make the move?

I thought it was maybe time for a change. I done the BOC for a long time, you know, around 8 years or so. It was a great gig and I’m still really good friends with those guys but the time was just right to move on.

8) Was it a big step leaving a band with an international reputation to one with a lower profile?

Sure, it’s never easy to leave a big gig and that was a real good gig. It was really scary. I’d been with BOC for such a long time but it just felt right so I went for it.

9) You have had quite name as a hired hand over the years, were there other offers on the table before you jumped in with The Lizards?

There weren’t any offers around at that particular time. I was so busy with BOC and The Lizards, that I certainly couldn’t have managed any other projects, there’s just not enough time in the day!! I’ve had tons of offers over the years.

10) Were there any offers made to you that you wish you had taken in hindsight?

Oh, yeah tons!!! I was offered the Whitesnake gig just before their biggest album, 1987. Everytime I hear one of those songs I kind of kick myself!! I’ve had some great offers that I have taken over the years though.

11) Do you feel you have a greater opportunity to express yourself as a drummer in the Lizards than you have in the past?

Yes, I think so. I think my playing on Cold Blooded Kings is a little over the top at times which I kind of like. Maybe I couldn’t have got away with that with other bands that I’ve been in.

12) The Lizards music is a departure from the type of music that you have done in the past. Was this a deliberate move to try something different?

I don’t honestly see it as that different. It’s still to me a classic sounding rock group, maybe not as heavy and a little funkier than some I’ve been in. We all come from a similar background musically so this is what came out of us playing together.

13) How would you describe the music of The Lizards to a total stranger?

It’s kind of a 70’s hard rock sort of vibe…it’s a bit bluesy, a bit funky and at times a little progressive.

14) Tell me about your band mates

There’s Mike DiMeo on vocals and keyboards, Randy Pratt on bass and harmonica and Patrick Klein on guitar and backing vocals.

15) Mike DiMeo is quite a find where did he come from?

I met Mike when I was playing drums with Riot, and he was their singer at the time. I played on their last album. It was one of those records that you do and then finish a year and a half later but have only been involved with it for about a week. When I heard the finished product I was blown away by Mike’s voice. When we needed a singer he was the first guy I called.

16) Cold Blooded Kings is the Lizards third album. How many have they released so far. How many do you play on?

So far there’s four I think, The Lizards, They Live, The Lizards Rule and the latest, Cold Blooded Kings. I play on the last two.

17) What have you got planned for the future?

We have a new record that we are finishing up and have a couple of songs to record. Most of the record is mixed and ready and we just thought we’d record a couple of extras. This will be coming out pretty soon. We also have a project called “The Super Session” I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about this just yet!!!! There’s going to be a rather interesting special guest on it. I can’t give too much away, but if you like rock music you are going to love this.

18) Covers albums are quite a topical issue at the moment. Are you considering this?

Yes, we are. We have already started and have quite a lot of stuff recorded for it and it might actually be nearly finished. We have recorded this over quite a long time. During each tour we play a cover and at the end of the tour we record it so it’s been a long running project. It’s a lot of fun doing things like this as it gives us the chance to play material by band that we all really like and have influenced us over the years.

19) What sort of material will you be covering?

We’re did a Detectives song, a Free song, a song by Boomerang that we have to record that we have learned recently. There’s also one by Sir Lord Baltimore that might end up on the album. There’s still more to go. A lot of the songs are fairly obscure but it’s one that musicians and music people will enjoy, so it’s kind of cool.

20) You also have a DVD in the pipeline. What will this contain?

We did multi camera shoots of a least four shows and they are in the process of being mixed and edited. We’re not sure whether to put out a bunch of DVD’s or just like a best of sort of thing. We really want to get a document of where we are at the moment in a live setting. It will be our first with Mike so it will give those people who haven’t seen us yet, the chance to see Mike perform.

21) What are your touring plans for 2006?

I certainly hope to be touring. We’ll certainly be doing local gigs but there’s a possibility that we’ll get over to Europe this year.

22) How did you get your first get into music?

My first experience of music was as a ten year old. I actually played guitar at the time. I wanted to play drums but my parents thought it would be too noisy!! I was going to do a guitar recital at school which was OK. My guitar teacher said I had to sing as well. I was like “I gotta sing? I can’t sing that’s not part of the deal” but the teacher said I would have to. You know, I was worried sick. I got ill and my hair began to fall out. If I ran my fingers through my hair strands of the stuff would come out!! It’s not a good thing to happen when you’re ten…..or at anytime for that matter!! Eventually my mother took me to the doctor and they did all these tests. He asked if there was anything getting me down and I mentioned the recital. So my parents said I didn’t have to do the recital That was the end of my guitar playing and that’s about the time I took up the drums and I still have my hair!!!

23) When you first started did you ever think that all these years later that you would still be drumming for a living?

I’d always really wanted to be a drummer in a rock ‘n’roll band and right from the start hoped that this would be it for me. You better be careful what you wish for ‘cos you never know when it will come true. Luckily for me my wish did come true.

24) What would you have done if you hadn’t been a drummer?

I’ve never really given it much thought as drumming is all I’ve ever wanted to do but probably a secret agent or a criminal…I think I’ll go with secret agent!!!

25) Is it true that you auditioned for Kiss when Peter Criss?

There were 2000 people in for that and it ended up down to me and Eric Carr. I played “Detroit Rock City”, “Black Diamond”, and “Dr. Love” at the audition. I guess at the time I could see myself in the make-up and costumes. I actually played with them a few times and they videoed it, so there’s a video of that out there somewhere. I couldn’t have played any better; I played really well at those auditions. I think they were looking for someone who could sing more. I didn’t want to sing….I didn’t want my hair to fall out again!!!! I think they wanted someone a little less well known. I was quite well known in the New York area at the time.

26) How did Ritchie Blackmore end up asking you to join Rainbow?

I’d been trying to get in touch with Ritchie for a while as I’d heard that he was living quite close and that Cozy was on the verge of leaving. I’d left messages but hadn’t heard back. One night I was in a club showing the drummer of a band performing there how to do a drum fill during their sound check. Afterwards this guy came up to me and said Ritchie was interested in seeing me. This guy was connected to Ritchie in some way. I think he had been in prison for a couple of days or something and had been released early and wandered into the club where I was and that’s how I got my introduction to Ritchie.

I had jammed with Ritchie for a while around the time that I was auditioning for Kiss but hadn’t heard back from them yet. I actually had Ritchie Blackmore on hold for a while waiting to hear from Kiss. Finally I told Ritchie I’d do it and he asked what if Kiss called. I just said that I’d tell then that I had a gig. Anyway, a couple of days later I got a sort of “Dear John” letter from Kiss saying “Thanks, but no thanks!!”

I was always a Deep Purple and Rainbow fan so I ended up where I was supposed to be. It all turned out well in the end.

27) You joined Rainbow at probably their commercial peak. What was it like coming into an established band?

We got more well known in the States after Difficult to Cure came out. The year before they were playing theatres. When I joined we started playing arenas. It was great, it felt very good. I always believed I would make it so when I joined a big band it didn’t really feel that weird. It was like, this is what I had been expecting and this is where I was meant to be. I hadn’t done anything anywhere near this size before but I was pretty confident of my ability. On my first tour in the States, I think we were supported by Pat Travers or someone like that. Anyway, I went up to their drummer after the show and said how well he’d played. He said that it was only his fifth major show and hoped that one day when he had as much experience as me that he would play as well as me…I had to tell him that that was my first major show and he was in fact more experienced than me!!!!

28) Were you wary of Blackmore’s reputation?

You bet I was!! I’d heard all these stories and wondered what he was going to be like, but you now what? We got on really well. I’ve got a lot of time for Ritchie, after all he gave me first break so I’ve got a lot to thank him for. He’s not as bad as every paints him out to be.

29) It must have been a daunting task filling the shoes of someone with Cozy’s status?

I knew it would get me a lot of attention. I always liked Cozy’s playing. I was honoured to take his place, I wasn’t really intimidated. I thought I’d do it my way and he did it his way but it was a great place to be. It was a baptism of fire for sure but I think it worked out well.

30) Was Graham Bonnet still in Rainbow at the time you joined?

He was in for a short while. We only played together a few times. I think he only laid down the backing vocals to “I Surrender” and not much else before Joe Lyn Tuner joined.

31) What was the high point of your stint in Rainbow?

Probably playing at Madison Square Gardens. That was such a high for me. It was my home town and it was the biggest and most prestigious venue so that was a big thrill.

32) Why did you leave?

You know how Rainbow worked. One minute you’re in, then you’re out. I was about ready to move on anyway but Ritchie has his ways and he likes to change things about and bring in new members to keep things fresh. I parted on good terms though and have no regrets.

33) There has been talk of various members of Rainbow playing together at some point; would you be up for that?

You never know but I haven’t had any calls yet. Nobody has mentioned anything to me but I wouldn’t be against the idea if I was asked and in fit in with what I was up to at the time.

34) What did you do after leaving Rainbow?

When I left Rainbow I was supposed to form a band with Felix Pappalardi from Mountain and my brother Teddy on guitar and Jeff Fenholt on vocals. He was involved in Jesus Christ Superstar and Joshua and I believe he was briefly in Black Sabbath too. He was an amazing singer. That project was actually on the table when I was in Rainbow. When I eventually left Rainbow Felix was killed and that but that project to sleep. It’s a shame as that would’ve been a good band.

35) You played on Love at First Sting by Scorpions. Why were you involved in that recording?

I think Herman Rarebell was sick or something at the time and Rudolph called me and asked if I’d do the record. So I was brought in to provide the drums. I played on the whole album but didn’t receive any credit for it. I should have but I didn’t unfortunately.

36) In 1993 you joined Sabbath for the first of 2 stints with the band. How did you link up with them?

I always said I wanted to play with Sabbath at some point. My tour manager, Robert Gambino, used to work for Tony. He called me up and said that Sabbath needed a drummer after the Dio reunion broke up following Dehumanizer. I was in Doro Pesch’s band at the time. I asked him to call Tony for me but he said he couldn’t as Tony’s wife didn’t like him. He gave me the number and I called and tried several times but couldn’t get through at first. I managed to leave a message with his wife and he called me back and said I was on a list of possible drummers. We talked for a while and a couple of days later flew to England and I got the gig.

37) How did you enjoy your time in Sabbath?

It was great you know. It’s real heavy stuff…great fun for a drummer and being able to say I played with such an influential band was great too!!! It you want to play heavy stuff, Sabbath is the band to be in.

38) Cozy once joked about you following him from band to band. Did you ever get to meet him?

Me and Cozy became good friends he was a really nice guy. I really miss him. He called me up after I got the job in Sabbath and said “ Bobby, Cozy here, I might as well give you my girlfriends’ number mate as you’ve done just about everything else I’ve done, so you may as well do her too !!!” It was a sad day when we lost him. He was one of those larger than life characters who you thought would live forever.

39) You were in a band called Sun Red Sun with Ray Gillen…that’s a bit of a lost gem, can you tell me about this?

That’s right. This was a project with Ray Gillen and John West on vocals and also John McCoy of Gillan, Al Romano from Joey Belladonnas band on guitar and Mike Starr from Alice in Chains. It was pretty heavy stuff, it’s a shame it didn’t do better really. I had actually recorded my stuff then put Al in touch with Ray and he came into the studio after I had left to do the Sabbath thing. Ray had been in my band, Rondinelli for a while in the mid 1980’s.

40) Latterly you played with BOC for a number of years. Was this a rewarding period for you?

I was in BOC for around 8 years and had a great time. I loved BOC, it was very hard to leave them. They are a great bunch of guys. I get on with them really well. In fact I just played with them recently when their new drummer was getting married. I played a show to help them out as I still remember how to play their songs!!

41) As a band BOC probably vary their set list more than any other band I have seen not just from tour to tour but from show to show. Did this make it difficult having to learn so many songs or was it a way of keeping things fresh on the road?

We never knew what the set list was going to be until Eric told you!! It used to drive me crazy. You didn’t know what you were playing until Eric called it out. There were always certain songs that the fans would expect but most of the time the set was changed from

night to night. It kept us on our toes. It just meant we had a lot of songs to learn. 42) Just think, if you’d joined Kiss you could have played exactly the same songs every night for 25 years!!!

Ha Ha!!! You’re right there!!

43) Which of the BOC songs did you like playing live?

“Godzilla” was always a favourite of mine so I like playing that one, “Black Blade” too. “Then Came The Last Days Of May” was a challenging one to play as Buck would always be trying to catch me out!!! “Astronomy”, “Buck’s Boogie”, “Cities On Flame”..they had a lot of good songs.

44) As a drummer you have a close relationship with bass players…you’ve worked with some quality bassists in your time…Geezer Butler, Roger Glover, Neil Murray and Danny Mirander. Which do you feel was the best one to work with?

I’ve worked with some great bass players. They were all at the top of their game, world class players. Neil Murray and I worked really well together. There was almost telepathy between us. Geezer was great too and Danny is someone I’ve worked with off and on for years now. I’ve been very lucky really.

45) Likewise you’ve worked with some of the most highly respect guitarists in rock from Blackmore, to Dharma and Iommi. How were they to work with?

They are all such amazing guitarists in different ways. I was lucky being able to sit at the back and watch them every night and see what fantastic musicians they are.

46) Who were your main influences as a drummer?

When I was a kid I really grew up digging Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Carmine Appice, Buddy Rich, Cozy. There were so many great drummers…Billy Cobham…you know I could go on for a week and a half!!! There’s so many who have impressed me over the years.

47) Are there any bands you would like to have joined?

That’s a tricky one. There are a couple who I’d love to play for and who knows? There is still time to get the call one day. You never know what is round the corner. One musician who I would love to play with is Jimmy Page. He is such a great guitarist and knows how to play and write for a drummer. He has this way of writing which is just perfect for a drummer.

48) Of all the projects you have been involved in which would you say is your proudest moment, the one you’ll tell your grandkids about?

Well, I have lots of highlights from my previous work but hopefully my finest moment has yet to come. I’m always trying to improve on what I have done, so hopefully it will come in the future. If I had to pick one I’d have to say Rainbow playing at Madison Square Gardens or the first time I played with them in Manhattan.

49) What are your long term plans?

I want to stay alive!! I play a lot better if I’m not dead!! I just want to keep playing, I’m just happy to be playing. At the moment I am concentrating on The Lizards and with all that we have going on with the band. I may also work on a solo album with my brother and anyone else who wants to come and play on it. I’ve also been fairly busy with drum clinics. I have just returned from Europe after doing some clinics and that was a lot of fun. It’s so rewarding seeing new talent coming through and the enthusiasm that they have. There’s no hiding place either, it’s just you and your drums and people watching and learning what you do. So, the long term seems pretty good and very, very busy so there’s plenty to look forward to!!!


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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