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Craig Goldy of Dio

Early in his career, the late/great Ronnie James Dio played with two of the most legendary guitarists of the heavy metal/hard rock domain: Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple, Rainbow) and Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath). When RJD launched his solo project, Dio, he joined forces with two of the '80s top shredders - first Vivian Campbell, and then, Craig Goldy.

Goldy appeared on several Dio albums over the years - Intermission (1986), Dream Evil (1987), Magica (2000), and Master of the Moon (2004) - as well as the second half of the live album, At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987, and helped co-pen several Dio classics in the process.

Shortly after Dio's passing in 2010, several former band mates who were previously enlisted in Dio's solo band over the years (or were admirers of the singer) united as Dio Disciples, a band that has toured the world playing classic material penned by Ronnie.

In this conversation, Goldy talks about Dio and Dio Disciples, the process of songwriting, and an educational book that he has penned on the subject.

Greg Prato (Songfacts): How has it been touring with Dio Disciples so far?

Craig Goldy: It's good. For those who love Ronnie and miss him, which all of us do, that's the hard part. And then the easy part is seeing people enjoy the music again, because the main key was to keep Ronnie's memory alive. So the people that go with us, like Tim Ripper Owens and Oni Logan, and at the beginning Toby Jepson, they all had a heart for Ronnie, because they were either close friends or close to the inner circle of the Dio family. So with that heart, they performed that music that way. And it would come across.

So we never knew when, but there was always going to be a special moment when a group of people gather together in the same room for the same purpose with the same heart, mind, and spirit. Something very special happens because of that. That's usually what happens during the performances: there's a moment when the band and the audience connect as one and you can see people just singing to the sky and tears rolling down their cheeks, because they miss him so much, and the music has made such an impression on them because it's been a big part of their lives throughout the years. It's like a memorial service in every city and country we go to. That part of it is really amazing.

Songfacts: As far as the singers, do you ever see or hear similarities between when, say, Ripper is singing compared to how Ronnie would sing the songs?

Craig: There are definite similarities, and thankfully so. Because we want the songs to be represented well. Nobody's like Ronnie. Nobody.

Songfacts: Has there been any talk about Dio Disciples doing an album of all new material?

Craig: Yes. In fact, I've been working on some original material recently, and at Ronnie's memorial service - the public memorial service - I stated that when I ever did another original material project, that I want to make sure that I utilize the things that I learned from him and that would hopefully make him proud.

So when Wendy Dio heard the songs that I've been working on, she said, "Wow, Ronnie would be really proud of you." That was real special. So we're probably in the first phase of what would be a live CD with a couple of bonus tracks of original material.

Songfacts: So the plan is to first do that and then work on a whole new album?

Craig: Yes. And we want to make sure that people don't think we're trying to replace Ronnie. Like a lot of bands who have had members either leave or die, they go on with the same name and for the same purpose, and some fans get bummed out about that. We're not trying to do that. It's just if we do do a full album of original material, it's not replacing him. It would be our way of saying, "Hey, this is what we've learned from him, this is what the man means to us." It would be in the spirit of keeping his memory alive and honoring him in some way.

Songfacts: From what I understand, you first met Ronnie when you were a member of Rough Cutt.

Craig: Yes, that's correct.

Songfacts: What do you remember about your first meeting with him and what your initial impressions were?

Craig: Well, I was a kid, I was like a teenager. And Ronnie was and still is my favorite singer. Every time I say that I get chills running down my back. So it was amazing for me. I was living on the streets in a car, and I was working with a guy named Perry McCarty, who became the singer of a band called Warrior. I liked his voice because he had a similarity to Ronnie's tough sound.

So he left and went up to LA to join Warrior, and he felt bad about leaving me behind in San Diego. So he said if I give him some copies of my demo tape he'll pass them around.

That band Warrior became friends with Rough Cutt. And sure enough, with my last $20 I made by giving guitar lessons, I made a demo, and that got into the hands of the drummer of Rough Cutt, who then played it for Ronnie, and he said, "We've got to get this kid up here."

Apparently he was impressed with that demo tape enough to be present at the day of the audition, and they were saying that he wanted to meet me. I thought, "No, I want to meet him."

He and Wendy were there. Wendy was his manager and also the manager of Rough Cutt. I got a chance to tell him how much his music meant to me and that he was, in fact, my favorite singer and I used to learn his melody lines on my guitar and I thought his lyrics were really cool because he was saying one thing but really meaning another. And he said, "What do you mean by that?" And I told him, "Well, I thought when you said this, that you really meant that." And he grabbed my arm and he goes, "That's right."

And little did I know that was going to be the beginning of something later. It was almost like I cracked his little personal code. So during the audition he got inspired, which he never does. He doesn't like to sit in and jam with people. He sat in on the audition, and we did "Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Heaven and Hell." During that audition he came up to me, cheek-to-cheek, whisker-to-whisker, and was whispering in my ear, "What's the lyrics to the second verse?" And I said, "The lover of life." "Oh, right, 'I'm the day, I'm the day,' oh, right!"

He had filed his lyrics away because he was writing for Holy Diver. That spawned another thing that I didn't know until later on, because it happened between him and I and his lyrics. But that was a very meaningful thing for me to meet him and then for me to actually perform with him.

Then they asked me to play a riff that I had to see if any of my original material was going to work with the band that he sang on. It was just a magical night for me to meet him and Wendy and to have that happen.

Then at the end of the night he goes, "If I have anything to say about this, which I do, you've got the gig." [Laughs] The next thing I know I'm at his house, just me and him - I was invited over just to sit and talk and watch old Rainbow videos and stuff. We became friends and we worked really well together in the studio doing demos.

In the early '80s, bands such as Journey, Styx, and REO Speedwagon showed that if you rounded out hard rock's rough edges with melody and keyboards, you could cross over to the pop charts in a major way. Former Angel keyboardist Gregg Giuffria certainly took note of this approach - forming his own band, Giuffria, who followed the exact same formula.

It paid dividends straight away, with an Andy Johns co-produced self-titled debut album that landed inside the top-30, thanks to its hit single, "Call to the Heart," which peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. Goldy would only stick around for that one release, but the band would soldier on for another album, 1986's less-successful Silk and Steel, before riding off into the sunset.

Songfacts: What are some memories of working with Giuffria? Because I remember they had that big hit called "Call to the Heart."

Craig: Well, I had just left Rough Cutt, and a lot of it was because of [Giuffria singer] David Isley's voice. Sometimes I see things. I wish I could see lottery numbers. But sometimes I see things, and that makes me make a decision, whether it looks good or not to other people. Rough Cutt had just gotten a record deal on Warner Brothers and we were doing a concert. And Gregg Giuffria approached me and said, "I've got something I think you might want to be interested in."

So at the time I was living at Ronnie's house, because he was doing some gigs. Everything was really great - nothing could have been better. We got a record deal on Warner Brothers, I'm working side by side with Ronnie James Dio, my favorite singer, I'm his friend. And then all of a sudden, I get this invitation. I look and I see David Isley and hear David Isley's voice, and I just see something. I just see these coliseums and I see albums and I just go, "This is going to be big."

It wasn't my favorite music, because I love Journey, but Journey's not my favorite band. Deep Purple and Rainbow are my favorite bands. But I knew it was going to be big, so I had to leave all that. Everybody thought I was crazy to get into a band without a record deal, without Ronnie James Dio, and without doing the music that I love. I do love Journey, don't get me wrong. But that was not my core.

But Giuffria went big and had a hit song and a hit tour and a hit album and toured with Deep Purple, my favorite band. And Rough Cutt got dropped off the label. So I made the right decision. It wasn't easy, but being in that band opened up my eyes to a lot of other things. We had two managers, one was a very powerful radio promoter, and one was an album promoter. I got a chance to see a lot of things behind the scenes, how things work, record company-wise and radio stations and all sorts of stuff. Wendy and Ronnie were really good about that, too. They used to take me around to record companies and stuff.

So I got a chance to see how what goes on behind the closed doors infiltrates into how they write music. That was a very interesting correlation that I had never put together until then.

Songfacts: How did you then come to join Dio?

Craig: Well, we were working in Rough Cutt doing demos, and one day to Ronnie just out of nowhere, I said, "God, I wish I could just be in your band." [Laughs] He slammed his hand on the tape - because back then we used tape - and I thought, "Oh, shoot, I think I made him mad." He looked over at me and he goes, "Goldy, if Vivian ever doesn't work out, you'd be my first choice." And he hit the tape again and stopped it again and said, "And I'm not just saying that to make you feel better." And hit "play."

And I think because of the way we got along and how we worked together in the studio, and because of the fact that there were times where I think Ronnie could tell that there was some disenchantment going on in the camp of Dio, that he knew someday that situation may occur. So that's why there were no auditions: because Ronnie's a man of his word. He knew that it would work out because of the working relationship we currently had. So he knew that when Vivian was out, I was in, and that was it.

Songfacts: And then if you want to talk a little bit about some memories of writing some of the songs when you were with Dio. Let's start with "Time to Burn."

Craig: That was our first song that we wrote together for Dio. The thing that I liked right from the beginning, was that instead of writing I was learning. And I didn't realize how much I had to learn.

We were in the studio doing Intermission, because Vivian's guitar was out of tune on that night, but it was a great night to record a live album. So they had me overdub his rhythms, but they kept his solos, because he could put a harmonizer on the solo because it's only one note at a time. But they couldn't do that for the chords.

So Ronnie asks me if I have any riffs that I've been playing around with. I played a couple and he picked one. The riff that ended up being for "Time to Burn" was, in my mind, going to be played a completely different way. The first thing he did was go straight to the groove. He goes, "I don't like the way that feels." And he goes, "What if we did it this way?" And Vinny [Appice, Dio drummer] was standing right there. There was no drum set at the time, it was just me overdubbing guitar, so he kind of mimicked a drum set. "What if we did it this way? What if, instead of going up there, you went down there? And what if you went..." And he automatically made the groove first, then the riff feel good with it in the groove, and then once that was established, then we started coming up with chords for what would then be the verse and chorus and pre-chorus. That was interesting for me, because that was my first time going, "Wait a minute, we have to do groove first, then riff, then we make sure."

And also what he would do is that he would start and he would go to the beginning. A lot of musicians sit there and they toil over one section of the song until it sounds right, and by that time the focus of it has been so on that one section that they don't really know until sometimes it's too late whether or not it works in that section of a song.
Ronnie would always go back to the beginning and listen to it from the beginning up to that point so that the momentum would always match whatever it is that your new part was going to do. I thought that was very interesting. Not a lot of musicians do that, because it's tedious, and you have to listen to the same song over and over and over again a thousand times before you even finish it, and before it's even recorded. People don't like to do that, but I learned the importance of that, how it would flow.

The law of hit songwriting really is melody first, lyrics second. Ronnie would write the melody first, then he would try to fit a story inside that melody. Not a lot of people do that, either. I see time after time people getting together and the guys slap a riff together and a couple of chords and then the guy opens up his notebook and goes, "Oh, these lyrics would fit perfect for that." And they just "spray paint" lyrics within a melody over something and they call that songwriting. That's not the way it goes.

Songfacts: What about the writing of "I Could Have Been a Dreamer"?

Craig: That was the first time that we actually had to write a song in the studio, because normally we'd write the whole entire album before we even go there. So that way if, in fact, there is something, we go, "Oh, shit, what do we need here?" There's time for it. So we wrote "Sunset Superman" and "I Could Have Been a Dreamer" in the studio, and it was a very similar type of thing. He goes, "Goldy, do you have any riffs?" And so I'd play something.

At that time, I knew that Ronnie would be thinking in terms of the groove, so I'd already moved from just playing the riff and going, "Okay, well, I had a couple of riffs that I think would go to a cool groove that I think Ronnie would like." I'd already kind of graduated into that, so my riffs automatically would then have that within it. So he liked it, and then we started writing that song right then and there in the studio.

Unlike some rock artists who align themselves to either penning straight-to-the-point compositions or never-ending epics, Ronnie James Dio refused to be linked exclusively to one or the other. Case in point, such shorter classics as Rainbow's "Man on the Silver Mountain," Black Sabbath's "Neon Nights," and Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark," as well as tunes that you should make certain you don't have any impending engagements to fulfill (nor a full bladder) before embarking on, including Rainbow's "Stargazer," Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell," and Dio's "Egypt."

Songfacts: And what about the song "All the Fools Sailed Away"?

Craig: Well, that was cool because that was our first of what would be a string of what Simon Wright, the drummer, would call "epics." Because of [Rainbow's] "Stargazer" and a few other songs, like "Egypt" and stuff like that, Ronnie was not a stranger to writing an epic. So when we first started writing for Dream Evil, Ronnie already had the theme to it. Right after the quiet, mellow intro with the clean guitar comes that part where the band starts. That's like the scene. He had that written already. So we knew right from the beginning that that's going to have to be special - we would have to approach that in a very special way. And that ended up becoming like an epic.

There's a lot of work that's involved in trying to write that type of a song, and I think Ronnie was happy that I was able to keep up with him, because he's a real hard worker. We'll start at 11 in the morning and not stop until 4 a.m. the next day, and he won't even feel it. Most people would be like, "That's enough. I can't take anymore." But he would just go and go and go and go and go. Like him, I liked the creative process, and I loved the work, so I was able to keep up with it, and I think that inspired him. So when we started writing together, we knew that we were capable of that. We often did that once in a while accidentally. It was kind of cool. That kind of sparked our album track/radio track thing that might be epic-ish.

Besides being a great singer, from many accounts, Ronnie James Dio was also a great person - as evidenced by his work with the Hear N' Aid project. Following the lead of both star-studded projects Band Aid ("Do They Know It's Christmas?") and USA for Africa ("We Are the World") - which raised money to fight famine in Ethiopia - Dio and his then-bandmates, Vivian Campbell and Jimmy Bain, co-penned the tune "Stars," and invited countless renowned headbangers to either sing part of the tune (Rob Halford, Don Dokken, Kevin DuBrow, etc.) or lend a solo (Yngwie Malmsteen, George Lynch, Buck Dharma, etc.). The single was released in 1986, as well as an album by the same name, that featured live recordings from the likes of Kiss, Rush, and Motörhead. As with Band Aid and USA for Africa, Hear N' Aid donated all the proceeds of the single and album towards famine relief in Africa.

Songfacts: And then you also appeared on the song "Stars" as well. What are you memories of that session?

Craig: That was great, because Ronnie had all these guitar players and each and every one of them I thought they were better than me, except for maybe one or two. I'm not naming any names, but it was like when I heard George Lynch play, I was like, "Wow!" He made me go home and practice. He was doing things that I wanted to do, but I didn't know how to do. I saw him play, I was like, "I've got to figure out how to do that." And Neal Schon the same thing. I noticed a lot of things. I became very aware of my strengths and weaknesses.

But because Ronnie knew me, he had me go first, and that was very intimidating. But after I was done he goes, "See, that's why I had you first. I knew you would set it up with a theme, not just blaze all over the place and step up for everybody else, not just play for yourself." That made me feel good, to go first out of all those people. I think a lot of people were going, "Why him?" [Laughing]

And then I got a chance to meet Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge, and that ended up being the band that I went to when I left Giuffria, called Project: Driver.

Songfacts: And then if you want to talk a little bit about songwriting. As far as writing your best songs, would you say there's a certain formula that you follow? For instance, do you find that you write your best songs by doing either the music first or collaborating with someone?

Craig: Definitely collaboration. And it's not really a formula so much as a recipe that I came across. I was a songwriter for Warner Brothers for about six years. There was a time when I would write songs and submit them to Warner Brothers for other projects, and they kept getting turned down. I kept wondering why, because I thought they were good.

So I bought myself some time, instead of a house, with the money that I made. I sat down and I analyzed some hit songs, what they were made of. I was programming the drums... I'm telling you this for a reason, it'll all come up, this'll actually make sense. I was programming the drums and playing the bass and playing the keyboards and doing everything but singing. I was paying somebody to come in and sing, write the melody lines and lyrics and do the background vocals and all that. There was something obviously I was missing if I was getting turned down.

So I learned some songs that were hit songs that lasted at least five years. I learned them enough to where I could program the drums and recreate them from scratch, and then I created what was almost like a template, an outline of what the intro was made of, and what the verse was made of, and the relationship between the melody line, the complexity of the melody line and the simplicity of the guitar riff. Then as it would progress, the guitar might become a little bit more complex and the melody would simplify. And little things like that I started noticing: how people would build momentum and what they would do.

So it made me work almost three times as hard as I normally did. I didn't want to do it, but something pushed me. I said, I've got to write at least one song according to this. And little by little I started learning above and beyond what Ronnie showed me; just how people actually write hit songs. By that time I was already out of the band Dio and I was trying to find a good collaborator. I noticed that for some reason a lot of people from the '80s had huge egos and nobody wanted to use a process. They had paid their dues and they don't want to have to work as hard anymore.

I still have yet to find that guy who's willing to work hard enough, but I discovered a lot of things. There's quite a lot of things that go into writing a song and writing a hit song that people I think overlook that I discovered. If you want to have the same success as somebody else, you need to emulate them, you have to do at least as much as they did. You can't expect to work less and get the same results. So that's what I did.

A lot of it was groove oriented, and a lot of it was melodies first, lyrics second. But then there were other things, too, about what I call the quadruple approach, where musically, there are things that non-musicians like about music and there are things that the musician likes about music. There are things that a girl likes about music and there are things that a guy likes about music, and those become four separate entities: the guy and the girl of the musician, and the guy and the girl of the non-musician. And incorporating what they like into an entire album and into an entire song is difficult to achieve, but possible.

Also, I've noticed that a lot of hit songs have stories that unfold simply by the title - there's no need to explain. That's very important for people to have a song that doesn't come with an automatic need for an explanation. It's a story. A song is a story inside of a musical environment. So for all intents and purposes, it's a conversation you're having with each individual listener, and you're either going to captivate them or bore the shit out of them.

Aerosmith wrote "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" with the hitmaker Desmond Child, who convinced them to change the title from "Cruisin' for the Ladies." The band didn't want to offend the gay community, but Desmond put them at ease. "I'm gay, and I'm not insulted," he told them. "Let's write this song."
Then there are ways to tell stories. "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." You don't really need an explanation for that. The story unfolds. Either you've been accused of being a guy who looks like a lady or you've seen one. It's that simple. Things like that.

The topic of the song has to be universally understood. You don't have to be rich, you don't have to be poor, you don't have to be white, black, Japanese, you don't have to be nice, you don't have to be mean. You just have to understand it. Like "Legs": "She's got legs, she knows how to use 'em." The first two lines, the story's done. Nobody's going, "What's this song about?"

It's universally understood. You don't have to come from a certain area of the globe in order to understand it. You don't have to come from a certain economic or social environment to understand it. Therefore, millions of people understand it, and if millions of people understand it and millions of people like it, chances are millions of people will buy it.

Songfacts: When you say that there were several songs that you broke down to study, would you happen to remember what songs they were?

Craig: Yeah. One of them was Aerosmith's, and strange enough Aerosmith's really not my favorite band. But I had to pick a hit song that lasted for a long time. One was the ballad, it was called "What It Takes." And there were a couple of Michael Bolton songs, believe it or not. There were a couple of Stevie Wonder songs. I just learned a lot of stuff from analyzing them and then creating a template and then trying to match that song.

Then "Love in an Elevator," because you have to have an uptempo one, too. "Love in an Elevator" was really clever in having that little play on words, you know, "going down." And the importance of having a dual meaning with love, there's a meaning for going down in love and there's a meaning for going down in an elevator. It's clever that they used every little tool in the tool belt that a songwriter could possibly use. And, strangely enough, there was collaboration.

Songfacts: You also wrote a song with David Lee Roth ("Lady Luck" from A Little Ain't Enough).

Craig: Yeah. He was a great guy. It actually came from a failure, which often happens. Me and David Isley from Giuffria were working on a project, and Geffen Records had given us some money to go into the studio. We wrote some songs and then they passed on it, so I sent those songs to Warner Brothers to see if maybe one of these songs might be used for another project or band, and it sat around for a couple of years.

Next thing I know I get a call from David Lee Roth at my home. He goes, "Hey, Dave Roth here. Is this Craig? Hey, I liked your shit, man. Can we do some more? Have you got any more?" I'm like, "Yeah, I've got tons of stuff." "What about Wednesday?" It was Monday. I go, "Yeah." I didn't have anything. [Laughs] So I just scrambled. I went and bought his solo albums. I think mine was the third. And so I didn't duplicate. Because some guys, you never know, you accidentally do something similar and they'll, you know. So I made sure that none of the stuff he did with Steve Vai or any of that stuff was similar. Not putting myself in the same category as Steve Vai, just didn't want to accidentally reproduce something that he's already done.

So I came up with a couple of cool riffs, and then showed up at his house with Bob Ezrin, who worked with everybody. But at the time it was the Pink Floyd thing that got me [Ezrin co-produced Pink Floyd's The Wall]. I was like, "Wow, David Lee Roth and Bob Ezrin!"

I was playing him some stuff and he stops the tape and he goes, "That's cool, man, that's great. Let's do that." So he would have me come to his house and play the ideas, and his band would be there and they'd learn my stuff and rehearse it for him to record. We wrote a bunch of songs and I thought what he did was really smart. He wrote about 25 songs and then recorded each and every one of them, demoed them off. That's one other hurdle that a lot of people miss, is that you write a great song, and then when you record it, something happens, and it doesn't come out as special as you think it's going to for whatever reason. So he got that process out of the way: whatever rose to the top, he used, regardless. I thought that was really smart. I'm sure a lot of people do that, but I didn't know that process at the time, and I was just going through my thing at the time learning all those songs and stuff.

So we spent some time together. We became kind of friends, and he'd invite me out to do stuff and we'd hang out at his house afterwards and talk. He was a great guy, and he was very polite and very funny. He was definitely "David Lee Roth." That was not a cartoon character he created for his stage presence. That was just who he was. But he was very smart and caring behind the scenes.

Songfacts: And something I don't think I've ever really read - what exactly was the reason why you left Dio back in the '80s?

Craig: Well, one of these days, I'm going to get into that. But just the way things are right now, I don't want it to be misunderstood. So one of these days I am going to tell people why. Because that was one thing that never really got discussed, for a reason. And then when it's time, I will. I just don't feel it's time to say that.

Songfacts: No problem. Let's discuss the songwriting book that you said that you wrote before.

Craig: Yeah. It's something that I'm kind of reworking at the time right now. It's a book called Destiny Bridge. What it's supposed to mean is that it's the bridge you cross over into your destiny. I took about two years and I studied songwriting and the music industry. In fact, I was certified by the State of California to teach at college level. And then that class became part of the bachelor's degree program. And then that school was sold and then they weren't implementing any new classes, so I ended up writing a book and putting it on the Internet.

And then I got a bunch of people together - record companies and managers and publicists and publishers - to help create a different way for people to start. Because it's so difficult for musicians. If you want to be a plumber or an electrician or a bartender, you have schools to go to and, for all intents and purposes, most of those schools have job placement. If you go to bartender's school and you graduate in the top 5, 10 percent, you have job placement for life. There's no such thing for musicians.

So I figured I'd put a book together of all the stuff that I've learned to help them formulate strategies and help them along before they even start. And then, if they utilize that information properly, and they record their demos accordingly, there would be some people out there who could get them a record deal and help them with their careers. So that's what I was starting.

And unfortunately, people thought they were buying a record deal. So I had to kind of restructure everything. I haven't got it totally restructured, but they can go on craiggoldy.com and they can still order the book. It's only like $39 or something like that. But it's an education. It teaches them 20 years worth of information as if they'd operated at the music industry's top level for 20 years.

August 8, 2013.
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