April 17th, 666
RIOT - THUNDERSTEEL - CBS
RIOT - THE PRIVILEGE OF POWER - CBS
RIOT - THROUGH THE STORM - METAL BLADE
Mike DiMeo is an atypical vocalist. He comes across as modest and honest when we speak on the occasion of Riot's new album Through The Storm. He has an unassuming manner and does not mind listening to the interviewer. When asked a question most musicians would not want to contemplate, DiMeo answers it with surprising candor instead of getting defensive. He is interested and will even surprise you by asking you questions. No, DiMeo is not your typical heavy metal vocalist -23.09.2002
Mike, thank you for agreeing to speak with us at Metallian. I have positive and negative remarks about the new album. Which would you like me to bring up initially?
Well, I would like you to decide which to mention first. I do not mind.
Through The Storm impresses me in the vocal and guitar departments. The former is soaring and emotional, while the latter is, unsurprisingly, faultless. The drumming, on the other hand, is dull and monotonous.
OK, let me address the drumming issue. As you know, our drummer Bobby Jarzombek left our band to join Halford. That presented a huge problem for us because Bobby is an amazing player. Not many people on this Earth can play like him. To find people that can cop that kind of a feel would have been hard for us to do. We went with someone who we believed to be one of the best drummers around. I grew up listening to Rainbow. He has played with Black Sabbath and he is with Blue Oyster Cult now. I know what you are saying.
You know what it is? It's more of a rock approach as opposed to a power rock approach. Be honest with you I like his groove. I like his feel which is laid back. It's not as in-your-face as the previous Bobby. He got the point across. I am getting a lot of mixed reviews. I think people are used to very heavy drumming in this band from the past and it's hard for them to accept this huge change. Have I answered the point?
One thing you can clarify is whether the drum parts were written by Rondinelli or were pre-written for him. That is, could the drumming be due to a lack of practice time?
No, he came in and wrote his own. That's a good question though. I think he had the time. I think that its how he felt comfortable. That's how he heard the songs. Mark Reale (guitarist) rehearsed the songs with him and they recorded them together. The basic tracks on this album were rhythm guitar and drums. When Mark and Bobby put the tracks down that is how they heard it. They didn't hear more busy or more fills and so they went with it.
Will Rondinelli be a member of the band on the next album?
He is not a member of the band. Right now this is a problem for us because we don't have a permanent drummer yet. We are not sure what is going to happen.
Who will accompany you on the road?
It's still a question. Once we decide which tour we are going to take and how the record is doing we will know.
Has the band considered using John O'Reilly the drummer of Reale's other band Westworld as an option?.
No, definitely not.
Will you elaborate on the vocals and guitar playing on Through The Storm?
I always try to be consistent with my vocals. I always try to write melody lines that are going to stick out.
It was questionable whether or not we are even going to tour on this record! So I wasn't afraid of singing high on this record. I wasn't afraid of going for it. More than any album I have ever recorded with this band, on Through The Storm I had that sense of wanting to go for it. I wanted to do something that when I look back at it I would be really proud. I think on this record I did that as far as vocal performance. When I listen to some of the songs on this record, I can be objective, sit back and say 'vow this is a good song.'
I listen to a song like Chains (Revolving) and I am really happy with the vocal performance as I am with the song. That's a new thing for me; I am trying to do both. I am concentrating on the collusion. I recorded the vocals in two parts. I recorded one part at Bruno Ravel's house who is in Danger Danger. The other songs I recorded at Milbrook Sound Studios in Milbrook New York.
As far as Mark's guitar playing I think you are absolutely right. This is one of my favourite records that Mark has played on. He did a brilliant job. His solos are amazing on this record.
When writing and recording this album, did the band have the sense that the material is going in the direction of Rainbow?
Well, we have the drummer for Rainbow in the band. It's funny because when Bobby Rondinelli heard the CD a couple of weeks back he said, 'Jesus Christ this sounds like Rainbow!' You know the expression 'you are what you eat?' I grew up listening to that stuff. In 1993 Ritchie Blackmore asked me to join Deep Purple! That's the stuff that I like to sing you know. I was supposed to sing on Deep Purple's The Battle Rages On. I had started to work on that record with Roger Glover. I only worked with them for about three months before BMG pulled the plug. They decided they wanted Ian Gillan to do the 25th anniversary. I have those same songs on a CD with me singing on them.
Will those ever be released?
No, never. That would never come out.
Seeing how you agree with the Rainbow comparisons, how do you view fans who only like older and harder Riot?
I have heard that - several times. It's a strange thing because anytime you join a band that has a twenty year history you will hear something from someone who likes the direction and something from someone who hates the new direction. Now you get someone like you who loves and hates the new direction! But seriously you always run into people who have a different opinion. That's the beauty of music. When you compare it to the old sound I am definitely not a Guy Speranza-type singer. My vein is more the David Coverdale, Paul Rodgers and that type of blues-based singing. For the most part I hate positive things though.
You earlier mentioned that Riot might not tour for this album.
The music we play is not the flavour of the month. There is not much radio support and there is definitely no TV support - there is none of that with us. It makes it really hard, for a band like us, to go on the road and support ourselves at the same time. This music, I love it to death, does not make a living for any of us. It's really hard for everyone to drop everything and just go on the road and come back broke.
Is that why you are only doing interview after five o'clock in the afternoon?
(Laughs heartily) no we are all doing interviews and are splitting them up. Mark is doing them during the day and I am doing them in the evenings.
I am a piano player. I play blues and jazz almost every night. I play with many different musicians all over the place. As far as music, that's my main income.
Does the album title refer to the hard times and difficulties of being in a hard rock band?
That's a good question... You know, this band is difficult for many different reasons. There have been many difficult times. I guess you could say that about the title.
That's not what I had in mind when I was writing the song Through The Storm though. When Mark asked me about a title for the album I thought of the song Through The Storm. Not only I thought of what's going on with the band, but also what is going on nowadays and in these times. It really summed up a lot of angst that people are feeling.
The song Through The Storm... it's hard for me to tell you what the songs are about. When I tell you that I don't know what the songs are about I truly mean it! I write these songs and the words just come out. When I go back after getting the CD and I read the words, I try to figure out what I was thinking of and often it has to do with my feelings. A lot of is metaphoric too.
Originally when I wrote the title track I tried to make reference to Napoleonic history. I tried to make it about him, but as I was writing it I began to drift away from it. There wasn't an influence from a book or film. I had spent a lot of time in France last year and was actually going to move there. The song tries to imagine what he was thinking and feeling as he goes to war. It was a first-person account at first, but it always ends up being a reflection of myself.
Elsewhere some wonder why the band's logo seems to be a moving target? You seem to have several different ones from which you draw?
I think it's a way to continue and be new. There is no specific intention in mind, but we try to be continuously inventive. I have to tell you that after the last album the band was essentially broken up! After our European tour, and after Bobby left, we weren't sure we are continuing Riot! I was also arrested in Europe and it was a mess. No one knew what was happening. After all that, we tried to go for something new.
I was arrested in Hamburg, Germany, or detained rather, because someone decided to throw things at me on stage. It hit me in the face. After the show I decided to hit him in the face. There were rumours that the guy is working for our old record company. It was really really pathetic, especially because it was a rough tour man. We were on a bus in Munich, Germany and the heater broke. For four days we were driving through Europe with no heat in the bus! I remember being huddled in the back with the band Anvil. We were in the back of the bus trying to stay warm. I remember when we pulled up to the venue in Munich everyone was so relieved to be at the gig so we can warm up. Then we went to the show after that and this guy decided to be an arsehole and no one was in the mood for it. This was in January and it was freezing.
After we got home Mark and I had been talking. We went through some more problems. There was a question of whether or not I was going to sing for Riot anymore. We had gotten an offer from Dio to tour through North America and Mark thought we shouldn't do it and I thought we should. He felt that if the record company is not giving us enough support, then if we broke down somewhere we would be in big trouble. I thought that it does not matter. We should do the tour. I respect his opinion, but think we should tour wherever we can. It's the only way this band can be visible. We had a huge difference of opinion about that. We finally decided we will do another record. The main reason is that I love to write music with Mark. It's just a great feeling listening to the albums we make.
What are the band's plans going forward?
We are looking for a tour. We are hoping one will come. Everyone knows how important it is. The tour has to help the band though. We have done tours in Europe we have accomplished nothing - like playing to 30 people in Belgium. We are hoping for a package with several bands. That seems to be the plan in Japan right now.
How is Riot's fan base divided geographically?
Of course Japan is our income right now. We are still on a major label there, we are On EMI. We have been doing well in Europe as well. We are building our base in Greece and Italy. A couple of spots like Texas are also good for us. It really varies. Then there is Belgium where only 30 people show up.
It's hard for me to know exactly, because there are fans of metal everywhere. Metal is like a disease. People don't want to admit that they have the disease. They might buy the record, but they don't want to tell their friends that they have the record. I was just at a friend's house on Saturday night when he introduces me to his friend Jay who is a really big fan of Riot. I talk to the guy and he starts telling me how none of his friends like the band so he doesn't even talk to them about it! It's really hard to tell. I would say Japan is fifty per cent of our fan base, the other half is divided between Europe and North America.
Riot is Mike DiMeo on lead vocals, Mark Reale on electric and acoustic guitars and keyboards, Mike Flyntz on electric guitars, Pete Perez on bass guitar and guest drummer Bobby Rondinelli on drums. The band's new album is entitled Through The Storm and is now available at better musical outlets. For more information please visit www.riotsweb.com.