Ronnie Romero – Lies, Masters, and ShadowsTuesday, 5th September 2023
Hot on the heels of two previous solo albums full of favorite songs to cover, vocalist Ronnie Romero delivers his first original-only record for the third full-length Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters. Those well aware of the man’s Dio-esque delivery won’t be surprised that a lot of the songwriting, style, and performances mirror that icon’s solo career – positioning Ronnie in the perfect way that is still in his melodic, bluesy/metal wheelhouse. We were able to catch up with Ronnie once again to learn about the approach of the record, why he wanted to have a strong hand in production as well as songwriting, thoughts on videos past and present, memories of saving up money for album purchases in teen years, who is left on his bucket list to work with, plus future plans including work with Lords of Black and Elegant Weapons.
Dead Rhetoric: Too Many Lies, Too Many Masters is your third solo album, and first to feature all-new original material. How did you feel about the recording and songwriting process for this set of material – as well as the players assembled to execute this record? Were there any surprises, challenges, or obstacles to overcome throughout this process?
Ronnie Romero: Well, it was great – and actually, because it was very smooth. When we started the songwriting, I talked to the guys – Jose the guitar player and the drummer Andy, we wrote all the songs together. I told them I needed these kinds of songs, and I want to go this (direction). I remember within a couple of weeks we had all the songs ready to go for the demos. It was very easy. That was one of the reasons I picked up these guys. Andy was also the co-producer for this album along with me, he did the mixing and the mastering. He’s a drummer, and he’s very musical – he can write music, he can play piano, it’s easy to work with him. Jose is the same way, we already worked together many years ago, it was very relaxed.
Dead Rhetoric: Did you know what kind of direction you wanted to go in with the songwriting and style – considering all your work in various styles of the past?
Romero: Yes, it was very clear for us. All this connection with Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio, besides the work with Michael Schenker, it was pretty clear. If I am going to do something in my solo career, I needed to go in this direction. People can relate to this because of the Rainbow connection. I didn’t have any lyrics at the time, but I told the guys I wanted these kind of songs, Dio’s solo career with Lock Up the Wolves, The Last in Line, that kind of stuff. It was very easy, and we also wrote some different songs too. You can feel a couple of songs on the record that have a different dynamic.
Dead Rhetoric: Being a co-producer as well for the first time, is it a difficult process to separate the artist from the art of doing what’s best for the sake of the best final product? Do you know when to say when as far as the strongest takes/performances?
Romero: For me, it’s pretty necessary. I was working for the last ten years for a lot of different musicians, very different between each other. Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Adrian Vandenberg, Alessandro from Frontiers Music as we did the Sunstorm stuff, everything is so different. I wanted to be in charge of this because I wanted (the people) to have a product that is separate from the Frontiers catalog. So the people cannot say it sounds like a Frontiers project. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I wanted to have a little distance between my debut solo album, there are some things that I do differently than Frontiers. It took me close to the compositions not only on the songwriting but also with the production of the album. The album sound at the end, that’s also a very important step forward that I’ve taken when it comes to my career.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released videos for “Castaway On the Moon” and “Chased by Shadows” – were these obvious choices for singles, and how do you feel about making videos these days to push through social media platforms, are they as effective for promotion as the days of say Headbangers Ball or video channels during the 1980’s and 1990’s?
Romero: Yes, it’s totally different. There’s a lot more work for the artist, because the record label is pushing the promotion of the album. They own the product and need to sell it. But there is a lot of activity for the musician – you need to be active on social media, the trailers, invite people to listen to the song, checking out the videos, almost every day or couple of weeks to get people to view things. The video clips, the people don’t appreciate it as much anymore as they did in the past. I grew up in the 80’s/90’s, where MTV was important, and we were waiting as fans for the video clips, waiting at the television to play the video again, record it with a VHS tape to have it. Now it goes to video and sometimes people don’t even watch the whole clip, they will watch like 30-60 seconds and move onto the next one.
There’s no appreciation for the visual content anymore. It’s tough to make a good video as well without that big of a budget.
Dead Rhetoric: Is the other problem the sheer number of albums on the marketplace due to that home studios have made things cost effective, so everyone can record and put out things when they want?
Romero: The main thing nowadays is, it’s very easy to be a musician. You have everything on hand, and most of the time you don’t even need a record label. You can record an album at your house with a laptop and a sound card. You don’t need to go to a studio anymore. And then you can put out your material for free on all these platforms, and it provokes a devaluation of the art. It’s so easy to get it. I remember when I was a teenager, some of my favorite bands would be releasing an album, I would save money every month so I would have the money to buy what I wanted at the end of the month. The journey to go to the record store, waiting to go to your house to then open it, you didn’t know what you were going to listen to. Nowadays, months before the release of the album, you listen to half the album already. I need to sometimes play the songs live before the release of the album for promotion. That’s why there’s a lot of competition now, even between other ways of entertaining the people. Instead of going to a show, they’d rather sit on the couch and watch Netflix.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of putting value into an album, what was the cover art like for this record – as it did seem you put a little more effort behind that as well?
Romero: That was also something very important to me. I went with an artist from Chile, he’s a great artist. He made everything hand drawn, and then he digitized it afterwards. It’s very interesting. We had this idea, since I wanted to go with this Dio solo career kind of vision, I was thinking about The Last in Line artwork. I wanted to go at this with those colors. Frontiers was very happy that I delivered a different kind of product with this art.
Dead Rhetoric: There will be a European tour to support the record – what can the fans expect in terms of your live performance and what type of a setlist you’ll be pulling together, especially considering the vast catalog of work you’ve done to pull from?
Romero: Yeah, I thought about that for the past few months after we finished with the album. We are going to play as many songs as we can from the album as possible – but not all the songs. Not all the songs are designed for the live performance, and I don’t want to perform with backing tracks. We want to play the songs that only the five of us can play within the band. And then obviously, the people relate to me more with Rainbow, so we are probably going to play a lot of Rainbow covers.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s left on the bucket list to accomplish, either musically or personally, over the next few years? Are there specific people you would like to collaborate with?
Romero: I would say that there is not too much more to accomplish! (laughs). I have done a lot already, and I am very happy with what I’ve done so far. I feel grateful and blessed to be working with great musicians from around the world for the last few years. I have played in many different bands, in many different styles. I would say only that, I will probably focus more on my solo career from now on. To play with different musicians in different bands, it’s something I don’t want to do as often anymore. Obviously, I have Lords of Black which I have been in that band with Tony for a while, and Elegant Weapons also because I was there from the beginning also. Besides that, it will be very hard to see me collaborating with other musicians because I want to focus on my solo career.
If I could wish to work with somebody, maybe it would be Tony Iommi. Or Brian May, even.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of Elegant Weapons, how was the response to the record and those summer festival shows in Europe?
Romero: It was great, fantastic. We were really surprised because we released the album in late May, and then went on tour in June so there was very little time for the people to listen to the album. Every place we played, the festivals and a couple of support shows for Pantera, the reaction was great. Even with the people who may not have known much about the band, or know the songs besides the singles, the reaction was people enjoying the music, headbanging throughout the whole set, it was great. We were talking about that after the tour, they liked the band live. It’s the most important thing, if you don’t have a good live performance, you have nothing.
Dead Rhetoric: Growing up in South America, what challenges or obstacles did you have to overcome to be able to prove and establish yourself professionally as a musician? Were there times that you had to overcome self-doubt or defeat that you would be able to develop a full-time career in the rock/metal world?
Romero: Not really. I was lucky on that also. In my short career, it’s a continual episode to me of being lucky and also hard work. You need to work really hard to get the things that I was able to do. Also, I was lucky enough to be at the right place on some moments in time. The people appreciate that I am honest, I am not a diva. It opens a lot of doors; I am an easy person to work with. The legends, like Ritchie and Michael, really appreciate that. Once you play with these guys, it’s easier to go into different things. The reputation you receive, I am really grateful to have the chance to work with those guys.
Dead Rhetoric: Are there any specific rituals or routines that you try to implement prior to live performances as far as your voice and your body? Have there been any particular tips or tricks you’ve learned to keep your voice in shape, especially if you have to play so many gigs in a row while on the road?
Romero: For me to use the vocals, it’s very physical but it’s also very important mentally, for the live performances. I don’t have a ritual preparing right before the shows or right before the tours. I have a healthy life throughout the year. You don’t need to prepare specifically for that. I have a very healthy diet, try to get enough rest every day. I love alcohol but I never get drunk. I love to have a beer or a glass of wine, but I lead a normal, healthy life. When you go on tour from there, it’s easy. I never took vocal lessons, so I don’t warm up every night before the show, because I don’t know how to do it. I prepare all year, just like the soccer players, they are training every day. At the end of the season, they take a couple of weeks rest, and then they are training again. That’s the way of life a singer must have.
Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus in life, what types of things do you like to do to regain perspective?
Romero: For me, it’s easy in a way as I have a person with me, my wife. She is my main focus; she helps me a lot with focus because to be a musician it’s not easy. I make a lot of sacrifices, especially family time because you have to travel a lot. You are so tired after two months on tour, you only want to sleep, you don’t enjoy being at home. You need to have a supportive person on that side, and I am very lucky to have my wife as she understands my job and what I do. Sometimes she is able to travel with me to the shows. The fans also help. You will always have criticism around – it’s part of the job. They can like your music, or they don’t. I am lucky that 90% of the people who follow my music are very supportive, that makes my career much easier.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for any records or live touring situations for Ronnie Romero going into the rest of 2023 and 2024?
Romero: Tony was here in the studio, so the Lords of Black album has been delivered to the record company and I believe it’s coming out at the beginning of 2024. I am focusing on my solo album, we will do some fly in shows and 2024 we have a huge tour for the first half – Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Scandinavia, Central and South America in April/May. And then some of the summer festivals while we write the next solo album. We are also working on the second Elegant Weapons album too. We need it to have a longer set. They will send me the songs in a short period of time.