Ronnie Romero – Respect for MetalTuesday, 31st January 2023
Iconic singers in heavy metal resonate for decades – one of the newer generation talents that has made an impact through his vast discography is Ronnie Romero. Most may know of his work with Rainbow or Michael Schenker, but he also has a plethora of other acts to pay attention to: Lords of Black, Sunstorm, The Ferrymen, and CoreLeoni among others. Ronnie returns with a second tribute record of covers, this time focusing on metal material for Raised on Heavy Radio. We reached out to the magical voice to discuss more about the bands he pays tribute to, specific choices, guest musicians involved behind the scenes that added those special touches, plus plenty of discussion about the state of hard rock/metal, how he handles criticism professionally versus personally, and what’s in store for other work with Elegant Weapons plus touring/festival appearances the rest of the year.
Dead Rhetoric: Raised on Heavy Radio is the latest release – paying tribute to some of your favorite artists like Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Accept and Metallica among others. How did you narrow down the specific tracks you decided to work on – and what are some of the special moments/memories you have surrounding these songs?
Ronnie Romero: Every song is designed the same way as the previous covers album Raised on Radio – it’s related to a moment in my life, either on the personal side or sometimes on the musical side. Iron Maiden – even when I was not a big fan of the band, this song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was a song I was singing when I was 14 years old in my first band. “Turbo Lover” from Judas Priest, it’s a song that I normally have in my playlist when I’m driving with my wife going out to the sea or up in the mountains – we have a lot of fun listening to that song. The same with “No More Tears”, and many others. The choices are related to specific moments and experiences in my life. This is the way I can express myself and the tribute I want to pay to this music, and not just making a cover for the sake of making a cover.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it important to you to not just pick the obvious choices? “The Battle Rages On”, the Black Sabbath song that you picked from the Tony Martin-era, as well as the Masterplan track, those aren’t obvious choices to most people. Is this a conscious decision you made?
Romero: Absolutely, and it was totally on purpose. From the beginning when we talked with the record label to make a covers album, one of the first things I thought of was I don’t want to do the typical covers that people expect me to sing. That’s why on the first album you have a Dio song, but it’s not “Holy Diver”, it was from Elf, his first band. It’s also music I’ve been listening to, so they aren’t deep cuts. Even I tried to make a little justice to bring in some underrated music that people don’t talk too much about. For example, the Black Sabbath and this wonderful album Eternal Idol, the song “The Shining”. It was recorded by Ray Gillen first, and then re-recorded by Tony Martin. When you say Black Sabbath, people talk about Ozzy and Dio – not many people talk about Tony Martin, and he’s a great singer. This is the way you pay tribute – because you really appreciate the music. If I am going to do a Black Sabbath song, it must be that one.
The same with all the rest of the songs. With Rainbow, I didn’t want to go with the typical “Kill the King” or “Long Live Rock and Roll”. My favorite album is the Rising album, but a song that people wouldn’t expect.
Dead Rhetoric: How did it feel to have special guests like Gus G, Roland Grapow, and Chris Caffery also lend their talent to this effort?
Romero: It was great. They are all good friends of mine, since I asked them to be a part of the record they said yes immediately. Especially with Gus and Roland – it’s a very unique thing. Roland is the guy who wrote that song “Kind Hearted Light”. I asked him if it’s okay to play the solo – he said send me the demo so he could listen. After that, he told me he wasn’t going to play the solo – he told me he was going to also play all the guitars because he really liked the version that I did. That’s pretty cool. And Gus- there is no other guy who can play that solo besides Zakk Wylde. And the guy played with Ozzy Osbourne also. It’s funny, he recorded the solo, and he sent me a picture of the gear that he was using to record the solo. It was the same gear that he used while he was touring with Ozzy – the sound of that cover, it’s like exactly the sound of the original song.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the importance of Alessandro Del Vecchio as a producer and keyboardist? Are there any specific areas where he is able to know how to get the best work/performances out of you?
Romero: Alessandro is a multi-talented musician and a person. Obviously, he can sing, it’s amazing he can sing, write music, play keyboards / piano, and he has a very sensitive way to go through the songs. And on the musical side, it’s important to have a person like that, not only a person who can record the track and that’s it. The most important thing with Alessandro with me is on the personal side. He’s a very sensitive and cool person, it’s really easy to work with him. Every time you have a problem, he has the ability to turn problems into solutions. And that’s very important for a musician. It’s the perfect producer that everyone should have on their records.
Dead Rhetoric: When looking at the vast body of work that you’ve done in terms of bands/projects over your career, what would you consider some of the special or standout moments when you knew you were making more of an impact with your talent and craft as a vocalist?
Romero: Obviously, to play with Rainbow is that kind of thing. We were playing shows, the people listen for the first time to my vocals. I had big shoes to fill, and they said I did great. Also, with Michael Schenker it’s the same thing. I need to cover so many different singers in the same band, it’s something really hard to do. Probably for me those two moments are the most special. Then writing music with Adrian Vandenberg was very special also. I think we did a great record together. Sadly, some circumstances came up that made us not able to work together anymore, I’m proud of that album.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe there is something that is underrated that people need to look deeper into as well?
Romero: I don’t think so. The new generation of musicians, we are living in the world of exposure. Everything you do, it’s in the spotlight all the time. What I would love the people to listen to a little bit more or deeper to is Lords Of Black. It’s a more complex kind of music than I normally work on with other bands – like Sunstorm, which is AOR, hard rock. I feel like Lords of Black, some people don’t pay as much attention to the songs as they deserve. Sometimes you need to listen many times to realize it’s a good song.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you enjoy the versatility and variety present in all these projects/bands – as you have The Ferrymen as well?
Romero: Yes, I am the type of person that realized I need to do different things all the time. I need to be busy. I wake up every morning, seven in the morning, and I need to do things. Every day, even Sundays, and sometimes my wife, she’s not happy with that (laughs). It’s hard for me to stay at home in one place doing nothing. It’s the same in my professional life. As you say, I can do hard rock, I can do progressive rock, heavy metal – and it keeps me busy. It keeps my brain going to the gym every day. That’s very cool to do. Not only to do it, but to do it with great musicians around – so I consider myself very, very lucky.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the biggest challenges making a career as a musician in today’s ever-evolving music industry?
Romero: For me, I think in my personal experience, one of the things is to stay healthy, mentally healthy, with the criticism. That’s an achievement, with any musician. It’s really hard to keep focus when you have too many things around. We live in this world where people feel entitled to say whatever they want to say, not only about you and your music but also about your personal life. People talk about how they think you are, they think they know you, they think they can talk about your family, personal relations. You have to stay calm and focus and mentally prepare for that. New musicians and new generations, they have to start getting used to it.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you are your own harshest critic, and are there other opinions you trust from your fellow musicians when it comes to your work?
Romero: I learned to accept criticism, advice from musicians. I don’t think people want to give you advice to make you worse as a musician. Criticism is a different thing, and you need to get used to it. I’m okay with criticism in every aspect of my professional life. What I don’t like is criticism on my personal life. They don’t have the right to do it. It’s like, you can say I don’t like your album, I don’t like your band, I don’t like the way you sing, I don’t like you at all as a musician – and that’s pretty much okay, it’s part of the business. The people they can like it or not, the same way people can like Coca Cola or like Pepsi. It’s the same thing. When the people go in another way and talk about your personal life, garbage criticism to try to destroy you, I can’t accept that.
Dead Rhetoric: Has your outlook on music and what you do as a musician and performer changed now that you are in your early forties versus how you viewed your art/craft in your twenties and thirties? Would you have told your younger self something different to look out for now that you are older and wiser that maybe you took for granted?
Romero: Absolutely. Especially this same thing that I was just talking to you about before. In some way, since I joined Rainbow almost eight years ago, everything started to happen really fast in my life. I always say, my career, if you look at my career and see a list of everything that I’ve done so far – it would take thirty or forty years to do for another musician. And I did this in nine years. I would say to my younger self to calm down. I tried to do too much at the beginning. And I am still dealing with that, because I signed contracts, I have obligations. In this moment I would say do things slowly, do things better, take your time.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of hard rock/heavy metal in today’s global marketplace? What excites you, and what changes (if any) would you like to make for the greater good of all parties involved?
Romero: I think that the people are listening to rock and heavy metal more. There was a little valley between the 2000’s until about 2015-17. But I think there is a comeback of rock and heavy metal music. You can see it on the television, there is music on Netflix, Amazon, HBO. They put rock music with the Wig Wam guys on the HBO Max series Peacemaker. And that’s really cool, because we had some hard times during the pandemic. Especially for the live performances. It’s a comeback.
What I would say as advice to a new generation of musicians, take this seriously as a career, not just as a hobby. Sometimes musicians we tend to take this as a hobby, at the end people are looking for good products, and the music that you do is a product. There is a lot of competition, and ways of entertainment. You need to present something that the people can be interested in. We have the internet, YouTube, Netflix, a lot of things that people can do besides listen to music. If you don’t bring something interesting to the table, the people will go to other places. I talked to some young people before – take this as a profession. To be professional is not to make a job and get paid. To be professional is to do your work and do it well, in the best way you can. That’s the way you get results.
Dead Rhetoric: You represented Bulgaria in the Eurovision Song Contest of 2022 as the lead singer for the Intelligent Music Project. Can you discuss your experiences with this competition, does this really further the reach and impact of your talent beyond the rock/metal landscape into a more generalized public awareness/acceptance?
Romero: I would love to have the conclusion of a good experience with Eurovision. But if you want to have an impact with rock music, which is not the rock or metal market, I don’t think that Eurovision is the right place. In my experience, it was what I felt like Eurovision is a very closed circle. They want a very specific product. If you don’t fit that specific things, you are out and they obviously don’t care. I spent two weeks in Italy on this Eurovision thing because you need to rehearse, everything is so cold. There isn’t really care for the artist, it’s about the product and how much time you have in front of the cameras. As a rock musician, I felt very out of context. We were in a different world. We felt like we were on Mars. It was okay to live the experience from the inside of how it works, but nothing more than that.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns do you have the most regarding the world that we live in today? If you had the chance to discuss a key issue or two that the average person needs to take more of an interest in to make the world a better place, what would you have them consider and work on?
Romero: Definitely the personal relationships. It’s something we are losing as a society. There are too many screens around. I was talking with Ritchie Blackmore some years ago about this. He had a question for me, to me as a younger person, that I couldn’t answer. He asked why do people look at those windows/screens all the time, and not looking at a real window outside? You can see it – everywhere you go, everyone is with their phones, in front of their faces. It happens to me many times also. At the same table with your beloved, everyone is with their phone, no one is talking face to face with each other. Or you go to get dinner in your house and you put the television on instead of talking to each other. For me, and that brings distancing of people, the feelings you bring to other people. Everything turns into a colder world, and that’s why the people they don’t care about what they say about others. Everybody cares only about themselves, it’s tougher to relate to other people. This would solve a lot of problems in society, if people started to care about others.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Ronnie Romero related activities either with bands, projects, live touring, etc. over the next twelve months?
Romero: Well, we have the release of the Elegant Weapons album, coming in May if I’m correct. Starting in the spring and summer I will be doing festivals around Europe with Michael Schenker and also with Elegant Weapons. Until the fall, when the third solo album with original songs is going to be released.