interview by Michael McCarthy
Last Friday on August 24th, 2018, I had the opportunity to interview Craig Goldy, a guitarist extraordinaire who’s currently promoting his latest project, Dream Child. Goldy is perhaps best known as a guitarist for the late Ronnie James Dio, having played on the Dio albums Dream Evil (1987), Magica (2000) and Master of the Moon (2004). Dream Child also features fellow Dio veterans Simon Wright on drums and Rudy Sarzo on bass, along with ex-MSG keyboardist Wayne Findlay and the previously unknown singer Diego Valdez, the latter hailing from Argentina. The press release states that Valdez’s voice “will send shivers up your spine,” and that’s exactly what happened when I heard “Under The Wire,” the first track on Dream Child’s debut album Until Death Do We Meet Again, which is due out via Frontiers Records on September 14th. In all honesty, you only need to hear Valdez sing the first line of the album to get chills. You see, he’s a dead ringer for none other than Dio himself. I’m listening to the album for the seventh or eighth time as I write this and every time I have to keep reminding myself that it’s Valdez and not Dio singing. I dare you to listen to Dream Child’s songs below and not have the same reaction.
There have been a few albums by bands born out of the ashes of Dio released prior to this one, but none come even half as close to sounding like Dio albums as Until Death Do We Meet Again. However, Dream Child’s music is more so inspired by Deep Purple and another band Dio fronted, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, than Dio’s own solo material. Still, until Dream Child make another album, and I sure hope they do, you won’t hear anything that sounds even half as close to a Dio album as this. That said, you have to admire the creativity that Goldy and the album’s co-writers employed in order to pull this off. In spite of its influences and the familiar-sounding voice, these songs are bursting with originality. Not one of them is a cover and none sound like specific Dio songs. To put it another way, this is definitely not a rip-off. It’s just the voice that you’ll think you’re hearing from beyond the grave. And, if I’m being perfectly honest, I actually prefer the Dream Child record over a few of Dio’s albums. It’s that damn good.
In the following interview, Goldy and I discuss all things Dream Child and Dio, among other topics. So, listen, shiver and read on.
MM: First of all, I just have to say, Dio’s Dream Evil is my favorite album of his. I think “All The Fools Sailed Away” is his “Stairway to Heaven.” So, thanks for writing that one with him. Do you have a memory or story that you could share with us about either writing that song or working on Dream Evil in general?
CG: When I first heard his idea, Ronnie was like, “Hey, what do you think about this?” I was like, “Woah, yeah, OK.” He looked at me and I looked at him and he goes, “OK, let’s do this later. This is gonna have to be an epic.” Because we just knew right away. Because I love songs like “Stargazer,” and “Gates of Babylon,” and then he had “Egypt.” He was really good with epics. So, this was my turn to write an epic with Ronnie. Woah, I can’t wait for this. And that is why there’s a keyboard solo because I’m such a big Deep Purple fan and Rainbow fan. Ronnie kept looking at me, “Hey, are you sure about this, Goldy?” [Both laugh] “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’ll be great.” “OK,” you know? It started out with when I first joined the band Ronnie said to me that this is how we do it. Me and Jimmy get together first then we bring Viv in and then we bring the rest of the band in. So, I said, “OK, no problem.” So, while I waited for him and Jimmy, I just started storing up a bunch of ideas. And the next thing I know Ronnie calls me and goes, “I guess Jimmy’s not into it. So, you’re up.” I had stored up about 135 ideas by that time. And so then when we met – back then it was cassettes – and we would just play each other our ideas. Ronnie would go, “Yeah, that one, that one. Oh, man, I can’t wait to work on that one. That one’s gonna be good.” Then he goes, “I’ve got this thing on keyboards and I don’t know. You tell me.” And then he played that theme for “All the Fools” and I was like, “Uh!” And as soon as he heard me go, “uh, “ he goes that’s great and we looked at each other and thought let’s take the proper time for that one. It was a magical time, but that song meant a lot to me because that was my first time being able to write an epic with Ronnie James Dio. Awesome.
MM: I understand you first heard Dream Child vocalist Diego Valdez singing on an mp3. What was he singing on that recording?
CG: A friend of mine sent me a cover of “Push,” a song that Ronnie and I wrote together from the Killing the Dragon album and, yeah, it was just so well done, it gave me chills. It was actually scary because it was so close. I was like, wow. But I was destroyed when we lost Ronnie. It took me forever to get inspired to do original music. At that time, it was just like, “No, Diego, there’s no way I could do anything like this right now.” But he needed to know that he’s amazing and he needed to know that someday you and I will do an album together. So, we stayed in contact for seven years and then the day came and Serafino [Perugino, head of Frontiers Records] was like, OK, who are we gonna get to sing on this? I said, well, let me send you an mp3 that I got seven years ago. Then it was like, OK, it had to be Diego.
MM: Was Serafino reluctant to have somebody who wasn’t famous fronting a supergroup?
CG: Well, it was his voice that made the difference. When we first started talking about it, the first person he asked for was Rudy. And the second person he asked for was Simon. And he said, “Who would you write with?” And I said, “Jeff Pilson, Dougie White, Chas West, Alessandro Del Vecchio and Wayne Findlay, the keyboard player and second guitar player from Michael Schenker.” Him and I had a band together. We were trying to do a Deep Purple or Rainbow for the 21st century and it never got off the ground. So, he goes, “OK, cool. Would you have to sing?” Because so far everybody’s got a name or is connected to a name. And then it didn’t matter because Digeo was just so good. He was like, “He’s the one.” He didn’t even say, well, this guy’s not known. He just said, “OK, cool.”
MM: The press release says you were talking to Serafino about another project when the two of you came up with the idea for Dream Child. What was the idea that you were originally talking about?
CG: We were talking about why the Eisley/Goldy album was behind schedule. I kept covering for people that were connected to that project and why they were causing the delays. Serafino knew that I was covering for people and I was taking the blame so he just sent me an e-mail saying “call me.” I was like, uh-oh. So, I called him and he goes, “OK, Craig. What’s going on?” And so I had to tell him. I really didn’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but I had to. Because Serafino and I became friends over the Resurrection Kings album and that’s what brought to light the Eisley/Goldy album. And that’s what the Dream Child [project] was born from was that conversation discussing the delays for the Eisley/Goldy record.
MM: I know a few of the guys engineered their own parts for the album. Does this mean you were collaborating over the internet?
CG: Sometimes and sometimes not. A lot of us came from the era where we would write songs in the same room together. So, a song like “Under the Wire,” me and Chas wrote that in the same room together. Same thing with “Midnight Song,” we wrote that in the same room together. Me and Jeff Pilson wrote in the same room together. When Simon cut his drums, he was the only one who didn’t have his own home studio. Me and Simon sat together during every single song. He’d say, “What about this and what about that?” He would actually come up with ideas to change the songs. He’d go, “Just go ahead and play it that way and I’ll edit it later.” Sometimes I would actually change the music. He’d go, “What about this instead of that?” I’d say, “OK, you just play that part and I’ll go back and I’ll change my part.” So, a lot of that was done in the same room together. And a lot of it was done via mp3. A lot of the stuff that was done by mp3 was done by guys who know what it’s like to construct a song in the same room together. They knew how to re-create that. A lot of guys, that’s all they do. They don’t ever sit in the same room together.
MM: There’s a lot of albums like that these days. Now, I love that the Dream Child album has guitar solos, which are absent from most music today unless you look at the Frontiers’ roster. At what point during making a song do you come up with the solos?
CG: Most of the time, I see a solo like a paragraph. You have an opening statement and closing statement, supporting facts, beginning in hello and ending in goodbye. The musical equivalency of the subject matter. And so that’s what I try to do. And there are sometimes when I just kind of luck out and there will be times when I just kind of play something. I’ve done a lot of recording and listening back to myself and making the proper adjustments and stuff like that. Having that framework as the bulls-eye that I aim for when I’m just improvising a solo just to have something in there so the track doesn’t go empty. That way, we can get the songs approved by the record company so we can move on and write the rest of the songs. I know – in my head – that I’ll come back and do that later. It often frees me up because I’m not worried about making a mistake. It’s not gonna be kept. And I end up keeping [it] because the freedom I gave myself ended up like walking a tightrope with a safety net. And the solo actually was like, wow, that’s actually pretty cool. I’ll keep that. Then there’s other songs where it’s like, OK, that’s crap. I like to improvise first and then piece it together with my head. The heart first and the head second.
MM: Which songs on the album did Jeff Pilson contribute to?
CG: “It Is What It Is.” I think that’s the only one, actually. And then Doogie White and I worked on “Until Death Do We Meet Again.” And Chas West and I did “Under The Wire” and “Midnight Song.” And Alessandro and I did “Playing With Fire” and “World So Cold.”
MM: Did any of the guys who are in the band end up contributing any writing to the songs that ended up on the album?
CG: Well, Wayne and I worked on some of the musical portions of “Until Death Do We Meet Again,” “It Is What It Is” and “Weird World.” Some of the stuff was written already by me, but then as I would hear Simon play drums to it, or Diego sing to it, I would go back and change it because it became a different animal. That’s why everybody’s name is pretty much on every song. Because in my world you credit where credit’s due. If you play something on the drums that makes me want to change my guitar part, that’s songwriting to me. And I think you deserve songwriting credit if you’re altering the song in any way, shape or form. The drums and bass are like the subconscious mind and the guitar and vocals are like the conscious mind. You can’t work with one without the other. Unfortunately, the guitar player and the singer are the ones who get the most credit and the bass player and drummer are usually left out of the songwriting credits. So, I don’t like that. That’s why I like to give credit to bass players and drummers, especially because Rudy and Simon have such good ideas. On top of it all, they brought their A game. So, when they put their parts on this the songs just became a whole different animal.
MM: Did Diego write any of the lyrics?
CG: Sometimes he would change the lyrics accidentally. Him and I had a running joke because some of the lyrics and some of the melody lines would change. Sometimes he would do something a little different. He’d go, “Let me try something first and you can tell me what you think.” And then other times he would just kind of go along because he liked the lyrics and the melody lines that were there. He would send me an mp3 back and go, “Is that right?” I’d go, “No, it’s better!” [Both laugh]
MM: There you go.
CG: Sometimes he would change the phrasing and the melody line so much that it was undeniably different. So, he deserves credit. And other times he would sing the wrong lyric, but it sounded like he was saying something else that was even cooler than what was originally there. I’d go, “It sounds like you’re saying this.” He’d go, “I’m sorry.” I’d go, “No, no, no. It’s better. I’d like to keep it.” He’d go, “OK.” That kind of thing.
MM: That’s cool. So, it seems to me that a lot of these songs are using metaphors and hidden meanings. Something that Dio was excellent at doing. Did you embark on the project intending to write songs like that or did it just happen?
CG: A little bit of both. Because Ronnie was and is my favorite singer. I worked with him for so long and he showed me how he wrote. He showed me his songs and how he’d write his melody lines and lyrics and at one point during Dream Evil, the tour, during rehearsals right in front of his best friend and his tour assistant, he goes, “Goldy, I want to pass on the torch to you, kid.” I was like, “Woah.” And so I’m just now starting to discover what that really means. He had a network that reached far and wide so I got a chance to sit in on sessions where the producer and engineer had worked with John Lennon, and a producer and engineer that worked with Zeppelin, and a producer and engineer that had worked with Pink Floyd. When I was in Rough Cutt, I was invited in the studio and I watched how Angelo and Ronnie would work together and saw how they would use these unorthodox methods to get the sound they were looking for. And all that stuff soaked in. I just absorbed the information. And as him and I would write together, I would be like, “How the heck did you come up with that?” He would sit me down and go, “I think of a song as this. This is that and this is what I’d do.” He just opened up a whole world to me and his process kind of became my process. So, him and I had very similar work ethics. That’s why we liked working together so much. And I loved hidden meanings. Things you grasp right away but when you listen again you go, maybe it’s this. Things that sound dark but with a positive message. If I started using rainbows, dragons and kings and stuff like that, I’d really be raked over the coals. I wanted to write about real life situations that might even seem hopeless, but throw in a little bit of hope in there.
MM: “In A World So Cold” and “Weird World” are back to back on the album. Are the lyrics of the two of them at all connected?
CG: No, it just kind of worked out that way. I was trying to keep those two apart because of the word world in there. In fact, I had a totally different sequence than Alessandro did and I was asking him to change it. But then I went back and listened to his again and I sent him an e-mail with the subject line in all capital letters, “I WAS WRONG. KEEP YOURS.” The way he built his sequence, it was different than mine, but the way he put it together it was almost in some ways autobiographical.
MM: It seems to me that “In A World So Cold” is where we’re headed and “Weird World” is where we are now. Would you say that’s accurate at all?
CG: Very much. Very much. But at the same time about how two people can find each other in a world so cold. But there is a part in there talking about possibly where this is [headed]. Like in “Playing With Fire,” it talks about that, too. But, yes, that’s a good take. Thank you for that.
MM: Are some of the lyrics about how this country is being lead right now?
CG: [Laughs] Well, yeah. I kind of like the you sold us a bad tomorrow thing. Using that intro I had for an album a little while ago that sounds like one thing that just sounds really odd and the next thing comes and then the next thing comes and the next thing comes and it just sounds like a mess and then it goes into a single voice making a statement about civilization as it is now. I was able to catch that. Because, you know, the promises that were made, and the promises that were not kept, and things like that. But at the same time, it talks about how there’s no time to drown in sorrow. There’s a changing tide. We can fix this. It’s pretty messed up, but at the same time, I’m trying to keep it kind of light-hearted because we live in a world so cold. Kind of a light-hearted statement about what could be. Because god only knows what goes on behind closed doors up in Washington.
MM: I hear you. Now, the piano we hear at the beginning of “Under The Wire” sounds very familiar. Is it from a horror movie?
CG: Yes, on purpose. In fact, I didn’t realize it was the exact notes. I just thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could come up with something that reminded people of The Exorcist then when the guitar starts it eliminates all the exact notes. Kind of like when Ritchie Blackmore used “Fascinating Rhythm.” I think it was a 1924 big band song and it was the same melody that became the riff for “Burn.” So, when I was a kid I took film in school and they call that an establishing shot. There are two ways they can do it. One of them is where you can take somebody back in time and then little by little the images metamorphize into a completely different thing. If it’s a horror movie, they start off with an image that’s really dark and creepy, but it’s non-specific until the point where they get to a specific beginning and sometimes – half the time – it’s either a dream sequence or a joke that’s being played to lighten things up. It’s just to get your mind out of everyday life and into their particular subject matter. In that case, it’s supposed to bring people back to a darker time and then, just little by little, it metamorphosizes into something completely different. The next thing you know, you’re in our world, not that world.
MM: That’s cool. So, did you have to get permission from whoever owns the publishing on that?
CG: Quite frankly, I didn’t think they were the same notes. So, I didn’t think I needed to ask. And then when the guitar starts, it’s not the same notes at all. It just sounds like it. It’s called an open A thing. There’s really ten seconds of that that’s used in a five minute and twenty-four [second] song. So, there’s really like only ten or twenty seconds total before something else. It’s really just meant as a reminder. I don’t think the guy’s gonna think, “These guys are gonna get rich off my piece.” Because his original piece is like forty minutes long. I’m using ten seconds.
MM: I know Rudy Sarzo is listed as a guest on the album on the press release, but I did see him in the video for “Under The Wire.” So, is he going to continue with the band now?
CG: He’s also gonna be in the video for “Midnight Song” when the album comes out on September 14th. But it was nice of him to lend his credibility and his talent and his name because him and I were in a band together when they first left Ozzy, him and Tommy Aldridge. We were in a band together just before I got the call to join Dio. So, me and Rudy go way back and we’ve been friends. And then when I joined Dio him and I were friends, but him and Ronnie became inseparable because they were very alike. Someday I hope that he would be a full-blown band member, but it really is kind of a featured thing. We do want to tour, but we’re hoping we can do it when his tour schedule is open and stuff like that. We don’t want to tour as Dream Child with a different bass player. We will if we have to. I think people would understand. It was just basically him lending his credibility and his talent because of our friendship.
MM: Speaking of Quiet Riot related people, where you’ve worked with so many members of Quiet Riot over the years, I’m curious to know if they ever asked you to join the band?
CG: No, actually. They never did. I love Frankie. And, actually, our bass player from Dio Disciples played in Quiet Riot for a little bit and, of course, Rudy and then…
MM: Chuck Wright. I was wondering if you have to get another bass player to tour if you would consider him?
CG: [Laughs] I would love to work with Chuck. Yeah. That would probably be the first person to ask, come to think of it, yeah. And he’s such a great guy, too, and such a great talent as well.
MM: Are you signed to put out a second Dream Child album with Frontiers?
CG: Oh, I’m sure they’re gonna want to. They have the option to pick it up. In fact, they want to do a second Resurrection Kings album now. So, we’re talking about that right now as well.
MM: I really like the Eisley/Goldy album you released last year, but I read an interview with you the other day and it sounded like you really had to twist Dave’s arm to get him to come up with quality stuff and that you might be a little bitter about the situation. So, I’m wondering, are you guys on speaking terms now? Is there any hope for another album?
CG: Well, I’m really proud of how he sang on that album. And some of the ideas that he came up with were fantastic. But, yeah, there was a lot of convincing that needed to be taken. A lot of it was because he’d been out of the game for so long. I had to really encourage him, too. Then there were a few things that went on that I don’t want to discuss because I really don’t want to throw him under the bus when he can’t stick up for himself. There were just a couple of things that happened that I wasn’t expecting that could’ve made the album better. However, I think we did what they asked for. They asked us to do an album that was similar to the first Guiffria record. And there are a couple of songs on there that are really cool like “No More Prayers in the Dark,” “A Life if Only A Memory.” The solo in “Believe In One Another” is actually one of my favorite solos.
Reminder — the album will be released on September 14, 2018, via Frontiers Records.