Simon Wright – Steel Mill Interview

Drummer legend Simon Wright has a CV most would be envious of. He started at bare age of 20 with one of the biggest rock bands in the world AC/DC and has since then worked with Dio, UFO, Rhino Bucket, Geoff Tate and Queensrÿche to name just few. Currently Simon plays with Dio Disciples, the officially endorsed Dio tribute. Heather Williams talked with Simon on his colourful career and future plans.

You joined AC/DC after the release of “Flick Of The Switch” in 1983. Do you know why your predecessor Phil Rudd left and how did they approach you about joining? What was it like working with the guys in AC/DC? Any wild stories to tell and any that stand out for you?

I don’t know why Phil was fired they never really talked about him. The band put an ad in a music paper called Sounds in England that read “Drummer wanted. If you don’t hit hard don’t apply” so I thought well I hit hard! So I got down to the rehearsal place and met a Tech who asked me to play along to three tracks by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and ZZ Top. I finished and he said great, we’ll be in touch. About three hours later he calls and asked if I could come back tomorrow? I told him that would be difficult because I didn’t have any money, so he said “don’t worry get in a cab and I’ll sort it out”.

I went in the next day and he met me in the lobby and said “follow me”. And as I’m walking I see all the flight cases in the hallway with AC/DC painted on them. I stopped him and said “you are fuckin’ joking right?” and he smiled and calmly replied “no”.

Mal, Angus and Cliff were inside. We shook hands and they asked me what songs I knew and off we went, we played about 5 or 6 songs. Then took a break and I asked “Am I in the band?” and Mal said “looks like it”. All very low key. Then my whole life changed, so to speak.

Your first record with the band was “Fly On The Wall.” It looks like the videos for that album were made with some of the same actors and in the same settings. Can you set us straight on that?

Yes, a lot of the same actors, filming was done in and around Brooklyn NY.

The AC/DC album “Who Made Who” (1986) was written for a Stephen King movie “Maximum Overdrive”. How were you guys approached to make the soundtrack for that movie?

Steven is a huge AC/DC fan and wanted to include the band’s music in his film.

The AC/DC drummers (from left), Chris Slade, Phil Rudd, Simon Wright

It seems like you were having a good run with AC/DC, making albums, videos, a soundtrack for a movie, touring, including a six month tour in Australia etc. With all that success, why did you leave them to join Dio?

It was a gradual thing, I wanted and needed to branch out with my playing and spread my wings a bit. I had been with the band about 7 or 8 years and the time just felt right to move on and that’s what I did. I was fortunate to hook up with Ronnie.

You played on four studio albums and two live albums with Dio (“Lock Up The Wolves”, “Magica”, “Killing The Dragon”, “Master Of The Moon”, “Evil Or Divine – Live In New York City”, and “Holy Diver – Live”) Those albums were so magical. What were those times like and what was it like working with Ronnie James Dio? How did you meet him? How did you get approached for playing with the band?

I had ran into Ronnie a couple of times before I left DC and I found him very clever, smart and a great sense of humor. A friend of my wife’s at the time mentioned he was looking for a new drummer so one thing led to another and we did some rehearsing and it clicked. Working with Ronnie was a great pleasure. He was a workaholic, which I liked. He had a way about him that would draw you in and he would always push you to be a better player. As years went on we became great friends and I miss him terribly, I’ll be surprised if I ever meet anyone like him again.

Do you know why the young Rowan Robertson only appeared on one album (“Lock Up The Wolves”)? Was it different working with someone so young as opposed to someone older? Why did you leave Dio one year after joining him only to come back seven years later and spend twelve years with him?

Well Ronnie got an offer to go back to Black Sabbath and the Dio-band kind of disbanded. I went on to work with UFO and Rhino Bucket for the next couple of years and then re-joined DIO in 1998. Rowan went on to form a band with Lynch Mob-singer Oni Logan called Violets Demise. Working with Rowan was great, he was young but an incredible guitarist, we’re still good friends.

Ronnie was planning “Magica II” and “III” at the time of his death. Were you going to be a part of those albums? Are there any finished songs from “Magica II- III” and if so will they ever be released? What would be done as far as who would sing them?

Yes he was writing with Craig Goldy and I was around too. I would say there are 3 or 4 songs, good ones that at some point might see the light of day. But that is up to Wendy (Dio) at the moment. Even though Ronnie wasn’t feeling good towards the end he still had lots of ideas and the whole concept of Magica 2 and 3 worked out.

Simon with Dio’s Disciples

Tell us about your time with UFO. When and why did you replace drummer Andy Parker? What albums did you record with them?

Well it all started middle of 1994 when I got a phone call from Bella Piper who was Michael Schenker’s manager at the time. She asked if I would be interested in being in Michael’s band MSG. I said I’d love to, anyway didn’t hear much for a couple of weeks then she called and told me “It’s not MSG it’s going to be UFO and are you still interested?” I said “of course I am”. I really enjoyed my time in UFO. They are great people, never a dull moment and lot’s going on. So I guess I was with them from 1994 till middle of 1998 then I re-joined Dio.

You joined Rhino Bucket in 1993 and made an album with them in 1994 titled “Pain”. What prompted the hiatus in 1996 and why did you come back in 2007? You made two more albums with them: “Pain And Suffering” (2007) and “The Hardest Town” (2009). All the albums are really reminiscent of the Bon Scott era of AC/DC. Were you on their European 2010 tour?

The middle of 1994 I took a break from Rhino Bucket to join UFO. The thing with Rhino Bucket from then on after that was we remained good friends so whenever they got stuck for a drummer I would help out. I get offers to do shows and if I need a band I can call on them so it’s a mutual thing. They have had a solid line up for a few years now with drummer Dave Ducey and are recording a brand new album at the moment.

Did you record on Tytan’s full-length album “Rough Justice” (1995)? I thought Les Binks joined up at the time of recording and that you joined up after they had already recorded and toured with Tygers of Pan Tang?

I recorded two tracks on the Tytan album. Les Binks played on all the other ones.

Did you make any albums with A II Z?

I’m glad you asked me this question. I recorded three songs with AIIZ. Two tracks on a 45 called “I’m The One Who Loves You” (Russ Ballard song) and B- side was “Ringside Seat”. Another song was recorded called “Flames” but was to my knowledge it was never released. I did not play on the live album called “Witch Of Burkeley” or on the EP “No Fun After Midnight”.

You played drums on Geoff Tate’s Queensrÿche album “Frequency Unknown”, on the songs “Cold” and “In the Hands Of God”. Why were different musicians used on different songs in that album? Geoff’s version of Queensrÿche became Operation Mindcrime because of a legal dispute with drummer Scott Rockenfield’s Queensrÿche. What is your current role in Operation Mindcrime? Any more albums planned?

You would need to ask Geoff about that. It was put together very quickly. I know Geoff likes to work with a lot of different musicians, it’s the same with Operation Mindcrime. There will be another Mindcrime-album to complete the trilogy. I’m not sure when that will be out though.

What was the Big Noize Project? I know it was a project you were doing in Iraq. Was it done during a dangerous time? For instance, could you hear fighting going on around you?

Big Noize was a band that was formed by Vinnie Appice and he couldn’t go to Iraq so they called me. And yes we were looked after but you could hear the conflict going on in the distance. Speaking to and hearing stories from the soldiers was quite an experience. I have the utmost respect for the armed forces around the world.

You once cited Cozy Powell and John Bonham as influences. What about them was so influential for you?

Those two guys to me were so powerful. There are lots of others too but what I heard and saw in them was as I said power with just enough finesse. They were very influential but I’m still learning.

Where can people find more information on you such as social media sites, websites etc?

I have two Facebook pages: Simon Wright a personal page and Simonwright musician page. Plus there are usually page links to me on some of the previous bands I’ve been in.

You’ve been drumming almost 40 years. What would you say to drummers out there who dream of having a career like you’ve had?

Well first of all my career is not quite over yet, hahaha. My advice is consider what you want to do first. A hobby that you love or a career, which can be extremely difficult at times but worth it if you persevere through great times and hard times. I still love to play drums and it’s a good thing because at my age it’s too late to do anything else haha.

Drum talk time:

A.I know you’ve been behind many drum kits. What to you would be the perfect drum kit?
B.Which would you use less, a China or a Flat Ride?
C.Do you or have you ever used “ported heads” on your drums?
D.Have you ever used peripherals when they playing drums on stage or at home or anywhere, be it an iOS / Android device, a computer, or something?
E. Have you ever broken your drum sticks right in the middle of playing a show?

A. I have played a lot of kits, perfect kit is simple, my kit.

B. That would be Flat Ride because I don’t own one.

C. Yes. on the front of my kick drums.

D. I never have, this next Dio Disciples-tour with the hologram I need to use a click track live to sync up with Ronnie’s voice. So it’s a first for me live.

E. I break sticks during every other show I would say.

What do you do when not behind the drum kit? Any hobbies, favourite foods, books, or movies?

I generally stay quiet at home. I have a pool and a garden which I look after and I cook some Indian food.

Thank you Simon for the interview. I hope 2017 brings amazing things for you!

Thanks Heather!

Interview by Heather Williams

To find out more on Simon’s activities, Dio Disciples and more go to:

Simon Wright artist Facebook
Dio Disciples Facebook