Front man for Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow before joining up with Michael Schenker, Ronnie Romero has worked with some of rock's most larger than life figures. However, he's now stepping out from under those huge shadows with a brand new project. Put together by Judas Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner and featuring Pantera's Rex Brown on bass, Elegant Weapons have recently released their debut album 'Horns for a Halo. We caught up with Ronnie at Hellfest in France to discuss the project, his split with Schenker, and what lies ahead. Do or die; Eamon O'Neill.
Hi Ronnie, how the hell are you doing today?
Fine. I'm having fun! We arrived really early here, so we had the chance to meet some friends; a couple of bands like British Lion, Def Leppard. We had a great show. Great people. The audience was fantastic.
You're only four shows into Elegant Weapons, isn't that right?
Yeah, we did two shows with Pantera, one headlining show in Paris, and today was the first festival.
So how was that? Do you still have early days glitches and nerves?
No, you know, you see the line-up of this band; we're all experienced. We're just trying to make it as best possible and then having fun.
The band now features a different line-up to the one that recorded the album; does that change the dynamic?
Not really too much. The drummer, Christopher Williams, he was the drummer in Accept, and he actually recorded the demos for the songs, so he knew all the songs when we called him to join the band, because Scott [Travis] was not able to do it. For the live shows, he was pretty much ready. And Davey [Rimmer, bass] he's played with Richie since many years ago. They know each other. So it was a really easy, real chemistry, a connection between all of us to make this meaningful.
Why was Scott unavailable?
I don't know. I think he was just taking a period of not doing anything because they were also now recording the album for Judas Priest. So he was not really into touring with the band, and that's it, but everything's good.
Looking at your career, you've worked with some of the greats, including Ritchie Blackmore.
Actually, it was a really cool experience, and he was always nice to me. I didn't have any problems. A lot of the people are saying; "oh, he's a hard guy to work with!" I say; "no, it was really nice, all the time". Obviously, I learned a lot working with him. He was acting actually like a like a master, teaching me a lot of stuff from the business. It was it was great. It was a great experience.
More recently it was announced that you'd split from Michael Schenker; why was that?
I was thinking about that since a couple of months earlier and you know, sometimes you start to feel like some places they're not your places anymore. Since everything with Elegant Weapons started to work really well - you know, the album reviews and everything was really cool, that people really liked the album and the music we were doing - I was like; "okay, I think I don't need to be in a band playing covers". With all respect to those people, I think I'm done with that, and I need to move forward and be focused on the bands that have like a proper future; not just something for nostalgia for a couple of more years and that's it. So that was it. I talked to Michael, he understood, and we're friends and he said; "okay, I must respect that decision", and that was it.
So Elegant Weapons is your main focus now?
Yeah, I think that the band has a really cool potential, so we really need to be really focused on that.
It's probably the heaviest music I've heard you involved with; it's like Black Label Society fronted by Blackie Lawless!
Yeah, there is a lot of elements there, and that's one of the things that attracted me the more to Elegant Weapons. When Ritchie called me and shows me the songs, it's a kind of a mix of different influences. You have a lot of, could be like Black Label Society; there's Rainbow; even some Audioslave, Stone Temple Pilots sometimes, so you have all my favourite singers around us. Sometimes you need to sing a little bit like Chris Cornell. I think it's very challenging for me. It's not like just one style; it's not just heavy metal. You have a wider range to develop your vocals on the songs, so yeah, I think that's great.
As we've discussed, you've played with a lot of musical legends over the years, but what was it like recording an album with Rex Brown from Pantera?
Yeah, that was mind blowing. When Richie called and said; "hey, I have the songs, I have these musicians, and we're looking for a singer to record the album". I was like; "who is in the band?" Obviously, Richie because I knew Richie since a couple of years ago, and he said; "oh, it's Scott on the drums, and it's Rex on the bass", and I was like; "okay!", and that was it!
Did the Pantera reunion come out of the blue? Was Rex slated to be touring with you now?
He didn't know when exactly the tour was going to start with Pantera, so obviously, we did the record and we were talking about some shows with Elegant Weapons, and suddenly he talked to us like; "I think I cannot do it because the tour is starting on this date and it's going to be a mess", and that was it. Obviously we understood because it's basically Pantera!
The album came out a couple of months ago; you must be really proud of it and how it's been received.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it's probably one of the best things that I ever did. It was really cool for me to sing over the songs and as I said before, to discover some different ranges and different things that you can do with your vocals; not just a typical heavy metal thing. And also because the people they really liked it and the reviews we're having from the media, the reaction from the people, and the reactions to the shows we did so far; it's great. It looks like the people they really enjoy the band, and that's really cool for a new band.
What are the plans going forward for the band; is album number two pencilled in, or are you just looking at touring?
We are starting to work on new songs. This time it's going to be a little more as a band working on it. We're also going to keep doing some shows and then hopefully do some tours in America. Japan - we know - and South America, and then we'll see.
Have you your eye on any other projects because obviously Richie is going to be going back to Judas Priest at some point.
Actually, I am releasing my first solo album with original songs. It's going to be released in September, so while Richie's touring with Judas Priest, I'm going to do a tour with my own songs.
That must be something really special for you.
It is really special because we did this album from zero and I was involved in everything, in all the process for the very first time. I was not just the singer who gets the songs and goes to the studio; no, I was writing the songs with the guys, I'm producing the album, and we did the mixing and the mastering together with the producer, so it's a very special project.
What kind of style would you describe it as?
It's a mix of a lot of influences, but I will say mostly like Dio solo stuff, you know; like a little bit 'Last in Line', 'Holy Diver' thing, a little bit of Black Sabbath also, but it's a mix. I mean you you will notice anyway that; "okay, this is Ronnie, and then we all know where Ronnie comes from!"
Can you reveal who's playing on the album?
It's a Spanish band. All the guys who are friends of mine. The main producer with me and the guy who did the mixing and the mastering was the drummer in Lords in Black. So it's like all people; my confidants.
Is there anyone you'd like to work with that you haven't already?
Everybody's asking to make something with Tony Iommi. That will probably the the only thing that I have still, you know, to check off, but we will see. I mean, if you look to my career, I will never say it's not possible.
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