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In the months before Ronnie James Dio’s death I became friends with Mike Exeter, engineer and producer for the Black Sabbath Heaven & Hell album. Not knowing Ronnie’s end was so near, I was prepping a Dio-era Sabbath special for Mountain FM, to send positive vibes out into the universe, to help him with his recovery. I asked Mike if he was up for a chat about Ronnie and he agreed without hesitation.

You’re close to Tony Iommi, working with him on daily basis. How is he taking it?

He’s been very much in touch with Geezer, who has been fantastic throughout, spending a lot of time with Ronnie. He’s been keeping Tony abreast of things. He said it had been a horrible couple of days, but that we’d sit down and play. I just said to him this morning I thought it was the best thing we could do. So we had a really great day, just chatting and doing stuff in the studio; looking at pictures, having a laugh, and raising a glass to Ronnie.

Music is great therapy, isn’t it?

Absolutely! We had a thing when we were writing for The Devil You Know, where Ronnie would come up and he’d say jokingly, ‘Well Mike can just do that, why haven’t you done it already Mike?’ and I said ‘I thought about that a minute ago when I was ballsing up one of my drum edits.’

(both laugh). Great person, really talented. I was chuffed to be a part of something that was so positive for these guys.

You helped produce and engineer The Devil You Know…

Yeah. I started in at the beginning of the year with Tony, putting ideas together so we were prepared for Ronnie to come over. He spent a week or nine days here, and the end result was “Breaking Into Heaven”. Then it was our turn to go across and spend time at his house. We got very close… we used to put the world to rights, Ronnie and me, late at night at Rockfield (a residential recording studio in Wales where Dehumanizer was recorded in ’92, and The Devil you Know in late 2008). It was great because there’s not a lot to watch on the television when you haven’t got many cable channels. We did a lot of talking, but yeah, really great guy.

You mentioned in an email about Ronnie talking to your dad. Can you share that again?

Tony’s home town, Birmingham, has The Birmingham Walk Of Fame, to honor people from the city by having a Hollywood-style star set in the sidewalk pavement. It coincided with our first weekend of recording at Rockfield, so we all came down, including my dad. When we were done, Ronnie came up to say goodbye. I introduced him to my dad and they had a lovely chat, pretty similar ages, and Ronnie was great.

Continued on page 37...

Left to right the photo is: drummer Vinnie Appice, singer Ronnie James Dio, engineer/ producer Mike Exteter, bassist Geezer Butler, and guitarist Tony Iommi. Photo: Mike Exeter

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