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My dad was talking about my brother and I, and Ronnie was like ‘ah yeah, but this is the good guy here’, and it was a lovely thing to hear. Every time we spoke he’d say ‘your dad’s such a nice guy, I’m sorry I didn’t get to talk to him more, please send him my regards.’ It was a lovely touch.

That’s the kind of guy Ronnie was...

He was such a personable and genuine person. I went out to his house in California with Tony in April 2008. There was some setting up to do because we said we’d write at Ronnie’s. He had a small studio there and it fell to Ronnie and me to get it up and running. We spent an incredible day trolling around Los Angeles trying to find things! We went down to Guitar Centre because we needed a Voodoo power supply for Tony’s board. So the pair of us were piling into the store and the shop guys were going ‘Ah, this is a dream!’ Ronnie asked, ‘if we get our photo taken can we actually buy something?’ That set the whole thing off for me as to what a down to earth guy he was. And it just got better you know…

You first worked with Ronnie on the new studio tracks on “The Best Of Black Sabbath: The Dio Years”?

Tony had talked about doing a couple of new tracks, so Ronnie came over to help. I wasn’t really around, they were just kind of songwriting and they seemed to quickly fall into a great working relationship again. One day I got a phone call: ‘We’re just trying to sort out how to get Reason working with Pro Tools. Ronnie does his own stuff at home but he’s struggling a little bit here, can you come round?’ It was two hours later and still no work had been done, but there was plenty of story telling and ridiculous laughter. I don’t like to shatter myths, but these guys are the funniest people. Brilliant!

Shadow Of The Wind was completed as a demo that week. We were amazed really. I brought in a couple of musicians and it was demoed with a band. The song was stunning. Later in the year - I know Ronnie had a few family issues - I think his mum died. There was a lot going on. Just before Christmas he came over, Geezer came over, and the tracks came together in a very short period. We got three songs done and the record company was quite pleased. The guys went out and did live stuff and when it was decided they would do an album, it came as great news.

I was surprised they were writing together, given some of the band’s history, but I’m not privy to what

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happened inside. They always seemed to have a good working relationship when it came to music.

Whatever went on in the past, it sort of became what it became. I was privileged to be with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio in Ronnie’s house for nine weeks, just creating, having a laugh, and putting this project (The Devil You Know) together. When all ten songs were written they decided they needed to play them together as a band. I sat there for a week in the rehearsal studio with my small Pro Tools system plugged into a monitor console with in-ear monitors, watching Sabbath play. And it just went to show how good they really are. I experienced moments of hilarity as well because they’re running through stuff that is incredibly complex, like “Eating The Cannibals”; there are some weird changes in there, you get the first one wrong and suddenly everything’s off the rails and Ronnie’s looking over at me, grinning because of the chaos onstage.

In the days since Ronnie’s death I’ve been trying to get what information I can from the internet. Lots of music stars are saying such incredibly nice things. He really, truly loved music, didn’t he?

Oh, absolutely! The experience of being in a room when he was pushing Tony, and Tony was pushing him, was an incredible thing. They always made sure they were doing everything possible to see if the stuff could be improved, making every effort to make it the best thing ever. Everybody worked very, very hard. Ronnie would disappear upstairs to his kitchen with a CD of yesterday’s stuff to work on lyrics and melody; Tony and Geez would sometimes disappear upstairs while Ronnie tried a vocal for the first time to see if the ideas worked. At the beginning of “Bible Black”, the whole bit before the band kicks in is actually a demo vocal we did in Ronnie’s home studio... Dear old Ronnie, taken too soon, but what an incredible career... I’ve had the opportunity to work with the three greatest singers that have come out of rock: Ronnie, Ian Gillan, and Glenn Hughes. Thank you Tony!

The studio I was using at Mountain FM was booked for another session and we had to wrap it up, or we’d still be talking! Though Ronnie is gone from this earth, he will never be forgotten. My profound gratitude to Mike Exeter, for opening his heart and sharing at such a difficult time. By John Kereiff

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