Interview: Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO, UFO’ drummer)

Interview: Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO, UFO’ drummer)

- in Written interviews

You’ve been in some very notable bands like AC DC and Dio. It was really cool watching you in some of the music videos for them. You’re playing is aggressive in a sort of calm way, very solid. You played on three of their albums: Fly on the Wall, Who Made Who, and Blow Up Your Video.

Thanks, yes those are the albums I recorded with ACDC.

Do you know why Phil Rudd left in 1983? How did they approach you about joining? What was it like working with the guys in AC DC? Any wild stories to tell? 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 go down to the rehearsal place and I meet a Tech who ask’s me to play along to three tracks by Zeppelin, DC and ZZ Top. So I finish and he says, Great, 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 says dont worry get in a cab and I’ll sort it out.
So I go the next day and he meets me in the lobby and says follow me, and as I’m walking I see all the flight cases in the hallway with ACDC painted on them, so I stop him and say “your fuckin joking right” and he smiled and calmly replied “no”.
Mal, Angus and Cliff were inside we shook hands and asked me what songs I knew and off we went, played about 5 or 6 songs, 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.

It looks like the Fly on the Wall videos 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 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 ACDC fan and wanted to include the bands music in his film.

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, 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 when I was fortunate to hook up with Ronnie.

Amazing 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? 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 rejoined DIO in 98. 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, were 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 and 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 song ideas,good ideas, that at some point might see the light of day but that is up to Wendy at the moment. Even though he wasn,t feeling good he still had lots of ideas and the whole concept of Magica 2 and 3 worked out.

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 94 when I got a phone call from Bella Piper who was Micheal Schenkers manager at the time, she asked if I would be interested in being in Micheals 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 its 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, hahaha, lots going on. So I guess I was with them from 94 to middle of 98 then I rejoined DIO.

You joined Rhinobucket 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 reminicient of the Bon Scott era of AC DC. Were you on their European 2010 tour?

The middle of 94 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 when ever they got stuck for a drummer I would help out, I get offers to do shows and I need a band I can call on them, so its 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 2 tracks on the TYTAN album Rough Justice, Les Binks played on all the other ones.

You’re also part of a band called Hellion. The band has a sensational lineup with you on drums, Anne Boleyn on vocals, who founded the band in 1982 (LOVE the way she sings Screams in the Night, outstanding vocals on that song), Scott Warren, keyboards ( Heaven and Hell, Dio, Type-O Negative, Warrant), Bjorn Englund, bass (Dio Disciples, Tony McAlpine, Yngwie Malmsteen), Maxxwell Carlisle, guitars (Knightriders, Maxxwell Carlisle Band, Society 1), and Ira Black, guitars (ex Metal Church). How long have you been a part of Hellion and any plans for the band in 2017? Any new albums, shows/tours in the works?

I have been involved in Hellion for about 3 years, Ann has an amazing voice and asked me to come in and help with songwriting and production and reforming the band and taking it on the road. We are slowly finishing up the mixing of a live Hellion album which should be available this year, then some touring hopefully schedules permitting.

Did you make any albums with A II Z?

I’m glad you asked me this question Heather, I recorded 3 songs with AIIZ. 2 tracks on a 45 called I’m the one who loves you, {Russ Ballard song} B side was Ringside Seat. Another song was recorded called Flames but was to my knowledge 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 Queensryche 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 Queensryche became Operation Mindcrime because of a legal dispute with drummer Scott Rockenfield’s Queensryche. What is your current role in Operation Mindcrime? Any more albums planned?

You would need to ask Geoff about that,i know it was put together very quickly.
I know Geoff likes to work with a lot of different musicians,its the same with Operation Mindcrime ,there will be another mindcrime album to complete the trilogy ,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 Vinny 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 links to me on some of the previous bands I’ve been in pages.

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 that 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 its a good thing because at my age its too late to do anything else. Haha.


A. I know you’ve been behind MANY drum kits. What to you would be the PERFECT drum kit? – I have played a lot of kits, perfect kit is simple, my kit.
B. Which would you use less, a China or a Flat Ride? – That would be Flat Ride because I dont own one.
C. Do you or have you ever used “ported heads” on your drums? – Yes on the front of my kick 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? – I never have, this next Disciples tour with the hologram I need to use a click track live to sync up with Ronnie’s voice, so its a first for me live.
E. Have you ever broken your drum sticks right in the middle of playing a show? – I break sticks during every other show I would say.

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

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

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

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