Bobby Rondinelli is the stereotypical New Yorker, hard, straightforward almost to the point of abrasiveness and capable only of being loved or hated. You just can't be indifferent to a native New Yorker or to Bobby. Most people love Bobby Rondinelli if not for his personality then for his ability to pound out a drum solo with all the furry of a tornado while never letting the cigarette, he is smoking, slip from his mouth. He is a true rock and roll character and an incredible drummer.
With the experience that he has had working with such metal monoliths as RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, and BLUE OYSTER CULT you might expect his approach to music and to his audience to be a bit one dimensional but nothing could be further from the truth. His rock solid drumming can give way to a dizzying array of beats, completely at his whim, without falling outside of a given composition's structure. On the personality side, well, he is just fun to talk too. He can usually be found floating around the club he is performing at and that is where I have bumped into him, literally, several times. This last time, I managed to get him to sit for a few minutes so that I could ask him a bit about some of his rock and roll travels.
DL = David Lee BR = Bobby Rondinelli
DL How was it that you first came into the whole world of BLACK SABBATH?
BR It was a call from a guy named Robert Gambino who used to work for SABBATH and he called me and said that they were looking for a drummer and they were mentioning my name so, he gave me Iommi's number and I just called him.
DL In LA?
BR No he was in England somewhere.
DL Was there some kind of audition process?
BR I basically got the gig and they flew me over to England. I guess that if I would have sucked I wouldn't have got it but it was kind of I had it ‘till I fucked it up.
DL You had the gig unless you fucked it up?
BR You know what I mean? I was in but we still hadn't played together so once we played together it worked well.
DL It did seem to work well. You actually joined the band twice, once for the "CROSS PURPOSES" album and tour and then again after Cozy Powell quit in the middle of the "FORBIDDEN" tour.
DL The second time, was that something that was hard for you to do last minute? Did you have to drop something else in order to do it?
BR Yeah, I had some shit going on but I would rather do a SABBATH tour and so I did it.
DL Is SABBATH something that is open to you in the future or is that strictly something that you did in the past?
BR Yeah. We left on good terms so anything can happen.
DL You played with two different bassists in SABBATH, did you like playing with either one of them over the other?
BR I liked it with Geezer and I liked it with Neil. They are both great bass players.
DL Is the reunion of the original band anything that is of particular significance to you?
BR Not at all.
DL You have taken your drum kits with you through several major name acts over the years but have you found a permanent home here with BLUE OYSTER CULT?
BR Yeah. I am enjoying it and we get along well. The band works a lot and they don't take a year off and sit at home like everyone else doing nothing. We all live in the same area which is pretty convenient and we all sound good together.
DL I think this may be the fourth band that I actually have seen you perform with.
DL What has the progression been like for you? Have you plotted it out or has it all just been chance and opportunity?
BR I doesn't really work like that. Nowadays if you get a gig playing heavy metal you are kind of fortunate because a lot of heavy metal bands aren't working. I've been lucky to bounce around from one to the next and left them all on good terms form Blackmore to QUIET RIOT to SABBATH and now it is BLUE OYSTER CULT. You get in do your job and try to have a good time.
DL There was a lot of talk about a reformation of RAINBOW with Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore with other former members, is that anything that you have been contacted about?
BR No, not at all. I am still very friendly with Ritchie but I was never part of that version of the band and I don't know what the status of that is.
DL I had the good fortune to interview Ray Gillen several years ago and I know that you worked with him both at the beginning and the end of his career. Is there anything that you can say about him in memoriam?
BR (Long Pause) Unrealized talent. He was a great singer and I don't think anybody got to see how good he was. He was excellent and it is a shame that he had to go through that.
DL The "SUN RED SUN" project was his last recorded work and you worked together with him on that...
BR Well, we never actually worked together on that. I got him involved with the project and laid down my drum tracks but then left to go out with SABBATH. He had done the vocals while I was on tour so we weren't actually in the studio together at the same time but we were together on one of the last things that he ever recorded.
DL That record was put out by an independent record company, is that anything that you are involved in?
BR I have nothing to do with the distribution of the record. I basically just played on the record and got paid.
DL I think that it is a very good record.
BR It's not bad.
DL It seems to be getting a bit of short shrift because there is no major release of the thing or even significant advertisement.
BR It's horrible because there is no band. There is no tour to get behind and the singer is dead. That's all a bit much!(laughs) There is no band and the singer has, unfortunately, passed away so...
DL In addition to your position with BLUE OYSTER CULT, are there any other projects in the offing?
BR I would like to do some kind of solo record at some point. Maybe a rhythm oriented kind of thing.
DL With a lot of different singers and guitar players?
BR I would like to play with some different people but I don't have time to do much of anything else right now.
DL I got an e-mail that said that you have been doing a bit of work with ZEBRA, at least playing with them live.
BR I have been playing with ZEBRA. I have been doing all of the ZEBRA dates that don't interfere with BLUE OYSTER CULT. Their drummer is a good friend of mine and he has got cancer and he is going through recovery so I do as many of their shows as BOC'S schedule permits.
DL Are their any other particular artists that you can say that you would like to work with more than any other? Like Jeff Beck or whomever?
BR (Laughs) Yeah who wouldn't? I don't know, I just want to keep working and in this business you do it for a certain amount of years and if you are fortunate you will still get work.
DL Your brother, what has he been doing?
BR Looking for a project. He is a great guitar player and a great singer all he needs is a break.
DL Is that something that you try to help him out with?
BR Of course but most band leaders are either guitar players or singers and he is a singing guitar player so it is kind of rough. I don't get many calls from bands looking for singers or guitar players. They call me when they are looking for a drummer.
DL Most of the latest BLUE OYSTER CULT record was recorded before you were in the band...
BR Yeah, I only play on one track. The whole album was done, except for a few overdubbs, before I even joined the band. They wanted to do a bunch of tracks with me on it but budget and time didn't allow for it but they at least got me on the one song.
DL Have you been involved in any writing for future releases?
BR Yeah, but I don't even want to talk about it because it' all still in the works.
DL Alright man, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me after pounding away for two hours under those lights.
BR Thanks a lot man.
by David Lee