Meeting one of your heroes can go one of two ways. They either fail to live up to the persona you've created in your head, or two, they exceed your expectations and treat you as a close friend, leaving you giddy as a 5 year old running for an ice cream truck. Paul Shortino was definitely the latter.
Part I of my interview with rock legend Paul Shortino
Thanks to Brett Wolfington (Big Dawg, Black Prizm) who brought the man here to the islands, I got to hang out with the legendary rock singer who has fronted such big named acts as Rough Cutt / Quiet Riot and who has been belting his heart out for audiences around the world since the early 80's. Most audiences today may remember his walk on role as "Duke Fame" in the movie, Spinal Tap. Look a bit deeper and you'll see a man who has fought against the odds of the brutal music industry in the 90's. Look even deeper, you'll find a man who has an undying dedication to his fans, his music, and has the utmost gratitude to his friend the late Ronnie James Dio who helped smooth the path for him on his musical journey.
We sat in his hotel room in Waikiki, while I devoured the cookies he offered me upon arrival, chatting about his long and fascinating career in music in his hotel in Waikiki before his performance at Pipeline Cafe.
Raul: So I know you've been busy like all heck these last few years, so you're singing with King Kobra now?
Shortino: Yes, all the original players Mick Sweda, David Henzerling, Carmine Appice and actually Johnny Rod. He actually flew in a week before I came here from Saint Louis to do the bass tracks for the record. And everybody else is doing the parts elsewhere, but we're all gonna get together to do some photos.
Raul: Very cool. The 808SceneZine as well as my own site is caters to an audience who are trying to live the dream as you are. Here's one for them. How do you mentally prepare yourself before a show?
Shortino: The day of the show is usually a mess. I get so stressed out. It's crazy. I also go over everything over and over in my head. I'm usually not so stressed when I work with guys on a regular basis because then you're familiar with the ground that you're working with. Last night we had a great rehearsal and the guys here that are backing me up are great players, they know the stuff better than I do. So I really have to do my homework. We were trying to do a little jamming last night and they go, well we learned it like the record. And I don't wanna throw a wrench in the works right now before the show. We made a few changes on a couple of songs and then we went over the Dio songs. In fact, I just wrote a song on King Kobra for Ronnie. It's a tribute to Ronnie called Monsters and Heroes. He was my monster and hero.
Raul: I'll probably cry while listening to that.
Shortino: It's a really cool song. Getting back to preparing. My wife gets the brunt of it. I try to keep it cool, else wise. For a long time I used to have a nervous reaction when on stage with Rough Cutt when I first started. It was like, I had to go to the bathroom standing right before the stage, ready to go on and I gotta go. And then that finally ceased. When you're touring, and it's a different crowd every night you don't know what to expect. They'e gonna like you or dislike you. Rough Cutt played the Reading Festival and the audience threw piss bottles and fruit at us and said they liked us. So what do you guys throw when you don't like somebody? Outlaws was on that bill and Saxon. And Outlaws got chicken and potatoes thrown at them. I said well, all you need is a little whining and that did it. I just try to keep myself low key until I get on there.
Raul: So how about vocally? I was looking back at Ronnie Dio's career. Everybody says he would just have a can of beer and half a joint before a show and he'd be good. Do you go through any kind of vocal training?
Shortino: Sometimes. Like right now I'm fighting something in my throat. I've sang a lot in the last 24 hours. So I probably won't because I've been practicing the songs all day. But sometimes I'll do that just so it just warms up everything. But majority of time, have some pot, a little cocktail and you know, go do the thing. The pot puts me in a really good state of mind as far as getting into the music. Some people, they take a hit a weed and then they're gone. Not me. I guess it's been years of practice.
Raul: I had a question about that song Dio wrote for the relief benefit that you sang on. You gotta have some interesting stories out of that. I mean, every one of my heroes in the same place, same time.
Shortino: Oh you mean the "Stars" thing. Yeah, every one of my heroes was there it was really interesting for me because I met so many people that were my peers and heroes in my life. Nobody had an ego. Everybody was really cool. Everybody was very receptive of just hanging out and trying to do the best possible on the gig. You don't usually get that many people together which such strong personalities. That was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. What an incredible experience. Actually Wendy Dio is re-releasing that. Also some old Rough Cutt with some of the stuff with Jake on that. And there's some stuff that Ronnie did with Rough Cutt I think she has.
I just found this out recently which is really interesting. I moved to Vegas two and a half years ago and Ronnie's old engineer, Angelo Currie, who did the first three albums and did the Rough Cutt demos that got us signed, just told me that Ronnie and himself were really disappointed that they didn't get to take us into the studio and produce us because they did so much with us in the past. That could have prepared them for the Holy Diver album by taking us into studio. At that time I actually was living with Ronnie and Wendy Dio when Ronnie was recording Holy Diver. He'd bring me home mixes and ideas and said, "what do you think?"
We were pretty close at one time and then I parted ways from the management. Which stopped us from seeing each other on regular basis. Then I moved to Arizona then to Nevada. We kinda lost touch like we had before when I was living with him. Ronnie and Wendy both were very giving people. Always trying to help other people. This is why they moved me in: Iâ€™m a real believer in human nature, human kindness, the humanity of people and I normally just believe everything anyone says, so I continuously would sign contracts (before reading them). So we were putting Rough Cutt together and they said we gotta bring you in the house because you're too trusting.
That's been a big downfall of me in a business sense, but just being trustworthy in people in general, I'm still there. No matter how many times I get burned, I'm not gonna change that. I believe it's better to give than to receive and we should always try to give anything we have to give. If it's talent, if you got extra money, give it to somebody who is less fortunate than you. That's the way they [Ronnie & Wendy] work, and I was raised that way so it kinda just fit. We got along really well.
Raul: Ronnie James Dio passing away hit all of us pretty hard. I saw a video of you singing your song at the tribute.
Shortino: You know, it was the second song I chose. I was supposed to actually sing . Ronnie sang it with him so, Wendy called me and asked me if I would sing that song with Geoff. And what had happened was they couldn't get the music together. They had the orchestration part, but everything was acoustic that day. So I said that I'd really like to do In My Life because John Lennon had such had impact on the human race and I believe that Ronnie did as well in his own way.
It was quite a memorial. It was five and a half hours long. It was really cool to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time. But unfortunately, under those circumstances it wasn't a happy experience. But in the end, "we all have a one way ticket to here and a round trip ticket to life." You come and you go. That's life. And Ronnie's spirit is strong and he'll live on forever. We were energy before we ever became, so he's moving on and who knows if there is reincarnation which I feel that there could be. I think he'll be back.
Raul: Somebody'll show up and you'll start hearing folks say, Whoa, how did he hit that note?
Shortino: Yeah, exactly.
Raul: Cause even with his history. I was always a huge fan throughout Dio's career. Elf & all that stuff back then. And I went further back and discovered, Ronnie Dio and the Red Caps? The man's been around.
Shortino: Oh he really did. I saw that stuff at the memorial and it was really trippy. Cause I met a couple guys in Elf, before Ronnie passed away when I was living with him. Doug Thaler was in that band (Elf). I heard they got rid of him because he wasn't short enough. He had to go because he wasn't 4 foot something. He ended up being the manager for Motley Crue for a while.
Raul: I went through a whole three weeks of educating people on facebook about Dio. I was like, You like this, listen to this. I bet you guys didn't know he wrote more songs than Holy Diver. I had to educate people who didn't understand,who only just know that song. He's been around forever. He never changed. He sang as powerful as did in the beginning
Shortino: He does. Unbelievable.
Raul: Back to your career...
Shortino: I wouldn't have much of one if it weren't for him. But I did have a record out when I was 17 years old. A guy named Snuff Garrett produced it who did Sunny & Cher. This was back in the 70s'. And I had the song Follow Me. #22 on the charts, billboard. It was called Paul and JoJo. But if it wasn't for the Dio's... Ronnie saw me at this club and really loved my voice. So if it wasn't for them who actually got me into a position where I could sign to a major label like Warner Brothers, I dunno know where I'd be right now.
Continue on to Part II