On June 3, 2010, Jason Saulnier of the "Good Time Metal Oldies" radio show conducted an interview with former DIO keyboardist Claude Schnell. You can now listen to the chat in six parts below.
"Good Time Metal Oldies" airs Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. EST on CIFA 104.1 FM in Nova Scotia and Tuesday nights at 7:00 p.m. EST on Pure Rock Radio.
Born in Brooklyn, but raised in France, Claude Schnell could speak French before he could speak English — and had learned to read music before he was able to read either language. When he was only six years old, his family moved back to New York and Claude immersed himself in the traditional classical piano curriculum of private lessons, practice and recitals. But New York City in the late Sixties was a fertile environment for musical influences. As he was growing up, with the impact of artists like Jimi Hendrix playing in the Village, HUMBLE PIE at the Filmore and LED ZEPPELIN at Madison Square Garden, Claude discovered rock 'n' roll. And although he maintained the discipline of his classical studies, he also began playing in a wide assortment of bands. One of these bands included lifelong friend, drummer Joey Belfiore, and guitarist Donovan McKitty, both of whom were serious DEEP PURPLE fans. And while Claude is quick to credit several different keyboardists as having influenced him to some degree, he cites this introduction to DEEP PURPLE, and Jon Lord's powerful presence therein, as the turning point of his career. He once even jokingly said that he suspected the DEEP PURPLE keyboard player might have been his real father.
Claude left New York City to spend several years in Buffalo where more long-term musical friendships were forged, most notably with bass players Billy Sheehan and Joe Cristofanilli, and drummer Pete O'Donnell.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles in the early Eighties, it wasn't long before Claude's virtuoso talents were in high demand. He formed two promising bands, MAGIC and ROUGH CUTT, before signing on with the legendary Glenn Hughes of DEEP PURPLE fame, and Pat Thrall of the PAT TRAVERS BAND, in HUGHES/THRALL.
By 1983, Claude's musical diligence and precision earned him a reputation as one of L.A.'s most serious and well-respected players. That reputation was galvanized with the invitation from Ronnie James Dio to join his namesake band: DIO. After almost seven years in that band, Claude chose to redefine his artistic focus, and embark upon his own musical odyssey.