Jeff Pezzuti and Wendy Dio have been doing spectacular things in the name of music and for the love of the late great, Ronnie James Dio. Pezzuti, is the CEO of Eyellusion, and has been working with Wendy, along with their incredible team, to bring the Ronnie James Dio hologram to the stage.
The metal legend’s first holographic debut was last year at Germany’s Wacken Open Air festival (the biggest heavy metal festival in the world). Just this past February, Dio’s hologram premiered in the U.S. at the Pollstar Awards, alongside the Dio Disciples.
This performance was just the beginning, as the Dio Disciples are gearing up for a 2017 tour, featuring some very special guests, including the Dio hologram. Wendy and Jeff, along with other team members, were there for the entire Pollstar Live! experience. AXS had the pleasure of speaking with them to learn more about what the future holds.
AXS: Jeff, tell me about Eyellusion and what your mission is with the company?
Jeff Pezzuti: Eyellusion is the only hologram entertainment company solely focused on the live music market. We address full end-to-end hologram production needs, from streaming of live or pre-recorded shows to full digital re-creation of artists who have passed away. We’re working with an expanding roster of artists to help open up new revenue streams, expand touring capabilities and meeting fan demand. The Eyellusion team brings decades of global music industry and live touring experience, combining deep expertise with cutting-edge production and hologram display capabilities. Eyellusion’s mission is to ensure legacies and music giants of today get passed to the next generation. With the uncertainty of the current radio format, creating a new revenue stream for artists will allow more people to see their favorite artists, in any genre, in a live setting.
AXS: Tell me about your journey so far?
JP: Our debut production was the Ronnie James Dio hologram performing at Wacken 2016 with the Dio band, consisting of the guys he played with the last 17 years. We’re in production on a full Ronnie James Dio hologram tour that will play worldwide starting later this year. Beyond our work on the Ronnie James Dio hologram, we are in serious talks and contract negotiations with many other major artists and management and hope to have more to share on that front in the near future.
AXS: Can you tell me how you and Wendy came together and how your individual strengths make you such a great team?
JP: We’re huge Ronnie James Dio fans at Eyellusion. I reached out to Wendy to discuss our idea about putting Ronnie back onstage via hologram, in a way that would really honor his music. I flew to L.A. to meet with her at her office – she was on board almost right away – and the rest is history. Wendy and I complement each other well. Another key member of our team is Todd Singerman of Singerman Entertainment. He’s been a huge asset to the company.
AXS: Who are some of the other team players working on this with you and how does everyone contribute to make this experience so amazing?
JP: Early on in the company’s history, I was introduced through a mutual friend to Scott Ross, who is a world renowned digital effects legend. Scott is a close advisor to the company on all things digital. He worked under George Lucas in the ‘80s and started his own digital effects company with James Cameron. He’s absolutely the best. Through Scott, we put our digital production team together, which is headed by Chad Finnerty, who also owns Digital Frontier FX. Chad and his wife Jaimie oversee a very talented production team that works exclusively with Eyellusion on holograms. Then we have heavy hitter artists like Kenny Aronoff that are helping us on the business production and live technical side. We really have a dream team in place. We can handle every aspect of show development, production and touring.
AXS: Talk to me a little bit about the Pollstar Live! panel and how the entire event went overall?
JP: For the panel, we lined up Wendy, Todd and Scott, as well as Mark Pinkus [President of Rhino Records/WarnerMusicGroup], Andrew Goodfriend [President of TKO agency], the always entertaining Mark Strohman [McGhee Management], and Troy Blakely [APA]. The panel chemistry was incredible and we gave the crowd an entertaining and informative view of how holograms can be a part of an expanded touring opportunity. It was honest, thought provoking, and stirred up some great conversation. The audience had so many questions – eventually after going over our time slot, we had to finally cut the discussion short.
AXS: Tell me how the fans reacted getting to see the Ronnie James Dio Hologram with the band at the Pollstar Awards?
JP: We opened the Pollstar Live! Awards on Feb. 2, with the Ronnie James Dio hologram performing with the Dio band. The band, which features Craig Goldy [guitar], Simon Wright [drums], Scott Warren [Keyboards] and Bjorn Englan [Bass] were on point and the performance of “We Rock” wowed the audience. The room was electric and I was immediately swamped, post-performance, from audience members discussing how impressed they were. While we are proud of this performance, it’s actually the last time we’ll show this version of the Ronnie hologram. We’re in production on a full show right now. One comment we kept getting is that people that had seen our Wacken performance video online said that it’s nothing compared to actually being in the room and seeing and feeling it – THAT is what makes people believers. We were so happy with the Pollstar Live! experience as an event, and tremendously proud of the panel and awards performance we put together. This is the most Ronnie has been talked about since before he passed away. We’re accomplishing our original vision of making the artists that are so important to the fabric of rock and roll relevant again. Looking over at Wendy during the performance and seeing the smile on her face just really says it all.
AXS: Wendy, can you share with me what this whole experience has meant to you? What do you hope fans and future fans can take away from the hologram experience?
Wendy Dio: This is an amazing experience, for the fans who knew and loved Ronnie and for the ones that never got a chance to see him in a live concert. Ronnie is back on stage with the Dio Band, keeping his music and his memory alive.
AXS: What’s the latest news on the upcoming tour?
JP: The tour is currently being routed and we are hoping to make an announcement for an end of year kickoff in the coming months. This is not just about the U.S. It is truly a world tour. Ronnie’s fans are spread around the world and we intend to bring this exciting show to as many as we can. The show will not only feature Ronnie and his band but also live singers like Tim “Ripper” Owens [Judas Priest] and others to complete the overall show vision. The show will feature effects and stage design that Ronnie made famous in the ‘80s and will also incorporate new technology into what will be some pretty awesome special effects. It will be a fun experience for all ages, and a way to experience the incredible catalog [Rainbow/Black Sabbath/Dio] that Ronnie made famous. We will feature both the expected songs, as well as some crowd favorites that will be surprises.
As for what’s in the immediate future, Jeff says that they are working on the Dio Returns show for the coming months, and are expected to be on tour as of October. Jeff told AXS, “We are working out details on other major opportunities with other artists. We have a full pipeline and hope to share more soon. 2017 will be busy, that’s for sure.”
The future of Eyellusion is all about the live experience, one that embraces all genres of music. Jeff expressed, “We’re a business, but we were diehard music fans first. And we think this will come out in everything we continue to do.”