Metal Chris of DC Heavy Metal spoke with original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward about his Fine Arts project, Absence of Corners and Black Sabbath. Highlights from the interview appear below.
DC Heavy Metal: Did you use your own drum kit for this?
Bill Ward: Oh yes sir, yes I did. Yeah in fact I used the master kit. When I say a master kit that would be a kit that I would normally use with Black Sabbath. It was set up in its drum rehearsal mode and we went in and I just slammed. I slammed for probably an hour and 45 minutes. We just jammed, jammed, jammed everything out, yeah.
DC Heavy Metal: I saw you made some videos that describe the naming process of these pieces and I found the one for Soundshock particularly interesting. Can you describe to me what sound shock is exactly and is it something you deal with on a daily basis?
Bill Ward: My idea of sound shock is pretty tricky stuff because it’s something that, through all the years and years and years of playing on stage, and playing very loud, I think that there are some prices to pay. One is in the way that I perceive the sound of right now, the sound of your voice, Chris. The sound of the room around me, the sound of the fan that we have on right now. And I can hear, I guess, well enough but sound shock becomes more apparent if I went into a super market or a grocery store or into a restaurant where there’s multiple voices and multiple sounds. Train station, airport, anything like that and I have a very difficult time listening to things that are right next to me. If someone’s talking to me I can barely hear them but I can actually hear things that are going on two aisles over so my hearing has become unique I guess. Not unique to me. I think other people have this phenomena also. It’s very strange. When I first started getting this it was a bit scary you know. I was just wondering what was going on. It’s been going on now for a number of years. It’s something that I’ve definitely gotten used to. It can also be called mixer’s ears. Just recently I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the studios finishing up a piece of work I’ve been trying to get done there for quite some time and only the other day I was in the studio and I can only listen for about three hours now and I went, you know what? My ears have completely gone. And I was hearing things that weren’t there and you know that happens to a lot of musicians when there at the final stages mixing and things like that. But what happens with mixer’s ears is when we break, take five, sit outside or whatever, the sound of being outside is a little bit different than what it was three hours before going into the studio. So I have that too. There’s imbalance and incorrect perceiving of sound. I think that’s the best way I can describe it. I did see a documentary a few months back now. It was about a soldier that had been in Iraq and they were focused on this soldier and what he went through when he walked into supermarkets having been around bombs and explosions and I was intrigued by what he was sharing because I thought “Oh, my God.” I said, “I feel the same way.” I feel just like this guy, the things that he was going through. I went to see a couple of doctors to talk about it, neurologists. So we’re still researching it ya know, we’re still going through it and I’m sure there’s other musicians, I’m sure I’m not unique in this at all, other musicians that are either on their way and got a better understanding of it. It’s not like something that I’m desiring to fix. It’s something about learning exactly like, oh this is what I live with now and I have an explanation for why things can sometimes sound really strange. Especially in a restaurant. I can hear the other people talking three tables over [louder] than I can my own wife whose in front of me. She doesn’t think of– my wife doesn’t mind ya know? She’s used to me being kind of crazy you know so, hahaha, so it can be taken as quite rude I think. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Annapolis when I start talking with everyone.
DC Heavy Metal: Do you ever see yourself as a part of Black Sabbath again?
Bill Ward: Well a lot of things have happened to me. Starting in September, 2013, I had a horrible illness which I’m still recovering from and it created some other things that I am still recovering from. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t come to [my previously scheduled appearance in] Annapolis you know. So aside from me now having to do a lot of work to gain my health and my strength back, you know and I’d be the first to admit it if I can’t cut it physically as a drummer then my answer would be no. I would not be prepared to play with Sabbath you know. I would never, ever, ever elude to being able to play with Sabbath if my health wasn’t absolutely smack on. And my health right now is not bad but it’s not good enough to certainly play in any band never mind Black Sabbath. I have to get a lot stronger than where I am. I lost a lot of weight. I’ve got to gain all my muscle back. I lost all my muscle. And I’m doing some stick practice but if I was in a good position where I felt strong enough I can overcome the hits that I took, the verbal hits, I can overcome all that stuff. I can overcome you know just the shut down and the way that I felt and everything else. I can overcome all of those things. All of the things that were like at the time just like– what the hell? I can certainly recover from all that stuff actually. I can do it pretty good. You know in fact I’ve recovered from most of it as I’m speaking to you this morning. I’ll always have an open mind to playing with Black Sabbath. I love the band. I miss them terribly. And so my answer would be leaning towards if something could be worked out. Something that I could live with and I’m talking politically now, contractually. And not the kind of things that I’ve done in the past. I’m talking about the very core of what I talked about in my big statement of February 2012. If we can come to some terms and we’re all OK with each other and the most important thing for me is being able to know that I can play drums the way that I want to be otherwise I wouldn’t even enter into any kind of conversation with them if I knew that I wasn’t back on the mark. Then I would be moving forward. I think that a lot of fans have suffered horribly through these undertakings of the last couple years and I fully, fully blame the inconsiderateness of just a few people who created, and I won’t talk about who, but a few people who created such a huge wasteland of real, real pain when everyone was just so excited to see the original band with an original record. And I’d already stated my boundaries quite early in all this. It didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a shock. You know it wasn’t something that suddenly happened. We’d been negotiating for over 15 months. Things like that so. But I have to be careful in overstating because there’s still a political agenda attached to this. So I’ve definitely got an open mind. I miss playing with Terry, Geezer, just horribly. I absolutely miss him to death. And I miss playing with Tony just… every day. I mean every single day I– it just blows me away man. And obviously I miss Oz [Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath vocalist]. I’ve had to– with Ozzy I– I’ve lost a friend as far as I’m concerned. A man that I dearly loved, and I still dearly love but I’ve had to really [re-adjust] just how much I’m going to trust and love him. He fired back on some pretty mean stuff in the press so. And I’ve gone OK. Like with any of us when we get hurt we’re going to pull back our love and our considerations for another human being when they kick out at you and you know. So that’s been a big loss.
DC Heavy Metal: What is your favorite Black Sabbath album?
Bill Ward: The first one. I like the naiveté. I like the camaraderie then. It was a band. It was a real band. It was everything that I thought a real band– or while I was learning what a real band ought to be. Camaraderie, it was the four musketeers. It was everything. And hard, tight. Just playing a lot of gigs. It was a live band and then they went and put us in a studio for 24 hours, 36 hours, whatever it was. And they managed to get us on a piece of tape, Tom Allom and Rodger Bain, they just got us on a piece of tape and it was just absolutely incredible so it’s because of that. It’s because of the naiveté and the spontaneity and it’s all that and I listen to it very, very fondly.
Read Bill Ward’s entire with DC Heavy Metal here.