BLACK SABBATH’S GEEZER BUTLER DISCUSSES “THE END,” THE POSSIBILITY OF A NEW ALBUM AND BILL WARD
Jeb Wright of Classic Rock Revisited spoke with Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. Excerpts from the interview appear below.
Jeb: Black Sabbath is about to do their final tour. A lot of band’s say it is the end Geezer, but then it isn’t the end. Is THIS tour really the end of Black Sabbath?
Geezer: It is one hundred percent the end. We’ve all agreed that this is it.
Jeb: How did you come to decide to call it quits? Was it Tony’s illness?
Geezer: It was our decision. Tony’s condition was an influence on it, but we all felt the same. The 13 tour went great. We just felt we’d do one more tour… to make it official, we called it The End. We are all in agreement that this can’t go on forever, so we should go out on the top.
Jeb: Are you looking ahead to the date where you are playing that last gig? Or is that just too much to think about right now?
Geezer: No, I have not thought about it yet. I won’t think about it until that last date is confirmed. We don’t know where and when it will be. We are still going to finalize where the last gig is going to be. It is better not to think about it yet. We are just taking it one day at a time at the moment. We are always looking forward to the gig that comes next. We take it one gig at a time.
Jeb: There have been rumors there will be one more studio album, but lately I’ve heard that is not the case.
Geezer: If there is then fine… but I don’t think there will be. It would be nice if there was another album. We had some songs left over from the 13 album, but we’re putting it out as a sort of EP that can only be bought at the gigs from this tour.
Jeb: I have to ask this question: I’ve heard that you were in a band with Ozzy Osbourne before he was with Black Sabbath. You were called Rare Breed.
Geezer: That is true, yeah. We only did a few gigs, locally, in Birmingham. That is how we got together. Ozzy lived literally two streets away from me and I used to see him around. He went to the same school as Tony Iommi. We lived so close together that we would see each other in the streets. I heard that he was looking for a band in the music shop… I didn’t even know it was him. I went to his house and it was Ozzy. He was a skinhead at the time. I thought, “This isn’t going to work out.” Skinheads at that time were into soul music and reggae. He liked Robert Johnson and blues so we got together and formed the Rare Breed. When that finished we were looking for a drummer and we went around to Tony’s house to see if he knew of any drummers and Bill Ward was there. Bill said he would join the band if Tony would come along and that is the way we got together.
Jeb: [On The End tour], will this be the greatest hits or will you throw in some rare songs?
Geezer: It is mainly… we are doing practically the whole of the Paranoid album. We’re doing everything but Planet Caravan. We tried that but it didn’t really work live. We’re playing mainly older stuff. We’re doing Hand of Doom. We have not played that for god knows how many years. It will be mainly old stuff.
Jeb: As thrilled as I am for Tommy to do this tour, the elephant in the room with every Sabbath fan is that Bill Ward is not present. I will be blunt… why not just give Bill the money?
Geezer: It’s beyond the money thing. It is not really anything to do with that. It is whether he’s capable of touring or not. On the 13 tour, he was not on that tour. About a week after we started he had to go into the hospital for major surgery. We would have had to cancel the tour if Bill was still with us. He hasn’t been well for a long time. He’s had a couple of heart attacks. You have to face facts when you get to our age and you’re not in great, great health rather you can go out on the road for two years, or whatever. It is a hard life to do. The easy part is when you’re on stage playing. It is all of the traveling and everything else that comes with it that is the hard part. I think Ozzy, in particular, didn’t think Bill would get through it. He certainly wouldn’t have got through the first part as he was in the hospital. We can’t keep cancelling tours just because the drummer can’t play.
Jeb: It is nice to hear you say it was not an easy thing to do.
Geezer: We started out with Bill on the 13 tour. That is the way we all thought it was going to be, that Bill was going to be part of this whole thing. It just turned out that is wasn’t to be. His health has to come first before anything.
Jeb: Are there any songs from a bass standpoint that you’re looking forward to playing?
Geezer: I am looking forward to doing Hand of Doom again as it is very bass orientated. I think 1972 is the last time we played Hand of Doom. We are always asked if we can do it, but for some reason we’ve never included it in the set. We have a lot of old classic Sabbath songs; to do that, it is hard to drop stuff to put songs like that in. This time we decided to put Hand of Doom in.
Jeb: Were you ever happy and satisfied to be the lyricist in Black Sabbath?
Geezer: [long pause] No.
Jeb: Last one: Geezer what do you want to say to the fans of Black Sabbath that have stuck with you all these years?
Geezer: Thanks for keeping us here. Thanks for being with us for all of these years. It has been great. They really are the best fans that anyone could ever wish for. They’ve been with us since day one. They have been fighting for us and they are so loyal. It is incredible. We are so blessed to have them.
Read more at Classic Rock Revisted.
I’m seeing Black Sabbath in September. They are playing HAND OF DOOM! Holy s**t! I can’t wait! I really don’t want to hear IRON MAN and PARANOID, but those are staples. I’ve said in I the past that I could easily go the rest of my life without hearing PARANOID again because I’m sick of it. But reality is that this last tour will be the last time I’ll get to hear Sabbath play it live, so I’m gonna be screaming out the lyrics when they kick into that song.
Hand of Doom really is one of those underground gems.
can you please play “is this the end” by new edition? thank you.
I saw that Tomorrow’s Dream made the opening night setlist too. Vol 4 is probably my favorite Sabbath LP from the original lineup.
Hand of Doom was indeed played. Oddly enough, not one song from the 13 album.
it was tempting to see Sabbath one more time (seen them three times in the 2000s), but I decided to save my money so my final original Sabbath memory will be seeing them with Maiden at Ozzfest 2005.
I did see Heaven and Hell three times after that.
Tomorrow’s Dream, another great, yet underrated, Sabbath song.
Yes, very much so. I think my dream Sabbath set would open with Tomorrow’s Dream:
Wheels of Confusion
Symptom of the Universe
You Won’t Change Me
Under the Sun
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Children of the Grave
Heaven and Hell (riff into)
VOL 4, SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH and SABOTAGE are my favorite albums of Ozzy’s era in the band. I actually love the first six albums and there’s songs on TECHNICAL ECSTASY and NEVER SAY DIE that are great. But I’d love to hear them play some songs off of VOL 4, SBS and SABOTAGE that aren’t usually played. “Thrill Of It All” from SABOTAGE would be a surprise as “Who Are You” from SBS and “Wheels Of Confusion” from VOL 4 would be. I’m just excited to see them live one last time, so they can play whatever want to. Hardest thing is waiting until September to see them!
Last nights show was amazing…better than the Reunion tour!