TonyIommibig Glenn BurnSilver of the Phoenix New Times spoke with Black Sabbath and Heaven And Hell guitarist Tony Iommi about Sabbath’s classic sludgy sound, their new album, the future of the band and Bill Ward. Portions of the interview appear below.

PNT: I have to wonder about that development of that original sound. A few early songs have a bluesy and progressive sound–but how did the heavy, sludgy sound materialize? Did you stumble on it by accident?

Iommi: The sound I was after in the first place was to have something powerful. Something to create some tension. We used to work on trying to get the sound as big as we could. I think because of my accident it made me play a different way anyway. I had to work on playing chords a different way and playing as big as I could. That’s really what it was, working on enhancing the sound. And when we all played together, the way Geezer would bend his notes the same as I do, and it makes the sound fuller.

PNT: That made it darker, heavier?

Iommi: I wanted it to be that way. When we first started, we were playing jazzy blues stuff. Once we started getting down to really writing our own stuff, that’s when the sound came about really. I wanted to create the same vibe as a horror film. It’s got tension and these evilly things going on. I wanted to do that with music and I came up with these notes that were evil [laughs].

PNT:Why do you think people took to it? Did it make their hair stand up on their arms, or maybe give them that evil thrill? Or was it just so different?

Iommi: It was unlike anything else around at that time. It was just different and people latched on to it. That’s what we wanted. Not all people–some people hated it–but it was a matter of building up the people who liked it and making more of them. There were a lot of people when we first came out who really did slag us and hated what we did.

PNT: OK, back to the future. How is playing together–recording together–after so many years of tension and not being in the studio? The last album with the original lineup was in 1978… Ozzy was booted out in 1979…

Iommi: Tensions? The tensions over the years have mainly been about business. It’s not been personal at all. We always got on well on a personal level. It’s been going really good.

It’s just a different attitude now. When we got back together to record this album everybody had a different attitude toward what we were doing this time. We wanted to make an album together. We all really appreciated each other and respected each other. That’s really the only way to go into it–a full band commitment–and everybody was ready to put everything into it.

We did try back 12 years ago, and nobody could settle on it then. It wasn’t the right time, there were to many things going on. Ozzy was doing MTV, so it just didn’t work then. We weren’t going to do it until everybody was fully committed, and that was this time. Rubin was interested in doing the album [in 2001]. We played him some tracks but that’s as far as we got with it. We pulled the plug on it. We never got into the studio. We’d just played him some tracks.

PNT: Any of these songs on 13 holdovers from the 2001 sessions?

Iommi: We totally just abandoned those. It was not a good memory, so we just scrapped them.

PNT: Where’s [drummer] Bill [Ward}? I know all of you have worked together on and off since that 1997 reunion, but is Bill even able to perform right now?
Of course–we were hoping Bill was going to do it. When we first got together, Bill was involved.

Iommi: It was Bill who pulled the plug, it wasn’t us. Bill decided on his own he didn’t want to do this, because he didn’t like things the way it was. But we still don’t know exactly what that was, because Bill won’t exactly talk to us about it. He got his lawyers to talk with our lawyers, and it went that way instead of talking to the band personally.

It got to be a silly situation. It would have been nice to have had Bill on the album, but it was getting too complicated. It had been after a year of this stuff, and we just had to get on with it.

PNT: Given how well this is going, and the success of the record, will we see more of this Black Sabbath in the future?

Ioomi: We’re not looking at like that. We’re looking at in the moment. Unfortunately, we have to work around my treatments. I’m still having treatments for the cancer. I have to go back to England every seven or eight weeks, and I have to come off the road while my system adjusts. Then we go back on the road.

It’s all been very new to me. I didn’t know how it was going to work. I haven’t done a tour since I was ill. Maybe a couple of shows, but I haven’t done a day on, day off, day on, day off tour. I have to treat my life quite differently than I did five years ago. So we don’t plan things too far down the road since I don’t know how I’m going to be after this tour.

Read more at the Phoenix New Times.


22 Responses

  1. Bill, learn from the mistakes of Peter Criss, another great drummer/singer. The guys been talking shit about KISS for 30+ years rather than drumming and singing. Hey, Eric Singer was also in SABBATH, wasn’t t he? Anyway, Criss’ bio was really good but the guy still thinks he could have made it on his own. Mr. Ward, I ll spend $1.29 a song for some quality stuff on ITUNES. Show us fans you re still great. Number 1, make it so. PLEASE, PLEASE NO F@#KING SHARON OSBOURNE BOOK. REMAKE DIGITAL BITCH BUT NO BOOK. I get Eddie s book in the mail in 2 weeks, can t wait.

    1. The problem that Peter had/has is, I think, the same problem that Bill has. Peter couldn’t cut it anymore. His hands and arms were always sore to the point that he had to soak them in hot water every night. Peter was never a rock drummer and preferred doing jazz than rock. His solo stuff was beyond terrible. So instead of making nice and making money, he thought he’d have more integrity by trying to make the others look bad like they had wronged him. Peter was never a great drummer, unlike Bill. But he was fantastic personality and character in KISS. What pissed him off was when he found out he could be replaced which is something I don’t think he counted on. Bill is in a similar boat. In the end, who knows what the truth really is. I suspect like others that Bill’s health and conditioning just wouldn’t allow him to pull it off. That might be unfortunate. But what I think what is more unfortunate is how he is now going about it.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly with both of you guys. I get sick of the whining. Sure I’d like to see Bill there, and as an original member he should get 25%. Don’t the rest of the guys have enough money? Oh wait, I uttered two words that never go together – “enough” and “money.” Mutually exclusive terms.

      Let Peter Criss prove what a scary singer he is. I mean “Beth” was Rod Stewart. It wasn’t a Peter Criss tune – it was a sheer Rod rip-off at a time when Rod was popular. Same with “Hard Luck Woman” – which Paul Stanley acknowledges as trying to do Rod.

      Vivian Campbell – You didn’t get enough credit with Dio and don’t get enough solos with Def Leppard? Start your own band.

      There are plenty of good examples.

    3. Hard Luck Woman was written by Paul originally for Rod but he rejected it and Peter liked it. It’s not a knock on Peter that he did that song. I disagree that Beth was a Rod Stewart rip off. Peter didn’t write the music, he wrote the lyrics and I don’t see any link to Rod in that song other than they both have gravely voices. Peter also sang very well on the early stuff like black diamond, nothing to lose, mainline etc… Peter was just as good a singer as Gene or Ace. Just my opinion.

    4. You need to consider this. It is no secret that Tony wrote the Music , Geezer wrote the lyrics and Ozzy provided a melody line. Bill I’m not sure ever really wrote any of the music. However he was credited as they all were with song writing credits on almost all if not all the songs during the Ozzy era. So you can look at it like this He has and still is getting royalty checks for music that he may not have had a big hand in writing. No one can doubt his skill as a drummer. But He has been getting paid for over 40 years for something he may not have earned , so maybe the rest of the bands thinking was to pay only for the services he was to provide.

    5. Ouch, sorry Peter, I gave it a try for ya and nobody is buying it. Oh well. I thought if I lumped you in with Ward, the masses would say YEAH, CRISS WAS FUCKING GREAT TOO! They re hard core on this website. Absolutely no free passes here. You should see the way they carry on about GREAT WHITE and that Dizzy Reed silliness with the stupid name and FUCK MONDAYS shit. IT WAS YOU PETER, WHO SANG BLACK DIAMOND LIVE AND NO ONE CAN TAKE THAT AWAY FROM YOU. THE ENERGY FROM THAT PERFORMANCE IS WHAT METAL MUSIC IS ABOUT. OUT ON THE STREETS FOR A LIVING, PICTURES…………………….

    6. The comments about Peter are strange. If you’re not a fan, fine. His solo album with KISS and the two after all had some decent tunes on them. His drumming with KISS was perfect for what they were doing. And anyone who has heard the “Criss cat” cd and can honestly say that wasn’t some heavy drumming is just not a fan. And notice I said heavy, not fast. You don’t have to play fast to be a good drummer. And it was ice Pete had to soak his arms in, not hot water.

    7. Thanks Steve. Peter we re back in business and your biography is still the best. That drum solo on 100,000 YEARS atop Paul s bantering is in fact very good no doubt. Peter, Ward and Ringo should do an album together called GRUMPY OLD DRUMMERS. A little Paul Mc Cartney on bass and Derek Trucks playing lead guitar. Endless possibilities. Instead of COLD GIN, definitely need a song called VODKA AND ORANGE JUICE….EWE…….Imagine Paul Mc Cartney bantering like that. It would be fucking great. PAUL IS DEFINITELY ONE OF THE TOP FRONT MEN EVER….That is Stanley and Mc Cartney as well.

    8. Actually it was hot water – as it was his muscles that were giving him problems. Ice is not for muscles Dr. Steve. His KISS Solo album was only better than that Gawd Awful crap that Paul Stanley put out. Peter himself considers himself a jazz fanatic and not a rock drummer. In the 70’s and 80’s, Paul and Gene had a lot of session players doing some of the drum and guitar work (alas Bob Kulick for Ace). Its also known that Peter hardly contributed on Psycho Circus. Peter’s drumming sufficed for the stuff they did in the 70’s. But that’s about it. But like I always say Steve, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion – no matter how fucked up it is.

  2. Ouch again Peter, my boss keeps stealing our GOD OF THUNDER AND ROCK N ROLL. Speaking of fucked up, Gene s solo album was bad too. ACE FREHLEY is a near classic.

    1. IMO Ace’s was by far the best – not even close. Rip It Out should’ve been on a KISS album. Gene’s was my second favorite by default because Peter’s and Paul’s were both over the top bad. When you wish upon a star was a little strange, even for The Demon. Sorry I don’t have much love for Peter anymore. Just can’t handle the whining over the years. I’m just not in my Flaming Youth anymore and can’t feel his Sweet Pain – know what I’m saying?

  3. What planet are you guy’s living on? Paul’s first solo album was great, I have never read otherwise till now. Well maybe Rolling Stone panned it as they do all things Kiss.

  4. So here we go from Ward to Criss.Trunk is linked to Kiss.
    Wards drumming was messy and that’s why Iommi & Butler cranked
    Up the amp levels,unfortunately alcohol gave him something like arthritis.
    Drummers are replaceable,Peter Criss was okay for the early albums,but
    My favourite Kiss album ‘Unmasked’ was filled by session drummer and I’m
    Sure many Ace Parts were also replaced by session players since they were
    Simple rock & roll solos.. Anyways,great work on 13 & Ward can just do a solo
    Album with Slash and Nikki

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