ORIGINAL BLACK SABBATH DRUMMER BILL WARD DISCUSSES IF HE STILL A LEGAL MEMBER OF THE BAND, WHAT HE CONSIDERS A “SIGNABLE” CONTRACT AND THE STATUS OF HIS HEALTH
Rolling Stone: To begin, are you legally a member of Black Sabbath?
Bill Ward: That’s a good question. I wonder myself actually. I don’t know. I’d probably have to ask my legal department [laughs]. I’m actually not sure. I’ve always regarded myself as a member of Black Sabbath, so….
R.S.: You wrote in your statement, “I’ve neither severed not discontinued my relationship with Black Sabbath.”
B.W.: Right. In other words, I haven’t left. If I was leaving the band, I would make a statement saying I’ve actually left the band.
R.S.: Why speak up now after being silent for so long?
B.W.: It’s been weighing on me; everyone wants to talk to me about it. It’s unresolved, and I needed to speak on it before I could turn the focus to my own music. That, coupled with the recent rumblings of Sabbath activities, I wanted to let the fans know where I’m at before more rumors start up.
R.S.: The other Black Sabbath members have said they’re working on a new album. Have they approached you at all about that or touring?
B.W.: No, they haven’t approached me directly. They talk about it, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be vocal about this now, because I feel like sometimes when I hear those stories, they’re talking about me, but they don’t actually directly contact me. The only person that’s directly contacted me was [bassist] Geezer [Butler], and that was a couple of years ago. He was asking me if he could do one more gig with me, and I basically said, “Well, you better ask Sharon [Osbourne].” That actually was my answer. On my part, it was rather not a very good answer, but at the time, I wasn’t in a very good mood about these things.
R;S What inspired you to write your statement?
B.W.: There are some specific statements that I thought were really unrealistic and just downright rude. I think if there’s ever going to be a future relationship, especially with Ozzy, then these things would need to be addressed and cleared up. I would like him to amend it. I saw the headline yesterday, “Bill Ward Demands an Apology,” and I’m not demanding anything at all; I have no expectation of ever receiving any kind of amends, but I’d need them for me to move forward.
R.S.: Would you like to clear up any statements specifically?
B.W.: One of the most painful things for me was Ozzy claimed in 2012 that I ought to have spoken up to the band and admit that I couldn’t cut it. But in my world, there was no such reason to do that. I was completely capable of playing in the studio and on tour.
I came out with the “signable contract” statement in February of 2012, and that’s because I needed to bring everything out into the open. Since then, nothing’s been spoken about the signable contract. Instead, they talk about my character and they blame me for pulling the plug, which is not true. I’m so loyal. Actually, it hurts when I talk about it. I’m so loyal to Black Sabbath, and I would never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, go into a situation with them under false pretenses. Tony and I have been playing together since we were 16 years old. How could you possibly derive that I wasn’t able to admit that I couldn’t cut it?
R.S.: Ozzy also claimed that you were “incredibly overweight.” Is that true?
B.W.: The truth is that I was overweight for playing onstage, but I wasn’t overweight for the studio. I could cut tracks with the weight that I arrived at. All of those guys know that I have a really rigorous exercise regimen. In August 2011, I started to drop weight because, at that point, I thought, “OK, we’re probably at five or six months away from actually doing a tour.” When we were in England, I was walking six miles before breakfast, I was doing bench presses, I was walking possibly two to three miles in the evening, and I was playing, like, three to four hours a day.
R.S.: What would have made the contract “signable” for you?
B.W.: I wanted to earn some better money than we had been in the past for festival gigs. I think it was somewhere like $80,000 for the festivals, which I can hear everybody gasp now, but $80,000 is not a lot of dough when you’re playing festivals. And for all the other gigs in between, I was prepared to negotiate in a correct and proper manner.
And I would like to be included in some publishing and want my name and likeness to have a secure contract because the name and likeness has been a problem in the past. I’m paid a flat fee for my name and likeness on merchandise, and we’ve been fighting with the lawyers to try to have a correct contract to use my name and likeness. That’s been going on for fucking years. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work.
I also wanted a little piece of the action in publishing [songwriting revenue]. It was just a gesture of good faith that “drumming means writing.” If you’re laying a track, you’re writing. I don’t play beats. I hate playing beats. I’m an orchestration drummer. I’m a musical drummer. I’m a visionary drummer and I have been for a long, long, long time. I was asking for recognition. Nothing of what I asked for is exorbitant, wrong or over the top. I thought I was actually very reasonable.
R.S.: Tony Iommi said you were the one who “pulled the plug” on the reunion.
B.W.: I didn’t pull any f–king plug. I was still trying to negotiate even after they closed the door. In January 2012, I received a letter from their management saying I’ve come as far as I can come, but I just felt absolutely dismal that it had come to that. But I still continued. I tried to make contact with everybody and I couldn’t. Ironically, the only person that was calling me was Ozzy, and Ozzy called me up that month saying, “When you gonna come over? You got to come over.” But you know, that poor guy probably didn’t even know that they closed the door.
R.S.:You mentioned wanting publishing, but you’ve always been credited as a songwriter on Sabbath albums.
B.W.: My publishing is in tact for the Black Sabbath catalog. If I signed the contract for the new album, I would not have received any publishing on those new songs. I was trying to negotiate, even for a small percentage, but that wasn’t forthcoming. It’s the new deal on the block: If you’re a drummer, you’re s–t out of luck.
R.S.: What has kept you from communicating with the other band members on a personal level?
B.W.: It felt like, “Let’s find as much stuff as we can and blame it on Bill.” So, I gradually started what we call “detachment” in sobriety terms. When you love somebody, and they start saying things that are not true and really hurt, you have to remove the love. When I say, “removing the love,” it’s not a love that’s gone, it’s a love that was put somewhere safe inside me. So the love’s still there. That’s pretty much what I did by 2012.
If I still am out and going, “It’s OK, guys, don’t worry. Yeah, you can shit all over me,” that’s going to destroy me as a person. I’m not going to go down that road; it’s self-abuse. I’m fucking 32 years without a drink and a narcotic; I’ve learned to laugh about being sober and just not putting up with stuff that’s really inappropriate. It felt like Ozzy Osbourne came in, shit up the fucking walls. And it’s like, “Oh, really Oz?”
R.S..: But why wouldn’t you call him as a friend?
B.W.: Oz chastised me in public. Had he just chastised me behind closed doors, we’d probably just have a good argument, and say, “Hey, f–k you.” But he did it in public. So I’m using the same forum that he used. He’s out in public. I’m out in public.
R.S.: You speak as though you lost a friend.
B.W.: In June and July of 2012, I went through the loss of a dear friendship. I actually grieved the loss of his life in my life. It was fucking terrible. I cried. It was really horrible. I thought, “My God, I don’t even know who this person is anymore.”
R.S.: Would you be in shape right now to rejoin Black Sabbath?
B.W.: Absolutely, yeah. I have no doubt in my mind. I know that they’ve suggested that I played half the gig, and I don’t want to play half the gig. I’m quite capable of playing a complete fucking Black Sabbath set. So this health thing has been bandied around, and it’s true that I have heart disease, and it’s true that I did get sick a couple of years after the fact. But when the health card is being thrown around, the bottom line is that I really tried to take care of myself. Every day, I always look at the day and say, “Could I have played a gig today no matter what’s going on with me?” And the answer is always, “Yes.” I’m much harder on me than those guys could ever be.
R.S.: Anything else you’d like to tell Black Sabbath fans about the current situation?
B.W.: I come with a realistic point of view. I have no hidden agendas. I have no desire to batter them into the ground. I have no desire to argue with them or to be mean or weird toward them. There are some things that have been said; they need to be cleared up. They need to be addressed before I can move on and feel comfortable in saying, “OK, let’s renew our friendship.” If they don’t want to go down that road, that’s OK. I’m just simply stating the truth and I’m bringing it out into the open, and I hope that the fans can understand that. I’m just trying to be accountable, literally, about where I’m at and just trying to be forthright and honest.
Read the entire interview at Rolling Stone.