Celebrating 20 Years of DaBelly!  - This article first appeared in our 191st issue of DaBelly in March, 2016.

Black Sabbath

'The End' of Black Sabbath
By Naughty Mickie

With more than four decades in the music business, heavy metal icons Black Sabbath are calling it quits. The bandís original members, vocallist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, have announced that they will hit the road for the last time for ďThe EndĒ tour with Osbourneís drummer Tommy Clufetos.  DaBelly had the opportunity to sit in on a round-robin conference call with Osbourne and Butler...

Q:. First things first, why a farewell tour?  Why does Black Sabbath have to go away?

Geezer Butler: We just all decided that we wanted to do one last tour. And weíre all getting up there in age, and while weíre still at the top of our profession, both musically and aesthetically, we wanted to go out on the top and we feel that this is the right time to do it.

Q: Is there a chance that somewhere during all of this, if it does go well and you are playing great that you might change your mind?

Ozzy Osbourne: No.

Geezer: Itís definitely the end.

Ozzy: Weíre going to end it on a high note because--and one of the reasons we didnít want to do an album was if it doesnít go to number one again (or in the event number two), we felt it was a wrong thing to do. And 13 was our first number one ever in the United States. And we wanted to end it on a high note.  Thereís no intention of like this is really the end.

Q: You have no intention of running out of cash, right?

Ozzy: No. I hope not. Well it certainly will if my wife wonít stop shopping.  Iím not really retiring from the business. Itís just the end of, I think, itís run its course.  Black Sabbath is-- itís been up and down.  And itís good that weíve come back together at the end, more or less, to finish on a high note. Itís a good way to do it. And we started it in 1960. I think thatís really a good time for one thing. So now is really the end-- we want to carry on.

Q: Is there any thought that because this is the last tour, are you thinking about digging a little bit deeper into the repertoire and catalogue for things to play?

Ozzy: Well we have. We decided not to do so many new songs after the last album 13 because what people really wanted is the old classics. It takes them back down memory lane for them, I suppose.

Q: So, Black Sabbath, you guys have had a number of classic songs that have been in your catalogue for more than 40 years. And Ozzy, a number of these songs have also stayed in your solo show over the years.  When youíre playing a song like ďParanoidĒ or ďIron Man,Ē more than 40 years down the line, how do you, as a performer, stay engaged and connected with the song and really go back to the place, you were in when you created the song initially as a young man?

Ozzy: I donít go back down memory lane. I just do the same-- it never gets tiring for me. I mean when I first went solo, I thought, ďWell Iím not going to do any of that,Ē but then the audience was starting to say, ďWell why donít you play the Sabbath songs, itís what you sang anyway?Ē  So I did--a nd ďParanoidĒ never gets old. ďIron ManĒ never gets old. You would think after 40 years, I would be say saying, ďOh no, not ĎIron Maní again.Ē   But itís not-- so every time I play-- so I play it like itís a first time.

Geezer: The response from the audience that we get always keeps them fresh anyway.

Q: How was it for both of you guys, particularly Geezer on bass, with the new songs on 13, really strongly going back to the sound of the first couple of records, that slightly bluesier, looser, jammier type sound?

Geezer: Yes, it just felt a natural thing to do, and Rick Rubin was sort of was at the helm of the whole thing. And he wanted us to go back to the early sound. And so once we all agreed on doing that, it just came naturally.

Q: The decision that this would be the end, how this decision was made. Did you all meet in a room or did someone bring it up first?

Ozzy: Weíve kind of made this whole decision, really. We really wanted to end it on a high note. With the album 13 going number one, which was our first number one album ever in the United States, both me solo and me Black Sabbath, we thought it would be a nice way to end this right now.

We didnít want to do another album because it would have taken three years to do that, which would have put it back even further. And, you see, the timing felt right to do that because we couldnít wait another few years, enough, you know.

Q: And Geezer, did you start thinking that you would want-- that you would maybe want it more?

Geezer: I realized on the 13 tour that we couldnít do it for much longer. So the natural thing to do, is to all agree on one last tour which we often would feel the same way. And once we agreed on one last tour, that was it. We just set it up. And we all agreed that there wonít be any more Sabbath after this. And we were all-- itís like a natural progression kind of thing; a natural end to the band.

Q: After years of touring and being live performers, how are you both feeling knowing that this part of your career is going to be over?

Ozzy: It just feels the right time, you know, and to say itís been around a long time. I mean you canít do it forever. Itís because, if youíre not careful, youíd become, ďOh, itís them again,Ē you know. It just felt right for me.

Q: Geezer, what about you?

Geezer: Yes, the same thing, itís good to go at the top. Thatís the best time to leave it.

Q: And what do you think youíre going to miss the most about being on tour?

Ozzy: Iím not going to stop entirely. Iím not going to sit with my slippers on and going, ďIím retired.Ē  Weíre just going to go in different directions, I suppose.

Q: Ozzy, as youíve mentioned, youíve had your ups and downs with Black Sabbath over the years. I just wondered if being able to finally have the reunion happen, have the new music happen, did that give you any certain sense of closure or any kind of feeling of you have said what you needed to say?

Ozzy: So I mean Black Sabbath has been through the mill over the years. To come back and be friends with my buddies who I started up with all those years ago, itís a closure for me to have a chapter of my life which I can say, ďWell we came, we saw, we had a good time, and now itís over.Ē

And so itís like any relationship. Iím glad we ended up having more or less whatever has gone on between us over the years. Weíve got rid of all that. And we are friends again. So itís-- I mean itís good that, at the end of my days on this planet, I can say, ďWell we ended okay,Ē you know.

Q: Geezer, was it kind of that way for you too?

Geezer: Yes. It brings the whole thing full circle. Weíve finished with a successful album, a successful tour on the last tour, and now we just want to keep it at the top and go out at the top.

Q: How is Tony doing these days, his health, of course?

Ozzy: As far as we know, heís doing great. I went to have dinner with him about two or three weeks ago. And he sounds great. He looks great. Heís ready to go.

Q: We lost David Bowie this week. And he did such a good job of saying goodbye with his music. Iím just wondering how it feels specifically to have the luxury of being in control of how Black Sabbath gets to say goodbye.

Ozzy: Well, up to this time, we all got control of everything, you know, because of our wild lifestyle. Iím glad we survived these times; that weíre all still alive. And Iím sorry to hear about David Bowie gone. And also Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead passed away recently which is a blow to me.

Geezer: Itís good that we all agreed that this is going to be the last tour. I mean we were all like 100%, yes, this is the last time. So, we were all in agreement with each other.

Q: Has it been - this is not an accusation - a guilty pleasure having people blame you for bringing evil and the devil into the mainstream over the years? I mean itís a lot more common now to wear black and have long hair than it was when you started.

Ozzy: Itís like a thing that we rolled with at that time. People back then were writing about peace stuff and hippies and all that stuff.

If you look at that time, it was really ugly because it was false and ugly, because theyíre all living on a fantasy which was, at the same time, I was doing bad things anyway. So we decided a different approach and the reality of what is going down in this world.

I mean, so itís kind of ironic when you saw that some were not only about the dark things, but pollution, war and anything. And itís gotten interesting to see that somebody like President Obama or one of these guys start talking about pollution. Now we were talking about that 30 or 40 years ago.

Q: How does it feel that your music has such total penetration? Itís like little children are playing it in 2016?

Ozzy: Thatís down to Mr. Tony Iommi. Heís a great guitarist with incredibly interesting riffs. So when Randy Rhoads was alive, he used to say to me, ďI teach at my motherís music school. What is it with people that all they want to hear is ĎIron Maní and ĎSmoke on the Waterí?Ē Itís simple. But thatís what it is. Itís simple; effective; and that gives Tony the idea, ďI want to play guitar,Ē you know, which is great.

Q: Geezer, if you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the very beginning of the journey, what would you tell yourself?

Geezer: To get a lawyer.

Q: Is there one thing in your career either solo or with Black Sabbath that you would like to accomplish before you call it quits?

Geezer: Iíd like to accomplish the end of this tour.

Ozzy: I donít know. I mean the thing is people are dying all around us doing this business. Well, are we next on the list, you know? Do we still see the fruits of our labor for all these years?

Q: And itís a lot of fruits. I mean, yes, 40 yearsí worth of music and Iím not even sure how you guys were able to put together a set list for this tour.

Ozzy: Itís very difficult because you can please some but not all, though weíve got more of a list of favorites from the past. We feel that, to be honest with you, they all want to be able to walk down memory lane for them. And theyíd go, ďOh baby, ĎSmoke,í that song reminds me of when I was in school and all this,Ē you know.

Q: Do either of you ever get the chance to look back and realize how strong of an influence youíve had on rock and roll and heavy metal?

Ozzy: When youíre doing stuff, you just - when Iím writing or co-writing things - Iíd go, ďOh I like that.Ē And then, when somebody else comments and goes, ďOh I like that track too,Ē itís kind of an interesting thing that happens because naturally you want to write good stuff for them.  For instance, when I used to go to the Ozzfest, fans would come to me and go, ďI love Sabbath.Ē And you donít realize the impact you have. I suppose thatís a good thingÖit took me a while to get my head around the fact that people actually love what we do, what you did as kids because you donít think that.

We couldnít know that we got majorly ripped up by a lot of managers, we werenít business-trained, you know. We were just innocent then.

Q: If thereís an ultimate Black Sabbath love song, like if you think that you guys have a song that embodies romance and sensuality.

Geezer: To me itís probably ďChangesĒ and ďN.I.B.Ē Those are the two only love songs we wrote.

Ozzy: ďDirty Women.Ē

Geezer: And ďDirty Women.Ē

Q: Have you ever been asked to play a wedding before or anything like-- or have you played a wedding?

Geezer: Not as Sabbath, no. I mean before Sabbath is invented, like in the early Ď60s when we first started out, we used to play stuff for our schools and weddings and stuff, but not as Black Sabbath; not in this band.

Q: If you came out as a band today do you think you can make it?

Ozzy: Itís a very difficult question to answer because we started a long time ago. It wouldnít change the whole demographic of music to a certain degree because we wouldnít have been influencers to other bands. So I canít answer the question. I donít know.

Geezer: Well if the band came out today?  Itís a hard thing to answer. It depends whether the music is around. I mean if there wasnít any heavy metal or rock around, and we came out today, then obviously weíd do well because weíd be introducing a new sound.

Q: Are there any new bands, like current bands out that you think will last the music history like you have?

Geezer: I have no idea. Ask God.

Q: So what would you like to be most remembered for?

Ozzy: Riding a bike when I was seven.

Geezer: Iíd like to be remembered for the music that we wrote.

Q: Thereís definitely a lot of excitement for the show. The excitement was tempered a little bit by the disappointment that Bill Ward isnít going to be on this tour. You know, weíve heard different explanations for that. Can you kind of give us the answer why he isnít on the tour? And do you kind of understand at why--are fans justified to be disappointed in that?

Geezer: Thatís Ozzyís specialty.

Ozzy: I donít want to talk about it, actually. Next question, please.

Q: Tell me about Tommy (Clufetos) then whoís filling in for him. I mean, what does he bring to the band? Does he add something?

Ozzy: He must add something. And if he didnít add something, he wouldnít be there.

Q: Does he play like Bill? Is that his goal? To fill in for Bill or does he bring something different?

Ozzy: Heís doing a good job of filling in but I donít know. Everybody seems to like him.

Q: Your first single was a hit, the song called ďEvil WomanĒ which was actually originally recorded by a Minneapolis band called Crow. Is there anything you remember about kind of coming across that song and recording that; your own version of that?

Ozzy: Yes, I remember when we were going to the studio with a guy called Gus Dudgeon and we did a lot of recording and producing at that time. And we were-- as I remember, we were kind of semi-forced into doing it, because like he said, ďYouíve got to do this cover.Ē And we just kind of did what we did with it.

Geezer: People thought from the record companies and stuff, thought that that was more commercial sounding than the stuff that weíd written. So it was just a good way to get a record deal without totally selling out.

Q: Have you guys played it since then? I mean did it come up later at all or?

Geezer: No...

Ozzy: Never.

Geezer: It didnít.

Q: This year Deep Purple is getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Iím kind of wondering...

Ozzy: Itís about time.

Q: Talk a little bit about Sabbath and Purple, because you guys were kind of running it at the same time. What kind of relationship...?

Ozzy: Well they were a great band. Their albums Iíve heard them for a long time. But theyíre great-- itís about time that they do get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because theyíre a really good-- they were a really good band. They had a lot of success. They are good guys.

Q: Was there ever a rivalry, just because, again, you were both big bands at the same time?

Ozzy: Kind of but no, not really, because, at first, anybody thatís standing on your toe is a rival. But we kind of went on our own ways in the end. They were going through band member changes all the time.

Q: Going back to the idea of another Sabbath album, you guys have very well explained why youíre not doing one. But Iím just wondering-- is there any material around that we havenít heard that youíd like to see come out? Or were there song ideas?

Ozzy: Well weíve just got a CD, which you can only buy at the gig, which has got a bunch of songs that we never released off the 13 album. Thereís a song called ďSeason of the Dead,Ē ďCry All Night,Ē ďTake Me Home,Ē ďIsolated Man.Ē And then thereís live versions of ďGod is Dead,Ē ďUnder the Sun,Ē ďEnd of the BeginningĒ and ďAge of Reason.Ē And itís like a little thing weíre selling at the gigs. But we have like four live tracks on this CD.

Q: That will make people happy. Geezer, would you mind talking about that music a little bit and, what itís like and why ultimately those songs didnít make 13?

Geezer: Well, because we went into the studio with an idea of 13 songs, which is why the album is called 13. We thought that we put out an album of 13 songs. But then, when we were in the studio, we wrote another three songs; we just brought it up to 16 songs.  And then we left off to regroup and to pick which songs would go on the album, and to give it some light and shade. So we picked the eight songs that went on the 13 album. And we still have these--we did a few songs on the limited-edition versions of the album. And then we had the four left-over. And so what weíve decided to do is a gig-only CD.

Q: Geezer, one of the first things that ever left out in me about Black Sabbathís material was the lyrics, the way you guys discussed so many important topics from war to the environment.  And did it ever frustrate you, as the primary lyricist to the band, that people, when discussing Sabbath, like to focus on the doom and gloom side of things, and donít really give you guys the credit you deserve for, be it the wide array of topics that you guys hit on in your songs?

Geezer: Yes, Iíll say that the fans of the band get what the lyrics are about. Itís just people that hear our name; hear the name Black Sabbath. They automatically assume that itís about Satanism and all this kind of crap; that that they donít get the subtleties of the lyrics, if youíd like. Or, we were saying that the world is boring, vile and some pollution; all that kind of stuff. And its just people that just wanted to bring up stuff that they didnít know anything about; that accuse us of Satanism or all that crap.

Q: Youíve talked a little bit about Deep Purple getting into the Hall of Fame and things like that. But one thing Iím just kind of wondering about a little bit is metal. You guys obviously shaped a lot of what we hear now.  And I know that thereís a lot of concern within the scene and the stuff about where is the next iconic band coming from?

Geezer: Well itís hard to say, I mean, beyond Metallica. It really is hard to say whoís going to--but, youíll never know. It could be next week, somebody could come out next week.  It could be the greatest metal album ever and take it from there. So itís hard to say at the moment beyond Metallica.

Q: Any thoughts on what it takes today for other bands to reach the kind of audience that you guys did?

Geezer: I donít think-- you know, I canít say. I mean they have festivals; people play festivals with a combination of different bands.

Ozzy: You know, itís so unpredictable. And Metallica is the one right now thatís holding the ground. But youíll never know whatís going to come out of the box. So, as weíve noticed, we have so many come out.  But, I mean Iíve got that impression that people think, ďOh, metal is dying.Ē I donít know, but theyíve been saying that for years, but it hasnít died yet. I mean that was the beauty about doing the Ozzfest because itís giving them a chance to be heard, you know. And from the Ozzfest, thereís a lot of bands that came out.

I donít think thereís that many festivals. Thereís Lollapalooza, I suppose. But thereís not that many festivals. And back in the day, when we did the California Jam, there was a whole variety of different bands, not just heavy metal or hard rock. Weíve got Neil, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and, you know, itís a variety.

But now itís like-- itís one genre of music all day long. And you get some confusion after a while. But the Ozzfest was huge success for-- I mean a lot of successful bands came from the Ozzfest. Because of the Ozzfest, we have a platform for them to play.  Slipknot and a bunch of bands.

Q: When you go on tour now, I mean, you have this wild history, youíve mentioned it, and sometimes youíre straightening up, sometimes you relapse, what is the social life right now on the tour?

Ozzy: We travel together. We sometimes grab meals together. But we donít go and do bags of powder and fucking alcohol anymore and smoke our brains out. Weíve gotten better. Iíve gone past it, whatever everybody else says.

I mean people, like my friend Lemmy Kilmister with the lifestyle. I mean he died. You know, if you want to carry on, youíve got to take care of yourself or you wonít. You know, it was great but itís over for me now.

Geezer: We have nice cups of tea together now.

Ozzy: And cookies. Believe me, I never thought that theyíd be calling me and say, ďLetís have tea.Ē Thatís crazy, you know. Whatís happened to rock and roll?

Q: Youíve talked about Tonyís health. Is the chemo over? How has he been?

Ozzy: I was asking him how heís doing. I donít ask him what heís doing or what theyíre doing to him. He assures me that heís fine.  And so I donít want to get-- go right on, ďhow are you?Ē when youíre getting chemo.  Iím just glad the guy is okay, because he sounds great. He looks great as well.

Q: Now youíve said this is the final tour.  Youíve already extended it once. Is there any chance thereíll be further extensions?

Ozzy: I donít know. Anything is possible apart from the fact that when we do the final show, thatís it. Itís done. And itís over. I donít know when that will be.

Q: Given the nature, you know, the name of your band, Iím wondering from each of you what your favorite horror movies were over the years?

Ozzy: The Exorcist. You know, when we first saw that, believe it or not, that story, I have to say, that was quite interesting. We were in Philadelphia and then the manager would tell us, ďYou have to go and see this film, The Exorcist.Ē When the four of us went to see The Exorcist, we were all so scared, we have to go and see The Sting afterwards.  We were fucking freaked out. So, and we all spent the night in the same room together. We were all scared--it was so real because, up until the end, the exorcist won. It was all fake, you could see the strings and you could see the hokiness of it but that was so real. It scared the crap out of us.

Q: One thing we havenít asked you is after the end of Black Sabbath, what are you going to be up to? What kind of plans do you have?

Ozzy: Well Iím going to be doing another solo tour, I donít know what sort of situations are coming up. But I donít want to do extensive touring. I canít do it anymore; a year out on the road. So, Iím done. Iíll do gigs. Iíll do watered-down tours and things. But Iím going to still be actively involved in music to a certain degree, I hope.

Geezer: I havenít thought about it. Iím just taking it one day at a time, first, weíve get through this tour and then think about what to do.

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