Years of DaBelly! - This article first appeared in our 191st
issue of DaBelly in March, 2016.
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
band’s 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 “The End” tour with Osbourne’s 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 we’re all getting up there in age, and
while we’re 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: It’s definitely the end.
Ozzy: We’re going to end it on a high note
because--and one of the reasons we didn’t want to do an album was if
it doesn’t 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.
There’s no intention of like this is really the end.
Q: You have no intention of running out of
Ozzy: No. I hope not. Well it certainly will
if my wife won’t stop shopping. I’m not really retiring from the
business. It’s just the end of, I think, it’s run its course.
Black Sabbath is-- it’s been up and down. And it’s good that
we’ve come back together at the end, more or less, to finish on a high
note. It’s a good way to do it. And we started it in 1960. I think
that’s 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 you’re playing a song like
“Paranoid” or “Iron Man,” 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 don’t 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, “Well I’m not going to do any of that,” but then the
audience was starting to say, “Well why don’t you play the Sabbath
songs, it’s what you sang anyway?” So I did--a nd “Paranoid” never
gets old. “Iron Man” never gets old. You would think after 40 years, I
would be say saying, “Oh no, not ‘Iron Man’ again.” But it’s not--
so every time I play-- so I play it like it’s 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: We’ve 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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
couldn’t 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 won’t be any more Sabbath after this. And we
were all-- it’s 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 it’s been around a long time. I mean you can’t do it
forever. It’s because, if you’re not careful, you’d become, “Oh, it’s
them again,” you know. It just felt right for me.
Q: Geezer, what about you?
Geezer: Yes, the same thing, it’s good to go
at the top. That’s the best time to leave it.
Q: And what do you think you’re going to miss
the most about being on tour?
Ozzy: I’m not going to stop entirely. I’m not
going to sit with my slippers on and going, “I’m retired.” We’re just
going to go in different directions, I suppose.
Q: Ozzy, as you’ve mentioned, you’ve 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, it’s a closure for me to
have a chapter of my life which I can say, “Well we came, we saw, we
had a good time, and now it’s over.”
And so it’s like any relationship. I’m glad we
ended up having more or less whatever has gone on between us over the
years. We’ve got rid of all that. And we are friends again. So it’s--
I mean it’s good that, at the end of my days on this planet, I can
say, “Well we ended okay,” you know.
Q: Geezer, was it kind of that way for you
Geezer: Yes. It brings the whole thing full
circle. We’ve 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,
Ozzy: As far as we know, he’s doing great. I
went to have dinner with him about two or three weeks ago. And he
sounds great. He looks great. He’s ready to go.
Q: We lost David Bowie this week. And he did
such a good job of saying goodbye with his music. I’m 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. I’m
glad we survived these times; that we’re all still alive. And I’m
sorry to hear about David Bowie gone. And also Lemmy Kilmister of
Motorhead passed away recently which is a blow to me.
Geezer: It’s 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 it’s a lot more
common now to wear black and have long hair than it was when you
Ozzy: It’s 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 they’re 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
I mean, so it’s kind of ironic when you saw
that some were not only about the dark things, but pollution, war and
anything. And it’s 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? It’s like little children are playing it in 2016?
Ozzy: That’s down to Mr. Tony Iommi. He’s a
great guitarist with incredibly interesting riffs. So when Randy
Rhoads was alive, he used to say to me, “I teach at my mother’s music
school. What is it with people that all they want to hear is ‘Iron
Man’ and ‘Smoke on the Water’?” It’s simple. But that’s what it is.
It’s simple; effective; and that gives Tony the idea, “I want to play
guitar,” 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
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: I’d like to accomplish the end of this
Ozzy: I don’t 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
Q: And it’s a lot of fruits. I mean, yes, 40
years’ worth of music and I’m not even sure how you guys were able to
put together a set list for this tour.
Ozzy: It’s very difficult because you can
please some but not all, though we’ve 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 they’d go, “Oh baby,
‘Smoke,’ that song reminds me of when I was in school and all this,”
Q: Do either of you ever get the chance to
look back and realize how strong of an influence you’ve had on rock
and roll and heavy metal?
Ozzy: When you’re doing stuff, you just - when
I’m writing or co-writing things - I’d go, “Oh I like that.” And then,
when somebody else comments and goes, “Oh I like that track too,” it’s
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, “I love Sabbath.” And you
don’t realize the impact you have. I suppose that’s a good thing…it
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 don’t think that.
We couldn’t know that we got majorly ripped up
by a lot of managers, we weren’t business-trained, you know. We were
just innocent then.
Q: If there’s an ultimate Black Sabbath love
song, like if you think that you guys have a song that embodies
romance and sensuality.
Geezer: To me it’s probably “Changes” and
“N.I.B.” Those are the two only love songs we wrote.
Ozzy: “Dirty Women.”
Geezer: And “Dirty Women.”
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 ‘60s 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: It’s a very difficult question to answer
because we started a long time ago. It wouldn’t change the whole
demographic of music to a certain degree because we wouldn’t have been
influencers to other bands. So I can’t answer the question. I don’t
Geezer: Well if the band came out today?
It’s a hard thing to answer. It depends whether the music is around. I
mean if there wasn’t any heavy metal or rock around, and we came out
today, then obviously we’d do well because we’d be introducing a new
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
Ozzy: Riding a bike when I was seven.
Geezer: I’d like to be remembered for the
music that we wrote.
Q: There’s definitely a lot of excitement for
the show. The excitement was tempered a little bit by the
disappointment that Bill Ward isn’t going to be on this tour. You
know, we’ve heard different explanations for that. Can you kind of
give us the answer why he isn’t on the tour? And do you kind of
understand at why--are fans justified to be disappointed in that?
Geezer: That’s Ozzy’s specialty.
Ozzy: I don’t want to talk about it, actually.
Next question, please.
Q: Tell me about Tommy (Clufetos) then who’s
filling in for him. I mean, what does he bring to the band? Does he
Ozzy: He must add something. And if he didn’t
add something, he wouldn’t be there.
Q: Does he play like Bill? Is that his goal?
To fill in for Bill or does he bring something different?
Ozzy: He’s doing a good job of filling in but
I don’t know. Everybody seems to like him.
Q: Your first single was a hit, the song
called “Evil Woman” 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
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, “You’ve got to do
this cover.” 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 we’d 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: It didn’t.
Q: This year Deep Purple is getting into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m kind of wondering...
Ozzy: It’s 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
Ozzy: Well they were a great band. Their
albums I’ve heard them for a long time. But they’re great-- it’s about
time that they do get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because
they’re 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 that’s 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 you’re not doing one. But
I’m just wondering-- is there any material around that we haven’t
heard that you’d like to see come out? Or were there song ideas?
Ozzy: Well we’ve 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. There’s a song called “Season of the Dead,”
“Cry All Night,” “Take Me Home,” “Isolated Man.” And then there’s live
versions of “God is Dead,” “Under the Sun,” “End of the Beginning” and
“Age of Reason.” And it’s like a little thing we’re 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 it’s like and
why ultimately those songs didn’t 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 we’ve decided
to do is a gig-only CD.
Q: Geezer, one of the first things that ever
left out in me about Black Sabbath’s 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 don’t 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, I’ll say that the fans of the
band get what the lyrics are about. It’s just people that hear our
name; hear the name Black Sabbath. They automatically assume that it’s
about Satanism and all this kind of crap; that that they don’t get the
subtleties of the lyrics, if you’d 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 didn’t
know anything about; that accuse us of Satanism or all that crap.
Q: You’ve talked a little bit about Deep
Purple getting into the Hall of Fame and things like that. But one
thing I’m 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
there’s a lot of concern within the scene and the stuff about where is
the next iconic band coming from?
Geezer: Well it’s hard to say, I mean, beyond
Metallica. It really is hard to say who’s going to--but, you’ll 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
it’s 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 don’t think-- you know, I can’t say.
I mean they have festivals; people play festivals with a combination
of different bands.
Ozzy: You know, it’s so unpredictable. And
Metallica is the one right now that’s holding the ground. But you’ll
never know what’s going to come out of the box. So, as we’ve noticed,
we have so many come out. But, I mean I’ve got that impression
that people think, “Oh, metal is dying.” I don’t know, but they’ve
been saying that for years, but it hasn’t died yet. I mean that was
the beauty about doing the Ozzfest because it’s giving them a chance
to be heard, you know. And from the Ozzfest, there’s a lot of bands
that came out.
I don’t think there’s that many festivals.
There’s Lollapalooza, I suppose. But there’s 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. We’ve
got Neil, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and, you
know, it’s a variety.
But now it’s like-- it’s 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, you’ve mentioned it, and sometimes you’re
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 don’t go and do bags of powder and fucking
alcohol anymore and smoke our brains out. We’ve gotten better. I’ve
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,
you’ve got to take care of yourself or you won’t. You know, it was
great but it’s over for me now.
Geezer: We have nice cups of tea together now.
Ozzy: And cookies. Believe me, I never thought
that they’d be calling me and say, “Let’s have tea.” That’s crazy, you
know. What’s happened to rock and roll?
Q: You’ve talked about Tony’s health. Is the
chemo over? How has he been?
Ozzy: I was asking him how he’s doing. I don’t
ask him what he’s doing or what they’re doing to him. He assures me
that he’s fine. And so I don’t want to get-- go right on, “how
are you?” when you’re getting chemo. I’m just glad the guy is
okay, because he sounds great. He looks great as well.
Q: Now you’ve said this is the final tour.
You’ve already extended it once. Is there any chance there’ll be
Ozzy: I don’t know. Anything is possible apart
from the fact that when we do the final show, that’s it. It’s done.
And it’s over. I don’t know when that will be.
Q: Given the nature, you know, the name of
your band, I’m 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, “You have to go and see this film, The Exorcist.” 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 haven’t 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 I’m going to be doing another solo
tour, I don’t know what sort of situations are coming up. But I don’t
want to do extensive touring. I can’t do it anymore; a year out on the
road. So, I’m done. I’ll do gigs. I’ll do watered-down tours and
things. But I’m going to still be actively involved in music to a
certain degree, I hope.
Geezer: I haven’t thought about it. I’m just
taking it one day at a time, first, we’ve get through this tour and
then think about what to do.