British honour to Tony Iommi

The fansite for Tony Iommi fans celebrating his brilliant 50 years of dedication and service to music

Tony organizes a charity lunch

 

On 21 February Tony published the following statement on his socials, which is a great opportunity for us fans, and a fantastic idea in itself:

"Tony’s having a charity lunch in support of the cancer ward where his friend and keyboard player Geoff Nicholls was treated. Tony will be undertaking a Q&A and is providing signed items for a raffle. The restaurant is a special venue and there’s a three course meal..."

Join the hospital charity for an exclusive lunch with rock legend Tony Iommi at Opus Restaurant on 20 April 2018. Tony will be on hand to entertain guests with stories from his life and career with Black Sabbath, touring the world with one of the biggest bands of all time.

Tony is Patron of Ward 19, the dedicated cancer ward at Heartlands Hospital and is supporting the Charity's campaign to raise £150,000 for an extension of cancer services at Solihull Hospital. This unit will increase the amount of cancer patients who can be treated by 170%, reducing waiting times, reducing stess and creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere for patients. 

This prestigious lunch includes a three course meal and reception drinks. Tickets are £100 each or £950 for a table of ten. There will also be the chance to win some incredible Black Sabbath prizes at a raffle that will be drawn over the course of the afternoon. 

To book a table of ten, please contact justine.davy@uhb.nhs.uk or ring 0121 371 4852.

To buy the ticket for the lunch with Tony (UNBELIEVABLE!!!) check this link! You can also donate to the Queen Elisabeth Hospital there. The tickets are only 10, so be quick! 

 


Iommi.com, 21 February 2018

New Tony Iommi interview by The Midlands Rocks

 

Interview by Dean Pedley of Midlands Rocks:

Twelve months on since Black Sabbath finished their final tour with hometown shows here in Birmingham the bands profile remains high. There was the pre-Christmas multi-format release of The End: Live In Birmingham, which documented that last performance, and also included a CD of songs recorded in the days that followed. And, as reported in our other article, Geezer Butler was at Villa Park last weekend to be awarded his star on the Broad Street Walk of Stars, becoming the third member of the band to do so. During the half time pitch side presentation ceremony, Geezer was joined by none other than Tony Iommi and Midlands Rocks was delighted to get the opportunity to have a few words with the Lord of Riffs.

MR: Tony, it’s great to see you here today to support Geezer. He’s now the third member of Sabbath to get this award after yourself and Ozzy and its recognition that is long overdue…

-- Absolutely I wouldn’t have missed this, not at all. I’m very pleased for Geezer that it’s taking place here because Aston Villa has been such a massive part of his life. He’s very shy and normally doesn’t do stuff like this but by having it take place here at Villa Park they managed to get him to come out and accept it. As I said I’m really happy for him and finally he has got his star which is much deserved.

MR: It’s been twelve months now since the final shows at Genting Arena. What was going through your mind as the tour came to a close?

-- It didn’t hit too much until the last shows really because it felt it was going to be almost like we had always done – finish the tour, go away and then get back together a few weeks or months later and start to make plans for the next one. And so it sort of felt like that but it didn’t if you know what I mean. There was that side to it where you suddenly thought “hang on a minute this is the last time we will be playing this song” and so that was when it really started to hit home.

MR: It wasn’t quite The End of course as you actually did some recording immediately afterwards…

-- Yes, fortunately for us right after the last Birmingham show we went in the studio for a couple of days to record. I thought it would be a good idea for us to set the gear up and just play in live in the studio like we used to and just tape it – good or bad. And so that’s what we did. And it was great to get a chance to do that and to be able to get Ozzy to sing some songs that he hadn’t done for a long time.

MR: The songs that were released…’The Wizard’, ‘Wicked World’, ‘Sweet Leaf’, ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ and ‘Changes’…were not part of the set list for the final tour. Would you have liked to change the set list around more?

-- We wanted to do other stuff that we hadn’t played for years but you could only do what Ozzy can sing. And back in the day he sang them so high that there was no chance of that and he didn’t want to sing them in a different key. And then when we were in the studio after the tour had finished he could just let go and really go for it, which he was quite happy to do. When we were on tour he would always be worried about making sure he could get through the next show. He would be thinking if we do these songs it’s too high and I will strain my voice so we might have to cancel the next show. On tour you have to do it every other night and it was hard at our age to do that. But by doing it by going in to the rehearsal room he could do it because we had finished the tour and it wouldn’t strain his voice. So we tried to avoid that happening and that was why the set list became what it was.

MR: A few years back yourself and Geezer had the opportunity to get back together with Ronnie James Dio and play songs from Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules aswell as recording a final album – The Devil You Know – with Ronnie singing. There is still a lot of love for those records from that era of the band…

-- I know there is, people often mention those albums to me. And that tour for us was going great, the album did well and everything was looking really good. And then I spoke to Ronnie on the phone after he got ill and it was very sad. And I called him to wish him Happy Birthday and he said to me “Oh I don’t worry about birthdays anymore; I’m old enough for everybody”. Without him in this business it leaves a huge hole.

MR: Ronnie was an incredible singer wasn’t he?

-- He had such an amazing voice he could just do stuff that was so natural to him and he would never warm up. He had a different regime to everybody else, like Ozzy for example he always warms up before he goes on stage. But with Ronnie he could be sitting here talking and having a drink and then he could go straight on stage, no warm-up and sing like he was like a super hero. And certainly he is very much missed and the world of music is much worse off without him in it…there are some great singers out there but Ronnie was certainly one of the very best.

MR: So how have you spending your time since the tour finished; are you enjoying having a good rest?

-- Rest! I thought after this tour well now I will get time to just relax and do some stuff that I had always wanted to do…but it hasn’t happened yet! I don’t know what it is, the time is just flying by and I think because of all the years of not seeing my friends that often it has got to the stage now where I see them a lot. And we moved house, and we met a new group of friends and so we have the old friends and the new friends and we just seem to be doing more than ever.

MR: Are you thinking about any sort of music related activity at the moment?

-- Music wise I would certainly like to start writing again but at the moment I’m doing a lot of stuff for charities, Heartlands Hospital, which is part of the Heart of England Foundation Trust, and also Wythall Animal Sanctuary and both of those are very dear to me. I just try and help where I can and with the Hospital Trust at the moment we are trying to raise some money to buy some beds for the chemo patients. And so that is something that I very much like to be involved with; you see the nurses and the doctors they work so hard and they don’t get a lot of credit for it and when you’re in there they are all so committed and it sparks me off and so that’s what I’ve been spending some of my time doing.

Thanks to Tony for kindly agreeing to be interviewed at very short notice. Both Tony and Geezer signed a copy of the double Ultimate Collection CD which we are raffling in a charity auction to support the Heart of England Foundation Trust. Click the link here to make a donation and be in with a chance of winning!

 


TheMidlandRocks.com, 12 February 2018

Geezer Butler receives Walk of Stars plaque in Birmingham, Tony congratulates his bandmate

 

On Sunday 3d February, Geezer Butler, Black Sabbath’s co-founding member, bass player, songwriter, and main lyricist, was immortalized on the Broad Street Walk of Stars in Birmingham. The ceremony took place at Aston Villa’s home ground, with Geezer receiving his star during the half-time of the Aston Villa vs Burton FC match. The honour was presented by Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Anne Underwood. 

Tony Iommi, was on hand for the presentation, he shared the whole celebration day with his dear buddy Geezer, and later took to social media to post the following: "I was so pleased to see my dear friend Geezer Butler last night and to finally see him joining myself and Ozzy on Broad St Walk Of Stars in Birmingham. He received his award on the pitch of his favourite football team Aston Villa and it was presented to him by The Lord Mayor of Birmingham. Congratulations Geez! Tony."

The Birmingham Walk of Stars was developed to recognize those who were born in Birmingham or have lived here and have put the city on the map nationally and internationally through their work. This Walk of Star presentation is in partnership with Aston Villa, House of Metal, and Hollywood Metal.

In behalf of all Sabbath fans, we congratulate our Geezer with this fantastic award! And hats off to our brother Mohammed Osama, Geezer and Gloria's friend and superfan, who, with his tremendous dedication and hard work, achieved this Victory to Geezer! You guys rock! \m/


Bravewords.com, Iommi.com, 3 February 2018

 

Second part of Tony's conversation with Musician's Institute



Legend Tony Iommi is featured in a new interview with Musician's Institute in LA in October 2017, discussing his plans for the future and the late Ronnie James Dio. We already published the first part of the conversation on our site before. This is the second part - watch the video!

Tony Iommi:

"When we did Heaven and Hell - it was a time when Ozzy had to depart from the band and we had to get somebody else. And then we tried Ronnie. And I never met Ronnie before; actually, I met Ronnie at a party, but that was it. And when Ronnie went over to the house - because we used to have a house, we all lived together - and God, when he started singing... Bloody hell... I couldn't believe what was coming out of his little body. That voice was so good.

At that point with Ozz we haven't done much because we were all stoned and out of it, and he was worse than us. He lost interest in it. So we needed something to happen, otherwise we would have just broken up. We had to have somebody new coming - and it was Ronnie. I'm not knocking Ozzy - he's brilliant at what he does - but Ronnie was a different singer altogether."



Loudwire.com, 3 January 2018

Tony talks guitar wisdom with Music Radar

 

As the last show of Black Sabbath’s final tour is immortalised with a new film and their legacy is celebrated with a vinyl boxset of their first eight albums, we talk tone and perseverance with Tony Iommi...

On 4 February 2017, Black Sabbath walked off stage at the Genting Arena in their home city of Birmingham after the last show of their final tour. That heavy and emotional finale is captured on the forthcoming DVD, Blu-ray and album, The End. But they didn’t go their separate ways that night. Instead, the band spent another three days together, finishing by going full circle with Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler playing together in a room as they had began 49 years previously.

The band finished playing together in a room as they had began 49 years previously.

“It was actually my idea to do that,” Tony Iommi tells us as we meet in the grand Rocket Room of London’s Hospital Club. “I thought it would be nice to play some different tracks that people enjoy and that we’re not playing on stage; let Ozzy sing them at ease as opposed to singing them every night. He wouldn’t be able to do them every night, but as one-offs he can. Purely because some of them are high. It was really nice to be able to do that. And I’m so glad we did do it for another reason: because on the last night we’d have all just disappeared after the show.”

The intimate session at Angelic Studios in Northamptonshire with touring drummer Tommy Clufetos can also be seen on The End and sees the trio blasting through songs such as Wicked World and The Wizard from their seminal, self-titled 1969 debut album. Ozzy can even be found dusting down his harmonica for the latter as well as the unusual sight of Iommi and Butler on keys for a performance of ballad Changes from 1972’s Vol 4.

“I hadn’t played the piano for years and certainly Geezer hadn’t,” laughs Tony. He said, ‘I don’t wanna do it, I can’t remember it!’ But it was alright!”

With The End released on 17 November and the band’s eight-album boxset The Ten Year War out now, there are no keys in sight when we meet. We’re here to talk guitar wisdom with Tony…

Changing Laneys

How Iommi went back to his roots for his final tour rig.

“I had a totally different rig altogether for the last tour. I went to Laney and asked them if they would build a better (more reliable) version of the original amps I had years ago in the early days. They thought about it but they had only made a limited amount because they were expensive. Laney put a lot of effort into it to build the amps how I wanted. Which was great. I didn’t realise it was going to be as involved as it was. They had a group of people to build these amps but they’d never seen [the originals], they were too young. So they had to be shown how to build each part. It was a lot more than I thought. They put a lot of effort into it to build them how I wanted. Which was great. They built me 10. I didn’t use all 10, of course. Pete Cornish built me a new pedalboard to work with these amps because the last system I had was another Iommi version of an amp. The pedalboard had to be different to drive those amps because I drove two different amps at the same time. I’d switch for solos. For this one it was different, it was straight on like it used to be. No fiddling around... I didn’t want all these graphic [EQs] here and there. I just wanted to plug in and play.”

Tone’s tone

So what exactly does the godfather of heavy look for in his sound?

“It has to be beefy. I try and make it half and half because it’s not the greatest sound to play solos with but it’s a good sound for chords and riffs. So I try to make the best of both worlds and tune into a sound that will cover them both. Ideally, I always want a bit more distortion on the solos, or a bit more raw, I should say. But we went with these amps; straight on. And it worked. I liked them. And we didn’t use loads of effects, I only used the wah-wah and a chorus and delay.”

Rick-rolling

The right tone is about more than just old gear.

“Analogue is a lot warmer sound-wise. And they’ve tried to do it with the digital stuff and even now they can do it in analogue and convert it to digital. But there are pros and cons for both. The thing with analogue was if you wanted to cut a bit out you’d have to splice the tape and then put bits in. Now you just have to press a couple of buttons. With our last album [2013’s 13] Rick Rubin wanted it to sound like the early days and he said, ‘Can you get any of your original amps?’ It was 50 years ago - where are we going to store amps for 50 years? We arrive in the studio and they’ve got a rack full of amps in there and I said to the engineer, ‘What’s all this?’ He said, ‘Rick ordered them.’ ‘Why?’ All these old vintage Marshalls and about three Laney Klipp amps, which I had never used but he assumed I had. So I got in there and said, ‘I don’t need these.’ But he said Rick’s ordered them, so at least give them a try. I tried them and I didn’t like them. I said to Rick, ‘Just because they’re vintage amps, it doesn’t mean they sound good.’ So we had this little thing about what we should sound like. He even phoned this bloke up who he said knew how to get my sound. I said: ‘I’m the one who got the sound. Why were you calling someone else about how to get my sound?’ In the end I used my own amp that I designed [TI 100]. Not the new ones - I wish I’d had those then.”

Never say die

Sabbath believed in their music when nobody else did.

“I think we’ve always had to deal with that. Ever since we started, the first day we had to deal with it. The same with producers. I remember when we first came to London, we played at the Speakeasy Club and we’d never played anything like that before. This guy was coming along from a record company and thought we were really crap. We never really appealed to anybody. So we’d plod on until we found the right thing and somebody would like it. We knew nothing about recording so all we did was just walk in and play. The first album was like doing a gig for us. Eventually, it clicked and Phonogram got [producer] Rodger Bain involved, who was very new to them and it was like his test project I think. We knew nothing about recording so all we did was just walk in and play. The first album was like doing a gig for us. Literally, it took that long. We didn’t have weeks to work on it - it was a case of in and out. So we’ve always had to push but it makes you strong, it makes you believe in what you do. It makes you work harder to achieve whatever it is you’re trying to. You have this drive that pushes you on to do it.”

Hanks a lot

We might have Marvin and the Shads to thank for the evolution of heavy music!

“The Shadows were the only band that really appealed to me [in the early 60s]. There was rock ’n’ roll but I liked the idea of an instrumental band and they had a real sort of demonic sound in some ways - Frightened City and stuff like that had an eerie feeling to it. I really liked what they were doing and they had a nice guitar sound for what they did. So I really tried to get that and I did to a point. Bill and myself, when we got together we were playing Shadows songs in the early band we were in, with Cliff Richard stuff and rock ’n’ roll. We wanted this more raw, basic sound, so I got into playing blues and jazz. And from that it went into what we are playing now. I never ever classed us as heavy metal in the early days. It’s just that I gave up in the end. Everyone said, ‘You’re heavy metal.’ ‘Okay, we’re heavy metal, call us what you want.’ It was always heavy rock to me.”

Chemistry test

Successful bands are a team.

“Geezer is irreplaceable... very important, because he would follow me and know what I was going to play. I never had any doubt at all that Geezer would play the right thing. Those kind of players don’t exist so much. I got a bit annoyed, certainly through the 80s period, that it became more about the posse of bands coming out. Having the bass down here and just hitting one note. Not players to me. Geezer would come up with a melodic part and he was the ideal bass player for us. I think we brought out the best in each other. Because none of us were brilliant musicians but as a band it worked. We weren’t technically great but we played and we enjoyed what we did. We created a sound, and we created basic riffs that people liked. Well, we liked them anyway! I’ve played with other people who have been technical and I learned through the period of being on my own and bringing in drummers and bass players that however good you are, it doesn’t mean to say you can play what we played. And it proved a point because some of these musicians were great players but you’d say, ‘Can you play War Pigs or Black Sabbath?’ and they couldn’t get it. No feel. And the amount of times I’d have drummers come in to play and they’d say, ‘We know all of Sabbath’s stuff’ and they’d play. ‘Stop! It’s nothing like it. The feel’s not there.’ But technically they’re great. That really did open my eyes. It’s simple… but it’s not.”

Harping on

Iommi is known as a riff master, but Sabbath were frequently experimental too...

“I did like to experiment a bit and I’ve always been one to try and do something different from what we’d already done. Even from the early days of doing an instrumental when we did Laguna Sunrise. Then Supertzsar was another one. At first somebody said, ‘You can’t put Laguna Sunrise on the album with all the heavy stuff.’ Why? And it was the same with Supertzsar. And I’d done it at home. I had a harp and I couldn’t play the harp but I could play a couple of notes on it. So I put this riff down and thought, ‘I’ll try that harp on this.’ We were always experimental all the way through. Right down to sounds, because you had to make your own sounds in those days. Then I had a mellotron and put the choir [parts] down and it sort of worked. I played it the others and they said, ‘Oh yeah we like that.’ But the thing was we then had to get proper players in. So we had the choir come onboard. We got this harp player from the philharmonic and she asked, ‘Well, what would you like me to play?’ And I said. ‘I’m playing this [mimics rudimentary harp playing]’ I was so embarrassed. So I said, ‘Just play what you think will go with it.’ But it was all experimental. We were always experimental all the way through. Right down to sounds, because you had to make your own sounds in those days. You couldn’t buy a keyboard and press a note that came up as a different sound. You had to make them and it took time to do it.”

Wheels of confusion

Always record your riffs…

“You had to remember riffs back in the old days. When we did get a tape machine it was a big reel to reel but in the early days we’d have to keep playing the same thing so we’d remember it, because you’d forget. We’d rehearse again the next day and everyone would come in. You’d ask, ‘Does everyone remember it?’ ‘I think so…’ and you’d have to try and drum it into yourself but you might play it slightly differently. That’s always the thing if you don’t tape it down, just that little inflection in how you play it can make the song sound different. Just pulling back too much or being too impatient with certain bits, it doesn’t sound the same. You’ve still got to play it the same to get that feel. It’s down to feel really. If you hold one note longer than it should be, it makes the tune different. I’ve done it myself many times. I’ve gone in thinking, ‘Well, this is how it is’ and I’ve started playing it but, fortunately, I’ve had a tape of it. Then when I’ve listened back to the tape I thought, ‘Oh blimey I’m not playing that right now’, when I thought I was.”

The thrill of it all

What the guitar means to Iommi, 49 years after forming Sabbath.

"Being able to play an instrument releases something in you that you wouldn’t normally be able to do. It’s a way of expressing your inner self. But I don’t sleep with the guitar now, when I did in the early days, mind! It has always meant something very special to me, and it brought out parts of me that you couldn’t bring out normally from within. Being able to write music, being able to play an instrument releases something in you that you wouldn’t normally be able to do... that I wouldn’t normally be able to do. And the guitar did that for me. It taught me a lot really. When I feel like it, I go and play now. And at the moment I’m really far away from it because there’s so many other things going on, the last thing I want to do is pick up a guitar! But when I do pick it up, I really enjoy it. And I liked it when I could sit with the band and come up with ideas and come up with riffs. Or at home I come up with riffs. Then I’m in my element.”

 


MusicRadar.com, 22 December 2017 

Tony's conversations with Musician's Institute and Classic Rock

 

Right before his appearance at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards, legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi took part in a conversation at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, Calif. During part one of the interview, Iommi talks about his early days as a musician, cutting off his fingers in an industrial accident and his road to forming Black Sabbath.

The story of Tony Iommi’s missing fingertips has become stuff of heavy metal legend. We even cast Iommi’s right hand to create the official 2017 Loudwire Music Awards ‘Hand of Doom’ trophy. While speaking with interviewer Ryan J. Downey, Iommi recalled the accident in gruesome detail.

“I’d be on a line and they’d pass stuff down to me and I’d weld it, and then it’d go on to somewhere else,” Iommi sets up the scene. “One day, the person that would be sending me the thing to weld never turned up, so they put me on this giant, huge press — a guillotine-type press. I don’t know what happened, I must have pushed my hand in. Bang! It came down. It just took the ends off [my fingers]. I actually pulled them off. As I pulled my hang back, it sort of pulled them off. It was left with two stalks, the bone was sticking out the top of the finger.”

Iommi continues, “I went to the hospital and they cut the bones off and then they said, ‘You might as well forget playing.’ God, I was just so upset. I wouldn’t accept that there wasn’t some way around it, that I couldn’t be able to play.”

Iommi speaks about crafting his own prosthetic fingertips by melting down a soap bottle, but being unable to grip his guitar strings. After gluing various types of cloth to the plastic tips, to no avail, the future Black Sabbath legend had his eureka moment after cutting up an old leather jacket. “It worked, but then I had to persevere for a long, long time to get used to working with them… and it was painful.”

The guitarist goes on to talk about the first bands he ever performed with. “The first gig I ever had was just me with a drummer and a piano player and they were about 30 years older than me. It was in a pub and I wasn’t even old enough to be in the pub,” Iommi recalls. After reminiscing about other pre-Sabbath bands he played in, such as the Rockin’ Chevrolets and the Rest — the latter of which featured Bill Ward on drums — Iommi describes wanting to create a “bigger sound” than he had been hearing in rock music.

Having played the final show at the end of The End tour, Tony Iommi sat down with Classic Rock to reveal what he'd learned during Black Sabbath's long career... One of the standout features of Classic Rock 243 is The Gospel According To Tony Iommi, in which the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist looks back over his band's long and storied career, and reveals what he's learned. Here are just five highlights...

Always believe in the impossible -- 

I lost the tips of two fingers in an accident on the day that I was due to leave my job in a sheet metal factory to turn professional. I was only seventeen years old, and the doctors told me there was no point in trying to continue playing the guitar. But I wouldn’t give up and eventually I found a way. All through my life I’ve had that same attitude. If band members left, then I never gave up. You find somebody else and you carry on. And eventually of course we all came back together.

I’ve no idea where those riffs come fromI’m just grateful that they do. They come out of the air; I don’t sit down and work them out. They just arrive. It’s all very strange. I can sit down and two or three different riffs will come along in ten minutes. Some of them will be crap but most are usable. I’m useless at most other things, but if there’s one thing I can do in life then it’s write riffs.

The last Sabbath show was weird --

The feeling built as we crept towards to the final gig at the Genting Arena, but it didn’t really sink in till the day of the show. Looking out at the audience during the last few songs, people were crying. Those people idolise you and love what you do. In a way it felt like we were letting them down. It was a shame.

Sabbath’s earliest gigs were crap --

How we got from those days to what the band eventually became, I’m really not sure. We would play places where nobody was interested. Or we’d turn up and people would think that we were playing pop, when of course we weren’t. I recall a gig at a place called the Toe Bar in Egremont and this bloke shouted out: “Your singer’s crap.” That was really embarrassing. Of course, we improved as the years went by, but we certainly had to teach people – and ourselves – about what we were doing, because it was so different. It was a very steep learning curve.

Has anyone got the Black Zeppelin tape?

We were really good mates with Led Zeppelin, especially Robert Plant and John Bonham who came from the Midlands. Zeppelin had wanted us to be on their label, Swan Song, but we couldn’t make it work out. During the recording of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath album [1973], Zeppelin came into the studio for a jam. John wanted to play Supernaut but we jammed instead. We were in the middle of recording so it fucked up the session. I know that it wasrecorded, and I’d love to hear it. The tape must be around somewhere.

You can read the full version of this feature in The Gospel According To Tony Iommi, in the latest issue of Classic Rock. Buy it online HERE.


Loudwire.com, Teamrock.com, 15 December 2017

Tony shares memories of Sabbath's final gig


On February 4 , 2017, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, singer Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler took the stage for one last sold-out show together in their hometown of Birmingham, England. As they ripped through classic songs like “War Pigs,” “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” in front of 16,000 fist-pumping fans, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was the end of an era—an extremely heavy one.
“It did get a bit nostalgic,” says Tony Iommi. “I definitely thought of how long the whole thing has gone over the years, and how long we’ve known each other. I felt all that onstage. It was a bit…it felt sad, really. All these people from all over the world came to see us, including many that followed us from the very beginning, and you could see they were upset and crying, so it was an emotional experience. There was this one couple who came to see us all the time in South America. We would play one of those shows in front of 80,000, and they would somehow squash through and make it to the front. And, lo and behold, I look down at our last show in Birmingham, and there they are, in the front row.”

For those unable to attend the band’s grand finale, the performance was captured for posterity by Dick Carruthers, the director behind classic concert films like Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day and The Who Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Titled The End of the End, the DVD documents the entire show plus offers behind-the-scenes footage, personal anecdotes and fabulously intimate studio performances of material not featured on the tour.

It was only right that Sabbath should end their illustrious career in the city where it started. Like Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey, Black Sabbath will always be associated with Birmingham. Known for its dangerously polluted air, alarming homicide rates and some of Britain’s most hideous buildings, the sprawling industrial center was the perfect breeding ground for the band’s bleak and powerful music. It was also fodder for their dark mythology: a wicked modern world inhabited by alienated iron men, evil women and the doomed. On the flip-side, Birmingham also was a wild hotbed of innovation. By the year 2000, of the 4,000 inventions copyrighted in the U.K., 2,800 came from the city, including gadgets like the microwave oven, the vacuum cleaner, the smoke detector and the skateboard.

It was in this Petri dish of concrete, crime and creativity that Black Sabbath gave birth to one of most significant and diabolical genres of music of the 20th century—heavy metal. With their megaton riffs, pounding drums, air-raid siren vocals and apocalyptic lyrics, Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and original drummer Bill Ward inspired countless bands, giving rise to deathcore, doom metal, power pop, thrash, pirate metal, hair metal, stoner rock, sludge, grind and mathcore, all of which would be unthinkable without the Big Black Bang of Sabbath. Perhaps Judas Priest singer Rob Halford put it best: “To me, Sabbath are in the same league as the Beatles and Mozart. They were on the leading edge of something extraordinary.”

At the center of the Black Sabbath explosion was guitarist Tony Iommi, an underrated genius whose use of overdriven amplifiers, power chords and detuned Gibson SGs defined the band’s revolutionary music. His style was born from a blood sacrifice that cost him the tips of his own fingers. At the age of 17, the middle and ring finger of his fretting hand were sliced off in an industrial accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory. He was told he would never play guitar again, but instead of drifting into despair he fought back. He fashioned and fitted homemade thimbles to his injured fingers to extend and protect them, and altered his guitar to accommodate his prosthetics. And from those ashes arose something completely original.

“I grew up in a rough factory town, so I was always fighting about something,” says Iommi. “If somebody threw a punch, you’d have to fight back. I think that mentality of not giving in has stuck with me. I’ve never turned my back on a challenge—I’d rather deal with my problems head on.”

In the following interview, Iommi expands on those challenges and how they led to him becoming one of the most influential musicians of the past five decades. While some may raise their eyebrows at such a statement, the evidence of his ongoing importance is overwhelming. While Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck might garner more critical acclaim, it could be argued that many more contemporary guitarists and bands sound like descendants of Sabbath than, say, Derek and the Dominos or even Led Zeppelin. Labels like Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast, Relapse, Spinefarm and Prosthetic are filled with ’em, while hundreds more are forming as we speak. The new Black Sabbath DVD may be called The End of the End, but the truth is, the legacy of Tony Iommi and his band is far from over. It may be just beginning. Tony tells:

Was there a song on The End of the End that really captured the band’s chemistry?

I don’t know whether I looked at it that way. I just looked at our performance as a whole and I liked the way it went. But as far as one song that captured our sound, I can’t say I looked at it that way.

Did you take any special care to choose the final setlist?

We knew we wanted to play the classics, so we didn’t really play anything off the final album, 13. I would’ve liked to have played some of the songs that we haven’t performed for many years like “Hole in the Sky” or “Symptom of the Universe,” but we could only do songs that Ozzy could still sing. That’s no disrespect to him. When we recorded those songs originally 30 years ago, the keys were so high there was no chance in hell that he could still hit those notes. But it would’ve been nice to have had them in the set.

Did you consider detuning your guitar so it would make it easier for him to hit the notes?

Because I detune already, the strings would’ve been too low, like rubber bands. We detuned with Ronnie James Dio on the last two tours we did with him, but that was just a semi-tone. But let me be clear, nobody was upset with Ozzy. It’s impossible for anyone his age to sing like they did as a kid.

It kinda makes you glad to be a guitar player! Are there any songs you are going to miss playing with Sabbath?

That was certainly going through my mind during the last show. I was thinking, I’ve been playing most of these songs since Day One, and, you know, bloody hell, this will be the last time that I’m going to be playing these songs with these guys! It was strange to look at it like that. It really hit me, especially when I was playing the solo to “Dirty Women,” that I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to play it that way ever again.

On the other hand, are you happy to never have to play “Paranoid” again?

[Laughs] I’m sure I’ll play it again, somewhere! But you know what? Even though at times, I’ve felt like, Oh, bloody hell, not “Paranoid” again, it’s still amazing how many people know us because of that song. It’s quite bizarre, because we put that song together and recorded it in about 30 minutes, and it became the most famous of them all.

While you didn’t play “Hole in the Sky,” you did play some pretty cool songs that weren’t obvious, like one of my favorites, “After Forever.”

Well, everyone made a list of suggestions and sent it to each other, but it was all down to Ozzy, and what he felt comfortable singing. We tried everything in rehearsal, but it got narrowed down to what he could do on a regular basis. We tried a few different variations in the beginning of the tour, but the following night, Ozzy would say, “Can we not play so-and-so tonight? My throat is sore,” or whatever. And eventually they’d get pulled out, which was a shame. If it was hard for Ozzy, there was no point in doing it. In a big show like ours, it’s difficult to change songs around because it throws all the lighting people in a panic. They’re all, “Fuckin’ hell, what happened?”
I guess some things never change. Hasn’t it always been, “Ozzy! What’s he doing now?!?”[Laughs] There is some truth to that.

On the live concert film, you perform a medley of greatest guitar riffs like “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Supernaut.” Was that an opportunity to sneak in a few songs that Ozzy couldn’t sing, but the fans wanted to hear?

Absolutely. And we wanted to play ’em! So, we figured we do them as an instrumental even if we couldn’t play the whole song. It seemed like a good compromise.

Do you remember the first time you heard the sound of your guitar fill up a gigantic auditorium, and how you felt?

Yes! It was when we first came to the United States and played through a proper P.A. at the Fillmore in New York City in 1970. It was a revelation and we were blown away. It was also the first time we ever played with a stage monitor. We had a P.A. in England, but we didn’t have monitors. I’ll always remember that. We were so green. We’d carry all our stuff on a plane, with no cases or anything. We’d watch our amplifiers come tumbling down luggage shoots in just a plastic cover, because we didn’t know you had to put them in flight cases. We were never sure if anything would work when we got to the gig.

In a number of interviews, you’ve said that you like to improvise solos because it’s too hard to memorize what you played in the studio. But so many of your solos have become such important parts of the song.

Yes, that’s especially true of the songs from Paranoid. The solos on “Fairies Wear Boots,” “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” have now become part of the song and I’m aware that people want to hear them that way. And, in a way, I did compose them to be memorable. It’s really the later stuff that I did off-the-cuff in the studio.

Why did you change your approach?

As time went on, I liked the idea of capturing a more spontaneous feeling. Typically, I’d try four or five takes. If I did any more than that, I found they’d start going downhill. I’d lose that spark, or I would just repeat myself anyway.

Sabbath almost single-handedly created this new genre of music that, it could be argued, is as important and influential as jazz, blues or hip-hop. Are you surprised at how long heavy metal has stayed relevant? There are more metal bands than ever.

I’m thrilled about it, and how the music has become so big. We originally wanted to sound heavy because we loved the feel and texture of it, and still do. It was from the soul, and it’s really gratifying to have started something new. We weren’t technically brilliant but, like the blues, it gets to you. “Black Sabbath” and “Wicked World” were the roots. When we started playing those songs we knew we were making an original statement, and started building on that. What astounded us more was that people understood what we were trying to do and supported us. It took us quite a long time to build our fan base, but unlike people these days, we didn’t do it for the money, we wrote this music because we believed in it. It wasn’t commercial at all when we started.

The massive sound of your guitar and the way you used power chords were definitely key to the band’s success, but Geezer’s lyrics were also important. Nobody, except for maybe Bob Dylan, was writing about the world in such a dark and unflinching way. Did growing up in a gritty factory town like Birmingham contribute to that outlook?

I think so. It made a big impression on me and Geezer. Living in Birmingham made us very direct and honest. We didn’t believe in sugarcoating things. I’ve never doubted anything Geezer has played or written. He’s gone unnoticed to a point, and it’s a bloody shame because he’s such a huge part of Sabbath, and has such a huge impact on so many bass players and lyricists. Earlier in our conversation, we were talking about the popularity of “Paranoid.” The lyrics were an important part of that. He was one of the first rock writers to talk about mental illness in such a personal and realistic way. And “War Pigs” is just as relevant today as it was then. Absolutely timeless.

How did losing the tips of your middle and ring finger on your right hand in a factory accident affect how you played and set up your guitar?

It changed everything. Initially, I thought I was finished, but I decided I wasn’t going to accept that. Soon after, I started taking away all the obstacles. There were so many people that told me I would never play again. But I had the courage to question, why? As you know, I made a couple thimbles to cover my fingers and I started using lighter strings to make it a bit easier to play, but none of it was particularly easy, and it took time and experimentation. For example, I had to figure out how much pressure to apply to the strings, or else they would go out of tune. And I had to find a proper balance between how high the strings could be on the fretboard and how low the frets could be. But I was determined, and I worked at it and did it.

You had a reputation for being pretty good with your fists when you were younger. Did being a scrapper help you overcome the problems with your handicap?

When I was young, I’d get into a fight and my friends would say, “Oh you can’t get him, he’s bigger than you.” It didn’t make any difference to me. It’s what’s in your head and what you know. And those lessons stayed with me with everything I’ve done. It seems I’ve always had to fight to prove my point of view. I remember I even had to defend the way I wanted to amplify my guitar. There was no such thing as a preamp when we started Sabbath, but I knew I wanted a bigger, more distorted sound. I had this treble booster called a Dallas Rangemaster that was modified by a friend of mine to add even more gain. Other guitarists would say, “You can’t put that in front of the amplifier, you’re gonna overload it.” And I would say, I know—that’s what I want it to do! And that’s the sound you hear on the early Sabbath albums that everyone loves. All these things, and it went on for years. The only one who understood what I was doing was [Queen guitarist] Brian May. He totally got it and backed me up on loads of occasions.

What happened to the original Rangemaster?

I used it until 1979, when this guy that I hired to modify some Marshalls threw it away! I couldn’t believe it. He thought it was garbage. Truth is, I’ve never been able to replicate that exact sound since.

Did you start detuning your guitar to make it easier to play?

Yes, but that came a little later. The first two albums were played at standard pitch. I didn’t really start experimenting with detuning my guitar until the third album, Master of Reality.

It became a signature, and detuning has become almost mandatory in modern heavy metal. Did you immediately appreciate the effect it had on your sound?

Yes, I think it made a huge difference and added a whole different dimension to Black Sabbath. It made my guitar sound bigger, which was always a motivation. I mean, not counting vocals, what did I really have to work with? We didn’t have keyboards or a rhythm guitar. It was just me, bass and drums. So, we were always working on making our sound larger than life and more powerful. Detuning was part of that, as was Geezer adding distortion or bending notes, which was rare for a bass guitarist in those days.

Did you ever consider getting a rhythm guitarist in the band?

I worked with a rhythm player in one of my early bands with Bill Ward. It sounded good, but I also felt it confused things. No guitarist plays the same way, and those differences can clash. When I worked with other guitarists in those days, I always felt certain things sounded odd or didn’t mesh, so I decided on keeping Sabbath a four-piece. Over the years, however, I’ve played with other players, and had great experiences. When I jam with Brian May, for example, it works. We’re on the same wavelength and we sort of understand and respect each other.

I’d like to hear an album of that!

We’ve talked about it. Who knows?

How would you assess Geezer Butler as a bassist. You guys have played together for so long, you might as well be one person.

Nobody plays like him. He’s so tuned in that he knows where I’m going to go before I do! Yet he’s so laid back, and almost shy in some ways. Very underrated.

On The End of the End, there are moments that your interaction with Geezer reminded me of Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce when they were in Cream. Was that an early influence?

Absolutely. But I think Clapton’s work with John Mayall had a bigger influence. That’s where we wanted to be. We wanted our music to have that sort of freedom. We didn’t want to be regimented, and we never were.

The legendary Muddy Waters once said his blues might sound simple, but they’re the hardest to play because of the nuances and subtleties. Is there something interesting about your playing that people wouldn’t necessarily notice?

Hmm…I’ve never actually given that any thought. Here’s something. After the accident, I had difficulty bending strings, but I wanted to be able to play those blues notes. So instead of bending strings I started playing these little hammer-on trills. It became an identifiable part of my style, but that’s how it started. I still use them quite a bit. I also think my use of open strings to make my riffs sound bigger is a subtlety that might go unnoticed.

You may not remember this, but in 1992 I interviewed you for Guitar World and I brought along a little six-inch amp so we could do a few lessons for the magazine. What blew my mind was that you essentially sounded the same coming out of this dinky amp. Your sound was still surprisingly big.

Ha! I do remember that little amp.

My question is, you’ve played through a lot of guitars and amps over the years. Do they really make any difference?

Being left-handed, I don’t often use different guitars, but yeah, I can usually dial in a sound on most amps and still sound like me.

So, with all the innovation in amplification, would you say your sound has improved?

Well, it’s funny, but I’ve gone in one big circle. My primary amp in the early days of Sabbath was a Laney Supergroup, because they were a Birmingham-based company and they offered us gear when nobody else did! Eventually, I tried a bunch of different things. I had some Mesa/Boogies and tried various Marshalls, but I was never completely satisfied. So, on the last tour, I started looking for vintage Laney amps like my early ones, and couldn’t find any. I decided to reach out to Laney and ask them to build me 10 amps like my Supergroup. Unfortunately, no one knew how to build them, because most of the people that worked at the factory weren’t even born in 1968! But there was one bloke from the early days who took on the project along with Lyndon Laney, who helped build my amps in the Nineties, and they did an amazing job. They built me these 10 amps that were basically the same as my original amps, but sturdier and better quality. So fuckin’ hell, I came straight back to where I started, and it just sounds good!

I’m gonna ask you the stupidest question a guitar magazine can ask

……like what are my 10 favorite Sabbath songs?

No, no.

Thank God, I hate that question! So, what is it?

What kind of pick do you use?

That’s not stupid at all. That’s a sensible question because they do make a tremendous difference. I use Dunlop mediums, and sometimes light picks. I feel clumsy with a heavy pick and I don’t like the way they sound. I’m sorry, I keep coming back to Brian May, but he used to use that six pence coin. I tried playing with once and I kept dropping it. I couldn’t hold onto the bloody thing. I don’t know how he did it.

You and Geezer never moved around too much onstage, but there was a certain power in your stillness. When I was a kid, I’d think, Whoa! Those guys are serious. Was that conscious?

I never had the desire to jump all over the place. If I did, I’d probably make mistakes right and left. In a way, you’re right. I’ve always been serious about my playing, but I was also concerned about my thimbles. I’d be in trouble if they came off! Additionally, I had to be more precise than players with regular fingers, because I can’t feel the strings, so God knows what sound would come out if I was doing windmills or running around.

You’ve had some pretty wild stage outfits though…blue silk devil capes and such.

[Laughs] It was the Seventies, what can I say? We had a girl that made our idiotic stage clothes. Fringes all over…blue, white and purple! I wouldn’t be seen dead in any of that now. When you’re in the middle of certain era, you don’t really think about it. But now, I see pictures and say, “Oh fucking hell, why did I wear that?” But once you’ve done it, it’s embedded in photos and you can’t remove it, and it’s a bit embarrassing. But, yeah, I did have some strange outfits. But it was what it was.

Do you still have any of it?

I don’t think so. I think one of my ex-wives said, “What’s all this junk?” and threw most of it out. I’d go on tour and come back, and it would be gone. Some of those things might turn up somewhere, but I think it’s better off gone!

In The End of the End, there is some fascinating footage of the band playing a bunch of classic songs in the studio, including “The Wizard,” “Wicked World” and “Sweet Leaf.” What was the purpose?

We were trying to give fans a last chance to hear us play some of our favorite songs for that last time. We couldn’t fit them all in a single show, so we decided to go back and do a few in the studio.

It’s pretty cool, because there is such clarity to the sound. You can really hear how great the band is.

I’m glad you like it, but we played in less than ideal circumstances. I was told not to turn up too loud, because they were afraid that I would deafen the cameramen. The room was also pretty echo-y.

“The Wizard,” more than any song, shows your transition from originally being a blues band to being Black Sabbath. It has both elements. What was your relationship to the blues?

We like the blues in the early days because the songs were straightforward and used roughly the same chords, so you could put together a set pretty quickly! But no one would notice that the songs were similar if you changed the tempos. And I liked the blues because every song had a solo, so it gave me a lot of opportunity to play and try out ideas. “Wicked World” was fun, because it allowed us to play around with more jazzy rhythms and ideas.

What would you like people to know about Ozzy and Geezer that the myths and legends don’t appropriately convey?

Geezer is a bit of a recluse, although he’s opened up over the years. He’s very deep, reads a lot and is very funny. He has a very dry wit.

And what can you say about Ozzy?

He’s Ozzy. He’s never been any different. He’s got a heart of gold and will do anything for you. He’s always been level with me. And talk about family—we’ve always been brothers. Unfortunately, on last tours we hardly saw each other. We’d see each other onstage or when we’d travel, but on days off you wouldn’t see anybody! Our lives changed when they stopped drinking. I didn’t stop, but my illness slowed me down a bit. When we were drinking, we used to go down and talk and be together all the time. But as soon as they stopped, we just fell off, you know? We always got on great. But we lost contact and didn’t have those personal conversations. Each of us would have our own entourage. So, after we’d get off the plane, each of us would have our own cars and go to our own rooms. Which is a shame because when we did have a chance to sit and talk like we did in the studio, we’d have a laugh and it was like old times. I missed that comradeship.

How is your health? You were diagnosed with lymphoma a few years back.

Healthwise, I seem to be alright for the moment. It’s still in remission. I continue to have my regular checkup every six weeks, and it’s a bit easier for me now that I’m not touring. The doctors were concerned about all the flying I was doing, because it isn’t good for the blood. But I’m on top of it, and I’m eating the right things…although sometimes I still eat the wrong things. [laughs]

Future plans?

I’m not sure. I’m still involved with Sabbath to some degree, because we’ve been very involved with the film and how it sounds. I’m still going to write, and I’m quite excited about the future because it’s a mystery. I like the idea of an album with Brian May!We talked about it when he came over the house a couple months ago. I’d like to do only things that I really enjoy now, and that would be one of them.

What’s your guitar of choice these days?

I’ve got my signature Gibson guitars, and my signature Epiphone, which is really good. And I still use “Old Boy,” which is my custom guitar built back in the Seventies by JayDee Custom Guitars, but here’s a funny story for you. Several years ago, I got a call from Gibson, and they told me that they’d like to build a guitar for me for my 60th birthday. I told them that I’d like a good jazz guitar, and they said no problem. I was sort of excited about it, but then my birthday came and went, and there was no guitar... I figured it would come eventually, but then I turned 61, 62, 63…and still no guitar. Eventually, I forgot about it. Then, out of the blue, on my 65th birthday, the guitar finally shows up.

Was it good?

Excellent!


Brad Tolinski for GuitarWorld.com, 30 November 2017

The End Live in Birmingham


It's the end of an era, one that no self-respecting metal fan will ever forget. Starting in 1968, Black Sabbath provided the blueprint for metal. Black Sabbath made their way around the world for "The End" tour, playing 81 dates in all, but fittingly they wrapped up their concert career at the Genting Arena in their hometown of Birmingham, England, bringing their career full circle. For those who love these sorts of things, their final show started with "Black Sabbath," the very first track opening their very first album and it helped set the bar for what was to come. For a live album, the sound is impeccable with Geezer Butler's bass pulsing through the opening number and the nimble guitar mastery of Tony Iommi ripping through the frenetic finish to "Fairies Wear Boots" and pumping through your headphones with sharp precision.

A good sign of a great live album is when you can close your eyes and almost feel like you're there. By the time listeners get to "Into the Void," the energy is so electrifying, you'd swear you were close enough to feel the visible sweat dropping from Osbourne's brow, or hanging right in the midst of the chanting crowd, riding the undeniable groove Black Sabbath are laying down. The mid-section of the show - with "Into the Void," "Snowblind," "War Pigs," "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and "Bassically/NIB" - feels like the band really hit its stride and found that perfect synergy with the crowd, finishing out the latter track to rapturous applause.

The back portion of the set allows for more improvisation, as the band deftly maneuvers between "Supernaut," "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Megalomania." Meanwhile, "Rat Salad" gives way to a showcase of Tommy Clufetos' drum skills, showing exactly why he was a stellar choice to take over behind the kit after the band failed to come to contractual terms with original drummer Bill Ward. The drummer's solo is masterful, complimenting the fine work he'd done behind the kit throughout this special show.As expected, "Iron Man" killed with great crowd participation. "Dirty Women" gave Iommi one of his best showcases of the night with a scintillating guitar solo you never want to end, and "Children of the Grave" came pulsing through the speakers with such amazing vitality that once again you find yourself caught up in the moment. Finishing out the collection, Ozzy Osbourne leads a soccer chant, then rallies to crowd to "go crazy" before rocking through the classic "Paranoid" with an emotional conclusion filled with elation.

“It will never be 'The End' for me. I’ll always be a part of Sabbath and Sabbath will always be a part of me,” says Butler in the album booklet. Thanks to The End concert release, it never has to be the end for fans either. Just put on this concert album and relive the glorious final statement from the band, who went out on top with one amazing final show. 

Hats off to the producer / sound engineer extraordinaire Mike Exeter, long time friend of Tony Iommi's, and collaborator with Black Sabbath since the 90s. His exceptional mixing work is what made this Live album finally sound for a masterpiece it is. The live album "The End. 4 February 2017 Birmingham" was released on 17 November 2017 in various formats as CD, vinyl LP, DVD, Blue Ray, and Deluxe package boxes with booklet, guitar picks and metal Henry pin.

 


Loudwire.com, 18 November 2017

Tony Iommi's conversation with Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music in LA


Before making his appearance at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards on 24 October 2017, to accept the Courage Award, Tony Iommi sat down with Ryan J. Downey at a Musicians Institute exclusive conversation in Los Angeles on Monday (October 23). Speaking for about an hour before taking questions from the audience, the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist and heavy metal pioneer talked about his childhood and his relationship with music growing up, the accident that ultimately led to the birth of metal, the formation of Black Sabbath as well as the band's chart-topping comeback with Ozzy Osbourne, 13. That's what the conversation was about, shortly:

Turning back the clock to over a half century ago, Iommi discussed growing up in the industrial city of Birmingham, England which was plagued by gangs and he later saw music as a means of escaping that lifestyle. Bullied as a kid, Iommi was once chased down the road by a spider-wielding neighbor, leading to an accident where the future icon tripped, scarring his face after sliding on the gravel. With a scar on his upper lip, he made the decision to mask it by growing a mustache, a distinctive facial feature he's retained to this day. In response to the bullying, Iommi took up Judo three-to-four times a week and practiced karate as well. Though once music entered the picture, these training sessions became increasingly infrequent and ultimately fell by the wayside altogether as he became enamored by guitarist Hank Marvin from the instrumentalist group The Shadows. Iommi called them the top instrumental band in England, joking that the country only had one to begin with.

While fans can't imagine the Black Sabbath legend without his Gibson SG, the guitar wasn't the musician's first dream. With ambitions to become a drummer, Iommi faced two problems that prevented him from putting sticks in his hand: his house was too small for a kit and he was unable to afford one anyway. Fortunately for all of us, it was the guitar that became his calling card as he listened to The Shadows, learning their music by ear and he commented that guitar playing comes from the inside rather than what's written and that you have to play what you feel. For all those who have slaved over a guitar trying to capture the inimitable mood and magic of Iommi's riffs, there lies your hurdle.

In the '60s when Iommi first picked up a guitar, he didn't have limitless choices or the ability to pull a Gibson or Fender off a wall at a local music shop, but had to order the rare left-handed guitar from a catalog for £30. He would later have a variety of options when Sabbath eventually made it to the U.S. and he was able to peruse a finer selection in New York.

Of course, what conversation with Tony Iommi would be complete without bringing up the would-be-fortunate machine accident that resulted in the severing of a couple fingertips on the guitarist's fretting hand? We all know the tale, but hearing it told straight from Iommi's mouth is an altogether surreal experience. Working as a welder in a factory, which he commented was "a good job if you like jobs," Iommi recalled his co-worker failing to report to work, so he was put to work behind a metal-bending press on his last day on the job before leaving for a tour of Germany. Returning home for lunch and hoping it would be for good, Iommi was implored by his mother to finish the job and during the waning hours of his shift the accident happened. When the guillotine-like press came down, a less than attentive Iommi neglected to withdraw his hand fully from the chopping block and the press severed two of his fingertips. He described the gruesome scene with bones protruding from the ends of his fingers, which were then cut off as he sought urgent care at the hospital. "Of course my mother got total blame for that," he quipped, able to laugh about the injury after nearly half a century of rock stardom.

You're probably wondering where Black Sabbath fits into this picture. It's now. Prior to teaming up with Geezer Butler (who was originally a guitarist!) and Ozzy Osbourne, Iommi joined a band near Scotland and pulled in his former The Rest bandmate and remarkable skinsman Bill Ward. The two would later return to Birmingham, scouring local advertisements in music shops, where they came across one that read "Ozzy requires gig." Iommi thought to himself that it couldn't be the same Ozzy from his school days and was puzzled as he never knew him to be a singer, to which he smirked, "I was right, wasn't I?" The pair of musicians, in need of a singer, answered the ad and went knocking on Ozzy's door, where his mother answered. "Forget it, I know him," Iommi said to Ward. Fatefully, Ozzy, who was linked up with Butler at the time, came looking for a drummer and Ward said he wouldn't accept without Iommi joining and one of the most esteemed lineups in the history of recorded music was born.

This lineup would endure a number of early problems, like Butler playing bass lines on a Telecaster at a gig and later a three-string bass. "Oi, your singer's crap," shouted someone at a show, which featured Butler in a hippie dress, Iommi and Ward sporting leather jackets and a barefooted Osbourne. Confusing didn't even touch what was going on and the befuddling wardrobe selection would manifest itself again in 1975 on the front and back covers of Sabotage.

Doctors told him, "You might as well forget playing [guitar]," and a glum Iommi refused to accept his new fate and insisted there had to be some way to combat this devastating mutilation. The lightning bolt of inspiration struck when his factory manager handed him an EP from Django Reinhardt, who also dealt with an accident to his hand. Determined to once again play the guitar, plastic bottles were melted into a ball and a hot soldering iron bored a hole through it, allowing the condensed ball to be laid over the damaged fingertips. Days went by as Iommi rubbed the caps down to make the shape of a finger and when they were ready, he attempted to play again, but his ambition was met with agonizing pain and he was incapable of performing string bends, which was all too problematic when wailing on the blues. After trying to wrap the caps in various textiles, the guitarist decided to cut up his leather jacket and glued bits of the material over the caps and a grip on the strings was now attainable, though fretting the instrument still proved to be difficult as he lacked the ability to feel the guitar's neck. Still in the rudimentary phase of customizing his guitar to counter his injury, Iommi filed the frets down on his guitar, minimizing the amount of physical pressure required to play. The standard gauge strings also proved to be troubling and he then went in pursuit of lighter gauge strings, settling on ones typically used on a banjo, surprisingly enough. He'd later attempt to secure lighter guitar strings through various companies, but was laughed away and told they'd never sell — oops.

As they honed their sound (and, mercifully, their appearance), Black Sabbath weren't initially met with rave reviews recognizing the musical revolution that would soon follow as Iommi's heaving riffs would live in eternal glory. Rolling Stone slagged the band's haunting 1970 debut and Sabbath struggled to obtain gigs in their home country, but had built up a dedicated following in Germany, often playing upwards of seven 45-minute sets a day. The band would stretch their material to its absolute limits, jamming onstage (which is how "War Pigs" came to be) while Iommi would play extended solos during one set and Ward would get his turn in another. The club organizers weren't overjoyed by this and put the kibosh on the excessive and over-indulgent musicianship, not that it wasn't standard practice for some of the world's leading rock acts ... but Sabbath had yet to reach that point.

The history of Sabbath from this point on is well-documented and Ryan J. Downey fast forwarded the conversation to the band's 13 album, which was their first studio record to feature Ozzy since 1978's fateful Never Say Die. For decades, Iommi had been the band's leader and pointman when it came to recording new albums and he gleefully relinquished this role as Rick Rubin was tasked with the production. His vision was to mentally transport the band back to the time of their debut record, gathering them all to listen to it before the writing sessions started.

Rubin was not bent on just a mental throwback, however, and asked Iommi if he could get his old amplifiers used from Sabbath's heyday. The guitarist declined, pointing out that he now has his own amp, which houses his perfected tone. Unswayed, Rubin insisted on vintage and had a stack of amps at his house for Iommi to plug into. However, he stressed to Rubin that just because they're "vintage" doesn't mean they sound great — they're just old, underscoring the subtle and sarcastic wit that lies beneath the collected and dignified persona of heavy metal's godfather.

Thanks to the Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music, and Ryan J. Downey for hosting the conversation series with Tony Iommi in Los Angeles. 

 


Mi.edu, 26 October 2017

Tony Iommi awarded Loudwire's The Courage award, which starts the proper Iommi Awards



For his relentless dedication to entertaining millions of fans while battling cancer, Black Sabbath icon Tony Iommi was presented with the Courage Award at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards.

The greatest riff master in metal history was revealed to have lymphoma in early 2012, devastating fans around the world. Iommi was given his diagnosis not long after Black Sabbath’s historic 11-11-11 announcement of the band’s reformation. A new album and live shows were planned, but the sudden news of Iommi’s health crisis threatened to halt Sabbath’s comeback after seven years of inactivity.

While fighting lymphoma, Iommi penned and recorded Sabbath’s 13 album, which was released in June 2013. The record became Black Sabbath’s first ever No. 1 album in the U.S. and was certified gold or platinum in six countries. In 2014, Black Sabbath were awarded a Best Metal Performance Grammy for the track “God is Dead?”, which Loudwire named the Best Metal Song of 2013.

Having tested his grit onstage during a handful of festival dates in 2012, Iommi embarked on a world tour with Black Sabbath in 2013 despite being told by doctors that he would likely be battling lymphoma for the rest of his life. When Black Sabbath finally called for “The End” of their touring career, Iommi had performed 167 shows since his initial cancer diagnosis. In August 2016, metalheads were given the news they had been praying for for three-and-a-half years — Tony Iommi’s lymphoma was in remission. The godfather of heavy metal refused to allow cancer to slow down his passion. Having lived life on his own terms throughout the fight, Iommi was able to declare victory over the disease."

The honor recognizes Iommi not only for his recent battle with lymphoma, but for his lifelong determination to pursue a pioneering musical career despite an accident that severed two of his fingertips at the age of 17. Tony graciously accepted the honor, truly moved by the award, while also joking that he now has three hands after receiving the trophy molded around his own hand.

Loudwire.com posted following statement: "So finally on 24 October 2017, we had the distinct privilege of giving Tony Iommi the Courage Award, sponsored by Ultimate Classic Rock and cast out of the guitarist’s own hand, live during the 2017 Loudwire Awards ceremony. Congratulations, Tony! You’ll forever be the hero of every metal guitarist to swing an axe."

“I’m really honored to be here, and to have such great friends, Zakk and everybody else here,” Iommi said after receiving the trophy.  After confessing that he didn’t know what else to say, the crowd took over with big cheers of “We Love You!” and “Tony! Tony! Tony!”



Loudwire.com, 24 October 2017

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