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Tony and Ozzy interviewed at Classic Rock Awards

 

Black Sabbath are no strangers to the surreal, but the way this year has unfolded has taken even them by surprise. Today, sitting in a suite in London’s appropriately gothic St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Osbourne and Iommi are relaxed and in fine, sweary fettle. They are in London to attend the Classic Rock Awards (at which they will win three gongs, including one for Album of the Year).

Soon, they are reminiscing about wilder times on previous tours: anecdotes begin “I was f**ng drunk at eight o’clock in the morning” (Osbourne) and “Remember the rubber chicken at Heathrow?” (Iommi). (It was spring-loaded in a container opened by a customs official.) Rock’n’roll chaos has not been completely consigned to the history books, however. “They sent the sniffer dogs on last month when we flew from Colombia to Mexico on a private jet,” says Iommi. “Every bag was searched, then they sent the dogs on.” “And I’m going, oh God, I hope I still haven’t got those four grams of blow on here,” jokes Osbourne. At least I think he’s joking.

And what of their former drummer Ward? Why hasn’t he rejoined Osbourne, Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler to complete the classic Sabbath line-up? At first, they blame it on “f**ng haggling” over contracts, which they claim not fully to grasp because “we’ve all got managers” and “we don’t know what the deals are”. But then Osbourne says: “It would have been great to have Bill. We all love him. But drumming is very physically demanding and I was afraid he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with us.” Iommi adds that he exchanged emails with Ward only the other day and that Ward was “in and out of hospital” with diverticulitis, a digestive disorder. “Is he OK?” asks Ozzy anxiously. “I hope he’s OK ….”

Iommi, as his iron handshake testifies, is in robust health again. I do not raise the subject of his treatment for lymphoma directly with him, for fear of appearing glib, and he accepts my compliment that he is looking well without further comment. However, speaking on the phone the following day, Butler raises the subject and says that “we all thought he was on his way out at one point. He’d lost tons of weight and his hair was gone. I think the album took his mind off all the radiation and chemo. And then, as we were recording, he seemed to bloom.”

Butler believes that Iommi was the main difference between this album and Sabbath’s last (aborted) attempt in 2001, which yielded only six songs that were “just not good enough”. “I didn’t think we’d ever do an album together after that,” Butler says. “Which is why we took so long. But this time Tony had got his own studio at home, and he had all these incredible riffs. The hardest part is to take an average riff and form it into a song. As soon as we heard these riffs, we knew Tony was back on form. We knew straight away it was going to work.”

Will 13 be their last album? It ends with the sound of thunder and a tolling bell, which is how their very first LP began, though this was Rick Rubin’s idea. “We’re very pleased with the album,” Iommi equivocates. “Though if it does turn out to be our last, then it’s a great way to go.”

Read the whole interview on The Independent.

 


Matt Munday for The Independent, 10 December 2013

 

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