The Q Awards take place on Wednesday 18 October 2017. Here, Black Sabbath‘s guitar icon Tony Iommi speaks to Matt Allen of Q about why the Les Paul is so important.
How did Les Paul change modern music?
“Les Paul has always been around, originally as a jazz guitarist and a recording artist. I didn’t know much about him when I started out – I was mainly into bands like The Shadows and Django Reinhardt – who I’d got into because he played using only two fingers, and I’d lost the tips of two of mine in a factory accident as a kid. But as far as I was concerned, Les Paul was a guitar and people like Eric Clapton were using them. So, while I didn’t know much about the man back then, I soon came to learn the impact of his work and the effect he’d had on music. That happened as I got into being a guitarist. But the more I understood about him, the more I learned about how he’d become a pioneer in developing the electric guitar; that he’d developed multi track recording techniques and overdubbing, which really shook up music. His influence through innovation was huge, but he also inspired a lot of people with the way he played the guitar. Sadly, I never got to meet the man himself.”
How did he influence your career?
“Indirectly really rather than someone I copied. Les Paul has been a huge influence on the lives of so many guitarists because of his pioneering spirit. If anyone buys a guitar these days they’ll want a Les Paul or a Gibson. It’s a unique guitar: the shape, the style and the sound – it’s got a great bluesy sound to it, and that’s down to him.”
What guitars did you like to use in Black Sabbath?
“As a kid, I started off with a Fender, but in Black Sabbath‘s early recording sessions I picked up a Gibson SG and never looked back. I used that most of the time because they had a much fatter sound. But I would have used the Les Paul if I hadn’t cut my fingers off. With the Gibson SG I could get up to the top frets, I couldn’t really with the Les Paul, but I always had this fascination with that guitar and I did eventually get to record with one when we put together the Black Sabbath track Hand Of Doom from Paranoid (1970).. I really did try to use a Les Paul because I really liked them, but they just weren’t right for me.”
How did Les Paul recording tecniques influence you?
“His early experiments with techniques such as tape delay and overdubbing were influential on everybody; Les Paul had started experimenting with multi-tracking as far back as 1950. I remember on the first Black Sabbath album (Black Sabbath, 1970), we used multi track and it really came into play. I would put the first track down and then do two solos. Then we would mix them together. It sounded very different.”
What did it mean to you to win the 2015 Les Paul award?
“Well it was absolutely fantastic really. I very thrilled to get that award, because so many other brilliant guitarists have received it, like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, The Edge and Fleetwood Mac‘s Peter Green. It was really a surprise a to win it, and it was very unusual to win an award that was much more personal. Black Sabbath have won Grammys and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I felt like I’d joined a great cast of guitarists. I felt very honoured to be a part of that group.”
Qthemusic.com, 14 October 2017