Winds of Change

an interview with Black Sabbath at the start of the Born Again Tour

The guys of Black Sabbath in the bar of a sophisticated hotel in Helsinki were something of an astonishing sight. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler had not changed at all during all these years. The huge silver cross was still hanging around Iommi’s neck.

Bev Bevan looked young and healthy considering his age. Our old friend Gillan was in off-track-condition, walking around the room, staring people with his bleary eyes.

At this point Bev Bevan was tighter than ever, so it was a time to drag him to the tape recorder. Bevan folded his arms and gave me a friendly smile.

Before the interview the record company had given an official annfouncement concerning Bevan�s departure from ELO, Bevan joining Sabbath and Bill Ward�s current condition. Because those papers are usually full of rubbish written by some record company press secretaries, it was a time to dig up the truth. Especially now, when they had asked us not to ask about those things.

Well, Bev. What are you doing in Black Sabbath? What went wrong with ELO?

-I don’t know if anything went actually wrong with ELO, but I had been so long in those circles, that I was getting bored. ELO is a band put together on a paper, it never really worked outside the studio. I guess ELO is still kicking in it’s own way, I mean, the albums do sell well, but too much commercialism is always too much.  The good thing with Black Sabbath is that this band does not use drum machines. I haven’t been here that long – as a matter of fact, this is my third concert with Black Sabbath – but I already hope that they accept me permanent member of the band.

We were surprised that you joined Black Sabbath, because you are not really known as a heavy drummer. You are rather known as more sophisticated player.

-Towards the end of Move I did play straight heavy rock. Because of Jeff Lynne, it all became more complicated. For example Roy Wood is still a good friend of mine, and I have also worked with him lately. Roy can do almost anything, if only someone kicks him to get him started. His only problem is his laziness, but I believe he will be going to the studio and he will do some gigs too. Another guy I’ve lately worked with, is Jack Green.

Before Helsinki you have played with Black Sabbath only in Stockholm and Oslo, so I guess your situation in the band is not exactly clear yet.

-To my surprise, Black Sabbath is a very democratic band, so my opinion also counts. And I’m sure I will also write something for Sabbath, if I become a permanent member. Hm_I think I am a permanent member. Gillan has already had an effect on Sabbath’s music. There is some very clear Deep Purple influences on the new album. Born Again is really heavy and aggressive album, which brings to my mind the first few albums of the band. Iommi, Geezer and Gillan are all really professional musicians, that it’s a real plasure to work with them. The show is tight and strong. I don’t really get these bands who play sloppy two or three our concerts. We will play a half of that, but we are extremely powerful!

When asked about Bill Ward’s sudden departure, very diplomatically Bev Bevan asked Geezer Butler to join us, because “he knows more about those things”. Butler was scratching his beard and he looked tired.

-Um, everybody knows that! Bill Ward was totally messed up with alcohol and drugs. He had to go to a hospital, otherwise he would have died. When we started to record Born Again album, Bill was just sober enough to come to the studio and play. But he wasn’t able to join us on tour. He has to get his medical treatment constantly, so he’d better stay near his own doctor. Besides, on tours you usually drink so much, that he would not have survived.

If you think Bill Wards departure has had an affect on the band, it’s a lot easier to notice the change of a singer. Ronnie James Dio had just been accepted as a new singer of Black Sabbath, and nobody could even think about Ian Gillan replacing him.  At this point Ian Gillan arrived to the tape recorder, so the time had come to find out about the relationship between him and Black Sabbath. Gillan kept holding his head, moaned and looked like he wanted to be nowhere else but in bed.

Allright Gillan. When David Coverdale was in Finland, he said that you are a nice guy to drink with, but it was sad to see you joining Black Sabbath.

– Coverdale said that? He’s a prick. I don’t know anyone, who likes him. Probably his mother doesn’t like him either.

But you love being in Black Sabbath?

– It’s awful. No, it’s nice to sing with Black Sabbath. I was very excited when I was asked to join Black Sabbath, because my own band had just disbanded. I don’t know what went wrong with Gillan Band, it just wasn’t working_

Suddenly Gillan collapsed to the table and hit his head to the glasses. A moment of worry. Did Gillan actually die in the middle of an interview? No, he didn’t. After a few seconds rest he raised his head and looked so pathetic, that I could not ask him about the rumours telling that Gillan Band actually disbanded because of the unpaid salaries.

– It’s funny thing, by the way, that I didn’t even know Black Sabbath fellows before. Seriously, I had met Sabbath only once before – in Frankfurt in ’76, where I had a chat with Ozzy. Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were rivals, but we liked each other. In the seventies all bands respected each other and were competing in a friendly way. Us, Sabbath, Free, Nice_ Bands were different back then. Nowadays all bands are the same. They all have a great show, but the music is all the same.

Butler taps Gillan on the shoulder:
– You are a nice man. You are just as crazy as Ozzy was. You are Ozzy II.
– Nicer than Dio, huh?
– Ozzy II, said Butler.

Finland Is A Strange Country

Black Sabbath guys seem to be very nice and co-operative, but soon we find out, that they were very tired after the last night. Their record company had taken them to a Russian restaurant, where they had a real party. The last time they did that, was a night before in Stockholm.

– I don’t remember anything about the last night, says Gillan. Finland is a strange country. I’ve been here several times during the last few years, but I always get so drunk, that I forget everything. The most terrible place was the midsummer party (Sunrock in Valkeala, ed. note) where I woke up from the lawn totally messed up, and there was this ugly Finn who came to give me something more to drink_

In Finland Gillan is also known for producing a Zero Nine album. When asked about this, Gillan seemed to be even more tired:
– Yeah, there are lots of things to talk about, but I won’t say a word.

Well, what do you think about the Black Sabbath albums?
– I don’t know. I haven’t listened to them.

But you sing those songs anyway?
– Well yes, I’ve listened to the songs that we are playing. They are nice – totally different from what I’ve been doing earlier. A lot heavier.

Black Sabbath’s latest release was the double live album Live Evil. When they were producing the album, there was already a real war inside the band.
– That’s correct, says Geezer Butler. It was a good idea to record Live Evil, because we hadn’t done a decent live album before. Live At Last was probably the worst ever released live album. Live Evil came out pretty good, but when it was time to go to the studio to mix the album, started the fights with Ronnie Dio. He wanted the vocals on the top and the band to the background, while we wanted it to sound the same that we had originally meant it to sound. Dio’s musical ideas are so different_ Suddenly he started to give orders to us. He’s a real prick, totally full of himself, Geezer revealed suddenly. Even though Ozzy for example is attacking us all the time, he’s still a nice guy. I don’t see him very often, but we get along.

Does that mean that it’s possible that we’ll one day see the original Sabbath together?

– Yes, it’s not impossible. I guess we will not tour together, but somekind of a charity concert is possible.

A charity concert? Strange thing to hear from Black Sabbath. How seriously were you actually doing those black things?

– Well_ How did they start_, Butler thought for a moment and started to laugh.
– Yes, at one point I was interested in magic, but we were never really correctly understood. We hid our real message into the satanic lyrics, the message very often about the war and the madness of it. We didn’t want to be too easy, and no one really bothered to concentrate on our lyrics. If you think about the title Children Of The Grave, you may think that it is a really sick song, but it is clearly an anti-war song!

So you are not bad people?

– Only after the fifteenth bottle of champagne. The evil in us is in our music. On the latest album it’s really heavy and nasty, even though the whole album is more diverse than before. But if you are playing heavy music, it really has to be heavy.

Don’t you ever get tired of Black Sabbath?

Geezer Butler started to think. Finally he closed his eyes and admitted:
– Sometimes I get tired. I’ve been in Black Sabbath for almost fifteen years, and there are moments when it’s not that exciting anymore. But I wouldn’t want to play in any other band either. And we’ve noticed that you can’t let things from your hands, you have try all the time and be aware of everything.

You must be rather wealthy man. What do you do with all your money?

– I get drunk, said Butler without any hesitation.

But maybe he wasn’t that serious about it.

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