Nov 13, 2011 | Comments 0
The founding members of Black Sabbath took to the stage Friday at the Whisky A Go Go to announce another reunion tour in 2012, but this time is much different: The British heavy metal originators have begun working on an album of new material, their first since 1978.
“It’s now or never for us. We’re getting along great,” said guitarist Tony Iommi, sitting beside singer Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward, all now in their early 60s. “We’ve got some music to play.”
As his wife, Sharon, watched from the balcony, Osbourne added, “It was just time. We couldn’t do it any earlier.”
Osbourne had long been the band member most doubtful that Sabbath could record new material to match its early classics such as “Iron Man” and “War Pigs.”
“We tried, but it didn’t work,” he said Friday. “This time, for some reason, we’ve written seven or eight songs that are really good. I’m not just saying it.”
“It really is back to the old Sabbath sound,” Butler said. “We know this time it’s going to happen.”
The album will be released next year through Vertigo/Universal Republic Records, accompanied by a worldwide arena tour, including a stop as a headliner on June 10 of the multiday Download Festival in England. Veteran producer Rick Rubin, who has worked with the likes of Metallica, Johnny Cash and the Beastie Boys, among many others, is working with the band on the album.
As for the live show, Iommi said the set list will be much more than the usual hour of hits the band has performed since its first reunion in 1997.
“If you think we’ll be doing the same set as last time, it won’t be,” Iommi said.
At the news conference, Rubin predicted a “no-pressure situation” in the studio for the band. “I’ve been in the room while they’ve played, and they sound remarkably like Black Sabbath,” he said. “It’s inspiring hearing what’s coming out.”
Asked how Rubin — a multiple Grammy-winning producer of many genres — won the gig, Iommi smiled behind his Guy Fawkes goatee and joked, “He kept phoning us up every five minutes.”
Osbourne added, “He was the obvious choice. He wanted to do it a long time ago.”
The announcement at the Whisky was made on the same stage where the band made its Los Angeles-area debut in 1970. On Friday, the band members and Rubin all wore black, with symbolic poppies pinned to their chests in honor of Veterans Day in the U.S. and Armistice Day in Britain.
Drummer Bill Ward remembered that 41 years before, the band performed at the Whisky in white tuxes and “wrecked the place.” The rented outfits, which had become filthy, were all returned, except for Ward’s. “They wouldn’t take it back,” he said. “I’m now thinking of giving it to the Hall of … something.”
The band received an enthusiastic introduction from former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins, who spoke emphatically of Black Sabbath’s impact on hard rock and generations of listeners. Rollins listed each of the band’s albums, in order, without notes or teleprompter.
“I was a very alienated young person, and when I heard Black Sabbath, I realized my life had a soundtrack,” remembered Rollins, now a solo artist and spoken-word performer. “These are records that keep on giving. I’m 50 damn years old, and I still listen to Black Sabbath as passionately and with as much interest as I ever did.”