Tony Iommi: "There's Never A Plan With (Black) Sabbath"
Modernguitars.com recently interviewed Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Here's what he had to say:
First off, like a lot of other guitarists I have been personnally inspired by you and your musicianship. So, this is a great honor to speak with you.
Tony Iommi: Thanks, mate.
What motivated you to record your new solo album, Fused?
TI: Well, I just wanted to do another solo album. And basically, under Sabbath, we never seem to get anything rolling. I'm just fed up with waiting around.
Basically, I thought I was due for another one. And I wanted to do an album with just one singer on it because on my last album back in 2000 I had 10 different singers. So, I wanted to do an album with a proper band, you know. Just a drummer and a bass player and a singer that I can tune with.
How would you describe the music style of Fused?
TI: It's a rock album. A heavy rock album. Glenn Hughes is singing. Kenny Aronoff on drums and me. I think it's quite a strong album.
Are you currently touring for it?
TI: No, I'm touring with Sabbath at the moment.
There have been rumors that Black Sabbath may never tour again.
TI: I haven't heard that. The only thing I've heard is that we're not going to do Ozzfest because, I think we've over-done that. We did it last year and a couple, three years before that. I think that if we do any more with Sabbath it'll be occasional ones like, there might be one Ozzfest date. But I think that it's going to be indoors if we do any more.
With Ozzy still singing?
TI: Yeah , Ozzy is still singing for Sabbath.
I know it's been a long time, but I think it's on some people's mind. What changed that helped you guys decide to put your differences aside and work together? What did it take?
TI: Time, probably. That was a long time ago. And, you know, we've been back together now for 10 years. So you know, you just have to bury the hatchet and sort of get on with it.
Is it true that you used to light Bill Ward on fire? You once set his beard ablaze?
TI: Yes. [Laughs]
Any talk about a studio album with the original line-up?
TI: Uh, well, we've been talking about it for years and we talked about it again at the beginning of this tour. But, who knows. I don't know. It's probably faded away I should think now. We really want to do one.
Certainly, Bill and myself talk about it a lot because we'd like to do one. But whether it will happen or not, I can't really say.
It's interesting that you say that because it's usually Bill that is missing from the reunion tours and a lot of incarnations of Sabbath.
TI: Well, he wasn't on the first one because it wasn't going to be a reunion. The first one wasn't a reunion. We just got together with Ozzy to do some shows on the Ozzfest which was just playing some Sabbath stuff for a short set, you know. It wasn't really a full reunion. But the next tour after that was a full reunion with Bill.
Do you think that Ozzy's health problems will affect the current tour?
TI: Well no, 'cause we've only got two more to do. But it did affect us. We had to cancel about four shows. Which is really sad to do, you know, but what can you do when he says, "I can't sing."?
He sees a doctor and they say, "Well look, you know, you have to cancel the show". Or, "You're not going to be able to sing." So the problem was we were doing two in a row on some of them, which we never do. Well we haven't done that with Ozzy in years anyway. He usually does one show on, one off, one on, one off, but on this tour there were a couple of double nights you know. We tried and it didn't work.
Have you considered using another singer to fill in?
So when the Sabbath tour is done, do you plan to tour to promote your new album?
TI: Yes. That's the plan. We'll finish here soon, and once I get back to England, I'll have a bit of a break then start getting ready to do some of my own stuff.
You now have your own Gibson SG signature guitar. That has to be pretty exciting.
TI: Yes. We did that a few years ago now, an Iommi guitar. Gibson also did an Iommi pickup which they've never done before. They've never done anybody else's pickup. And I was really impressed with them wanting to do that. It's gone very good.
Does the Iommi guitar come in a right-handed model? Or is that special order?
TI: No, [laughs] it does come in a right/handed model.
It's funny that you have a humbucker as your signature pickup. I have a picture of your original -60s SG and it clearly has P90 single coils in it.
TI: Yeah, the original one did, but I sort of moved on from that because the problem with that was it picked up so much and sometimes made a horrendous racket of sound - you know, noise and interference.
That's why I went into designing a pickup for me that would sort of be the same thing, but not feedback so much, not pick up all the interference. I had to do that myself in the early days 'cause nobody was interested in doing it.
So I basically bought a guitar company in England. And I got them to make me my own guitar. Then the guys in the factory that worked for me, I got them to start working on pickups and that's what we did. We went through the trial and error of trying different windings until one came up that I liked.
When I eventually got rid of the company, I went back to Gibson. And Gibson wanted to make it, wanted to copy it. So that's what we did. I went into Gibson and we worked again on another form of my original pickup.
Are they passive or active?
TI: You mean with a preamp and all that? No, they're just regular pickups.
Are you still using Laney amplifiers?
TI: Yeah, I still got mine. Again, those are signature models so I use them all the time.
After all these years, does your signature tone come naturally to you or do you still work hard at getting good tones?
TI: I took a long time working on it. Years and years. I've never been totally satisfied with it. I always keep trying. Even now, on stage, some nights it doesn't sound quite right - it's the building or the stage or whatever. But 90% of the time I'm happy with it.
What's the mood among all the members of the band?
TI: Oh yeah, fine. We've been on this tour for four months and it's coming to an end. And everybody's tired. Certainly Ozzy's tired. I think we're all ready for a little break.
It gets a bit strenuous you know. I mean we started off in Europe, we did a month there. Toured all around Europe. Then we came to the States and did three months here. And I think we're ready for a bit of a break, but, yeah, everyone's getting on very well.
With Ozzy's rumored health problems and the lack of interest in head-lining the Ozzfest shows, what do you think is the future of Black Sabbath?
TI: Well, you know it's a question that's always asked and it's a question that's difficult to answer because with Black Sabbath you never know what's going to happen. We never know if we're going to tour, we never know if we're going to make an album. We never seem to know much. We weren't intending to tour this year to be honest. I intended to tour with my own project as we speak.
I was going to be out there. But then the Sabbath tour came up with Ozzfest and you know, obviously, that's my main band. We decided to do that.
But it was very quick. It was like, "Are we gonna do it? Should we do it? Yes. OK." So we did it. But this time last year, I never knew we were going to be doing it, if you know what I mean. So, there's never a plan with Sabbath. We sort of take things on the there-and-then.
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