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Part 2 Of Bill Ward Interview Finally Posted (2/16/2006)

Part 2 of Jack Gold's interview with Bill Ward (see part 1 here) has finally been posted over on Head over there to enjoy the entire article.

Some excerpts:

All About Jazz: Can you talk about some of the things you have done musically outside of Black Sabbath?

Bill Ward: Well, I made a lot of mistakes in the sense that I didnít finish anything. First, when I finally dropped out of the public eye during the Heaven and Hell tour, I tried to do some things with other guys but, again, I didnít know it at the time but in hindsight now I can look back and go, ďMy god, no wonder you couldnít get anything done,Ē because I was so fucked up all the time behind the dope. I couldnít do anything. I couldnít complete anything. And I get these crazy-ass ideas in my head to fly from America to England and at one time I did and I picked up a musician from England, brought him back to the States, and tried to do these incredible things and nothing worked out because I couldnít get it together.

So, I think I disappointed a lot of people, to be honest. I think I was more of a nuisance than anything else. So, those were my first early things (laughs). But it was after I got sober that Iíd become more defined in Ď84. I started writing again. We did the Born Again album but I fell apart with the idea of touring. I got so much fear behind touring, I didnít talk about the fear, I drank behind the fear instead and that was a big mistake. So, I blew the Born Again tour and Bev Bevan, who is a very, very, very nice man, a very good drummer, took over the drum chair on that one.

In Ď84, I had reached the point where I tried to go back to the Sabs with yet another singer and at the time I just couldnít hang with the idea of trying to do something without Oz. All that was too fresh. It was just too much for me. I took time out and thatís when I had to spend a lot of time in recovery. But at that point, that was the point where I sat down and I really started to look at music inside me that I hadnít attended to for years.

All of us were writing things on the side. We always did outside of Black Sabbath. But I started to become very vigorously interested in where it was. I tested my parameters, and that small start, if you like, has escalated into something thatís absolutely blossoming because Iíve tested myself in production now. Iíve tested myself as a songwriter, I write parts for other musicians, I have my own drummer in my band. But I feel like over the years that Iíve really tried to learn a lot about just music, period. I even went to a drum teacher for the first time. When I was 50 years-old I kind of had cap-in-hand and felt quite ashamed of myself, and I went to Roy Burns and I asked Roy if he could teach me drums. He kind of had a smile on his face and he said, ďWell, you pretty much know how to play drums already, I think.Ē And I told him I didnít consider myself to be a drummer. If anything I consider myself to be an orchestrated drummer. I define that. But, man, Roy gave me some written stuff to learn. Oh man, I found it so awkward, so hard to read. So, Iím still just on eighth notes. Iím still there, you know. He started me off on quarter notes and I moved to eighth notes and I havenít been able to move on since then.

Even kids, little kids that I know that have just grown up into drummers, now have gone past their eighth notes and sixteenths. I mean, they do it and Iím looking at them going, ďHow do they do that? How do they play like that?Ē To me, those are real drummers. Those are proper drummers. So, for a long time there was very much of a wasteland in me because I didnít know. I thought, well, how do I categorize myself? I couldnít identify as a drummer. Itís like these other guys pick it up and they seem to play in time and they seem to know all these things about drumming, and I have never been able to do that. I have no concept of what theyíre doing. I went to Roy Burns with all my heart and soul trying to learn how to play drums. I thought, 50 years-old, Iím going to learn how to play drums, finally. You know, Iím clueless. Iím absolutely clueless, yet I can play with a band and just feel the musicians and just play to wherever itís got to go, and thatís something that just comes absolutely natural to me. So, I donít get it.

Several things happened to me as I was really, really growing up this time. I stopped looking at what I couldnít play and I stopped being angry about what I couldnít do, and I started to focus on what could I do and could I do it well, and if I could do it well and if I could do it properly, then what I decided to do was enhance that and let that grow, and I stopped wasting my time looking at other drummers thinking about, well, how do they play and how come I canít do that. And from that very day, when that happenedóthat happened a number of years ago nowóIíve been in love with other drummers. All the envy, all the anger that I felt, has all dropped away. Itís nonexistent. I have such an open mind and a complete enjoyment for any drummer. Anybody, you know, I know that Iím going to enjoy their drumming because drumming now is something to me that has a totally different dynamic. Itís likeÖhow can I explain it.... Drumming now is...well, I see it without envy. I try to look at drumming with humility and in doing so, I see the musician and I see the heart and I have no jealousy, or envy, or anything else. I feel like I can really, really listen to a drummer whether he is 96 years-old or six years-old, and I give the six year-old just the same amount of credit that I would the 90 year-old because they are in the same process of achievement as drummers. So my outlook towards drumming has completely changed.

My relationship with my drums has gotten a whole lot better because I used to look at my drums and they used to be like mountainous to me. That looked like a mountainous problem sometimes and itís like, how can I overcome these drums? How can I master them? So, I just stopped trying to do that. I surrendered. Now I play them instead, rather than trying to overcome them. Thereís a big difference there, you know? Like learning how to play. Aynsley Dunbar, years and years and years ago, years ago, man ó this is when Aynsley was playing with Zappa, years agoóhe watched me, and I had this technique of playing up here like this, when I was a kid. Iím 22, 23 years-old and I like to play up high, and he suggested to me one timeóI can always remember this; I donít think Aynsley would remember this, but I know I doóand he said, ďWhy donít you lower your cymbals and play from the shoulder a little bit more?Ē And today, I have lower cymbals and I play from my shoulder just like Aynsley taught me (laughter). I donít know, thereís so many different things here that Iím learning.

But Iíve written a couple of albums and Iíve got another three or four albums in the works. I like working with all kinds of people. When Iím not with the Sabs I like to work with all kinds of musiciansórock musicians, metal musicians. In all walks of life, it doesnít make any differenceójazz musicians, brassówhatever it might be. Musically, I feel very rich. I feel that by surrendering up everything that I thought I wanted, instead I found an overflowing well or an overflowing spring that just brings up music endlessly all the time.

AAJ: What kinds of things do you do to practice and to stay in shape as a drummer?

BW: To stay in shape, I walk. Right now we havenít been doing that many gigs. Weíve had a couple of problems on Ozzfest this year and hopefully now weíre back in the groove and weíre going to be able to rock out with the songs, with the shows. But usually, playing a tour as long as weíve been on touróweíve been on tour now for a little whileóthat normally keeps my weight down just playing, regular playing. These days I donít eat, like, anything that I want. I canít eat anything that I want anymore. I have to eat things that are good for me (laughs), which has taken a lot of getting used to. And that, again, by changing those things another release of anger comes, because at first, whenever you canít have something, with me at least, Iím always angry about, like, how come I canít still have large pizzas and all this kind of stuff. Well, the bottom line is you canít have large pizzas because youíre going to die if you donít change. So, I try to keep myself very fit. When I am at home I do a lot of walking, every other day, 10 mile walks, eight mile walks, and I walk in the sand five miles to keep my back legs nice and strong.

As a drummer I donít need to have a lot of muscle, but I do need to have stamina. So, to maintain stamina, thatís why I do the five mile walks in the sand. They build up back muscles, theyíre good. Drummers need strong lower backs, as far as Iím concerned. Weíre sitting on drum stools all the time, you know. I do some very light weights just to keep my shoulders intact. Over the years, mate, thereís been so much wear and tear on my body now that my shoulders have gone. I have had one operation on my left shoulder because it was so torn up. Itís just gone from playing. You know, itís ripped to pieces. I think most of my fingers are broken except for a couple. With that comes arthritis. Itís just the wear and tear of playing over the years. There are all kinds of things that I do though. I canít say enough about massage. Iím talking about sports massage, or Chinese massage, or Japanese massage, where I can keep myself supple and try to keep relaxed. Meditation is a good tool; relaxation is a good tool, learning to relax. All these things are essential.

Breathing, especially in hard rockóI know breathing is important when you are drumming, but breathing in hard core rock, like in some of the songs we do, I have to conserve energy, conserve my breathing, and then when Iím coming to a crescendo, I need to find more air at that point. So, in order to find that extra air, what I do is I shallow breathe from the center, in my stomach, so I can conserve the air I need for when the crescendo comes because I canít always get air from nowhere. One has to breathe when you are playing.

But I learned to do that and then I didnít know this but I went to a master class to see Louie Bellson, and of course Louie talks about that, and I was just so pleased because I didnít know about that. Itís a technique that I learned and I had to kind of learn how to do that because, especially when youíve got so many different things all at one time going on, it can get really busy sometimes on a drum kit. When I first saw Louie doing that I felt really validated. I felt like, oh my god, this is something Iíve been doing for some years and I didnít even know! (Laughs) But when Louie pointed it out, the importance of it, especially with double bass drums and just breathing shallow, relaxed breathing, totally relaxed, youíre actually very relaxed when you are playing. And then having all that extra breath when you need it for force so you can bring out force in crescendo, I think that thatís very important.

Things that will create more independence or create awkwardness for myself, I try to make things difficult and awkward, especially in practice. I like to do things like that and I do those on a daily basis without even thinking. Itís like isometrics, like force against force, well, this is the same kind of thing. I donít even know that Iím doing it. There are all kinds of patterns that I do on different materials. If I find a good floor, you know, when we go into a place sometimes like the doctorís office and theyíve got a good floor so you just feel that (taps on the floor with his foot), you can feel that sound. And so Iíll just put other patterns up here somewhere (taps on the coffee table) completely independent of the patterns down there, and try to do different things to try to make things as ripped apart as possible. Right now, stick practice to keep flexible is important. I was doing some stick practice earlier. I have an incredible little practice kit on the road with me. At the gig, itís about two 20-inch bass drums and theyíre the ones that donít have any sound in them. They have the little, like, tennis racket heads.

AAJ: What kinds of things do you do to stay creative?

BW: I donít do anything that Iím aware of. My life is so full (laughs) itís everywhere, itís every day. I mean, I donít know what that is. I donít know, my creativity is abundant. Every day, Iím either writing something or singing something. Itís just incredibly alive. I donít do anything. It seems to be just there and thereís always, always lots of information that presents itself every day where one can feel sad or good or bad, or you can just be so sensitive that one can write something lyrically or try to capture something.

I try to avoid the many open doors, you know. I wrote that in a song once that Ozzy sang years ago on the first record that I ever made, my first solo album. But sometimes thereís a lot of open doors, you know, and I try not to walk in those doors because itís easy to want a big mistake. So, I have to be careful for that because thereís things that I can definitely enter into which will stifle creativity, things that I walk into which can be painful or negative, so I wonít find creativity there. In the end, there is creativity because one has to come out of that with the pain, so the pain is always creative. Pain brings so much creativity all the time anyway. But for me, I try to enjoy laughter every day, and I try to enjoy the good things that I see in my life, and I try to focus on doing something as best that I can, especially with my playing, and take it lightly. I take it seriously but in a light-hearted way and I think itís really important to go easy on yourself. Itís supposed to be about fun here so I have fun and that seems to keep all the creativity alive as well.


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