BLACK SABBATH members Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass) and Ozzy Osbourne (vocals) were interviewed for a cover story in the July 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On Iommi being diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma at the end of 2011:
Iommi: “Once I heard my doctor say that, my whole world changed. I thought, Bloody cancerous lymphoma? Well, that’s it. I’ve had it.
“Once they diagnosed it, I had to start the treatment right away. And it knocked me about. I’d go through stages thinking, Can I do this? And then: Of course I can do this. I don’t want to die. I want to carry on and do what I’m supposed to do.
“They thought I would pack up. But I asked the doctor, ‘Is it okay if I work?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you’ve just got to be careful.’ So I’d go in the studio and play for a bit. Then I’d get tired and I’d have to go and sit down. The guys would tell me not to push it.”
Osbourne: “We all rallied around him. But it’s not like we’d be saying, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ We just got on with it. Sure, he looked tired, but he was a soldier and marched on. He still had more riffs coming out of him than anyone. None of us would go, ‘Oh, he’s fucking ill again.’ We’re bros. We grew up together. It’s like a family member getting sick.”
Butler: “It brought up how we’re all just mortal beings, and we aren’t gonna be here forever. Tony and I were on the HEAVEN HELL tour with Ronnie James Dio, and six months later Ronnie was dead [from stomach cancer, in 2010]. We didn’t have any inkling that was gonna happen. When Tony got the cancer, obviously that was in his mind. We didn’t know how he’d respond to the treatment. So it was like, Let’s get the album done at all costs, as long as Tony‘s up to it. So we’d write for three weeks, and then he’d go for his treatment and we’d all have three weeks off. But it didn’t affect his playing at all. In fact I think it really encouraged him and kept his mind off the cancer, which is the best thing you can possibly do if you have that.”
On BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward opting out of the band’s reunion in early 2012 over some well-publicized contractual disagreements:
Iommi: “I was shocked. We were hearing stuff from lawyers, like, ‘I’m not happy with this. I’m not happy with that.’ We waited a long time for Bill and we wanted to sort it out. But at the end of the day, especially after I was diagnosed, I thought, Fucking hell, that’s it. We’ve got to get a move on. I might pop off next year! So I emailed him and said, ‘Bill, we can’t wait any longer. We’ve got to get on with it.’ And that was it.”
On recruiting Brad Wilk of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and AUDIOSLAVE to play on the new BLACK SABBATH album, “13”:
Iommi: “We had our doubts, because they play a different, funky sort of music. But after a few days of rehearsal, we knew [producer] Rick [Rubin] was right. Brad was a really good player, and he was getting it. We liked his style and the way he tried different things instead of being regimented. It was sort of jazzy and loose, like Bill.”
On whether they felt any performance anxiety recording their first SABBATH album together since 1978’s “Never Say Die!”:
Osbourne: “The pressure on us was terrific. I didn’t want to sound hokey, trying to cop ‘Paranoid’ or ‘Master Of Reality’. But at the end of the day, you just have to go with your heart and ‘let go and let god,’ as they say. I’ll know if I’m cutting corners and if I can do a better vocal take or melody.”