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BLACK SABBATH In The Studio: TONY IOMMI ‘Wouldn’t Let His Illness Interfere With This Album’

BLACK SABBATH bassist Geezer Butler said in a new interview with Guitar World magazine that “13”, the band’s new album — the first in 35 years to feature Butler, guitarist Tony Iommi and singer Ozzy Osbourne — is also the first that the original members of the band have made while completely sober. Butler explained, “This was a million times better than that last album, where everyone was coked out of their brains!” Added singer Ozzy Osbourne, “[1978’s] ‘Never Say Die!’ should have been called, ‘We Should Be Fucking Dead!’

SABBATH guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with the early stages of lymphoma at the end of 2011. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of cell that forms part of the immune system. Production on “13” stopped while Iommi began chemotherapy, but it wasn’t long before he requested the band move operations from producer Rick Rubin‘s Shangri-La studio in Malibu, California to England so he could work on material between treatment sessions.

Tony‘s the kind of bloke that doesn’t want to let us down,” Butler told Guitar World. “He wouldn’t let his illness interfere with this album. He wanted to get it done.”

Iommi‘s illness was not the only setback to befall BLACK SABBATH during the creation of “13”. Despite spending a year writing with the band, drummer Bill Ward opted out of the reunion in early 2012 over some well-publicized contractual disagreements. After much fan speculation regarding Ward‘s replacement, it was finally revealed this January that Brad Wilk — best known for his work with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and AUDIOSLAVE — had been brought in by Rubin to handle the album’s drum duties.

“We’d have loved to have Bill on the album,” Butler said. “But suddenly something came up. I went to Hawaii when Tony started his treatment, and when l came back, Bill wasn’t in the band anymore.”

“The only sad thing is that Bill couldn’t keep it together,” Osbourne told Revolver magazine. “It would have been great to have Bill with us. I’ve never understood the business side of this. I don’t choose to go there. My wife does that for me, and Geezer‘s wife is his manager, and Tony‘s got his manager. So, I keep my nose out of it. But they couldn’t come to an agreement with him. I mean, I still love him, and I wish him well, but…”

Although the band was skeptical at first about enlisting Wilk to lay down the drum tracks on “13”, he proved up to the task.

“I was really surprised,” Butler told Guitar World. “He had that Bill Ward kind of jazzy swing feel, rather than heavy metal bashing.”

The new BLACK SABBATH album — the band’s 19th overall — is due out in June. Songtitles set to appear on the CD include three seven-plus-minute behemoths “End Of The Beginning”, “God Is Dead” and “Epic”, as well as a track about killing pedophile priests (“Dear Father”) and another about the scourge of methamphetamine addiction (“Methademic”).

BLACK SABBATH last month released a behind-the-scenes video online that takes viewers into the studio for a glimpse of the making of “13”. All three original members seem enthusiastic about finally working together again after 35 years, with Iommi saying about the album, “You can’t always repeat what you’ve done, you’ve just got to go on. It’ll be today’s version of how it was 40 years ago, I suppose.”

Elsewhere in the video, Ozzy said, “This BLACK SABBATH album is quite possibly the most important album of my career,” while Butler added, “We’ll probably all be dead soon, so while we still can play and sing, then we’ve got to do it.”

BLACK SABBATH’s Ozzy Osbourne Describes New Album As “Satanic Blues”; More Song Titles Revealed

BLACK SABBATH have been recording their long-awaited reunion (minus Bill Ward) album at Malibu’s Shangri-La Studio with producer Rick Rubin (SLAYER, METALLICA). Original members Ozzy Osbourne – vocals, Tony Iommi – guitar, and Geezer Butler – bass, along with session drummer drummer Brad Wilk (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE) are creating the group’s first studio album – tentatively titled 13 – since 1978’s Never Say Die!

In a new interview with David Browne from Rolling Stone, Osbourne describes the new album as “Satanic blues.”

In a nod to their roots, tracks like ‘End Of The Beginning’ and ‘Age Of Reason’ stretch out to as long as eight minutes. “I don’t know what’s going on in the music world,” Osbourne says. “My wife mentions bands to me and I don’t know what the fuck she’s talking about. We just do what we always did.”

“I wanted to make an album that stood alongside their first four albums,” Rubin adds. “The first album wasn’t a straightforward heavy metal record. You could hear the jazz influence, so that was the goal, and to capture that live interaction.”

Another new Sabbath song is the provocatively titled ‘God Is Dead’ takes an unexpected turn. “It starts off, ‘God is dead,'” Osbourne says, before adding a bit wistfully, “but at the end it says, ‘I don’t believe that God is dead.'”

Iommi also comments on the Bill Ward situation, when he announced last February that he wouldn’t be participating over what he calls “contractual difficulties.”

“It was quite confusing,” Iommi says. “We wanted him involved, but it was just getting too hard.”

Adds Osborne: “You can’t go, ‘Well, I don’t like it.’ You get off your ass and get your shit together. The life of a bohemian rock star is fucking long over.”

Read the entire interview at Rolling Stone.

13 is set to be mixed this month. A North American tour is set for July and August, then the band will hit South America in October and Europe in November and December. In advance of the album’s release, Black Sabbath will head to New Zealand, Australia and Japan for a series of live performances. Additional tour plans will be revealed in the coming months.

Current Black Sabbath dates are below:

April
20 – Vector Arena – Auckland, New Zealand
22 – Vector Arena – Auckland, New Zealand
25 – Brisbane Entertainment Centre – Brisbane, Australia
27 – Allphones Arena – Sydney, Australia
29 – Rod Laver Arena – Melbourne, Australia

May
1 – Rod Laver Arena – Melbourne, Australia
4 – Perth Arena – Perth, Australia
12 – Ozzfest at Makuhari Messe – Chiba-shi, Chiba, Japan