Bill Ward (Black Sabbath) Interview
By: Gus Griesinger
Monday, May 10, 2010
When describing a music movement or something as a music force, you usually start with a band and what it has done to shape the ideal of what a certain music genre is and what it did to start the movement. For one music genre, heavy metal, there is one band thats synonymous with that movement and its creation. That band is Black Sabbath. Backstageaxxess.com recently had the pleasure of talking with one of its founding members, Bill Ward.
The backbone of Black Sabbath spoke to us in great detail about what the band means to him and his current relationship with the rest of founding members. Bill also chatted about the new music hes writing and creating. We also talked about how important his radio show 'Rock 50' is to him. So lets not get too Paranoid and see what Bill has to say
Gus: We appreciate you talking to Backstageaxxess.com and we are honored to speak to such a legendary drummer.
Bill: You're very welcome. Thats very kind.
Gus: Its been a while since you've been in the limelight and we would like you to share with your fans some of what you have been up to?
Bill: Outside from doing the Sabbath tours, we finished up about 3 years ago, Ive been buried in the studio for about 3 years. I came off the final Ozzfest tour in the states and that was a pretty extensive tour of the world. From there, I just went into the studios and carried on writing whats basically turned into 3 new albums. They are in different stages of being complete. They are still a progress in work and so forth. So yeah, Ive been in the studios.
Gus: You came out with two solo CDs in the 1990s called Ward One Along the Way and When the Bough Breaks. Whats the prognosis of getting some of the material you spoke about released anytime soon?
Bill: Well, I think its good! We're at that stage right now where the first album for this year; we are kicking the tires and polishing the chrome off and saying Ok, I think its done! We are very close to being done. Yesterday, I spent 6 hours working on the final vocals for one particular song and what we have to do now is to check a couple of guitar solos and check some levels and I think we are done. I think we are ready. We have 9 songs coming out on the first album. I'm hoping we might get a release in the next 3 months. Its hard to tell, especially these days (laughs). Im hoping we can get it out this year for sure.
Gus: The last 2 releases you primarily handled the vocals. You also let KISS drummer Eric Singer share drumming responsibilities for the Ward One Along the Way release. Will these formats be prevalent for your next releases or will you go off and do something different?
Bill: On the album that we've got coming out right now, it is a band effort. Im doing all the lead vocals. However, the band is backing me on vocals. I played drums, I think on seven tracks. Ronnie Ciago, who plays with me in my band when we play live, is playing on two tracks on this particular album. Yeah, its a band effort! Thats how we put it together. There are no guests or anything or special people who may be more musical or more talented for the record or what have you.
Gus: If the CD does come out within the next couple of months are you looking to tour behind it?
Bill: I'd like to! We are having conversations right now where we are trying to get the end of something of a tour. Really, I just want to settle in with a good band, where we are tight, and we aint any trouble (laughs)! We are just looking for a hole where we can fit and be part of a tour and enhance the show. I like to come balls out and just kick ass for like 45 minutes. This album that is coming out right now is pretty much where my home is and thats in hard rock/metal. Ive gone back to that. I felt that this is the place where I would like to be in my writing currently and with the other two albums we have in the works as well. I feel we can produce a very good show that will be a crowd pleaser, I hope!
Gus: Do you have any working titles for the first release?
Bill: Yeah, I have the title for the first album which is called Accountable Beasts.
Gus: Very exciting!
Gus: How did you pick that name?
Bill: It just seemed right. I have stuff going on in my head all the time with ideas every single day. Then, part of the day is about grasping all the ideas and jotting them down into tape or writing them down. Accountable Beasts came through very strong and its about human beings being accountable for our actions. I really like it and think I got a pretty good start with that one.
Gus: On the side you have a little radio project called Rock 50. Can you tell your fans about that?
Bill: Sure! Rock 50 is my life savior. We do it once a month and we do it on a Saturday morning. It really fills up the Saturday mornings nice... ya know? When Im home and not on tour I can really enjoy and prepare the show. It reminds me of when I used to play football on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. So now I do my radio show where I play what I want. I play about 95.9% hard core metal. I do seques, showing off various classic metal bands and hard rock bands so there are some historic facts that come through in the show. We play brand new metal bands that most people havent heard of. I try to help those bands by playing them on the show. We are current. Probably our most popular bands we play all the time are: Arch Enemy, Type O Negative, Slipknot, In Flames, and it's just a wide range from Goth to Death Metal. Its just a lot of stuff that we play. Metallica has been a favorite since the show has come on the air. I think we have been on the air for seven or eight years now. You can find us at www.billward.com for information on that. Its just a really nice way of relaxing on a Saturday morning. It helps me that I know a lot of the bands that are current right now and it helps me enjoy a whole new life in metal music. Im quite an advocate on new music. It s very therapeutic in doing that show.
Gus: Is this a pre-recorded thing, audience participation, or is it taped live? Basically how does the format work?
Bill: We had phone-ins, we had people doing interviews, most of the time its not pre-recorded. What we did during the Ozzfests a number of years ago, we interviewed a lot of the metal bands. We had all kinds of people and they were all pre-recorded. We brought them back and slotted them into interviews. We would play six or seven In Flames songs plus all the interviews with the fellas. That would take about 30 minutes and its a 2 hour show. So we would have about 30 minutes for just In Flames, or The Haunted, or Slipknot. It usually goes out live. Some instances, when we have to pre-record it, we will pre-record it. It kind of Epson flows you know? We dont have this is what we've got do every single time because everything is always different. Recently, as you probably well know that Peter Steele from Type O Negative died. Tragicsimply tragic! So this month we are doing a huge Type o Negative in our second hour just a tribute to Peter Steele and obviously Type O Negative as well; the remaining members. So we go like that, we move in and out. Especially if there is a death or somebody that is a friend as was Peter. Or who I feel needs to be recognized and put on a pedestal and say, in my opinion, I think this guy was brilliant! So we go with the flow. We never know how news is going to be.
Gus: On June 29th 2010, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release a DVD In the making of Paranoid in its classic Albums Live Series. Can you comment on this product?
Bill: I dont know if I can actually. I have heard about it. The only reason Im kind of stuck for words on this Gus, is Im not sure on which product that is. We have another going on in England and Im not sure which is which. I will have to pass on that because Im not quite sure. I would like to find out what that is because that is the second time that has come up recently, actually.
Gus: I got an email of this recently and thought I would ask you about it.
Bill: You would think the artists always know whats going on but thats not always the case.
Gus: In May of 2009 there was a lawsuit Ozzy filed against Tony Iommi over the trade marking of the name Black Sabbath. Ozzy was quoted that he thought all four original members should have equal access to the name. Do you want to comment on that?
Bill: No, I dont know a lot about it. I stayed out of it. I wanted to see how things would fall between Tony and Ozz. I spoke to Ozz only a few days ago and he mentioned in passing thats all been done and dealt with now. Again, in my private notes, I have to ask our lawyer some of my stuff and if they can find out what was and what fell and what it fell to and so on and so forth. All of it is public knowledge I would think. These things are usually placed in the legal columns. So the information I think could be found quite easy. So I dont know. I never talked to Ozz about that stuff. He just happened to mention that the other day. The band has been through so much. If someone is arguing with somebody one day that doesnt mean thats the entire future. These things have a way of sorting themselves out, settling, and then moving on. I dont think it paralyzes all or diminishes any possibilities of future Black Sabbath work. We have overcome some pretty mean stuff between each other (laughs) and still got on stage and played. I dont know what to make of it. I really tried to be completely neutral in it while supporting Tony and Ozzy at the same time.
Gus: Whats the status of your relationship with the other original members of Black Sabbath? Is everyone on good speaking terms?
Bill: Yeah! I spoke to Tony a couple of times this year. Me and him seem to be getting along fine. We had a good heart to heart on some things. I know hes been busy. We talk to each other over the phone. I talk to Ozzy at least twice a week. He will call and Ill try to call him back and what have you. We are always talking to each other. Geezer ...I dont talk to on the phone. He likes to email. I dont get to correspond with him very often. Hes always in my heart. Hes just there, period, all the time.
Gus: Do you foresee a reunion of any sorts with the original members of Black Sabbath at any point, including the possibility of recording new material?
Bill: Gus, I have a complete open mind. I would be available to see what we would like to do and how we would like to do it. I would have to look at the entire picture. Would I like to? My open mind says yes! We would have to see if that was possible by how everybody else is feeling, and if there is a possibility to move forward. Its hard. It's so wonderful to play with the band that I didnt want to come off the last tour. Like I said, I think the last tour ended like three years ago. When the band played Europe, Gus, I just thought the band was flying high and the band sounded great! It sounded tight. I thought ...My God... lets keep on playing! Lets go around the world with this all the way around and around again. It was hard to come off the tour. I know all good things must come to an end but it was tough.
Gus: When that ended and the Heaven and Hell project took flight in early 2007, you had an opportunity to participate in that but decided it wasnt for you. Can you explain to your fans exactly what happened and why you didnt join the Heaven and Hell project?
Bill: I had some reservations going in, however, when we actually started to play the songs, I liked the songs and the music won me over. Unfortunately for me, I had a bit of a difficult time bringing some chops to the guys, especially Ronnie, who wanted a certain kind of feel. Im not very good in being able to play to cater to musicians in a way that they might want something to be heard (laughs). Its the difference between being a drummer and an orchestrated drummer. I play in an orchestrated way. Where as a drummer you can give the drummer notes and he will play the notes. So it sounds like a little bit of fish out of water. Not quite comfortable. There were some other instances where I felt very uncomfortable with. All in all, it made it very difficult for me to try to lay the tracks as I was hoping I could for the guys and for myself. I needed to be happy in this too! It just didnt work out. I feel if I had enough running time I had about a week to learn three songs. To me thats not enough ime as a drummer. I like to be able to know what the hell Im doing and I was at a place at the time where I was still feeling the tracks out. I was still getting used to the tracks. It takes me a while to get where I want to be when Im rehearsing songs. I wasnt able to slot in what they wanted me to be. It was incompatible and it didnt work out!
Gus: Out of the many accolades Black Sabbath has earned over its illustrious career, which one means more to you than the others? You are a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, you won a Grammy, you are revered as the pioneers in heavy metal music and a lot more that Im missing Im sure. Which one means more to you than the others?
Bill: You would have to ask me that wouldnt you (laughs)? Ahhh man! You know Gus, the way I am as a human being is I feel its very neat when we get accolades. When we have these wonderful garlands placed around our necks so on and so forth. I measure myself and I measure our band by communicable abilities. If I had to pick anything right now, which is probably not really answering your question, I would have to say Prague, three years ago, when we were on tour in Europe. I saw us and I heard us and I watched how we played and we were just magnificent! I was just bowled over by the fact we were growing older but we were just getting better as musicians. I was so proud of the band after that Prague gig! I was like, my God! Playing in Prague, with it being so prestigious in music throughout history. I thought we played really, really well that night. It was really tight! It was a night that everything fell into place. It was just one of those great nights. Thats just something I remember right now when I think of Prague. I just get shivers up and down my back wishing we can go back to Prague and do it all over again. It's the nights on the road where we have a really good night, where Ozzy s voice is in fine fettle, Tony just flies across his fret board as he was just on fire, and Geezers swirling bass and he plays orchestration as well. Its almost like three leading instruments in the band. Its the music that qualifies it, ya know. I dont think I really answered your question there (laughs).
Gus: With Black Sabbath being synomonous with heavy metal music and with being around so long, and earning so many accolades, I had to ask that question and I respect how you answered it.
Bill: The most important thing is being able to talk to the fellas the next day, after the gig, looking where we can improve. So that to me, being able to have the ability to communicate. In other words, we dont rest on our laurels and dont take anything for granted. We will look at it and say, what could we have done better? Im talking about three years ago from the last tour. What could we have done better from the show last night? Hmm, maybe I will try something different ya know? As long as that spirit is still alive and the spirit to improve and be better. It is just a marvelous ingredient thats makes Black Sabbath a successful band!
Gus: The last question I have for you is what can the fans expect from you for the rest of 2010?
Bill: Well, I hope what Im bringing to the fans is bringing some honesty, which is what we always tried to have in Black Sabbath. Im bringing in a lot of the same principles that we had in Black Sabbath years ago. The same honesty, the same fierceness and that doesnt mean Im trying to emulate Black Sabbath because Im not. But there were a lot of things I learned in Black Sabbath and I had three great teachers and they taught me a lot! We taught each other. Basically, the last few years, I have been processing that information that I learned so many years ago and I've been digesting it. I been going, you know what? I like to be as nice as I can and as direct as I can and as forceful as I can. Im prepared to take risks. There are lots of topics coming out in the first album here will be religion, and about war. Those are the two things I just cant stay away from. I know people say dont talk about religion and dont talk about the war, blah blah blah. I cant stay away from it. I feel inspired and I feel drawn to those issues. I find it to be so dangerous ya know? I tried to write in a way that just comes out of me. It is me. I definitely tried to keep my basic instincts that I learned and that I played in Black Sabbath. Which is solid drums, solid chords, just really good rock. Im hoping the audiences will like that. Its just sincere. I always wanted to be sincere. Im not saying that my previous work wasnt sincere, my other two albums, because they were at that time when I made them. I am inside my records, inside my music. Its all of me. I dont feel like its at all pretentious, like Im trying to cop something from somebody. Or get with what the industry standard is or anything else. Im just doing what feels natural and allowing it to come out of me and blossom. My band is incredibly supportive. They allow that journey to take place also. Its not just me. I couldnt do it without the guys in the band. They are all a part of that!
Gus: Thank you for talking to us here at Backstageaxxess.com.
Bill: Thank You!
We would like to thank Liese Rugo for setting up the interview with Bill. For more information on Bill and his radio show Rock 50, please go to: http://www.billward.com/.