The new 'Reunion' live album is in the stores, but
From page 25 of Classic Rock Magazine January 1999
what everyone wants to know is whether there will be another full-length BLACK SABBATH studio LP. DAVE LING meets three-quarters of the band to find out, and asks the inevitable question, - Where's Bill"?
T he rock world gasped with disbelief when the original Black Sabbath reunited for a pair of shows at the NEC in their home town of Birmingham last December. Of course, frontman Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony lommi and bassist Geezer Butler had already played the American Ozzfest circuit together, but that was with ex-Faith No More drummer Mike 'Puffy Bordin, and this was the real deal. Sabbath back with Bill Ward. What odds would you have got for that little combination?
On the nights concerned, Ward acquitted himself way better than most had hoped, and his name remained in the frame when Sabbath announced they would be headlining the first British Ozzfest this summer. Sadly, Ward suffered a heart attack in the weeks leading up to the gig, and his place on the stool was taken by the Sabs drummer of the Ronnie James Dio years, Vinnie Appice. Nevertheless, Ward was healthy enough to delight the 50,000 festival-goers with a walk-on appearance and a ritual de-bagging from Ozzy.
Several months later, Ozzy, Tony and Geezer are gathered around a conference table to inform Classic Rock of their future plans. We'd been expecting all four members, but, once again, Ward is conspicuous by his absence...
Let's start by talking about 'Psycho Man'and 'Selling My Soul the two new studio songs which are included on the live album. Were they easy to write? Ozzy: "Oh, yeah! I was surprised how quickly they came together. They were written and recorded in about four days; we just did them. In the past that would never have happened. But they're really good songs.'
lommi: "I was also amazed at how easy it was to work together again.There was so much enthusiasm."
Did you write the way you've always written?
lommi: "We knew we wanted to do something with a lot of tempo changes, like the original stuff. I played some riffs and Ozzy would say, 'I like that one' or 'that's not so good: Then he wrote the words and off we went. Simple as that."
Is it too early to talk about your plans fora full-length studio album?
Ozzy: "Obviously, we've all been discussing that. And if it were just for the sake of doing an album, and the material wasn't up to par, then I'd have to turn it down. There's no immediate hurry to do it, but I would love to carry on where we left off and do a great new album together. I'm all for that.'
Are there any other new songs?
Ozzy: "There's loads of killer riffs, Tony's got so many of those. And If I can come up with the vocal lines there's enough for a quadruple album!"
Tony: "It's easier than ever to come up with good stuff now.The whole working environment is so much better."
Will there be more live dates?
Ozzy: "We're gonna tour to promote this live album. Where we're gonna play I'm not too sure yet."
Tony: "But the tour starts in America on New Year's Eve." [The first gig actually takes place at Diamondback Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, with Slayer, Pantera, Megadeth and Soulfly also on the bill).
The Ozzfest at Milton Keynes was a real triumph. Is it something you'd like to make a regular event?
Ozzy: "Oh, I really enjoyed it, but you'd better ask the wife. It was just one of the Missus' ideas. It was nothing to do with me. Now it was such a success, people are talking about doing it every fucking year. I honestly don't know."
You must be sick of people asking you if this reunion is for good...
Ozzy: "Just a bit! But it's difficult to give them a proper answer because I don't want to make that much a long-term decision you never know what's going to happen next. For instance, Bill was supposed to be here today, but he backed out at the last minute. We're here, but he's not. That said, our association is better than it's ever been, so you'd have to say it looks pretty good at this point."
What reason did Bill give for his absence?
Geezer: "I really don't really know, and I wouldn't want to comment until I was better informed."
Ozzy: "Four weeks ago I spoke to him and he said he was fine for this promotional tour. Then two days before, he said he wasn't coming."
So this time next year you would like to have a new studio album and some more British dates under your belts? Ozzy: "That's the general idea, but there's never enough fucking time. If and when we do this album it's got to be nothing short of great, and that won't happen overnight. We're currently having a battle with the record company because we want full artistic control; we don't want them taking our record, remixing it and fucking around with it.The original mix of the live album was terrible. Nobody tells you what's going on, and it's our fucking record."
Ideally, though, you'd like Bill to be a part of that record?
Ozzy: "One week he's gonna do it and the next he ain't. I've given up trying to fathom out what his intentions are. Ultimately, if he's gonna be like that I don't wanna know. I'd love Bill to do it, but if he's gonna be this unreliable it's the fans who are gonna suffer." Geezer:"But, yeah, ideally we'd like him to be there."