|Posted: Wed May 27, 2009 3:30 am Post subject: Iommi: 'We All Felt This Era Of Sabbath Should Be Recognised
Compilation album "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" saw issue in April 2007, featuring three new tracks which marked the reunion of Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Vinny Appice. That specific Black Sabbath lineup had originally recorded "Mob Rules", which was released during November 1981. During 2007, the outfit toured as Heaven & Hell (named after 1980 album "Heaven And Hell", the first Sabbath album recorded with Dio) across the world, reaching many continents. Many hoped that an album of new studio material would be in the works, and such prayers were eventually answered.
Initial writing sessions in support of "The Devil You Know" began during early 2008 at the Birmingham home studio of Tony Iommi, the group completing "Breaking Into Heaven", as well as ideas for several more tracks. Heaven & Hell subsequently toured North America as part of the "Metal Masters" tour during August, pairing the group alongside Judas Priest, Motörhead, and Testament. The act then relocated to the home studio of Ronnie James Dio in Los Angeles to complete writing sessions, and "Bible Black" (the album's inaugural single) was the first track completed at that studio. Recording sessions for the album took Heaven & Hell to Rockfield Studios near Monmouth in Wales, where the lineup had laid down "Dehumanizer" seventeen years earlier. In less than three weeks, "The Devil You Know" was recorded, with each track taking minimal takes to cut.
Telephoning Hit The Lights' Robert Gray from Rhino Records' offices in Burbank, California on April 27th, Heaven & Hell / Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi discussed "The Devil You Know", as well as the reunion of the "Mob Rules" lineup.
Tony Iommi: Hello?
UG: Hello. How are you Tony?
I'm alright. You?
Yeah, I'm alright.
Good. There was a slight delay, but go on (laughs).
(Laughs) Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Oh yeah, of course. Absolutely.. I'll try to turn your voice up.. Yeah, perfect.
How did 'The Devil You Know' come to fruition?
We toured Japan as part of our last trek, and went out for dinner. We began chatting, and had a few drinks. Someone said "Does anybody fancy writing a new album", and everyone replied "Yeah, that's an idea. Why don't we do that?". Really, that's how 'The Devil You Know' started.
Was the possibility of a new studio album ever discussed prior to that?
Discussed? No, it wasn't actually discussed prior to that. We've taken everything in stages, and tread very carefully since we've been back together so that nothing overlaps. We've conducted a tour, and once that tour has been completed, we've gone onto the next stage. It seems to work pretty well.
At present, has your solo career been placed on the backburner?
I haven't placed my solo career on the backburner, but just haven't gone any further with it. If I find time, I might just write some solo material. When I write solo material, it's just due to the fact that I have a gap - I'd sooner pursue a group project.
So you prefer working as part of a group, as opposed to working on a solo project?
I do, yeah. I'll possibly write another solo album at some point, though I don't know when.
You met Ronnie James Dio on the day of a Dio concert in Birmingham, which is how Black Sabbath's reunion with Ronnie came to fruition. How did it feel to speak to Ronnie after eleven years?
It felt good, actually. Speaking to Ronnie felt alright, and felt comfortable. You don't know, and never know since we hadn't seen each other for such a long time, and the last time we saw each other, we didn't part on such great terms. It was brilliant though. I saw him at the hotel during the afternoon, and then went to the show
Were there any issues to be resolved from 1992? When him and Black Sabbath parted ways?
You know what? No. Absolutely, we just went onto the next stage. A lot of time had passed, and we just carried on from when we met, which was good. We didn't place blame upon anyone. That's what happened, and now we've moved onto the next phase. Since we've been back together, it's felt really good.
So both of you agreed to leave the past in the past, and concentrate upon the future?
Absolutely, yeah. There's no point in dwelling on what happened - the only way we can move forward is to be able to leave the past in the past.
Do you wish that Black Sabbath had recorded more albums with Ronnie over the past three decades? Obviously, Black Sabbath first worked with Ronnie in support of 'Heaven and Hell', though the group could've recorded more albums with Ronnie if circumstances had been different.
Things happen the way they do, don't they? Things worked out well, I think. We had a break from one another, and now we're working together. Yes, it's always nice to say yes, though we are where we are. We're talking, and are back together.
Initially, original Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward was a part of Heaven & Hell, though he subsequently stepped aside. What was the reason behind this?
To be honest Robert, Vinny is more suited to what we're up to. We recorded one album with Bill, which was 'Heaven and Hell'. I think Bill didn't feel quite comfortable with playing material from 'Mob Rules', the Dio material which he didn't play on. That was the only reason, I think, and in hindsight, I feel that it was likely the best decision. We toured a hell of a lot last year as well as the year before, and I feel that schedule would've been fairly tough on Bill. Bill hadn't toured like that for many years. When we toured as part of Ozzfest, we would handle a performance, and then would take a day of rest. We would then handle another performance, and then would take two days of rest. As part of these last tours with Ronnie, we've handled roughly two to three performances in a row, which is a lot of pressure.
Do you feel Bill's heart is more in the Ozzy era of Sabbath?
Yes, I do.
Does it feel good to be part of a massive touring schedule, as opposed to conducting a few performances here, and a few performances there?
Oh yeah. Actually, I like touring in this way. That was one of the main problems with touring as part of Ozzfest, since we had too many days of rest. You like to fall into a routine, as well as a format of playing, and like anything, you have to keep warm. The way to keep warm is to play a lot. We place ourselves under pressure to keeping pushing ourselves.
Was solely performing material lifted from 'Heaven and Hell', 'Mob Rules' and 'Dehumanizer' a conscious decision between you, Ronnie and the rest of Heaven & Hell?
Yeah, that was a conscious decision. We wanted to play solely that material, hence the name Heaven & Hell. We didn't want to tour as Black Sabbath as fans would've expected to hear "Paranoid" and "War Pigs". Nothing is wrong with that, but we all felt this era of Sabbath should be recognised.
Do you feel that the Dio era of Sabbath is underrated?
No, I don't actually. I think this lineup is really strong.
As we previously discussed, you and Ronnie met after eleven years on the day of a Dio gig in Birmingham. Is that how you and the rest of the members came to record three new tracks for 'The Dio Years'?
It was, yeah. Rhino Records were arranging a compilation album, and asked my office and Dio's office and so on if we had recorded any Dio era material in the past, but had never used that material. Of course, we hadn't recorded such material, so I made a suggestion to my management. I said "Why don't we contact the other guys, and see if anyone's interested in writing a couple of songs for the album?", and that's what we did. Everybody wanted to write and record songs for 'The Dio Years', which was great.
In writing and recording 'The Devil You Know', why did you and the rest of the members feel that the time was right to make a new album featuring Ronnie?
We just felt like it. We toured that year for nine to ten months. We were rolling, and played well. Everyone got on well As I said, we've done everything in stages, and thought "Well, that'll be a nice stage to go to. Why don't we do that?".
So obviously, Heaven & Hell can now tour, and draw upon an album's worth of new material in composing a set list.
Yeah. It's always good to be able to tour, and perform some new material. From the fan's viewpoint, they like to hear songs they know, though it's nice to perform some new material as well.
Did recording 'The Devil You Know' feel any different than recording past Sabbath albums? Previous to 'The Devil You Know', the last Black Sabbath album was released in 1995 ('Forbidden').
Recording 'The Devil You Know' felt great, to be honest with you. There was no pressure, and we haven't allowed ourselves to get ourselves pressurised into doing anything. We've taken things at our own pace, I think. We decided to rehearse and write in Los Angeles at Ronnie's house, and do some of that at my house in England. We rehearsed and wrote for roughly six weeks, and then had a break in that six weeks so that we could tour for a month with Judas Priest as part of the 'Metal Masters' tour in America. After that, we then went back into the rehearsal situation for an additional six weeks. We did things in those stages, which was good. We had no problem at all. Recording these tracks was really pleasurable, to be honest.
The three tracks recorded for 'The Dio Years' were really, really strong, with each track strong enough to have been issued as singles. Despite the strength of those tracks, the group didn't feel any pressure to deliver a really strong, solid album?
I hope 'The Devil You Know' is a really strong, solid album (laughs). To be honest, we had plenty of material written this time, and we wrote loads that we didn't eventually use. It's always difficult to select which ideas to work on. Before getting together this time, we did a lot of pre-stuff - Geezer had a CD of riffs, and Ronnie had ideas too. We chose which ones to work on, and limited 'The Devil You Know' to ten tracks. When we start working on one track, we always finish that track. There was always things we could've done for the album. We could've included another three tracks (laughs), but we stopped at ten.
Was any of this other material recorded while at Rockfield Studios? Material which didn't surface upon 'The Devil You Know'?
No. We recorded just enough material for 'The Devil You Know'.
Was anything written which could be considered for future recordings?
They could be considered. These ideas are just riffs, basically, so if at any time we could compile these riffs together.. we haven't compiled these riffs together as a song. The thing is, next time, if there is a next time, we'll write again from fresh.
In my opinion, your riffing upon 'The Devil You Know' is really heavy though much of those riffs, with a few exceptions, happen to be mid-paced. Could you tell me about that?
Yeah, we did write a few mid-paced tracks. If you listen back to a lot of our material, you'll realise that it's very similarly mid-paced. Not everything we've written has been fast, though I think people seem to think that we always write fast tracks. We don't. We might include two to three quick tracks on an album, but that's usually about it. We've never written a whole album with solely fast material. We always wrote a selection of slow and fast songs, and that's really what we did in writing 'The Devil You Know''s tracks. We wrote two to three fast songs, while the the rest are mid-tempo. We could write an album of fast songs, but what we do is write material that we like at the time.
How do you feel 'The Devil You Know' compares and contrasts with the other albums Sabbath has recorded with Ronnie?
I like 'The Devil You Know', which is just another stage of our life. You can't make every album like 'Heaven and Hell', or 'Mob Rules'. You move on, and do what you do at that time. You can never say "let's write an album like this", or "let's write an album like that". An album takes its own life once we start writing songs, and then it takes shape.
You said that 'The Devil You Know' is another stage of the group's life, so how do you feel the album differs when compared against those three past albums then?
'The Devil You Know' has different songs, though is still the same as past albums. Like our past records, this album has both quick and slow songs.
How do the personalities within Heaven & Hell differ nowadays when compared against 1992?
Being part of the group is great. Nowadays, we really gel, and get on well. We know how to give each other space, and understand each other a lot more. We've grown up a lot, I think, and give each other time. Up until now, things have been great. We've had no problem. The last time we were together, we had a few ups and downs. This time however, things have been brilliant.
So the vibe within the group differs to the vibe prevalent during the old days?
Yeah, the vibe is certainly different compared to when we recorded 'Dehumanizer'. The way I wrote 'Dehumanizer' was different. For that album, we actually walked into a room, and started writing from scratch with nothing. For 'The Devil You Know', we prepared. We had a lot of ideas to draw from, and even more ideas we could've used. If we wanted to, we could've recorded a double album.
Would Heaven & Hell ever consider issuing a double album, or is that something that isn't of interest?
We haven't even thought of that yet, and haven't gotten over 'The Devil You Know' (laughs). It's funny - everyone always asks that question, and others. Are you going to record another album? When will you record a new album with Ozzy?
Yeah, people always ask when Sabbath will record another album with Ozzy.
But the answer is we don't plan anything. We don't know.
In the past, was any material recorded with Ozzy which could be released?
No, not at all. We did write some material at one point, but we just scrapped that material.
Geezer said that some of this scrapped material resembled Ozzy's solo material too much, something which he didn't like.
That's possible, though I can't remember. Ozzy has recorded a lot of solo material, and one of the problems with him is the fact that he tends to combine his solo career into what we're up to. We don't want our sound to be the same as his solo material. Sometimes he treated Black Sabbath like that, and we're not that type of group.
In your opinion, what has prevented a new Black Sabbath album being recorded with Ozzy?
Really, one of the problems was communication, and being able to get down to work onto a new album. Ozzy had all these ongoing MTV projects, and various other projects. If you're going to record an album, you've got to channel all your concentration into that. You can't spend a day recording an album, spend another day handling a TV project, and spend another day conducting interviews. You've got to move onwards, and record an album. You have to channel your mind into recording that album, and become involved in making that album. You have to give a hundred percent commitment. Otherwise, it isn't worth making an album.
Initial writing sessions for 'The Devil You Know' began at your Birmingham home studio during early 2008. From there, how did things develop?
We just wrote some material at my studio - "Breaking Into Heaven" was the first track we wrote, I think. I just then continued to write some riffs and gather some ideas, placing them onto a CD. The other members did the same. We agreed to meet up in Los Angeles, due to the simple reason that Geezer, Ronnie and Vinny are all based in Los Angeles. It made more sense for me to travel to Los Angeles, as opposed to everyone travelling to England. I travelled to Los Angeles, and we then just all presented our ideas. We listened to all our ideas in a room, and said "Yeah, let's work on this idea". When we finished writing 'The Devil You Know' in Los Angeles, we went into a pre-production stage where we played everything live, and just kept on playing that material until we got used to playing each song. When we went to Wales, we could just enter the studio, and play those songs. We didn't have to play those songs five to six times, as we knew them, and could play them within the first two takes. That was the great thing about recording 'The Devil You Know'.
Do you prefer recording tracks within one to two takes, as opposed to several takes?
Whatever it takes. If it had taken ten times to record each song, then we would've taken ten takes per song. We happened to nail them in roughly the first, second or third take though, and that was only due to minor problems. Vinny would possibly want to try a different drum roll, or whatever, but the idea was to capture all of 'The Devil You Know''s songs live. We didn't want to use computers, and cut a bit out here, and touch up a bit there. We wanted to play each song live.
So you dislike ProTools and similar equipment?
Funnily enough, we recorded 'The Devil You Know' onto ProTools. We didn't use ProTools to add bits, or anything.
Do you feel the fact that Heaven & Hell could record 'The Devil You Know''s tracks in one to two takes was due to the fact that the group performed at so many concerts during the year prior to that?
I do, and that helps a lot I think.That's why we felt like we should record an album after touring, as we were rolling. We were all used to each other again, and it seemed obvious to go to the next stage. We'd been playing together, and were up and running.
Did the 'Metal Masters' tour inspire anything which surfaced upon 'The Devil You Know'?
I don't think so, no. It was just good to have a break though, and then review what we did afterwards. It seemed to work alright. Normally, you don't do that, but we thought we'd be different and try something different.
And why not?
Yeah. Having that break worked out alright. When we came off touring again, we were up and running still, and writing again.
When you write tracks with Ronnie in mind, do you feel you can be more adventurous than whilst writing with Ozzy in mind? Ronnie has a higher range than Ozzy.
Both Ronnie and Ozzy are totally different. Ronnie likely has more input, and sings across riffs. The two are different in the way they approach things. Ronnie gets more involved I think, and certainly gets more involved than Ozzy. Ronnie will come up with ideas on how to achieve something, and will say "How about trying this?", or "I'm going to sing this bit here". You can see where you're going. With Ozzy sometimes, he might take it away, or not even be involved. As I said to you earlier, you all have to be involved to make an album work. Certainly, Ronnie was really involved in writing 'The Devil You Know'.
Has Ronnie always been that type of character?
Always, yes. He always wants to do the best, and push himself. In turn, that pushes everyone else. We all push each other. With Ozzy in some cases, he probably needs that.
Why did Heaven & Hell opt to return to Rockfield Studios near Monmouth, Wales?
Really, since we wanted to record at a residential studio where we could all live together, and just be around each other. That was as opposed to staying at a hotel, and then travelling to a studio. We thought it'd be nice to be at a residential place, and there's very few really that were available. We're all familiar with Rockfield Studios, so we thought we should record there.
Does a residential studio increase the concentration of a group in general?
I think so. It allows you to be around each other, and since you're on hand all the time, you can talk about things there and then. When you stay at a hotel, it affects your concentration slightly. When you're all around each other, you can say "Alright, let's start. Anyone want to start?" or whatever. Since you're around each other all the time, you just talk more. When you stay at a hotel, you return to the hotel, and lock yourself in your room really.
During your off time whilst recording at Rockfield Studios, was there anywhere where you liked to hang out so to speak?
Usually, I went for a curry (laughs).
So you didn't go down the pub?
Yeah, we did that. Occasionally, I would drive home if I thought we weren't recording the following day. I'd drive home, and come back since it wasn't that far - it was only a couple of hours.. about an hour and a half. Usually though, when we were all there, we all had dinner together and then just messed about, having a few drinks, or travelling down the pub, or whatever. It was a nice time, actually, and that's what we wanted. We wanted to be situated slightly out of the way. For instance, if we had recorded in Los Angeles, it would've been different.
'The Devil You Know' was mostly self-produced. Is there a reason why Heaven & Hell opted to self-produce, as opposed to hiring a hotshot producer?
It would've probably been good to have someone produce 'The Devil You Know', though we just thought we'd produce the album ourselves. Normally, you hire producers for ideas, or to control the album project. Supposedly, they take all the pressure off. We just thought we all knew about it though, as we've recorded albums for long enough. We thought we'd go ahead, and produce 'The Devil You Know'.
Are there any plans to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of 'Heaven and Hell' during 2010?
We haven't really thought about that, though we might celebrate 'Heaven and Hell''s thirtieth anniversary. I don't know where we'll be in 2010. We might not be here (laughs).
(Laughs) Alright. In recent years, groups have had a tendency to occasionally perform all of an album's tracks live.
We might perform all of 'Heaven and Hell''s tracks live. To be honest, time creeps up on you so quickly that you forget how long it's been. The first Sabbath album was released nearly forty years ago.
Do you feel that old then Tony?
No, I don't. I can't say I don't think about it, as I do, but I think doing what we do makes me feel younger. It's quite easy to sit at home, and vegetate. I think it's great to tour, meet people, and do what we do.
I have one final question. Will you record a future album with Ronnie James Dio?
I don't know. As I said, we do everything in stages. We haven't got to that point yet.
Would you like to?
Yeah. I think that'd be good.
Alright. Thank you for the interview Tony.
How's the weather there?
Oh, it's rubbish. It's rained all day.
Has it really?
Oh God. Alright.
Though I live in Wales.
Oh, you get it there, don't you (laughs)?
Yeah (laughs). Alright, thank you Tony.
Thanks mate. Alright, take care Robert. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/When you scan through an interview with a veteran act, many claim to be influential, but few can genuinely claim such a thing. One such exception happens to be the interviewee for this installment of Hit The Lights, a man whose down-tuned, doom-laden riffs arguably played a vital role in the creation of heavy metal. Over four decades, the tracks this guitarist has penned have supplied the soundtrack for several generations, tracks which'll be listened to for years to come. In 2009, guitarist Tony Iommi's distinct musical stylings continue in the form of "The Devil You Know", the fourth Black Sabbath album to be recorded alongside vocalist Ronnie James Dio, albeit issued under the name Heaven & Hell.
Joined: 23 May 2009
|Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:19 am Post subject:
|Great read thanks for posting !!!! I hope they stay together Sabbath with Dio is my alltime favorite band love those guys Toni and Ronnie are the ultimate metal match imho !!! Hopefully Ronnie will do stuff with Dio aswell but i hope they retire together and Ronnie does Dio stuff in between .
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