One early interview with the master himself. Not a good start on the interview for Mr. Telford, and it seems to me that Mr. Iommi wasn`t too fond of or experienced in this situation at that time.
Good stuff anyway, so have a nice read.
The SOUNDS Talk-In
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath
By Ray Telford
Can you tell me how the group started?
How we started? Look back in one of your papers and you`ll see it. I think we`ve done that one before. At the start it was just me and Bill (drummer Bill Ward) who were together and Ozzie and Geezer were in other groups. We all knew each other anyway, and to cut a long story short we just got together. This was in Birmingham.
Three years ago, by all accounts, you were playing a lot of jazz material and making a good job of it.
Well, we weren`t doing anything at all with that sort of thing and we just sort of got into something a bit heavier, you know. We liked it and it just kind of progressed and progressed from there. But even now there`s touches of jazz and things we put in sometime on stage – just to get back into the old thing.
What are your answers to people who continually criticise Black Sabbath on their choice of material?
Well, we play it mainly because we like it, you know. We like what we`re doing – we just like the heavy thing. We found it was exciting and really got into it and that was it.
Did the crowds enjoy the music at first or was it simply something you wanted to play regardless?
We played it because we liked it. Then the crowds got to like it. We wouldn`t change if the crowds stopped liking it. If the heavy thing wentout we wouldn`t go on to something else that was new, like soul.
That`s what your advert says: “We would rather starve than change”.
Yeah, that`s it because we did starve when we started. We had nothing and nobody would book us, or listen to us or just take any time to bother. It was then that we were starving because we wanted to stick together and keep our music. That was it.
What differences do you see between Black Sabbath and similar bands, like Led Zeppelin or Grand Funk Railroad?
That`s hard. Every band has their own sound. Grand Funk have their own sound, Mountain have theirs and I think we have ours, even down to words and vocal harmony. Mountain have got a sort of Creamy sound like vocal wise – they`re really good. Then there`s us, like, we sing about things that are happening. We all sing about different things.
So you`re all playing for the same market?
Oh yeah, we`re playing mainly for the same people.
What age group is that?
In England? Well, it has varied, you know, since the single. When we first had the single it was bought by twelve and thirteen-year-olds or something but that dropped off a bit and we got back to sixteen to eighteen year olds.
What about America?
Well, you get any age there. It`s unbelievable. You can get, like, some who are about thirty or forty or whatever it is who come along and do like it. But mainly in the States it`s around eighteen.
Would you agree that Black Sabbath are looked on in the States as more of an underground band?
I think that in the States people are more into music. Like they`ll go miles to see a band and they seem to get more involved with the group. They know about you personally as well and they just get wrapped up in it all.
Who writes the band`s lyrics?
Geezer, the bass player, writes most of the lyrics. Some of them are very doomy but they vary from that to drugs and the bad things that are happening with the band. You know, just the sort of thing that people know about and groups can sing about.
Would you say your music has a lot to do with drugs?
No, I wouldn`t say it was druggy but it`s something that people know about. But in the songs we get the chance to mention all about drugs and things. We like people who come along to the gigs to get as much as they can out of it because we can get into it when we`re on stage. We try to relieve all the tension in the people who listen to us. To get everything out of their bodies – all the evil and everything.
Does this hark back to your original publicity where Sabbath were supposed to be involved in black magic?
Well, that was nothing to do with us anyway. You know somebody got hold of it and blew it up to such an extent that it took us six months to get it down to say that we weren`t black magic.
There is still an evil element in your music, though?
Yeah, there`s this kind of feel about it. See a lot of people in the States come and say how mysterious a lot of the songs are but they build this up in their heads before they even come to see us.
Do you think that the melodic content in a song is still important for it to sell?
What if it`s got melody? Yeah, well some of our songs have got a melody bit in them. Like on the first album we`ve got a few melody bits in that sort of catches the ear. I suppose it`s all important, really.
What was the story behind you joining Jethro Tull?
Oh, I`ve forgotten now. I was only with them three weeks because we were just into two different things. We were going in different directions.
Why is it do you think Black Sabbath are so popular in America?
Well, we go down amazingly well. It was just one of those things that you can`t believe has happened. `Cause in America we made it so quick you know, we came up fast. The first tour went really well and the word spread around and by the second tour we were headlining at the Fillmore which has never been known for a group on its second tour.
What are your reactions when people dissect your songs and read things into what are probably meant to be harmless lyrics?
Yeah, you get that everywhere. We try not to think about it. It`s like getting slagged – I mean we`ve been slagged so many bloody times now. I get to wonder sometimes, you know, there must be someone else they can slag. You just get used to it.
For instance I remember one review of our first album and it must have been given the worst rating ever and the things they said about it I thought: “Oh, Christ, this is it,” and it really brought us down because we wondered if everyone else would think the same. It`s just like one man`s opinion. It`s true that the black magic publicity might have influenced some people in their opinions of the first LP and that`s why it pissed us off to hear about all this shit that we were doing spells.
The audiences knew what we were doing but the reporter who came along and had never seen us just took it for granted that we did do black magic and all that sort of stuff.
What differences are there between your new album, “Master of Reality” and the group`s last two?
It`s a bit more varied than the other two. Like I did a little acoustic thing that lasts for about thirty seconds just to give it a little break. That`s all it was meant for because it breaks up the rest of the numbers. It makes a little change and then people will notice the heavy things more. Instead of doing an album of all heavy numbers that little classical thing and a slow number where I play a bit of flute shows what we can do – we`re not just a heavy band.
We love playing jazz and we`ve surprised a lot of people in what we can play in jazz because what we play now is very loud and basic and people find it easier to get into. What we played before was a bit complicated and people couldn`t grasp it – “What the hell`s this sort of thing?”
How much further can you go with your present type of music?
That`s a hard question. Well, we hope to go tons further but where it`ll go to nobody knows. After “Paranoid” someone asked us what the next one would be like and we just hadn`t a clue – no idea at all.
How much of your material is worked out in the studio?
Well, on the “Paranoid” album, we wrote “Paranoid” in the studio – five minutes that was.
The words too?
Well, it just took Geezer a few minutes to write them down. There was a couple we wrote in the studio off “Paranoid” and I think there was one off the first. The last album we wrote the one with the flute in the studio.
When did you start playing flute?
When we played jazz and that sort of thing I used to play flute then. Of course, I got the usual people saying it sounded like so and so and it was like Roland Kirk so we thought “get rid of that”. See, you always get classed with someone else.
If a new group comes out now they`re like Led Zeppelin or like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple and they`re not given a chance but there you are, what can you do? As long as the people like it, though, I can`t see any harm in it myself.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Carole King, Audience, Jethro Tull, John Cale, Stud, Steve Cropper, Charlie Parker, Bernie Taupin, Helen Reddy, Alan Bown, Moody Blues, Curtiss Maldoon, Seals and Crofts, Osibisa, Poco, Hawkwind, Peter Bardens, Open Road, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Keith Christmas, Freddie King, Beach Boys, Dave Ellis.
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