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Insight from Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi

BLACK SABBATH

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Updated: September 17, 2013 7:32AM



The legendary Black Sabbath has had members come and go, but guitarist Tony Iommi has been the mainstay.

The left-handed six-stringer said he never dreamed the group would become so big, not only in music but also in heavy metal.

“You don’t really think of that,” Iommi said of what prompted the pioneering group’s formation in 1968.

“You think of just going out and playing, and getting to be able to play in front of other people. You never think that ‘I’m going to be famous one day,’ but it’s great.”

Iommi said what’s also great is being back on the road with fellow founding members vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler.

“It’s been good all around, doing the album and being able to (tour),” he said.

“It’s like a family. We’ve never been that far from each other. We’ve always been in contact, so it’s been great.”

Although some have been critical of Black Sabbath touring without founding drummer Bill Ward, Iommi said he and his bandmates did what they had to do.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “We wanted to have Bill with us, but it just wasn’t possible. What can you do?

“It’s either we don’t tour, or we go out with somebody so we go out with somebody else.”

Tommy Clufetos, the drummer in Osbourne’s solo band, is on the skins for the band’s 20-city North American tour, which will make a stop Aug. 16 at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.

“We wanted to tour and do the album,” Iommi said. “You just can’t wait. We waited and waited for Bill for quite a while, and it just didn’t materialize.”

With Osbourne and Butler both being 64 years old, Iommi said the tour may be one of the last chances fans will have to check out the band live.

“We’re not going to be around forever,” Iommi, 65, said. “Who knows? We might not tour anymore after this. I just don’t know.

“Come and enjoy it. We’re enjoying it. We love being out and playing and doing the shows. The audiences so far have been just so phenomenal.

“It’s amazing. Because we sort of started this type of music, I think people seem to get attracted to the originators of it. A lot of bands and musicians come to the shows.

“It’s sort of a draw because we were there first. I know how I feel about going to see somebody I like, to see people who have broken the mold. I like to go and see that.”

Black Sabbath’s 19th studio album, “13,” marked the first time the British band topped the U.S. charts.

“It’s great to, after all this time, have a No. 1,” Iommi said of the disc’s placement on the Billboard 200 following its June 11 North American release.

“I always felt eventually we would do something and do an album or at least do some shows,” Iommi said.

“It was great to do an album. It was the right time. That’s the key to it. Everybody wanted to do it. We didn’t need to do it. Everybody wanted to do it.

“That’s the whole thing that worked with this lineup. Everybody put 100 percent into it.”

Despite Black Sabbath being synonymous with heavy metal, Iommi has a different take on the group’s musical style.

“I’ve always called our band hard rock and heavy rock,” he said. “I think it’s just a basic sort of vibe of the whole music.

“It’s honest. I just think people are drawn to that sort of thing. The people who love it love it and the people who hate it hate it.”

Black Sabbath (blacksabbath.com) worked with legendary producer Rick Rubin, whom some have called eccentric to put together “13.”

“At first we thought, ‘What is going on?’ When we were rehearsing, we hardly saw him,” Iommi said of Rubin.

“We would get in touch with him and ask him to come down. We thought he might be there all the time but he wasn’t, which was good really because it gave us space to write the songs and put them together.

“When we actually got into the studio, he was there and he was involved. We thought he was a little strange. Normally you do preproduction with a producer, but he waited until we got into the studio.”

Drummer Brad Wilk, of Rage Against the Machine, joined Iommi, Osbourne and Butler for the recording sessions for “13.”

“It was good because it kept us on our toes,” Iommi said of Rubin’s studio style. “I found it went well with Ozzy. I think it was great all around.

“In the past when we’ve done stuff with this lineup, you’d come to the studio and Ozzy would disappear for an hour.

“This time everybody’s been fully involved and Ozzy’s been in the booth and in the back of the studio, and he’s been there full time every time we played the track.

“It’s worked great. That’s the good thing of having a producer as well. If it’s one of the band, we say, ‘Let’s have a break.’

“When you’ve got somebody that is pushing you, I think it works well.”

The CD includes “End of the Beginning,” which the band debuted on the season 13 finale of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

“I enjoyed meeting the cast and doing that,” Iommi said of the band’s appearance on the CBS TV show.

The 53-minute album includes lead single “God is Dead?” and seven other tunes.

“We’ve done the best we could,” Iommi said. “Rick Rubin managed to get 16 songs out of us, which nobody has.

“There’s eight on the album. That’s all that can be fit on it. There’s a bonus track. I just hope people get it and like it.”

Liking what you do may sound like a simple philosophy when it comes to career, but Iommi swears by it.

“To get into this business, it’s tough,” Iommi said. “You have to believe in what you do and just stick to doing it. That’s what we do.

“People try to say you shouldn’t be playing that sort of music. Play what you want to play and what you believe in.”

Finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, Black Sabbath has long been No. 1 with fans and musicians.

“What can you say? It’s fantastic,” Iommi, Black Sabbath’s main composer, said of how influential the group has been. “I’m glad we’ve been able to do something.

“There’s so many people in the business that cited Sabbath as sort of their influence, not just metal bands but rappers and all sorts of stuff take a part from what we do, which is really good and a great compliment.”

Jessi Virtusio blogs about First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on FYI on FMBA at blogs.southtownstar.com/fmba.



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