Pioneering metal band heads into the void
Black Sabbathcalling it quits after final tour fuelled by tea
IN Birmingham, England, in 1968, a quartet of rockers began the career of a lifetime. Now, nearly 50 years, numerous lineup changes and 19 albums later, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and touring drummer Tommy Clufetos are about to embark on their last tour as Black Sabbath, aptly titled The End.
Butler and Osbourne say it was a unanimous decision this would be the pioneering metal band’s last adventure on the road, and are adamant the tour is indeed a final farewell to Black Sabbath — when The End is done, that’s it; there will be no new music released and no more shows.
“We’re all getting up there in age, and while we’re still at the top of our profession, both musically and esthetically, we wanted to go out on the top and we feel that this is the right time to do it,” says bassist Butler, 66, during a conference call.
“(2013 album) 13 was our first No. 1 ever in the United States and we wanted to end it on a high note,” adds Osbourne, 67.
Life has changed a lot for Black Sabbath since their early, more mischievous days. They have been open about the drug- and alcohol-filled antics of their past, but insist life on the road is much tamer than it used to be.
“We don’t go and do bags of powder and f---ing alcohol anymore and smoke our brains out,” Osbourne says. “We’ve gotten better. I’ve gone past it, whatever everybody else says... If you want to carry on, you’ve got to take care of yourself or you won’t. You know, it was great, but it’s over for me now.”
“We have nice cups of tea together now,” Butler says with a chuckle.
“And cookies,” adds Osbourne. “Believe me, I never thought that they’d be calling me and say, ‘Let’s have tea.’ That’s crazy, you know. What’s happened to rock ‘n’ roll?”
Time was a large theme of the discussion, as it is when anything of great length and influence comes to an end, but Osbourne and Butler aren’t the type to drown in nostalgia. They are appropriately proud of what they have accomplished, but are surprisingly modest when asked about their influence on metal and rock music.
“When I used to go to the Ozzfest, fans would come to me and go, ‘I love Sabbath.’ And you don’t realize the impact you have,” says Osbourne. “I suppose that’s a good thing... it took me awhile to get my head around the fact that people actually love what we do, what you did as kids, because you don’t think that.”
Mortality, too, was something Osbourne touched on numerous times, both in the context of being glad he and his bandmates managed to make it through their “wild lifestyle” relatively unscathed, and, of course, in relation to the recent deaths of a few music legends, including his good friend Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead.
“He lived the lifestyle to the end, you know?” Osbourne says of Kilmister. “I lost a dear friend there. He was a good guy. And, when you look at him, you wouldn’t think that he’s got a sensible brain, but he was very well-read. He was a very clever guy and was a really good mate of mine. He’s certainly missed. I mean I won’t forget Lemmy Kilmister.”
Kilmister died last month of cancer, a disease Black Sabbath is all too familiar with, as guitarist Iommi has been battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma since 2012. However, Osbourne says Iommi is doing well, looking great and “ready to go.”
Butler and Osbourne say The End tour will consist of a collection of their favourite songs from over the years, focusing less on newer tracks from 13 and more on classics they know the fans want to hear dating back to their 1970 self-titled debut.
“Paranoid never gets old. Iron Man never gets old. You would think after 40 years I would be saying, ‘Oh no, not
Iron Man again,’ but it’s not... everytime I play, I play it like it’s the first time,” says Osbourne.
“The response from the audience that we get always keeps them fresh, anyway,” Butler says.
The pair haven’t thought too much about what life will be like after Black Sabbath has come to an end. Osbourne notes he will continue work on his solo career, perhaps going out on small tours here and there. For Butler, getting through this tour is enough of a task to focus on.
Something both musicians can agree upon is it feels good to have Black Sabbath end on good terms.
“Black Sabbath has been through the mill over the years. To come back and be friends with my buddies who I started up with all those years ago, it’s closure for me to have a chapter of my life, which I can say, ‘Well we came, we saw, we had a good time, and now it’s over,’ ” says Osbourne.
“I mean it’s good that, at the end of my days on this planet, I can say, ‘Well, we ended OK.’ ”
Ozzy Osbourne (above), Tony Iommi (projected on screen in background), Geezer Butler and touring drummer Tommy Clufetos are getting close to The End.