Sab­bath back in ac­cord again

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

Polishing off a cup of won­ton soup, singer Ozzy Os­bourne is re­lat­ing how pa­parazzi mobbed him as he left high- end or­ganic gro­cer Bris­tol Farms.

‘‘They were all over the car,’’ mu­sic’s Prince of Dark­ness laments. ‘‘ It’s worse when you try to see doc­tors in Bev­erly Hills and you have to sneak down al­leys . . .’’

Bassist Geezer But­ler in­ter­rupts. ‘‘Did you get me any English peas?’’

The long-haired pair, clad in black, park on a sofa at the Sun­set Mar­quis to chat about the re­union of Black Sab­bath, founded in 1969 with chums Tony Iommi and Bill Ward in Eng­land’s in­dus­trial Birm­ing­ham. New al­bum 13, the first stu­dio ef­fort with Os­bourne since 1978’s Never Say Die!, ar­rived last week. A tour, launched in New Zealand in April, re­sumes with United States’ dates in July.

Once they get past dis­cussing a new Richard Pryor doc­u­men­tary and Lib­er­ace biopic Be­hind the Can­de­labra (‘‘Fast-for­ward through the sex scenes,’’ Os­bourne ad­vises), the two take on the fraught topic of Sab­bath’s rocky road to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. They’re all smiles.

‘‘It’s like get­ting to­gether with old friends,’’ says But­ler, 63. ‘‘ We’re not tak­ing each other for granted.’’

Os­bourne, 64, chimes in. ‘‘It takes a while to switch off be­ing Ozzy. I’ve been on my own for 35 years and it took me three or four gigs to be­come un-Ozzy and be a mem­ber of Black Sab­bath again. Now it’s one unit. It’s great, a dif­fer­ent feel­ing en­tirely. It’s the chem­istry of th­ese guys around me that makes it hap­pen. The shoe fits.’’

A lack of ma­te­rial and drive, plus the ex­plo­sive suc­cess of MTV re­al­ity se­ries The Os­bournes, de­railed a 2001 re­union at­tempt. In 2011, the re­assem­bled band re­vealed plans for an al­bum and tour, tem­po­rar­ily foiled when drum­mer Bill Ward bowed out in early 2012 over con­trac­tual dis­agree­ments.

Pro­ducer Rick Ru­bin’s pro­posal to hire for­mer Cream drum­mer Ginger Baker was in­stantly nixed.

‘‘Did you see the doc­u­men­tary?’’ says Os­bourne, re­fer­ring to Be­ware of Mr Baker, a blunt ac­count of the ex­iled drum­mer’s drug ad­dic­tion, bankrupt­cies and volatile na­ture ( it opens with Baker strik­ing the di­rec­tor on the nose with a me­tal cane).

‘‘He’s cra­zier than me. I don’t think Mr Baker would have taken the job. He’s not our big­gest fan. It would have been in­ter­est­ing for a few days.’’

Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Ma­chine and Au­dioslave was hired, de­spite a shaky start.

‘‘It didn’t work the first few days and we all pan­icked,’’ But­ler says. ‘‘Rick helped him along and we jammed some of the old stuff first. Brad was great. He wore his old orig­i­nal Black Sab­bath T- shirt once.’’

Ru­bin en­vi­sioned an early Sab­bath re­boot for the eight-track 13, recorded at his Shangri- La stu­dio in Mal­ibu.

‘‘He kept re­fer­ring to the first al­bum, and he’d ask us ques­tions about songs like Planet Car­a­van,’’ Os­bourne says. ‘‘He was adamant in say­ing, ‘I don’t want you to do a heavy me­tal al­bum’. We started as a jazz-blues band and he wanted a feel of the blues.’’

Ru­bin pushed the band to stretch and de­manded mul­ti­ple takes but didn’t dic­tate a tem­plate.

‘‘He didn’t try to change what we were do­ing,’’ But­ler says. ‘‘It was good hav­ing some­one we trust to keep us fo­cused. It had to be daunt­ing for him to work with us. We think we know more than any­body else.’’

Iommi ar­rived at the stu­dio with loads of ideas and CDs full of gui­tar riffs, the cor­ner­stone of Sab­bath classics.

‘‘We had plenty of am­mu­ni­tion,’’ says Iommi, 65, reached by phone in Lon­don. ‘‘Rick brought us back to our roots and the vibe of the early stuff. ’’

Record­ing was a demo­cratic, col­lab­o­ra­tive joy, in con­trast to past stints when Os­bourne was AWOL un­til late in the process.

‘‘He’s been re­ally good,’’ Iommi says.

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