All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource


Bill Ward: From Jazz to Black Sabbath, Part 1-2

By Published: October 23, 2005
So, I guess, I would say I was probably about four, four years old at that time. Because I remember when I was a child, about five or six years old, my mother and father would have parties every weekend, on every Saturday. My mom played a little bit of piano and then the man who lived on the street corner, no more than a two minute walk from our house, he had his traps, as they were called then. He brought his traps over because he set them up on a Saturday night and when everybody was sleeping the booze off on the Sunday mornings I would come downstairs and then I would look at his drums and, of course, as a child I explored the entire drum kit and eventually found myself trying to play them or trying to find out what these things were.

I thought that was incredibly exciting to discover a drum kit in the living room, or in our front room, as they were called then. It was a parlor where you never went in during the week. It was just a special room where we kept fruit and a piano. [Laughter] Christ.

AAJ: And a set of drums, it sounds like.

BW: And a set of drums but he would always come and collect them in the afternoon, on Sunday afternoon. So the window for me was early Sunday morning and it was great because everybody would have a hangover. And so when I was a kid I would be up at like six AM. [Laughter] Yeah.

AAJ: So how would you describe your approach to playing the drums leading into the early days of Earth and Black Sabbath, from that point?

BW: Well, I tried to listen to what other people were playing and I tried to capture that. And of course as a younger man, being very full of myself, I would be very angry about what I couldn't play and so I didn't know at the time that I was following a course, following drummers that were kind of easy—not easy, but that were attainable for me. For instance, the biggest example I can give of that is "Sing Sing" with Krupa, and that was one of the first things I ever learned as a kid. When I was like 10 years old I was already playing...[Gestures with his hands and sings the drum part to Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing"], with dropping the hat and playing on somebody else's drum kit, not mine, but a much wealthier kid that I knew who actually did have a drum kit when he was 10 years old. And I would play his drums and mimic Krupa or think that I was doing a really good job. Larry London, of course, when he played with Presley...all the crashes and the booms and the bangs and "Heartbreak Hotel" and just listening to the feel on that. Again, listening to Basie, "String of Pearls" by Glenn Miller, all these feels and touches, brushes, textures, all these things were things that I was eating up and I was being drawn into.

So, when Black Sabbath, or rather Earth, when we started to play we very much played in dynamics because that's how we were brought up. We were brought up in dynamics rather than full on, just gut wrenching, full out music. So, I felt that I was quite suited because having learned dynamic music, or being influenced by dynamic music, I felt quite suited for blues and jazz which is pretty much what we really liked to play, especially more traditional blues. The blues that was popular in London during the sixties, we were very much influenced by that.

I think one of the biggest ground break albums at the time that came from England was John Mayall's Blues Breakers. And so that was a big one to listen to, and listen to all the things that Mayall was doing. And I think what had happened to a lot of musicians in England in the mid-sixties was that by listening to people like Clapton or listening to early Stones records, that we were introduced to the blues, the rhythm and blues and the blues in the United States. When I was 15, 16 years old I was only just starting to hear about Howlin' Wolf. I didn't know about Howlin' Wolf when I was 10. I knew about Jerry Lee Lewis and I knew about Little Richard and I loved their music, but I didn't know about Howlin' Wolf. I didn't know about Lightning Hopkins or that there was a whole American blues genre. And, of course, when I started to discover that I could hear "Jailhouse Rock." (Laughs) So, to me it was an incredible—when I first heard it, it was like, "Oh my god. This stuff is just so uncannily roaring inredible." Just the whole thing. It was just like incredible.

It was like listening to Billie Holiday. We were listening to Billie Holiday just the other day and she was singing "Ain't Nobody's Business." Oh, god. When she sings that song, man. I just love that. But it's just that, the whole thing of that. I wouldn't even know how to even talk about Billie Holiday's singing "Ain't Nobody's Business." I wouldn't know how to talk about it other than to call it a thing, and I mean that in the most beautiful and most sincere way that I can possibly say it.

comments powered by Disqus