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Interviews

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

By Published: October 23, 2005
But to try to still give that image that we're hungry and angry when really things were turning out to be quite palatial for us, it was like, "Well, what the fuck are we angry about? There's a lot of nice things going on in our lives." But at the same time there were a lot of things that were still, outside of our own personal comforts—well, I'll just speak for myself because I keep talking about the band and I don't want to go there with this—but, yeah, I went through a phase where it was I'm looking around going, "Well my life seems to be pretty good." The things that I had value in at the time, see, I valued money, property, and prestige at that time.

So when I started getting some of that stuff I thought my life was in order. I didn't know I was a train wreck, man. I didn't know I was heading to hell. I didn't know about all that. I couldn't see anything. I didn't know that around the bend I was going to run into the fucking brick wall. But at the time it made sense. I think the later albums, for me, I don't feel like I was as aggressive. I think there is a softening that comes. Yeah, I felt like, as a younger man—when I was 19, 20, or 21 years old—I felt like there had been some change come about inside me.

AAJ: So you were 19 or 20 when....

BW: Yeah, 21 I think, actually. I think I was 21. I was born in '48, so '68, I was 20. That's when we were in Germany. That's when we were doing all the different gigs. '69 we cut our first album, so I was 21 then. And so yet, in 1970 our first hit record, Paranoid, yeah I was 22.

AAJ: As a musician, how would you say that you grew from the time the first album was recorded and then through Heaven and Hell, during which tour you left initially?

BW: I think the growing came from—well, there's so many different ways of growing. Let's just take the example, if it's okay, of technique, and I grew because we continued to play and tour. We did multiple world tours. We played so often, even after that kind of slowing down period after the third album we still played all the time. Instead of playing a full year we just played for nine months of the year. So, you learn to define, you learn to grow, you learn to get better at certain things. I mean, I went into all kinds of different techniques or ways of playing or different drum lineups—two bass drums, one bass drum, multiple kits, 27-36 shells, 27 shells, crazy things just trying all these different ideas and that happened throughout the '70s.

AAJ: 27-inch bass drum shells?

BW: No, no, no—27 shells.

AAJ: 27 different shells?

BW: Yeah, yeah.

AAJ: At the same time?

BW: Yeah, just these massive drum kits. Enormous fucking drum kits. [Laughter] Ridiculously stupid drum kits. But I went to 26-inch bass drums and pushing air through a 26-inch bass drum when you're in your twenties, that's pretty cool. I'm 57 now and I'm still pushing air through 26-inch bass drums and that takes something else. That becomes different again. But I think I saw the biggest growth, if there was growth, in the way that I was more in harmony with my instrument because you're constantly learning, so I think you do get better as time goes on.

As far as other growth as a musician, I enjoyed the outlook of wanting to go further or broader or wider. We had a very hard core sound, a very hard rock sound, and I sometimes wanted to look at being outside that. We tried some things, I mean we did "Air Dance" which is, to me, like a jazz song—on Technical Ecstasy. And I think Rick Wakeman did play keyboards on that particular track. You know, I don't think it was Rick. It was Don Airey. Don Airey played keyboards on Technical Ecstasy and we did a song called "Air Dance," and that's just like a typical jazz with a soft song. Tony's playing piano, it's great.

I think the band is very versatile and it was doing that. We all wanted to stretch out a little further, you know, but again just talking about myself, my part in this, if you like. That's what it was for me, just those things that I would like to have tried and I think the things that we were trying were taking us away from the very original sound, the hard rock sound that kind of established us. But in one sense that was growth because you're moving on and the next album is going to be different and the next album is going to be different. So, yeah, there's a few examples about growing as a musician.

AAJ: Would you say that you stayed close to your roots?

BW: I think so, yeah. Pretty much at all times, I mean, because it's still there right now. When we go up tomorrow night and play, I mean, all my basic stuff is just from the stuff that I learned when I was a child, really. So, yeah, I'd say that I think everybody is still strongly connected to all the things that they've learned or the things that were impressed upon them in the early days, definitely.


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