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

By Published: October 23, 2005
AAJ: What was the transition like musically from the recording and touring for Never Say Die in '78, then Ozzy leaving the band, and then recording and touring for Heaven and Hell with Ronnie James Dio replacing Ozzy on vocals?

BW: This might be tough for me to answer this question because throughout the entire making of Heaven and Hell I was almost trumatized because at that time in my life I was going through the loss of what I saw as the original Black Sabbath and I was going through really feeling pretty shitty about not having Oz as my kind of daily friend. I mean, we always saw each other all the time, you know. So now we were separated and it was really different. That felt really, really weird to be away from him. That felt really horrible.

And then my mom died at that time. So, to be honest with you, I just fell right into the bottle and I was just slamming. I was just fucked up all the time. In fact, I was so fucked up I don't remember recording Heaven and Hell. I remember the first part of it because the trauma, things hadn't quite gotten that bad. Oz was gone and I was trying to have a good relationship with Ronnie. But when my mom died, I don't remember much after that. What I remember was Tony being unbelievably supportive because I just couldn't hold it together at all. All the guys were supportive. Everybody was supportive but I was blacked out when I did that album so I don't remember anything, really, of the album. Tony would basically, on things that I just couldn't handle, he would basically just kind of nod and go, "Now." It's really ironic because the very next album I made with Black Sabbath I was completely sober. I was clean and sober.

AAJ: Oh yeah. Born Again, yeah.

BW: Yeah, I was totally sober on that album. So the change from the very last Sabbath album to Heaven and Hell was, for me, not a very well defined change, I guess is the best way I can summarize.

AAJ: Well, the music from that period drives so powerfully but it still maintains a definite, like, jazz feel to it. The title track to Never Say Die, for example, has got this really strong blues swing to it with open tones on the drums.

BW: Yeah, I think on Heaven and Hell as well, when you listen to "Lonely Is the Word," to me it's just black, black blues. It's like, it's just that kind of feel. It's derivative. It's right in the center of black blues music, as far as I'm concerned. Ronnie also had the ability, just like Oz, of being able to go back to his roots. It's obvious, when you listen to Ronnie's singing, he's obviously been singing blues for a long, long time. He's from that same music, that same background.

Please join us next issue for the conclusion of this two part interview when Bill Ward talks about his own projects outside of Black Sabbath, staying creative, and what musicians can do to pursue success in the music industry.

Continue to part 2.

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