It’s less than three weeks until the date that metal fans have been waiting years for: on June 11, Black Sabbath releases 13, their first studio album with frontman Ozzy Osbourne in over three decades. Sadly, it isn’t a full-on reunion of the original lineup, as drummer Bill Ward isn’t participating. Former Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave member Brad Wilk plays on 13, while Tommy Clufetos from Osbourne’s solo band, plays drums on the tour. (Producer Rick Rubin had originally floated the idea of hiring former Cream/Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker).
In a cover story for the July issue of Guitar World, guitarist Tony Iommi says that the band’s lawyers dealt with Ward’s legal team for a while to try to come up with an agreement that would be suitable to both sides, before deciding to move the reunion forward without the founding drummer. But in the wake of being diagnosed with lymphoma (for which he received treatment during the recording of 13), Iommi was acutely aware that he and the band didn’t have an unlimited amount of time to wait for an acceptable contract.
“We waited a long time for Bill and we wanted to sort it out,” Iommi said. “But at the end of the day, especially after I was diagnosed, I thought, ‘F***ing hell, that’s it. We’ve got to get a move on. I might pop off next year!’ So I emailed him and said, ‘Bill, we can’t wait any longer. We’ve got to get on with it.’ And that was it.”
In a cover story for British music magazine Mojo, bassist Geezer Butler adds, “I would love for Bill to have been there. On the business side, you either accept the way things are, or you don’t. I wanted to do this album. I don’t care if I get paid… I want to do it.”
In the Mojo article, Osbourne goes a bit further, saying, “There was also another side to it. We all had to ask, ‘Can he do an hour-and-a-half, two-hour gig?'” He doesn’t say when, exactly, the band rehearsed with Ward, but reveals that the drummer had Post-It notes all over his kit. When Osbourne asked him what they were for, he reports that Ward responded, “I can’t remember what I’m doing.” Osbourne said, “He didn’t come clean and say, ‘I can’t cut this gig but can we work something out, guys, where I’ll come on but with another drummer backing me up?’ Or, ‘I’ll come and play a few songs’…His pride was hurt and I get it. The guy will always be a dear, dear friend and a brother to me, but you either s*** or get off the pot.”
Black Sabbath’s U.S. tour kicks off July 25 in Houston Texas.