Tony Iommi needs little introduction. The father of heavy metal, he along with Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward changed the face of the musical landscape with Black Sabbath, conjuring some of the most famous guitar riffs of all time. There have been so many iconic pieces, that even he can’t tell which is the best. We caught up with Tony for a chat at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods, where he was on hand to collect the ‘Golden God’ award on behalf of the band. Into the void: Eamon O’Neill.
Good evening Tony, you recently played your last ever gig with Black Sabbath; How emotional was it on stage playing those last few chords?
It was a strange experience. I don’t think it’s sunk in to everybody, to all the band, really. It was sad, it was the last show, but I was wondering how we were all going to finish and what we were going to do after the show, but we had three days of filming after it, so we were all still seeing each other. It was only then that we realised; “oh, this is it”, after that. But as far as the audience was concerned, it was very emotional, and people came from all over the world to see it, and it was just brilliant. You couldn’t wish for a better send off.
What are your emotions now, with a bit of distance between the show ending?
I still feel like I’m on tour, to be honest. I mean, I’ve done it for fifty years ; it’s hard to kind of just go ‘bang’ and then forget about it, which I don’t want to do, in some ways. I love what I do, and for me, we stopped the tour because I didn’t particularly want to keep touring, because of the health issues. But I loved being on stage, and I love seeing the audiences – there’s no better feeling than that.
There’s been talk of a possible one-off gig in a football ground in Birmingham; is there any truth in those rumours?
It was me talking about that, I started it! I think it would be nice to do that at some point. I haven’t spoke to the others about it, but it would be, honestly, and they’d be up for it. It’s early days yet, really. It hasn’t even sunk in as far as we’ve finished.
How are you, health-wise these days?
Yeah, I feel okay, I just get tired. That was one of the main reasons we’re stopping touring, because the long tours of eighteen months was just, you get to be too tired. When I was 22, it was all right, but now I’m 35…!
Are you a man of leisure now?
Funny enough, I find it more busy now than when we were on tour. I don’t know what it is; I’m doing more things, other things, but still involved in music, doing stuff for charities, and just doing things like that, which is nice. I like to do it, but it still takes up the time. The only difference is I’m not flying everywhere.
There’s been talk that you may work with former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin again.
Yeah, Tony Martin said that. Is there a possibility that that might happen? There’s a possibility to anything, really. There’s nothing set in stone. I just spoke to him about maybe one day doing a couple of things, but I’ve spoke to a lot of people about that.
Those albums; ‘Headless Cross’ through to ‘Cross Purposes’ are currently unavailable; would you like to see them remixed and given the remastered treatment?
Yes, absolutely. I’d like to get them reissued again, absolutely. I think they were good stuff that some people never even heard.
You’ve spoken about doing an album with Brian May; will that ever see the light of day?
Brian came up to my house a couple of weeks ago, and we started talking about it again, but it’s quite possible. We’d like to do it, but now he’s going on tour. But yeah, I’d like to do something with him.
Do you still play the guitar every day, even when you’re not on the road?
No. I didn’t play it on the road every day; I only played it when we played. No, I can’t sit down and practice. I don’t know why. I get bored with it. If I’m writing something, I will sit down and play it, and on the road, I only play at the gigs; I don’t play it on the days off.
Of all the riffs you’ve written, is there one you’re most proud of?
I’m proud of what I did, and there’s a lot of stuff I write that I like. I like riffs, and hopefully will be coming out with a lot more.
With the tour winding down, did you get a chance to sit down with Geezer and Ozzy and have a drink and reminisce?
No, because they don’t drink! But yeah, we did talk about the old days. We had some fun just talking about it, remembering it, and even not remembering it!
Was there an easier closure with Black Sabbath than there was with the end of Heaven And Hell and Ronnie James Dio’s passing?
Well it was different with Ronnie because Ronnie passed away. But you know, I still stay in touch with Ozzy and Geezer. We’ve never really stayed in touch every day. Even on the road, we don’t see each other until we do the show; it’s not because we don’t like each other, it’s just the way it is, everybody does their own thing and you give them their space. We’re still the same now; I’ll email Geezer or Ozzy, and he’ll get back and let me know what he’s doing, and that’s the sort of thing we do and we always have done. It used to be phone calls and now you can reach anybody by just leaving a text.
Have you missed performing some of the tracks from the Ronnie era such as ‘Mob Rules’ and ‘Heaven And Hell’?
Yeah, I did actually, because they were good songs, and when we did the stuff with Ronnie, we played all that stuff; we didn’t do any of the old Sabbath stuff. But we enjoyed that, and that was that set, and then we went back to doing the old stuff, which again I enjoyed, so it was a real nice difference.
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