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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Interview with Toni Iommi, guitarist for Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell

Posted By on Wed, May 9, 2007 at 3:40 PM

Black Sabbath is back as Heaven and Hell, with a new name and a fresh set list. For the first time in a decade, the band is playing without Ozzy Osbourne. They’ve reunited with Ozzy’s successor, the legendary Ronnie James Dio, who sparked the band’s heavier, darker period, beginning with 1980’s kick-arse Heaven and Hell LP. Find out more about it in this week’s Scene. And read on for a longer interview with guitarist Tony Iommi, the band’s one mainstay through its four-decade career, carefully transcribed to convey his Bri’ish accent. Scene: For this tour, why change the name from Black Sabbath to Heaven and Hell? Iommi: We intentionally did that. All the material we’re playing onstage, it’s none of the old stuff, it’s none of the Ozzy period. It’s all Dio stuff. So by calling ourselves Heaven and Hell, it’s revisiting that period. If we’d have gone out as Black Sabbath, people’d have been expecting to hear “Iron Man” and “War Pigs” and all that -- which is great, but we just decided to call ourselves something different. Scene: What do you think is the strength of Dio era? Iommi: The songs are really strong. They stand up, and I just think they’re classic songs. Scene: The Dio albums were heavier and faster. At the time, were you trying to compete with Maiden and Priest, who’d grown big in your shadow? Iommi: With Ronnie, it enabled us to do a lot more faster songs. They were a lot more uptempo, and quite exciting. Ronnie creates that vibe. With Ozzy, we used to do some uptempo stuff, but it was mainly mid-tempo material. Certainly now, with our stage show, we can put in more uptempo stuff with Dio -- where, with Ozzy, I think “Paranoid” was the fastest one we did. As soon as we changed lineups, it gave us a new spark of life. It’s like anything: You can go on and go on. And in them days, we had the first three or four albums really that done well, and then you get into a bit of rut. We were young, don’t forget, and we went through a lot of drugs and everything else. And it affected our music and our vibe and our mood and the band. Scene: Had band cleaned up by Dio’s arrival?? Iommi: No. But at the time, it enabled us to clean up a bit afterward. But it doesn’t matter if you’re doing things or not. You have to create something within the band. And at the time, with Ozzy, we’d sort of burned ourselves out. Scene: Do you consider the band metal? Iommi: These days, I just go along with whatever people want to call it. Going back to the 70s, I’ve just classed us as heavy rock. It got into this label of metal, so that’s what it is, you know? Scene: Sabbath had a few singers. After Ozzy and Dio, who’s number 3? Iommi: I hate to put it in that category, but Glenn Hughes is a great singer. I’ve done a few projects with Glenn. He’s a tremendous singer. Scene: Do you have future plans for Heaven and Hell? Iommi: We said we’d do this year and put a time limit on it instead of going on and on and on. I’m sure we’ll look at it as time goes on. Scene: You started a new album with Ozzy, and it never arrived. Will you finish it at some point? Iommi: I’m sure we will. I don’t know when. Last time around, we wrote so many songs, and it just dwindled off. We ended up going on tour, and Ozzy started doing The Osbournes, and the thing just fizzled out, to be honest. Scene: Do you think the Dio era is underrated? Iommi: I think it’s got some great respect. Those albums did quite well when they came out. And judging by the shows now, it’s fantastic. It’s refreshing. It’s great. For the last years, we’ve been playing the Ozzy sets, which has been great. But it’s nice to be able to do something else. Heaven and Hell play the Tower City Cable Amphitheater at Tower City (351 Canal Rd.), 7 p.m. Friday, May 11, with Megadeth and Machine Head. Tickets $39.50/$59.50, 216-241-5555 (LiveNation.com). -- D.X. Ferris

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