As Black Sabbath prepare to say goodbye to Australia our Ritchie gets a chance to catch up with Geezer Butler.
Thank you for taking some time out and speaking to us here at Devils Gate Media. We really appreciate it and personally I feel very honoured.
What does it feel like to know you are finally saying goodbye to Australia (and all the other countries you are visiting).
I feel that it is the right time to say goodbye , to go out at the top while we are all still into the music and the whole touring lifestyle, and while we are all still relatively healthy and able to put on the best show we are capable of.
Regarding touring how does it differ now from when you were a young band gigging in Birmingham? I am not a young man myself and I have trouble getting out of bed never mind doing a show for two hours.
It has changed exponentially from the old days. back then we travelled all together with our equipment in a beat up old van, and would all sleep in the same room in whatever the cheapest accommodation we could find. These days we have our own private plane and stay in the best hotels. we don’t mix socially , and usually only see each other when we are travelling or at the gig, whereas in the old days we’d all get blasted together with various drugs and booze, and entertain lots of women. These days we are quite boring, English breakfast tea is our drug of choice now, and early to bed on our days off [on our own].
Does the band get on better now than at any other stage of your career and has Ozzy really calmed down?
Ozzy will never calm down, he still makes us laugh at his antics whether knowingly or not. We have always been close with each other, more like brothers than work mates. We have a special relationship with each other, and are always there for each other, even if we go a year without talking, we just pick up where we left off.
Now I am going to ask for a 100% honest answer here( please place your left hand on the book of the dead and swear ha) but do you ever sit down and look at your achievements, not only in Sabbath but what you have created in Heavy metal and where do you think it would be without you?
Well people always class us as the first metal band, but I still don’t quite know if that applies or not. To me, we were and are mostly a heavy blues band. We may have invented doom rock, and the lyrics are definitely on the heavy side, dealing with the dark side of life. I’m glad that we kept true to our music, then and now. We had a hard time getting signed to a record deal in the old days, most record companies turned us down and told us to come back if and when we could write “proper” songs, but we stuck with the music that we loved.
And as per above just picking out three people who have stated they started to play bass because of you( Steve Harris, Billy Sheehan and Jason Newsted)..this must be the best type of compliment. Do you keep your eye out for bass players today?
Yes, I never understood why i have influenced other bass players, as i really don’t rate myself highly. it really is the ultimate compliment when those other bass players cite me as an influence. I do like to hear good bass players, but they seem to take a back seat in modern metal, so I usually find jazz to be the best place to hear newer players.
The music scene is a completely different beast now from when you started. Do you look at young bands coming out now and appreciate the struggle they are having just to get by and produce music and do you have any advice to them?
It’s harder than ever for new bands to make a living or to be heard. I’ve seen lots of good bands come and go. I’ve had three solo albums myself, without much fanfare, so I know how hard it is for new bands to make any kind of impact. My advice is to do it for the music and hope other people like it.
Talking of younger bands there is always talk of when the big guns(yourself, AC/DC, Maiden etc) call it quits who can fill their boots and headline the likes of Download and Hellfest. Is there anyone out there you think fits the bill and why do you feel there is such a gap in the market?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself. I think Metallica were the last massive metal band, maybe Slipknot could carry the torch, but I can’t see anyone else at the moment. I think the proliferation of bands has led to too much splintering for any one band to emerge as a mega band.
I want to touch on GZR now. I do not mind saying I loved your solo stuff so will you be going back to visit this after the tour( please note the only acceptable answer is yes) and why does the name Burton C Bell keep popping up everywhere I look?
I take one thing at a time these days. Thank you for liking GZR, it was fun doing those albums. All my effort is going into Sabbath these days, but when it’s over, I will be writing more music. I love experimenting in my studio, it’s a hobby as well as a career. Whether any of it will be heard outside of my studio remains to be seen.
Something that is not touched on very much is your love of animals. I know you are a vegan, a cat lover and totally against cruelty to animals. Sometimes it is laughed upon, especially when you see what humanity is doing to itself at the moment, so why do you feel so strongly about these issues.
I’ve grown up with animals in the house, I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters, and all of us had cats, dogs, mice, chickens, frogs, tortoises, so they’ve always been a big part of my life. My dog, Scamp, was my best friend when I was growing up, and he was just as much a brother to me as my human brothers. Someone threw acid on him, and he almost died, but my parents spent their life savings having him treated. It appalled me that people could be so cruel, and ever since I have stuck up for animals. It is something I can be active in, unlike trying to figure out the appalling things humans do to each other.
I know the tour is not over yet but have you ever sat back and thought which show was your best and what Sabbath album are you most proud of?
I keep coming back to the Paranoid album. We play almost all of it live on stage and it still stands up today, every track. There have been too many great shows to pick one out, but I think when we play our home town of Birmingham, there is an extra spark of magic.
Now to finish up a little light hearted question(which could also help all those band struggling to make it today), If you could go back and give your younger self just one piece of advice what would it be and do you think you would have listened?
Get a lawyer. Probably not.
Thank you once again for your time Geezer and I look forward to seeing you at Download and Hellfest this year. Good luck in whatever you choose to do next(but please not back to accounting) and most of all…thank you for the music so far and being part of more than 30 years of my life.
Interview Ritchie Birnie