BLACK SABBATH’s GEEZER BUTLER Talks Upcoming Book “Into the Void”: ‘There Have Been Terrible Fall-Outs; You Forget Them and Come Back Together’

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Not many bands can leave a lasting impression and legacy like Black Sabbath have done over the last 50 years. They have been flying the flag for heavy metal throughout their career to legions of fans around the world since their eponymous debut album, “Black Sabbath”, which was released on February 13, 1970. They went on to sell over 46 million albums, with 19 releases making them.

They are arguably one of the world’s biggest bands in the world and the God Fathers of Heavy Metal. Black Sabbath and its original members, including Ozzy Osbourne [vocals], Geezer Butler [bass], Tony Iommi [guitar], and Bill Ward [drums], are household names due to their hard work and perseverance. Together they catapulted Black Sabbath to stardom and became heavy metal legends.

Now Geezer Butler has released his career-spanning memoir, Into The Void: From Birth To Black Sabbath – And Beyond, which provides insights into the band’s tumultuous career with all the member changes. The book is a fascinating page-turner that chronicles his life growing up in Birmingham, England, forming Sabbath, penning the lyrics for their songs, and touring the world countless times over. He candidly shares the circumstances surrounding his departure in 1986 and what led to the band’s reunion with the four original members in 1997/1998.

Into The Void: From Birth To Black Sabbath – And Beyond is a must-read for Black Sabbath fans as it is written from a place of honesty and passion while done with integrity. The book is be available today (June 6th) in North America and will arrive in the United Kingdom on June 8th. Orders are available on Amazon.

Robert Cavuoto caught up with the legendary Geezer Butler, for a candid interview – in collaboration with our friends from Bravewords – about his life in and out of Black Sabbath. He gives us a deep dive into how they convinced Bill Ward to join the band in the late ’60s, how drugs initially fueled the band’s creativity only to hinder it later, insights into his most misunderstood song, “Black Sabbath,” and which songs from their 1980 release “Heaven and Hell” were initially written for Ozzy Osbourne. He provides the rationale for Ronnie James Dio‘s departure in 1982, why he sold the rights to the band’s name to Tony Iommi, and always remained friends with Bill Ward despite him not being part of the Sabbath‘s reunion tour. Listen to their conversation below – or read the transcript -, and remember that for more interviews and other daily content, make sure to follow Sonic Perspectives on Facebook, Flipboard and Twitter and  subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified about new content we publish on a daily basis.

Interview Transcript:

I enjoyed your biography and learned so much from it. Readers will need an organizational diagram or scorecard to track all the musicians who have come and gone in Black Sabbath’s storied career.

 I lost track myself [laughing].

That situation lends itself to the thought that every rock band is dysfunctional.

Yes! It must be when working with four completely different people, or however many were in and out of Sabbath. We all have our quirks, and we are all very different.

There are so many great stories in the book, and the one I found most intriguing was that drugs helped seal the deal for the four original members to unite and forge a friendship that catapulted the Sabbath to stardom. Without drugs, we may have never had Sabbath, which is hard to wrap my head around.

It certainly helped in the early days! As soon as we showed Bill Ward that we had hash, he was “all in” to joining us!

Sabbath forever changed the heavy metal landscape with their songs and riffs. The songs still hold up some 50 years later. Once the band was established, do you think the drugs enabled or hindered creativity?

Eventually, it hindered the process. It was boring in those days as there was no internet to look at on your laptop, there were only two TV channels, and both finished at 11:00 pm in the UK. You couldn’t phone home without it costing a fortune.  It was just something to do when you got together. We saw drinking booze and taking various drugs as a way to socialize.

Did the band do other things to occupy their time while on tour or between making albums outside of music?

Apart from the groupies which, you would get tired of them quickly. I would read as I brought a lot of books with me.

You wrote the lyrics to most of Sabbath’s songs. What’s so interesting is how misinterpreted they have been to being pro-Satanism.

Exactly; the first song I wrote, “Black Sabbath,” was a warning against Satanism and not to get involved in the occult. In England, many people were involved in black magic; the Stones had their album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, and Arthur Brown was singing about “I am the God of Hellfire.” It was a big underground satanic thing. People who were brainwashed by Christianity were looking for something to rebel against their parents. By rebelling, they were turning to the dark side. It was a fad that didn’t last very long, and the song “Black Sabbath” warned against it. It was totally misunderstood, particularly when we got to America.

Why is “Into the Void” the perfect title for this book, and how does it relate to your career with the band?

I came up with ten different titles for the book. The publishers liked After Forever and Into the Void. Eventually, after consensus, Into the Void won as the strongest. We were called Into the Void when we first started the band, and nobody gave us a chance in Hell of doing anything. Our parents figured let them do their thing for a year, and then they will come to their senses and get proper jobs. That summed it up best.

Being on tour is a hard and lonely life, as I can understand your parent’s perspective to let it run its course and get it out of your system.

It is a hard life being away from home, missing people, being in strange places, and not knowing anyone. The only people you know are the band.

You mentioned everyone in Sabbath had a predetermined role in Sabbath right from the beginning; Tony was the leader, Bill was the fall guy, and Ozzy was the joker and not held in the highest regard. What was your predetermined role?

I gave the band the direction in the type of music we played, from Blues to Cream, and eventually to adding Aynsley Dunbar‘s song “Retaliation” to the first Sabbath album. I also gave the band the name Black Sabbath.

“Into The Void: From Birth To Black Sabbath – And Beyond”

In the late 70s, when Ozzy Osbourne was still with Sabbath and on the verge of leaving, I found it odd to hear he pointed out Sabbath’s songs had too many keyboards. Considering he had Don Airey play keyboards on “Blizzard of Ozz” and backed up most of Randy Rhoad’s guitar playing.

 That’s typical Ozzy! I think he meant that we were doing more instrumental songs towards the end of the original line-up, so he felt left out. He didn’t want us going in that direction.

My introduction to Sabbath was the “Heaven and Hell” album. The songs on that album were light years ahead of what was happening musically at the time. Were those riffs or song ideas written for a potential album with Ozzy?

 They were! A couple of songs were written with him in mind, especially “Children of the Sea.” When we were writing that with Ozzy, he didn’t have much interest in it. There may have been two or three other riffs Tony had come up with that eventually came out on the “Heaven and Hell” album. I think Ozzy had lost interest in the songs by that time.

Did Ozzy have alternate lyrics to “Children of the Sea”?

I don’t really remember that now.

Ronnie James Dio was eventually let go from Sabbath, and in the book, you never explained how he took the news of being fired.

I think he saw it coming because he already had a solo record deal with Warner Brothers, which we weren’t told about. When we did find out about it, he wasn’t a member of our band because he went his own way. It was just one of those things that happened. I don’t think anyone ever said to him, “You’re out of the band,” It was a mutual agreement.

When you left Sabbath in 1986, you sold the rights to the band’s name to Tony. Why did you do it, and do you regret it?

I really thought it was the end of Sabbath. I never envisioned the four of us getting back together or Ozzy coming back. To me, that was the end of Black Sabbath. I had things going on in my private life, and Tony wanted to carry on with the band, so I said take the name. I would not go on calling myself Black Sabbath. I would never do that. Tony wanted to, so he made me an offer, and I took it. The only regret was when the original band did get back together. Ozzy was talking about the name’s origins when the originals got back together. We got it sorted out in the end, and I was happy to have it solved.

Did it impact all the merchandise at the time?

How it works is if Tony and Ozzy agree to something and I don’t, I have the final say because they own the name. Aside from that, everything is still split four ways.

In the book, you discuss when Ozzy left Sabbath, he asked you to form a band.

Yeah, we were thinking about it. At the time, Ozzy was getting fed up with things, and I was getting delusional about the band and didn’t feel I was having enough say. Ozzy and I discussed getting a band ourselves, but that fell through.

It was a testament to your friendship to separate from Sabbath and put together another band.

We still remained friends apart from all the ups and downs of the band. You can’t have four people together for 50 years and not handle the ups and downs. There have been terrible fall-outs; you forget it and then come back together. It’s just the way of life!

 That’s a fascinating point, as you were very candid and shared things that were said against you as well as sharing challenging stories about other members, but the band still found the compassion to remain friends despite all the ill words to reunite.

I think it is all about trying to prove your point of view. You start to feel that my point of view is right, so yours must be wrong. Eventually, it becomes water under the bridge.

In 2006, Black Sabbath was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Why did the band refuse to perform at the ceremony?

Because we didn’t want to be accepted, we had been turned down by them for ten years. Eventually, we said, “Why don’t you just take us off the ballets?” Then they said you’re in, and we weren’t expecting it, so it didn’t mean anything to us then. They asked us if we would play, and we said No. We decided we would turn up but not play.

You gave your very honest opinions of the situation in the book on the members of Sabbath; what is your opinion that Ozzy may go out on tour performing in a wheelchair?

I wouldn’t be surprised; it’s up to him and has to do with his solo career. Whatever Ozzy wants to do is up to him. It’s sad that he has to do it, but if Ozzy wants to get out there and play to his fans one more time, good luck to him!

Do you still stay in touch with Tony, Ozzy, and Bill?

I do with Tony. Bill doesn’t have the internet, and I haven’t talked with Ozzy since the last Sabbath gig.

Bill wasn’t part of the most recent reunion tours. He was publicly upset about not being part of it, and I wonder if you ever made amends with him.

I never fell out with Bill. There were no hard feelings in 2019 when we got a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He wasn’t on the tour in any capacity. Even if he just came on for a couple of songs, it would have been brilliant. Bill felt it was all or nothing, which we respected. I still don’t exactly know what happened between Ozzy, Tony, and Bill. I was on holiday in Hawaii, and when I came back, Bill wasn’t in the band. So I never got onto it.

One of the biggest concerns expressed in the media was whether Bill could perform a two-hour show. Was there ever a doubt in your mind he could make it through a show and a tour?

I don’t think he could. It’s one of those things that we gave him the option to do as much as he could. Bill‘s attitude was that he wanted to do the whole thing, not part of it, and if he was not doing the whole thing, he didn’t want to be part of it. If they had said to me I could come on and play bass for three songs, then piss off, I would be really upset as well!

You have put out solo albums in the past. Are you working on any new music?

Not at the moment. I’m getting up there in age. I’m always writing music and playing, but no plans to release anything.

Do you still practice bass?

I’m still playing, just yesterday, in fact. I love playing. I find it relaxing while getting my frustrations out!

Was this book written during the pandemic while you were locked in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do?

A lot of it was. I probably had about 500 pages. The publishers said, “You can’t say that you can’t say this, and you will get sued if you say that!” [Laughing] They also would cut out parts that they felt were boring. They got 500 pages down to about 300 pages.

I bet the stories cut for legality reasons were pretty good.

Absolutely! I told the publishers I was in Black Sabbath, not The Osmonds! [Laughing] They told me that if I could give them proof, we could keep it in. I told them I didn’t have a camera crew following me around every day of my life, so you have to take my word for it! They didn’t, so we left it out of the book.

I want to thank you for your time today and wish you an early Merry Christmas! [laughing].

[Laughing] Thank you!

People will have to read the book and get to the epilogue to understand that inside joke!


Comments are closed.

error: This content is copyrighted!