Prime Cuts: Tony Iommi
Originally printed in Guitar World, August 1992
The Master of Reality: Evil guitar genius Tony Iommi, the heart and soul of Black Sabbath, recalls the best and the worst of the heaviest band south of heaven.
The 1970 album Black Sabbath introduced the world to four English gents who would go down as the greatest, most influential heavy metal band in history. Twenty-two years later, the band’s hand of doom, Tony Iommi, continues to compose the most withering riffs this side of Hades. Guitar World recently spoke with the power-chord master for a retrospective look at two decades of Sabbath albums. Join us as we shed some light on a very dark past.
Black Sabbath (1970)
“Money was really scarce in those days, so the whole album was recorded in eight hours on an eight-track machine at Regent Sound in London. We were so pleased to have been given the chance to make a record that the whole experience seemed very luxurious. A record deal in those days was a very big thing.
“Most of my solos on that record were done the same way I do them now—very off-the-cuff. I performed the extended solo on ‘Warning’ in only two takes. The first one I played was much better than the second one, but our so-called producer, who had never produced an album in his life, decided to put the second one on the record without consulting us.
“For that album, I used my Gibson SG—the same one I used for the next 10 years—and either a Laney or Marshall cabinet. We didn’t even have time to work on getting sounds—we just set up mics in front of the cabinets and went off. We just played as if we were playing live.”
“I think the reason this record turned out so well was that we had a long time to work out all the material. We were playing seven 45-minute sets each day in a dusty old club in Switzerland, in front of anywhere from three to two dozen people. Rehearsing like that for six weeks really tightened us up. It also enabled us to experiment more because we really only had enough songs for one set each day—certainly not seven. It gave us a chance to make stuff up and rearrange existing songs.”
Master of Reality (1971)
“During Master of Reality, we started getting more experimental and began taking too much time to record. Ultimately, I think it really confused us. Sometimes I think I’d really like to go back to the way we recorded the first two albums. I’ve always preferred just going into the studio and playing, without spending a lot of time rehearsing or getting sounds.
“We tried recording ‘Into the Void’ in a couple of different studios because Bill [Ward] just couldn’t get it right. Whenever that happened, he would start believing that he wasn’t capable of playing the song. He’d say, ‘To hell with it—I’m not doing this!’ There was one track like that on every album, and ‘Into the Void’ was the most difficult one on Master of Reality.
“The coughing that opens the album is actually me! Ozzy had pulled out a joint, and I nearly choked to death on the bloody thing—and they recorded it! I didn’t have any idea that it would end up on the record.”
Vol. 4 (1972)
“We wrote and recorded Vol. 4 at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. L.A. was a real distraction for us, and that album ended up sounding a bit strange. The people who were involved with the record really didn’t have a clue. They were all learning with us, and we didn’t know what we were doing either. The experimental stage we began with Master of Reality continued with Vol. 4, and we were trying to widen our sound and break out of the bag everyone had put us into.”
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