You are here

Tony Iommi and James Hetfield Discuss Life in Black Sabbath and Metallica in 1992 Guitar World Interview

Tony Iommi and James Hetfield Discuss Life in Black Sabbath and Metallica in 1992 Guitar World Interview

Did you ever play any Sabbath tunes?

HETFIELD: Not in Metallica, but I did in high school. I'd play Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and some of the heavier stuff at parties.

Tony, in the early days of Sabbath, did you ever feel like you were competing with bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin?

IOMMI: Certainly. There was always competition between Zeppelin, Purple and ourselves. In fact, Robert Plant and John Bonham were from Birmingham, which was our hometown. We all knew each other, which made it worse.

Did you ever jam with Plant or John Bonham?

IOMMI: Bonham got up and played with us a few times. In fact, he was my best man when I got married. The main thing I remember about John was that he was in an incredible number of groups. He'd only be in them for a week, and they'd get rid of him because he was too loud. He had this tremendous list of bands that he 'd played with written on his bass drum case. Certainly a character!

Was it hard to play in a tough factory town like Birmingham?

IOMMI: It had an effect on us. We were completely surrounded by violence and pollution, so that was a big part of our music. We were living our music.

Weren't you and Ozzy Osbourne actually in different street gangs?

IOMMI: Yeah, I used to hate the sight of Ozzy. I couldn't stand him, and I used to beat him up whenever I saw him. We just didn't get on at school. He was a little punk.

It's pretty amazing that he eventually became part of Sabbath. Bill and I were looking for a singer, and we spotted this advert that said, "Singer looking for a gig. Call Ozzy at... "I said to Bill, "I know an Ozzy. It can't possibly be that one." So we went to the address listed in the ad, and knocked on the door. Sure enough, Ozzy appeared.

I said to Bill, "Forget it, forget it." But Bill wanted to chat with him. We talked, but when we left I said, "No way, Bill, I know him." Three weeks later, we ended up together anyway. Life moves in mysterious ways.

Tony, what's your craziest Ozzy Osbourne story?

IOMMI: I don't know -- there' s so many. [chuckles] Wait, here's one. Actually, it's quite funny. We were all in an elevator in this real plush hotel, and Ozzy decides to take a crap. As he's doing it, the elevator is going down to the reception floor. The door opens suddenly -- and there's Ozzy with his pants around his knees. And all these people in fur coats are just staring at him with their mouths open. [uproarious laughter all around]

HETFIELD: I heard one story, I don't know if this is true, that Bill Ward showed up to go on tour one time with his only suitcase filled with beer.

IOMMI: Well, Bill never used to take many clothes at all. And when he did, he'd have two suitcases: one with dirty clothes, and one with dirtier clothes.

HETFIELD: And tights?

IOMMI: Oh yeah, he always had his red tights.

HETFIELD: What did you think of his tights?

IOMMI: Bill was a character! He was voted the scruffiest, most untidy drummer in England.

Considering the competition, that was quite an achievement!

IOMMI: But it was Bill. He was our outlet, the one everybody picked on. I used to do terrible things to him. I actually set him on fire once -- honest to God. We were recording Heaven And Hell, and I asked, "Can I set you on fire, Bill?" And he said, "Well, not now, not now." So I said, "Okay," and then forgot all about it.

An hour later Bill said, "Well, I'm going home now. Do you still want to burn me, or what?" I said, "Sure." So I got this bottle of petrol, tipped it on Bill, set fire to him and -- voomph. I couldn't believe it! He went up like a Christmas tree. Well, he knew I was going to burn him, but he didn't know to what extent. He screamed and started rolling around on the floor. His clothes started burning and his socks melted -- the nylon socks stuck to his leg. I wasn't able to help him because I couldn't stop laughing.

It was actually pretty serious; he had to go to the hospital. I felt really bad. He had third-degree burns on his arms and legs and everywhere. The next day his mother phoned me up and said, "You balmy bastard. It's about time you grew up. Our Bill is going to have to have his leg off." She exaggerated a bit. But things like that were a regular occurrence with Bill.


Guitar Girl'd: Interview with Kim Shattuck of The Muffs