Black Sabbath founding drummer Bill Ward was not included in the band’s final album, 13, or in its swansong world tour, and guitarist Tony Iommi says he doesn’t really know why.
In a new interview with Mojo.com, Iommi says the band left all matters related to the Ward’s involvement to management—a decision that he now regrets. The guitarist, who successfully battled stage-three lymphoma from 2012 to 2014 and is now in remission, says he would love to bury the hatchet with Ward and get on with life.
“When I was going through my treatment, I didn’t think I was going to last,” Iommi says, according to NME. “I wanted to get things going quick, and Bill wanted to take longer. Bill seemed to feel he was getting a bad deal. We never dealt with that, we left all that to management. We just wanted to play together and enjoy it. We were playing with Bill for a bit and then he never turned up.”
Iommi says he intends to speak with Ward, adding “I still love him, he’s still my brother, but you have arguments.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what the fuck happened because I don’t do the business side of it. I’m sorry Bill couldn’t work something out, I really am, but I’m really glad we did this tour.”
In a 2013 Guitar World interview, Iommi explained that his then-recent cancer diagnosis had made him eager to reunite Black Sabbath even without Ward’s involvement. “We waited a long time for Bill and we wanted to sort it out,” he said. “But at the end of the day, especially after I was diagnosed, I thought ‘Fucking hell, that’s it—we’ve got to get a move on. I might pop off next year!’ So I emailed him and said ‘Bill, we can’t wait any longer. We’ve got to get a move on with it.’ And that was it.”
Ward had initially signed on for the band’s 2012 reunion and made a public appearance with Black Sabbath before backing out. Though he claimed the issue was over his contract, frontman Ozzy Osbourne claimed Ward was overweight and unable to tour.
“I don’t think he could have done the gig, to be honest,” Osbourne told the New York Daily News. He’s incredibly overweight. A drummer has to be in shape. He’s already had two heart attacks. I don’t want to be responsible for his life.”
Ward, for his part, admitted he was not up to par. “I would never, ever, ever allude to being able to play with Sabbath if my health wasn’t absolutely smack on,” he told DCHeavyMetal.com. “And my health right now is not bad, but it’s not good enough to certainly play in any band, never mind Black Sabbath. I have to get a lot stronger than where I am. I lost a lot of weight. I’ve got to gain all my muscle back.”
He added, “I'll always have an open mind to playing with Black Sabbath. I love the band. I miss them terribly.” As for Osbourne, Ward said, “I’ve lost a friend, as far as I’m concerned.”
Black Sabbath will perform their final two shows in their native Birmingham Genting Arena February 2 and 4.