Well, Black Sabbath might be keeping collectively tight-lipped over the Bill Ward situation, but the individual band members aren’t – Geezer Butler, the band’s bassist, has posted a lengthy retort to Bill Ward’s statement over on his official blog.
Geezer Butler’s statement also confirms that Tommy Cluefetos – Ozzy’s solo drummer – will be standing (or rather sitting) in for Bill Ward behind the drums for Sabbath’s Download show, as well as their warm-up show in Birmingham tonight. Other than that though, it’s pretty much solidly on the subject of the ins and outs of what’s been going on behind the scenes with Ward:
I feel sad to see the Sabbath reunion becoming a bit of a soap opera on the internet. It has been a very tough year for us as a band, having announced our reunion plans, only for Tony to be diagnosed with lymphoma, leaving us no choice but to postpone the proposed Sabbath tour, and then for Bill to go public on his site about an un-signable contract. None of us knew how Tony was going to respond to his intensive chemo therapy, and radiotherapy. Ozzy and myself flew to England to be with Tony, and on his “good” days, we’d meet at his home studio and put ideas together for the upcoming album, all sitting down together, no drummer involved, just 3 of us quietly putting together ideas. We thought that when we had enough songs together for a full band rehearsal, we’d move back to L.A and put the whole thing together with Bill. Unfortunately, to our surprise, Bill issued a statement on his site saying he’d been offered an un-signable contract. He hadn’t told any one of us he was having contractual problems, and frankly those things are worked out between our representatives, and never between the four of us let alone in public. We had the idea of keeping just one show in this year, hoping that Tony would be well enough for that show, and that things with Bill would be sorted. As you may expect, a one off show at Donnington Festival (Download) costs an absolute fortune to stage, involving over 50 people, transport, air fares, hotels, meals, agents, promotors, accountants, lawyers etc, so none of us, expected to make much money from it- it was a one off Sabbath show for the fans, before we go into recording the new album. Apparently, this wasn’t acceptable to Bill’s representatives, they wanted an amount that was so unrealistic that it seemed to have been a joke. So we resigned ourselves to doing Download without Bill, hoping he’d change his mind and at least make a guest appearance. We started rehearsals a few weeks ago with Tommy Cluefetos, the drummer who will be on the Ozzy and Friends Tour. Brilliant drummer and good bloke. It was decided we’d better do a warm up show, to break the ice since we haven’t played together live. The O2 Academy was available in Birmingham, where we were rehearsing, so we decided on that, and to make a donation to Help For Heroes Charity, since we’d be ironing out any glitches we may have. Then Bill put out a further statement saying he’d been ready to play the Birmingham show , but he was expected to have to do it “for free”- well, I think that’s basically how you raise money from gigs for charity – you play them “for free”.
All I am saying is that there are two sides to everything. I do hope to play with Bill again some day. For whatever reason; it wasn’t meant to be this time. Bill’s made his decision, and I have to respect that. Hopefully this painful year will be worth the wait for the new Sabbath album and end in joy and happiness for all.
Butler seems keen to stress that any arguments surrounding the split were the result of discussions between “representatives” of the four musicians. Fair play, we accept that it’s a possibility that this affair might not have directly involved the Sabbath trio, although we’re still slightly suspicious as to what extent that’s the whole truth. Like Butler says, there are two sides to every story, and we’re still not sure we’ve heard either side in full.
We’d by flat-out lying though, if we said we hadn’t raised a cynical eyebrow at Butler’s assertion that “none of us expected to make much money from [Download Festival]”. While the only people who know exactly how much Black Sabbath will be getting for Download are the band, their “representatives”, and Live Nation, we can guaran-fucking-tee that it’s not pocket change – we’ve know how big some of the paycheques that former headliners of Download have picked up. If Butler really isn’t making any money off a headline spot at one the biggest-selling festivals in the UK, then perhaps he should start questioning how badly his “representatives” are handling his business affairs, rather than how big a slice of the pie his former bandmate wants for sitting behind the drumkit.
Butler’s statement includes no comment regarding the deletion of Ward from every promo photo on the official Black Sabbath website.