There is currently such a stir in the Black Sabbath community over the band’s new album being recorded with Rick Rubin and without Bill Ward that it has kept the band’s name on the tip of almost every metalhead’s tongue even more than usual. People are still feeling the sting of Ronnie James Dio’s passing and the concerns over Tony Iommi’s health. While it’s nice to see Tony, Ozzy and Geezer together and working on material I am not the first or only person who would have liked just as much to have seen Tony and Geezer carry on their Heaven and Hell project with ex Sabbath singer Tony Martin taking the reins. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Tony live recently or even checking out his more recent gigs on Youtube, you’ll see he is in top form and can easily handle the material from ALL eras of Black Sabbath. It’s nice to see the recent online warming up to Tony’s era of Black Sabbath, it may have been underrated in its day but more and more people are beginning to warm up to some great albums produced during the Martin era. I recently had the chance to talk to Tony about his solo work, the current goings on with Sabbath and much more, read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for talking to us Tony. I am a big fan of your work as the longest running singer in Black Sabbath other than Ozzy but I’d like to start by asking you about your last solo album “Scream” in 2005. It featured your son Joe on it but it was a true solo effort also in that you produced it and performed most of the tracks. It was musical, interesting, heavy and rightfully well received by those who’ve heard it, was it satisfying for you as well?
Tony Martin: Oh yeah!!! Thank you, at the time I thought it was a good collection of songs but typically for me, I haven’t listened to it since though….Then again I tend not to listen to my own work.
LRI: That album featured a track “Raising Hell” that was also worked on during the “Dehumanizer” era of Sabbath. Some people are surprised to hear that you were working with the band during that era, was that time an interesting or challenging moment for you?
Tony: Ahh yes, Rasing Hell … That song was actually written way back in the TYR album era and initially I thought Geoff Nichols was the author but either way it wasnt used at the time. I think Iommi was toying with using it for Dehumanizer but again it wasn’t used, so Geoff and I revisited it and released it. That time during “Dehumanizer” was weird …. Iommi was speaking to me because they were having problems with Ronnie and he asked me to go try out but to be honest with you the environment wasn’t great and so I couldn’t really get into it completely so they continued with Ronnie.
LRI: Going back a bit, it’s been mentioned many times that Randy Rhoads was not an Ozzy or Sabbath fan before working with Ozzy. How interested in their music were you prior to replacing Ray Gillan during the Eternal Idol sessions, did the idea of being Sabbath’s singer seem logical then to you?
Tony: I took my first girlfriend to see Sabbath when i was 14. I remember thinking how bad and great they were at the same time (laughs). I thought in my “misguided youth” kind of way that if the singer fell off stage and couldn’t continue I would get up and do it …… But I NEVER thought I actually would one day!!!!!
LRI: “The Shining” is one of those classic tracks that just cannot be forgotten and your band “Headless Cross” still performs it to this day. Hindsight is 20/20 and much of the material from your era including that album is now being celebrated all these years later. Did you ever have a gut feeling that there was something special about “The Shining” or any of the tracks on Idol?
Tony: Oh yeah! It was all very important and still is. You know when you are a writing musician your work is like your child. Even though the album “Eternal Idol” was written before I got there it still is like an adopted child to me.
LRI: To this day many people will start arguments by including the follow up “Headless Cross” in their top 5 Sabbath albums of all time. It has memorable songs and plenty of those occult/evil overtones that people love about the band. Do you think it was the songwriting that makes “Headless Cross” special to many or the performances of that killer lineup during that era?
Tony: I’m sure my style of writing was what made that era work. I am studious and very determined that the lyrics work, there has to be a credible story and if even only one word doesn’t work I will sit for WEEKS to make the lyric work even at the risk of changing the rest of the song !!! I think that effort and attention to detail on the “Headless Cross” album show, people tell me that anyway.
LRI: There were many great players you worked with in the band, you have had a great working relationship with keyboardist Geoff Nicholls but also worked with greats like the late Cozy Powell as well as Neil Murray, Geezer and even Bill Ward for a brief spell. Did the lineup changes ever seem to bother the band from a creative or performance standpoint and do you think Geoff was treated unfairly at times by the organization?
Tony: Oh 2 questions there. Geoff was treated the way he was because the image makers sometimes Iommi, sometimes management were always trying to make the band LOOK credible. The thinking was that the one thing that is NOT usually associated with Sabbath is a keyboard player. So it was decided that Geoff would be off stage left, BUT then Geoff had SOOOOOO much input in the band and was such a close friend of Iommi that he would be brought out on stage until they would then battle with the Image thing again and Geoff would be off stage again. I don’t think it was ever really resolved but no one should doubt Geoff’s input to Sabbath!!!!!!! He was absolutely RIGHT in there!!!!! VERY influential.
LRI: In retrospect, I liked the cover art immediately on the “TYR” album while the music took some time to grow on me. Do you feel that the band was enjoying being slightly experimental on the “TYR” album after such a straightforward album as “Headless Cross”?
Tony: I think “TYR” was just another venture into the musical unknown for Black Sabbath. The cover art image was given to us by the management who came up with the name because I had written a song about vikings. Nothing intended either way but yes, very enjoyable.
Q: The “Cross Purposes” album and live DVD is definitely one of your highlights and the album certainly could have performed better if the climate were better for heavy music in general. Was the comfort level and chemistry as good during the “Cross Purposes” era as it sounds?
Tony: The fact is, the period making “Cross Purposes” was predictably awkward and as unsettling as ever, it was just put TOGETHER well!! Geezer Butlers wife Gloria became part of the management team and it got very “Cliquey” and also there were 5 managers then so it was confusing and that made it a LITTLE spinal tap! For all that, it still turned out to be a great product and I am very proud to have written that album.
LRI: You are very forthright with the fans who have supported and continued to support you during your career. Do you think that the current situation with Bill Ward and the Sabbath situation is one of the more divisive or difficult things fans have had to swallow over the years?
Tony: The Bill Ward thing is weird cause they always loved Bill. In fact, they never had a bad thing to say about him so I don’t quite get why they wouldn’t take time out to nurture him back into the fold. If he had any problems I cant see how a period of rehearsal and help from his band would not fix them and if its about money then WHAT THE FUCK??. He IS the original drummer, so yes he should be given a good cut of whatever, BUT I am not privy to the conversations between them so I don’t really know. I just see bands like Def Leppard who’s drummer had an arm RIPPED off in a car accident and they waited for YEARS until he developed a drum kit he could play with ONE ARM!!!!! Amazing dedication, which proves so well that nothing is impossible these days. THAT is why I dont get the Bill Ward thing.
LRI: You’ve been on the inside at various points and have maintained communication with your fans possibly more than any other member of the band. Do you think Black Sabbath fans have a tremendous amount of patience and forgiveness for some of the business end of things?
Tony: Sabbath fans are just as awesome as other rock fans, they will always want to see what the next chapter of the story is EVEN if it is just to criticize. In some ways it is a reflection of life in general, we don’t wanna look sometimes but we HAVE to! Not sure its patience as much as the human condition, but I DO know that rock fans in general are the most loyal and determined fans in the world. Great to see old timers STILL wearing the shirts and young things singing songs that were written WAY before they were born…….. All good …… all good!! I just wish people regarded the music itself more respectfully, its become a worthless art now and music has become a cheap throw away product, a fate that it does not deserve.
LRI: Thanks so much again for talking to us Tony! I know your band “Headless Cross” sounds amazing because I’ve watched the youtube videos but I would like to see you live. What can we all look forward to from you this 2013 and where can we all stay updated?
Tony: You are welcome. Mostly at the moment I am a Facebook junkie, I’m working on a new web site also and will announce that soon enough. 2013 as most of the other years are now about studio work for me. I have stopped touring because everyone expects me to work for free or for so little money that it just isn’t worth the effort. I have 3 sessions that are running but also there’s the Mollo & Martin “Third CAGE” album that was released last year (Dario Mollo/Tony Martin) which is still worth visiting. I also have a new publishing deal through SONY that I hope will open some doors, but apart from that just keep in touch and I’ll be able to fill you in with the events as they happen.
Tony Martin’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tony-Martin/311422092205243?ref=ts&fref=ts
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- Why can't Black Sabbath do a Def Leppard on Bill Ward? | Classic Rock | February 26, 2013