One of my favourite eras of Black Sabbath is the series of albums recorded with vocalist Tony Martin. Tony Iommi seemed to broaden his composing, he unleashed some of his greatest tones ever during this period, and he was pushed to new heights of lead guitar playing. Something about the Iommi/Martin dynamic seemed to bring great things out of both musicians. Today I had the honour of interviewing Tony Iommi for an upcoming Mixdown article about the final Black Sabbath tour, and the fine folks at that mag kindly allowed me to set aside a few minutes of the interview for an I Heart Guitar-exclusive diversion to talk about this era. In the wake of the recent news that Iommi hopes to record with Martin again, I thought we’d start there:
How do you look back on the Tony Martin era? Some of those albums, particularly Tyr and Cross Purposes, almost sound like progressive metal albums that came out 15 years later.
I really liked it. I enjoyed it. I mean, I’ve got to enjoy it, I wrote the songs! [laughs] I think it was a different thing. We had a good run, really.
And there are reports going around that you’re planning to work with Martin again.
I did say it just in passing… I did an interview the other day and everyone said ‘whoa, he’s gonna work with Tony Martin.’ And what it was, the guy asked if we were going to put out any of the old albums and the answer was ‘I’d like to do that, to put out reissues of the albums, but also I’d like to have a look at Forbidden and try and mix it again, because it wasn’t good.’ The guy who did it …I didn’t like it. And that’s what I said, when I said ‘Yeah, and I’d like to maybe record a couple of tracks with Tony to put on as a bonus sort of thing.’ So that’s where we went with that.
He’s still a phenomenal vocalist…
I’ve kept up with his career since Sabbath and he’s still great.
He is! And it’s a shame because in the day it took a lot for people to accept him. It’s taken all these years later for people to say ‘Oh blimey, that was a good band with good singing.’ So it took a long time to get people to really realise how good it was.
I’ve always thought Headless Cross would make a hell of a stage show, a West End or Broadway kind of thing. It’d be a very dark one, but you could do it!
Well! [Laughs] We used to play most of that on stage. For me though, after this Sabbath tour I’m not going to be doing tours again. I might do occasional shows but I’m not going to be going on tour like this again. Otherwise if I was I’d be doing it with these guys! But that’s the plan, to basically retire from touring. I’d still like to record, but touring for me is …I get very tired. I love doing the shows but it’s all the travelling. You get very exhausted with it, and arriving at 4 o’clock in the morning in a hotel doesn’t excite me any more.”
You must have so many song ideas and potential collaborations in mind that you’ve never had the time to do.
I’ve got, honestly, hundreds and thousands of riffs and songs that I just never got round to using, really. It’ll be interesting to have the time to sift through the stuff and see what I’d like to use. But what I tend to do is not go back on stuff: I tend to start writing new stuff, so it accumulates more then!
I’ve always liked the little acoustic and instrumental interludes. An album of just that stuff would be great!
Yeah! It’s great because I’m quite excited about being able to experiment more in my own time, as opposed to “We’ve gotta do an album, we’ve gotta do this, we’ve gotta do that.” So it’ll give me time to look at things like that.”
Black Sabbath Australia and New Zealand Tour Dates
April 15, Perth Arena, Perth, WA
April 17, Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Hindmarsh, SA
April 19, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, VIC
April 23, Allphones Arena Sydney, Olympic Park, NSW
April 25, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall, QLD
April 28, Vector Arena, Auckland, NZ
April 30, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, NZ