Pilgrimage: Hughes interviews Sabbath drummer Bill Ward
Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes says he became the “luckiest kid in the toy shop” when he was asked to film his pilgrimage to discover Black Sabbath’s roots. He tells Classic Rock what he learned while making VICE / Marshall Headphones documentary On The Road, which you can view in full at the end of this post.
Did you finally track down why Sabbath came to be called heavy metal?
Bill Ward goes, ‘We always considered ourselves heavy rock, and we were proud of that.’ Even though we’re calling it heavy metal the people making it are calling it hard rock. They won’t give it up, dude.
Did you get any vibe from Bill about not being in Sabbath at the moment?
I kinda gingerly danced around that subject, but he opened up to me. You could see real emotion in his face when he talked about the feeling he’d get when Tony Iommi would break into a chord. It was the most touching thing I’d seen – he just wants to play music, he just wants to be part of the band he started.
It’s suggested the band members haven’t actually talked to each other directly about it.
There’s a Black Sabbath song: ‘Too many people advising me, they don’t know what my heart sees.’ The band has complained about having to talk through lawyers, so I think it’s an even bigger outrage that they’d isolate the most sensitive and most wonderful member, just to make a few more bucks.
But it’s the advisers, and not the band?
Let me tell you a little secret about rock’n'roll: no matter how many times I’ve blamed shit on my manager, the reality is I told him to do it. Ozzy’s a sweetheart, but if he told me, ‘It’s not me, it’s the advisers,’ I’d say, ‘Fuck you, you’re in charge – you’re the boss.’
Did you try to speak to anyone else in Sabbath for the film?
We did. But I think the topic of band membership is too sensitive for them to want to expose. I think that speaks volumes about intention. It tells you where someone’s head and heart is at if they already know something’s wrong and they just want to avoid the question.
What was the vibe like at the Marshall factory?
Oh my God, it was wonderful. I fell in love with those people. I’ve never played Marshall in my life, but I was so impressed by those people that by the time I walked out I was a Marshall dude. Paul Marshall’s making me a hot pink combo amp.
And the vibe like at Rockfield Studios?
I got to be in the place where some of my biggest heroes have been. I hate to use a word like ‘magical’ because it’s so corny, but the vibe in Rockfield was absolutely fucking magical.
I’m glad that’s true – I wanted it to be true.
You know what, man? You’ve just hit the point for me. I want my heroes to be as cool as they seem. There was a level of trepidation entering into these hallowed halls. I didn’t want to take the chance they would break my heart.
Cynthia Plaster Caster… is she a sexy woman?
You know how the worse-ever blow job you ever got was amazing? I was trying to work that out with her the whole time. She was so sexy in spite of age it was hilarious. She’s really just a sweet old-fashioned American Catholic girl who just likes to fuck. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that, man. Bill Ward said sex is all part of it – it’s the muse, the inspiration. There’s always the wink and the nod – we all know what’s really going on here. Even LIttle Richard, a gay dude, was singing about fucking chicks.
What was it like being surrounded by all those plaster dongs?
It was surreal… when I held Jimi Hendrix’s cock in my hand and it was five times the size of a baby’s arm holding an apple, I was pretty disturbed. This white guy right here, I’m sitting pretty but I ain’t blessed that much, you know what I mean?
You met guys from midlands bands Quartz and Diamond Head. Did they all have a similar attitude to the Sabbath guys?
Their attitude was, ‘We love rock’n'roll, we just want to be in a great band. We don’t care about the bullshit, but if you want to talk about the cool stuff, here we are.’ It’s a precious thing. Enthusiasm and a fair-minded attitude are critical.
Did you hear Sabbath have been named the most important heavy band in British history?
I completely concur. There’s a real urgent sensitivity in the metal from that time. They’re talking about shit they care about, and that makes them emotionally centred. You can tell when a motherfucker’s just singing whatever it is that will make him look cool. When Sabbath came out they weren’t under any delusions that people would think they were cool.
Sadly, Sabbath won’t be around for ever, no matter how much we’d like them to be. What will we do when they’re gone?
Some of us – I got a feeling it’s going to be you and me leading the charge on this one, my man – we’re going to create the phoenix, bring it back to life. As long as there are people who really love it, it’ll go into them. It may come out sounding a bit different but it’ll always come back round.