Bill Ward contract claim was ‘joke’
Geezer Butler has finally broken Black Sabbath’s silence on the “soap opera” surrounding Bill Ward’s part in their reunion.
And he’s confirmed Ozzy Osbourne’s drummer Tommy Clufetos will replace the original member for their upcoming shows, including tonight’s homecoming gig in Birmingham, UK.
Ward this week confirmed he wouldn’t be participating in the band’s three shows or their new album after he didn’t receive a contract he felt was “signable”.
Now Butler says the drummer’s demands were outrageous – and that he didn’t tell his bandmates about his unhappiness before posting an online announcement earlier this year.
And the bassist says the strands of the argument became difficult to deal with in the light of guitarist Tony Iommi being diagnosed with cancer in December.
In a website post entitled “Heavy Heart” Butler reports: “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 chemotherapy 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 three of us quietly putting together ideas. We thought when we had enough songs together for a full band rehearsal, we’d move back to LA and put the whole thing together with Bill.
“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.”
The bassist explains the band wanted to keep just one show on the cancelled tour itinerary, at Download in Donington next month, and they knew they wouldn’t make much money from it.
“As you may expect, a one off show costs an absolute fortune to stage, involving over 50 people, transport, air fares, hotels, meals, agents, promoters, accountants, lawyers etc,” writes Butler. “It was a 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.”
He confirms they started rehearsing with Clufetos, who he describes as a “good bloke,” a few weeks ago.
And he addresses Ward’s suggestion that he’d been asked to play the band’s Birmingham warm-up for free, saying: “The O2 Academy was available, where we were rehearsing. 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’.”
But Butler continues: “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.”
The band haven’t commented on the design of their new website, which includes pictures from their history cropped to make Ward invisible. The official discography only includes albums featuring Osbourne on vocals. The biography retains Ward in pictures and text.