|Legendary Drummer Bill Ward of Black Sabbath Talks About His "Absence of Corners" Fine Art Release - And More!|
|Tuesday, 17 September 2013 21:54|
We recently got on the phone with legendary Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward and had the privilege of interviewing him about his recently released fine art collection "Absence of Corners - A Collection of Rhythm on Canvas." We did manage to discuss a few other interesting things and talk about his drumming a bit.
We had such a good time talking, Bill agreed to do a column for us in an upcoming issue of Sick Drummer Magazine. We sent Bill 10 videos of drummers representing various "metal" styles to check out and asked that he give us his feedback on each one. This will soon be published in a column on the progression of metal drumming. We hope you enjoy the interview and check back to see his column in the coming weeks.
SDM: First of all Bill, thanks for the opportunity to interview you, it's an absolute honor to say the least. What part of the world are you calling me from today?
BW: I'm calling from sunny California.
SDM: I have read some information you have posted about your art on your website and seen a couple other interviews as well. I understand it took about a year to put together in cooperation with the L.A based SceneFour, but roughly how much time do you think went into each individual piece?
BW: Actually it took less than a year. We didn't start the project until spring of this year, so it actually moved quite quickly. Besides the actual photo shoot (we did two shoots; one went for an hour and a half and the other for about an hour a couple weeks later), I don't know how much time ScenFour spent getting exactly what they wanted from the pictures, but can tell you we had a lot of cameras on the actual shoots! A lot of lighting, visual effects, different sticks and so forth. What took the most time was for me to study the pictures, name them and to come up with the verbiage, as the pictures all reminded me of different things. So it probably took about a month for me to elaborate on what was existing. I think prior to printing and getting everything out to the public on August 1st, probably 3.5 to 4 months would be a safe estimate.
SDM: How many total pieces are there in the collection?
BW: I think there's fifteen, but I could be wrong, as there could be a couple others lying around and I believe there's a total of like 306 productions of those pieces all together.
SDM: You mentioned taking time to review the work and come up with names for each one, which reminded me of something else I have seen on the web. You said that from your childhood you have always written in visuals, as well as having sounds, images or colors attached to drum parts in your head. Can you give me an example of a memory of images or colors coming now to fruition with this project and this art?
BW: Sure, yes I can. The one picture that was very striking and reminded me of my childhood was "Indestructible Youth", which I love! There was something about that one that brought back some great memories. I can see two things in the picture: I can see something going on that to me was very "push and pull" and I started to think about that, you know... the push and pull of life. It reminded me of being a kid and my youth, and it was always push and pull.
I also remember taking all kinds of risks and at the time being oblivious to danger and really thinking back then how I could really do anything that I wanted. It's that mindset we have where we think we are indestructible. I know at least I went through that phase, where everything was excessive! Like if I drove a fast car I'd just have to take it to 130 miles per hour or more, you know! I paid the price for that by the way, as I've crashed a number of cars and am very lucky to still have my life and that was early on around 20-21 years old. I think that's the first time I've ever shared that with anybody actually.
SDM: Was this here in the States or was it over in the UK?
BW: It was over in England.
SDM: Sorry, I just found it interesting that you said 130 miles per hour, and not like 200-210 kilometers per hour... haha
BW: Oh no [laughs] we still had miles then, before everybody went all European!
SDM: What kind of car was it, do you recall?
BW: The one that I turned upside-down was a Jensen Interceptor, which was a very, very nice car. To add a little bit of drama to the story, I was listening to 'A Day In The Life' by The Beatles. I was a bit under the influence and was on my way down to the public house to get some more cigarettes. I left our farm house and was already doing 90 when I accelerated more and I hit a bump or something and just went out of control. I ended up down in the passenger's seat [there was no passenger thank goodness] and managed to turn the engine off, right before I went sky high and rolled a couple of times. But the car and I landed exactly on the last note of the song, you know right at the end there's that big keyboard note [insert dramatic low tone here]. It was ironic to me and I couldn't believe I was still alive laying upside down in a ditch, it was terrifying. I'll tell you it sobered my ass right up! At least for that evening it did [laughs].
Another picture I wanted to talk about was "Intuitive Peril". When I saw it I was reminded again of my youth. There's some darkness in this one and it really scared me actually, I don't really like it [being scared, not the art]. I'm really sensitive to stuff like that, like if I watch a horror film I'm one of those guys that's grabbing onto the edge of the chair, you know. So, Intuitive Peril reminded me of when we were kids and how sometimes we have the intuition to know something is in fact wrong. Now earlier when I was talking about Indestructible Youth, there were a lot of times I would go do something not realizing what the consequences could really be, but also in my Intuitive Peril, there were other times maybe where I would want to stand really, really close to the train tracks as the steam train rushed past. I remember the Porter's being very angry and shouting at me because the suction of the train could pull me right under the wheels.
I remember being in dark places in my youth, on the streets, and intuitively just knowing there was danger near by. Back then on our streets we never really knew who was going to show up in the dark and I had a wild imagination, which didn't really help the situation at all really. The Intuitive Peril picture reminded me of some of the things we go through as children and I think it's a really healthy thing to have realized. These days with the kids we know, including my own children and grandchildren, I'm really glad they have that. It's like their first form of defense, when they know something is wrong or not quite right and can take an almost defensive posture. Now these are just little guys and there's not a lot they can do, but they'll know when something's not right and that's a good start and I feel good knowing they have that inside them.
I like "Fire and Brimstone (In My Pocket)" as well, and I like it again because it comes back to that scary stuff when I was a kid. I got introduced to scary stuff through the things we used to see on TV. All the soft stuff, you know, like a witch or fire and brimstone and wondering what that really was. Going through Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th in England [also known as bonfire night or firework night] as well as hearing about these things on Halloween, like spooks and spectre's and things like that. So I was introduced to an almost light-hearted look at fire and brimstone, but later on it became much more than just that glimpse.
It became a very terrifying view of what hell can be like on earth and what man can bring to his fellow man, and I was absolutely terrified by the power we have as human beings and the pain we can bring to other people. So then it became much different, much more than just the idea of fire and brimstone I had seen as a child. That's why in the title of that particular piece I put "In My Pocket" in parenthesis, as today a lot of that evil and other stuff, it's in my pocket and I no longer live in that terrifying place. I feel like I've gone through so many experiences of really tough things happening to me and really bad things happening to friends of mine, and seeing some very morose, horrible things in my life. It's like... ok! I've had a lot, I've seen a lot, and I've seen the damage we can do to one another and all of that's encompassed in that piece of art.
SDM: I'm looking at it right now and if it was actually a photo of me, I would say it almost reminded me of me looking at myself from the outside, like an astral-projection or something like looking down at yourself from another plane. Like looking at the evil you have seen from an outside point of view. It's very strange.
BW: Yea, it's weird isn't it!
SDM: It's very cool, strange and symmetrical. Hell, it almost looks like an album cover!
BW: Yea, a lot of them actually look like album covers [laughing]. Actually, Ian, that's not a bad idea!
SDM: There's a lot of guys recently who have done similar art projects, like Stephen Perkins, Jose Pasillas, Mickey Heart, Carl Palmer, Rick Allen and others. Have you had the chance to see any of their art?
BW: I haven't seen any of Carl's. I think I've only seen Jose's and I've just seen a little bit of it. SceneFour, the company I work with who put this together showed me the stuff from Jose and I believe they work with Carl as well. It's an interesting form of doing something on a rainy day and coming up with something amazing to look at.
SDM: It's a very cool project for sure. Were you the kind of person who was always into art? Did you experiment with art before this project came about?
BW: Only with album covers, you know. I tend to be quite active, especially with my own work, my own music and I got involved with a couple of the Black Sabbath album covers as well. Another thing we've been working on has been taking pictures of me over time for the last three years, so we can show the aging process [laughs]. It's just crazy stuff!
I also like writing poems, Ian. One of the other things we've got going on, and I don't know when it will be done, is that we seem to have a lot of pictures and I've been writing poems that seem to fit the pictures quite well. Sometimes the poem will be four lines, but other times the poems run three or four pages - I like the extremes, I like extremities. I don't have some kind of advisor in my head saying, "well... you can only do one page." Sometimes I like to just kick it out and go on for a few pages and not knowing it's going to end there ahead of time, as it could in theory go on for a hundred pages until I feel it's complete. I have that kind of attitude and it's similar to when I play drums in the sense that I'm really uncompromising and know when I want something to go this way or that way. I don't like it if my head comes up with a rule, and if someone puts a rule in my head I have to kind of circumnavigate around it.
SDM: So the collection was released on August 1st, what kind of response have you been getting from people, fans... and have they been selling well?
BW: Yea! They're selling! That's actually something I wasn't looking for, but somebody told me and I said "Wow! that's nice" [laughs] and I'm kinda laughing because I do a lot of things, but I don't sell a lot of things, you know. We're having some material success and most everybody that we talk to really love what we're doing, they love all the artwork, they're enjoying the pictures and we're getting a lot of publicity. Everything seems to be just turning out great, you know. It started out as me in a black room playing drums and not quite knowing exactly what I was doing there, to becoming more and more engaged in the project and now its taken on yet another progression in terms of touching people. We are getting emails from people saying "thank you so much." It has reached across the world and a lot of people are giving applaud to SceneFour and to myself for the work, so its been a very nice project to be part of. Plus, it's nice to get a little bit of applause every once in a while, especially as of lately with the way my other current circumstances have been going honestly. I'll take that!
As for the sales, I know that we had a high volume of sales before they actually went on sale and they told me that was a good thing, so there we go.
SDM: Have you put any thought into doing something like this or similar again, either with them or on your own?
BW: I don't know. I'm just seeing this as something that happened, so I'm reluctant to say "hey, let's do that again." I mean I'd be interested in other things and I try to have an open mind towards whatever might be going on and participating in it, but I'm not one to just show up and go for the same thing again. That would feel a bit wonky to me, but we can go down a new path instead of taking the same one again.
SDM: I suppose that would also take away from the exclusivity of it all and defeat the idea behind the limited-editions people have already purchased as well.
BW: Yea, whatever the viewer has and experienced is great. I don't want to take away from that, but to let the experience be and leave it alone. Then whatever the next thing to do is, I'll just go ahead and do that.
SDM: You mentioned a while ago about having input on at least a couple of the Black Sabbath album covers. Can you talk about that and maybe expand a bit on which ones in particular you had the most input on?
BW: One of them was Sabotage. My drum roadie and myself got together over the course of a few weeks and we came up with the idea of the big mirror and wanting to make sure we could see all the way through it. So we would stand in front of the mirror, but our backs were on the other side of the mirror and I thought that was a pretty cool concept back in the late 70's, you know.
SDM: Yea that was released in 1975
BW: 75' oh right then. You know it seemed like something worthwhile and the actual idea of it we thought was very good. We went as far as looking at exactly how this was going to be put together, but what became more historic than anything else was our attire. We showed up for the shoot one morning in London and everyone was dressed so [pausing, laughing] incredibly different and indifferent. So the shoot turned out to be [still laughing] an attire disaster and I think that "yours truly" turned out to be the biggest disaster in it. I basically ended up wearing my wife's tights, which has become the most famous thing about that album cover now.
I just found this out a few weeks ago... Apparently somebody put up a Facebook page all about my red tights on the Sabotage album cover, so I guess I've got fame at last! It's just up on Facebook and it's almost like a monolithic statement to my Wife's ever-lasting red tights. It's taken on a movement of it's own [still laughing] it's so cool man, it's wonderful to laugh at!
SDM: Did working on this art project with SceneFour teach you anything new throughout the whole process?
BW: I think one of the things that happened was when I started to connect the titles to the pieces. When that began to happen I started to be able to recognize some emotions that I had. I found myself having a way out, a vulnerability, for really publicly allowing some emotions to become known and that did me a world of good. I haven't been very public with the public as of lately, but I realize that did me a lot of good and was very therapeutic for me and I've enjoyed coming out into the open a little bit. Usually I'm very, very verbal and have no problem having a conversation with anybody, but I have been very quiet the last year and it helped me enormously. It has put a spring back in my step and that was important, so there was yet more gifts for me that I had received from doing this project. It's been really nice to kind of come out to the blue skies and the sunshine a little bit.
SDM: Wow, really glad to hear you say these things Bill... it's simply awesome. Will we maybe be able to hear you behind the drums again anytime soon, regardless of who it may be with?
BW: I think the soonest it's going to be is probably on an album we are trying to finish right now. We're in the final mix and some of the tracks are mastered. It's an album called "Accountable Beasts" and I've been working on and off with it for about five years. I play seven or eight of the drum tracks on it, have put a lot of really hard work into it and I wrote most of the material. I am quite pleased with the amount of work I've put into the album to date and I'm hoping it will come out at some point in the near future. I can't say definitely, but I can say that we are working on the final mix and I kind of have a goal behind that, which is let's get this thing finished and mixed as soon as possible. We are working on that right now, in fact this very day, to go into the studio and so on and so forth. Setting up our dates, studying my mix sheets, and working out final over-dubs if any need to be done. We have some of the material which is already what I like to call "master-mixed", it's board mixed and we don't need to touch it, it just goes to mastering. There's nine songs on the record I believe, so that would be the first time you'd get to hear me drumming again, at least at this point. We have other projects that are going on as well, but it's a bit too early to tell yet.
SDM: You said you wrote most of the material, would that be guitar as well?
BW: Yes. Well, I don't play guitar but what allows me to be able to work with guitar is that I have an incredible guitar player. He's so open-minded that when I take my keyboard notes to him, I'll just play a little bit of the melodies and such. I love working with melodies and I can work out a lot of the different parts, so when I do that my lead guitar player is extremely amicable. We put our ego's outside the door and it's like... ok! let me see what we can achieve here. Let me see if I can produce these things you're trying to get at. It's a very good working arrangement and he sounds absolutely great on the record, he's fuckin' rock-n-rolling! I mean, it's really good! I obviously like it and I hope everybody else will, but it's definitely a good piece of work.
For more information on Bill Ward's Fine Art Collection, please visit: http://www.billwarddrumart.com/