The Drummers of Black Sabbath
11th Feb 2014 | 00:00
Bill Ward (1969-1980, various until 1994, 1997-2012)
“I’ve always regarded Sabbath as a live band and not particularly as a studio band,” recalls Ward of his early days with theb and, “so when I listen back to the albums I have to remember that we used to walk in, grab some mic stands, record the songs and then walk back out again!”
When asked at what point he began to feel that he was playing at an advanced level, Ward told Rhythm: “It was starting to happen on Master Of Reality. The bass drum sound had started to smooth out on Vol. 4, and then by the time we got to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, we were really coming along very well. When we did Paranoid, our band was out working 365 days of the year – so it was very much a band in transit. We were in and out of the clubs and theatres, and getting close to playing in stadiums by the time the album came out. We were making incredible progress as far as our live shows were concerned.”
Vinny Appice (1980-1982, various until 1997)
The younger of the famous hard-rock drumming brothers, Vinny was brought in initially to keep the seat warm for Bill Ward but ended up a more permanent fixture, recording Mob Rules and Dehumanizer.
“They were about midway into the Heaven And Hell album tour when I got in. As the tour went on, it became obvious that Bill wasn’t coming back so we started getting tighter and tighter and becoming a band. Then it was, ‘Alright, we’re going to do an album.’ ‘Okay, fantastic!’ We recorded in LA with Martin Birch producing. I had to play like myself and yet I had to think, ‘What would Bill do?’”
Bev Bevan (1983-1984, 1987)
Bev Bevan, drummer with The Move and ELO, was one of the famous generation of West Midlands drummers who basically invented hard rock in the late ’60s and early ’70s. He
Cozy Powell. He was a touring drummer with Sabbath in 1983 and 1984 and contributed to the 1987 album Eternal Idol after two changes in record producer. Recalling his and his contemporaries’ early days, he told Rhythm: “That was the thing in Birmingham; we were all really loud bastards. Me, Johnny Bonham, Cozy Powell and Bill Ward. Bonham used to watch me play and then steal my ideas.”
Eric Singer (1985-1987)
Prior to donning cat face paint for KISS, Singer had been Lita Ford’s drummer for just a year when he found himself drafted in to record Sabbath’s 1986 album Seventh Star.
“It was the first actual record i did for anybody! It was going to be a Tony Iommi solo album with lots of different singers but ended up becoming Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi and had Glenn Hughes singing on the whole record. Most of those songs started with just us jamming riffs; there were no melodies or arrangements, per se, with a vocalist in mind. It does help when you know what the vocal phrasing is going to be because as a drummer you can accentuate and be more melodic and enhance the arrangements. We didn’t have that luxury.”
Singer also played on the initial sessions 1987 for Eternal Idol.
Terry Chimes (1987)
The Clash’s original drummer Terry Chimes joined up with Tony Iommi’s touring Black Sabbath in 1987 (an Ozzy and Geezer-less line-up with Tony Martin on vocals).
A messy time for producer and line-up changes saw ELO’s Bev Bevan replace Eric Singer to finish Eternal Idol, but refuse to do shows promoting the album. So Chimes was brought in for live duties.
Chimes told Rhythm: “My manager said Black Sabbath needed a drummer and I said I’d love to do that, I really like that band, and being a drummer in a heavy metal band you get to do massive solos, massive drum kits, gongs, all sorts of things. So he phoned them up and they said, ‘Tell him to learn two or three songs.’ Well I actually got the live album and the other albums and i learned all of them, all the songs on the live album because I think that’s what you have to do. It’s very competitive, it’s very tough so you’ve got to work harder than everyone else, you’ve got to be better than anyone else. They’d been through drugs and drink and women and god knows what else and they said, ‘We aren’t going to be drinking or anything like that, we’re gonna go on stage and play our set and be on time.’ and I thought thank god, I’ve never had that before; a band that actually turns up on time and plays sober.”
Cozy Powell (1988-1991, 1994-1995)
The Rainbow and ‘Dance With The Devil’ rock drumming maestro had a couple of stints with Sabbath, mainly as touring drummer. He had begun to work on Sabbath’s 1990 album Dehumanizer with Geezer, Tommy and Ronnie James Dio, but suffered a hip injury in a horse riding accident, so Vinny Appice was brought in to record much to Cozy’s chagrin: “I was kicked out of the band because a horse fell on top of me,” he said. “I was disappointed [Tony Iommi] didn’t wait for me to recover.” Nevertheless he would return to Sabbath for touring duties in 1994.
Mike Bordin (1997)
Faith No More’s dreadlocked groove monster spent a couple of decades as Ozzy’s go-to guy, and once stepped in to help Sabbath out on some live dates in the ’90s. On working with Black Sabbath’s bat-eating genius, Puffy told Rhythm:
“A few years back, in Berlin, we were playing ‘Flying High Again’. Ozzy turned to me with a devilish look in his eyes and said, ‘I’m gonna get you!’ He started singing out of time just to fuck me up – and he got me! On the last run of dates, Ozzy sprayed the monitor desk with a foam gun! The tech decided to turn off the stage monitors so they wouldn’t blow. We couldn’t hear each other and we were totally off.”
Brad Wilk (2013)
Brad had the very real honour of playing on Black Sabbath’s 2013 album, 13, when contractual wranglings between Ward and the other Sabs resulted in the band’s founding drummer being left out of their reunion.
If anyone had to replace Bill, the band made a good choice as the Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave man has been majorly influenced by Ward. Of his hard rock wallop and tendency to play a little behind the beat, Wilk told Rhythm, “"To me, the backbeat is everything. I spent years listening to players who play on the backbeat. Bonham is absolutely one of my biggest influences. Even Bill Ward, when he played verse, he played on the back end of things. A lot of that whole backbeat thing has to do with where you put the grace note from the same drum that comes just before the 'one'. I really believe that that's something that is more felt than heard."
Tommy Clufetos (2012-present)
Sabbath’s current touring drummer and Rhythm cover star is the obvious choice for the hallowed drum seat, having played with Ozzy Osbourne since replacing Mike Bordin in 2010.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” he says in the March 2014 issue of Rhythm. “To play with Ozzy and then to play with Geezer and Tony, I just can’t ask for more than that. It’s been the pinnacle of my life so far. I’m learning and think I’ve gotten way better as a drummer. The only way to get better as a musician, a drummer or whatever is to do what you do with people that are better than you. So this is the ultimate in that and it has pushed me and that is the greatest gift.”
Read more of our great interview with Tommy, and find out just what it takes to be Black Sabbath’s sticksman in the new issue of Rhythm.