Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi

27th Dec 2011 | 08:38

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
Uncle Tony's wisdom nuggets

It’s obvious that Tony Iommi is a rare and prodigious guitar talent, but did you also know that he’s a respected wise man of rock? A sage without compare, here are eight nuggets of wisdom from Uncle Tony.

From Geezer’s bass skills and coping with (onstage) disaster, to inventing light gauge strings and being the one constant throughout Sabbath’s long and winding career, Iommi's had one hell of a ride.

Click through the gallery to find out the guitarist's thoughts on life, the universe and everything, plus a few amusing anecdotes thrown in for good measure.

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

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Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
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Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On Geezer Butler

“He started on guitar to begin with. I really like his style, Geez, and the way he improved and improved over the years. On that first album he was playing a lot of stuff that was really different. Instead of copying just what I was playing. The bass was usually just 'boom, boom, boom'. But he was like Jack Bruce was – they’d play harmonies, melodies or follow the riff, bend the strings. Bass players didn’t do that.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On producers

“Some producers didn’t understand the sound about Sabbath as a band full stop. Because if you play as a band and you separate each individual instrument, it probably sounds awful. Which it did.

"When we worked with a producer in later years we’d put a track down individually and they’d say, ‘Ooh the guitar sounds a bit ragged. The bass is really distorted.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah – that’s the sound and you’ve got to listen to it as a whole.’ They could never quite see that.

“I’d walk in the control room sometimes after we’d been out in the studio playing and they’d have me separated, or Geezer or Bill; whoever it was and I’d say, ‘Listen to it as a band, how it’s coming out as a whole– don’t analyse it...

"They tried to make the guitar cleaner. ‘Can you turn the guitar down a bit? Turn the amp down a bit?’ ‘No.’ We don’t do that – they just didn’t get it.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On onstage disasters

“Somebody came to stab me one night on the ‘Vol. 4’ tour, which wasn’t very good. I’ve had some embarrassing moments onstage too – we’ve had a lot of things blow up onstage.

"One of them wasn’t that long ago with the original lineup. We were doing this show in Los Angeles and we were special guests, surprise guests I should say. It was 100-odd thousand people and a revolving stage. We were at the back waiting to come on – they weren’t going to announce us or anything. We were going to come round and start playing, which we did then… nothing.

“As the gear had turned round it had ripped all the leads out of the amplifiers and it blew everything. It was being filmed by television as well. So embarrassing. My guitar tech nearly had a fit – he didn’t know what the hell was going on either.

"I was saying: ‘What’s happening - what shall we do?!’ We walked off and had to borrow Zakk Wylde’s gear. We were supposed to have another one of these shows in New York, but said forget it – it really put me off after that.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On inventing light gauge strings

“I used banjo strings in the early days because they didn’t make light strings. That was the lightest string I could get, banjo. And everybody said, ‘Banjo strings? You can’t use them.’ ‘Well I do.’

"I went to companies to try and get them to make some light gauge strings. They said, ‘Can’t do that’. But you could because I’d made my own sets up. They said they’d never sell.

"Then I went to Picato strings in Wales and they said they’d like to have a go at it, so they made some sets up and that was it – the birth of light gauge strings.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On lost guitars

“[There have been] lots. I had a really old three-pickup rare Gibson with a tremolo arm that you operated with your little finger, a 1940-something. I used it on ‘Paranoid’ when we did Top Of The Pops and then somebody stole it. Gibson made me another one, a newer version, and then somebody stole that as well from the bloody airport! So I didn’t have much luck with that.

“I’ve lost another four or five – taken from storage or wherever. Leslie West gave me a guitar that was later stolen, there were three that I had at a storage company and they claimed they were owed money by my old management so they took the guitars and sold them. But I do know this guitar collector who has got a couple of them and said if I ever want them back… but I don’t need them now.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On creating 'Volume 4'

“We wrote that album in LA – right in the Beverly Hills valley. We had a house there and in the basement part we set up our gear. But the thing was, the house was on a big hillside on a big dip so at night it was horrendously loud. We never even thought about it, but the neighbours all around must have been thinking, ‘What the hell is going on?’ Because you could hear a pin drop at night, but we used to be playing away and we wrote all the stuff there and recorded it.”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On Dio 'the joker'

“One thing Ronnie did to me – and he really did get me – was when we were recording the ‘Dehumanizer’ album in Rockfield Studios in Wales.

"I’d just bought a new Range Rover and I came down in that. I went outside one day and Ronnie said, ‘Tone, there’s a load of oil underneath your car.’ ‘I said – you’re kidding, it’s brand new!’ And what they’d done is they’d gone out and bought a gallon of oil and tipped it all under the car.

"So I saw this oil and thought, ‘Bloody hell!’ They never let on straight away that it was a joke and I was a really pissed off. I went to the Range Rover and I thought, 'I can’t start it in case it’s the gear box and it’s going to blow up'. They kept me going on about it – the buggers. And eventually they told me it was a joke. I’d bollocked everybody!”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

Buy Total Guitar for iPad, iPhone and iPod

Buy a digital copy of Total Guitar magazine
(US readers click here)

Gallery: The Wisdom Of Iommi
On steering Sabbath – and keeping the faith

“The toughest times were when everybody had left. I, like I am, would try to continue and will continue. I brought other people in to ween them into playing the way…it’s hard to get someone new in to play and make the sound the same.

"That’s very difficult because there’s only four people that played the same so whoever you’re going to bring in it’s never going to be the same. But you just continue because I’ve never wanted to say, ‘That’s it now’.

“I’ve never left – I’ve always been there. So people have come and gone. It’s a funny story with Sabbath because the amount of people who have left and come back and left and come back is amazing. I’ve played with a lot of them twice now – Ozzy came back, Ronnie left and came back, Tony Martin came back. Ian Gillan has come back in a sense with me [for the WhoCares charity single this year]. Cozy Powell was in and out, Neil Murray too.

"It’s really weird. I was glad I could still continue but there were hard times for me because I had to finance the whole thing. It was a lot of heartache trying to push through [at times].”

Total Guitar issue 223 (on sale 28 December to 27 January) features a full tab of Black Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’, as well a backing tracking, a guide to nailing the tones and the story behind the song.

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