Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)

Chapter 86. Heaven and Hell, tour and band

In the autumn of 2006 Ralph told me that the record company wanted to put a package together of stuff from the Dio era. I’d seen Ronnie not long before that at a gig in Birmingham. It had been fifteen years and it was good to see him again. So I said to Ralph: ‘Why don’t we ask Ronnie if he’d be interested in doing two songs especially for this album, just a couple of one-offs?’

Ronnie was interested and flew over from California. We sat down in my kitchen, having coffee, and another coffee, trying to get to know each other again. We didn’t want to actually start yet, we were a bit like, oh, yeah, what are we going to do?

Finally I said: ‘Well, shall we have a go then?’

‘Oh. All right.’

We went into my studio and it just jelled again like it used to. Instead of the two songs the record company wanted, we wrote three. We were in good spirits and feeling productive so we thought, why don’t we do a fast one, a slow one and a mid-tempo one? Something for everybody. The first song we wrote was ‘Shadow Of The Wind’, the slow one. Ronnie came up with the riff and then we added more to it and built it into a song. I came up with the riff for ‘The Devil Cried’. Ronnie had to go back home to LA for a few days and I sent him a rough take of it. He really liked that. And we wrote the fast one, ‘Ear In The Wall’, after he’d come back again. Geezer came over and we demoed the three tracks in the studio at my house.

I’d always been in contact with Bill and I said to him: ‘Would you be interested in doing these tracks with us?’

He went: ‘That sounds really good. I’d love to do that!’

I got him over to England a week before the others came, so that we could run through the ideas and he could get used to playing these songs. I had sent Bill a track about three weeks earlier as well, so he could start working on that. But he obviously hadn’t. Then Ronnie and Geezer arrived. Everybody was getting a bit impatient, because Bill was taking his time. He wanted to analyse everything and try out different things, which is the way he is. It was a bit difficult, because I was being asked: ‘How long is it going to be?’

All I could say was: ‘I don’t know!’

Unfortunately we were working to a strict deadline and Ronnie in particular was keen to get going and return home. We talked to Bill about it and suggested a couple of ideas, but he wasn’t happy to play the sort of thing that we were hearing on the tracks. It just didn’t work out. Bill wasn’t going to be the one to play on it. We thought about putting the band back together and touring as well, but Bill said: ‘I don’t particularly want to be doing a lot of shows.’

It would have been funny for Bill anyway, because a lot of the music we were going to be playing would’ve been new to him, as he’d played on the Heaven and Hell album but Vinny had done Mob Rules and Dehumanizer. Because of all this, we got Vinny in to play on these three tracks instead. And that was it. Ronnie and Geezer went back home and the tracks were added to the album. It came out and the interest was great.

As soon as promoters heard that we had written three new tracks together, they went: ‘When are you going to tour?’

We talked about it among ourselves and decided to take it stage by stage. We didn’t want to commit ourselves for years to come. We thought, okay, let’s do a tour and see what happens.

They booked a tour and we went and did it. By the time The Dio Years came out in April 2007, we were on the road in Canada and the States. It was great and it really went down well. It was the first time in nearly forty years that I was touring under a different name. We didn’t want to call it Black Sabbath, as we had been touring with the Ozzy line-up again as well and we didn’t want to confuse people. We weren’t playing the old stuff either; we stuck to the songs we’d recorded with Ronnie. At first we weren’t going to call ourselves anything and just use our own names, while calling this tour the Heaven and Hell tour. But soon people were calling the band Heaven & Hell and we stuck with that.

We started with Megadeth and Down with Phil Anselmo, whose spot was taken by Machine Head mid-tour. It went really well. We played more than thirty dates all over America and in May we went over to Europe for summer festivals and arenas. And then we welcomed Down back for two weeks in Australia and New Zealand. Throughout September we toured America again, this time with Alice Cooper and Queensrÿche. We’d known Alice for quite a while and he’s a nice guy. Eric Singer was his drummer at the time. During that tour I saw Alice a couple of times in the lobby of the hotel.

‘You’re going out for a bit?’

‘Yeah, going to play a round of golf.’

Finishing in Japan, we were a bit sad that that might be the end. I said to Ronnie: ‘Would you be interested in doing another album?’

‘Yeah, I’d love to do that. What about Geezer?’

‘We’ll ask.’

Geezer joined us in this Japanese restaurant and he didn’t last five minutes because he’s a vegan. Of all the places to go with us that was the wrong one, because we were eating raw fish and everything. He only came in for a drink, saw them put all the live shrimps on the grill, got really angry and buggered off.

But he was up for it, and so was Vinny.

That settled it: we were going to make another album!