Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 69. It’s Heaven and Hell again
In December 1990, after the final dates of the TYR tour, Geezer came back. He had enjoyed getting up on stage with us at the Hammersmith Odeon in September. Neil Murray said at the time that he thought it was really good when Geezer played. Neil was the sort of person who would go: ‘You should try it again with Geezer.’
We did, Geezer came back and Neil was never vindictive about it.
After Ronnie departed back in 1982, we didn’t speak for many years. It wasn’t like there was a lot of bad blood, but it was just a little uncomfortable. And he and Vinny were off doing the Dio stuff and they were doing quite well with it, so it was highly unlikely that we were going to team up again. But one day Geezer got on stage at one of Ronnie’s shows and played on ‘Neon Knights’ with them. They hadn’t seen each other for ages and really got on well. Geezer said to me: ‘It was really good. It felt great to play with Ronnie again.’
When I saw Ronnie again we started talking about doing a line-up. Vinny wasn’t playing with him any more at the time and Ronnie went: ‘I’ve got a really good drummer, Simon Wright.’
I went: ‘Well, we are thinking of using Cozy.’
That was a bit awkward because Ronnie and Cozy had played in Rainbow together and didn’t really get on that well. Eventually we went with Cozy anyway and started writing for what was to become Dehumanizer. It was a difficult time because we had already rehearsed with Tony Martin, who now had to leave the band. It wasn’t really fair on him. We had made a few great albums with Tony, but everybody was excited about the idea of getting Ronnie back, certainly the people at the record company and our managements as well. In a way we got the old line-up back, except for the fact that we now had Cozy on drums.
But it was just awful. There was real friction between our singer and our drummer. Ronnie wasn’t mad about having Cozy in the band and I remember Cozy going: ‘If that little cunt says anything to me, I’m going to smash him in the face!’
Ronnie went back to LA and so we brought Tony Martin in and rehearsed a bit with him. Ronnie returned once again, replacing Tony; it was just one big mix-up between these rehearsals. Then Cozy’s horse had a heart attack and fell on him, breaking his hip and knocking him out of action for a long time. If it wasn’t such a horrible thing to say, you could call his accident a blessing in disguise. I loved Cozy and he was a great friend, but you have to have the right combination in a band. We already had enough friction going on with everything anyway, so we needed to have something stable. Getting Vinny back was the obvious answer to all our problems.
Having Ronnie in the band was a good musical move, because the two of us worked well together. Even so, writing Dehumanizer took some doing, because we changed it around and analysed it too much. There was a lot of pressure because everybody was expecting so much from us. First of all we put Ronnie in a bit of a corner because we didn’t want him to sing anything about dungeons and dragons and rainbows. It was a difficult thing to say to him, because he’d sung about rainbows on every album he ever did and here, all of a sudden, he was faced with us going: ‘Can you not sing anything about rainbows, please?’
He had to rethink the whole thing.
‘I’ve always used rainbows!’
‘Well, you know, we think it’s a bit much.’
It got a little uncomfortable, and there were tense moments. We rented a house in Henley-in-Arden and Vinny and Ronnie lived there while the rest of us drove down to rehearsals from our homes. We jammed a lot together and came up with loads of stuff. Vinny taped everything. He’d give us a copy and then we’d live with it a bit. We analysed and pulled them apart a lot, but in the end we came up with some good songs.
Ronnie knew this German producer called Reinhold Mack, and we decided to use him. He had done Queen and ELO and Brian May said to me: ‘Are you definitely sure you are going to work with Mack?’
I said: ‘Why?’
He went: ‘Mwoah, hmm.’
In other words, we’ve used him and I’m not sure if you should use him. It didn’t sound like his experiences with Mack were altogether positive. He did produce it, but I think that album suffered from too much of a live drum sound. We recorded the album at the Rockfield Studios. Vinny played in this room that had glass all around and when I hear the album now I just hear the brightness in that room. Vinny liked it - drummers love that big sound.
Recording went well, though; it took us no more than six weeks. The album opened with ‘Computer God’. Geezer wrote the lyrics for that and since that album his input has gone from strength to strength. I’ve always wanted to get him involved musically as well: ‘Come on, show us one of your riffs.’
His immediate reaction was always: ‘Oh, you won’t like it. You’re going to laugh.’
But he’s never actually played me anything for me to laugh at.
‘After All (The Dead)’ was an amalgamation of Geezer’s stuff and mine. Geezer put one of the riffs in that song, which I thought was really good. He played a bit of guitar on it as well, just the little filly bit. When he played this idea to me, I couldn’t quite grasp what he was doing. He started playing it to show me, and I said: ‘I can’t get this, but you know it. Why don’t you play it?’, so he did.
‘Time Machine’ was a song that we’ve played throughout the years. We wrote it for the Wayne’s World soundtrack, and recorded it well before we went in with Reinhold Mack. Leif Mases had produced Jeff Beck’s album, and Ernest Chapman managed Jeff, so that’s how we got him in just to do that song. Leif had done the ABBA stuff in the early days. From ABBA to Sabbath - quite a stretch!
The final track of the album was ‘Buried Alive’, a mid-tempo song that had an almost grungy sound. If I say it like that, it sounds like we were influenced by grunge, but of course we weren’t. The grunge bands had obviously been influenced by us, and I heard a lot of them say that umpteen times as well. Even so, it wasn’t a particularly good time for our sort of music. Dehumanizer was very well received and it charted fairly high in the UK and the States, but we thought it would do even better than that, because we hadn’t been together for ten years.
Apart from all that, I was not pleased with everything that happened when we recorded it. This band wasn’t fitting like a glove, it was a bit volatile. We were about to go on tour, but at the same time I felt the thing could blow up at any minute.