Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath - Tony Iommi, T.J. Lammers (2011)
Chapter 80. Iommi, the album
When I told Sharon Osbourne about my idea of making an album with all different singers, she was really interested in releasing it on the Osbournes’ label, Divine Records. We had some offers from other companies, but I thought, well, she’s good at what she does. She offered us a good amount of money, but, more than that, she was going to get it going, give it a kick up the arse, do the promotion. So we came to an agreement. We seemed to get on well then, but I couldn’t resist referring to the many disagreements we’d had in the past when I thanked her in the CD booklet, writing: ‘Who’d have thought it!’
I wrote some of the stuff at my house but most of it was done at producer Bob Marlette’s place in California. I didn’t quite know what direction to go in after the Sabbath stuff. Follow that or just go off a bit? What we ended up doing was still riffy, but more modern. Bob directed it that way, and he did a good job at that. He’s a keyboard player as well, and he had a good ear for what was needed. I wrote the riffs and he put a drum pattern and effects to them. He used a lot of effects, computerised stuff, because he was good at that.
We did what I’d wanted to do when I did Seventh Star. This time, there was huge enthusiasm. We had every singer we wanted and more. We actually had to turn people down. It was also a good experience for me to work with so many different artists. It was a challenge. Take, for instance, how we worked with Billy Corgan on the song ‘Black Oblivion’. We went into the A&M Studios and Billy was going to play bass and sing. He came down to the studio a few days before and I played him some riffs. I recorded them on a little cassette for him to take away and listen to. He came back a couple of days later and brought drummer Kenny Aronoff down to the studio with him. Billy said it would be nice to do a track with loads of different changes in it. We ended up writing and recording it at the same time. It was that quick. There’s actually a lot of stuff on the album that we played live. We were jamming and it really pushed your brain.
It helped to have Kenny Aronoff there as well, because he’s really good. I’m sure he’s one of the few who’d be able to play something with so many changes in it, there and then, as we were doing it.
‘Oh, let’s put another bit in here!’
Going through the whole song again and playing it live, it was nerve-wracking. I was working with people I’d never worked with before, writing songs I had to get my head around while normally I’d live with them a bit first, and all that in one day, writing it and recording it. ‘Black Oblivion’ with Billy was a tough song in particular, with all those different changes in it, but it turned out great and it was a good experience doing it this way.
‘Laughing Man’, with Henry Rollins, was one of the first we put down. Henry came over to Bob’s studio, which was basically a small room at his house. Henry was singing away into a microphone while I was sitting on the couch only a few feet away. It’s a very heavy track. We had played a couple of things to Henry and he picked that one and wrote all the lyrics to that. He really enjoyed doing it.
Another guy who was really up for it was Dave Grohl. When I had him come down to the studio to do ‘Goodbye Lament’, I already had Matt Cameron on drums and Dave said: ‘Oh, I’d love to play this track? Can I play drums as well as sing?’
So he played drums and he was really good. With most singers, like Serj Tankian from System Of A Down, Skin of Skunk Anansie, Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Ian Astbury from The Cult and Billy Idol, we’d send them a cassette with a track we’d written beforehand. They’d put lyrics to them, come down to studios, be there for the day and sing it.
Peter Steele’s ‘Just Say No To Love’ was very different, because he has such a unique voice. I knew him because we’d had Type O Negative on our tours so often. When he came to the studio he kept saying: ‘I’m so honoured to do this, that you asked me. And I’m really nervous.’
I said: ‘Don’t worry. Relax.’
Before he sang he said: ‘Have you got any wine?’
I got him a bottle of wine and to settle his nerves he gulped the whole thing down just like that. I felt sorry for him, really. He died in April 2010, which came as a huge shock to me. Peter was a big, tall and very, very nice guy.
Ozzy wrote the lyrics to ‘Who’s Fooling Who’. For Ozzy to sit down and write lyrics was unusual, but he came back with them and did it. It was much the same as when we did ‘Psycho Man’, one of the new tracks for the Reunion album. He came down and sat there and told a few jokes. It’s an all-day thing with him. He then put a bit down and Bob worked with him on that: get a verse first and then build that up. He had done two verses and then I had done an up-tempo thing which I wanted him to sing on as well, but he didn’t so I just played a solo in it.
The album was released in October 2000 and it was simply called Iommi. Sharon held a big launch party for it. She put a lot of work into it and I thought she did a good job. The album got great reviews all over the place and especially in America it received a lot of airplay. Sales were good as well, although I wasn’t really bothered about that. It was much more important to me that I’d done something that I had wanted to do for a long time. It was nice working with different artists, younger and older.