20 QUESTIONS WITH
BLACK SABBATH / GZR bassist GEEZER BUTLER!
It should not even be necessary to write an introduction for Mr. Terrence "Geezer" Butler, being that the man’s reputation more than precedes him. But just in case you’ve been frozen under a glacier for the past century, we’ll go over the basics exclusively for your benefit.
As a distinguished founding member of the one and only Black Sabbath, Geezer Butler’s songwriting has laid the groundwork for the very nature and sound of Heavy Metal music, and his playing has influenced literally hundreds of thousands of bands that have attempted to follow in his footsteps. Over the past four decades, he has traveled the world many times over on sold-out arena tours, released a plethora of multi-platinum albums, and even won a Grammy (as we’re soon to find out). But today, Geezer Butler’s career reaches a new height as he steps forward and does 20 Questions with Metal Sludge! Hooray!
How were we able to pull it off?
That’s simple. Geezer knew that Metal Sludge is to Web sites as Black Sabbath is to Heavy Metal, so he was as down to talking with us as we were with him! Plus he’s got a new album coming out in a few weeks with his other band GZR, so he wanted to tell us all about it.
This interview was conducted this very afternoon (April 26, 2005) by our old friend Sir Wendell Neeley of the Classic Metal Show. Wendell shot us the audio immediately after he finished talking to Geezer, and the staff at Metal Sludge proceeded to spend several hours transcribing it. We work hard to please the Sludgeaholics! So without further ado, here’s this week’s 20 Questions with the legendary Geezer Butler.
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.
I?ve just finished my new album called ?Ohmwork? with my band GZR, and it?ll be out May 10th in the U.S. And then I go on tour in the summer with Black Sabbath on the OzzFest and then some European dates.
2. Your new album ?Ohmwork? is definitely a stripped-down, heavy album. We heard that, like the early Sabbath albums, it was recorded in only 10 days! How is ?Ohmwork? different than the other GZR albums, and how do you feel it stands in today?s musical climate?
Um, well, all the albums under the ?GZR? title have been recorded in between 10 to 12 days. ?Cause everybody has other commitments, so we have a very limited timeline in which to do it. And I prefer working fast anyway, ?cause people concentrate more when they know they have to get down and do it, whereas if you?ve got like 6 weeks or something, everybody disappears down to the pub for days on end. So this way, we can all get down to it and do what we?re there to do. And as far as how it stands up today, well, I don?t really think about it. We do what appeals to the band? what pleases us first.
Wendell: Well, you?ve pretty much reached a point in your career where you can call all the shots, whether it?s popular today or not.
Yeah, well, you know, I can?t possibly compete with a lot of the younger bands or anything like that, and I don?t want to. I just like to do whatever I fancy at any particular time.
3. Why did you switch from a solid, known singer like Fear Factory?s Burton Bell to a virtually unknown rookie like Clark Brown after the ?Plastic Planet? release?
Well, Plastic Planet was always gonna be a 1-off with Burton Bell, because his main commitment is Fear Factory. And after the, you know, an album by me was the first album under my own name, or my band, and I didn?t really know how it was going to be accepted. And, because of how well it was received, it gave me the confidence to just go on and do another album, and so on and so forth. But I wanted to give it its own particular sound. A lot of people thought that ?Plastic Planet? was actually a Fear Factory album, ?cause they hadn?t heard of G/Z/R at the time. So to give it its own sound, I had to get a permanent singer just for GZR. And I did lots of auditions, and Clark got the job.
4. Rank the following bass players on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a broken-fingered hack, and 10 being a God of the bottom end.
Geddy Lee = Geddy Lee?s gotta be at least a 9
Ian Hill = Who?s that?
Wendell: He?s with Judas Priest!
Oh, ha! LOL. 8.
Glenn Hughes = 8
Gene Simmons = 3
Steve Harris = 8
Pete Way = 4
Nikki Sixx = 3
Jason Newsted = 6
Lemmy = 6
Chip Z?Nuff = Who?s that?
Wendell: Chip Z?Nuff, from Enuff Z?Nuff?
Wendell: The band Enuff Z?Nuff?
I don?t really know them.
5. Does it bother you that Black Sabbath doesn?t have a Grammy award, but Motörhead does?
Ah, Black Sabbath DOES have a Grammy award!
Wendell: They do?
Wendell: I guess I?m misinformed then.
We got one for ?Iron Man.? About 3 or 4 years ago.
Wendell: It looks like you called us on a bad question here, Geezer.
Hahaha! Well, we didn?t really publicize it, and that part certainly wasn?t on the televised portion of the Grammy?s that day. None of us turned up for it anyway.
(Note: Sorry about that! A certain pigtailed staff member of Metal Sludge came up with that question. He’s since been reprimanded and docked a week’s pay, so deal with it.)
6. We heard that Milwaukee, Wisconsin is your favorite American city, yet isn?t that the same place where you got hit in the head with a bottle and a riot ensued on the Heaven & Hell tour, way back in the early 80s? What?s the deal?
Um, it?s true I got smacked in the head there, but it?s certainly not my favorite American city. I don?t know where that came from.
(Note: That came from an interview that rock journalist Bob Lang did with Geezer Butler in April 1994, which was printed in Boston Rock issue #139. It’s also posted at black-sabbath.com and can be read HERE. So feel free to blame them for that bit of misinformation, not us. We always validate our information, people! Well, except in the case of question #5 above. Alright, never mind.)
Wendell: Then what is your favorite American city?
In America? Oh, I?ve got lots. Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle? Chicago?
Geezer Butler with Black Sabbath on the David Letterman show, 1998
7. In your opinion, who?s the most overrated band today?
The most overrated? In what genre?
Wendell: In metal.
Oh, gosh. That?s a hard one. I don?t really keep up with it that much.
Wendell: Well you must have seen a lot of them on OzzFest!
Well, there was one on OzzFest that I didn?t understand whatsoever, and that was Dimmu Borgir. They?re German or Swedish or something. I just didn?t get that at all.
8. Of the following, which do you prefer:
Rare Breed or Polka Tulk = Polka Tulk were the beginnings of Black Sabbath, so I?d have to go with Polka Tulk.
Bread pudding or Shepherd?s Pie = It?d have to be vegetarian Shepherd?s pie. I?m a vegan.
Bon Scott or Brian Johnson = Ooh, that?s hard. I like ?em both equally.
Uriah Heep or Budgie = Probably Uriah Heep
Vinnie Appice or Mike Bordin = Vinnie Appice
Monty Python or Benny Hill = Monty Python
Wimpy?s or Burger King = I?m a vegan, so it doesn?t apply.
Anthrax or Megadeth = Anthrax
Chihuahuas or iguanas = Ooh, Chihuahuas
Poison or Warrant = Uuuuuurrgghhhhhhhhh!!!!! (Note: That?s the sound Geezer actually made when we asked him that question! ?Uuuuuurrgghhhhhhhhh!!!!!? There?s no other way to transcribe it.) Uuuuuurrgghhhhhhhhh! Hahahahhaha! Neither of them!
9. What ?rock star? deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
Probably me! Hahhahahahah! I don?t know. I can?t? I?ll plead the fifth on that one.
Old-ass pic of Black Sabbath, 1971
10. Is Pedro Howse a better guitar player than Tony Iommi because he has his full fingers to play with?
Not in hell. Not a hell?s chance! He?s good, but he doesn?t even put himself in the league of Tony Iommi.
11. Give us a quick memory about writing or recording the following songs:
The Wizard = The Wizard, I was reading ?Lord of the Rings? at the time, and I just based the lyrics on that. Gandalf.
Snowblind = Snowblind, we were all coked out of our heads in L.A. We seemed to be doing more cocaine then playing music, so we wrote it about our exploits.
Sabra Cadabra = I think that was about a girlfriend I was dating at the time. We were just all in the studio and it just came to me. Originally it was? the original lyrics for that were? Ozzy had made up this whole pornography thing, ?cause we?d been listening to? the studio where we were recording it did the voiceovers for German pornography videos, and we were listening (laughs) to all these voiceovers done in English to these German porno videos, so Ozzy was singing, like, the same thing that the voiceover people were saying. So I changed it to be about the girlfriend I was with at the time.
The Thrill Of It All = Ohhhh, I can?t even remember that one.
Johnny Blade = Johnny Blade was about Bill?s brother. We were in Canada writing for the last album with the original lineup, ?Never Say Die.? And Bill?s brother used to be in a gang, and he was like the knife man in the gang. And Bill suggested that we write a song about him, so we did.
Children of the Sea = That was on Heaven and Hell. That?s when Ronnie James Dio took over writing the lyrics. Those were his lyrics. I don?t remember much about that one.
Disturbing the Priest = That one we did ? that was when Ian Gillan was in the band. We were rehearsing at ? sorry, recording at Richard Brenston?s studio, and right next to it was a monastery. We were so loud in the studio that the priests started complaining about it, so we ended up calling the song ?Disturbing the Priest.? (Laughs)
Giving Up The Ghost = That was about me leaving Sabbath on the G/Z/R album.
Selling My Soul = Nothing to do with me whatsoever.
Misfit = Misfit ? that was originally called ?Peyote?s (???) Balance.? Clark actually came up with those lyrics. It?s just about growing up in western Mass, ?cause he had been through a lot of bad times, and he, like, wrote about not fitting in society in general.
12. If you could go back in time and change any career decision you made that you later regretted, what would it be?
That?s an easy one. Consult a lawyer, and an accountant. ?Cause we forged… when we made our first album, and we went with our first manager, we were only like 18, 19 years old, and we didn?t know anything about the business side of things, and our parents refused ? they had to sign a contract for us, we didn?t know we had to see a lawyer, and our parents refused to sign the contracts for us. And, so, we all forged our parents? signatures on it. About the worst thing we ever did, ?cause we couldn?t prove it in court after.
13. Yes or no, have you ever:
Flown in a Zeppelin = Nope.
Worn a suit of armor = Nope.
Boiled a set of bass strings = Oh! Boiled? Yes, often.
Considered publishing your memoirs = Um, yeah, I?ve often thought about that.
Had tea with a member of Duran Duran = Um, we went to a party with them after Live Aid in 1985.
Received a prank phone call from Ozzy?s kids = Probably. Hahhah!
Hid Tony Iommi?s prosthetic finger tips in a road case = Hahah! I wouldn?t dare. Hahaha!
Had an audience with the Queen = Nope.
Passed out on stage = Only when I got hit in the head with that bottle.
Been arrested = Yeah.
14. Out of all the bands that Black Sabbath has ever toured with, which one was the coolest to work with, and which one was the biggest bunch of jackasses you?ve ever met?
Coolest one was probably a cross between Mountain ? that was our first American tour, and they were really good to us, ?cause it was the first time we had ever been to America. They just really showed us the ropes and were just really nice people to us. And also Boston. They supported us when they had that one really big album and we got on really well with them. Biggest jerks had to be Grand Funk Railroad.
Wendell: Really? Wow. Mark Farner give you the hard time, huh?
Yeah, when we? they wouldn?t? We supported them at The Forum in L.A., and they were really horrible to us.
Wendell: Haha! Was that back in the 70?s?
Yeah, that was again on our first American tour.
15. There must be a million Black Sabbath tribute albums out there. Have you ever listened to any of them, and if so, was there any particular band?s cover of one of your songs that stood out and impressed you?
Yeah, I listened to quite a few of them, but there?s, like, so many of them now. I get about 10 of them every week in the post. I really like Type O Negative?s version of ?Black Sabbath.? And I love The Bad Plus? version of ?Iron Man.?
16. What?s the sickest thing you?ve ever seen done to a groupie? You must have stories for days! Please tell us a good one.
The sickest? Ummm? (sighs) Not for publication!
17. Name one good thing about:
Girls = Girls? They?re often heterosexual.
Drugs = They were good in the 70s but I don?t touch them now.
Hot dogs = Don?t eat them. I?m vegan!
Guinness Extra Stout = Oooooh! Now you?re talking. One of the best beers of the world.
Birmingham = Birmingham, England? Home to the best band that?s ever lived! Hahha! And the best football team.
Don Arden = Ahhh, ooooooooooooooogghh! Not a very nice person.
Hair metal = Horrible!
Chad Smith = My Chad Smith or the Chili Pepper?s Chad Smith?
Wendell: I believe yours.
He should change his name.
Bluegrass = I love bluegrass! Well, some of it, anyway. I love Allison Krauss, she?s one of my favorites. In fact I went to see her in concert earlier this year. I quite like it, in fact we were trying to do a bluegrass number for this album, but it didn?t quite work out. We’ll put it on the next one maybe.
Vomiting = Vomiting? Oh gosh. Horrible.
18. Don?t you wish that, for just one tour, Black Sabbath could play something other than the same 10 songs?
Absolutely. You?ll have to ask Mr. Osbourne. We?re always trying to get him to sing something different, but it?s always a losing battle.
19. The Last of Geezer Butler:
Last book you read = The last book I read? I?m actually reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, the prequel to The DaVinci Code.
Last sporting event you attended = Probably to see Aston Villa. That?s me local soccer club in England.
Last concert you watched from the audience = That?d be Allison Krauss.
Last song you heard on the radio that you really liked = Um, ?I can feel a riot? or something.
Last thing someone threw at you from the audience = Let?s see. Numerous things. Probably a joint on the last OzzFest.
Last interview you did (before this one) = About an hour ago with a guy from England.
Last automobile you purchased = A Lexus GX 470!
Last time you talked to Ronnie James Dio = Hahahahhahha! Uh, god. So long ago. Probably 1992.
Last time you shaved your moustache = Hahah! I thought you were gonna say something else then! I often do that. I like traveling around America, and so to remain incognito, I just shave it off. Not even me wife recognizes me.
Last time you got piss drunk = Oh, god. Umm? I don?t know. I don?t get drunk often these days. Probably New Year?s Eve.
20. Time for Metal Sludge?s Word Association. We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Rob Halford = Bald. (Note: Originally, we thought Geezer said "old," but we went back and listened to it again and we’re pretty sure he said "bald." Old, bald, it’s all good Sludge.)
Biff Byford = From Saxon? Dead. Hahaha!
Lars Ulrich = Drummer.
Burton Bell = Fear Factory.
Randy Castillo = Uh, unfortunately, succumbed to cancer.
The Darkness = Hopefully I won?t hear from them again.
Sharon Osbourne = Ozzy?s wife.
Alice Cooper = Commercials in England.
Ted Nugent = Right wing.
Zakk Wylde = Lunatic.
And to think that some people are actually convinced that we can’t get anyone good to do 20 Questions with us. Ha!
We’ll give credit where credit is due. That was totally cool of Geezer Butler to put up with our silly-ass questions, and he hung in there like a good sport and answered every single one. Thus, we couldn’t be more appreciative of Geezer and we thank him for being down with the Sludge. Thanks also to Sir Wendell Neeley for giving up his busy afternoon and making this happen for us at a moment’s notice. That rules!
For more information about Geezer Butler’s new album "Ohmwork" and related projects, check out his official Web site at www.geezerbutler.com.
Coming next week, we have another huge 20 Questions interview with an equally big star, which was also conducted via audio. So be sure to check back next Tuesday to see who it is!