Iconic. That’s the only adjective needed. Black Sabbath don’t need to claim anything, the British veterans have simply defined a genre. Heck, the majority of bands covered on this site are only here as a result of the path Sabbath paved. Now preparing to say farewell on their ‘The End’ shows, Black Sabbath return to Australia this April. We chatted with highly respected and incredibly affable bassist Geezer Butler.
You hear athletes say when they come to the end that while their heart is still willing; the body eventually catches up with them. Personally, what’s your mindset going into these shows; knowing it’s billed as ‘The End’?
Well, everything has to end eventually, and while I’m sad it’s the end for Sabbath, as far as touring goes, it’s good that we are going out on top. The fans have given us an incredible ride [and] without them we’re nothing, so I feel blessed and lucky to have a part of the Sabbath experience, and glad we’re finishing on a high note.
You’ll be on our shores again shortly. When you think of Australia and your time here over the years, what initially comes to mind?
When we were there in the 70’s we had some wild times, [everything] from racing cars along the beach to food fights in a posh restaurant in Sydney. These days we are much more sedate, and on days off we’re more likely to take a boat trip or go sight seeing.
Touring can be fun, it can also be demanding. What’s something that, even after all these years, you still find challenging about being on the road?
The hardest part from me is finding good vegan food, but that has become much easier over the years with the rise of vegan restaurants. Even now, though, some people haven’t a clue what a vegan diet is, which can be frustrating when ordering in a non-vegan restaurant. Apart from that minor set back, touring is better than ever.
There’s a notion that a lot of young people today have a greater sense of entitlement and often want success without any sort of accomplishment. If there were one bit of fundamental advice you could stress to young bands, what would it be?
It is harder than ever to become successful in the music business these days. Most people have access to computers, and most computers have recording capabilities enabling anyone to write music. The only advice I can give is to do the music you love, and try to be original. It’s probably easier to win the lottery than have a successful career in music [unfortunately].
I know you’ve had some experience with accountancy in the past. Was there a sliding doors type moment early in your career where your life could’ve gone in a completely different direction based on a decision at the time?
The turning point for Sabbath came when Tony [Iommi, guitar] turned down the chance to join Jethro Tull. When he left to join them, the rest of the band were lost without him. I thought I’d have to find a job and/or look for another band. Thankfully, Tony came back to us, with a new work ethic and determined to make a success of Sabbath.
It’s always such a big deal when fans get to meet their musical idols, as I’m sure a lot of Black Sabbath fans have been fortunate enough to encounter when meeting you over the years. On the reverse, what’s an experience you’ve had where you’ve met one of your inspirations?
I adhere to the old saying, ‘Never meet your heroes’ because they are just human beings like us all, and I generally find that they’re idols for what they are rather than who they are.
With performing such a significant part of your life, from a non-musical point of view, what’s still on the bucket list?
I’d like to write a memoir for my grandkids because by the time they are grown I’ll be long gone, and I’d like them to learn about me from my own hand rather than hearsay.
I also want to travel and see places I’ve yet to experience, and I need to finish up the 100 or so songs I’ve started. I’m in the habit of writing bits of songs but not completing them, so I need to discipline myself and see them through to a finish.
Thank you for the interview, Geezer. Appreciate your time.
Catch Black Sabbath on their farewell tour this April. Dates and details are available via Live Nation.