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Q&A: Geezer Butler

In this Classic Rock feature from 2010, the celebrated bassist talks about Black Sabbath, solo albums and his anger at war

Bass player Terry ‘Geezer’ Butler remains the unsung hero of Black Sabbath. In the midlands metallers’ 70s heyday, fans’ attention focused on Tony Iommi’s sluggish-but-thuggish guitar riffs, and Ozzy Osbourne’s agonised satanic bleatings. Despite his rhythmic ability to create Sabbath in Sensurround, no one really noticed Geezer, who lurked by the backline, shimmying and grooving on his dinky platform boots. Iommi, with his generous black moustache, often used to be compared to Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary. If that was the case, then Geezer was the lawless bandito who thundered down the mountainside on a slavering palomino, carrying out El Jefe’s dirty work. And what many Sabs aficionados still don’t appreciate is that Geezer wrote the lyrics to some of the band’s most famous songs: Paranoid, Iron Man and War Pigs among them.

Ohmwork  is very angry and crunching. It’s a record that owes more to modern metal intensity than traditional hard rock.      

We [Geezer plus singer Clark Brown, guitarist Pedro House and drummer Chad Smith] recorded it in just 10 days. I wanted to capture the rawness of what we were doing. We just went in and out, and finished it with the minimum of messing around.

How does Ohmwork stack up alongside your previous two albums, 1995’s Plastic Planet (with Fear Factory’s Burton C Bell on vocals) and 1997’s Black Science?

It’s certainly a lot better than Black Science - I overreached myself on that; it was a bit too experimental. It’s more or less a follow-up to the first, Plastic Planet. It’s got that same kind of pissed-off feeling.

Is it true the album’s title came about because the songs were written in your home studio, and it was like ‘homework’

Yeah, but when you say it with a Brummie accent it sounds like ’omework. So I took that one step further by calling it Ohmwork, because an Ohm is a unit of electrical resistance – and you can’t play music like mine in an ‘unplugged’ style! We’ve also got tracks on the album with crazy titles like Pseudocide and Dogs Of Whore.                                  

We must talk about oral sex.

You mean Aural Sects. That track is about being in a band, and likening a band to a sect. And because we deal in people listening to us, it becomes aural – so that was another play on words.

Dogs Of Whore follows in the apocalyptic mood of Sabbath’s classic War Pigs.       

The war in Iraq reminded me so much of the Vietnam war, which is where War Pigs and Hand Of Doom, and all that kind of stuff came from. That sort of got me rolling, and it gave me the direction in which to take the album. I’m so angry that the war in Iraq happened; why they couldn’t solve it diplomatically I’ll never know. So, 35 years on, and I’m still venting my spleen.

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