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Christopher Lee (with Tony Iommi): A Knight's Tale

Actor Sir Christopher Lee and Tony Iommi are gods in their respective fields. When Sir Christopher released a heavy metal album, we invited the man who started it all to interview him.

Tony Iommi is in his hotel room overlooking Hyde Park. Surveying the scene, he says: “This interview... I have to admit I’ve never been so nervous in my life about anything!” Tony Iommi. Founding father of metal. And he’s nervous. About what? About meeting a giant, a man whose career started long before Tony first picked up a guitar. An icon, the star of over 200 films, a knight of the realm who has played some of the most memorable monsters in history: from Dracula to Frankenstein. Fu Manchu to Saruman. He is meeting Sir Christopher Lee.

So, why would Metal Hammer care about this 88-year-old thespian? Because he’s just released a stunning symphonic metal album called Charlemagne, and this is no gimmick. Nor is it his first encounter with metal, having worked with Manowar and Rhapsody Of Fire before. And, as we shall find out, he does actually like metal!

The location for this historic meeting – and bringing these two legends together is the epitome of history being made – is a private club in South West London called Number 11. This is where Sir Christopher prefers to conduct interviews. Ensconced in an atmosphere of polite privacy and deference, with unobtrusive service.

It seems appropriate to turn this into a Mecca of metal for the afternoon. Because the genre always has a sense of occasion.

Tony turns up first, dressed appropriately all in black and with a pensive look frozen on his face. For all his stature, he is reduced to an almost childlike awe at what is about to happen. Sir Christopher arrives several minutes later, looking every inch the gentleman and commanding figure we so want him to be. He’s courteous and generous, shaking hands warmly with Tony and, given the nature of the latter’s surname, greets him in Italian. The guitar god looks nonplussed. “Sorry, I can’t speak the lingo,” he admits, a little shamefaced.

Both share a self-deprecating sense of humour. Later on, when Hammer photographer John McMurtrie suggests Sir Christopher holds the crucifix Tony has round his neck, the former responds with mock vampiric horror: “Oh no!”

Sir Christopher settles in a corner, sipping a lapsang souchong tea with a touch of milk and no sweetener, adjusting his position to suit a back problem (“I can’t play golf anymore,” he sighs; all those years doing his own stunts taking a toll). Tony sits opposite him. So, with an audience of assistants, photographers and editors looking on, and with a video camera whirring to capture the occasion, we prepare for one of the most fascinating conversations any of us has ever witnessed.

What follows here can only bring you a taste of the atmosphere and the rapport. Three dimensions of necessity reduced to two, if you want. In the words of the cliché, you had to be there...

And, as the blackness of the oncoming evening appropriately thickens, we start with a man who connects the pair – Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio.

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