Alice Cooper Recalls the Artists Who Made Detroit Great

While the Alice Cooper band got its start in California, they never fit in with the flower-power hippies who dominated the ’60s scene. Audience members were walking out of shows at gigs in and around Los Angeles so they didn’t have to endure their wild theatrics. Detroit, on the other hand, was a city in love with tough, bombastic music, and the band found a thrilled fanbase.

“In Detroit, if you went up there and said, ‘This is a song about love and roses,’ they would just kill you,” Cooper tells UCR in an exclusive interview. “They wanted hard rock with attitude.”

The man who became Alice Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 in the Motor City, before moving west with his family in late childhood. Cooper’s latest album, Detroit Stories, pays homage to the sound and scene that launched his career. The singer collaborated with many who shared the stage with him back in the day, including MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Grand Funk Railroad guitarist Mark Farner, drummer Johnny Bee of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and original Alice Cooper bassist Dennis Dunaway.

UCR talked to Cooper about some of his Detroit favorites and his first impressions of the city’s epic ’60s and ’70s run.

The Stooges

Alice and Iggy Pop (then Iggy Stooge) began sharing bills as early as 1970. From the get go, Cooper found a kindred spirit with a dramatically different aesthetic.

“We were two entirely different kinds of theater,” Cooper says. “The only things we had in common were that we were unapologetic about what we were doing and we were both loud, guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll bands.”

Cooper remembers that the buzz around the Stooges was substantial when he returned to Michigan. He finally saw the band play live, and couldn’t believe the fury they brought to the stage.

“Iggy’s up there with this really basic band that’s powerful as hell,” Cooper says. “They aren’t trying to be anybody but themselves. It’s a three-chord band but it’s powerful, and Iggy is just all over the place and [standing] in the audience – and I saw the birth of punk right there. … Iggy was such a force of nature.”

Watch Iggy and the Stooges Perform Live in 1970

Motown

Despite being a hard-rock town, the city’s most famous sonic export is Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Records. On Detroit Stories, Cooper nods to the label’s groundbreaking pop-soul hybrid on “$1000 High Heel Shoes,” a tune he says demanded a Motown-like arrangement. The Godfather of Shock Rock and Diana Ross don’t seem like artists you’d ever find under the same roof, but Cooper remembers a community where musicians mingled freely.

“Another weird thing about Detroit was that Motown and rock ‘n’ roll were in bed together,” he explains. “We’d be playing and look down and there was Smokey Robinson in the crowd, and there was one of the Supremes, and there were two of the guys from the Temptations.”

Cooper describes a mutual admiration society of the highest order, full of Top 40 hits and gold records.

“They’re all there because it’s hot sweaty rock ‘n roll,” Coooper says of the Motown legends he saw in the seats. “It’s all just music to them. They are having the time of their lives. And the rock bands went and saw the Motown bands too. All it was about, ‘How good is the music?’ Both of these forms of music lived in Detroit side-by-side very successfully.”

Watch Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on the Ed Sullivan Show

MC5

Even before the Stooges and Alice Cooper took rock performances to the next level, MC5 blew minds with proto-punk and shocking volume. Cooper recalls being stunned the first time he saw Wayne Kramer’s band.

“We got invited to play a Pop Festival in Detroit and we get there three or four hours early and here’s the MC5, who I had never heard of before, and they are doing this show – a big show with energy, and they’re political, and they’re tearing the place up,” Cooper says.

The two bands shared bills but Cooper and Kramer lost touch for years. When Cooper decided his next album would be a celebration of Detroit, he knew immediately that he wanted Kramer to be part of it. The two wrote the furious rock track “Go Man Go” with guitarist Tommy Henriksen and producer Bob Ezrin, while Kramer also lent his sizable guitar chops to several other cuts on the LP.

Watch the MC5 Perform Live in Detroit

Bob Seger

Casual fans of Cooper and Bob Seger might think the two have never crossed paths. But not only did Cooper share bills with Seger, he also has a huge amount of respect for his fellow Detroit native.

“We did lots of shows back in the day with him,” Cooper recalls. “And he’s had more hits than any of us. Bob just kept making hit after hit after hit after hit.”

Cooper decided to close Detroit Stories with a gritty, stompin’ take on “East Side Story,” a 1966 song from Seger’s tenure with the Last Heard that became his first regional hit. Of course, with a catalog dozens of albums deep, it may not even rank in Seger’s Top 100 songs.

Cooper went to see Seger in 2019 during his farewell tour. While backstage, Cooper revealed that he had just cut “East Side Story” for Detroit Stories.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Why?’” Cooper recalls with a laugh. “I told him, ‘Because I’m from the East Side.’ And that story line could be milked better. It was just a great story line. He said, ‘Wow, that’s really amazing, I never thought anybody would cover that song.’”

Listen to Bob Seger and the Last Heard Perform ‘East Side Story’

You Think You Know Alice Cooper?

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Korpiklaani’s Jonne Jarvela Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs

One of the great things with Loudwire’s Gear Factor is when artists go a little deeper in showing you how a song was constructed. Korpiklaani‘s Jonne Jarvela does exactly that, showcasing two songs from the recently released Jylhä album.

First up is the song “Miero,” a track that needed some beefing up with some metal intros. But hearing it now, you might not realize it started on acoustic guitar. Jarvela breaks out his acoustic to show you the fingering patterns while letting his studio console provide you the full fledged metal version you hear on the album. “I think it is one of the best riffs of the new album,” says the singer-songwriter.

He also breaks out another key song on the album titled “Tuuleton,” once again showing the contrast of the singular acoustic instrumentation against the fully realized metal backdrop.

As with most of our Gear Factor episodes, we also dig into Jonne’s early days picking up the instrument. Heavy riffs appealed to him at an early age while growing up in the ’80s, with Jarvela breaking off bits of Deep Purple‘s “Smoke on the Water,” Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid” and AC/DC‘s “Live Wire” as the first things he attempted to learn.

Watch the episode in full below and be sure to pick up Korpiklaani’s Jylhä album, currently available here (As Amazon affiliates, we earn on qualifying purchases).

Korpiklaani’s Jonne Jarvela Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs

The Best Metal Album From 40 Subgenres

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Taylor Momsen: Losing Musical Idols Like Losing Part of Yourself

By now, most of the Pretty Reckless‘ fans probably know about all of the turmoil that the band has faced over the last several years. But even those who don’t know can simply hear it on their latest album Death By Rock and RollWe recently spoke with frontwoman Taylor Momsen about some of those events, and she discussed why losing your musical heroes is so traumatic.

It all started when the band was opening for Soundgarden on their spring headlining tour in 2017. Chris Cornell died after the last show they played together in Detroit, and Momsen was the last member of her crew to find out the news the next day.

“This band formed over the love of two bands. It formed over the love of the Beatles and Soundgarden. To be that close in proximity and opening for Soundgarden was just the highest of highs. I couldn’t believe it, we were just elated to be there. ” she said.

“And to have it end so tragically, that added a kind of shock. We were right there, we were there that night, I talked to Chris Cornell. I gave him a hug, I watched him leave the venue.”

The singer doesn’t exactly know why losing your idols hurts as badly as it does, but she thinks it has to do with the connection you make to their music.

“I think that music has such a power to it that even if you don’t know someone extraordinarily well personally, when you’ve related to their music and you’ve listened to those records throughout your whole life ad nauseam, it feels like a part of you,” she explained. “So I feel like losing someone like that… you feel like you’re losing a piece of yourself, in a way.”

Momsen did point out that while the death of a beloved musician is painful, those people leave behind legacies of music that are eternal. She says that she hopes when she’s no longer here herself, she’s remembered for the music she’s shared with the world.

To hear more about the hardships that shaped Death By Rock and Roll, watch our full interview with Momsen at the top of the page.

12 Rock + Metal Artists Who Had Other Careers Before Music

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Halestorm Rock Blistering Who Cover for ‘Long Live Rock’ Film

What we wouldn’t do right about now for the connection of a frenetic, sweaty, pulse-pounding rock show! That fever is all the more intensified today as Loudwire brings you the premiere of Halestorm‘s cover of The Who‘s “Long Live Rock” as tied to the upcoming rock documentary of the same name.

The film, titled Long Live Rock … Celebrate the Chaos, will arrive March 12, taking us back to pre-pandemic times in which the spirit of heavy music was alive and thriving within the festival circuit, examining the connections created with a new generation of rock fans who refuse to listen to the platitude calling out rock’s supposed death knell.

The documentary includes some of rock and metal’s biggest names including members of Metallica, Guns N ’Roses, Slipknot, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Rage Against the Machine, Greta Van Fleet, Halestorm, Papa Roach, Godsmack, Black Veil Brides and many more. And yes, you can expect music, which brings us to Lzzy Hale’s killer cover of The Who’s “Long Live Rock.”

“It was such an amazing experience to record the iconic song, ‘Long Live Rock,’ by one of the greatest rock bands of all time The Who,” stated Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale. “We are so proud and excited that this film is getting the global release it deserves that will help spread the word of this hard rock genre that we care so much about! Rock Will Never Die!!” Take a listen in the player below.

Halestorm, “Long Live Rock” (The Who Cover)

The film, directed by Jonathan McHugh and produced by Gary Spivack and Jonathan Platt, not only offers insight from the rockers currently carrying the torch for the heavy music scene but also connects viewers with some of the fans who have given their undying love and passion for the music they love so much.

McHugh says, “Long Live Rock is a celebration of the chaos that makes this music and its fans, the most passionate in the world. I hope you enjoy watching this film, as much as I enjoyed making it. With all the music festivals and concerts shut down across the world, we hope this film can help tide you over, and we can get back out there and rock the fuck out again.”

Check out the trailer for Long Live Rock … Celebrate the Chaos below. Ticketing info is available at this location.

Long Live Rock … Celebrate the Chaos

Abramorama

Long Live Rock … Celebrate the Chaos Trailer

The 40 Best Cover Songs of 2020

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Jon Anderson on Solo Reissues and 50 Years of ‘The Yes Album’

Midway through UCR’s interview with Jon Anderson, the former Yes singer cuts off the conversation — not because of a sensitive question or scheduling conflict. But because the magic bird is back in his garden.

“We have this beautiful blue heron who’s started to come by the house,” he says. “There was this wonderful star thing that happened just around Christmas when Saturn and Jupiter lined up. And this beautiful blue heron — six foot tall — came into our garden, and it was kind of like a miracle for us to see that bird walking around the garden very slowly. It brought this energy of chill. [My wife] Jane just came out of the front door, and it was standing on the steps. It flew away up to the top of the hill here. Anything like that for us is always a message from the divine energy that surrounds us.”

Sometimes Anderson searches out that divinity. Other times it finds him. Probably the most prolific living songwriter from prog-rock’s classic wave, he’s remained especially active during the pandemic — continuing to collaborate with musicians remotely and sort through a daunting backlog of new and unfinished projects.

“To me it’s like breathing,” he says. “I wake up in the morning, go into the studio and I can breathe. I’ve got about six or seven albums lined up for the next 10 years. I just have to get them finished, that’s all.”

That same spark guided Anderson during his earliest solo projects, which he’s reexamined for a pair of reissues: His second LP, 1980’s Song of Seven, was rereleased in September, and he recently announced a remaster of his 1976 debut, Olias of SunhillowAnderson stepped out of his home studio and spoke to UCR about the challenges and rewards of those formative solo ventures, his pandemic-era creativity and the 50th anniversary of Yes’ first classic LP, The Yes Album.

Olias of Sunhillow often sounds like a more tranquil version of Yes, but Song of Seven veered beyond the band’s classic sound. Were you eager to explore territory outside those confines, or was it scary not having the brand behind you?
I never thought twice about [it]. I’d gone through a period of working with Vangelis and realizing that I could work with different musicians on different levels. Some of [the ideas] were very structured, like “Song of Seven” itself. And I just had a good time over a two-month period. I had a studio at my home in London, and I had the freedom to do what I wanted. I had some contacts with musicians around London, so I invited them in and tried out some ideas. We recorded about three songs I thought was going to work with Yes on, but it just wasn’t the right time for Yes to be working together. [Yes demo versions of Anderson’s “Some Are Born” and “Days” appear on the band’s 2004 CD reissue of Tormato.] I just got on with making the album — like I do today, I’m constantly making music. You’ve got to put it somewhere, so I approached the record company, and they were interested in releasing it. At that time, I was writing songs that to me were radio-friendly. You don’t ever think about trying to write a hit song — you just write music and hope people are going to like it and the radio might play it. It was well-received. It’s kind of bizarre that 30 years later, I listened to it and thought, “It’s not a bad album really.”

Watch Jon Anderson’s ‘Song of Seven’ Video

How did you end up playing with Jack Bruce on “Heart of the Matter”? How well did you know each other?
I was a big fan. One of the earliest memories of meeting Jack was at Cream‘s farewell concert. Yes opened up, and Roy Gallagher played with his band [Taste], and then Cream came onstage, and it was like pure magic to listen to these three amazing musicians. Jack was not only a great bass player but also a great singer. I met him through a friend of mine, and I just said, “Come over to the studio. We can have fun and drink some whiskey — and [smoke] a few joints as well, of course.” It was a great afternoon making music with him. He was a real character. Of course, I had close friends that I worked with, and they knew a few people in bands I loved. There was a Scottish singer [Chris Rainbow] who sang on a lot of that record, and he was really fantastic.

It’s a unique cast of characters on that album.
In general, you bump into people, and they bring their friends along. And before you know it, you’re jamming, and you have the song. It’s more a question of being in the right place at the right time. The sax player [Dick Morrissey] was great. [Saxophonist] Johnny Dankworth — what a beautiful guy. I always remember him because his wife, Cleo Laine, was a very famous jazz-pop singer. I went down to his house at a party and said, “Would you like to come play some saxophone?” He said [casually], “Oh, yeah.” He just walked in, did his thing and said bye. This guy had a big band! I even have my daughter [Deborah Anderson] — she’s about 40 now. She was born around that time, and she sings [childlike vocalizations] at the end of “Song of Seven.” I think she was three months old.

You’re also planning to reissue Olias.
When you’ve been around as long as I have, everything is a reissue. It’s natural that even record companies are thinking, “We might sell 1,000 records, so let’s release it. At least it keeps the music flowing.” In that period of time, you’re going though a lot of different levels of waking up to life because you went through a very [big] experience with Yes. It was that feeling of, “Will I ever have that same energy again? Who knows? So I’ll just get on with some music.”

Olias was crucial because you proved that you could write great songs outside of Yes — and even play all the instruments. Engineer Eddie Offord once said some of the other Yes guys had been critical of your musicianship — was this album your attempt to prove them wrong?
I’m not sure who started the ball rolling, but I think Steve [Howe] said he was going to do one, and then Chris [Squire] said he was going to do one, and then Alan [White] said, “I’ll do one!” And then I said, “Okay then, I’ll do one,” thinking, “What am I gonna do?” My friend Tony Colton [who produced Yes’ 1970 LP, Time and a Word] came by, and I hadn’t seen him for a couple years. He was so excited, and he came into the main room in the house and started playing the piano really well. I said, “I didn’t know you could play piano!” He said, “I’ve been to music school to the last three months, learning to play piano.” I thought, “That’s what I should do.” But I didn’t enjoy school as a kid in an academic way. I liked playing football and art and geography, but everything else was a pain. I thought, “I’ve got these instruments in my garage that I’ve been collecting over the years of touring. Why don’t I make them into a proper setup, and then I can get a little studio and get a friend of mine, Mike Dunne, to come in and hang with me while I learn to play these instruments?” I have a lot of songs in my head, so I said, “Why don’t I write a story?” So I wrote a story based on the ship that flew around on the Fragile album [cover]. I expected Roger Dean to do the artwork, but he was always very busy at that time. So I started doing this, 10 hours in the studio, practicing and playing a day until I got it right — on harp and koto and sitar and a three-string guitar called the saz, a Turkish instrument with a lovely drone sound. I spent a lot of hours perfecting certain parts and recording them. Over the period of a month or six weeks, I got really into the structure, and I did a lot of vocalizations and stuff like that. In a way, it was like being at music school, learning all the time.

I’ve read that you were very guarded with the album when you finished it.
I was very close to Vangelis at that time, and we’d already recorded an album. He was the first person I played it to because he was my mentor. A big smile came on his face halfway through it, and at the end he just came over and gave me a big hug. I said, “Thank you!”

You and Vangelis ended up having a very unique collaborative partnership, working on four albums. And you two mirror each other musically: Vangelis was also a very intuitive musician who also taught himself to play multiple instruments.
I admired him a lot, and I couldn’t believe how good he was as a musician. He could write a symphony every day — there’s just that kind of energy about this guy. We discovered within the space of one afternoon we’d written three or four songs without thinking. We didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s write a song.” He’d start playing and I’d start singing, and we’d put that to the side and do another one. In the space of two or three hours, we’d written about four or five interesting songs. It was spontaneous music, which is exactly opposite to Yes.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of The Yes Album, which a lot of people consider the first great Yes album.
That’s because it was the first album where we actually rehearsed all the songs, went on tour to play them and then recorded them. We’d flushed out all the unnecessary stuff and become part of the music. We were so involved in the music because we’d performed it onstage. When we went into the studio, [London’s] Advision, we sensed that we were in more control of what we were trying to do musically, rather than the studio dominating. We could walk in and really take care of business.

Songs like “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper” were longer and more elaborate. Do you just chalk that up to having more confidence?
We actually did that in a three-week period in a farmhouse in Devon. We rented a farmhouse and rehearsed like crazy until we went on the road and performed. There was something about going on tour, knowing what you’re going to play, virtually the same every night. It was a wonderful experience because we knew we were good at that time. Our audiences loved what we were doing. We’d already set up a plan to be able to survive another year.

Listen to Yes’ ‘Yours Is No Disgrace’

How are you handling the pandemic on a creative level? You’ve been collaborating with musicians remotely for years, so you’re ahead of the curve there. Have you been working on anything new?
Totally! A friend of mine, Tommy Calton, who played [guitar] in the 1,000 Hands band, sent me a track about a month ago. It was, at that moment, just what I needed, so I sang this song “Just What I Needed.” I listened to it today, sent it to Tommy and said, “I love this song. I’m not quite sure how we’re going to project it into the world.” I started working with my good friend Paul Green, who works with School of Rock and has the Rock Academy up in Connecticut. We did some Zooming with the kids, and I said, “Send me anything you’ve got because I’ll work with it.” This girl sent me a lovely piano song, and I wrote some lyrics and melody for it and sent it back. This guy sent me some drums, and I did some vocalizations. Everything is an exercise in a way — and a gift. I’ve been writing with some old friends I wrote with years ago. I’ve got to breathe and create every day.

You’ve been working on an Olias “sequel” album, The Songs of Zamran: Son of Olias, for more than 20 years. Have you made any progress lately?
Yeah! Strangely I’m up to about two hours of music on that, and I still haven’t figured out how to project it. I know what it is. I can sense what it should be. Having done about three or four different versions of each song, it still hasn’t become clear how to project it, like, “[This is] part one of a seven part piece.” It’s a wonderful, exciting jigsaw puzzle. But some time I’ve just gotta let go and go on with other stuff. It gets to the point where I’ll spend two weeks solidly on Zamran. The [story is about] this intensity helping to create some of the structure of the planet Earth. Not many people are aware that there’s a structure within planet Earth made up of crystal streams called Ley Lines. It’s an interesting observation that mother Earth is an almighty computer.

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Morbid: I Still Receive Hate Messages for the Death of Elisa Lam

When Pablo Vergara checked into Los Angeles’ Cecil Hotel in 2012, he filmed a quick video of himself and posted it online. One year later, the hotel room clip made him a main suspect in the case of Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old woman who mysteriously disappeared after being caught acting in a bizarre manner by a Cecil Hotel elevator camera. The video of Lam subsequently went viral.

However, it wasn’t police who targeted Vergara, it was instead a gang of internet sleuths, who haphazardly connected Vergara’s 2012 video with Lam’s 2013 disappearance due to his career as an extreme metal musician. The corpse-painted artist, also known as Morbid, had released a music video for the song “Died in Pain,” which depicted a woman running from a killer before ultimately being caught. In another track, Morbid sang about dumping a corpse in a body of water, adding the line, “I’m thinking China.”

Elisa Lam, who happened to be Chinese, was found dead in a Cecil Hotel water tank. Though Vergara wasn’t even in the United States when Lam disappeared, internet sleuths haplessly connected the dots within Morbid’s music, becoming certain that Pablo Vergara had murdered Elisa Lam.

Elisa Lam Video

The internet mob attacked Morbid’s social media and streaming accounts, getting his music deleted from YouTube and his accounts banned from Facebook and Google. They also publicly labeled Vergara as a murderer while circulating his photos online, even getting a Taiwanese news station to report Vergara as an official suspect.

“You’re constantly looking over your shoulder, you get death threats everywhere, all the time,” Vergara tells Loudwire in an exclusive video interview. “You can’t win, so you’ve got to formulate a way to survive. Mine was trying to walk away from it, completely turn my back on it, but that was after my suicide attempt. At a certain point … it feels like there’s no escape.”

Elisa Lam’s death was ultimately ruled as accidental, while her behavior in the elevator video was found to be a symptom of bipolar disorder, for which Lam had stopped taking her medication.

The online harassment Vergara suffered was an early case of extreme cyberbullying, which has become increasingly common in the age of social media. “This is a criminal act,” Vergara insists. “Cyberbullying is a criminal act. These people need to be prosecuted and when we see it happen, we need to take a stand, not just watch. You could be saving a life.”

Vergara also speaks of the misjudgment and vilification that metalheads often face. “Ted Bundy’s favorite music was the Beatles. Listening to the Beatles doesn’t make you good, just as listening to black metal doesn’t make you bad. I was just reading about Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Rob Maltby from the U.K. They get savagely beaten and she dies. She’s only 20 years old and they do that just because she’s looking goth, because she’s wearing goth makeup and dark clothes. People need to wake up, we’re losing lives. People are being killed and people are killing themselves because of this. This is a serious issue.”

Thanks to a new Netflix docuseries, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, Vergara has now cleared his name on a massive platform. “It took [Netflix] a while to convince me,” Vergara admits. “I just figured it’s something that’s gonna follow me all my life. Still to this day, I get hate messages. I’m going to have them all my life. I’m okay with that now. I think I did the right thing, because I’m starting to get a lot of [positive] messages from people around the world. They’re also taking an active stand in trying to stop cyberbullying.”

Vergara also says he hasn’t been able to make music since the 2013 swarm of cyber sleuths. “Sometimes I even think to myself, ‘I’ve been doing music all my life, since I was 16.’ I had a label, I had management, a lineup in Norway, all this stuff. Then it just stopped. I’m trying to get back to music. I do have a lineup here in New York, we’re thinking of making new music. I do have a lot of lyrics, especially now with all this crap. I have a lot to say.”

Watch our full interview with Vergara below.

Morbid: The Metal Musician Falsely Blamed for Elisa Lam’s Death

Pablo Vergara can be seen in Episodes 3 and 4 of Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, now streaming on Netflix. You can also watch a teaser clip for one of Vergara’s songs, “Died in Pain,” below and listen to his Died in Pain album here.

Slitwrist Died in Pain (Preview)

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System of a Down’s Serj Tankian Has Something to Say

Serj Tankian is the most powerful force for activism in the history of metal. Having used his voice for over two decades to spread awareness of environmental injustice, the Armenian Genocide and other human rights issues, the enigmatic System of a Down and solo vocalist is now the subject of a new documentary, Truth to Power.

Despite System of a Down’s monumental success, Serj Tankian’s activist mission as an artist — worldwide recognition of the Armenian Genocide —  remains unfinished. Almost no countries in the region of Asia have acknowledged the Genocide, and the United States only officially recognized its 1.5 million victims in 2019.

“An activist rarely sees the fruit of their labor,” Tankian explains. “Eventually, results, if enough people congregate around a particular cause of justice, there will be change. Sometimes it takes a year, sometimes it takes decades, sometimes it’ll take many lifetimes. It doesn’t matter. If you’re on the right path, keep on the right path, irrespective.”

In Armenia, however, System of a Down’s music helped fuel a peaceful ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 2018, which successfully forced then-Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan to resign. Tankian was beckoned home by Armenian protestors, and the System frontman made the trip across the globe to experience the fruits of his activism.

“Going to Armenia at the tail end of the revolution and seeing the elation in people’s eyes on the street was something I’ve never experienced in my whole lifetime. I’ve seen happy people, I’ve seen partying people, I’ve seen excited people, Rock in Rio and people going crazy, but I had never seen elation. Elation is a different level of happiness. I relate it to emancipation. The 2018 Velvet Revolution in Armenia created that.”

Truth to Power Official Trailer – Oscilloscope Laboratories HD

Along with his new EP, Elasticity, which marks Serj Tankian’s solo return to music rooted in rock ’n’ roll, the vocalist also spoke about System of a Down’s first new music in 15 years and how the two songs — “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz” — took a far more direct approach compared to past System releases.

“In most cases, I do believe that art should be interpreted by the listener, the viewer,” Serj begins. “[System] generally don’t share what everything means, especially lyrically, but in terms of the two songs we released with System, it was for a very specific cause. Our people were being attacked in Artsakh by the combined forces of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Syrian mercenaries, and the press was being manipulated by social media bots paid by Azerbaijan, as well as the caviar diplomacy that they’ve been conducting for years — bribing politicians of different countries and media outlets, even non-profit organizations, even humanitarian non-profit organizations, even UNESCO … For us, it was a way of breaking through that in the media and letting people know what’s really going on and what, really, this means to us.”

Serj continues, “Daron [Malakian] wrote both songs. ‘Protect the Land,’ he already had it in the can and he was going to release it on his Scars on Broadway record, his next record. He said, ‘Hey, this would actually really work if you guys wanna use this.’ We jumped on it because it worked perfectly … We had to be specific because the cause was greater than the band.”

System of a Down’s Serj Tankian Has Something to Say

Watch our full chat what Serj Tankian above. Truth to Power will be released worldwide on Feb. 19, while Tankian’s Elasticity EP will drop March 19. Listen to the title track below and click here to pre-order the EP. (As Amazon affiliates, we earn on qualifying purchases)

Serj Tankian, “Elasticity” (Official Video)

Top 50 Nu-Metal Albums of All-Time

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Watch Richie Furay Perform Classic Poco Medley

In a performance video shared exclusively with UCR, former Poco member Richie Furay delivers a medley of the band’s classic songs.

The footage comes from 50th Anniversary Return to the Troubadour, Furay’s upcoming double album and concert film. Over 11 minutes, the rocker churns through upbeat renditions of “Just In Case It Happens, Yes Indeed,” “Grand Junction” and “Consequently, So Long,” three tracks from Poco’s 1969 debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces.

You can watch Furay’s medley performance in the video below.

The Troubadour concert marked something of a homecoming for the artist. The venue was an important launching point for Poco in the late ’60s following the breakup of Furay’s previous group, Buffalo Springfield.

“Jimmy Messina and I were planning our next move in putting together another group that would be a rock ‘n’ roll band with country influences,” Furay explains to UCR. “Once we had the lineup (George Grantham, Randy Meisner and Rusty Young) complete, we began working at the Troubadour, using it for rehearsals in the afternoon and performing there at night. It was at the Troubadour where the interest in the Los Angeles music circle really took hold, as people were hearing the sound we were creating as being something fresh and new.”

These Troubadour performances attracted many fellow musicians. Artists such as Jackson Browne, Gram Parsons, Linda Ronstadt, and future Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Henley were among those who came out to watch Poco play.

“It was an exciting time,” Furay admits. “L.A. and the Laurel Canyon community afforded us the privilege of creating a new sound that would continue on and become popular for years as other groups began to use what we were doing as their template.”

50th Anniversary Return to the Troubadour recaptures some of that magic, delivering a double album featuring two distinctive live sets. The first, titled Still DeLIVEerin’ includes Buffalo Springfield songs, Poco tunes and selections of his Furay’s solo work. The second part, DeLIVErin’ Again, is a front-to-back performance of Poco’s classic 1971 live LP DeLIVErin’, along with the band’s 1972 song “A Good Feelin’ to Know,” featuring Timothy B. Schmit on vocals.

Both the double album and the DVD are available for pre-order now.

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Why Black Sabbath’s Dio Era Forced Tony Iommi to ‘Work Harder’

Tony Iommi is making the best of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, despite running out of things to binge on Netflix. “I think we’ve watched everything,” he tells UCR, laughing. “We usually go out in the morning for a walk. Where we live it’s very hilly, so we walk up the hills for an hour or so and then come back and decide what we’re going to do basically. It’s not much, because you end up sort of on the computer or fiddling about or playing for a bit, and that’s it really.”

The legendary guitarist has also been writing new music and spending time reflecting on his past with Black Sabbath with a recent spate of expanded editions focusing on earlier material. Their fourth album, the 1972 classic Vol. 4, had an exhaustively curated reissue arrive recently. Still to come are deluxe editions of the group’s first two records with Ronnie James Dio, 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules, released as individual two-CD and two-LP sets. Both titles will feature live material and additional mixes of songs – some new and others coming to CD for the first time.

At the time of Dio’s entry into Sabbath in 1979, the band was in shambles. Ozzy Osbourne quit while recording Never Say Die! and was replaced by Dave Walker, who also had short stints as the singer in Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown. Writing and rehearsals of new music and even a performance on the BBC took place, but the union was abandoned when Osbourne briefly returned to the fold before being asked to leave again in the spring of 1979.

Issues remained, as drummer Bill Ward battled growing alcohol issues while bassist Geezer Butler‘s personal problems led to his brief replacement by Geoff Nichols while recording Heaven and Hell. Butler returned and things settled down long enough to complete the new album in Miami while staying at the home of Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. Ward left on the subsequent tour, however, and Vinny Appice filled his role behind the kit.

Somehow, Black Sabbath emerged with two classic LPs with Dio out front, before he, too, moved on in 1982. Iommi talks about the difficulties of incorporating Dio and Appice into the band, the care he took of his prosthetic fingertips and how he views all the different lineups of Black Sabbath.

How are you handling the pandemic, and how is life for you right now?
It’s what it is, isn’t it? You have to deal with it. It’s a real pain for everybody, of course, with this pandemic because it stopped virtually everything in its tracks, music-wise – everything – although I’m still doing stuff at home. I’m waiting, actually, to get my engineer here, because there’s a complete lockdown here in England, so you can’t basically have anyone in your house. Once the pandemic eases up, I’ll get him over and do a bit more writing, and that’s really what I want to get down to. But at the moment, I’ve just been doing like everybody else, just biding my time, really.

In the late ’70s, Ozzy Osbourne left, and you brought in Dave Walker for a spell, then Ozzy returned to finish Never Say Die! Following the tour to support the album, you realize it’s an untenable situation and you have to move on without him. Had there been any thought given to calling up Dave and saying, “Hey, Ozzy is out, and this time it’s for good. Do you fancy giving it another go?”
No, we didn’t. I think it had come to a stage in our lives, for all of us, where we’d gone as far as we could at the time. Certainly, Ozzy wasn’t in a condition – I think he lost interest in it, really. And there was more drugs and more booze – and that’s for everybody. It just wasn’t Ozzy, but Ozzy was the one it hit most, really. I think Ozzy was the one who wanted to sort of not do it anymore for a bit. When it came to that crunch, you know, it had to be. We were either going to breakup or continue with another singer. So, we decided to continue with another singer.

Listen to Black Sabbath’s ‘Neon Knights’

Will those studio recordings with Dave Walker, or even the BBC show where you performed “War Pigs” with him, ever see the light of day on a proper Sabbath release?
I never really thought about it, to be honest. I wouldn’t have thought so, because I think if we’d put it on any box sets with Ozzy, it would’ve infringed on Ozzy, and I don’t think that would’ve been fair. The Dave Walker period, there was nothing really recorded; we’d done a TV show and just some rehearsals, and that’s as far as it went. Then Ozzy came back.

You ended up in Miami in 1979 with Ronnie James Dio to work on what would become Heaven and Hell, and you’re staying in Barry Gibb’s house. Disco was huge, and earlier that year Kiss put out “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and have great success with it. Was there any part of you that thought, “Hmmm … maybe we should throw a drum machine on that and get Geoff to lay down a funky bass line?”
[Laughs.] No. Never!

That might have been a good one to pull on Geezer Butler. “Welcome back – we’ve decided to do a disco album!”
[Laughs.] Oh yeah, we’d already done that one, actually. We’d done one of those pranks on a few people, to be honest.

Were you worried that people might not take to a Black Sabbath with Dio singing?
When Ronnie came in, it was something very different. We didn’t want to bring in somebody that sounded like Ozzy, because everybody’d be going, “Oh, that sounds like Ozzy.” The idea was to bring in somebody who was completely different and get on with it. We were really confident with what we were writing, and we really liked it. If it hadn’t have done well, it wouldn’t have mattered because we enjoyed what we did – and that’s what it’s always been about for us. You have to enjoy it and love what you’re playing. I sort of enjoyed the slightly different direction it gave us, certainly with Ronnie’s voice and his approach. It made me think differently [about playing]. … It was exciting and a challenge, really.

How difficult was it for you as a musician to adjust to way Ronnie sang, or was it a natural adjustment to make?
It sort of fell into place. As a challenge, I enjoyed doing it – it made me think and work harder at it. Of course, hearing Ronnie’s voice with the things I was playing encouraged me to go somewhere else, different than where I probably would’ve done with Ozz. Also, Ronnie getting involved as well. He’d say, “What about this part there?” or “I like that bit” or “Can you try a different chord there?” It was just trial and error. It was like a new chapter in our lives. It was good.

Watch Heaven and Hell Perform ‘The Mob Rules’

While you were touring for Heaven and Hell, you received word that your good friend John Bonham had passed away. In your book, you said as hard as it hit you, people who knew him couldn’t really see it going any other way. Was it a wake-up call for you to sort of slow down a bit?
I think it was a bit of a wake-up call for all of us to make us really think about things. We all had different vices, really. Bill was struggling with his alcohol. You’ve got Ozzy with his alcohol and drugs, and then I got into the drugs – not so much the alcohol. But I think it made us all think at some point, definitely.

Did it affect any of your other relationships, whether it was to a degree where you couldn’t have a friendship or even work with them anymore?
Well, that did happen with us with Bill a bit later on, once we’d got Ronnie and we were [touring Heaven and Hell] at a show in Denver – and Bill just left. He’d just got in his bus and gone. It really shocked me because I’d known Bill long before the others, really. I played with Bill for two or three years before we ever got together with Ozz and Geez. It was a hell of a shock. Again, Bill had gotten to a point to where he was drinking too much, and he wasn’t happy anymore, and for him the idea was to run away from it. We thought he might come back, and eventually, of course, he did [for 1983’s Born Again], but then he went again. He started drinking again, so it was very difficult.

When Vinny joined Black Sabbath, did you see that as a truer representation of how you envisioned the band moving forward musically with Ronnie?
Bringing Vinnie in was another complete shock for me and I was absolutely petrified. I must be honest: I hadn’t played with another drummer for many, many years. Bill knew everything I did and we followed each other, really down to the T, but bringing somebody like Vinny in was a different style drummer. We auditioned him in L.A., and two or three days later we were playing a festival in bloody Hawaii. And Vinny was confident. He said, “I’ll be all right. I’ve made notes of all the songs, and where we’ll do this and do that,” but I wasn’t confident.

On the day of the gig, I remember I’m pacing up and down and Ronnie’s going, “Don’t worry! Stop worrying. It’ll be all right. It’ll be okay,” trying to calm me down. [Laughs.] We walk onstage, and there’s this tiny kit on Bill’s huge drum riser, which looked ridiculous – it looked like a toy kit – which was Vinny’s, of course. And I thought, “You’re never gonna be able to hear it!” Fair dues, Vinny really did pull it off, and he’d done a great job. The only thing was, it started raining and Vinny’s got all his notes and they all smudged. It was like, “Oh, no! What next, for God’s sake!” [Laughs.] But we managed to do it, and Vinny really did to a good job. And from then on, he got the hang of how we worked.

At first, when we used to talk with each other, and we’re all used to the same accents, Vinny couldn’t understand what we were saying. He used to say to Ronnie, “What’d they say?” [Laughs.] And Ronnie would explain to him. It was all a learning curve for all of us and, of course, by the time we got on tour, Vinny was playing really great.

On these new deluxe editions of Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, there are live tracks from the era and different mixes of songs. Why not also include the kind of outtakes and demos that have been included on the expanded versions of the Ozzy albums?
‘Cause we got the songs right in the first place. [Laughs.] That’s probably it, I don’t know. It just happens that some of them we haven’t got many outtakes of stuff and various things go missing and – I don’t know, really.

Sometimes it can be a bit of overload, like on the just released Vol. 4 deluxe edition, there are seven versions of “Wheels of Confusion.”
Yeah, I don’t know what happened there. [Laughs.] Some people really love to hear them. I mean, I wouldn’t like to hear seven versions of the same bloody song, to be honest, but some people do. Some people are fanatical about it, and I think if you’ve got them there and people want to hear them, then [the record company] puts them on.

Watch Heaven and Hell’s Video for ‘Bible Black’

You did four records with Ronnie. These two are the best known, but how would you personally rank them among that batch?
Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules, I loved those albums and I was more sort of stuck in with those. But as we’ve gone on, and we did Dehumanizer years later, and I liked that album. The Devil You Know I really love that. … Obviously, you don’t play your own albums every five minutes, but I played The Devil You Know probably a month ago and I sat there, and I really enjoyed it. Looking back now, at how good that band was with Dio, it was such a tight band in my opinion, and I really enjoy listening to those albums.

Most people view Ronnie and Ozzy as being the two singers of Black Sabbath, but it never devolved into the back and forth that AC/DC or Van Halen fans do with debating on who was the better frontman. Had you done more records with Dio all through the ’80s, do you think there would’ve been a deeper divide among fans?
I really couldn’t answer that. … For me, I don’t compare them because they’ve both, in their own right, got their own thing. Ozzy was a great entertainer, a great singer on the early stuff. His voice went perfectly with all the early albums we’d done. Then with Ronnie, a great singer, not so much a great entertainer like Ozzy, but he’s got the voice and put it over in a different way. So I think they’re both excellent, but just in their own ways. I wouldn’t say one is better at anything.

When you look at the different iterations of Sabbath, do you look at it as totally different entities or see them as something with a similar musical thread weaving through it that just happened to have different singers at times?
I think it’s just a continuation. It’s something that’s gone on, and it’s so weird with the whole history of Sabbath. People have come and gone so many times. Like Ozzy’s gone, and then he’s come back. Dio was with us, he went and came back, and Tony Martin, with us and come back – and then we end up back with Ozzy at the end. [Laughs.] It’s been a real in-and-out job. It’s all part of the Sabbath history, I suppose. I think it’s all the thread that goes through.

Speaking of Van Halen, I’m not sure if you read the book that came out a few years ago by their manager, but he had a story from when Black Sabbath were on tour with them in 1978. You left your prosthetic fingertips at the previous venue and had to call the band to grab them for you before the next gig. Did that happen a lot in the old days, leaving your prosthetic fingers behind?
No, it never used to really to happen. I was really – oof – really careful of them. But yes, I quite possibly did do that. I don’t know how that would’ve happened, and I don’t really remember it, to tell you the truth, because generally they were so precious to me. They’d be like gold dust. I didn’t have lots of them. I mean, I had a couple of pairs.

You’ve been asked about Eddie [Van Halen] quite a bit since his death, but did you follow Van Halen as a band after that initial tour?
I don’t know if we followed them closely as a band. I mean, obviously I’d hear their stuff on the radio, but without having them on our tour, I would never have gotten to know Eddie for as long as I did. We lost contact for a bit, and then we got back together. He had my number and I had his number, and off we went again. To me, it was more his friendship than anything. He was such a great friend to me and really just a very nice person.

10 Most Important Dio Historical Moments

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Architects’ Josh Middleton Plays His Favorite Guitar Riffs

Architects continue their ascent as one of metal’s bigger modern bands, but long before writing brutal riffs for Architects and Sylosis, guitarist John Middleton was getting his start with grunge.

The guitarist tells Loudwire’s Gear Factor that he first picked up the guitar around the age of eight. “Around that time, my friend gave me a cassette tape and he was like, ‘Check out my brother’s band.’ But it wasn’t his brother’s band, it was Nirvana. It had like, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ ‘In Bloom’ and then he had some Prodigy songs on there. I think he was trying to convince me that all those bands were his brother’s band. I kind of half believed him.”

Turns out Nirvana was quite huge in young Josh’s world, as he eventually learned to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on guitar and played the song unaccompanied at a high school event. “That must have been tedious for people to watch,” he adds.

When asked about his first riff, the guitarist says, “I don’t know if I’d classify this as a riff, but Radiohead, ‘Street Spirit,’ the picking thing. That was one of the first things I learned and it’s still kind of tricky.”

Josh reveals that he struggled early on with his bending technique and sweep picking, but he later mastered the latter and credits a Metallica favorite for really paving his path musically, adding, “As soon as I could [play ‘Battery,’] the world was my riff oyster.”

Having shown the riffs and solos that helped shape his playing, the guitarist turns his attention to his favorite Architects riffs. He opens with “Mortal After All,” reflects on the ease of coming up with the “World Beggars” riff, and admits that while he views it as a “meathead” riff, he loves playing “Modern Misery” live.

Middleton also serves up two newer riffs from the upcoming For Those That Wish to Exist album. First up is “Animals,” the last song written for the new album, and the main riff to “Black Lungs,” revealing that he used his octave pedal to make it sound a little more quirky.

For Those That Wish to Exist is due Feb. 26 through Epitaph Records and you can pre-order your copy right here (As Amazon affiliates, we earn on qualifying purchases).

2021’s Most Anticipated Rock + Metal Albums

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Metal Classic ‘The Crow’ Getting Limited-Edition Merch Collection

The 1994 classic movie The Crow, iconic among goths and metalheads, is getting it’s own limited-edition merchandise collection from Loot Crate, and we’re giving you an exclusive early look at the set.

The film is just about as rock ‘n’ roll as it gets. The plot is centered on Eric Draven — frontman for the metal band Hangman’s Joke — who is murdered along with his fiancé, and later brought back to life by the power of the crow to avenge her.

Beyond being a cult classic in both the heavy metal and goth realms, the film has become an undying classic following the tragic death of star Brandon Lee, who was killed during filming due to an improperly loaded stunt gun.

The new limited-edition merchandise set will be available for purchase tomorrow (Feb. 16) exclusively from Loot Crate. It includes a Hangman’s Joke T-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt with Draven’s face and a hoodie with “It Can’t Rain All the Time” written on the back, which is a song from the film’s soundtrack. See images below.

The items range from $25 to $40, or you can purchase all three for $85 and also receive a bonus item. The items will be shipped in March. You can purchase the set tomorrow on the Loot Crate site.

Speaking of the soundtrack, it’s also full of songs from popular artists of the era such as Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, Helmet, the Cure and more.

You might also remember, Loot Crate released a metal-inspired line of Ninja Turtles merch, which you can find here.

Loot Crate
Loot Crate
Loot Crate

The Crow – Movie Trailer

20 Classic Rock + Metal T-Shirts Everyone Has Owned

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Tony Iommi Relives Dio Era’s Best Pranks, Oddest Song + More

The first Ronnie James Dio era of Black Sabbath — the one that yielded the exceptional Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules — signaled the remarkable rebuilding of a wayward band and one of the finest moments in metal’s history concerning a change in singer. With two massive remastered reissues on the horizon, Tony Iommi was gracious enough to speak with us about this pair of timeless releases.

These records are historic for many reasons beyond the impressive comeback that came with them. It was a time of complete reinvention of the Sabbath sound, which in large part was due to the band’s willingness to relinquish some control and ease off self-production while linking up with the esteemed Martin Birch, who died in August of last year.

Birch’s fingerprints are all over some of the most important records in heavy music, even if Iommi did have to explain to him the typical bass tone used in rock and metal would not suffice when it came to tracking Geezer Butler.

Our conversation also leans heavily on Ronnie James Dio, who was Ozzy Osbourne‘s opposite in a number of ways, yet at the same time was the ideal suitor for the job as the band embarked in a bold new direction. Their new sound required fans to buy in to it rather than reject it outright because it didn’t sound like the Ozzy material.

And then there’s the pranks. Oh, the pranks!

Iommi is renowned prankster, always effusing pride in the hijinks he’s managed to pull off (lighting Bill Ward on fire…), but we had to know, instead, what the other members of the band had once done to him. But we won’t reveal that here — it’s best we leave that to metal’s creator, which brings us to the top of our interview directly below.

Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ reissues come out March 5. Pre-order here.

When was the first time you heard Ronnie James Dio sing?

It was Rainbow — probably the first Rainbow album. I thought it was really good and that Ronnie had a great voice.

Did you ever think that you would get him to sing in your band one day?

Before Ronnie joined, I was getting despondent about things. I was frustrated and wanted to get to work. I met Ronnie at a party, and we talked about doing a project together. So I was on the verge of doing something with him and when Ozzy left, that’s when I said to the other guys, “Why don’t we try Ronnie?” We got him over for a rehearsal and it worked.

Was there any apprehension of letting an American into the group? Or did the Rainbow stint qualify him as British enough?

It did in some ways. [laughs] We’re known as a British band and it did come across as that, but when we heard Ronnie, I thought, “This is the guy.”

We had a lot of barriers to climb over with Ronnie. Everybody knew Ozzy and we never worked with another singer, so bringing somebody else in was a big challenge. To expect the fans to take Ronnie on was a big barrier. Don Arden, who was managing us at the time, was against Ronnie singing for us. He said, “You can’t have a midget singing for Black Sabbath.” I said, “He’s got a great voice, it’s working with what we’re doing,” and that’s why we parted ways with Don.

Fin Costello, Getty Images

In the early stages of Heaven and Hell, Geezer Butler had also left the band to deal with marital issues. The future of the band was uncertain. At what point did you realize this material was indeed for Black Sabbath and not a brand new band?

We just stuck with the Sabbath thing. Bill Ward and myself knew we had to carry on. We liked what we were doing when Ronnie came in it made us work harder because we had to prove something again. The name of the band came up, but I don’t remember much about that period. Obviously we kept the name [laughs].

It was hard for Ronnie to step in somebody’s shoes and front Sabbath, especially someone like Ozzy who was a showman. Ronnie was more of a professional singer and Ozzy was more of an entertainer.

People always talk about the difference in style between the ’70s material and the first two albums with Dio, but to me it always felt like a natural progression from occultism into the mysticism Ronnie spoke about. Was there a mentality within Sabbath to keep those types of themes present?

Probably, yeah.

Ronnie had the same attitude as us and didn’t want to have anything too jolly. He wanted to make it meaningful and we wanted to believe in it instead of following a trend.

We were learning from each other — he had to learn the way we work and vice versa. It was trial and error and writing these songs was to see how far we could go. It opened a different way of writing — my playing changed when Ronnie came in. He was used to working with Ritchie Blackmore and dealing with a half hour solo and he encouraged me to play more.

One song where you play around with the arrangement live is “Heaven and Hell” which has an extra verse. Was that part of the original song and left out of the studio version or did that extension develop specifically on the road?

It happened on the road, which was another good thing touring with Ronnie — we would try new things. It was a tight ship but it was loose as far as the music was concerned — you could extend the solo or put a jam bit in, which we did, and it was great. I really found that refreshing.

Black Sabbath, “Heaven and Hell” (Live B-Side)

Something else very special about these two albums is that you worked with producer Martin Birch. What did he bring out of you as a musician that you weren’t aware of before?

Before Martin, we were doing it ourselves and it’s a tremendous pressure to do the production side as well as play. It was nice to rely on him, and I was able to relax more. He pushed me, too. If I was doing a solo, I usually get five takes before I start getting worse, but he always pushed me to play a better on.

Martin was not used to working with a band like us the way our sound was. Martin was so used to having bass players with a [standard] bass sound, and I had to tell him that Geezer’s tone is a lot more raunchy and we need to get more distortion on it. He relied on our opinions.

There was originally a demo with Ozzy singing on what became “Children of the Sea.” Is there any consideration for eventually releasing that?

I don’t know, I never really thought about it. I still have the tapes of all that. They were rehearsal tapes that weren’t properly recorded from when we jammed at the house and he sang a melody over it.

That was really the only one we did with Ozzy at that time, which was the problem and why it came to the end of Sabbath with Ozzy. We were working in Los Angeles, and I used to have to talk to the record company all the time. They would tell me to come in and give them an update, but I didn’t have an update. [laughs] I was trying to fluff it, thinking next time I’d go in I’d have something to play them. But Ozzy just wasn’t into it anymore, and we had to either break up or bring somebody else in.

The first Dio era was capped off with the Live Evil live album. What I love about this is hearing Ronnie sing some of the Ozzy songs. Do you have any particular favorites there?

I thought he handled them well. He did his version of “Black Sabbath,” which I liked. It’s so hard to bring somebody in to do these songs and it’s a terrible job for them trying to get the fans to accept that.

Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath” — Live With Ronnie James Dio

You’ve always been one for pranks, whether it’s lighting Bill Ward on fire, tricking Martin Birch with a voodoo doll, or playing into Ronnie’s fear of snakes. What was one of the most memorable pranks somebody played on you?

One of the pranks with Ronnie, Vinny [Appice] and Geezer was when we were working in Wales. I had just bought a brand new Range Rover, and they all came out to take a look. I came back inside to have a cup of tea or coffee, and Ronnie and Vinny later came in and said, “Tony, you’ve got oil under your car. It’s all dripping out.” I went rushing out and went, “Oh no!” It turned out they bought a big can of oil and poured it under the car! [laughs]

Geezer had a few bad ones. He had a Bentley convertible and a Jensen car. He had this guy who worked for him that cleaned them and this guy decided to start the Bentley up and instead knocked it into gear and it flew back, hit the Jensen out of the way and the Bentley went over this hill and the car was smashed to bits. The guy had to go to the hospital.

Geezer had some bad luck with cars. Both of them were write-offs.

Ronnie always had this impressive knack for words and to make people think deeply about certain concepts. Are there any of his lyrics in particular that still hold a personal meaning to you?

When you listen to Ronnie’s lyrics, they’re very good and in a different way. Geezer’s lyrics were brilliant, but Ronnie had a different perspective.

One I wasn’t mad about was “Country Girl” [laughs] I didn’t particularly take to that one. It was a bit out on a limb. Even Geezer said, “Country girl?” [laughs]

Warner Bros.

Going back a bit before Dio entered and to the last tour with Ozzy with Van Halen opening… We lost an incredible person recently — Eddie Van Halen. Do you remember the first time you heard “Eruption?”

We probably heard their first album before we went on tour with them. What a brilliant player and it was a sad loss. He was a really close friend. I have to really close guitar player friends in this business — Brian May and Eddie Van Halen. It was a big loss for me because we were always in contact. As soon as I heard him onstage I knew they were going to be successful.

The last time we played in Los Angeles, they all came to the gig — Eddie and Alex and their wives and Wolfie. It was great to see them. Wolfie has had to take a lot on his shoulders, but he’s handling it well.

Vinny Appice recently mentioned that twice Rob Halford wanted to be a part of the band — first after filling in for Ronnie in the ‘90s and later after Ronnie passed as a continuation of the Heaven & Hell band. Is there any consideration for this collaboration?

Rob must have mentioned it to Vinny at one particular time. It won’t happen now, but I’m writing stuff. What I’m going to use I don’t know yet — there’s no rush to do anything at the moment. I want to do an album of some sort whether its riffs or having a singer on it or for movies or whatever. I’m open for most things at the moment.

Thanks to Tony Iommi for the interview. Head here to learn more about the ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ remastered reissues, and to purchase your copies. Follow Black Sabbath on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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