In an interview with Louder Sound Toni “The Dark Lord” Iommi told about the recording process of Black Sabbath‘s “Sabotage.” Read it here:
Can you remember where you were when you came up with the riff for ‘Symptom of the Universe’?
“Oh my god, it was a long time ago. I can’t remember, to be completely truthful. I imagine we would have probably been in rehearsal.”
Is that how you used to come up with riffs – in rehearsal?
“Generally, yeah. Sometimes I’ve come up with stuff at home and taped it just to remember it, but I don’t really work things out as such.”
You make it sound easy…
“Dare I say it, but yeah, I’ve not had much trouble coming up with riffs. Now I’ve said it, I’ll probably never come up with another one. But I’ve got hundreds of them from over the years on various CDs.
“I keep threatening to sit down and listen to them all one of these days when I get the chance.”
Back when you were writing ‘Symptom of the Universe,’ which guitarists were you in competition with?
“Me. I was in competition with myself. I would always try to come up with more and more inventive ideas – different tunings, changing the amps, just fiddling about with the guitars really.
“I would constantly be trying to improve things and change things. I didn’t really listen to other people, just in case I started playing someone else’s riff by mistake.”
The second half of ‘Symptom of the Universe’ heads off into weird, prog-jazz territory. Was that you, deliberately setting out to write a prog-metal song?
“No, that was just us jamming together. It was something I came up with and Geezer [Butler] and Bill [Ward] followed, and then Ozzy came in.
“But then a lot of Sabbath’s stuff went to places you didn’t think they would go. I remember when we had Ronnie Dio with us, I played him the track ‘Die Young.’
“It went into this completely different tempo, and he went, ‘You can’t do that!’ I went, ‘Of course we can. It’s what we’ve always done.'”
What are your memories of making the ‘Sabotage’ album?
“Oh, it was a nightmare. We had a court case with our ex-manager, Patrick Meehan, while we were in the middle of making the album.
“We’d get a writ and we’d end up having to go into bloody court in the morning, all dressed up, then try to get back to the studio afterwards to carry on working. It was hard to come up with things. You had to have two heads.”
Did that aggro feed into the album?
“Certainly with Geezer’s lyrics. He wrote one called ‘The Writ,’ so it influenced him, that’s for sure.
“I think the aggression definitely came out in the music when we played together. There is some really heavy stuff on that record.”
Is it true that ‘The Writ’ was inspired by a lawyer unexpectedly turning up at the studio to serve you with legal papers?
“That’s exactly what happened. They used to turn up all the bloody time. We never knew they were coming. If we did, we’d have disappeared sharpish.”
‘Sabotage’ took nearly a year to record. Was there ever a point where you thought you might not make it to the end?
“No, I’ve never felt like that. We’ve always fought through whatever was there. Without the music, we’d have all gone bloody loony.
“I think it actually it brought us all together as a band. Whenever we went through problems, we’d just fight through it together.”
The ‘Sabotage’ album cover. What’s going on there?
“[Laughs] A guy who worked for us who was an artist, he came up with a great idea – us reflected in a mirror, stuff like that.
“But when it got to the day, somebody said to Bill, ‘What are you gonna wear?’ And he was, like, ‘I dunno.’ So he turned to his wife and said, ‘Can I borrow your tights?’
“So he put on this pair of his wife’s red tights. And I think he might have borrowed Ozzy’s underpants, too. It looked bloody ridiculous. It definitely didn’t come out like we wanted it to.”
Watch “The Writ” video here: