The band Black Sabbath is considered to have been one of — if not the — originators of the metal movement in the rock genre. After four decades, its music is still going strong. The group has issued its first new studio album in 30 years (“13” on the Universal Republic label), and has been on tour.
Black Sabbath, with its original lineup of vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Terence “Geezer” Butler, along with drummer Tommy Clufetos, will be performing at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine Wednesday and the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Sept. 3.
“For the first time in years, we're finally doing some new material on stage with the new album we've got out,” Butler said. “It's a definite change for us because it's the first time in 30 years that we've actually come up with something new and the crowd is really loving it. It's good playing it and it fits in really well with the old stuff.”
“13” harkens back to the Black Sabbath sound of the '70s, which may be partly due to the band using its original method of recording its material live in the studio. The writing process was also a change.
“In the past, we'd just go to a rehearsal situation and jam until we came out with something that we liked and then we'd work on that,” Butler said. “But this time was different because when we got together, Tony had about 40 or 50 different riffs that he had written, so we were able to pick some of those riffs and immediately have a starting point on them.”
Butler still writes most of the lyrics for Black Sabbath's songs, drawing ideas from the news, books and the darker side of life.
He says he is still amazed at the band's success.
“When we first started, we thought if we were lucky, we'd last two or three years and then we'd have to get real jobs,” Butler said. “When we started in 1968, if you were over 25, then you were too old for rock ‘n' roll so you'd get a proper job. But as time went on, things changed, the rules were changed, and the ageist thing didn't seem to apply anymore. It's just incredible that it's lasted this long.”
The Los Angeles bassist credits the group's popularity to their music being “almost underground,” as it wasn't aired often on television nor was it overplayed on the radio. Still, Butler said that metal took a back seat to glam and the more electronic grooves of the '80s until Metallica emerged, bringing the genre back into fashion. This also paved the way for a rediscovery of the classic bands which led them to new opportunities. However, as iconic as these seasoned musicians may be, they still face the problems that come with age, especially when it comes to the physical demands of touring.
“We take it a lot easier now — we do one show on and then we have a day off,” Butler said. “So we only play every other day and that keeps the whole thing much fresher instead of wearing ourselves out.”
Growing up in Birmingham, England, Butler first played rhythm guitar, learning the songs performed by his hero John Lennon. His first band did covers of Beatles', Stones' and Kinks' numbers.
“Back then I couldn't even afford six strings on the guitar. I think there were four stings on the guitar that I had, so I had to learn a very strange style,” Butler said.
Those four strings have served him well, though, providing a foundation for his later move to the bass.
Black Sabbath will take a month's break after its Los Angeles concert. They will finish out the year touring South America, Mexico and Europe, wrapping things up in their hometown of Birmingham just before Christmas.
Black Sabbath will also have a new notch to put on its belt this year as Universal Studios is creating a 3-D maze based on the band's music for its Halloween Horror Nights, which begins Sept. 20.
“They showed us the images of the maze, the drawings and photographs of the masks and the thing that they're making for it and explained the whole structure of it,” Butler said. “It's a maze and each part of the maze is based on particular lyrics from the old songs, so it's really good, it's really interesting.
“Once it's built, we're going out to visit it and have a tour of it. It will probably frighten us all to death.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine
Information: 800-745-3000, www.livenation.com, www.blacksabbath.com
Also: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3; Los Angeles Sports Arena, 3939 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles; $70-$143; 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com