08 Interview re Black Sabbath ’Tyr’ album
by on November 18, 2023 in Black Sabbath

How was it

Sabbath Feels Good To Me video shoot

Black Sabbath ‘Feels Good To Me’ video shoot 1995

for you to work with Black Sabbath in the studio and live? Did you get the job because of your relationship with Cozy Powell?

After recording the Headless Cross album, on which they used a very good jazz/session bassist, Laurence Cottle, Sabbath were looking for a touring bassist and they auditioned various people, but no-one was right for the band. I guess they had also looked for a bassist before the album, and had to use Laurence as a temporary measure. I had just finished working with Japanese band Vow Wow, and I happened to meet the guys at Sabbath at a rock magazine party, and got on very well with them. I guess Cozy recommended me to the rest of the guys, and soon after I went to try out with them in Birmingham, and was asked to join.

It’s true that having played with Cozy in Whitesnake and other situations was probably useful, though if I was a good player but a horrible person to be in a band with, or a nice guy who didn’t play in the right style, I wouldn’t get the job! There are not many bassists in the UK who have had lots of experience at a high level, and whose style will fit with Sabbath, particularly if you have to play close to what Geezer originally played, plus cover the different styles of songs from the later period after Ozzy & Ronnie Dio.

Although they have a heavy image, the guys in Sabbath were very easy to get along with. Tony Iommi gives the impression of being a scary person, but he’s very funny and a nice guy. Like Cozy, he won’t tolerate unprofessional behaviour, but if you do a good job and aren’t an asshole, everything will be fine.

At that time, Sabbath was very much Tony & Cozy’s band, though singer Tony Martin & keyboard player Geoff Nicholls had been with the band for a few years. The songs started with Tony’s riffs, but everyone contributed ideas. Live, we played a mixture of newer songs and classics, and some audience members only wanted to hear the old songs (with Geezer on bass!) but in some places, especially Germany, the Headless Cross album was very successful and those songs went down very well. Although I am not a clone of Geezer, we have a lot of the same influences, and in the songs where I could improvise, I think I played in a style which suited Sabbath at that time.

We enjoyed touring during 1989 and 1990, though it was disappointing that IRS Records were not able to promote the albums as well as we’d hoped, particularly in the USA. That led to frustration, and that had a lot to do with Ronnie and Geezer rejoining the band, in order to change record labels in the US and be able to do bigger venues.

 

Do you remember how the recordings were? How was it to work in the studio with Tony Iommi, Cozy Powell and Sean Lynch?

After rehearsing in Birmingham, we did a couple of weeks recording at Rockfield Studios in Wales, but a great deal of the guitars, bass, keyboards & vocals were recorded or re-recorded at Woodcray Studios. The production was very much under the control of Tony & Cozy, with Sean Lynch being the sound engineer, and I must admit to being disappointed by the final mix, as I’d hoped the bass sound would be bigger, like on the 70s Sabbath albums, but with Cozy in charge, the drums were more important! Quite often, only a guide guitar track was recorded together with the drums, with bass, vocals, keyboards and new guitar tracks being added later. It might have been better to have recorded all together as a band, and if we’d had the chance to try the songs live first, maybe that’s how it would have been done, which would have been better.

 

The album title and some song titles are taken from Norse Mythology, which led many fans to call “TYR” a concept album. Do you think this “epic” side of Tony Martin’s lyrics led the fans to consider TYR one of the best Sabbath albums of the Tony Martin era?

I don’t know what the fans think! I guess the lyrics are important, and when you’re playing heavy music, it’s hard to find themes that haven’t been used over and over. Some of the songs use Norse mythology, which was an attempt to move away from every song being about demons and evil, but it wasn’t planned as a concept album. Some of the fans are very conservative, and don’t want to hear anything different from 70s-era Sabbath. It’s also the case that the sound of Tony Martin’s voice will make songs more melodic than maybe some people want, but remember also that Tony Iommi was writing the majority of the music, and he didn’t want to always copy exactly what the band had done in the past. He was happy with the songs and how the band sounded at that time.

 

How did you choose the song (ballad) “Feels Good to Me” to release as a single and video clip?

I guess the record company made the decision, though realistically it was the only song on the album that was likely to get played on MTV. However, it wasn’t a very good video.

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