Q&A with Geezer Butler
Sheila Rene': Hello Geezer! I'm really loving this new material.
Geezer Butler: What are you listing to? Who's it by?
SR: (in my best British accent) It's by Geezer.
GB: (laughing) You like it. Great.
SR: I need to know who the man in the suitcase is though?
GB: Anybody. It's like when you think that there's a glamorous life of traveling in rock and roll.
SR: It's hard work, traveling. How much longer is the OzzFest '97?
GB: I ends this month. It ends the day my album comes out, July 1.
SR: You had more time to record this time. You only had two week on Plastic Planet.
GB: Yeah, this one went much better because the worst part was over. The auditioning of singers was over.
SR: You found a good singer. I think this guy has a big future ahead of him. He sounds much older than he is.
GB: I really like him. It's his first studio experience so I think our future is going to be brilliant. He's good on the album, but he's got the potential to be great. I took my time writing this one. By the time we finished auditioning singers, we had over 50 songs done.
SR: You and Pedro.
GB: Yeah. So when Clark came in we started picking the ones that went best with his voice. We narrowed it down to about 24 songs and recorded about 18 of them. Thirteen of them ended up on this album.
SR: It really is a wonderful well put together album. Are you always hearing riffs? I imagine you've already got ideas for #3.
GB: Thanks. Oh, yeah, I've got thousands of things. There is only so much you can do. There's a lot of stuff left over. Every time you start anew you bring up more. We have a lot of music left over from Plastic Planet too. You're right we have already started writing ideas for the next album.
SR: Who's playing drums on this album? I don't see it anywhere on the sleeve.
GB: That's Dean Castronova.
SR: Dean again.
GB: He just came in as a session drummer on this one. We'll have a new drummer on the road.
SR: Any idea who at this time?
GB: Ummm. I think it's going to be a guy by the name of Chad Smith who comes from St. Louis, Missouri. He's the best we've found so far. I think we've decided on him, but until we have a full rehearsal with him, it's hard to say.
SR: Okay. You are coming out on tour.
GB: That was the most frustrating part of the last album. Just as we were getting into it and sounding good, about eight shows, Burt had to go back to Fear Factory. This time we'll be able to do a proper tour.
SR: How is the OzzFest for you? Is it fun?
GB: Oh, yes. It's great. It's a piece of cake (laughing) for me and Tony. It's forty minutes of some of the best Sabbath songs every written. Because it's only 40 minutes it was hard to pick which songs. Obviously, we have to do the tunes the fans want to hear...the old ones and the most well-known. It has been great fun.
SR: I made the San Antonio show and man did they have it down. The music was strong with great sound. Also important, they had the in and out thing figured out. I heard two new bands that I want to interview from the second stage. And, everything moved on the times scheduled.
GB: That's the one thing that truly surprised me. It was on time all night long.
SR: I loved Visions of Disorder, Slo Burn and the all-girl band Drain.
GB: There has been a lot of talk about all the bands on that show, main stage and second stage.
SR: Let's talk about the on-line thing last night. How did it go?
GB: It was okay, but it was mainly about the OzzFest stuff more than my stuff. It wasn't very deep or anything like that. It went on about 30 minutes.
SR: Well, you've brought Paul Northfield on again as your producer.
GB: Paul Northfield. I just like him for getting sounds. He understands what I'm trying to do with the music most of the time.
SR: It's so heavy. Even what isn't heavy is heavy. My friend Jon Torres explained to me that you're playing so low that it's heavier. Plus you're playing along with the guitar on some cuts which makes for a denser sound.
GB: (huge chuckles) Oh, yeah. I think I know what you mean.
SR: What's the best thing Pedro brings to this project as a friend, co-writer and guitarist?
GB: Musically, he always tries everything. He's open to everything, any suggestion whatsoever. He's always looking to learn. He's brilliant. I've worked with so many people that just stick at one level and that's it for them. He's looking to change and, like me, he's always experimenting and messing about with stuff. Sometimes we'll spend two or three days trying to get something totally mental. It might not work but, at least, we tried. He's always coming up with new ideas and, of course, for me he's brilliant because he's great to be an old tune surfer with my bass riffs and the keyboard stuff that I do.
SR: You're experimenting around with some more electronic stuff this time.
GB: It's just another way of expanding the music.
SR: I have an advanced copy with no lyrics.
GB: There will be lyrics on the real CD. I'm surprised they didn't send you the words.
SR: The only one I'm going to ask you about is the very amusing "Unspeakable Elvis." I love the idea of heavy metal Elvis.
GB: That was the very first thing we did with Clark. When he came over to England to sing to the music he asked if we had any lyrics that I can sing to because I find it very difficult to make up words as I go along. I told him I had piles and piles of lyrics written over the years. He pulled out the "Unspeakable Elvis" story which is about this guy who is convinced that Elvis is the devil because Elvis invented rock and roll. Rock and roll is the devil's music therefore Elvis must be the devil. This guy keeps seeing Elvis everywhere and eventually his wife had a baby and it's Elvis. Clark just sang this story and we kept it in as a laugh really.
SR: It's so funny to me. I'm glad you kept the song.
GB: Yeah, well I didn't want it to be like the first album. Plastic Planet was bordering on suicidal at times. It was really angry and down. I've got all that out of my system and I don't like writing stuff that I don't feel. This time we just had a lot of fun doing this album and the lyrics reflect that.
SR: You used your "69 P bass.
GB: Actually I used a Spectra bass in the studio. I tried to use the P bass since I had used it on Plastic Planet album. This Spectra bass is a lot deeper and bassier. I went for the bassier sound.
SR: The aliens are here, isn't it wonderful?
GB: Yeah "Area Code 51" was written after my son and I had gone to Area 51 last summer. We got in a car and just drove around America going to all the UFO sites. We went to Area 51 and it frightened the life out of us so I a song about it.
SR: There's a theory out there that puts forth the idea that all the TV shows and news shows about the aliens is just the governments way of getting every one prepared.
GB: Yeah, absolutely. There has to be somebody out there.
SR: What's you take on the Internet so far?
GB: I don't get that involved in it. Gloria and my kids are on it all the time, but I don't have that much time to bother with it. I'm sure that in the end it will be totally abused.
SR: I was shocked and delighted with the U.S. Supreme Court's latest ruling on freedom of speech on the net.
GB: It's a way of life already for kids to the homework via the net. They've grown up with it. With me, it's picking up a book to read or writing a letter, but these kids have grown up with computer games and everything. It's a natural progression.
SR: I'm hooked that's for sure.
GB: Technology is so incredible. I can't even imagine what it will be like at the end of the next century. It's a bit like my song "Among The Cybermen." It's about when we all become druids and the world is finally taken over by them.
SR: Darlin' do you think you could give up this rock and roll life and be happy just sitting back, going fishing and write novels?
GB: I'd love to write a novel. That's me one lingering ambition. I love writing music. I love all the new equipment that's coming out. I love playing with all these new machines that are coming out. I love that. We always used to mess about stuff like that in Sabbath before they had all these synthesizers and all that. We made our own sounds. Now every week they come out with something new. Especially, if it's a hobby like with me and your career as well.
SR: The possibilities are mind boggling.
GB: At home now you can have a fully professional studio for like $20,000. It's incredible.
SR: One thing I know. You're going through a very productive and happy time in your life. It shows that you're having fun.
GB: Yeah. That's what it's all about.
SR: We couldn't get up tomorrow if we didn't think we were going to have some mad fun.
GB: (laughing) Yeah, that's true.
SR: Are you any closer to being comfortable with the "living legend" status?
GB: I can't think like that. It's like I've never thought of musicians as being anything special. I understand if it were doctors or somebody like Billy Graham being a special person. But musicians are just ordinary people who've been given a gift. For some reason it goes to the heads of a lot of people and they do believe that they are legends, but I've never been comfortable with that. I'm just an ordinary person. I'm luckier than 90 percent of the people in the world and I'm always wondering why me?
SR: I'm so thrilled that you're still giving us the heavy stuff we love and not some silly sweet stuff.
GB: Great. Me too.
SR: I'll be looking forward to a tour date at Liberty Lunch.
GB: I love Austin. We had a great time there. Thanks Sheila.