Black Sabbath’s Founding Drummer Bill Ward Talks Art @billwarddrums

Bill Ward from Black Sabbath ~

Bill Ward Talks Art Collection and Black Sabbath | Eat Play Rock

Even if you are not a heavy metal fan, you’ve heard of Black Sabbath. Their iconic song, “Iron Man”, can be heard blasting at just about every high school and college football game in the country. With metal standards such as “War Pigs”, “Changes” and “Paranoid”, Black Sabbath is without a doubt the kings of heavy metal and have been doing there thing for over 40 years now. For the majority of those years, one man has been the back beat and rhythm of the band, drummer Bill Ward. Ward was the Black Sabbath’s original drummer and has been with the band for the majority of their recording career. Even after Ozzy Osbourne’s departure and Ronnie James Dio’s initial hiring, Bill Ward was still there.

An Interview With Bill Ward

As one might imagine, Bill Ward is a very busy man, but he still took time out to speak to me via telephone about his latest project, a series of photographic artwork entitled “Absence of Corners: A Collection of Rhythm on Canvas“, as well as his career and life.

Tell me about your vegan lifestyle. What inspired that?

Bill Ward: It’s just a healthier way of living that was inspired by my wife several years ago. She had adopted the vegan lifestyle. It was not political. It was not about saving the animals or anything. It has become that, of course, but originally the reasons were purely selfish, just a healthier lifestyle.

 

Bill Ward Talks “Absence Of Corners”

Let’s talk about your art work. How did that come about? How was it created?

BW: I really had no idea how it would turn out. I was contacted by SceneFour to do this photo shoot, and, not knowing what to expect, I showed up at their studio with a full rig of drums. The entire shoot was done in the dark. I just played very aggressively and they had lots of cameramen there with lights. They kept handing me lighted drumsticks that were different colors. Some of the sticks were brushes, not like paint brushes, but brush sticks that are used to play jazz drums, if you know what I mean. I wound up playing a jazz style. I don’t really know what I was playing. I just got caught up in it.  I found that it really showed up well. They had a lot of smart photographers there at SceneFour who manipulated the pictures and it really flows. They caught me while I was playing, and the sticks made these different shapes. It was a lot like throwing paint on canvas (laughs). It was a bit sloppy, but it looked fabulous.
 


 
How did you come up with the title “Absence of Corners”?

BW: I noticed that in the different shapes there seemed to be an absence of corners in some of the pictures, mainly curves. So, when I was trying to think of a name for the collection, I tried to think of something that was the common denominator in all or most of the pictures, and that was it. They seem to stream very well. There were some corners, obviously, but not a lot.

How much does your artwork typically sell for?

BW: I honestly have no clue. SceneFour prices them, and of course they try to make them as affordable as possible for the Sabbath fans. A lot of them don’t have much money, so they try to keep it as affordable as possible. Some of them are a bit too expensive for me, but a lot of the prints are very large also. But I really have no idea what they are priced at.

What is your favorite piece?

BW: I love them all, but you’re asking me to pick my favorite, so I’m gonna go with “We Focus. We Persevere.” It’s a great example of brushes. I was really in a relaxed state when I was making this piece, and you can see how much I am focused. Really I wanted a message here for the drumming students. This is what drummers do: we focus, we persevere. We move forward, we don’t fall back. We are all going to have our setbacks. We are going to get knocked down, but we get right back up and keep going. That’s something that I have learned over the years in the rock industry, and I wanted to make sure that it was passed on correctly.

Black Sabbath's 1st Album

 

On Musical Inspiration

I know that you were inspired by Big Band-era drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. How did each one inspire you?

BW: I heard a lot of that music through my Mom and Dad. There were a lot of GIs bringing that music with them during the war and I would get to hear it from them, artists like Glenn Miller and such. There was this one guy in particular who was playing floor toms and huge crashes. That was Gene (Krupa). I incorporated a lot of his style, the huge crashes and tom-toms, into my style. It shows up in a lot of  Black Sabbath songs. There was one song that he performed called “Sing, Sing, Sing.” I studied it over and over until I had it down the best that I could. As a matter of fact, when Black Sabbath first went into the studio, Tony (Iommi) was like the boss, and he even demanded that that style of play show up on the recordings.

With Buddy (Rich), there was this song called “Caravan.” It was really tight with a lot of chops. It was really the tone of his drums that I learned from him. I learned how (Buddy) wanted his drums to sound, with more bass. He crammed a lot of stuff into eight bars, had a lot of triplets working with his bass.

 

Bill Ward Talks Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath 1978

Black Sabbath, 1978 | Image Credit: BillWard.com

You were in Black Sabbath for a long time. What were some of your favorite memories?

BW: Wow! There are a million of them. A lot of people ask me what my favorite {Black Sabbath} album is. I would have to say that it’s the first album, “Black Sabbath”, because we were bloody innocent. We were really tight then. We were like the four musketeers. We had each other’s backs, and we played constantly. Those were rough times, too. We had no money and no food, but we stood up for one another. We worked tirelessly, and there was a rough-edginess to our sound. Other than that, really, the thing that stands out the most to me is more recently. Tony and I would go for walks in the park. We would walk in parks throughout the world, in Germany and London, but especially Central Park. We would walk for miles, and we would remember our younger days. We would just be walking and be like, “Do you remember when we did this or that?” I really miss those walks.
 


 
I certainly hope you can patch things up with them. Especially Tony. You seem to genuinely miss him.

BW: I don’t think there’s a lot of wreckage between me and Tony. I really don’t. I just need to clear up some things. Right now, I have taken on a lot of projects and got busy on my own.
 


 
Though Bill Ward is not currently touring with Black Sabbath, he is currently focusing his efforts on his art work and his own band, the Bill Ward Band, as well as working with other artists on some upcoming projects.  You can also catch Bill Ward doing his heavy metal and classic rock radio show Rock 50.

Socialize With Bill Ward

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About Jay Crawford

Jay is a die hard sports fan {football and college basketball being his favorites}. His favorite teams are the Carolina Panthers and Tarheels and, of course, his alma mater, the Appalachian Mountaineers. He spends his free time listening to music, especially KISS, Def Leppard, the Eagles and a lot of the newer country music, and watching comic book and action movies. The more special effects - the better.

Comments

  1. What a great honor to be able to interview Bill Ward!!! Wow.
    So he’s a vegan and an artist…who knew??!!
    I’m glad to hear he’s busy doing his own thing =)
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  2. I had no idea he was inspired by Big Band-era drummers. How cool.
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  3. I have heard of Black Sabbath, but had no idea that he was vegan. Not my thing, but totally cool that it’s worked for him.
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  4. Jenna Wood says:

    Now I want to go look up his artwork; I think it’s funny he didn’t start with the name for his collection, he just used a common theme after creating the pieces!

  5. Obviously a multi-talented man. Thanks for sharing
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  6. OK, I am totally jealous! Great interview! Totally didn’t know this stuff about him!
    Kristin @ Keenly Kristin recently posted…Trayvon Martin’s legacy is justice…for everyone.My Profile

  7. I love how they incorporated his drum skills into art. It’s such a great way of extending Bill Ward’s art into new areas.
    SHELLEY R ZUREK recently posted…100 calories of Yummy! Healthy Choice Greek Frozen Yogurt ReviewMy Profile

  8. Such a great interview – Thank you for sharing
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  9. i have never heard of black sabbath before but I enjoyed learning about Bill!

  10. Wow, very cool interview with a big star. Black Sabbath – when music WAS MUSIC!

  11. This is a great interview! So cool to see the man behind the “rock”. He seems so genuine in his missing his walks with Tony. :-( I love that he was actually inspired by the Big Band-era drummers. I’m interested in seeing his artwork and hearing his band now!
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  12. You just made me realize how sheltered I am, I had not heard of them until just now. I did play their songs and they are quite different from Barney and Elmo. I seriously need time to myself so I can indulge in grown up music. Thank you for sharing this and teaching me something new.
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  13. Very interesting interview. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover? Nice walk down memory lane too.
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  14. Very cool! I do love some of their music, but have to admit…not all. :-)
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  15. I love it when famous people take time to talk about their hobbies and the projects they are working on! What a neat interview!
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  16. WOW. How awesome! I never knew most of this stuff.
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  17. Cool interview, nice to see he is multi-dimensional!
    thanks,
    Mitch
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  18. Very cool interview! He seems extremely down to earth!

  19. Very neat interview. I am forwarding this to my brother who would love to read it.
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  20. Oh how neat! Now I am incredibly jealous!

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