Black Sabbath Interview (1983)

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Classic Rock - Interviews, Deep Purple Family


I realised the other day as I browsed through my Facebook page that it was Ian Gillan´s 68th birthday and this kind of stuck in my head, so tonight I decided to view his 2007 documentary “Highway Star – A Journey In Rock” again and I came away with a feeling of awe. This man´s music has been part of my life since 1971, when I discovered Deep Purple at age 10, and I have seen countless concerts right up to present day Deep Purple (with another planned for February 2014). I have also met him a few times because of my Purple clubs and my time as a freelance journalist, and it dawned on me that I did interview him on his birthday once, when he visited Stockholm, Sweden, with Sabbath on August 19 1983. The interview took place at Hotel Sheraton and my friend Michael Johansson snapped some pictures that day. As you can see, I shared this interview with another journalist (I didn´t have a Purple club at that time), but these questions were mine. At the end of the gig that night, two topless gals surprised him on stage with bottles of Champagne. He picked one up on his shoulder and carried her across the stage – quite a sight with the Stonehenge backdrop, I assure you! If you know your history, you will know when he is 100% honest and when he gets a little protective. My God, it´s been 30 years… Well, enjoy it, glad to share it with you here on Trinkelbonker.

* * * * *

You didn´t hesitate to join Black Sabbath when they asked you?

– Yes, at first I didn´t want to know. I never really liked their image at all and I may have looked upon the people in the band in a negative way as well. My manager thought that I could at least meet them (Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi) and discuss it, so we met at this pub and I was really taken with how nice they were. We had the same humour and we shared a lot of views in general. Geezer went under the table first that night and I felt that maybe this was something to think about after all. So we discussed it and went through the details and then we started to rehearse. That went on for about six weeks. I knew by then that it was right so we booked time in a studio and in another six weeks we did the “Born Again” album.

Did you feel that you had to adapt your way of writing to suit Black Sabbath?

– No, I write in my own style and I didn´t want to sing a lot of drivel just because others have done it before me in the band. The lyrics are just day to day observations, just like in Gillan were a lot of the songs were quite dark and serious by nature.

Your band Gillan broke up last year when you got problems with your voice, what really happened?

– Well, we had just finished one of the longest tours ever and then we did another album called “Magic” very quickly and resumed touring. I then noticed that I had a problem with my throat but I didn´t have a cold. I went to a doctor and he confirmed my worst expectations and told me that I would lose my voice if I didn´t take a break. In spite of that, I did the English tour and after the final show at Wembley on December 17 I told the press that Gillan had to take a break. At that point I didn´t know what was going to happen but then I realised that the band was falling apart. Without going into details, I can say that John McCoy would not have been part of the band anymore if I had put it together again.

There were rumours of a Deep Purple reunion this spring…

– Well, I actually went over to America this January to meet with Ritchie Blackmore and Roger Glover for talks about Deep Purple. Jon Lord and Ian Paice were ready to do it. But somebody changed their mind so it fell through. I thought it could happen for a little while. As the situation is today it really can´t happen for the obvious reasons, but you never know.

You don´t get royalties anymore from the back catalouge?

– No, but I really don´t want to talk about that. One gets a little pissed off thinking about the fact that there are people who were not even members of Deep Purple who are making money from those records. I haven´t seen any money, except from a life insurance thing, from that part of my life in ages and I really don´t know what is going on with releases. Sometimes I open up a magazine and there´s an ad for some new Deep Purple LP…

You are touring with Black Sabbath now, are you afraid that the problem with your throat is going to reemerge?

– No. In my own band we did upwards 200 shows per year for six years, so to me Black Sabbath is like a holiday. Sabbath has a system that guarantees a day off regularly.

Some people see bands like AC/DC and Black Sabbath to be today´s answer to what the blues artists of old was to people back then. Any thoughts on that?

– Umm, I don´t know. I suppose it is what you want it to be. Maybe…

Why are British bands so down to earth compared to American acts?

– Because we are completely nuts. We can´t begin to grasp that there is big money, lots of dollars, to be had if you just smooth things out a little (laughs). To be honest, you can only make it really big in the States today if you make music that the radio can pick up. It has to be hit oriented, radio friendly. Not too much energy, you can´t get played if you´re too aggressive. In fact, I saw Journey in San Francisco a few weeks ago. They were nice to watch and little computors helped them from making a single mistake. The audience loved it but they missed out on the experience that provides goosebumps all over your body, that raw energy. To me, that is real power. In America it´s more about the show.

Bill Ward is reportedly back after a few years absence in Black Sabbath, but why then is Bev Bevan here with you tonight?

– Bill Ward is back in Sabbath, yes, but he had a cold recently and Bev will be with us until we can bring Bill back in safely.

What is the plan at the moment?

– Well, we begin here in Scandinavia and then we do Reading and Dublin, the festivals there, and then we move over to America and Canada for 20 concerts. We hope to record a new LP by Christmas and then we hope to play in England in January.

Is your solo career over or can we expect more albums from you in the future?

– If I get the time to do it I will. I have asked a few people, Jeff Beck, Simon Phillips, even Ritchie Blackmore.

Would you produce bands if you got the chance to do so?

– I already have, I did this band from Finland but it didn´t turn out so good. We did produce the new Black Sabbath album by ourselves though.

You work hard most of your time but what do you listen to when you have time off?

– Well, I like to listen to the radio, to see what´s going on.

How does it feel to know that one is an influental figure to hundreds of people who want to follow in your tradition with their lives?

– It´s nice to know that people appreciate what you have done in the past but there is one thing that they often lack that we had 15 years ago and that is the variation. The new bands have only listened to hard rock bands, so they don´t have a natural feel for blues and rock music.

You don´t find endless tours tedious?

– No. I hate to record music though. And the rehearsing is even more boring. I love to stand in front of an audience and that is the only reason that I go through the process of making new records. I know I need new songs to keep everything alive.

I talked with Mark Nauseef (original drummer in the Ian Gillan Band) recently and he said that the record company wanted the band to perform a few Deep Purple classics for the “Live At The Budokan” shows. How do you react to that?

– Mark Nauseef is a musical snob and he thinks that he is above people that play hard rock, so I knew that he would be disappointed when I wanted to do “Smoke On The Water”. The record company wanted some Purple stuff for the sake of increased sales so we ended up playing “Woman From Tokyo” and “Child In Time” as well. But the guys didn´t want to perform them like the original versions so we ended up doing them in this horrible way. But I don´t want to say anything bad about the Ian Gillan Band, I learnt more in that band than I can ever use. But I was so bored by the time we did “Scarabus” and that´s when I decided to end that and start what became Gillan instead.

Will there be Gillan “Best Of” releases in the future?

– If the record company thinks that there is any money in it, sure. I have left it all behind me and I am quite content in the new situation, which is, for once, stress free. I used to have all these problems to deal with at all times since all the responsibilities were on my shoulders in Gillan. With Black Sabbath I can finally relax a little and just be a singer. But I spent a lot of sleepless nights, I can tell you that. I used to like the smaller, independent, labels. They seemed to be more honest and direct compared with the big companies.

So you don´t feel inclined to struggle for power in Black Sabbath then?

– No. Naturally, I keep an eye on what is going on. Just before I came in Tony and Geezer threw the old management out the door and it took them a little while to set up a new organisation. Everything is back on track again now and I feel very good. No sleepless nights, no problems, no money… (laughs).

Michael Eriksson (1983) / Top image by Michael Johansson (used with permission)

(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)


  1. […] Eriksson has posted in his blog an interview he did with Big Ian during the Born Again tour in August 1983. They talked about dissolution of […]

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