Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi reveals why he has ditched heavy metal for CHORUS work
He is known as the man in black, the inventor of heavy metal.
So it will come as a surprise when Tony Iommi’s worldwide army of die-hard fans hear his first new music outside of the band he has led for close on half a century.
Because the 68-year-old Black Sabbath guitarist has recorded a haunting CHORAL work with the Birmingham Cathedral choir and cellist George Shilling.
The five-minute-long How Good It Is, inspired by Psalm 133, will premiere at the Cathedral tonight (Thursday, January 5), in front of a specially invited audience.
Iommi, who plays acoustic guitar on the track, says modestly: “They’re a fantastic choir but the guitar player’s crap!”
There’s a proud smile on his face, though. Because this has been a labour of love.
“It’s a bit different to Sabbath!” he says. “We’ve done instrumental work before with orchestras and it’s something I enjoy doing – but this is completely different.
“It’s something we have started from scratch, a completely new piece of music unlike anything I have done before.”
But is there not a sense of irony that a guitarist once accused of espousing black magic should write for the church?
“No, not at all,” he laughs. “People used to think we were Satanists but we weren’t. The songs were the opposite – they were all about the dangers of Black Magic.
“The closest we came was Black Magic chocolates!”
The Black Sabbath guitarist says that How Good It Is will be just the first of many new challenges he hopes to explore after Sabbath play their last-ever shows at Birmingham’s Genting Arena on Thursday February 2 and Saturday February 4.
“I like new challenges,” he admits. “Things that are a bit out of the ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved my time in Black Sabbath but the constant touring has worn me down. I want to work at home now – anything without all that travelling.
“I will still be making music, and I have a number of interesting offers and projects that I will look at in good time. I would like to do some film soundtrack work, maybe something else for TV (he has already written for CSI in the States), and I would like to resume my mentoring work.”
Iommi worked with his friend, the Dean of Birmingham, the Very Reverend Catherine Ogle, on the work which celebrates peace, harmony and the Cathedral’s role in the heart of the city.
“We met through our mutual friend Mike Olley,” he says, referring to the Broad Street manager.
“He suggested that we should work on something for the choir together.
“Catherine and I gave it a lot of thought, then I recorded the tune on which the piece is based at my home recording studio. I sent it to Catherine, she liked it, and came up with the words, which are based on the Psalm.
“Then we recorded the choir inside the Cathedral, which has gorgeous acoustics.
“The whole process took around nine months because I was out on Black Sabbath’s final tour, and there were lots of things happening at the Cathedral, where work was being done.
“We called in cellist George Shilling, and invited him to work his magic, too, and we’re all very happy with the finished result.”