Starting with Tony Iommi’s sudden lymphoma diagnosis in January, it’s not been so easy for Black Sabbath’s original members to get the old band back together. And the reunion roadblocks just keep coming. Drummer Bill Ward, who, in February, threatened to back out of the Sabbath reunion unless he was presented with a “signable contract” from management, has done just that.
In a new letter published today (May 15) on his official website, Ward says he, regrettably, will not participate in Black Sabbath’s upcoming shows. This decision was reached following an incident involving the band’s hometown concert in Birmingham, England on May 19 – a gig Ward found about through an Internet ad on April 30, not his bandmates. Ward explains that his lawyer contacted Sabbath’s representative last week only to be told that he could “come to the UK, play for free and see how the first show goes.”
It wasn’t the lack of pay that bothered Ward, it was the no-strings-attached mentality of “see how it goes.” This is when Ward decided to step away from the reunion, keeping true to his word about requiring a signable contract – something he says he’s been waiting on for a year.
“I know in my heart I couldn’t have done these concerts by agreeing the terms suggested,” Ward wrote. “I made a solemn vow after the last European and Ozzfest concerts that I would never again enter into what was, in my opinion, a totally unsatisfactory contract. I have to stand for something, and as painful as it is, I’m doing it.”
It’s true that Ward has sparred with Black Sabbath management over contracts previously. For an Ozzfest 2004 tour, Sharon Osbourne originally announced that Mike Bordin, Faith No More drummer and the former drummer in Ozzy’s backing band, would replace Ward due to contract disputes – yet Ward somehow ended up on the tour. In 1997, however, Bill Ward reportedly wasn’t invited to participate when Ozzy reunited with Black Sabbath for his Ozzfest tour, replaced by Bordin.
Additionally, Ward says he had been asked last month to play drums on just three songs during Black Sabbath’s set at U.K.’s Download Festival on June 10. This was an offer he turned down, due to the uncomfortable prospect of watching another drummer fulfill the duties he originally served. “I was not prepared to watch another drummer play a Sabbath set, while I was to play only three songs,” he said.
But Ward does not seem to draw any amount of pleasure from his decision, using his lengthy letter to sincerely apologize to fans and at one point, acknowledge that drummers don’t always get their due when it comes to licensing royalties.
“This statement is even more painstaking to write, as I was particularly excited to play alongside Tony Iommi after the recent treatments he underwent,” he wrote, acknowledging the Sabbath guitarist’s lymphoma diagnosis.
Ward continued: “I hold no malice or resentment towards the other band members. I love them; I’m tolerant of them; I’m frustrated with them, as they may be with me. My fight has never been with them. I’ll love them forever. In my opinion, nobody wins this time; the band doesn’t win; the fans for an original lineup don’t win.”
Ward did not specifically address Black Sabbath’s upcoming headlining appearance at Lollapalooza in August. While he will not perform at upcoming Black Sabbath shows, he said he “will remain with an open mind and a position of willingness to negotiate ‘signable’ terms with Sabbath’s representatives in the future.”
–Jillian Mapes, CBS Local