Tony Iommi "Iron Man" Interview

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When it comes to enduring rock credibility or musical trailblazing, some names carry enormous weight: Henry Rollins, Rick Rubin, and Black Sabbath are among those. It was ironic all three shared the stage last week to announce the forthcoming 2012 reunion of the original Sabbath. Rollins, as announcement MC, toted confirmation that a Rubin-produced new album (their first together since 1978's Never Say Die) was, in fact, on the way. Days before the historic 11.11.11 reunion event, pioneering Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi sat down with HPR's Dave Lawrence, Honolulu Host of NPR's All Things Considered, heard statewide in Hawaii weekday afternoons. This nearly one hour conversation centered on the volume of Sabbath stories covered in Iommi's new book "Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath."

Arguably the guitarist whose style is the root of heavy metal guitar, one of rock's most-pioneering players, Tony Iommi created -- invented -- much of the sonic landscape that changed the face of rock numerous times. Iommi has achieved this longevity through generations of players and even genres that have followed his musical map, from Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoades and Slash to Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and the entire influential 90's 'Seattle Scene,' or Grunge. Black Sabbath wrote that book.

Tony Iommi "Iron Man" book cover

Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath demonstrated what underground was, as the original alternative, the first band that defined 'heavy.' Anything remotely serious or sonically heavy in popular music prior to the arrival of Black Sabbath, and with it Iommi's innovative sound, paled by comparison to their ferocious assault. Equally, his riffs were accompanied by deadly serious tackling of, at the time, new themes in pop music: Vietnam, drug abuse, depression, religion, societal dysfunction and many other subjects yet to be exploited topically.

Estimating the critical role Sabbath and Iommi's style have played on popular music is difficult. It is hard to imagine Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam or Alice In Chains without Black Sabbath, and without Tony Iommi. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera and essentially every metal band can be traced to the musical framework found in Iommi compositions. The original Black Sabbath albums (and even the first two with Dio) are textbooks in a study of the origins of heavy metal, and nearly all forms of hard rock. It's in the crunchy guitar thump of 311, minor key downer rock of The Arctic Monkeys, and even the power chord work-outs of Kings of Leon; you'll find Sabbath's influence in a lot of places. Their relevance, and Iommi's, as the architect of that guitar-driven sound which has informed so many other genres and artists, is hard to overstate. His website is iommi.com; Black Sabbath's website is blacksabbath.com. On a technical note, the video is shot in 1080p HD, so the players may be set to that for best performance. Mahalo to WNYC, New York for providing the studio and engineer George Wellington, and Anthony Gemignani of All-Star Music Academy in New Jersey for assisting with the video recording.