Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler Looks Ahead and Talks About “The End”

Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler Looks Ahead and Talks About “The End”
Geezer performs live with Black Sabbath. (Photo by Ross Halfin)

Black Sabbath have been heavy metal standard-bearers since they helped invent the genre back in the late ’60s, but now the group is bidding adieu to headbangers with their Black Sabbath: The End tour. And as you might expect, they’re NOT leaving quietly.

The farewell shows have rocked fans across three continents already, and now they’re planning the mother of all metal bashes when Ozzfest Meets Knotfest on September 24 & 25 in San Bernardino, CA. The fest will bring together some of the most monstrously huge names in heavy music for two days of insanity.

Bass player and primary lyricist Terence “Geezer” Butler was kind enough to catch us up on all things Black Sabbath, plus we got the scoop on his solo project, his nickname, and his pre-show rituals. Read on, and rock on.

“Geezer” is a pretty interesting nickname. How’d you get it?

It was my nickname from school. In England “geezer” is just another name for man or bloke or guy, not an old man as in the USA – although that would be fitting given my age now. I used to call everyone “geezer” at school, and so I was cursed with the nickname from then until now.

As Black Sabbath’s main lyricist, you helped set the “doom and gloom” tone of the band. Where did your obsession with the dark side come from?

I matched the lyrics to the tone of the music. I was interested in religion when I was growing up – having been brought up Catholic – and I believed in hell and the devil. I had some very strange supernatural visitations when I was growing up, which led me to read books about black and white magic and science fiction.

Photo by Ross Halfin
Black Sabbath performs live. Photo by Ross Halfin

Other metal bands we interviewed had trouble playing in certain cities because of their dark lyrics and ominous imagery. Did that ever happen to Black Sabbath?

No, but we were banned from playing “Sweet Leaf” in North Carolina once.

What were those early gigs in England like when Black Sabbath was starting to find its sound?

We played mostly 12-bar blues songs, but knew we had to write our own stuff in order to have a shot at being successful. When we first played the song “Black Sabbath” – the second song we’d ever written – the place went crazy, which gave us the encouragement to keep on writing our own songs.

When you guys began scoring a string of wildly successful albums – Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol. 4 – you became a huge international touring act. How did your live shows change as you got bigger and bigger?

The show has stayed relatively the same. At first we were quite naïve about how to present a show – we used to tune up on stage, sometimes for five or ten minutes, which didn’t go over too well with the audiences. We became more professional as time went by.

Do you or the group have any pre-show rituals or anything you do to get to ready to rock?

I like to rest for 45 minutes without talking to anyone, then warm up on bass, then do stretching exercises, then chew two pieces of gum as I’m going to the stage.

Black Sabbath released 13 a few years ago, and it became your first album to top the Billboard 200 in the US. How did that feel after you’d already done so much, and what do you think it says about the band’s staying power?

It was a big surprise having our first American number one. We honestly didn’t think it would have such an impact. If you told me when we started out in 1968 that we’d have a number one album in 45 years’ time in America, I’d have referred you to the nearest shrink.

This year Ozzfest joins forces with Knotfest for what might be the biggest metal concert ever. What’ll it be like to play with so many bands you’ve inspired?

We have played lots of these metal festivals in Europe, so it will be great playing one in America. It’s always a great feeling when other bands cite us as an influence – it’s the ultimate compliment.

Your solo project GZR went into the studio back in 2014. Can fans expect the new album anytime soon?

I’m going to concentrate on the solo album after “The End” tour has finished, so hopefully there will be something new available in 2018.

Guitarist Tony Iommi’s cancer diagnosis shocked everyone who follows rock. How’s he doing?

Thankfully his cancer is in remission. He has been an inspiration in the way he has dealt with this horrible disease. He never let it get in the way of the band’s work. He really is “Iron Man!”

Black Sabbath The End tour will finish up next year, which will close the book on the band. What’s your mindset as you approach these final live shows?

It’s bittersweet. I’ll be sad to finally reach the end of such a great career, but I’ll be happy we finished at the top of our game.

Any words for fans who can’t wait to see you on The End tour?

The end is near!