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Statement on Upcoming Black Sabbath Shows

Posted on May.15, 2012 under Black Sabbath

Dear Sabbath Fans and Fellow Musicians,

I sincerely regret to inform you that after a final effort to participate in the upcoming Sabbath shows a failure to agree has continued. At this time I have to inform you that I won’t be playing with Black Sabbath at the Birmingham gig dated May 19th, 2012, nor will I be playing at Download on June 10th, 2012. Further, I will not be playing at Lollapalooza on August 3, 2012.

It is with a very sad heart that I bring you this news. I am sincerely passionate in my desire to play with the band, and I’m very, very sorry that it’s fallen to this. This statement is even more painstaking to write, as I was particularly excited to play alongside Tony Iommi after the recent treatments he underwent. I wanted that to become a reality.

To express my thoughts about you, the Sabbath fans, I’m going to speak to you all through an experience my brother James had recently. My brother Jimmy lives in the U.K. When speaking with him a couple of days ago, he told me that an acquaintance had stopped him on the street and confronted him, “is your brother playing Birmingham? What’s going on? I waited in line with my son and paid x amount for the concert tickets.”

The man’s son is a young drummer. He’s going to see Sabbath, and he wants to see Bill Ward play drums. Upon hearing this news, I felt horrible. I couldn’t help feeling some resentment towards the failure to reach an agreement, the failure to remember where we came from, the failure to be as brothers, as we once were. To be clear, I’m not blaming the other guys or finding any faults with them. I would think it can’t be easy for them either, but this situation is just really sad. It’s sad that it’s come to this. “This” will surely leave a mark and be unwelcome to the memory. Hopefully “this” will heal and pass in time.

My heart sank when Jimmy told me about this young boy. I know this boy is going to be disappointed, and I don’t know how to amend it, other than to put my arms around the boy and tell him I love him. Sabbath fans have a voice and a face, to me you’re human, you have families and despair. You have ferocity and emotions and graciousness, and at this moment as far as I’m concerned you are also that young boy in England. I don’t know how to amend my part in these failings other than to put my arms around you and say I love you and let you know I’m very, very sorry.

Throughout this process, which began over a year ago, I have had to stand up for myself time and time again. I have had to stand up for myself and in doing so realize my actions indirectly, although unintentionally, are upsetting and hurting a lot of you. I know in my heart I couldn’t have done these concerts by agreeing the terms suggested. 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.

Earlier in April 2012, I’d been asked to participate “minimally” in the Download festival. I believe I’d been offered no more than three songs to play while another drummer presumably played the rest of the show with Black Sabbath. I was not willing to participate in that offer. I was not prepared to watch another drummer play a Sabbath set, while I was to play only three songs.

I found out about the Birmingham gig on Monday, April 30 through the Internet ad. I was taken aback somewhat by the date, and the fact it was Birmingham. Knowing the “signable” contract negotiations were at best in shreds, I was upset by the idea that the band was going to play Birmingham and play it assumedly without me. I had no prior knowledge of the date and location, and I felt totally excluded. We contacted the representative for Black Sabbath to see if something could be worked out. In the meantime my drum crew and I, along with our US endorsers, finished all the necessary planning for a swift departure to the UK. There wasn’t a whole lot to complete; we’d all been on standby more or less since mid-January 2012. The remaining work in the UK was confirmed done by our European and UK endorsers and we were good to go by Friday, May 4 2012. There were two stress points: firstly, getting an agreement in place, and secondly, getting to England in a timely manner. Jetlag time was taken into account as well as drum practice, a drum practice room in the heart of Birmingham, accommodation, and travel arrangements were all in place to meet with any band rehearsals that may have transpired before the Birmingham show. So far everything that had been arranged was on my dime, but we didn’t move ahead without a realistic confirmation.

Communications between the representative and my lawyer continued through the weekend of May 5 finalizing on Wednesday, May 9. The offer we received on May 9 was, “come to the UK, play for free and see how the first show goes.” I was tempted. Playing for free would not have been a problem for me, but “seeing how the first show goes” left an element of risk which could have affected Download. My ideal thought was to play in full the Birmingham show, in full Download, and in full Lollapalooza.

I had notified the representative that May 10 was my cutoff day in order to have good lead-in time for England. On the night of May 9 I asked for a brief letter to be sent to the representative asking to find out if we were at an end. On the morning of Thursday, May 10, I received a reply in the affirmative. After consulting with my advisors and crew a decision was made to let go and stop.

I can’t prioritize the Sabbath fans making one show more important than the other. I can’t do that. All of you are important. It’s all the gigs or none at all. I can’t come to Birmingham and “see what happens” knowing there is a risk of not being able to play Download or Lollapalooza. Again, for me, it’s all or nothing. I had to say “no” to Birmingham on the principle of wanting to play all the shows. Saying no to Birmingham is very difficult for me. My family grew up in Birmingham. Black Sabbath grew up in Birmingham. It’s still my hometown and I resent having to arrive at such a difficult choice.

Although the statement was made that, “the door is always open” for me, as explained above, walking through that door is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many complicated issues and unseen and unspoken agendas on hand. I can assure you, my criteria for a “signable” contract is based in mindful principles, respectability, and acknowledgement of my history within the band.

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. Nobody wins, nobody. Even the ones who thought they did.

I didn’t want to make this decision, but I have to be honest and transparent. This is the statement I didn’t want to write; it’s the last thing I wanted to do. But, I have written it, and now it can go into the universe.

Since Spring of 2011, I’ve waited patiently and hopefully for a signable contract, you know the rest. I stand for the boy in the U.K., for the coming drum student, for all the drummers, who write their parts out and get stiffed on the publishing, I stand with the Sabbath fans chanting “Bill Ward” and asking “why?” and I stand with Tony and Geezer and Ozzy.

On a final note, even though I’m at an end with the upcoming announced concerts, I will remain with an open mind and a position of willingness to negotiate “signable” terms with Sabbath’s representatives in the future.

Stay strong.
Stay safe.

With all my heart and strength, I love you,
Bill Ward

Following on a separate page is a thank you message to some very extraordinary people.

381 comments for this entry:
  1. Andre C.

    Black Sabbath, I grew up with you. I grew up with Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill. I grew up with wonder, awe, even a little fright at times at this leviathan called Black Sabbath. But it was part of the landscape, the whole of an entity that shaped and colored my existence. In my world, if you didn’t like Black Sabbath you were somehow less of a listener.

    As years went by I found myself fronting a band, and our band counted Black Sabbath as our primary influence. We spoke of all the members as if we knew you personally. We covered a number of your songs and played them with reverence and respect.

    This issue that clouds the release of ’13’ is heartbreaking and even incites anger. While I cannot know the hair splitting details it is enough to know there are people at play who count the fan base as less than a priority. After all these years I want the whole of Black Sabbath’s return or nothing at all. You rule Bill Ward. Thank you for being there my friend. Carry on sir.

  2. malcolm

    i was disappointed to learn that you are not going to be on the upcoming album. i knew there were problems about you palying the live shows but thought you were still going to be participating on the new album. i never listened to rage against the machine i dont know what makes that drummer so special to be able to play on the new album and well im not too excited about getting a copy of it when it comes out. its cool ozzy will be singing but without you bill i think it will seem like just another tony iommi project. i was really impressed with the song psycho man and (cant remember the other) that was included in the reunion album and instantly thought it had the same great magic as the old days. i was really looking forward to a new album with the four of you but its not going to be. will this new album be a flop now that everyone knows you arent on it? time will tell but i think it will not sell as well as it would have if you were. stay healthy bill. all of us who grew up with the four of you playing as a unit will always love the band as it was. it was a great experience for me being able to see the four of you play at ozzfest 1999 in vancouver canada my one and only chance to see the four of you play together

  3. japi


    Hope Sharon gets sane again and you’re invited with apologies to Sabbath Reunion


  4. Rick Sheets

    I applaud your integrity for standing for what is right. I am 54 years old a grew up and learned much of my own guitar and music from Black Sabbath. Without you, it is not TRULY Black Sabbath! I will always hate the business side of music evn though it is a necessary evil we all live with. Stay Strong my friend, it’s not over till the fat lady sings and I don’t see her around the project.

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    […] the situation. “I am sincerely passionate in my desire to play with the band,” he wrote. “I’m very, very sorry that it’s fallen to this. This statement is even more […]

  7. Alberto Duarte

    Dear Bill, we want you to play in Chile in October 2013. Sabbath is not Sabbath without you.

  8. paul Wilson

    I heard the new Black Sabbath track today. A straight 4 is sadly inappropriate. Not the Black Sabbath I know and love.

  9. Jeff Au'Court

    Dear Mr.Ward,
    I am upset at the fact that you will not be a part of the reunion. There were “contract” issue(s)… (Lawyers). The simple fact of the matter (for ME) is that “if” this is the case then the other three “brothers” should have collectively had enough testosterone to put their feet down and say “No Bill Ward?, no reunion”. The fact is, had Ozzy or Tony even “hinted” towards this, it WOULD be happening. The other issue is, to have a “try out” “freebie” offer limply dangled at you would have been enough to have shut me down. Mr.Ward, you e always been pretty quiet, hearing this heartfelt note from you made me, 1.) feel bad and 2.) pissed me off! Screw them Bill!!! I for one am on your side, Tony screwed Ozzy (now their both moguls and its about the money and they apparently don’t care), Ozzy screwed Jake E. Lee and ultimately Zakk Wylde, Sharon is apparently going for Ozzy’s throat (you are apparently not getting paid so your share can go to Sharon!!! … And Geezer has always gone along for the ride at any cut rate fee. Fuck them Bill! This is one fan that WILL NOT be contributing to their financial orgy. Take care and remember, ten seconds is in the past… Just keep moving forward.

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  12. Dawn Scott

    Love & Support to you Bill thank you for yours!
    You gain in virtue
    Thank you for reminding us all what strength and intelligence it takes to do the right thing

  13. Kat DeCicco

    Dear Bill,
    Most of us never do have an opportunity to know what our idols and icons are really like behind the scenes. In standing by your truth with such strength and integrity, you show us what a stellar and fair-minded person you are, as well as the quality of the character within. My husband and I- as well as so many of our friends- grew up listening to Sabbath back in the 70s, catching shows when we could (Madison Square Garden, Convention Hall, Asbury Park NJ). The intensity and craft of your music has always been with us as we all moved forward through the phases of our lives. (Can’t thank you enough for that, by the way).
    As for seeing Sabbath without you? The first thought that comes to mind is: Why even bother? Your playing and presence were such integral parts of the band experience that there would be no point seeing any Sabbath line-up without you as part of the equation. Also concur with your sentiments on drummers not always getting their fair due, esp. on the business end. But from the listener-fan perspective…the drummer is the one who actually gets us all moving and keeps us out there dancing!
    We tip our hats respectfully to you and will be interested in any future music endeavors you may have to offer us all. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and taking such an important personal stand. Wish you the very best!

  14. George

    Like so many others I am disappointed that the heart of the beast that is Black Sabbath has been cast aside. Your musicianship created a sound that changed music forever, no price or condition is any excuse for not securing your talents.

    And like a few others, I have cancelled my order for the album. It will have no effect on the future conduct of the lawyers, but it is the least I can do to stand by you and your decision in gratitude for the music you have given us.

    It is a shame that Mr. Osbourne cannot show the same commitment to you now, as a core member of the group, as you showed for him in the past.

    Rock on Thunder God! Rock on!

  15. Sheilah

    Okay I understand about contracts. What I understand is after signatures have been affixed to a contract. All parties signed must abide by the contractually clauses, subclauses, paragraph, subsection…

    Yadda-Yadda-Yadda I think you know where it goes.

    Contracts are notoriously way to long.

    My solution.

    A simple 1 page, that’s legal size page. contract. If you cannot get it all in on the one page plus sign names. Toss It! Cut the unnecessary until all parties agree to the one page.

    Gee wait! That was way to simple. Yeah knock your lights out until nobodies home. That’s always a better and bigger headache.

    Though I support all Black Sabbath original lineup in this or what was a ‘contractually dispute’. I don’t understand when simple is better. Simple is best.


    Sheilah Say

  16. Steve

    it is too bad not to have the original sabbath family together for what might be a last opportunity to make a lasting and final impact. That being said, a hypothetical reunion of the Beatles without Ringo seems to be the equivalent here and this situation truely dilutes any idea of a true “reunion”. Hope this might work out in the future but to be a realist… time marches on and one can only wait and see. Bill Ward’s contributions to Sabbath were no less important than the remaining 3 parts to the equation!

  17. Rob Scatchard

    I don’t drum, but I do sing in a band with moderate success. You are my favourite drummer, along with Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Trym and Horgh. I bet its that two faced, money grabbing Sharon Osbourne that is pulling the strings behind the scenes. I met her once, that was enough. Good luck, no one can take away those fills you laid in History during early Sabbath.

  18. Rob Scatchard

    I bought the album, it didnt sound right, my bass player informed me you didnt play on it, then it all made sense.

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  20. Buddy

    SAD all 4 can’t play together — that’s the magic. All info for upcoming concerts

    Odd how on all band & upcoming concert sites: there is a LACK the usual details:
    Opening Band?, List of the playing members of each band….
    especially the performing members of Black Sabbath !!

    Terrible how it’s come back for bands …to ‘pay to play’ Everybody else is getting huge piece of the ca$h flow, leaving nothing for the artists & their crews.
    This WRONG.

    What can we do as fans do? It killed me to not go to concert last nite..that’s what i did… Why pay $200 to see part of the group.

    Wising you the best, and hoping the 4 of you can get together excluding promotors , managers, lawyers, & who ever else is screwing up what I know the 4 of you want to do….play, blow our faces off!

  21. Sound Of Rock

    Still sad. Hope to see them soon in Europe! Can’t wait to see the madness!!!


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