Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler: ‘Bill Ward’s contract demands were a joke’

Band name 'Ozzy and Friends' drummer Tommy Clufetos as his replacement for Download

Black Sabbath‘s Geezer Butler has claimed that estranged drummer Bill Ward’s contract demands were “a joke”.

Earlier this week (May 15), Ward issued a statement which explained that he will not be taking part in any of the Black Sabbath shows set for this summer, following on from previous claims he’d made that he had been unhappy with the contract he’d been offered to work on the band’s new album and tour.

According to Blabbermouth, Butler has now revealed that he will be replaced by drummer Tommy Clufetos, who will play with frontman Ozzy Osbourne on this summer’s Ozzy and Friends tour, but said it was “sad to see the Sabbath reunion tour becoming a bit of a soap opera on the internet.”

Speaking ahead of the band’s reunion show at Birmingham’s O2 Academy this evening, he wrote: “It has been a very tough year for us as a band, having announced our reunion plans, only for Tony [Iommi, guitarist] to be diagnosed with lymphoma, leaving us no choice to postpone the proposed Sabbath tour, and then for Bill to go public on his site about an unsignable contract.”

Butler, who said he, Osbourne and Iommi had started working on ideas for an album in the hope that they could work on the material with Ward at a later date, added: “He [Bill] hadn’t told any of us he was having contractual problems, and frankly, those things are worked out between our representatives, and never between the four of us, let alone in public.

“As you may expect, a one-off show at Donington [Download] festival cost an absolute fortune to stage, involving over 50 people, transport, airfares, hotels, meals, agents, promoters, lawyers etc, so none of us expected to make much money from it – it was a one-off Sabbath show to the fans, before we go into recording the new album.”

He went on to say:

Apparently, this wasn’t acceptable to Bill’s representatives; they wanted an amount that was so unrealistic that it seemed to have been a joke. So we resigned ourselves to doing Download without Bill, hoping he’d change his mind and at least make a guest appearance.

The bassist – who described Clufetos as a “brilliant drummer and good bloke” – did extend an olive-branch to Ward, however, concluding: “I do hope to play with Bill again someday. For whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be this time. Bill’s made his decision, and I have to respect that. Hopefully this painful year will be worth the wait for the new Sabbath album and [will] end in joy and happiness for us all.”

Black Sabbath will headline this summer’s Download Festival along with The Prodigy and Metallica over the weekend of June 8-10, and will also play a small show at Birmingham’s O2 Academy this evening to warm up for the festival. To check the availability of Black Sabbath tickets and get all the latest listings, go to NME.COM/TICKETS now, or call 0871 230 1094.