Heaven And Hell: Geezer Butler on YouTube and the CD
The St. Louis River Front Times recently conducted an interview with legendary heavy metal bassist Geezer Butler (BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN AND HELL). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
Q: The day after the Chicago show on the first leg of the HEAVEN AND HELL tour, there was bootlegged footage up on YouTube. Does that sort of thing bother you, or do you find it flattering that people are so devoted they’re sneaking in cameras?
Geezer: (Chuckles) It’s just, to me, an incredible phenomenon. I think it’s better like that, rather than you know, one guy coming in with a movie camera and doing a bootleg of the whole show. This way, on YouTube, it certainly gets your name out across the whole world. And it’s just snippets and stuff, instead of whole shows. So I think it’s great.
Q: The guy who put it up said he was in the fifth row, and then other people who were there that night started chiming in with their opinion of the footage, but more about the show. Everybody said it was a great show, and he got a lot of hits. People were rabid to see how you guys were after all these years.
Geezer: Yeah, it’s amazing. It is free publicity. And when you’re in the entertainment business, that’s the greatest thing you can have.
Q: Were you worried about technical problems [during the filming of the "Live at Radio City Music Hall" DVD]?
Geezer: Yeah, we were worried about it – but there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. ‘Cause it costs a fortune to have the cameras and everything fly in, I think a lot of them were from the West Coast. And some of them, like the directors, were from Germany. And so it costs a lot of money to set the whole thing up, and with all the gigs we couldn’t do a soundcheck, it was that one. We couldn’t get the camera angles, we couldn’t . . . you know, it was really worrying on the night, because we had to do the monitors while we were playing, the monitor mixes onstage. And it wasn’t until the fourth song maybe that the monitors were right for the place. You know, it’s always the way with us. When we do a live album, there’s always a bomb scare or something! (Laughs).
Q: At least on the album part of it, you can’t hear any difficulties.
Geezer: Well, it’s just for us, the soundcheck. For all that investment into something, and you’re not allowed to do a soundcheck. It’s like the basic thing of a gig is doing your soundcheck, to get your sound right. And when you haven’t got a chance to get your sound right, or the camera angles, it’s panic time. But fortunately, the director had been at a lot of the shows, and we’d done a dummy run-through of the show in L.A. with the director there, so he knew what to expect.
Q: During those first four songs, when the monitors weren’t right, did you think, “Oh, it’s not going to work out.”
Geezer: Oh, yeah. In case you mess the whole thing up. ‘Cause I could hear that Ronnie and Tony and Vinny were playing great, and it’s sort of, “I hope I’m not the one that’s gonna completely ruin this whole thing!” (Laughs). It is a bit of a panic until you settle down. Plus, it’s New York, which is always a nerve-wracking place to play.
Q: Still? After all these years of playing out, you still get nerves?
Geezer: Yeah! ‘Cause you get all these fanatics who come to see us in places like New York and L.A. They’re like “ultrafans.”
Q: One of the bass magazines recently went into great detail analyzing your playing style when you play with Ozzy in BLACK SABBATH and Ronnie in HEAVEN AND HELL. Do you think there’s that much difference in how you play with the two of them?
Geezer: No, not to me. I just get on with it. (Laughs). It’s still me, you know? You’d have to bring in a different bass player to have a different style. You can’t possibly change your style just for the same kind of music.
Q: The guy who wrote the article had this theory that because Ronnie wrote lyrics, he had more influence on the melody line.
Geezer: I think the songs are probably more intense (with Ronnie), that’s for sure. There’s definitely more bass notes in the songs, because the songs are more intense and bit more complicated. There’s a lot more chord changes and stuff in the HEAVEN AND HELL line-up. In the original SABBATH, it was like a basic approach to stuff, and we got the ultimate heavy sound. Whereas the Dio era is more melodic, more chord changes, musically more technical.