Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Vault Date: July 29th, 2013
Legendary drummer for Black Sabbath, Bill Ward, will debut a collection of his artwork that brings rhythm to the canvas, entitled Absence of Corners on August 1st. It’s a personal look into a man’s soul where he shares his emotions, feelings, and pain with the viewers. It is an intimate look at him not only as a drummer but as a person.
Absence of Corners took nearly a year to complete. Working with Los Angeles art team SceneFour, Bill utilized a sophisticated formula to create the collection’s visuals, using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms are then studied and developed into abstract artwork that showcases a dimension not normally seen by the human eye. Each piece in this limited-edition collection is then numbered. All are signed by Bill.
I was one of the first people to speak with Bill about his collection. Throughout our conversation, I could feel his pride and excitement about the collection yet could also sense an underlying level of pain and heartbreak which stirred the images on the canvas. During our chat, he shared with me his insight into this project and how the failed negations with Black Sabbath helped capture theses memorizing images.
Robert Cavuoto: Can you tell me how this project of combining rhythm and artwork came up with SceneFour?
Bill Ward: The head of SceneFour contacted a friend I worked with and she told me about the concept and idea. I said that try it and see what happened. It actually developed into something quite different from what I thought it would be. I originally thought I was going to show up and play drums while they take pictures. It was quite different.
Robert: What is the process for capturing these images?
Bill Ward: They gave me stick and brushes with all different kind of lights in them. To get everything they needed I played in the dark for exactly one and half hours straight! It was quite weird, for a second I thought I was playing a gig. They asked me to play quite hard and they needed me to slam the drums. The first thing I noticed was how many cameras were used at all different angles. They took snapshots and video.
After that shoot, I had to go back the next day and do another 45 minutes straight of playing with a different set of sticks. They wanted to make sure that they got what they wanted. This session had fewer cameras. About six weeks later they called me and said to come down and start looking at the pictures they had taken.
Robert: Art can be inspiring and provide self-realization not only to the viewer but the artist, what did you discover about yourself through this process as well as when looking at the final pieces?
Bill Ward: That I can be flexible [Laughing] I’m sorry I couldn’t resist that! One of the things I discovered was what really appeals to you. Some things hit me straight away. I then had the opportunity to name the pieces which was a bit unexpected. It took a considerable amount of thought to name them. Being removed from my daily writing and recording, I was caught up in this new project working on words and really having to find what words worked with the pictures. It took me three days to come up with that title of the collection which I really liked called, Absence of Corners. It was simplicity because there are really no corners in the pictures. For the most part, it’s all curves with the way the sticks work.
For me, emotionally this session went really, really well. It was nice to think to that think that what came out when looking at these pictures were part of my emotions or feelings. It worked psychologically for me; I felt I got some of the uncomfortable feelings that I have been having lately on to a canvas. It was quite refreshing.
Robert: The two pieces that I did see, Grief” and “We Focus. We Persevere” are phenomenal. They come across as dark and ominous, I was wondering if that was perhaps reflective of what you were feeling with the failed Black Sabbath reunion?
Bill Ward: It’s very much related to that. It has been emotionally uncomfortable. And I think a lot of it showed up and there is a connection. A lot of the time I feel that in hindsight there was a lot of reflection of what I’m playing. It’s actually been really good to get through something that is uncomfortable and push through the wall and get to the other side. It’s like I’m still alive and the engine is still working. I had a little bit of that happening to me.
Robert: What do you want your fans to take away from this art?
Bill Ward: I think I have shared something very intimate; it’s almost like meeting somebody and letting them see who I am and where I’m at. As if to have that contact with a fan, that touch per se and letting them embrace me and not just me playing drums. It’s more solid and personal. It’s something that is important to me and whoever will buy this or respond to it will be touched by it. I think the sad part of me is in the artwork. I ultimately hope that we touch each other and connect.
Robert: I’m looking at one of your pieces call “Grief”; it looks as if there is a face weaved within the rhythms. Was that face superimposed or was it all the sticks and brushes?
Bill Ward: That’s just the sticks and brushes. It’s weird aint it! When I went to look at the pictures, it was standing in the corner by itself. I said, “oh my god, what’s that?” I thought the same thing you did, that face needed to come out of there. It’s quite strange and I was surprised. It’s so bloody sad that it can only be called “Grief”.
Robert: Do you have a favorite piece?
Bill Ward: Yeah I do. I like “Indestructible Youth” a lot and “Hello, I Don’t Think We’ve Met [Yet]” which is more humorous. It just seems to fit and it’s quite obvious that something was inside there that all the cameras in the room picked up. It’s this huge blur of color.
Robert: How many pieces will be offered in the collection?
Bill Ward: I’m not sure and I could be wrong but I’m guessing 12 to 15.
Robert: There are so many stories about why you are not playing with Sabbath on the CD as well as with them on tour. Can you set record straight on why you didn’t join in with the reunion?
Bill Ward: [Laughing] I was offered a contract and I couldn’t sign it. As for some of the stories – I would never, ever show up for a commitment that I could not do physically. So that should answer that one!
In the statement that I did last year, I was quite clear that I came to the end of the road and promised myself and my family that I would never sign a contract that was not workable. It was one of the toughest decisions that I ever had to make. Because I absolutely and without question wanted to play. I haven’t left the band. Everybody thinks I have left the band. I didn’t walk out; it wasn’t like that at all! I just didn’t sign the contract and life took its own course.
Robert: Ozzy said he still loves you, and hopes next time around you will be there, do you think there is any truth to that?
Bill Ward: I have a completely open mind to the idea. All the nicety and placations in the world will mean nothing unless I get the right contract.
Robert: I heard that they wanted you to come out to play on a few songs each night.
Bill Ward: I’m the drummer in Black Sabbath so I want to do the entire show. I play all or nothing. Playing partially would kind of be aligning to my demise in Sabbath and minimize me. I’m the drummer in Sabbath and quite capable of doing the job.
Robert: What advice would the Bill Ward of today give to the Bill Ward in the early days of Black Sabbath?
Bill Ward: Never, ever, ever, ever give away anything that you signed a contract. Never sign it off, never sell it! Whatever belongs to you, hold on to it with all your heart and soul because it could be a calamitous situation in the future. That would be the first thing because that’s the most primary thing. But I would also say that you have to stay true to your heart and make a stand and sometimes you have to make a very painful stand. I hated the fact that I’m not on the tour and I couldn’t play Birmingham and all the young fans that wanted to see me play. That was absolutely punishing to go through. Tony was sick and I wanted to be with Tony. It was a very hardcore decision to make.
Robert: What do you want to be remembering for?
Bill Ward: That I really tried hard to have integrity!
His collection can be viewed at www.billwarddrumart.com