Things are not looking good for this year's Black Sabbath reunion. First, Tony Iommi got stricken with lymphoma, a form of cancer, which he will be battling while writing new material for the first Sabbath album with Ozzy in over 30 years. But, now there is a new wrench in the plans. Drummer Bill Ward doesn't seem too happy with his contract, and is pulling a power play, delivering a message to fans that unless he gets a better deal, he's out. Here is the statement he released today:
Dear Sabbath Fans, Fellow Musicians and Interested Parties,
At this time, I would love nothing more than to be able to proceed with the Black Sabbath album and tour. However, I am unable to continue unless a “signable” contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band. Last year, I worked diligently in good faith with Tony, Ozzy and Geezer. And on 11/11/11, again in good faith, I participated in the L.A. press conference. Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another “unsignable” contract was handed to me.
Let me say that although this has put me in some kind of holding pattern, I am packed and ready to leave the U.S. for England. More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with Black Sabbath.
Since the news of Tony’s illness, and the understanding that the band would move production to the U.K., I’ve spent everyday getting to or living in a place of readiness to leave. That involves something of a task, and as I’ve tried to find out what’s going on with the U.K. sessions, I’ve realized that I’ve been getting “the cold shoulder” (and, I might add, not for the first time). Feeling somewhat ostracized, my guess is as of today, I will know nothing of what’shappening unless I sign “the unsignable contract.”
The place I’m in feels lousy and lonely because as much as I want to play and participate, I also have to stand for something and not sign on. If I sign as-is, I stand to lose my rights, dignity and respectability as a rock musician. I believe in freedom and freedom of speech. I grew up in a hard rock/metal band. We stood for something then, and we played from the heart with honesty and sincerity. I am in the spirit of integrity, far from the corporate malady, I am real and honest, fair and compassionate.
If I’m replaced, I have to face you, the beloved Sabbath fans. I hope you will not hold me responsible for the failure of an original Black Sabbath lineup as promoted. Without fault finding, I want to assure everyone that my loyalty to Sabbath is intact.
So here I am. I lay my truth down before you. I’m good to go IF I get a “signable” contract. I don’t want to let anyone down, especially Black Sabbath and all the Sabbath fans. You know I love you. It would be a sad day in Rock if this current situation fell to the desires of a few.
My position is not greed-driven. I’m not holding out for a “big piece” of the action (money) like some kind of blackmail deal. I’d like something that recognizes and is reflective of my contributions to the band, including the reunions that started fourteen years ago. After the last tour I vowed to never again sign on to an unreasonable contract. I want a contract that shows some respect to me and my family, a contract that will honor all that I’ve brought to Black Sabbath since its beginning.
That’s the story so far.
Stay safe and stay strong.
I love every single one of you.
While I can't seem to find anything backing this claim, I am almost positive this is the second such instance where Ward is pulling this move, the first being the last Ozzfest reunion the guys did together. Ultimately, it's difficult to take a side one way or the other, but I'm leaning towards siding with Ward, cause let's call a spade a spade… Sharon Osborune is no walk in the park to negotiate with and I'm sure she's trying to such as much money as possible out of this reunion for herself and Ozzy. I can't see this reunion happening without Ward, as all the press releases hinge on the fact that this is the original lineup performing a new record. Without Ward, that would be a false statement. I'm sure they can come to terms, but for now, we play…the waiting game.
UPDATE 2/3/12: Black Sabbath have announced they are moving on without Ward. Bummer!