Tony Iommi Reveals Why Black Sabbath Never Hired Any Rhythm Guitarists.
He also points out interesting aspects of guitar playing he thinks most folks fail to notice.
When the creator of the true heavy metal riff, Tony Iommi was asked by Guitar World Magazine whether or not he ever considered hiring a rhythm guitarist in Black Sabbath, he replied:
“I worked with a rhythm player in one of my early bands with Bill Ward. It sounded good, but I also felt it confused things.
“Guitarists never play the same way as one another, and those differences can clash. When I worked with other guitarists in those days, I always felt certain things sounded odd or didn’t mesh, so I decided on keeping Sabbath a four-piece.
“Over the years, however, I’ve played with other players, and had great experiences. When I jam with Brian May, for example, it works. We’re on the same wavelength and we sort of understand and respect each other.”
Speaking of Mr. May, Tony noted that collaboration record with the “Queen Guitar Guru” is still on table, saying:
“We talked about it when he came over the house a couple months ago. I’d like to do only things that I really enjoy now, and that would be one of them.”
Watch Tony Iommi, Brian May & Roger Daltrey perform “I Want it All” during the “Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness”.
During the rest of the chat, Iommi talked about detuning his guitar, which became a staple mark of the Sabbath sound, saying:
“That came a little later. The first two albums were played at standard pitch. I didn’t really start experimenting with detuning my guitar until the third album, [1971’s] ‘Master of Reality.’
“I think it made a huge difference and added a whole different dimension to Black Sabbath. It made my guitar sound bigger, which was always a motivation. I mean, not counting vocals, what did I really have to work with?
“We didn’t have keyboards or a rhythm guitar. It was just me, bass and drums. So, we were always working on making our sound larger than life and more powerful. Detuning was part of that, as was Geezer adding distortion or bending notes, which was rare for a bass guitarist in those days.”
Tony was also asked to single out the elements of his playing he thinks may go unnoticed by fans, to which he replied:
“Hmm… I’ve never actually given that any thought. Here’s something. After the accident, I had difficulty bending strings, but I wanted to be able to play those blues notes.
“So instead of bending strings I started playing these little hammer-on trills. It became an identifiable part of my style, but that’s how it started. I still use them quite a bit.
“I also think my use of open strings to make my riffs sound bigger is a subtlety that might go unnoticed.”