“I prefer stripping songs down to their most raw, basic sounds and blasting them out!” says Terry ‘Geezer’ Butler. With over 35 years of experience in the game, the vast majority as the rock solid bass power underpinning the might Black Sabbath sound, then surely this is one musician who knows a thing or two when it comes to blasting things out!
‘Ohmwork’ is Butler’s first album with GZR since 1997’s ‘Black Science.’ But unlike other legendary rockers of note, the delay between releases is not because he’s spent his recent years locked away like a mad professor in search of the ‘ultimate’ solo album, no, the real reason for the hiatus was the small matter of a reunion between the original Black Sabbath members after twenty years apart. And it is the spirit of Black Sabbath that Geezer cites when searching to explain the spark that finally sent the members of GZR – completed by guitarist Pedro Howse, vocalist Clark Brown, and drummer Chad Smith – hurtling into the studio in October 2004 with a hectic 10-day recording schedule to hit.
“There’s a spirit of spontaneity and freshness that can only be achieved when you approach a record in that manner,” recalls Geezer. “It’s the way the first two Sabbath albums were done. ‘Black Sabbath’ was recorded in two days and ‘Paranoid’ took a week and that’s what I wanted with my new record – 10 days done n’ dusted.”
Geezer maintains that there is a certain intensity of musical vision that can only be achieved when you’ve stripped out every unnecessary distraction in a search for the heart of each song. Tracks such as the vicious album opener ‘Misfit’ or the wry but booming ‘Pardon My Depression’ are positively dripping with fear and loathing for the modern world.
“I like recording an album while its still fresh, that way you can treat it like an exorcism of ideas and pull the feelings right out of your soul, because it’s only then that you’re truly capturing something real.”
Key to this mantra of keeping things real is the notion that GZR only really functions as a band and not as a whimsical solo project. While GZR is clearly Butler’s baby it’s also one being reared by two other equally enthusiastic parents (Howse and Brown).
“It’s good to come together and blast things out as a band!” laughs the bassist. “You can come up with as many song ideas as you like, but it’s only when you play as a real band that you realize what’s any good!”
The ideas behind the songs on ‘Ohmwork’ will be familiar to seasoned Geezer watchers and Sabbath heads alike: bad things in life.
“When you look at the world we live in today you have to wonder whether as a race we’re meant to make it at all,” he says in a grim tone. Religious zealotry, political manipulation, blind stupidity and a generally (un)healthy black outlook on life are the totems on offer in GZR world. Album closer ‘Dogs of Whore’ is inspired by Bush, Bin Laden and Cheney that ties perfectly with another Geezer-penned classic Sabbath’s infamous ‘War Pigs’.
“I started out writing about warmongers 35 years ago and here I am today still having to do it. Politicians whore the people of the entire planet for their own ends,” spits the bassist. But it doesn’t stop there, in GZR world we’re all a little bit responsible for letting it go on in the first place.
“I can’t believe that the world public are so naïve that we can’t see through the lies on all sides. The song ‘I Believe’ is about having your faith or God hijacked by fanatics for their own political ends. I mean, what right has any religion to claim God as their own and then turn it from being about love to being about hate and destruction?” says the lyricist behind the Sabbath’s legendary protest anthem ‘Children of the Grave’. “Also, as a side-note; it was great having my son, Biff, sing on this track. It’s the first time we’ve worked together.”
However, it’s not all global meltdowns and spiritual bigotry that GZR are focused upon. As razor-minded singer Clark Brown explains the album’s most stirring song, the uncomfortable ‘Alone’, sometimes it’s the people you know best that piss you off the most: “’Alone’ is about the times I needed something, either a helping hand, or guidance or even just a kind word and pathetically enough, the ones I thought I could rely on were nowhere to be found.
“When we’re young and unknowing of worldly ways and the people that reside within these ways, then we tend to trust what is handed to us and take some very good advice from the so-called ‘wise’ ones,” continues the intense vocalist. “Later on we realize that what has been given to us is tainted, unpure… rotten, to be exact. Words that were once gold we come to understand are not worth shit. Not even to the most desperate of men. So now we’re older but not wiser from that good advice, or stronger from a foundation of truth. We are ALONE with our own ideas and ways of life. Alone with the only one we can trust… yourself.”
Although the record may have taken only 10 days to record, the genesis for ‘Ohmwork’ has been some five years in the making. “Originally we started work five years ago,” explains Geezer. “Clark came to England to work on some ideas but musically I was really into experimenting with keyboard sounds. Eventually I got bored with it and scrapped that entire direction. I transferred all the best bits to a sampler and waited ‘til a pissed off GZR mood took over.
“I’m perfectly happy doing heavy music – its what I do best,” affirms the bassist. “This was a keyboard album five years ago but it had to be scrapped because it isn’t me. I love being part of a band with energy and aggression in the mix. I have nothing against very experimental records, but I do think you have to give it all or nothing – I tried to push things on [1997’s] ‘Black Science’ myself, but they do take forever to put together in the studio.”
The title of ‘Ohmwork’ came about because all the songs were written in Geezer’s home studio and it was like ‘homework.” But back home in Birmingham, when one said the word ‘homework’ the ‘h’ sound was dropped during the pronunciation and so it sounded like ‘omework’. And since modern music can’t exist without electricity, (and since the ‘ohm’ is defined as a unit of electrical resistance) the title became ‘Ohmwork.” Be assured, however, that listening to this album will not be ‘work.’
Now, enough reading. Get the album in the deck and (as the man says) – “start blasting!”
Born Peter Howse, in Aston, Birmingham , England, to Geezer’s sister, Maura. Immediately Christened Pedro, by Geezer, from a character in the TV show “Four Feather Falls”. Formed various metal bands in the late 1970′s/1980′s, most successful of which was “Crazy Angel”.
Was a founding member of the Geezer Butler band, in 1985, and has written and played in all versions of GZR/Geezer. Favourite all time guitarist is Tony Iommi. Likes Aston Villa, SG guitars, Marshall Amps, and boozing.
Chad began playing at 12 and by 14 was performing professionally. In 1985, he began working with Heaven’s Flame, in 1987 he was with Mary Burns, in 1990 with Anacrusis, in 1992 with London Calling, in 1994 with Pavlov’s Dog,
In 1997 he replaced Deen Castronovo in G//Z/R, who had moved on to Ozzy’s band, and then later Journey.
Chad’s playing is a combination of influences ranging from John Bonham and Tommy Aldridge to Clyde Stubblefield and Steve Gadd.
Clark Ernst Brown was born on American soil in a small, middle class neighborhood, in Worcester Massachusetts. He grew up in small home with parents Karla and Leo Brown and sister Jen. In this house you would often hear load sounds vibrating thru the floor from the basement. It was dad listening to his Black Sabbath Sabbath, Zeppelin, Deep Purple and other rock legends. Funny how things turn out. Was it destiny, is it luck, or was it fate that brought Clark to this point in his life? We think fate.
He also like long walks on the beach and sunsets. Go Red Sox.
Founding member of Black Sabbath and GZR. You can read more about Geezer on the biography page.