Geezer Butler: “I’m getting up there in terms of age. I have to take it one day at a time.”

(Image credit: Ash Newell)

You probably wouldn’t be reading Metal Hammer if it wasn’t for Geezer Butler. As bassist and founder member of Black Sabbath, he played an indescribable part in shaping the whole metal genre. Since Sabbath’s retirement in 2017, he’s poured his musical energies into a new project Deadland Ritual, alongside former members of Guns N’ Roses and Billy Idol’s band. He's a lifelong supporter of Aston Villa, as well as a vegan and long-standing animal rights activist.

What’s the worst thing about being in a band?

“Probably the endless travelling and not being able to settle in your hotel room, because you’re only there for a few hours in each city. You just end up sitting there and watching TV for a few hours before you play and then you’re off again. So the monotony, the boredom. I’m actually looking forward to getting on a bus rather than a plane for this tour.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“I’ve never really been given any advice! Honestly, people just let me get on with it.”

When was the first time you felt like a rock star?

“Not exactly a ‘rock star’, but the first time we did a tour around England with our own cars. We played in Nottingham, it was the first time we had our own transport and we all arrived one by one in the dressing room and there was an ounce of hash that someone had left in there, which really made the night for us. That, and then we played all the songs from the first album and everyone went mad for them, so it really felt like we had made it.”

What’s been your worst experience on drugs?

“Probably when I took my first acid. It was actually enough for four people, but I didn’t know, and we had a gig the next day. I thought I was a skeleton, I got in the van and they all went ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I said ‘Can’t you see? I’m a skeleton!’ We were driving along and there was a park on the side of us with all these flowers in it, and I thought the flowers were trying to get into the van. I went onstage and thought it was on a boat and the crowd were waves. It was horrendous. I was watching my hand playing the songs and I thought it wasn’t connected to my body. Scary.”

Deadland Ritual has got some pretty high-profile members in its ranks. How do you feel about the term ‘supergroup’?

“I absolutely hate that term. It can only be super if you proved yourself, and we haven’t proved ourselves yet. We’re just some friends that have written some songs and are looking forward to getting out on the road.”

You obviously missed the touring lifestyle after Sabbath ended, then?

“Yeah, I did. I didn’t expect to. I have spent the last couple of years quenching the travel bug by just going out there and seeing the world, but I did miss playing shows and I really didn’t expect that at all.”

What ambitions do you have with the band? Where do you think it will take you?

“To the coffin, probably! I don’t know, I’m getting up there now in terms of my age so I have to take it one day and one show at a time.”

When was the last time you cried?

“Probably when the Villa lost the play-off final last year against Fulham. I wasn’t happy with that. I couldn’t sleep in the run-up to the play-offs this year. I was positive they would go up, and I love [Villa manager] Dean Smith, he’s a Villa fan and a bloody good manager. I grew up in Aston and I could hear the roar of the Holte End when I was a kid from my house, so it’s in my blood.”

You’re a vegan – have you tried the Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls?

“Ha ha ha! Someone actually brought me some over when I was on the road at a show! They’re OK. Holland & Barrett have been doing vegan sausage rolls for years, so it’s nothing new to me. It’s mainly in England that people have this weird thing against vegans – it certainly doesn’t exist in America. There are so many vegan restaurants out in California. I was brought up vegetarian and switched to vegan because of the stuff I was getting served on the road. I didn’t want to eat egg or fish, so I just told people I didn’t want to eat it. I never had a word for it growing up, it was just what I ate!” 

 Published in Metal Hammer #328

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.