Tony Iommi on collecting fragrances, getting drunk, and those Brian May rumours

Tony Iommi
(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

If you thought Tony Iommi was intending to have a quiet post-Black Sabbath life, you were wrong. Among other things, he’s developed new SG guitars with Gibson, remixed 1995’s Forbidden album with Mike Exeter, and pored over out-takes for the latest Black Sabbath reissues – all of that in addition to working on his house and playing a lot of guitar over lockdown. 

He’s also launched his most surprising venture: a signature fragrance, made in close collaboration with Italian perfumer/ Sabbath fan Sergio Momo. There’s also a new instrumental track, Scent Of Dark, an opulent, smoke-wreathed video shot in a castle, and even a bespoke cocktail – if the James Bond franchise had a gothic, heavy-metal makeover, it would look and sound like this.

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You began collecting fragrances on your travels with Black Sabbath. What were your favourites and where did you get them? 

There’s so many different ones I’ve had over the years, from Cartier onwards and Bond No.9, Tom Ford, and lots of different ones that I can’t even remember now. Initially [laughs] when I was younger, every Christmas you’d either get a little bottle of Old Spice [aftershave] or something; it was either that or Brut. As the years went by and we were touring more in America and Australia, I used to just pick up different ones. 

How many do you have? I did wonder if you had a fragrance cave or something in your house

I do. I don’t know; there’s probably eighty, something like that. 

The riff for Scent Of Dark is one you’d had in your back pocket for a while

One of the few things I remember is riffs, most other things I forget. I can be having a shower and suddenly think: “Oh, god, I remember that,” and I’ll come up with a riff that I might have done years ago. But I do have lots of stuff on CDs from the past, and on computer, on my phone. I’ve got five or six hundred different riffs. 

The video ties in well with the mood of the track, and with the strings it has a ‘gothic heavy metal 007’ feel. 

It does, really, yeah, it’s how it turned out. I wanted to use strings to make it a bit more dramatic, you know, and it’s really worked well, I think, with the girls playing on it. 

The fragrance is described as “The aromatic reminiscence of rock in the sixties and seventies, festivals and gatherings, amber and patchouli”. That sounds a lot nicer than the other smells one might associate with rock’n’roll – ‘scent of tour bus’, ‘eau de dressing room’… 

[Laughs] That’s true. The patchouli is one that goes back to the sixties, but it’s the combination of stuff he’s put in it that really works for me. That’s why he was constantly sending me different stuff. Hopefully, now, we’ve come up with something that they’ll like. I like it.

Joking aside, smells are deeply tied-in with our memories. Do you have any smells that have really stayed with you? 

Yes, I do. Unfortunately, one of them is a terrible memory. It was one of my neighbours in a house I used to live in, and her daughter phoned me up and said: “Oh, she’s fallen on the floor.” I went over there, and she passed away in my arms. 

And she had this perfume on that as soon as I smell it now, it smells like death to me. I don’t know what it was, but when I smell it it reminds me. It’s the same with candles and things. I also used to collect a lot of candles, and if we were on tour I’d always light a scented candle. 

Do you have a candle room at home as well? 

We’ve got bloody candles all over the house. 

Is it true that you played guitar pretty much every day during lockdown? 

Yeah, I still play. I’ve got guitars all over the house, and usually, when we go to bed, I sit down for ten or fifteen minutes and have a play for a bit while my wife is in the bathroom. 

Geezer Butler had his band Deadland Ritual, Ozzy has more solo plans. Have you given any thought to putting a band together and getting back out there? 

No, not that much, really. Because, to be honest, I’d have carried on with Sabbath. It was my idea to stop because of the constant touring. And me with my cancer problem, that’s one of the reasons I stopped touring. If you could do short tours it wouldn’t be so bad, but we were going out for an eighteen-month tour. It was great when I was twenty, but now I’m thirty it’s different [low chuckle].

Tony Iommi and perfumer Sergio Momo

Tony Iommi and perfumer Sergio Momo (Image credit: Max Sticca)

Well, quite… So, were you and the Sabbath guys in touch over lockdown? 

Yeah, I’m in touch with Ozzy more than anybody. We talk on a regular basis, probably every other week, something like that. We’ve stayed in contact a lot. In fact I’ve done a track for Ozzy’s album, as well. I wrote a track and played on it for Ozzy’s new album. 

The band officially called time in 2017. Do you miss being on stage? 

Yes, I do miss being on stage. In fact the plan was, once we’d finished touring, at that time, I was gonna do these ‘Evening with…’, which I’ve done a few of, and I go out and talk. We were doing these shows, and it was great because then I’m in contact with the audience and they can ask questions. 

Then the covid thing hit, so it knocked that for a six. But I do miss playing on stage, and I’m sure I will at some point, it’s just I don’t want to end up doing world tours for eighteen months any more. 

Can you tell us anything about those Brian May collaboration rumours? 

[Laughing] We’ve talked about it for years, we really have, and the pandemic smacked everything up. Brian came here to my house just before all that happened, and it was a lovely day, we sat outside in the courtyard and played riffs. I played him some of the stuff I’d got, and he said: “Oh, great, you’ve gotta do something with this.” 

And we’ve talked about it on and off. It would be nice one day to do that. He’s really busy now doing all sorts of things, and it’s great that he’s kept active. You can never say what’s gonna happen. It would be nice. I’m open for a lot of things now, really. 

What do you listen to for enjoyment these days? 

I’ll tell you what I do like, and I’ve really taken to them, Toto. I didn’t think much of them in those days, but there’s some really clever stuff, so I tend to play some of their things. I’ll go from that to Frank Sinatra, so it varies. If we [Tony and wife Maria] have a dinner party, which is rare these days with the Covid thing, we have a set for a dinner party, then if we’re having a drinks party [we have] a set for that. 

What’s on your drinks party set? 

Well it’s usually sixties stuff and seventies. We just put it on Spotify or Sonos and off we go. You don’t even absorb half of it, it’s just going on in the background, really – while you’re getting drunk. What’s my tipple?  I like red wine. We have either champagne or red wine.

Polly Glass
Features Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is features editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine (opens in new tab) and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.