Bill Ward is a true legend of the drum kit, a founding member of Black Sabbath, and now a groundbreaking visual artist. His collection of stunning works entitled “Absence of Corners” is now available to the public. “Absence of Corners”, the new album Accountable Beasts from the Bill Ward Band and some post-Sabbath emotions are discussed in our interview.
How did the “Absence of Corners” art project all get started?
Bill Ward: Well the company we are doing this with is called SceneFour and they have a brief history of doing this kind of thing with other drummers and I guess it was my turn to be asked. (Laughs) It was my publicist that introduced me to the idea and at the time we didn’t know a whole lot about what this would mean. Because what happened is basically the project has gotten bigger in many ways, that at the time we started, were invisible to us; so it has been a very interesting project in terms of what it has developed into. Originally we were approached by SceneFour. I was asked to do a drum session and for about an hour and a half I played in the dark at our rehearsal studio in Los Angeles with a bunch of cameras and lights and all sorts of strange things aimed at the drum kit. I was kind of wondering what might be going on but they just said, “Play drums, Bill.” And that’s exactly what I did rather than wondering what they were doing. They knew what they were doing so you know.
Bill Ward: Yeah, we did. Which were actually quite difficult to play. I’m used to playing with a certain stick when you get something thrown at you it’s like, “Here play with this.” Oh, okay. (Laughs) We had all kinds of sticks. Some of the sticks, according to the technicians, had a new kind of lighting in them and they were experimenting with different lights. Then there were brushes with multiple lights attached to each strand of the brush. They were really trippy. They were really trippy and they were great to play especially like cymbal work. They wanted me to go at it so I went at it and I didn’t hold back but because it was an hour and half long I had to just drop down from time to time to get some breath so I would just play jazz and the jazz worked particularly well with the brushes. I just got caught up in the colors. I could see all the streamers and everything and just quite trippy.
How did the coloring scheme develop? Did the color choose the beat or did the beat choose the color I guess?
Bill Ward: I think it was Ravi at SceneFour was kind of like the head guy who was calling the shots on colors but there were several other people involved as well so they could have all as a team pulled that together. I was very much prioritized which was very nice in terms of being part of the art work so whenever they had an idea they would run it by me not only for approval but also to see if I sincerely liked the idea. This is the late Spring of 2013 so at that point it was very interesting, it actually became much more than very interesting, it’s almost like a bit of a story now. But yes, we used different sticks and lots and lots of different camera angles: They were behind me, they were in front of me, they were on ladders they were shooting from every which way. I had lights shining up into the bass drum and just all different techniques.
So to compare the different works of “Intuitive Peril” and “Hello, I Don’t Think I Have Met You Yet” which are completely different is that all camera angles? What’s are the techniques going on there?
Bill Ward: It’s different camera angles, we had some very good photographers that came in and wanted to be quite different. It was all quite gung-ho. What started out as, “Oh I’m showing up to play drums” turned out to be a really really good session and we actually repeated the same thing again a couple of weeks later. There were things they weren’t happy with just some angles they still needed to get so we went in and did the whole thing all over again as well. And everybody was willing to do that. Everyone was like, “Let’s go get what we’re trying to get.”
Bill Ward: I wasn’t sure what I wanted in the first place. That might sound odd but all I knew was that at that time I was playing and looking at the pictures thinking this is okay, this is interesting. But not long after that they asked me to name the pictures and that’s when things began to turn around. I caught a glimpse of the picture I call “Grief” and I began to realize that there might be a lot more going on here than I had thought before. I called it “Grief” because when I looked at it fitted exactly how things had been for me. It was a portrait of some of the emotions, if not all of the emotions, I have been feeling from A to Z since January 2012 up until “Grief”. I didn’t realize that there was something coming out of me that became more than colored sticks making nice patterns and doing different things with me playing drums behind it. I began to see a lot of imagery in the pictures where I was actually able to write about the pictures and also name them. As I did that, as I started naming the pictures, when I started doing that that’s when I realized it was becoming quite therapeutic for me.
So this was very cathartic for you was well.
Bill Ward: It became more than therapeutic because what happened was that it became really personal. When we said, “Well, it’s time to present this to the public” and I thought “I feel like I don’t have any clothes on” which wouldn’t have been the first time. (Laughs) Then I thought lets go ahead here and I really bared my soul so to speak and this is what I got from it and I felt like what I got from it I was now passing that over to whoever might get one of these canvasses. So in that sense it’s like, “How did you get on in 2012? (Laughs) This is how I got on.” Sometimes like when you shared a moment with someone and I feel that is what the art is doing now. Sharing a moment with whoever is looking at it. So I have gotten to share some of my insides out with some people that I know very well and they think it’s beautiful and I have gotten to share with other people I really don’t know and they think it’s beautiful as well.
Now what about “Cloven Apparitions Ascent”? That one is insane and awesome.
Bill Ward: Thank you. I love the title. I might actually try to write a song behind that. To me it’s a bit metal you know.
Bill Ward: Just from the picture. I got “Grief” in about ten seconds. I got to see it vaguely on a little two by two inch screen so I couldn’t really make anything out then I was at the print shop and I turned around and I looked down and there was a huge portrait and it was “Grief” and I was blown away. “Oh my god, what’s this?” And they said, “That’s you playing drums.” And I just said, “That’s grief.” It was instantaneous. Some of the other things are actually quite serious. I like the picture with the title “We Focus. We Persevere” and that’s all about drumming. It’s all about drumming. Nothing but drumming. I think in that picture I am playing the brushes so you can actually see the outline of me in a flurry of color where I’m playing both tom-toms and a crash ride. I recognize the intensity of that and the intensity of how I am as a drummer and sometimes what we have to go through to achieve to be a drummer. So I think that is a particularly a strong one and something special for the student. It means a lot to me.
Overall I think my favorite is “Hello, I don’t think We’ve Met (Yet)” it’s awesome. What were you playing and how were you playing and what was all going on for that one?
Bill Ward: I was going fucking nuts on the drum kit. I don’t know how they got that but I didn’t hold back. I was just riding and kicking out everything I had. I will be honest with you I think there was some underlying anger. I just thought let’s go for it, let’s go for broke, whatever. It’s just one of those drumming things that drummers do. I let it all come out. I couldn’t resist that title. I looked at the picture and just said, “Oh my god it has to be this.” I kind of had a flashback to being 23 or 24 when I was using acid on a daily basis. (Laughs) I just pictured it at the end of a hallway that’s how I originally got the title. And it would happen every time you walked down the hallway, “Hello I don’t think we’ve met yet.” I try to do think like that and I find it quite humorous but it’s really powerful and I think it’s a really great picture.
Bill Ward: Right now we are doing all the promo for this project. I’m also in the studio still trying to finish my album to be which is called Accountable Beasts and we are getting closer ever single week to having that getting complete. It’s been a long time coming but we are in there bit by bit a little bit by bit.
Do you have a release date yet?
Bill Ward: I would like to think that it will be out very very soon. I need twenty more days to mix or there abouts. I could maybe do it in fifteen. Everything is at mix level so we got about 40 percent more mix on about eight tracks. Then that’s all, we’ve done it, it’s finished.
What’s the vibe and feel of Accountable Beasts?
Bill Ward: It’s very heavy. It’s very fucking heavy. I play drums on 90% of the tracks. We’ve really gone balls out, you know. When I came off the last Black Sabbath tour I was so ramped up I could have gone round again one more time. I was full of energy and some of these tracks were laid down literally weeks after I came back. I was inspired to make it loud and make it hardcore so there’s some strong tracks on this Accountable Beasts. Accountable Beasts is one of them we got bass drum tempos that nearly killed me. (Laughs) They’re pretty fast man. When I see people like Dave Lombardo, who is a buddy of mine, working around these guys it’s like, “Man, give me some of that.” So I was very inspired after the last Black Sabbath tour. I thought the gigs were absolutely brilliant, I thought the band played fantastic, considering everything that was going on we played really well. It really is a stimulant from that and that’s how the album got started. As time has gone on and we gradually got more finances into the production: We added more things and written more songs for it. So I’m hoping it will be out quite soon.
Do you think you might tour on Accountable Beasts?
Bill Ward: I will tour on it if we can sell any records. In the Bill Ward Band I have six people and at least four crew so I got ten people and that’s a lot of mouths to feed. So if I can’t pull the money on it I can’t do it. If it sells a lot of records and people love it and we got a big audience then I will be out every night doing it.
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