• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Black Sabbath Reunion Hits Speed Bump: Drummer Threatens to Quit

Black Sabbath Stage London - H 2011
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Bill Ward has posted a lengthy public statement on his website, blaming “unsignable” contracts and a lack of respect for the delay.

The Black Sabbath reunion hasn't faced enough obstacles already, what with guitarist Tony Iommi's recent lymphoma diagnosis moving the band's recording sessions to London and reportedly forcing them to pull out of a headlining slot at Coachella.

Now drummer Bill Ward has threatened to back out of the reunion in a lengthy public statement to fans on his website, saying that he requires a "signable contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band."

"Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another 'unsignable' contract was handed to me," he notes in the letter.

Ward says that he feels as if he's "getting the cold shoulder," noting that this is not the first time. Indeed, Ward has weathered contractual disagreements with management in the past: In 2004, Sharon Osbourne announced that Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin would replace Ward on an Ozzfest tour (due to disagreements over a contract). In that case, an agreement was eventually reached and Ward took his place on the tour.

That said, Ward says that he still wants the reunion to happen: "Let me say that although this has put me in some kind of holding pattern, I am packed and ready to leave the U.S. for England. More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with Black Sabbath."

The reunion of Black Sabbath's original lineup had been long-rumored, though denied by Iommi at one point. In November, the group -- Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward -- announced plans for a tour and their first album in over three decades, originally set for release in fall 2012 and produced by Rick Rubin. In October, Ozzy told us regarding the reunion, "If it works out, it'll work out. If it doesn't, I'll keep doing my thing."

Ward's full letter is below:

Dear Sabbath Fans, Fellow Musicians and Interested Parties,

At this time, I would love nothing more than to be able to proceed with the Black Sabbath album and tour. However, I am unable to continue unless a "signable" contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band. Last year, I worked diligently in good faith with Tony, Ozzy and Geezer. And on 11/11/11, again in good faith, I participated in the L.A. press conference. Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another "unsignable" contract was handed to me.

Let me say that although this has put me in some kind of holding pattern, I am packed and ready to leave the U.S. for England.  More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with Black Sabbath.

Since the news of Tony's illness, and the understanding that the band would move production to the U.K., I've spent every day getting to or living in a place of readiness to leave. That involves something of a task, and as I've tried to find out what's going on with the U.K. sessions, I've realized that I've been getting "the cold shoulder" (and, I might add, not for the first time). Feeling somewhat ostracized, my guess is as of today, I will know nothing of what's happening unless I sign "the unsignable contract."

The place I'm in feels lousy and lonely because as much as I want to play and participate, I also have to stand for something and not sign on. If I sign as-is, I stand to lose my rights, dignity and respectability as a rock musician. I believe in freedom and freedom of speech. I grew up in a hard rock/metal band. We stood for something then, and we played from the heart with honesty and sincerity. I am in the spirit of integrity, far from the corporate malady, I am real and honest, fair and compassionate.

If I'm replaced, I have to face you, the beloved Sabbath fans. I hope you will not hold me responsible for the failure of an original Black Sabbath lineup as promoted.  Without fault finding, I want to assure everyone that my loyalty to Sabbath is intact.

So here I am. I lay my truth down before you. I'm good to go IF I get a "signable" contract. I don't want to let anyone down, especially Black Sabbath and all the Sabbath fans. You know I love you. It would be a sad day in Rock if this current situation fell to the desires of a few.

My position is not greed-driven.  I'm not holding out for a "big piece" of the action (money) like some kind of blackmail deal. I'd like something that recognizes and is reflective of my contributions to the band, including the reunions that started fourteen years ago. After the last tour I vowed to never again sign on to an unreasonable contract.  I want a contract that shows some respect to me and my family, a contract that will honor all that I've brought to Black Sabbath since its beginning.

That's the story so far.

Stay safe and stay strong.

I love every single one of you.

- Bill Ward