Last Friday, February the 25th, Tony Martin visited Musikstationen in Gothenburg, Sweden. His workshop was a great opportunity for fans and press to come a bit closer to to the former BLACK SABBATH vocalist. Tony was very cool and down-to-earth and seemed to have a good time while answering questions from his fans. Most questions were about his time in BLACK SABBATH but there was also a lot of discussion about the music business. He also showed us that his voice is still perfectly fine. When talking about working with former WHITESNAKE members Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden and Neil Murray (Also BLACK SABBATH), he performed an acoustic version of the WHITESNAKE song "Ain't no Love in the Heart of the City".
The workshop was organized by former HAMMERFALL bassist Magnus Rosén. The evening continued at the bar at Panorama Hotel, not too far away from Musikstationen. Magnus and some friends of his played some music while the fans got an opportunity to hang out with Tony. On top of this, I was given the opportunity to conduct an interview with him.
I would like to begin to thank you for the workshop you did the other day. I had a really great time and I'm sure that everyone else had as well. Naturally your time as a singer for BLACK SABBATH was in focus. You made quite clear that you are not interested in reuniting with BLACK SABBATH again.
– Not the band. But i don't have any problems with the people though. For example I would work with Tony Iommi, maybe. It's just that I wouldn't like to do the same thing that I did before. Just singing Ozzy songs, Dio songs and all the rest of it and my music being pushed aside. That was my issue.
You also made quite clear that the fans will unfortunately not see you on tour that much anymore.
– No. It’s just too hard. Every time we go out on the road we lose money. They expect us to play for free or for less and less each time and we can’t run an operation like that. It’s just not possible. That’s disappointing cause I want to be out on the road! It’s a natural place for a musician to be. Playing gigs is part of the fun. But you can’t do it for nothing and if you have to sell your house or your car or have to get a day job as an electrician or something to pay to go and play, then that’s no fun and it’s also damaging to your family and your life.
How does your life look today? Are you a full time musician?
– Well, yes. Music is my job. I left school about 30–40 years ago with very little qualifications. Although I'm not a stupid person I didn't get a lot of paperwork to give me a regular day job, so music is my career. But it's really hard to make your living out of music now. Even from my position, having been in BLACK SABBATH, which is a good place to start from you would think. It's getting harder and harder to survive. It's not really comfortable at all.
Many people consider "Headless Cross" (1989) to be the strongest album that you made with BLACK SABBATH. You said that you actually prefer "Tyr" (1990) and "Cross Purposes" (1994). For what reason do you do that?
– "Cross Purposes" were slightly more intelligent lyrics. The stories were about different things. "Tyr" was more about the Scandinavian vikings although there was some Russian stuff as well. "Headless Cross" was more English folklore stories and I just liked the music and the harmonies of "Tyr" and "Cross Purposes" better. But I still love "Headless Cross"! I don't hate it at all. I think it's great and I'm really proud of it.
How strong do you consider those albums to be compared to the ones BLACK SABBATH did with Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio?
– Very strong! For the fans who prefer the Tony Martin-era, those albums are the best! It all depends on who you ask. If you ask an Ozzy-fan then maybe he says "Master of Reality" (1971), or whatever. If you ask a Tony Martin-fan he says "Headless Cross". Personally I think that they're all equally as good and after all they asked me to be a part of the band for a reason. They liked what I did and I was there for ten years. That must have been worth something, otherwise why would they ask me to be in the band?
I've heard that you had a lot of things that you wanted to write lyrics about in BLACK SABBATH. Things that you unfortunatly could not put in practice since you lost the job.
– Stories, you mean?
– I had all sorts of ideas. However I can take those ideas with me and do my own solo stuff. They have not disappeared. It's just I didn't get to use them in BLACK SABBATH.
On which albums did they appear?
– I'm looking forward to my solo album. I had an album called "Scream" (2005) and I'm writing an album called "The Book Of Shadows" which is a "power acoustic" album. A lot of heavy lyrics is going to that album. I still have a lot of ideas.
You told a lot of interesting stories about your time in BLACK SABBATH. One thing that I found very interesting was that you were actually the first BLACK SABBATH singer to perform the classic song "Changes" live! Tell me about it!
– We were in Asia, in the Phillipines and the promoter said that if you gonna play here, you must play "Changes". Tony Iommi looked at me and I said: "I don't mind doing it!" We rehearsed it in England and then made another small rehearsal as we went touring. Tony Iommi played piano which he hasn't done on stage before. That was really interesting, to see him play piano! There was just me and him on the stage and it worked really good. I was really surprised when Tony Iommi told med that nobody's done that before. "Are you kidding me?" I said. "No. Not even Ozzy did that". So I was the first one to do it and...Wow! Incredible!
So it was just you and Toni Iommi? What happened to the violins?
– Geoff Nicholls put some synthesizer behind it but was only me and Tony upon the stage. That was it.
Sounds really cool! Is it recorded?
– Uhm... I don't know. I have to believe that somewhere it is. I'm not aware of any recordings of it but I would be amazed if it's not. It's gotta be out there somewhere. But we didn't record it ourselves.
Are you still the only one who have done it? Do you know that?
– No, Ozzy's done it since. He has to since I did it! (laughs).
Another story that I found very interesting was that you were actually singing on "Dehumanizer" (1992). The thought it didn't work with Dio so they took you in for some time.
– It was only a short visit. They asked me to go down to the studio and try the songs out. When I got there even the microphone stand was low (Tony holds his hand not very high over the ground...) because Ronnie James Dio had been there using the stand, so he literally just gone and I went down there just for a couple of days. I tried the songs out and it was OK. We were doing good but I had my solo album to do and I carried on doing that so they then continued with Dio.
Finally, what are your future plans as an artist?
– I have no idea. It might be that I have to stop completely. That's very sad, but it's just not possible to making a living out of music as it is at the moment. The industry does not support musicians as musicians. You have to have another job these days. At this moment I'm trying to make new things happen. I'd like to get into theatre or stage management, maybe. But I can't give you a definite answer. I have various Facebook sites and that kind of things and as I will find out what's gonna happen to me in the future, then I will let everybody know.
I think I forgot a question, actually. How much influence did you have over the music in BLACK SABBATH? (Maybe I wasn't talkning loud enough or whatever. Anyway, at first Tony misunderstood my question)
– I listened to BLACK SABBATH when I was a kid. When I was 14 I took my first girlfriend to see BLACK SABBATH. I used to joke that I was gonnna be in that band one day. My favourite was "Master Of Reality" from those days. Then I lost touch with them for a while until I became older. I followed it with Glenn Hughes who is a favourite singer of mine. So yeah, I was always interested in the band.
That's great to hear. However, I was thinking about what how much influence you had in the process of making music.
– Ahh! I see! My influence on BLACK SABBATHs music? The song wouldn't go ahead unless there were vocals and lyrics, unless we were happy with what we had. I used to do three different versions of most of the songs that I did with BLACK SABBATH. I would say "Here's three differents songs. Different lyrics, different melodies. Chose one and I will concentrate on that one and finish it". So my influence was really strong as far as the music was concerned.
So, a very heavy influence over the melodies?
– I wrote all the melodies. What would happen is that I would sit with Tony Iommi and he would play me riffs and I said " I like that one! "Don't like that one!" "No, that's no good" "That's good!" and then I would take them away. Then I would assemble them into versechorus or whatever, put some lyrics and some melodies on. Then I would give it back and he would figure out the solo parts and all the other bits around it.
Tony Matrtins Official MySpace