Veteran drummer Bill Ward has been a man on a mission when it comes to creating music. Best known for his time in Black Sabbath, his iconic playing style has become a part of many musicians and fans’ lives over the years, and has helped shape the way future generations of players look at how they play.
He has released his long awaited solo album Accountable Beasts, his first solo album since his 1997 album When The Bough Breaks. While “Straws” was originally released as a single for charity in 2002, the rest of Accountable Beasts was written over a period of years until its recent release.
“Our record that’s out right now Accountable Beasts, we actually started work on that about six years ago and then as it is in my life, when I make a record, it’s kind of off and on and we wait for production funds and then we move forward a little bit. Then we have some other things came up when I went away to try to work with Black Sabbath for a while and that didn’t work out. So there have been different things going on,“ he explained.
Spending time to write music is something Ward does regularly and he has been constantly working on his own music, whether it were his solo material or with other people. He shared how his working process towards writing music, and his mind frame towards different themes he incorporates into his songs.
“Normally I write every day. It’s just a process. I’ll sit down at the keyboards and I’ll see if anything’s going on inside. Sometimes we don’t get anything, sometimes we get something. So it’s normal for me to touch the keyboards every day. Sometimes I don’t but most of the time I do. I’ve been doing that for years and years and years. Way back in the days of Black Sabbath, after we would finish recording something, I’d go back home and I would get on my keyboards and write things and do things and write riffs and all kinds of things. That’s been going on for a long time.”
“The music that’s come out – the first record came out in ’87 I think (1990’s Ward One: Along The Way). Four or five years after I got sober, we put the first record out. It seemed to be the most natural thing to do. I definitely like to stretch my wings. I definitely like to create. There are a lot of things I like to indulge in. I still like my hard music. I still like things that will fight some things. Sometimes I’ll write politically and sometimes I’ll write things that are very controversial. I’m ok doing that. I say things if I think it needed to be said or if I feel strongly about something. It’s something I have to do. It’s a natural development for me to be a vice as well as being a pessimist.”
He admitted that the writing and recording process behind Accountable Beasts took much longer than expected, due to various factors. But he also learned to adapt towards newer recording and mixing techniques that has appeared in recent times.
“[With] Accountable Beasts, we started I think about six or seven years ago. It might have longer than that actually. We had some stops and starts. One of the biggest things that slowed the whole process down was the fact that we first recorded Accountable Beasts, we were still using tape. So we had to blast everything to digital, and then when we got to digital, we were still working off of loud speakers in the studio. By the time we actually finished making Accountable Beasts, we advanced so much sonically that I did the final nine months on earbuds! Just like the same ones you would listen on your iPhone. I actually did a mix on earbuds. So what you’re hearing went to my ears first on a set of $20 earbuds. Can you believe that? It didn’t kill me. I was screaming blue murder!”
“There’s so much new stuff now sonically that we had to keep up with everything. So we actually brought about a lot of changes, and we have to do that with some of our other earlier stuff, which we haven’t yet released, but we have multiple other songs that are recorded. We’re going to have to do the same process and eventually come through an earbud mix, which I’m not really looking forward to, but we’ll do it. It’s something that you have to do now. As far as I’m concerned, if you want to get the sound so it sounds as you can get it so please can listen to it on earbuds.”
One aspect on Accountable Beasts that gets little attention is Ward’s vocal abilities shine through, aside from his drumming. While he is better known for his drumming, singing came natural to him as he was no stranger to getting on the microphone and singing away these songs he had written.
“I love singing. I started in the school choir…or the church choir when I was a child, so I’ve been singing all the way through my life. So it’s something that comes naturally to me. I just enjoy writing and I enjoy being a songwriter and I enjoy singing. I wanted to be in a band where I could not only play a little bit of drums but also where I could play some keyboards and definitely sing. I’d like to be in a band like that. So I created BWB (Bill Ward Band) so I could also get into the songs I have written. It’s really helped and actually for a long time.”
While Accountable Beasts is still a relatively new release and the public is getting better acquainted with it, Ward is moving ahead to release more music. Despite not revealing the band moniker, he spoke about a rock trio he is working on with guitarist Joe Amodea and bassist Nick Diltz (also of All Hail The Yeti).
“I also have a trio – a rock trio. I formed a rock trio in 2013. I got the idea in 2012. I can’t tell you the name of it and I apologize profusely because just yesterday we finished this record. I’m playing drums. I do minute vocals. I do backing vocals, but I’ve got two great singers in the band – bass guitar and lead guitar. We’ve got a powerful trio. I have a life as a drummer. I need to exist as a drummer in a band. So I created the trio so I can go ahead and play wherever I can in the world and still perform as a drummer.”
“I just don’t roll over because somebody said I couldn’t play any more. I couldn’t believe some of the statements about me – ‘Bill can’t play any more’ or whatever. That’s simply not the truth. That’s just what somebody said but in my life or my reality I haven’t stopped playing. I continue to play, so I formed a trio. You’ll probably be hearing about that relatively soon.”
While on the subject of new music by Ward, he also revealed that he has another solo album completed. Prior to this release, he was working on another album titled Beyond Aston, which he put aside after working on it for an extended period of time. Once he released his current album, he returned to completing what he began with what is now the forthcoming album.
“At the same time today, I spoke to my producer who’s working on an album called Beyond Aston and that’s a BWB (Bill Ward Band) album. That’s 13 songs on that album, and we’re in the final mixes of that. We haven’t done the earbud mix yet. We are getting everything finalized on what we call a pre-earbuds. When it’s time for the earbuds, I listen to the mixes and go in about once a week to listen to all of the mixes as they are coming together. I make my finite notes.”
“We have another album by BWB. It’s all been recorded. Everything’s done. We have a couple more overdubs to do but we’re actually mixing the album as I speak to you.”
He briefly explained the background story behind Beyond Aston and how it was pushed aside in favor of Accountable Beasts.
“This is a record that got put on the shelf to make way for Accountable Beasts. I was working on Beyond Aston and I just shelved it. I can’t do any more. Then we decided to pull it off the shelf and finish it. We added some new songs in there and it totally kicks ass. It’s a great record,” he said, proudly of his latest outing.
While Ward is filling up his time with lots of different musical ventures going on all at once, he said it will never replace what he did with Black Sabbath. He admits that filling a missing void once filled by his former band is not an easy task.
“There’s a huge hole. To be honest, there’s a huge hole in me…in my gut where the band lived. Of course everything’s changed now.”
“I miss them. I miss the idea of playing ‘War Pigs.’ I miss the idea of playing ‘Into The Void,’ ‘Masters of Reality’…man, I’m going to miss those until the day I die. I’m going to miss playing those songs. But in the meantime, I have a life to live. I have to listen to the musician in me. I need to give it all and continue playing.”
As for touring with Bill Ward Band, he said there are currently discussions toward lining up dates. While he was also doing his art showings, he clarified that those do not interfere with live show dates.
“The art gallery, we do them once in a while. We’ve been talking about going to London and Paris for the art thing, which would be great. All of those things could be worked out. If I have to tour with the trio, if I’m fortunate enough to do it, then all of these things could be worked out. We can go in and out with these things. Same as BWB being on the road – I can work in and out of working with the trio and BWB as well. It’s all workable stuff. They’re flexible and doable but we’re in the stage where we’ve at least presented Accountable Beasts coming out on iTunes. I think we’re coming out on streaming soon and onto other sites. We’re going to be adding more social media. So we’re doing that.”
“We’re also talking to promoters and starting to play around with ideas so we’re looking to see what we can do, as far as going out and touring. The same applies for the trio. We’re doing private listenings for the trio and we’re talking to again, promoters. We’re talking to other musicians. We have a lot of other musicians listening to the trio and seeing what they think and getting other ideas on getting out on the road. We wouldn’t make any announcements until we have everything firm. I really hope we could tour.”
Lastly on a separate subject, Ward shared his overall thoughts on how sonically music recordings are heading and his experiences dealing with the digital world. He encountered this during the mixing of his solo albums and had a lot to say on this subject.
“We’re running into problems with the sound and the way the music is put together these days and the way it sounds sonically. I talk to a lot of my buds – the musicians, engineers, producers, and fans – people who listen to music. Everyone’s got a whack around the hedge.”
“I’m looking at how we can work better sonically, from bringing better productions. They’re really valuable bunch of people in my life including my own who is really smart with the different things that could be done with what would records sound better. We give all kinds of production things or to help with doing mastering to help bring about the best sound before compression happens in the digital world. That’s something that’s now become a part of my life. I’m looking at that and I’m taking a big interest in it. I’m looking and talking to other people about it, and basically I’m going to take some action on it. I’m not sure what that action would be, but it’s definitely something new that’s come up out of sheer frustration. I write the stuff and play the stuff and I’m part of the production of it and I go all the way to mastering with it. I birth these babies! Then the outcome after is quite a letdown when I listen to it go through the compression of digital sites.”
“First I got really upset with the sound and I’m surrendering slowly but surely, but at the same time I’m taking great interest in how can we economically really do better in this market and bring better sounding music to the people that listen to it? So that is something that’s new in my life. It’s something that’s [for the] last two and a half years I’m look at that now at a bigger picture.”
He also shared his thoughts on the future drummers in music and educating them in both the way that they perform as well as understanding their roles within music.
“On a different subject, I’d like to take more participation in spending time with more drum students. There are some things we may be doing but can try to better the drum students or the future drum students of tomorrow, in terms of what things to look out for, what things to be aware of and so on and so forth.”
“There are a lot of drummers that do things like that to bring further knowledge to education to the students. My heart goes to the students, especially in this day and age. There’s been a shift and a change in the way that people make music, and I’m afraid the bass players and the drummers are kind of getting a bit of a kick in the ass. Hang on a minute. No no no…let’s re-check this. I’m looking at this as well. I’ve been pretty outspoken about that as well. I’m using the slogan drumming equals publicity, which it does because drumming is art and drumming is part of the music that we listen to. So I’m an advocate of that. I’m standing up for that. There’s things like that that’s going on.”