BLACK SABBATH Guitarist Tony Iommi Talks About Legendary Paranoid Album

October 15, 2008, 9 years ago

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Guitar World's The Best Of Guitar World Lessons spoke to legendary BLACK SABBATH guitarist Tony Iommi about the band's seminal 1970 album, Paranoid. An excerpt from the chat follows:

Guitar World: Paranoid, Black Sabbath's 1970 breakthrough second album, is considered by many to be the band's finest hour.

Tony Iommi: "I think the reason that record turned out so well was that we had a long time to work out all the material. We were playing seven 45-minute sets each day in a dusty old club in Switzerland, in front of anywhere from three to two dozen people. Rehearsing like that for six weeks really tightened us up. It also enabled us to experiment more because we really only had enough songs for one set each day-certainly not seven. It gave us a chance to make stuff up and rearrange existing songs."

GW: What was the recording process like for that album?

Iommi: "We recorded it over the course of a few days in a tiny eight-track studio at Regent Sound in England. It was like recording in a garage. We stuck a mic in front of my cabinet, and I played the original track with the band, did an overdub and that was it. To us it was like going to a gig. We thought that a couple of days was plenty of time to record and mix and album."

GW: What prompted you to use Laney amplification on that album?

Iommi: "The reason was quite simple. Laney was from Birmingham, and so were we. They were a new company that started out at about the same time that we did, in 1968. They were very helpful to us, and we worked together. They gave us all the amplification we needed."

GW: You played a Fender Stratocaster on the first Sabbath album, but switched to a Gibson SG on Paranoid.

Iommi: "That was because my Strat broke while we were still recording the first album. The pickup broke, and in those days you couldn’t get any replacement pickups. My SG was my second guitar. It was always sitting around, and I never really played it. All of a sudden I had to get used to it. I used it ever since and have never looked back."

GW: Can you show us how you play the opening riff to “Paranoid”?

Iommi: "Sure. I’ve seen many guitarists play this riff in the seventh position, but that’s not where I do it. I play it in the 12th position – like this. [Figure 1] I play the riff here because this E5 chord voicing sounds distinctly darker than the same two notes played in the seventh position."


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