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With Black Sabbath announcing their retirement at the end of their 2016 tour it’s hard to not look back and reminisce upon the enduring impact the band has had on the world of heavy music. Ted Kirkpatrick, known as the drummer and mastermind behind Tourniquet, did more than think about it. He has recently released a Black Sabbath tribute album that features six faithful renditions of the band’s early songs. Ted took a moment to talk with Jim 1340 about the legacy of Black Sabbath, and the makings of The Doom In Us All: A Tribute To Black Sabbath.
Jim 1340 (JM): Hi Ted. Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your new project The Doom In Us All: A Tribute to Black Sabbath. We’re really excited about this release! What prompted you to work on a tribute album?
Ted Kirkpatrick (TK): I’ve been a Sabbath fan since I was 12. I remember listening to Master of Reality and Paranoid while playing pool and hanging out with friends. I’ve wanted to do this album for years, and now that Sabbath is on their final tour, it seemed like the perfect time to record and release it.
JM: Was working on The Doom In Us All different from preparing music for a Tourniquet album?
TK: Sure – there is no writing process – but – there are countless decisions to be made all along the way. Guitar sound, drum fills, bass sound, who sings what, what songs, mixing, mastering, artwork, release date, etc.
JM: Was it important to you to create faithful reproductions of these songs? Did that desire impact instrument tones used, or the final mix?
TK: Yes – very important. I’ve heard countless Black Sabbath covers – and honestly, the majority range from mediocre to awful. Here’s the deal: it’s one thing to do an entirely unique version of a Sabbath song, like Cake’s cool version of “War Pigs” and purposefully venture far from the original. But – most bands are actually trying to play them true to the original. The overwhelming result? Riffs played incorrectly, wrong notes, not nearly heavy enough, poor production, sloppy guitar and bass playing.
As most people know, I’m very into classical music. Let’s take Paganini’s violin concerto #1. There are of course, tons of “notes” written by Paganini himself. But – with those notes, there are also countless notations on HOW those notes and passages (riffs) are to be played: legato (flowing), staccato, slid up to, slid down to, flat (no vibrato), bent, false harmonic, etc. If you want to create something true – you can’t just play “the notes” and plow right through the subtle nuances of the riff. If you do that, it changes the whole feel of the tune – and generally not for the better. To me, it’s kind of a dishonor to the person who wrote it –in this case, Tony Iommi and or Geezer Butler. Also – I take care to make sure ALL the notes of the riff come out for people to hear. Most covers of Sabbath songs do a very poor job on this. The notes that go by quickly, the three-fret slides, or short phrases that are kind of hard to play are often not heard in the mix, because the guitar playing is just too sloppy. And just because a riff is slow or doesn’t have a lot of notes to it doesn’t automatically mean it’s easy to play correctly. I can tell you this: Tony Iommi himself could listen to this album and say: “Finally – someone actually played my riffs right.”
JM: Black Sabbath is an iconic band. Why do you think their music has had such an enduring impact on the world of heavy metal?
TK: They were true pioneers of so many things we hear in heavy music today. Combining blues and metal, writing doomy foreboding lyrics, nasty beautiful distortion, crushing guitar riffs, etc. And of course, front man Ozzy is truly one of a kind.
JM; Was it difficult to choose just a handful of songs for The Doom In Us All? Were there songs that almost made the cut, or that you wish you had been able to include?
TK: Yes. There are many Sabbath tunes I passed on - even though I like the music – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Under the Sun” to name a couple. All the songs on The Doom In Us All have some cool message to them.
“War Pigs” – Speaks of the sad reality of living in a world where humans hate each other, and where soldiers are sent in to do the dirty work. The evils of war created by hatred and intolerance – often in the name of religion.
“Lord Of This World” – a purely biblical tune
“Into The Void” – Science fiction tune about leaving the earth – because we have ruined it (pretty much what we’re doing). Pollution, misery, hatred. There must be a better place…
There IS an inherent sense of doom in us all. The bible talks about it - a lot. Wondering what happens when we die. Wondering what our purpose on earth really is, or is their no purpose? Listening to the lyrics to these tunes, it’s apparent the Sabbath guys wondered about these things too.
JM: The Doom In Us All offers an impressive list of guest musicians. How did you select the players for these songs?
TK: Just thought of singers and guitarists I really like, then see if they were into being a part of it. Fortunately, the great musicians on the album all gave it 100% and made it awesome.
JM: How has Black Sabbath influenced you as a musician and your output with Tourniquet?
TK: The influence is the heavy plodding riffs – they were some of the first ones I wanted to learn how to play on guitar.
JM: Every Black Sabbath fan seems to have a favorite era of the band, and the difference generally comes down to the Ozzy Osborne years or Ronnie James Dio’s time as frontman. What’s your favorite period? Do you have a favorite album from each of those eras?
TK: I love both the Ozzy and Dio era stuff, but especially the early riff-laden stuff. It just is heavier to me. Favorite Ozzy era album: Master of Reality. Favorite Dio era album: The Mob Rules. I think Ronnie Dio did a spectacular job with Sabbath when Ozzy was out of the band. What a voice and stage presence he had – and what a loss that he is now gone – but never forgotten…
JM: It’s always exciting to hear new Tourniquet music. When will the world get a new Tourniquet release?
TK: 2016 hopefully. These things always seem to take longer than expected, but shooting for late 2016… it’s gonna be cool… thanks.