Drummer - Heavy metal, Hard rock
Bands: Mythology, Black Sabbath, Ward One
Drumsticks: Vic Firth
Early years and Black Sabbath
Bill Ward started to play drums as a child, listening to the big bands of the 40's and his major influences were Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. In the mid-1960s Ward sang and played drums in a band called The Rest. Before the formation of Black Sabbath, Bill Ward and guitarist Tony Iommi played in a band called Mythology, and joined vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler, who had played in a band together called "Rare Breed". Between 1970 and 1980, Ward played drums on every Sabbath album.
By 1980's Heaven and Hell Ward was drinking during gigs, something he had never done before. He also began experiencing panic attacks. According to Black Sabbath bandmate Iommi, Ward disappeared on August 21, 1980, without saying goodbye, other than a cryptic telephone call to then-Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio informing him "I'm off then, Ron." He then briefly played in a band called Max Havoc. He sat out one album (1981's Mob Rules) before returning to Black Sabbath for 1983's Born Again album. He once again left the band for health reasons prior to touring in support of Born Again. Ward has said he cannot remember the recording of 1980's Heaven and Hell due to his alcohol abuse. He again rejoined Black Sabbath in the mid-1980s, though the band did not record or tour during this period.
According to Tony Iommi, he and the band would often set Ward's beard on fire and perform other harmful pranks on him. On one occasion, Ward even received third-degree burns. In an interview with Guitar World, Tony described it as follows: 'Bill and I were in the studio rehearsing one day and out of the blue I asked him, "May I set you on fire, Bill?" And he said, "Well, not now, not now." And then I forgot about it. Later on when the day ended, he said to me, "Well, I'm going home now; you still want to set me on fire or what?" And I said, "Sure." So I took a small can of lighter fluid and sprayed it on him, lit a match, and whoomph. He was wearing these polyester pants so they burned really quickly and he was on the floor screaming and crying. I could not help him because I was so busy laughing. It actually turned out to be quite serious. I felt really bad for him. He was sent to the hospital. Later on, his mother called me on the phone and said, "You barmy bastard, it's about time you grew up. Our Bill is going to have his leg off." But things like that always happened to Bill.'
Iommi claims that Ward almost died after a prank-gone-wrong during recording of Black Sabbath Vol. 4 in 1972. The band were renting a Bel-Air mansion belonging to John DuPont of the DuPont chemical company. The band found several spray cans of gold DuPont paint in a room of the house; finding Ward naked and unconscious after drinking heavily, they proceeded to cover the drummer in gold paint from head to toe. Ward soon became violently ill and had a seizure and an ambulance had to be called. The paint had blocked all of Ward's pores, which they were informed can be fatal.
During recording of 1980's Heaven and Hell, Iommi doused Ward with a solution used by studio technicians to clean the tape heads. He then set light to the solution, which was much more flammable than Iommi had anticipated. Ward suffered third degree burns as a result and still has scars on his legs from the incident.
Before the full Black Sabbath reunion, Ward and the original Sabbath had re-united twice for short sets, first for Live Aid in 1985 and then at a Costa Mesa, California Ozzy Osbourne show on 14 November 1992. Sabbath, with Judas Priest singer Rob Halford replacing Ronnie James Dio who had recently left the band, opening the show for Osbourne. The Ozzy Osbourne band (Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Mike Inez, Randy Castillo and John Sinclair) then did a full set before Osbourne was reunited with Iommi, Butler and Ward for four numbers.
Ward made a brief return to the band for a South American tour in 1994, before finally rejoining the band for the two shows at the Birmingham NEC, England on 4 and 5 December 1997, which made up the Reunion album. When what was billed as the original line-up reunited for the Ozzfest tour in 1997 Mike Bordin played drums. Ward then had to skip all but the last two band appearances in 1998 while he recovered from a heart attack suffered during the tour rehearsals that May. As the band rehearsed, Ward stopped and asked if he could lie down for a spell. He then asked for his assistant and informed the band that his arm had gone numb. Iommi and Butler then left for a short time, not knowing that Ward had actually suffered a heart attack. Outside, they saw an ambulance pass but weren't aware what was happening. Upon returning to the rehearsal space a frantic Ozzy Osbourne informed them "Bill has had a heart attack! Bill has had a heart attack!" As was the case in 1980, he was replaced at short notice by Vinny Appice, although this time it was always intended to be a temporary absence for Ward, health allowing. He was well enough to return for good in 1999 and had remained with Sabbath until 2012.
Since mid-2002, Ward has done a monthly internet only radio show named "Rock 50" on radio station WPMD from Cerritos College in California. Ward plays a variety of metal, hard rock, and some classic rock.
In October 2006 news leaked that Ward would be reuniting with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio for a tour though under the moniker Heaven & Hell. However, Ward later decided not to participate in the tour or continue participation in the band because of musical differences with "a couple of the other bandmembers" and a reported concern about extended touring.
On 11 November 2011, Iommi, Butler, Osbourne, and Ward announced that they were reuniting to record a new album with producer Rick Rubin and to start touring in 2012. In February 2012, however, Ward left before work commenced on 13, the first studio recording to include original band members Iommi, Osbourne and Butler since the live album Reunion (1998), which contained two new studio tracks. Ward said that he had failed to reach an agreement regarding his contract. Brad Wilk recorded the drum tracks on the album, while Tommy Clufetos performed during the 2013 tour.
In August 2013, Ward revealed that he would soon be heading into the studios to finish mixing his third solo album, to be titled Accountable Beasts. He also expressed a desire to tour behind the album once it is released, provided that sales are acceptable.
Ward has two sons, Nigel and Aaron, and one daughter, Emily. Ward maintains a vegan diet.
According to his Black Sabbath bandmates Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne, Ward has dramatically changed his lifestyle since Black Sabbath's 1970s and early 80s heyday. Iommi says he quit smoking, gave up alcohol, and no longer uses drugs of any kind. Osbourne says that Ward has been sober for approximately 30 years. However, more recently, in 2013, Osbourne has criticized Ward's health, regarding him as "incredibly overweight" and suggesting that he would have been unable to drum for Black Sabbath had he stayed in the band following their 2011 reunion, given his physical condition, although Ward himself has insisted his health has not affected his ability to play the drums.
Ward uses Tama drums, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks and Gibraltar hardware.
Bill Ward Drumstick Collection
Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 14.