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07/01/2013

I Was Black Sabbath's Mystery Guitarist - Sabotage Times

I Was Black Sabbath's Mystery Guitarist


by Dan Swinhoe
7 January 2013 1 Com m en t

Tony "The Cat" Martin was said to be every bit as good as Dio, yet he was systematically booted out of Black Sabbath, and has since had his name white washed from the band's history...

I have a confession to mak e. My first Black Sabbath album wasnt Paranoid, or Vol.4, nor even Heaven & Hell or The Mob Rules. It wasnt even Born Again. It was a contract-fulfilling compilation album called The Sabbath Stones. It featured no Ozzy, but track s from all over he bands eighties and early nineties output. It featured the lik es of Dio, Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillian on vocals, but the man who impressed the most was a little k nown Englishman called Tony The Cat Martin. When Death Calls and The Headless Cross were simply blinding. Here was a man who had a massive vocal range, and was writing the k ind of gothic fantasy lyrics that just sounded so incredibly cool to a 14-year-old me. At his best he was every bit as good as Dio, and thats not a thing to be said lightly.

So why have you never heard of him? Could be one of many reasons. Sabbath were at their lowest ebb when Tony joined the band, with Grunge and Hair Metal mak ing what was a 20-year-old band look very dated. Their label at the time, IRS, was tiny, and has since folded, so getting hold of the records is a struggle at best. But most of all it might be because Black Sabbath have seemingly ignored the entire decade he with the band, seemingly mak ing an effort to expunge him from their history. Anyone aware of Sabbaths history will k now they werent exactly a stable line-up post-Ozzy. The Sabbath Stones covers eight albums, and features five bassists, five drummers, and four vocalists. In fact only guitarist Tony Iommi and k eyboardist Geoff Nichols (the unofficial but near-permanent fifth member of Black Sabbath) ever maintained a steady presence. Tony joined Sabbath in 1987, released five albums with the band. Being in Sabbath was a complete drama! Tony explains, I never really had the chance to settle into it because I was constantly learning the ropes or reading between the lines.

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In the run up to Tony joining the band, things were a bit of a mess. Singers were coming and going, joining tours, demoing, all the while other members of the band were rotating just as frequently. At one point to fill in on bass for a music video they took a random guitar in off the street, and after filming he auditioned but according to Tony, he didnt cut it. Tony was a singer with a band called The Alliance, and the story goes his manager

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07/01/2013

I Was Black Sabbath's Mystery Guitarist - Sabotage Times

at the time simply took him for a drive and pulled up at Iommis house without saying who they were there to see, rang the doorbell and Tony joined the band soon after. Some pre-Sabbath Tony Martin music:

What followed was a period of relative stability for Black Sabbath. Three quality albums were released, The Eternal Idol (1987) Headless Cross (1989) and TYR (1990), and for the first time in almost ten years, things were on the up for the band. Despite all this, in 1990 Iommi was talk ed into ditching Tony and bringing back Dio for Dehumanizer. By all accounts mak ing the album was fraught with difficulties (Iommi claims it cost a million dollars to record), and after some success, Dio quit again because he refused to open for Ozzys solo band. Suddenly left without a singer again, the band brought Tony back , who had been work ing on his first solo album Back Where I Belong. Two more records followed, but by then the momentum they built before Dehumanizer had gone. It wasnt just personal problems Sabbath were suffering with, the musical landscape of the mid-nineties was having a negative impact on the creativity side of things too. 1996s Forbidden is widely accepted as the bands worst effort, a fact readily accepted by Martin in an interview he did with Gibson in 2011. But when Ice-T is involved and words lik e Rap Sabbath are being bandied about by the label, alarm bells shouldve been ringing. I never met Ice-T, they did that session after I left the studio. Eventually Black Sabbath petered out and Tonys time in the band ended. No big arguments, no fistfights, nothing. Though Ozzy is now the defacto frontman of the band once again, technically Tony was never fired. The phone stopped ringing 16 years ago and they havent spok en to me since. I saw Iommi very briefly for a few hours in Russia a few years ago and he was very complimentary about me but after that I heard nothing. Despite the lack of open hostility, in Iommis 2011 autobiography, Iron Man, the guitarist accuses Martin of being unprofessional and having no stage presence. Having never read the book , Tonys reply when told in an interview with Uberrock was justifiably bemused when told: It surprises me. They never said anything to me. Surely, if youve got a problem, the first person you should say something to is the person thats in the band with you, you dont wait ten years. More fool them for not saying anything because we could have fixed it. I said to them, endlessly, that if there was anything they wanted changed, done differently, just to say and we could fix it, but clearly they hadnt got the guts to, obviously, and to write about it in a book afterwards seems a bit daft to me. Im not bitter about it, but it is surprising. Even today Martins legacy in Sabbath has been almost whitewashed from the history book s. Youll be hard pressed to find much info on the his time with the band on the official site. And despite the general trend for reissuing old albums, including all the Sabbath releases up to Born Again, only one of Martins, his debut Eternal Idol is the only one to be given the treatment, and even then he had no input. I was not a writer on Eternal Idol, I was just a session singer for that album, Tony says, referring to the fact he was brought in to re-record the album after Ray Gillens departure. The songs and lyrics were all finished, So I would not be included in the release [process] of that. But despite everything, and being the nice guy that he his, Tony M has never been bitter. I am 10 years younger than those guys and our circles didnt really cross, so it was a bit isolating. But in all his interviews hes never anything but nice about his bandmates and speak s fondly of his time in the band.It doesnt mean I hated the experience, I was just completely inexperienced and they didnt have the time or the inclination to really accommodate that,he says. It felt lik e they just wanted my voice and writing ability. Today Tonys time with the band still has a strong fanbase, testament to that is the all the praise that fills up his Facebook page. And since leaving Sabbath, hes been a busy man. Featuring on well over a dozen albums and guesting on many more, most of Tonys work is on equal footing to any Iommi, Dio or Heaven & Hell releases, its just a shame he cant afford the same mark eting team. When ask ed what he think s of his former bandmates work outside of Sabbath, Tony tak es the high ground. Erm, they are what they are really, all different and valid. In a different time some of them could have been quite big I think . Even Today Tony still has an active music career. This year saw the release of The Third Cage, an ongoing collaboration between Tony and Italian guitarist Dario Mollo. ts a decent slab of 80s inspired metal, and was well received by fans and the press. 2012 also saw him return to the live stage with the Tony Martins Headless Cross tour. Featuring Geoff Nicholls (formerly of Black Sabbath), Dario Mollo, Magnus Rosen (ex-HammerFall) and Danny Needham (Venom), their shows included a triumphant night in Birmingham. It was wonderful, the band was fantastic and the crowd were great, he says. The last show before that was 5 years ago! Not playing for so long would no doubt leave anyone rusty, and no longer as young as he used to be, obviously as time goes on singing isnt as easy as it once was. I damaged my voice years ago and it is harder to k eep it going but it still work s, he admits. I have to exercise my voice a lot these days to k eep it running. Wick ed World, from Martins latest album The Third Cage with Dario Mollo:

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07/01/2013

I Was Black Sabbath's Mystery Guitarist - Sabotage Times

As well as being a singer, Tony is a talented musician. Able to play a wide variety of instruments, including bass, drums, violin, k eyboards, harmonica, and even the bagpipes and panpipes. He tak es the term solo artist seriously, playing most of the parts on his solo albums. His latest effort, Book Of Shadows, is around 2/3 done, but is currently on ice. Book of shadows got put on hold of course because its a solo album and solo albums are the worst because you are too close to it and its never perfect, Tony says. But apart from that you still have to pay the bills and so I do other projects too and that tak es me away from the solo album. But I do intend to have all those re recorded and released. The other project fans had been waiting for was Silver Horses. Tony has said in interviews it consisted of beautiful bluesy stuff, a k ind of Led Zeppelin thing and we could expect it in 2013, but plans seem to have stalled. Silver Horses is dead in the water right now. It turned nasty because they tried to release it without having the rights and contracts in place and we are fighting over the way forward, he explains, adding how much of a shame it is. As things are we dont have a release, but we are still work ing on it and maybe we can recover it, but it doesnt feel the same now. [Since the interview Tony got in touch saying there may be a way forward, but nothing in the way of definites.] While that must be annoying, it probably doesnt compare to the fact that most of Tonys back catalogue just isnt available anymore. It is very frustrating that all my songs are out of print now. Im very disappointed of course. As mentioned before, only one of Tonys album form his time in Sabbath is available, and much of his other material is equally scarce. In todays climate, self-releasing has become popular, is that something Tonys considered to get his previous work out there? I have talk ed to various people about releasing it again and there is some interest but I think the moment has passed now. So, despite all the ups and downs, there seems to be little in the way of regrets. I cant imagine what I could change, unless I k new then what I k now now.Then I could have changed a few things but I guess it would otherwise be the same. In this writers opinion, if Sabbath had work ed under a different name, perhaps just as the Iommi band, Tonys legacy might be more well k nown. I dont k now what would have happened if the band was not called Black Sabbath, no idea. Seemingly not interested in playing the what if game, Tony is far more focused on himself. I am very much an independent artist and i have many things I wish to do still, so in the next few years there should be a lot of TM related things happening. So all in all, Tony is a happy man doing his own thing. But theres still one question that needs answering; why were you k nown as the Cat? When i was in a band called Orion we played Wrexham festival with Motrhead and Twisted Sister, and a review in Melody Mak er said the band was pretty good but had a singer that look s lik e Catweasle
1. The Shining
Black Sabbath Tony Martin 5. Cirque Du Freak Mollo / Martin 6. Born To Lose Black Sabbath 7. Al-Sirat - The Bridge To Paradise Empire 8. Good is Good Forcefield II 9. Ready Or Not Misha Calvin 10. Maximum Empire 11. Faith In Madness Tony Martin 12. Big World, Little Man Empire 4:14 3:44 5:15 4:46 4:49 3:53 5:35 4:09

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