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Geezer Butler
GeezerHeavenAndHell .jpg
Geezer Butler performing with Heaven & Hell in 2007.
Background information
Birth name Terence Michael Joseph Butler
Also known as Geezer
Born 17 July 1949 (1949-07-17) (age 71)
Aston, Birmingham, England
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Instruments
Years active 1967–present
Labels
  • Sanctuary
  • TVT
Associated acts

Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler (born 17 July 1949) is an English musician and songwriter. Butler is best known as the bassist and primary lyricist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He has also recorded and performed with Heaven & Hell, GZR, and Ozzy Osbourne. He currently serves as bassist of Deadland Ritual.

Biography

Early life

Butler received the nickname "Geezer" when he was about eight years old. This was because he "used to call everybody Geezer" at school. "It was just a slang term for a man."

Butler grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family in Birmingham. Butler was one of seven children. The family were poor.

As a teenager, Butler was heavily influenced by the writing of Aleister Crowley. By his late teens, he had stopped attending Mass. He feels that everyone should sooner or later decide for themselves what to believe in. "I was going to Mass every Sunday just to take a look at all the nice girls that were going there".

Black Sabbath

Geezer1970
Butler in 1970

In autumn 1967, Butler formed his first band, Rare Breed. John "Ozzy" Osbourne joined as lead vocalist. Butler was dating a girl who lived near Tony Iommi. Iommi's earliest memories of Butler was of seeing him walking past his house every day to visit her. Iommi and Butler became acquainted when their bands played at a nearby nightclub. Butler and Osbourne joined guitarist Iommi and drummer Bill Ward in the band Polka Tulk. They renamed their new band Earth, but a band already existed with that name, so they were forced to change the name again. In early 1969, inspired by the Boris Karloff horror film of the same name, Butler suggested the name Black Sabbath.

In his pre-Sabbath days, inspired by John Lennon, Butler played rhythm guitar. When Sabbath was formed, Iommi made it clear that he did not want to play with another guitarist, so Butler moved to bass. According to Butler, "I'd never played bass until I was on stage at the first gig that we played. Borrowed the bass guitar off one of my friends and it only had three strings on it." Butler lists Jack Bruce of Cream as his biggest influence as a bassist. Iommi described Butler as being "from another planet" in the band's early days; he wore Indian hippie dresses, and was very peaceful. At the time Black Sabbath was formed, Butler was studying to become an accountant, and this training resulted in him managing the band's finances in the early days.

After Black Sabbath fired vocalist Ozzy Osbourne in 1979, Butler also briefly left the band to deal with the divorce from his first wife. The 1980 album Heaven and Hell was recorded with bassist Craig Gruber but Butler returned to the band at the last minute and re-recorded the bass parts prior to release.

In 1984, he left the band after touring in support of their 1983 album, Born Again. He returned months later as the band attempted a comeback with vocalist David Donato.

In 1988, Butler joined the backing band of his former Sabbath bandmate, Osbourne, to take part in the No Rest for the Wicked World Tour.

In 1991, he rejoined Black Sabbath for the reunion of the Mob Rules line-up.

In 1994, he left again after the Cross Purposes tour.

In 1995 Butler again joined Osbourne's band to perform on the Ozzmosis album. After recording Ozzmosis, he formed G/Z/R, issuing Plastic Planet the same year.

In 1997, he released his next solo album, Black Science,.

Butler returned to Sabbath for the 1997 edition of Ozzfest. He has remained with the band since.

In 2005 he released Ohmwork, his third solo album.

In October 2006 it was announced that Butler, along with Tony Iommi, would be reforming the Dehumanizer-era Black Sabbath line-up with Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio, under the name Heaven & Hell to differentiate between the reunited touring band fronted by Osbourne, and the current Sabbath line-up.

In 2013, he recorded on the Black Sabbath album "13" and was on the supporting album tour.

In 2017, toured on the final Black Sabbath tour, The End Tour.

Personal life

Butler is married to Gloria Butler, who managed Heaven & Hell. He was divorced from his first wife in 1980. He also shares his Los Angeles home with several cats, of whom he has posted pictures on his website. His oldest son, Biff Butler, was the frontman in the nu metal band Apartment 26. Butler's younger son James has a degree in social sciences from Oxford University.

Butler is a lifelong supporter of Aston Villa Football Club. During Black Sabbath's induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Butler is heard shouting "Up the Villa" as the members of the band left the stage. He has referred to soccer as his "religion" and has stated that Villa legend Peter McParland is his "all-time hero".

According to Osbourne, Butler "never uses foul language". He was raised on a vegetarian diet, largely due to his family being too poor to buy meat on a regular basis, and is now a vegan since about 1994. His mother was also a vegetarian.

In 2009, Butler appeared in a promotional ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He later urged fans to boycott Fortnum & Mason until they remove foie gras from their shelves. Butler said, "I've seen some outrageous things in my time, but watching those poor birds suffer simply so that their diseased livers can be sold on your shop floor is horrific!"

Style and legacy

Butlernov95
Butler performing with Black Sabbath in 1995

Butler is noted as being one of the first bassists to use a wah pedal and to down-tune his instrument (from the standard E-A-D-G to the lower C#-F#-B-E), as on Black Sabbath's Master of Reality album. This was to match Iommi who had started tuning his guitar to C# (a minor third down). During the band's Ozzy Osbourne era, Butler wrote almost all of the band's lyrics, drawing heavily upon his fascination with religion, science-fiction, fantasy and horror, and musings on the darker side of human nature that posed a constant threat of global annihilation.

Butler is regarded as one of the most influential bassists in heavy metal. Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big said: "He’s a founding father of a whole genre of music and a man who really set the bar early on to be such an integral part of the sound and song structure of Sabbath". In Mick Wall's biography of Iron Maiden entitled Run to the Hills, founder Steve Harris recalls: "I distinctly remember trying to play along to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" – at first I just could not get it. I threw the guitar on my bed and walked out in a huff, but the next day I came back, picked it up and played it all the way through note-for-note! Once I got going, I started getting into bass-lines with a bit more subtlety to them...".

Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, who defined him his "number 1 influence", stated: "All true metal bassists look up to Geezer as a pioneer and Godfather of our chosen instrument. The best, ever". Rex Brown of Pantera and Kill Devil Hill asserted: "He’s a legend. He’s everything. Geezer is so much of an influence on me. Other bassists such as Cliff Burton, Les Claypool, Steve DiGiorgio, Alex Webster, John Myung, Johnny Lee Middleton, Greg Smith cited Butler as a significant influence on their style.

Equipment

Butler currently endorses Lakland basses and has his own signature model. For amplification, Butler is endorsed by Hartke bass amplification, Kilo bass head and 4X10 HyDrive cabinet. In the past, he has been known to use Ampeg SVT & B-15 bass amps and Fender, Dan Armstrong Plexi, Rickenbacker, Yamaha BB, Vigier and B.C. Rich Basses.

According to the Geezer Butler Bass Rig Rundown, he used the following over the years.

  • Pre-CBS Fender Precision (x2)
  • Dan Armstrong Plexiglass (Made by Ampeg)
  • John Birch (JB1 body style) In white (customised with a sticker in the style of a Coca Cola label but says “enjoy cocaine”)
  • John Birch (JB1 body style) In black
  • John Birch (JB1 body style) 8 string
  • Jaydee Roadie 2 (Created by John Diggins)
  • BC Rich Eagle Deluxe
  • BC Rich Iron Bird
  • Spector NS-2 (in white)
  • Vigier Passion 5
  • Vigier Arpege
  • Vigier Excess
  • Bill Nash custom precision (recording "13")

Lakland basses

From early 2000's

  • Joe Osborn 44-60 (now called a Vintage Jazz)
    • In Seafoam green
    • In Black with tortoise pickguard
    • In Black with grey pickguard (Virgin Mary and Henry sticker)
  • Joe Osborn 55-60 (5 string Jazz bass)
  • Bob Glaub 44-62 Precision Jazz
    • In black with tortoise pickguard
    • In black with grey pickguard
    • In shoreline gold with grey pickguard (Seen on Classic Albums: Black Sabbath)
  • 44-51 Precision with (Vintage Single Coil pickup) Black with White pick guard as well as 3 small “Henry” stickers.
  • 44-51M Precision with a Split Coil, White with Black pick guard and a GZR sticker in the bridge
  • 44-64 Duck Dunn (Vintage P with J style Neck) Singe Precision (Gold sparkle with white pick guard. Jazz bass neck with pearloid block inlays.
  • Custom Lakland 51 style Precision in with the emblem of Aston Villa (Seen during Paranoid on "The End of The End" DVD)

Signature Lakland basses

Released in 2013

  • Signature #1 Black with black and grey aluminum striped pickguard. Custom fret board inlays
  • Signature #2 Black with black and grey aluminum striped pickguard. Plain headstock, Henry sticker on 5th fret, rose gold inlays
  • Signature #3 Black with white pickguard, rose gold inlays. All black head stock.

Discography

Solo
  • 1995 – Plastic Planet (as "g//z/r")
  • 1997 – Black Science (as "geezer")
  • 2005 – Ohmwork (as "GZR")
Black Sabbath
  • 1970 – Black Sabbath
  • 1970 – Paranoid
  • 1971 – Master of Reality
  • 1972 – Vol. 4
  • 1973 – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
  • 1975 – Sabotage
  • 1976 – Technical Ecstasy
  • 1978 – Never Say Die!
  • 1980 – Heaven and Hell
  • 1981 – Mob Rules
  • 1982 – Live Evil
  • 1983 – Born Again
  • 1992 – Dehumanizer
  • 1994 – Cross Purposes
  • 2013 – 13
Ozzy Osbourne
  • 1990 – Just Say Ozzy
  • 1993 – Live & Loud ("Black Sabbath")
  • 1995 – Ozzmosis
Heaven & Hell
  • 2007 – Live from Radio City Music Hall
  • 2009 – The Devil You Know
  • 2010 – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell
Non-album compilations
  • 1989 – Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell (with Ozzy Osbourne)
  • 1994 – Nativity in Black (with Bullring Brummies)
  • 2013 – Device ("Out of Line")



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