By Keith CarmanThe passing of Ronnie James Dio in May was a sad moment for the world of aggressive music. Revered for being the one-time vocalist for Black Sabbath, his eponymous '80s brigade and his Sabbath reunion under the Heaven & Hell moniker, he put an indelible stamp on the world of metal. But as his longtime friend and Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell colleague Geezer Butler recently explained in an Exclaim! interview, Dio's death has left many close to him in a state of both personal and professional turmoil.
"We're all just on hold since Ronnie passed away," reveals Butler (aka Terence Michael Joseph Butler). "We did a tribute concert for his cancer fund a bit ago and that's about it. We're just wondering what to do next."
Even some three months after Dio's passing, Butler seems in deep shock as to the loss. It's no wonder, since early reports issued via Dio's camp revealed that while he was suffering from stomach cancer, his condition appeared to be improving. As we know now, though, it quickly deteriorated.
"Everything was going so well and then that happened," he continues. "It was one of those things when he was responding really well to treatment and everyone was feeling positive again. The tour was going ahead again and Ronnie felt up for it [and] was looking forward to the tour. About six weeks before that, it came back with a vengeance and hit him really hard."
Thrown into a state of turmoil, Butler admits that Heaven & Hell are no more and the future of Sabbath continues to remain uncertain.
"It's really difficult because it's obviously never happened to us before. It's difficult to know what to do, especially at our age. We're not sure. Do we start all over again? We're just gonna see how it goes. That's the thing. He's a very close friend of of mine, as well as someone I work with. It's a big part of my life gone. [Are we] getting a singer in and that kind of thing? ... It'll sort itself out eventually, I suppose [but] Heaven & Hell is finished. It could only ever be with Ronnie. I'd still like to carry on with Tony and Vinnie doing something but it won't be as Heaven & Hell."
While minds will immediately turn to original singer Ozzy Osbourne and a full-on revival of Sabbath's original line-up, well, get in line. Even Butler feels that although the legal battle over name right between Osbourne and Iommi has been resolved, the reality of such a reunion (the second, at that) is largely unattainable.
"We're all talking again so that's a good sign - I hope," Butler chuckles. "As far as the original band goes, there are so many places we never played that I'd love to visit. Japan for instance. We never ever played there or so many places in Eastern Europe or Asia that have opened up since the original band - or since the reunion of the original band. When we got the reunion thing back together, we really only played North America and Western Europe. That was it... Eventually I'd like to go to places we've never been there before. But it's easier said than done."
So for now, Butler resigns himself to waiting out the grieving process before venturing back into music. Looking at his stockpile of riffs and songs, he feels there is certainly an album's worth of material in the vault, be it Sabbath or via his solo venture G/Z/R.
"It's been a really tough year so music has been very much on the backburner 'cause of Ronnie... I've got so much of my own stuff I've done, it's gonna take months to sort through it all when I wanna start up again. It's such a backlog. Once you establish a direction in your mind it makes it a lot easier but I need that. Once I get that, I'll just play through it all."
Still, Butler is admittedly in no shape to bother at present. When asked if there is any silver lining to all of this, his tone is agonizingly mournful: "Not at the moment."
Stay tuned for Exclaim!'s entire interview with Butler in our Conversations series.