Back to school with Black Sabbath

Tony Iommi announces scholarship – and existence of legendary Sabbath and Led Zeppelin recordings.

Birmingham has produced a host of exceptional bands over the years, but few have rivalled the creative genius of Black Sabbath. Aston boy Tony Iommi made a very special visit to announce details of the BIMM Birmingham Scholarship, which will bear his name.

This prestigious scholarship will be fully funded for three years and is worth up to £20,250. Additionally, BIMM will also offer three Tony Iommi BIMM Birmingham bursaries where a student can avail a £1,500 bursary for their first year to support them during their studies at BIMM Birmingham at the new state-of-the-art college, which will open its doors in Digbeth this October.

Yesterday the legendary guitarist was interviewed onstage in front of an intimate audience of twenty BIMM Birmingham freshers-to-be, who’d won the chance to come along and listen to the rock legend relay stories from his half a century in music.

Introducing the £20,000 award, BIMM Birmingham’s Executive Principal, Dara Kilkenny, said: “Tony Iommi has agreed to put his name to a scholarship which will be worth £20,000 for one of the applicants, and it could be one of you in this room. It’s available to all disciplines, all degree students. You will not pay any fees.”

Giving his thoughts on the scholarship and how one lucky BIMM student can utilise it, Tony said: “It’s fantastic; I just think that you have to go for it and work as hard as you can. Believe in what you are doing. You have to believe in it, and follow it through. Work as hard as you can. You have to love it and enjoy it.”

After the announcement, Tony sat down with BIMM’s resident Black Sabbath aficionado and Orange Goblin drummer, Chris Turner, for an exclusive interview about his life in music and his work with Black Sabbath, following the band’s decision to bid farewell after spending a half century and the forefront of heavy metal.

Tony, whose ear-shattering riffs and unique sound provided the blueprint for all metal bands who have followed, shared a wealth of insight and a host of amazing anecdotes about the band’s formation. Black Sabbath’s sound was actually part inspired by horror movies, which explains a lot .

“We were fascinated with horror movies. Geezer and I used to go to a Midnight Horror night at the cinema. I said to Geezer; it would great if we could write music that to give you the same fear as a horror movie and that’s what started it off,” he told the audience.

Opening up about Black Sabbath’s immense sound, Tony spoke about the significance of his Laney LA100BL and LA412 amp and the now vintage equipment used during the recording of their first album. Many have tried to recreate that sound, including super-producer Rick Rubin. Recalling the recording sessions, he said: “He brought out some Laney clip amps that I’ve never used. I used the Laney LA100BL, LA412. Just because they’re vintage doesn’t mean they sound great. He was trying to create the sound of the amp before. I pointed out that he was using modern mics, we didn’t have them.”

Tony actually commissioned an exclusive line of replica Laney LA100BL, LA412 amps for Black Sabbath’s Farewell tour, of which only fifty have been made. Earlier this year, BIMM were fortunate to acquire one of the priceless amps – a piece of musical history which now sits pride of place in the college, now signed by the man who made them famous. He later signed the amp that was on stage.

So, what of those elusive recording tapes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath? Do they exist? The question had to be asked. The audience hung onto Tony’s every word as he recalled the story of that historic tape. “John [Bonham] and I were good friends. He used to play me their stuff, and I would play him our stuff at rehearsals,” he revealed.

“One night we were in the studio, and they came down -it ruined our session- John said let’s play Supernaut, so we started playing it, and then we started making stuff up. It was quite good. There is a tape somewhere of those sessions.”

On the subject of BIMM, Tony spoke of the opportunities now available to aspiring musicians and the ease of which you can make music nowadays thanks to advances in technology but admits his allegiances will always lie with the warm, fuzzy analogue sound that many are still trying to attain years later.

So, how does he feel about his riffs being an inspiration to so many bands? “We are proud of it. It feels weird, so many bands of the years recognise us as their influence. It’s a great honour,” he explained.

Tony’s support of the BIMM scholarship and bursaries is a testament to the college’s close ties with the industry and the perfect precursor to BIMM Birmingham’s grand opening. Summing up the event, Chris said: “It’s not often you get to meet your heroes, and I have today.”

After the Q&A, Tony signed records and took pictures with BIMM’s twenty soon-to-be freshers.

To find out more about the BIMM Birmingham scholarships and bursaries visit here