Drummer Officially Pulls Out Of Sabbath Gigs

The metal pioneers will be without original drummer Bill Ward for their upcoming reunion gigs, with Ward saying he was not provided a “signable contract” – or even a guarantee that he’d be involved in all three performances.

The announcement seems to eliminate any speculation that Ward might perform with the band, of which he was a founding member in 1969.

Black Sabbath was originally set to perform a full reunion tour with all four members, but was forced to scale back considerably after guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma. Ward had publicly announced he was unhappy with his contract offer for the tour at the time and might elect to stay home.

Now, the band is scheduled for Download Festival in the UK as well as Lollapalooza, with a warm-up gig May 19 at the O2 Academy in the band’s hometown of Birmingham. “Ozzy And Friends” will tour Europe in May and June with guitarists including Slash, Zakk Wylde and Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler on certain dates.

In a lengthy message posted on his website today, Ward says he holds “no malice or resentment towards the other band members” and will “love them forever.”

“This is the statement I didn’t want to write; it’s the last thing I wanted to do. But, I have written it, and now it can go into the universe.”

Ward says he was unaware of the Birmingham gig at all until seeing it advertised online. After contacting the band’s reps to try to work something out for him to be included, Ward claims he was told May 9 to “come to the UK, play for free and see how the first show goes.”

While Ward says playing free was not a problem, he was not prepared to get involved if there was a chance he wouldn’t be included in the other shows.

“It’s all the gigs or none at all,” Ward wrote on his site May 15. “I can’t come to Birmingham and ‘see what happens’ knowing there is a risk of not being able to play Download or Lollapalooza.” He says the situation is especially unfortunate following Iommi’s treatment and because the band formed in Birmingham.

Ward also says he was approached in April to perform “minimally” at Download Festival.

“I believe I’d been offered no more than three songs to play while another drummer presumably played the rest of the show with Black Sabbath,” he wrote. “I was not willing to participate in that offer. I was not prepared to watch another drummer play a Sabbath set, while I was to play only three songs.”

Despite talks breaking down for the reunion gigs and the Black Sababth album in the works for 2012, Ward says he is open to working with the band in the future.

The Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne camps have remained mostly quiet since Ward’s announcements, so it’s hard to say if Ward’s story is completely accurate or missing any minor or major details. The band has only said, through Facebook, that it continues to record without him and that the door remains open for Ward to continue with the band. But …

“Although the statement was made that, ‘the door is always open’ for me, as explained above, walking through that door is not always as easy as it sounds,” Ward wrote. “There are many complicated issues and unseen and unspoken agendas on hand. I can assure you, my criteria for a ‘signable’ contract is based in mindful principles, respectability, and acknowledgement of my history within the band.”

Click here for the whole (and it’s a big one) statement.