Imagine you are Tony Iommi. Your career has spanned three decades. Your signature guitar sound has inspired legions of distortion-bent disciples. You recently reunited your once-embattled band, Black Sabbath, and embarked on a two-year, sold-out world tour. Audiences everywhere salute you with the thrust of the Devil-Horned Hand.
So what do you do next? Record your first solo album.
After 30 years, Iommi has released a much-anticipated solo effort, simply titled Iommi. The LP's first single, "Goodbye Lament," is receiving a warm welcome from rock radio, climbing to No. 9 on this week's Radio and Records rock charts. The song features vocals from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
Other lyricists and singers the guitarist recruited for his project include Henry Rollins, the Cult's Ian Astbury, and even his longtime pal Ozzy Osbourne.
"Each one of these singers has real character in their voice, and you can distinguish them right away," Iommi says of his esteemed collaborators.
The prospect of working with the man whose distorted power chords practically invented heavy metal ensured that all invited parties would answer in the affirmative. The biggest challenge was coordinating the busy schedules of the artists involved. One of the most elusive was Skunk Anansie's metallic diva, Skin.
"I basically chased her around," Iommi laughs. But her brassy contribution to the CD, "Meat," was worth the wait. "I've been knocked out with her voice for years," he says, admiringly. It also marked a first for the guitarist. "It's the first time I've ever done an album or a track with a female vocalist," he says proudly.
Another "first" for Tony occurred in his work with Billy Corgan. "We basically were writing and recording ["Black Oblivion"] at the same time, and I've never worked that way!" Iommi says. "We walked into the studio with no idea what we were going to do!"
Iommi's collaborators were equally excited by the prospect of working with him. "The first person I ever tried to emulate on guitar was Tony," reveals Corgan.
Corgan was on Iommi's initial list, as was Dave Grohl, Pantera's Phil Anselmo, and of course, Skin. Some artists, such as System of a Down's Serj Tankian, caught Tony's ear on tour and then received an invitation from the metal master. Others, like Billy Idol, bluntly asked.
Idol was recording in the studio next to Iommi. When he learned what was going on, he asked Iommi's manager Bob Marlette, "Can I have a go at doing one?" Iommi says.
The most shocking request of all though came from Osbourne. "Well, aren't you going to ask me to be on the album?" Iommi remembers Osbourne asking. "I was really proud to have him on it."
There is one name on Iommi's wish list that got away, however.
"The only one that I really wanted that we couldn't actually get was Tom Jones," Iommi says, disappointed. "He was busy doing his own album at that time, but I really wanted him, because it would've been different and made people go, 'We never expected that one!'"