BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward has announced that he will not be able to partake in the recording sessions for the band's new album and subsequent touring activities unless he is presented with a "fair agreement." His official statement on the matter reads as follows:
"Dear SABBATH fans, fellow musicians and interested parties,
"At this time, I would love nothing more than to be able to proceed with the BLACK SABBATH album and tour. However, I am unable to continue unless a 'signable' contract is drawn up; a contract that reflects some dignity and respect toward me as an original member of the band.
"Last year, I worked diligently in good faith with [fellow original SABBATH members] Tony [Iommi, guitar], Ozzy [Osbourne, vocals] and Geezer [Butler, bass]. And on [November 11, 2011, again in good faith, I participated in the L.A. press conference.
"Several days ago, after nearly a year of trying to negotiate, another 'unsignable' contract was handed to me.
"Let me say that although this has put me in some kind of holding pattern, I am packed and ready to leave the U.S. for England. More importantly, I definitely want to play on the album, and I definitely want to tour with BLACK SABBATH.
"Since the news of Tony's illness, and the understanding that the band would move production to the U.K., I've spent every day getting to or living in a place of readiness to leave. That involves something of a task, and as I've tried to find out what's going on with the U.K. sessions, I've realized that I've been getting 'the cold shoulder' (and, I might add, not for the first time). Feeling somewhat ostracized, my guess is as of today, I will know nothing of what's happening unless I sign 'the unsignable contract.'
"The place I'm in feels lousy and lonely because as much as I want to play and participate, I also have to stand for something and not sign on. If I sign 'as is,' I stand to lose my rights, dignity and respectability as a rock musician.
"I believe in freedom and freedom of speech.
"I grew up in a hard rock/metal band. We stood for something then, and we played from the heart with honesty and sincerity. I am in the spirit of integrity, far from the corporate malady, I am real and honest, fair and compassionate.
"If I'm replaced, I have to face you, the beloved SABBATH fans. I hope you will not hold me responsible for the failure of an original BLACK SABBATH lineup as promoted. Without fault finding, I want to assure everyone that my loyalty to SABBATH is intact.
"So here I am. I lay my truth down before you. I'm good to go IF I get a 'signable' contract.
"I don't want to let anyone down, especially BLACK SABBATH and all the SABBATH fans. You know I love you. It would be a sad day in rock if this current situation fell to the desires of a few.
"My position is not greed-driven. I'm not holding out for a 'big piece' of the action (money) like some kind of blackmail deal. I’d like something that recognizes and is reflective of my contributions to the band, including the reunions that started fourteen years ago.
"After the last tour, I vowed to never again sign on to an unreasonable contract. I want a contract that shows some respect to me and my family, a contract that will honor all that I've brought to BLACK SABBATH since its beginning.
"That's the story so far.
"Stay safe and stay strong.
"I love every single one of you."
According to U.K.'s The People, BLACK SABBATH's planned world tour and festival appearances are expected to earn the musicians in excess of £100 million (around $159 million), meaning each member of the band could take home up to £25 million (approximately $40 million).
The Ozzy-fronted lineup of SABBATH hasn't toured since 2005 and last appeared together when they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2006. They attempted to cut a new album — their first since 1978's "Never Say Die!" — with Rick Rubin in 1999, but the sessions fell apart after just a couple of songs and Osbourne turned his attention to his solo career. The Ronnie James Dio lineup reunited under the moniker HEAVEN & HELL in 2006 but split four years later, after Dio passed away.
Osbourne and Iommi in 2010 amicably resolved their problems over the ownership of the BLACK SABBATH name and court proceedings in New York were discontinued.
Ozzy filed a lawsuit against Iommi in May 2009, claiming that Iommi illegally took sole ownership of the band's name in a filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Osbourne sued Iommi for a 50 percent interest in the "Black Sabbath" trademark, along with a portion of Iommi's profits from use of the name.
The Manhattan federal court suit also charged that Osbourne's "signature lead vocals" are largely responsible for the band's "extraordinary success," noting that its popularity plummeted during his absence from 1980 through 1996.
Lawyer Andrew DeVore argued that Osbourne signed away all his rights to the BLACK SABBATH trademark after he quit the band in 1979.
Osbourne's lawyer, Howard Shire, called that agreement a "red herring" that was "repudiated" when the singer rejoined in 1997 and took over "quality control" of the band's merchandise, tours and recordings.