Former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice said he’s tried to restart discussions over recording an album with that band’s Heaven & Hell lineup, featuring himself, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler – but with Rob Halford in place of the late Ronnie James Dio.
Judas Priest singer Halford stood in for Dio in 1992, when the latter vocalist refused to take part in a pair of shows because Sabbath would be supporting their former frontman Ozzy Osbourne. He subsequently left the band. In a new interview with Rock Fantasy Files, Appice recalled how Halford’s contribution averted disaster.
“We played Phoenix with Ronnie, and then the next day was off,” he said. “We were gonna rehearse with Rob Halford at some rehearsal place. … It was really funny because it was just a regular rehearsal place. And in comes Rob Halford, Iommi, Butler, me. People in there are going, ‘Ah, oh, my God. What the fuck is this? What’s going on?’ I remember the faces – everybody was freaking out!”
He added that they worked with Halford for “two or three hours,” concentrating mainly on Osbourne-era songs, with only a handful of Dio-era tracks, including “Heaven and Hell.”
“Tony and Geezer haven’t played them in a while … and I haven’t played them [ever],” Appice explained. “You don’t have that confidence of, ‘Man, we’ve been playing the whole tour together.’ … It was a bit nerve-racking.” But Appice noted that there was nothing to worry about: “We went out, and it sounded great – Rob killed it. Except the teleprompter went off. … Luckily, Rob had all the lyrics on the floor on paper, but he couldn’t see them. So he got down on one knee so he could read the fucking lyrics. … It sounded great. People loved it.”
You can watch the interview with Appice below.
The surprise success of the collaboration led to “words” about “carrying on from there with Rob,” the drummer reported. That conversation was reprised when Dio died in 2010, after they released the album The Devil You Know under the name Heaven & Hell.
Confirming that talks had taken place “about doing it after that, after the dust settled,” Appice added: “Rob kept wanting to do it. … When I saw him somewhere at an award show, [he said] ‘I’m gonna talk to Tony.’… And then recently I sent a message over to management about, ‘Hey, we could easily do an album and not even see each other, the way things are done these days, with Rob.'”
In 2018, Iommi talked up the possibility about collaborating with Halford “when the time’s right,” noting: “We’ve talked about it for ages. … It would be nice to write a track or two or whatever. I’d like to do that. It’s nice to work with people that you respect and like.”