Everyone's Replaceable

So How Come Tommy Clufetos Doesn’t Play on Black Sabbath’s 13?

  • Axl Rosenberg

Ward Wilk Clufetos

Are there people who are curious as to why drummer Tommy Clufetos doesn’t play on Black Sabbath’s new album, 13? He would seem to be the obvious choice, given that he’s become Bill Ward’s touring replacement — and yet, the album features drums recorded instead by Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk.

The question honestly never occurred to me, because the answer always seemed so obvious: because Wilk is more famous than Clufetos, his participation would clearly garner more press (and, hopefully, goodwill) than if Clufetos’ would… but at the same time, Wilk was probably too expensive to make a full-time member of the band, so Clufetos became the man for the live gig. Call me cynical (“You, cynical? Nnnoooo, never!”), but it seemed fairly clear that it was a business decision, pure and simple.

But  the nice folks at Spin decided to give Sabbath the benefit of the doubt and ask him if there was actually some creative impetus behind the drummer sitch. And Ozzy, having been a rock star for most of his life now, deflected the blame and artfully threw a collaborator under the bus:

Was Brad Wilk your first choice to replace Bill?
Osbourne: I don’t really want to go into it. We had Tommy on hold. And it just didn’t work out. The way it was dealt with was wrong, because you can’t keep people waiting for nothing. We were going to use Tommy at the beginning, and Rick was against it. And then it turned out that it wasn’t dealt with professionally and I got a bit pissed-off. Anyway, Tommy’s doing a great job on the road with Sabbath.

Maybe Rubin was against Clufetos playing on the album — but why? It can’t be a talent issue: Clufetos has recorded and/or toured with Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, and, oh yeah, Ozzy’s solo band (amongst others). We have to therefore assume that it was either a personality issue (which seems unlikely, given that The Great Gurubin has a reputation for spending upwards of five minutes a week actually being in the studio for any given album which he’s producing), or it was a business issue. Rubin is obviously a smart business man; assuming he has points on 13, it would be in his best interest to replace Ward with the most well-known drummer possible.

Also, am I nuts, or does the fact that producer was “against it” ultimately not matter? I’m not saying a producer’s advice shouldn’t be considered — that’s a huge part of the reason the producer is there! — but Rubin is not, at the end of the day, a member of the band. If the three remaining members of Sabbath all really wanted Clufetos to be on the album, he’d be on the album. But they heeded Rubin’s advice… why? Again, it can’t be a talent issue or a personality issue, because they took the guy out on the road. So we can deduce that they like his work and get along with him. So their intentions must have been more cynical ones, right?

Maybe not. Maybe there is a much more sun-shine-and-kittens explanation for the revolving doors.

But what I really wanna know is: how come Vinny Appice didn’t get the gig? Was he even approached? Did Ozzy just not wanna work with him because of his association with Dio-era Sabbath? Remember Ronnie James Dio? He seemed like a swell guy, didn’t he?

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