An interview with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, in which he explains how a gruesome machinery accident led him toward the sound that would become the foundation of heavy metal, has been animated by VH1. The clip, The Complete History of Heavy Metal: Fingers Bloody Fingers, shows how the Birmingham, England native made the most of a bad situation.
In the clip, Iommi explains how Birmingham was an industrial town in the Sixties, “much like your Detroit.” He had been welding, but grew infatuated with making music, playing guitar and accordion. When a band he was playing in wanted to tour Europe, he decided he’d take the rest of the day off from welding, but his mother sent him back to finish off the day. “They put me on a huge machine, a massive thing, and I didn’t know how to work it,” he said. “As I was pushing the metal into the machine, it came down with such a force and bang, it just chopped my fingers. There was blood going all over the place.”
A co-worker had put his fingertips in a matchbox and sent him to the hospital, but doctors told him he could never play again. “I was extremely depressed and very down,” he said. “The manager of the factory came to visit me at home…and then he told me the story about Django Reinhardt, who had lost his fingers.”
Feeling inspired, he created makeshift fingertips, invented light-gauge strings, dropped his tuning and explored a number of other ways he could play guitar. The combination led to an “aggressive, raw and fat” sound that became Black Sabbath’s signature style.
“Of course, losing my fingertips was devastating, but in hindsight it created something,” he said. “It made me invent a new sound and a different style of playing, and a different sort of music. Really, it turned out to be a good thing off a bad thing.”
The clip is referenced as being “volume one,” suggesting more installments are on the way.
In June 2013, Black Sabbath released 13, their first album of new music with Ozzy Osbourne as their vocalist since 1978. They subsequently embarked on world tours and are currently writing a new album.