Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Words from the Heart: Bill Ward Brings "Absence of Corners" to Los Angeles

Bill Ward at last Saturday's Absence of Corners poetry reading in Los Angeles (Photo by Tom Wallace)

I feel uplifted tonight.”

That was how legendary drummer Bill Ward described his evening spent in front of a packed house of fans and friends at his first-ever public poetry reading last Saturday. Held at The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles, the special event celebrated Absence Of Corners, the new art/poetry book-and-vinyl set based on Ward’s 2013 art series of the same name.

Released in June and limited to only 200 copies (with the final 50 copies made available at the reading), the beautifully crafted first edition of Absence of Corners features 19 pieces from Ward’s art series, personal poetry inspired by the images and descriptions of each work. The book also comes with a colored 10-inch vinyl recording of Ward reciting his poetry. All 200 copies were signed by the man himself.  

The Absence of Corners book and art series were created by Ward in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based visual art team SceneFour. As described on the project’s website, Ward “utilized a sophisticated formula to create the collection’s visuals, using an array of drumsticks and rhythmic accessories that produce light, much like a painter utilizing brushes and oils. The movements featured within the captured rhythms are then studied and developed into abstract artwork that showcases a dimension not normally seen by the human eye.”

[The project began] as a request for me basically to show up [for] a nighttime session with a full kit of drums,” explained Ward when I spoke with him about the project upon its release in 2013. “It started out as me thinking, ‘Okay, I’m going to show up and play drums, and somebody is going to take pictures of me and let me know if they need anything special or different or what have you. I didn’t know that there was more, but it turned out there was quite a lot more. The entire project now has become far more than I had originally realized was going on, in a lot of different ways. It’s been quite an adventure, and a very good one.”

In addition to reading seven poems from the book (“Indestructible Youth,” “Hello, I Don’t Think We’ve Met [Yet],” “High on a Memory,” “Solidarity,” “Perfection as a Distortion,” “We Focus, We Persevere” and “This Evening”), Ward shared some of the emotions he faced and ultimately overcame while creating the series in 2012. As Black Sabbath fans know, that was the year he parted company with the band over contractual issues.

In 2012, I went through such a departure of love and relationship; [it was] something that was really damaging for me and damaging for a lot of people in [those] relationships,” he told the crowd. “A lot of the things which are kind of emerging in the poetry are really in my recovery from the detachment from something that was very sacred to me. My love was torn apart; my heart was ripped to pieces.”

Fortunately, Ward was quick to assure attendees that the pain of his recent past was behind him.   

I feel very much at peace. The things of 2012 are past. I’m in a very enlightened place; I love the people I’ve worked with all my life…I’m through anything that was negative about those times.”

During the Q&A portion of the evening, an audience member asked Ward what advice he’d give someone who was going through a rough time.

If you believe in a higher power or if you believe in God, then I would suggest that you go to God and see if you can find some solutions,” he replied. “If you don’t believe in God, then try to be as honest with yourself as you possibly can…When I’ve chosen the light of God or self-honesty, my own misery has brought me to a solution. My own pain, my own sadness has brought me to a place of surrender, so I’ll surrender to the truth anyway and go, ‘You know what? I need to talk to somebody about this.’ Try not to be alone with your own pain. Try to find someone you can trust your pain with. It’s really important that we communally share what’s going on with each other…Otherwise, we’re going to be walking around in a very sorrowful place.”

Now 70 and recovering from recent heart issues, Ward used the reading as an opportunity to thank his fans and supporters for the love they’ve shown to him and Black Sabbath over the years.

In return, I love you too very much. There is a connection. When I played drums onstage, you know I poured everything out. I went to my primal scream…the bottom of my very self. I know that you were going to the bottom of your very selves as well. It’s like having sex without the sex! (laughs) That’s the only way I can describe it. But I left it all on the stage…I left everything out there, and I wanted to go out with everything that I am and give it to you. And in return, I feel – a lot of the time – your love, your opinions…Even if you say things that I may not agree with, you know what? It’s okay. I’ll support feelings that you don’t necessarily agree with me on, because that’s who you are. I support you as people. I love you. A lot of us…we’ve all got kids now, we’ve got families, we’ve got wives and husbands. It’s just fantastic what’s going on. I’m glad that I can still be alive to be a part of it. It means so much to me.”

On a personal note, it was an absolute joy to catch up with Bill in person after the reading for the first time in four years. He remains my favorite drummer, an insightful and engaging interviewee and an ongoing source of inspiration and encouragement. My thanks to Bill’s amazing team – as well as to Cory, Ravi and the rest of SceneFour, who are among the most creative and music-loving people I know – for their hospitality and work in making the Absence of Corners event such an extraordinary experience for all.

Left to right: Joel Gausten, John Collinson (Santa Sabbath) and Bill Ward (Photo by Walter Earl)

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EMAIL JOEL at gaustenbooks@gmail.com

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