Terence Michael Joseph “Geezer” Butler (born 17 July 1949) is an English musician and songwriter. Butler is best known as the bassist and primary lyricist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath. He has also recorded with Heaven & Hell, GZR, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Butler received the nickname “Geezer” at approximately age eight, because he “used to call everybody Geezer” at school. “It was just a slang term for a man.”
Butler grew up in an working-class Irish Catholic family and was heavily influenced by the writing of Aleister Crowley as a teenager. Butler formed his first band, Rare Breed, in the autumn of 1967, with John “Ozzy” Osbourne soon joining as lead vocalist. Butler dated a girl who lived near Tony Iommi, and Iommi’s earliest memories of Butler involved seeing him walking past his house in Birmingham quite often to visit her. Later, Iommi and Butler became acquainted when their bands played at a nearby nightclub.Separated for a time, Osbourne and Butler reunited in the blues foursome, Polka Tulk, along with guitarist Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. They renamed their band Earth, but after finding a band in the small-time English circuit with the same name, soon adopted Black Sabbath in early 1969.
Inspired by John Lennon, Butler played rhythm guitar in his pre-Sabbath days, including with Rare Breed. When Sabbath was formed, Iommi made it clear that he would not want to play with another guitarist, so Butler moved to bass.Butler lists Jack Bruce of Cream as his biggest influence as a bassist. Iommi described Butler as being “from another planet” in the band’s early days; he took LSD, wore Indian hippie dresses, and was very peaceful. At the time Black Sabbath was formed, Butler was studying to become an accountant, and this training resulted in him managing the band’s finances in the early days.
Butler briefly left Black Sabbath during the recording of their 1980 album Heaven and Hell to deal with personal problems. He again left the band in 1984 after touring in support of their 1983 album, Born Again. In 1988 he joined his former Sabbath bandmate Osbourne to take part in the No Rest for the Wicked World Tour. Butler re-joined Black Sabbath in 1991 for the reunion of the Mob Rules line-up, but again quit the group after the Cross Purposes tour in 1994
In 1995 Butler joined with Osbourne to play on the Ozzmosis album.[After recording Ozzmosis, he formed G/Z/R, issuing Plastic Planet in 1995.His next solo album, Black Science, followed in 1997. Butler returned to Sabbath once more for the 1997 edition of Ozzfest, and has remained with the band since. In 2005 he released Ohmwork, his third solo album. In October 2006 it was announced that Butler, along with Tony Iommi, would be reforming the Dehumanizer-era Black Sabbath line-up with Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio, under the name Heaven & Hell to differentiate between the reunited touring band fronted by Osbourne, and the current Sabbath line-up.
Butler is married to Gloria Butler, who managed Heaven & Hell. He also shares his Los Angeles home with several cats, of whom he has posted pictures on his website. His son, Biff Butler, was the frontman in the nu metal band Apartment 26. Butler’s other son James is a graduate of Oxford and resides in London.
Butler is a life long supporter of Aston Villa Football Club, and during Black Sabbath’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Butler is heard shouting “Up the Villa” as the members of the band left the stage.
According to Ozzy Osbourne’s autobiography I Am Ozzy, Geezer “never uses foul language.” An avowed vegan, Butler appeared in an advertisement for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 2009.
He urged fans to boycott Fortnum and Mason’s until they remove foie gras from their shelves. Butler said,”I’ve seen some outrageous things in my time, but watching those poor birds suffer simply so that their diseased livers can be sold on your shop floor is horrific!
In January 2015, Butler was briefly detained after a bar brawl in Death Valley, California and charged with misdemeanor assault, public intoxication and vandalism. He was released following detoxification and a citation.
Style and legacy
Butler is noted as being one of the first bassists to use a wah pedal and to down-tune his instrument (from the standard E-A-D-G to the lower C#-F#-B-E), as exemplified on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality album, to match Iommi who had started tuning his guitar to C# (a minor third down). During the band’s Ozzy Osbourne era, Butler wrote almost all of the band’s lyrics, drawing heavily upon his fascination with religion, science-fiction, fantasy and horror, and musings on the darker side of human nature that posed a constant threat of global annihilation.
Butler is regarded as one of the most influential bassists in heavy metal. Billy Sheehan of Mr. Big said: “He’s a founding father of a whole genre of music and a man who really set the bar early on to be such an integral part of the sound and song structure of Sabbath”. In Mick Wall’s biography of Iron Maiden entitled Run to the Hills, founder Steve Harris recalls: “I distinctly remember trying to play along to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” – at first I just could not get it. I threw the guitar on my bed and walked out in a huff, but the next day I came back, picked it up and played it all the way through note-for-note! Once I got going, I started getting into bass-lines with a bit more subtlety to them…”.
Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, who defined him his “number 1 influence”, stated: “All true metal bassists look up to Geezer as a pioneer and Godfather of our chosen instrument. The best, ever”. Rex Brown of Pantera and Kill Devil Hill asserted: “He’s a legend. He’s everything. Geezer is so much of an influence on me. Other bassists such as Cliff Burton, Les Claypool, Steve DiGiorgio, Alex Webster, John Myung, Johnny Lee Middleton, Greg Smith cited Butler as a significant influence on their style.
Butler currently endorses Lakland basses and has his own signature model. For amplification, Butler is endorsed by Hartke bass amplification, Kilo bass head and 4X10 HyDrive cabinet. In the past, he has been known to use Ampeg SVT & B-15 bass amps and Fender, Dan Armstrong Plexi, Rickenbacker, Yamaha BB, Vigier and B.C. Rich Basses.
- 1995 – Plastic Planet (as “g//z/r”)
- 1997 – Black Science (as “geezer”)
- 2005 – Ohmwork (as “GZR”)
- Black Sabbath
- 1970 – Black Sabbath
- 1970 – Paranoid
- 1971 – Master of Reality
- 1972 – Black Sabbath Vol. 4
- 1973 – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
- 1975 – Sabotage
- 1976 – Technical Ecstasy
- 1978 – Never Say Die!
- 1980 – Heaven and Hell
- 1981 – Mob Rules
- 1983 – Born Again
- 1992 – Dehumanizer
- 1994 – Cross Purposes
- 2013 – 13
- Ozzy Osbourne
- 1990 – Just Say Ozzy
- 1993 – Live & Loud (“Black Sabbath”)
- 1995 – Ozzmosis
- Heaven & Hell
- 2007 – Live from Radio City Music Hall
- 2009 – The Devil You Know
- 2010 – Neon Nights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell
- Non-album compilations
- 1989 – Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell (with Ozzy Osbourne)
- 1994 – Nativity in Black (with Bullring Brummies)
- 2013 – Device (“Out of Line”)