TOMMY CLUFETOS: When I’m Playing Behind OZZY OSBOURNE, ‘We Go To War Together’

In a new interview with Meltdown of Detroit’s WRIF radio station, drummer Tommy Clufetos spoke about what it was like to play with Ozzy Osbourne for eight years, first as a member of Ozzy‘s solo band and then as the replacement for Bill Ward in BLACK SABBATH‘s touring lineup. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Ozzy, he gets it. I mean, the guy’s been doing it for 50 years. He’s had enormous success. And I’ve played on stage with a bunch of people. And when I’m behind Ozzy, we go to war together… I like to look up to my elders, put it that way. It’s like when I was a kid and my grandpa would be sitting there. Maybe your grandpa doesn’t speak all the time. They know when to speak.

“You can pick up a lot of things from older musicians because they have the experience and they’re five times more experienced down the line than you are,” Tommy explained. “And if you watch, you can pick up a lot of clever tricks. And I’ve learned so much from Ozzy. I’ve learned so much from [playing with] Ted Nugent — where you can go, ‘Oh, in 20 years, I’m gonna use that trick that they just did.’ It was one split second. So all these little showbiz tricks, I have a lot of things in my back pocket from working with very experienced, talented people. And I’ve been so lucky for that.”

Regarding what it was like to play his first show with BLACK SABBATH, sharing the stage with the band’s original members Ozzy, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler, Tommy said: “It’s — the steps. The steps to playing locally in Detroit, the steps to learning to back other people. When I started playing with my dad, we would play all these so-called oldies shows where there would be five, six, seven acts on a show. And you had to learn how to read the front singers and play different styles of music. So I’ve done all these little different, many different, millions of different things of learning to play in different situations that it all adds up to playing with BLACK SABBATH and being ready when that opportunity presents itself.”

He continued: “I talk to a lot of young kids, and they’ll think some old people are kind of cheesy and goofy, and I point out to them, ‘Well, back in the ’60s, those were the rock stars. Maybe they’re 75 now and they may look goofy to you, but you can learn a lot.’ I used to play for LITTLE ANTHONY AND THE IMPERIALS, which is a big, I’d say doo-wop ’60s group who had a bunch of hits — four wonderful black singers, and, at the time, they were in their 60s. And they would all get ready together and put on their suits together and make sure their hair looked good and they danced and the moves and just soaking this energy in of always being professional, always going up there and giving it your best.

“When I go up with my own thing [on my upcoming tour with TOMMY’S ROCKTRIP], it’s not gonna be any different. I can honestly say, from being in Detroit, from being raised the right way by my parents, through having a work ethic and being professional and wanting to be the best that I can be, it all adds up to what you’re doing. So I’m going to bring the best of what I have [to those shows].”

TOMMY’S ROCKTRIP, where Clufetos, he offers his take on the rock ‘n roll influences that made him one of the most sought-after drummers in the current hard rock scene, will embark on a short solo tour at the end of March.

The following dates have been confirmed:

March 26 – Winchester Music Tavern – Lakewood, OH
March 27 – Sweetwater Music Co – Fort Wayne, IN
March 28 – Token Lounge – Westland, MI
March 29 – Blue Note – Harrison, OH

In May 2021, TOMMY’S ROCKTRIP released its debut album, “Beat Up By Rock ‘N’ Roll”, via Frontiers Music Srl. Eric Dover, known for singing and playing guitar with JELLYFISH, SLASH’S SNAKEPIT and Alice Cooper, handled lead vocals on the LP (though Tommy grabbed the mic for three tracks). Eliot Lorengo (bass),Hank Schneekluth (guitar) and Nao Nakashima (guitar) rounded out the supporting cast.

Clufetos worked with such rock icons as Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie before joining Ozzy Osbourne in 2010. That led to a spot as the drummer on BLACK SABBATH‘s last two world tours.

In a 2021 interview with Jason Saulnier, Clufetos was asked if he ever finds himself looking back on the fact that he played drums for BLACK SABBATH on the legendary heavy metal band’s final tour. “I always feel blessed that I was lucky, I was honored to play with those guys ’cause they’re a great musicians,” he said. “But I don’t look at it as — I was never a member. Once a gig’s over, a gig’s over. So I don’t really live in the past concerning that; I always have to plow forward — as does everybody. I can’t look back. I can appreciate it — that’s not saying I don’t appreciate it — but I’m also not gonna dwell on I played with BLACK SABBATH one time, because then you’re living in the past. I’ve got many more years to move forward to continue my career and pay my bills. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love what I do, but it is my job, and it’s my craft, and it’s an ongoing thing to me. So that was that gig, and that ended, and now it’s, what do you do next? It’s always that.”

He continued: “Every tour ends; every band ends eventually… To me, it’s work. To, that works to me. And I’m working to be better, and I’m working to get better. Hopefully I’m a better drummer than [I was] then. And it’s always been the process; I’m always chipping away at the stone. And my drums are right there. And after I get done with these interviews, I will go right there and play and see what else comes out of me going right there and playing. ‘Cause everything has come out of me sitting at the drums trying to be the best that I can be.”

Clufetos did not play on the SABBATH reunion album, “13”, a role that was filled by RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE drummer Brad Wilk. Ozzy Osbourne told The Pulse Of Radio at the time that Clufetos was gong to play on the record until producer Rick Rubin stepped in.

Although original BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward was initially announced as part of the reunion in late 2011, he dropped out within a couple of months, saying he was offered an “unsignable” contract.

The members of SABBATH were reportedly concerned that Ward‘s health would not hold up on the road and allegedly asked him to accept the use of a second drummer on tour, which he refused.


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