courtesy of Guitar Player Magazine, December 1997
One of the pickups in Tony Iommi's Fender Strat fried just before the recording
of Black Sabbath's 1968 debut, Black Sabbath, so the Birmingham, England, native
grabbed his spare, a burgundy Gibson SG, and has used SGs ever since. He has
experimented with custom pickup wiring for years, mostly in an attempt to reduce
feedback. Originally a Marshall man, Iommi switched to Laney 100-watt heads and
4x12 cabs early in the band's career, relying on a Rangemaster tube preamp for
treble boost and distortion.
Iommi uses very light strings usually .008s—but increases his sound's weight by
detuning to E sharp or D, and by layering rhythm parts in the studio to create a
dense, mammoth texture. His tone and his characteristic vibrato were no doubt
affected by the plastic thimbles he wears on the tips of his middle and ring
fingers, which were accidentally hacked off in the mid-'60s while Iommi was
cutting sheet metal. "That's one of the reasons I don't like thick-guage
strings," he said. "When I bend the strings, it'll rip my bloody fingers apart."