Last year, while filming a music video in Burbank, Los Angeles rock band Rival Sons got news that could potentially change the trajectory of their band. They'd been hand-picked by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne for the opening slot on Black Sabbath's year-long, globe-spanning The End Tour. It kicks off tonight in Omaha, with dates currently booked through late September. Rival Sons drummer Mike Miley told us the story of how they got the news, his terrifying childhood experiences with Black Sabbath, and how the band knows they have to do more than just show up to capitalize on the opportunity and exposure that a tour like this can bring.
AllMusic: How did you get the news that you'd been offered the tour?
Mike Miley: We did the Classic Rock Awards in L.A., and Ozzy and Sharon were there, and we performed two songs and met them afterwards. Sharon was like, “We should have them on the tour!” So we all heard that, and so fast-forward four months later, we’re filming our “Electric Man” video, and so we’re there, cameras rolling, all in makeup, and our manager comes in, he drove all the way over to Burbank and was like, “Can I grab five minutes with you guys?” We say, “Is it important?” and he says, “It’s very important.” So we all sat down and he’s like, “The offer came through, I just got off the phone with Sharon this morning, we have 120 dates worldwide, direct support.” It’s the biggest offer we’ve ever gotten, and we were all sitting there, stunned. It’s pretty cool that we were doing something of note when we got the news.
AllMusic: Did you know then that it was their farewell tour?
Miley: We knew it was going to be a farewell tour last February. Then we started seeing announcements about a final show in Tokyo, and we were like, “Wait, we just got all these dates for 2016, what’s going on?” They play the press. We knew this was going to be the final one. They announced it later in the year, but we had to sit on this for about six months. The last thing we were going to do was leak it, because you don’t want to piss off Sharon Osbourne.
AllMusic: Was it a snap decision or did you sit down and think about it?
Miley: The kids in us are going, “Fuck yeah!” The businessmen are going, “OK, how much is it going to cost, can we bring our whole crew, can we do what we normally do, are we going to have to strip this down?” Once we said “yes” internally, we had to pass it back to the manager and agents to do their business part of the work, you can’t go on tour for free. We got our bus wrapped by Guitar Hero, that’s cool, we have two songs in that and they use our song in that commercial with Lenny Kravitz and James Franco. That helps us put gas in the bus, and so we made it work. Once all the contracts came through, we knew we were on our way, and now it’s finally here.
AllMusic: They don't have two shows in a row at any point on the tour, but it looks like they're being good about letting you play off-dates to stay busy.
Miley: There’s no way we could do their schedule, we have to play, we have to keep playing. Not only financially, but artistically, we’re still young and want to rock. What’s cool is we’ll be able to do our headlining set, which is 90 minutes-plus. We’re not confined to a 40-minute set, we call that a nosebleed, because you go out there and fight for your lives, because you’re playing for probably 90 percent people who have never heard of us. You’re up against the ropes.
AllMusic: What was your earliest Black Sabbath experience?
Miley: My older brother used to scare me, and this was years before I’d heard the song, but he’d come in while I was watching cartoons or something, I’m five or six, he’d come in and go, “I am iron man!” and really passionately sing the riff, and it would scare me every time. He had a big, deep voice. That’s my first memory of Black Sabbath. And that song off the first album with the harmonica, “The Wizard,” I love that song.
AllMusic: You just did a run with Deep Purple late last year, how did that go?
Miley: That was unbelievably cool, we were like kids going to music school. I sat behind Ian Paice and just watched him pretty much every single night, and getting to hang out with them afterwards, almost every show, having a glass of wine and chatting, I spent hours talking to Don Airey about playing with Ozzy, but we mostly talked about old 50s and 60s jazz, like Bud Powell and great piano players like Duke Ellington and Herbie Hancock, all the great jazz pianists and jazz drummers, he’s really a music nerd, a huge music nerd, in a good way. That’s a compliment. That was an amazing experience, not to mention their crew, their management, agents, everyone treated us like gold. They watched us play, they had personally invited us to play the tour. Sometimes it’s just that your agent knows their agent and you’re going to put your band on their tour, payola-style, but Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were both personal invites from the band, which is a pretty cool feeling, to have grown up with this music and to have them endorse you, that validates what you’re doing. It’s an honor.
AllMusic: It's probably helpful to see how more mature bands handle their business, they must have it down to a science.
Miley: We’ve opened for Slash, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Lenny Kravitz, Deep Purple, and to see how the big boys do it, we all learn something on every tour. I wasn’t a big Kiss fan before we played with them, but they do it right, top to bottom, they do it great, production to catering, everything is so top notch and relaxed. It seems the m ore successful you get, the more relaxed everybody gets.
AllMusic: And a lot of those are artists who have already been through their wild phases and have come back to reality.
Miley: Aerosmith is a good example, they’ve been really up and down through their career, we opened for them last year, and that was amazing, Steven Tyler came out and hung with us for an hour and a half, totally down to earth, and they’re amazingly talented guys, fit and healthy and energetic, and knowing all their past and everything, you’re just like, “Wow, I’m so glad I’m talking to the sober Steven Tyler.” Being young in this business, it’s good to see that. You hear the horror stories, it’s not coke and whores like it used to be. The music business has tamed down, it’s kind of uncool to be that hard-partying, “Let’s get a limo with a Jacuzzi in the back and a bunch of hookers,” that’s pretty much nonexistent, I haven’t seen or witnessed it.
AllMusic: You hear about bands getting these lengthy tours opening for huge acts, and then when it's over they're right back where they were before. How do you plan to capitalize on the experience?
Miley: What you have to do is multitask, like any businessman. Although it’s a great opportunity, we have to keep other fires burning. We have an album release in May, our sixth album on Earache Records, we have a lot of dates in between, we’ll do some festival tours in Europe this summer, so we’re going to capitalize on it at every level we can, outside the tour. The tour itself will be a big launch pad, because we’re getting the promo, all the publicity from it, and that’s bolstering our thing, but you have to put the work in and you can’t rest your laurels on one thing, so we’ve booked a lot of other stuff. We’re still shooting for Saturday Night Live and Jimmy Fallon and those kinds of things to really bolster the fanbase, we have to build fans. So I think you can get a big tour, like Kings of Leon were opening for U2 and Bob Dylan right before “Sex on Fire,” but they came through with an amazingly freaking crazy hit album, they batted cleanup. After getting on base, you have to put the ball in play and get runners home. You can’t have just one good hitter on the team, you have to have multiple irons in the fire, which is what we’re doing.