Kory Grow of Rolling Stone interviewed Ozzy Osbourne. Highlights from the interview appear below.
Rolling Stone: What’s the best part of success?
Ozzy: Not doing a job that you don’t really want to do. You can’t say what I do is a job – it’s a f–king gift from God.
Rolling Stone: How do you relax now?
Ozzy: Masturbate [laughs]. No, I have a room in my house where I paint. I’m just mixing colors. I’m not an artist by any sort, but I do designs and patterns and listen to Eighties music or watch a bit of TV. I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones, like 90 percent of the world is.
Rolling Stone: What music still moves you the most?
Ozzy: I like old music. I have things that turn me on from the Seventies, a bunch from the Eighties. You know, I can’t remember the fucking Nineties. I remember Waco and the Oklahoma bombing – but I can’t remember the Nineties. I thought the Eighties were pretty cool, and it was a lot more personal in the Seventies; there wasn’t that many bands about, compared to what it was the Eighties.
Rolling Stone: Who are your heroes?
Ozzy: I’d have to say the Beatles. They turned me on to wanting to be a rock & roll performer. And I like Mick Jagger as a frontman. We all owe him a certain amount of respect. He can still do it in his seventies.
Rolling Stone: You recently finished Black Sabbath’s “The End” Tour. What are your thoughts on retirement?
Ozzy: People around my age go, “I’m 65 now. I’m retired.” Then they f–king die. My father got a bit of cash from the job he had, did the garden and died. And I’m going, “That’s a bit of an anticlimax after working so many years in a factory.” I ain’t retiring. People still want to see me, so what’s there to retire from?
Rolling Stone: What did you learn from saying goodbye to Sabbath?
Ozzy: They’ve retired but I haven’t. It’s like I’m jumping off one boat onto another. People forget, I was with Sabbath from ’68 to ’79, but I’ve been on my own from ’79 ’til now. I’ve been on my own thing for a lot longer than when I was with Sabbath. I love what Sabbath did for me and I love what I did for Sabbath, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of my own whole career.
Rolling Stone: Since you’ve been solo since ’79, what have you learned about leadership?
Ozzy: I’m not so much into it; it’s my wife. Sharon would back me up or advise me on what to do, or what not to do, and I listened. Although Sharon came to me recently and said it wasn’t all her either. It must have been unnerving when I started biting the f–king head off this and that.
Rolling Stone: What did you learn from biting the heads of the bat and the dove?
Ozzy: That Ozzy’s a bit more than [those stories]. People remember Robin Hood and Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde and Al Capone – they don’t remember people that did some good. It’s just folklore.
Rolling Stone: Your guitarist, Randy Rhoads, died in a plane crash while you were on tour in 1982. What did you learn about moving forward?
Ozzy: I felt somewhat responsible. If he wasn’t in my band, he would probably be alive. Also, at the same time, I thought if I had been awake, I know I would have been on the plane with him. So, it’s a weird feeling for me. It really f–ked me up for a long while. Sharon took it harder than anybody. She was the organizer of the band at that point. It was just one of them f–king things. It was a freak accident and all that. But Sharon said, “You’ve got to get back on the horse.” I said, “You must be f–king joking. Who’s gonna replace Randy? He’s unreplacable.” She says, “We’ve got to go.” I remember doing Madison Square Garden with this [guitarist] Bernie Tormé. It was such a surreal thing. It takes a while to get over something so traumatic.
Rolling Stone: You don’t play any instruments. What have you learned about making music with just your voice?
Ozzy: That’s one of my biggest regrets. I can play a little bit of harmonica, and that’s about it. But I have an ear for melody. I once talked to a writer and he said, “You can learn the piano, but you most probably will lose your natural instinct for melody.” And I said, “That’s too much of a gamble.” It’s been interesting, because I can’t communicate on a musical level with other musicians. I just like what’s in my head. Musicians tend to go, “Oh, I can transcribe whatever you write.” But they’ll make it their song and then it’s this f–king political side of it – “I wrote this, you wrote that.” Then Sharon gets pissed off and goes, “Hey, wait a minute. It was Ozzy’s idea,” or whatever.
Rolling Stone: Crazy Train is about the Cold War and nuclear bombs. Do you think about that?
Ozzy: When I was singing that on the weekend at some festival thing, I’m singing, “Heirs of a cold war/That’s what we’ve become.” I went, “Fuck me. It’s started.” I’m like, well, we ain’t in the Cold War anymore. Now we’ve got Donald Trump, which is something. You should be careful what you write about, when you do a song. I didn’t write those lyrics; the old bass player did. For the time, it was perfect. It’s interesting.
Rolling Stone: Gene Simmons has said that rock is dead. Do you agree?
Ozzy: Live, good rock music is not dead. But I think the record industry is really suffering now. There are only about two f–king record companies left. And when I went to the Grammys a couple of years ago, there’d be artists who’d go from a f–king laptop straight to the charts and release a record. It’s really a sad thing for me. … It’s just changed so much. I said to Sharon, “It’s like when vaudeville ended and f–king modern music began. We’re the history now.” And no matter what gimmick – what color album, vinyl, whatever, the fact of the matter is people don’t want it. Why should people buy records when they can download it. You can get anything now online. And at the same time, I don’t know how to turn the f–king light on the monitor.
Rolling Stone: Will you be making another record soon?
Ozzy: I would like to do another record. But it’s wasting money. Nobody’s buying. You don’t have to sell that many records anymore to get a Number One. Depending how many records you’ve sold. You can have 30 or 40 [laughs]. Nobody buys them.
Rolling Stone: What is it about the U.S. that made you want to move here?
Ozzy: I wouldn’t have survived as long as I have in England. America is a music capital for me. You could do well in Germany but to last 49 years in another country, I don’t know. I’m lucky.
Read more at Rolling Stone.