OZZY OSBOURNE DISCUSSES “13,” TONY IOMMI AND BILL WARD
Ozzy Osbourne held a press teleconference on July 10th. A complete transcript of the chat follows below as transcribed by blabbermouth.net.
Question: I’ve got to ask about [estranged Black Sabbath drummer] Bill Ward, and I wonder when is the last time you spoke to him and what would you say are the odds that he’ll be back into the fold in the near term?
Ozzy Osbourne: We would love to have Bill back in the fold, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out and we knew we had to deliver an album because we had kept people waiting for like 35 years, so we all just got on the boat and unfortunately, Bill had some discrepancy about something or other, but we’d love to have him back and work something out.
Question: Have you spoken to him since negotiations broke down?
Ozzy Osbourne: No. I’ve been so busy doing this project and working in the studio, we just couldn’t stop. I wish him no harm. I still love him a lot. We all do. You know, it’d be great to have him back, but we felt if we pull the plug on this one people would have gone, oh, it’s never going to happen, you know. Because we tried, and we were speaking about it for a long time.
Question: Hey, I remember back when Sabbath originally got back together in the late ’90s and you guys did a lot of touring then into the next decade. I mean, you had tried back then for a time to get a new record together and then it didn’t materialize. I guess can you put your finger on what made things different this go around that did enable you guys to come up with some pretty raw material?
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? I was doing this television thing with The Osbournes back then, and I had my own career, and I suppose it was a clash of egos, and it just didn’t feel right. We tried to force an album. In fact we did — we recorded a demo, with a bunch of stuff, which is nothing like the way we used to do. We were forcing it out of ourselves. Where upon this album, this — the 13 album was just kind of came out — we just clicked. I mean, you know when you’re in a band and you go into something which is working. You know, we didn’t have to force it. It just came naturally.
Question: When did you realize that?
Ozzy Osbourne: There’s no answer — there’s no formula. There’s no magic — it just happens or it doesn’t. I wasn’t really into it. They weren’t really into it, and you can’t force it. It either comes or it doesn’t, and I said before in the press that the reunion album was going to have to be something special, the most important album of my career.
Question: When did you realize you might have something special? You know, you talk about realizing that.
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, you know, when it comes out naturally and you get that tickling feeling in your spine and you know you’re on a sort of that spiritual thing you sort of — you know that everything’s working right, you’re not forcing it.
Question: I’ve read in quite a few places where you talked about [producer] Rick Rubin and kind of suggesting to you guys when you got together to start on the album to go back to the first Black Sabbath album, listen to that. That was kind of his idea for a direction I guess for 13, and I’m curious what you guys thought of that idea initially and…
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, you know what, for us, when Rick says, “I don’t want you to think of a classic heavy metal album,” I’m like, “Well, what the (bleep) do you want me to do, what are you looking for?” I know either way it took me the longest way to understand what he was saying. He says, “Forget all the other albums. I want you to concentrate and zone into the vibe that you had on the first album.” You know, that bluesy album, so I thought, what is he talking about, you know? And then the pen drops, and then I suddenly remembered that we originally started out as a jazz-blues band, and that was a part of the first album. We hadn’t written that many songs and it was just like a jammer on side two, a bluesy album sound to it. And so I got what he was saying, he didn’t want a structured album in the respects of you know, verse, riff, verse, riff, middle, solo. He didn’t want that all the way through, so he wanted that freedom that we had on the first album, which was just a natural vibe.
Question: Yes, well I know Geezer [Butler, bass] talked about kind of having to unlearn a lot of stuff you guys had learned.
Ozzy Osbourne: Oh, yes, absolutely, I mean, he just said forget formula, just forget it. I couldn’t for the life of me understand what he was trying to say. I’d go to him, “Rick, I don’t really understand what you’re trying to do. We are heavy metal, we’re supposed to be the godfathers of heavy metal, so what are you saying?” And he said, “just go listen, we don’t have to sit in this house and listen to the bloody album again for the first time in years. We haven’t heard — none of us have heard it for like God knows how long.” And then he says, “Go.” Oh yes, I know what you’re talking about, you forget what it was like before you got success.
Question: Yes, it sounds like it made sense at that point.
Ozzy Osbourne: Oh, yes, absolutely, and so I mean, on one of the bluesy tracks, you know, sort of very loose track as well as there’s a lot of freedom on that album. There’s a lot of free spirit, which is what he was looking for, I suppose. It must have been. We did very well, his idea of a Black Sabbath album.
Question: So you know, 13 has already proved to be very successful for the band. It’s the band’s first ever No. 1 album in the U.S., and how does that feel and what do you think it is about the Black Sabbath sound that 45 years after you guys started is still…
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? You’re asking the wrong guy, because when it went to No. 1 in England, it just went No. 1 in England, America, Germany, New Zealand, and I’m like, “What?” I mean, I’m still kind of pinching myself like I’m going to wake up and it’s all been a dream, because had this happened in 1972 after Paranoid, I’d have gone, “Oh, yes, okay.” But now after 45 years up the road, and we get our first No. 1, it’s kind of a hard thing to swallow, you know? You just kind of — it’s great. I’m not saying I don’t want it to be No. 1, but I just don’t understand why now, you know? I mean, we’ve been around for a long time, in one way or another.
Question: And what do you think it is about Sabbath’s sound that’s more than 40 years later it’s still…
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? I don’t know, and I don’t want to go, “Oh, it’s that, you know?” I don’t know. It never ceases to amaze me and surprise me, this business. I don’t know the answer to what you’re asking. I mean, it’s just great, isn’t it?
Question: You’ve beat yourself up pretty good over the years, and yet your singing voice remains this amazingly crystalline instrument. It’s one of the great rock vocals. How have you kept your voice so clear, so good, or is it a God-given thing?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes. I’ve stopped smoking dope. I’ve stopped taking drugs. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol. Before I go on the road now, I try and warm my voice up and before a show I warm my voice up. I certainly start to go, well, I’ve got one instrument and that’s my voice that’s given by God, and I’ve got to start taking care of it, because it ain’t going to last very long, because I was abusing it. I mean, my voice had gone all the time when I used to smoke, and I just thought, it’s a good idea to quit, and I haven’t smoked a cigarette or dope in a long, long time.
Question: Excellent. Well, thanks — it’s great. I’m still amazed, like my God, it still sounds fantastic.
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, thank you very much. Rick Rubin had a lot to do with it, because Rick Rubin produced the album and I just was happy with the way. I mean, I just specifically chose a range that was comfortable to sing on stage as well as on the record, because in the past I’ve gone in the stratosphere doing trickery in the studio, and I could never pull it off live, and so I tried to do most of the album — the tracks on the album — we’re going to do a quite a few tracks off the album. We’re not going to go and play only new songs — I mean, other bands just do their new album and nothing else, you know? But we’re going to mix them with the classics and the new stuff.
Question: I wanted to ask about the lyrics on the album. Now I know Geezer has a big hand in that. How does the process work where basically he…
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, what happens is I get a melody, and I’ll just sing anything, and sometimes it can be like a beginning or a hook line or a couple of words that he gets inspiration from. He’s the main lyricist, although I wrote a couple of the sets of lyrics on the album, but Geezer gives Black Sabbath’s vocal message verbally. I mean, over the years, he’s given me some phenomenal lyrics, you know. He’s just one of these guys that can do that. I get an idea like God Is Dead?, for instance. One day I was in the doctor’s office waiting room, and Time magazine was just sitting on the front with God is Dead? and I thought, wow, that’s a good idea, and I started singing that on the track, you know, the God Is Dead?, bit. And then Geezer just said, you know…I thought, they’ve flown planes into the World Trade Center under the name of religion and God and all this (bleep), and that is not my idea of what God should be. My idea of what God should be is a good guy, you know. I don’t think there’s any good in killing people in the name of your God, you know? And so Geezer — that was my idea, and Geezer took it to another level.
Question: Did you ever have to have discussions about you know, things that he writes that you might not agree with particularly?
Ozzy Osbourne: No, no.
Question: Is that ever a back-and-forth?
Ozzy Osbourne: He’s very careful. I mean, if you listen to the lyrics on God Is Dead?, at the end of the song it says, “I don’t believe that God is Dead.” People just look at the face value of the title and I know on this tour we’re going to have Bible thumpers and people picketing us and people telling us that we’re evil and all that, but you see it’s what we, we kind of laugh at it, because people just go the face value that “God Is Dead?”, and it’s all about Satan and it’s just quite amusing actually because they don’t really know what they’re complaining about.
Question: I’m wondering — you said something recently in an interview where you kind of tried to buck the heavy metal label. You sort of disavowed Sabbath being a metal band, and I’m wondering if you could sort of elaborate on that a bit. I mean, you mentioned the bluesier stuff.
Ozzy Osbourne: You know, the ’70s heavy metal, the ’80s heavy metal, the ’90s and the new millennium metal is nothing like each other, but yet we’re all under this one bag and I never really got my head around it. I mean, we never said, “Oh, we’re the godfathers of heavy metal,” because we’ve always felt that it doesn’t say anything. Musically it just puts you in one bag. It was heavy rock, which was more of a musical thing to me. I’ve never really liked that — using that word heavy metal — because ’80s metal was all Poison, Motely Crue, Ozzy, and so on, and the ’70s was a different thing you know. And it got different in the ’90s. I mean, it’s like it doesn’t have any musical connotations for me.
Question: Well, do you see the new Black Sabbath album as being a metal album? I mean, how do you see it fitting into the rest of this genre?
Ozzy Osbourne: I just think it’s a Black Sabbath album. I mean, when we first met Rick Rubin and he says to me, I want you to remember this one. You’re not — I don’t want you to think of heavy metal in the fact that you know, you’re heavy. You’re heavy — I’ll agree on that, but you’re also on the first album, you had this bluesy overtone, and that’s where our roots came from, the jazz blues that ten years after Jethro Tull, Joe Miles blues records and Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, you know, and Cream. We came from that camp, so those were our inspirations and back in the day, when we started playing music we were just inspired by those kind of people, and so when we started to record, we’d written some heavy like Black Sabbath, the track Black Sabbath, N.I.B. You can definitely feel that bluesy influence in the guitar work especially the jam on the back of the album on side two or whatever. And that’s what — Rick Rubin sat us all down and says, “Listen, this is what I want you to start thinking about,” and we couldn’t understand where he was coming from for a long while, and what he was wanting was the freedom of that early album instead of being constructed with breaks and I mean, there was some construction on that, but it was a flow — it flowed naturally, [that] kind of thing. And then that’s what he was looking for, and so that’s what we did.
Question: Okay, so now you’ve got the album that you wanted. What’s the live show going to be like? Are you going to be able to…
Ozzy Osbourne: You know, all I can say is a month or so ago we were in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and it was astounding how the reception was. We’re going to do some old and we’re going to do some new and it’s just kind of interesting to be able to do some new stuff because in the past I haven’t been able to do a lot of new stuff because of the fact that my range is too high and I couldn’t do onstage what I did in the studio. But now on this — on 13 I sang it in a range that I could do most of them on stage, so we did new things, End Of The Beginning, God Is Dead? and a couple of others, but we couldn’t do most of the cuts off the album if you want to change them around and all. We’re not going to go and just do new stuff but very limited old stuff. We’re going to do Paranoid, Black Sabbath, a good mix of the old stuff as well as the new stuff. I know people get disappointed when they go we like the new stuff, but we want to hear some of the old stuff, you know.
Question: Yes. Are you still comfortable with being the “Prince of Darkness?”
Ozzy Osbourne: It’s a name. I didn’t wake up one morning and go, “You know what I’m going to call myself?” It started as a joke name really. I’m okay with it, you know? You know, it’s better than being called an (bleep).
Question: You’ve never been called that. And the future, are you guys thinking about the future yet?
Ozzy Osbourne: You know what? It’s taken us 35 years to get to this point, let’s see how we get on with this. I’m sure — let me put it this way — I’m up for it if the guys are up for it and we got the goods, we’ll do it, but we’re not, we tried once before to do an album before 13, and it just fell apart because we weren’t really gelling, but it worked for some reason on this album. And I’m hopeful — I’m not saying I will and I’m not saying I won’t. Let’s just see what happens.
Question: You’ve always had a major following in South America among Spanish-speaking people and a lot of people down here in South Florida. Why do you think you guys resonate in places like that, and do you have any unique memories of touring down there? I know you’ve got a few dates in the fall.
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, you know, I took my band down there about two years ago, and people were coming up to me all the time and going, when are you going to get Black Sabbath and you’re going to do an album, and we’ve sold Sao Paulo out on this tour — for Black Sabbath. I mean, they’re so into Black Sabbath. Music down there is like in their bones, you know. They love music, and I’m just really excited to go down there because they’ve been going on about it for a long, long time.
Question: Okay, a few months ago I did an interview with Colombian rocker Juanes, who said when he was growing up in Colombia, which is pretty violent, he and his buddies would trade cassettes, and Sabbath, songs like War Pigs gave him strength and pretty much saved him, he said. The new song on the album, Age Of Reason, can you talk about that song? It should resonate with a new generation.
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, we didn’t try to be like the modern version of Sabbath. We just did what we always did. We’ve never been a band to go, oh, we’ve got this song, hit top ten song, we’ve got to do this. We just do it and whatever happens after that. It’s just sometimes a surprise to me as well as anybody else, because in the past I’ve done things on albums that have been, oh, so let’s finish the album up. I’m not really going to do that on stage, so it don’t matter, and the amount of people that come up to me and go, “Why don’t you ever do that song on the stage?” Because this whole business for me has been nothing but surprises. It’s like 44 years ago, when we needed a Number one album, we got to Number ten, Number two, Number four, Number five, and so on, but now after 40-odd years, we’ve earned our first Number one. I’m like, what’s all that about, you know? I’m not complaining, believe me. I mean, I wished I could have one of them for the rest of my life, it’d be great, but it’s been nothing short of a miracle from day one, because I remember when we put our first album out and a manager says to me in a night club, “You know, I’ve got some news to tell you” and I go, “What’s that?” He goes, “your album was in the charts this week at Number seventeen.” And I was like, “You’re joking. I had no idea.” I mean, from album one we’ve never had a really proper No. 1, we’ve had albums that have done as good as the others. I wasn’t really happy with the way it ended because it was such a great dream come true for all of us, because we were like a band that wasn’t created by some business model. We were four guys and we just got together, made a record, and then from then on our lives were forever changed. And it’s great. I don’t really like discussing about what the lyrics were about and what all, because you know, it’s up to you. If you like the track, you make your own mind up.
Question: I was wondering, when Rick had you go back and listen to the first Black Sabbath album, what did you think, you know, hearing it again?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, for a long, long time I was like, what is he talking about? Between Sabbath and my own solo career, I’ve made some pretty interesting albums over the years, so why is this guy going back to day one? And I couldn’t — I was saying, well, Rick, what are you trying to ask? Couldn’t you be more specific? He goes, “Look, don’t think heavy metal.” I’m going, “Well, what the hell would you call the first album, then?” And he goes, “A Black Sabbath album.” But then he says, “What did you start out doing?” I’m going, Black Sabbath. I couldn’t see any further than Black Sabbath and all the stuff prior to Black Sabbath. We were band called Earth, and before that it was a blues band, and then I mentioned that to him, and he says, “What was the last thing you just said?” Then I go,”a blues band?” And he goes “blues band.” I go we weren’t a blues band, Rick. And then he looked up, and “No, but the freedom, the freedom.” And so it took me the longest while and then suddenly the pen went “clunk” and I thought I know why he said that. Now I know what you’re talking about, because if you listen to side two of the first Black Sabbath album, it’s like an organized jam and it’s very free-spirited. There’s no layering really, just went in there and we played it as a four-piece band, and it was virtually put out as a four-piece band. Now as we got successful, we implement two, four, six to an eight track to sixteen to twenty-four and infinity, and we should start layering, and so we used to think the more you put on a track, the better it was going to sound, but the actual fact, and in analog days in it might have maybe plugged the track up more, and so once you got all that sorted out, it was one of the easiest albums I’ve ever made. I mean, a couple of the tracks were actually written on the spur of the moment in the studio the way we used to do it in the old days.
Question: Right, but did you enjoy it when you listened back to it, that first album? What did you think of it musically?
Ozzy Osbourne: It’s like when you record an album, you want it to get better and better, and so what he was trying to say, we used Pro Tools on this album, 13, and you can literally — I could just still there knowing that you were layering vocals on, you know. What he was trying to say is you don’t need to overdub that much, because it takes the freedom of the track away, and what he would do, we would go in and we would do a track a day. We’d go into Rick’s studio out in Malibu, and we’d go in, and he would go, well, for me, for — okay, when I was doing vocals, he had me singing, and I remember when I was doing God Is Dead? and he had me singing for 4-1/2 hours, I’m thinking he’d go one more, just give me one more, and then he would go that was fantastic, and I’d go, thank God for that, then he’d go, just give me one more. And I’d go, Rick, you have me singing the same song for 4-1/2 hours, you’re ready to kill yourself, you know? So I say, “How can it be fantastic if you want me to do the bloody thing again?” And he says well, “You never know, you might top the last burn.” And it was very — he had a dream, he had a plan, he knew what he wanted to do with Black Sabbath, and he did it.
Question: I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the sort of reception to the new material live. Obviously, Sabbath’s catalog of classics, but in terms of mixing new songs in and the shows you’ve already done…
Ozzy Osbourne: So we recently went to New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and we did a couple of the new songs. We said they’re all new. God, you’d think it had been released as a single or a first track off album, and so that — I remember when we played two shows in Auckland, New Zealand. The first night they didn’t really respond much to it. The second night they’re all singing the lyrics with me. I’m going, I can’t even remember them that good. I mean, it’s good for us as well to do new stuff, because you know, we’re all tuned into Iron Man, War Pigs, Paranoid, and all of the old classics, but instead, it gives us as a band something refreshing to put into the show, and so I’m just glad that people have bought into the new songs.
Question: You mentioned before the songs being in sort of a middle range you could bring live. How much of a consideration when you guys were writing the album was doing the songs live?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, after keeping the people waiting for as long as we did, I certainly — I can still get the range, but I can’t do it onstage. Maybe one gig I can do it onstage, but then it’d be every other night, I mean, my voice gets tired you know? And so I personally specifically went in the studio and kept it a little comfortable range that I could do onstage, you know.
Question: I wanted to see if you could talk about [guitarist] Tony Iommi, just how inspirational for you it was watching your friend battling cancer while making this album, and his courage.
Ozzy Osbourne: You know, when he came down with cancer, it’s been the way of Sabbath, that is we’d try to get something going again, and the last time, Bill Ward had a heart attack and we couldn’t do it then. The easiest part of getting back together with Black Sabbath and doing an album is just sitting down and just saying, “Yes, you know,” but then all kinds of crap gets flown in the works. And Tony kept going. He said, “I’ve got this lump” and I said, “You know what? If I were you, I’d go and get myself checked out, because you know in a way, it was what I said to Sharon — my wife Sharon went to get checked out early part of of 2000, and she found she had colon cancer, so she had to go and get it checked out.” So he came back and he said, ‘They’ve found I’ve got lymphoma,” and I go, “This is unbelievable.” Every time we start to get — it’s like a curse, you know? And believe me, I know from firsthand with my wife that treatment for cancer is not like doing a line of coke and going to a disco. It knocks the crap out of you, you know? But fair play to Tony, it just came down to the studio. The only thing we had to do was make it easier for him to get treatment. In other words, we started off at my studio in Calabasas, but we all moved to his studio in England, and we all stayed in a hotel for a while to accommodate him, and he would come down to the studio every day. I’d go, “Tony, you’re sure you’re okay to do this, man, are you ready?” And he goes, “No, I’ll do,” and he came down, he came up with the goods. I thought my God, man, he is Iron Man. You know, I mean, my hat goes off to him, because I mean, believe me, I don’t know if you ever known anybody who had chemotherapy before, but that really knocks the life out of you, man.
Question: Thank you. And I had read — I’m just curious what the impetus was that — when you called Tony back in 2010 and said you know, let’s get the band back together, I want to make another Sabbath album, what was going through your mind at that time, that you wanted to call…
Ozzy Osbourne: I can’t really remember who called who. I think it originally it was me and Tony doing an album and then we tried various bass lines and we tried the instruments out and we tried a whole bunch of people, and I don’t know who said, what’s Geezer up to and you know, and it just kind of came together by accident and we all started to write stuff and it started to gel, whereas we tried before and we all sat there and it just wouldn’t — it was just wouldn’t work, you know. But it came together very naturally and it wasn’t too long to where it was like, I like that, that’s pretty cool, and so you can’t force anything, right? You can just — you can try and be BLACK SABBATH, but we all knew that we didn’t want to put an album out called Black Sabbath just for the sake of us guys getting together and doing stuff together. At one point there was even talk like not calling it a Black Sabbath album, but eventually it rolled into itself, really.
Question: And you called it 13 and I know you’re superstitious, and I guess it’s fitting in that…
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, it’s kind of like — I’m very superstitious, but I was the one who says well, it’s 2013, let’s call it 13, and I think we have 13 songs at that point and then you know, I just happened to flippantly say, we’ll call it 13, and you got to watch what you’re saying around here, because you say something in jest, and you find you’ve got an album in front of you with the artwork, and I says to my wife, I said, “I haven’t said (bleep).” “You did,” she said. And the art department thought it was a phenomenal album title. It was unintentional, oh well, it’s too late now.
Question: The new album ends with the same bells that the first Sabbath album started with.
Ozzy Osbourne: It was not my idea to put the bells on, and the bells will be at my funeral, I think.
Question: Well, whose idea was that, and what do you think of it now that it’s on there?
Ozzy Osbourne: Rick Rubin produced the album. Who do you think?
Question: Sure. Okay, if this album and tour is the last chapter for Sabbath, and I know you said we don’t know yet, but if it is, how do you feel about that?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, I wasn’t really happy with the way it ended before, but this album went to Number one and it’s been received really well all over the world. I know I can now rest my head and die a happy man.
Question: You know your song God Is Dead? has a question mark after the title. I know you didn’t write that one, but I was curious, how would you personally answer that question at this point in your life, is God dead?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, it’s not me. I mean, God — when you think about what in the name of God what mankind has done to each other over the years, you go, the way it came about, I was in a doctor’s office waiting to go in to see a doctor and there was a magazine in front of me, Time magazine or something with just God Is Dead? on the top and I thought wow, that’s pretty cool because, well, this is just what I thought about it. I thought, well they flew a plane into buildings a few years back in the World Trade Center in the name of their God. There’s pedophile priests everywhere, and where is God? I mean, there’s no good comes out of flying planes into buildings and blowing yourself up in the name of God, and I just thought, that’s so right, man. And I gave it to Geezer, and Geezer gave me the lyrics. And at the end of the song it says I don’t believe that God is dead, it starts off pretty hopeless, but at the end, I don’t believe that God is dead. So in other words, there’s still hope, you know?
Question: I’m kind of curious on what’s it like being on the road now versus 40 years ago, and are there different preparations?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, we’ve all got a few years older and nobody gets stoned or drunk or you know, Geezer’ll take a drink now and again but I don’t drink or use anymore. I mean, every time I do I get in (bleep)in’ trouble, I mean that’s why. We’re just guys now, we’re men. We’ve got families and we got responsibilities, but I’m still (bleep)ing crazy. I’m still having fun, you know? You know, it took me a couple of gigs to get my head out — my own trip, you know. I mean, being the front man singer of BLACK SABBATH is a completely different animal, so my own thing is it’s my gig, the other one, my old solo thing. And so it took me a couple of gigs to get my head around that, you know, to be — to just calm down, and it was all right at the end.
Question: And I can’t wait to see you at the Gorge Amphitheatre near Seattle. Do you have any memories of playing this part of the country?
Ozzy Osbourne: Oh, the Gorge.
Ozzy Osbourne: I’ll tell you, I looked at — standing at the cliff at the back of the trailer area and look in that valley, it’s like something out of the Biblical times, phenomenal place that is. Mind you, it takes about half a day to get from the plane to the arena, you know.
Question: It’s a hike.
Ozzy Osbourne: So you can fly there. You take two hours to fly and three hours to drive.
Question: From what I’ve read, Tony had like 80 or 90 guitar riffs or something like that already kind of written down.
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, Tony is — I think he breathes riffs. What we did when we first got together, we sat down and we go that’s a good riff. That’s a good one. What about this one? And there’s still a bunch left over.
Question: I guess I was just curious how you did kind of whittle it down…
Ozzy Osbourne: You know on the CD, there’s all these riffs, and we pick — I mean, what always amazes me about Tony is the fact that there’s only so many notes on a guitar and you’re going to run out eventually but he seems to come up with more and more and more riffs. It’s unbelievable, and they’re all great, you know.
Question: Well, the ones you used on the album, you’ve got some killer ones in there.
Ozzy Osbourne: Yes. He’s got some phenomenal stuff. He’s very, very talented. He’s one of these guys that you can give any instrument on the face of the earth and he’ll take it away and he’ll come back with something, not only a master of it, but he’ll play something or a pair of bagpipes or something. He’s always been that way, you know.
Question: Hello, Ozzy. This is just a little bit off-topic. In the movie God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, I noticed toward the end you were learning to drive. I just wanted to know what was going on with that. For some reason…
Ozzy Osbourne: I got a driving license. See what happened, I got a driving license, bought a Ferrari, I bought an RA Spider, and the people would get out of the bloody road when Ozzy was driving, I’m telling you. I was always getting stopped by the cops or running into somebody else’s car, so one day I said to my wife, “You know what? I’m 64. I don’t really want to be found dead in a Ferrari, I mean, I’ve survived this long of all my trials over my life. I don’t want to drive over a cliff in a car, so I haven’t really been driving since I sold the Ferrari and the RA.
Question: My question revolves around how, you know, there’s a lot of younger bands right now that they’re really checking the original four Sabbath records for an influence, and I know the Sabbath influence has been analyzed over and over again, but for example, a band like Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats is opening up the European dates, it’s really close to the old records. How do you feel about it coming full cycle again?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, after this year’s Grammy award show, my wife dragged me to a house somewhere in L.A. to where all the other part of the industry were, all the producers and record people and whatever, and the buzz was that we’d released God Is Dead? and the buzz was really exciting about the forthcoming Sabbath album, and this whole process has been such an amazing experience in the respect that when you just do it naturally, so you don’t have to get up in the morning and go oh, I’ve got to start breathing. You just do it naturally, and so when we went into an album, we started to do an album, we just did it naturally, so all of a sudden people are going “wow, this is (bleep)ing unbelievable. This is amazing.” And we were like, “it’s not any more amazing than any of the other stuff.” Well, we used to do it naturally you know, and so all of a sudden we released the album, and it got to No. 1 in so many countries. We’re all, like, “this is great, but why now?” You know, and so when I used to do the Ozzfest, and bands would come up to me and go, we’re not worthy and all this (bleep) and so I’m like what are they talking about, because we just played. And it’s really an amazing experience when you look at it from the inside out, because you like the stuff, but then when people start telling you and kids tell you what was it like when you wrote Sweet Leaf and whatever, you just do it, you know? Whatever feels good to you, you know. It’s as much a surprise to us as anybody else. I mean, we’re all like 45 years up the road and we get our first Number one in America, and it’s like wow, you know, maybe we are a bit so laid back.
Question: Does having new material change how excited you are to be on tour with this band, considering…
Ozzy Osbourne: The whole thing makes me question me, because I thought it was good — we recorded some good stuff, but a lot of the new stuff is down to Rick Rubin, you know, Rick Rubin had to plan. He knew what he wanted to do. He didn’t have to go, oh, well, we should put a cymbal there and a backwards voice there or whatever. And he used very limited amounts of tracking. He used the Pro Tools, which you can do a thousand million things on and can do forever, down to two tracks. I don’t think we used more than 10 tracks on any song, you know.
Question: So here in your solo career, you’ve worked with some of the best guitarists. You know, you’ve worked with everyone from Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads . How was it getting back together with the guitar player that you got it all started with, Tony Iommi?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, considering that the guy is a warrior in the respect that when he was about 17 he was working in a factory and he had the tips of his middle two fingers on his hand lopped off in a metal shaving machine, and they told him that he would never play guitar again, and he proved them all wrong by making these signatures, and for years I would say to Tony, how do you know when you’re touching the strings? And he goes, I just do it, you know. But you say to him, you can’t do this again, and he’ll find a way if he wants to do it, and do it. And so then when we started this last album, he was struggling with lymphoma. We all thought, oh, this is never going to happen. And he marched through it, and for that alone he’s my hero. I mean, he pulls things off like when you think he’s done, he’ll come up with something bigger, better, and badder than before.
Question: That’s terrific, and how was it working with Brad Wilk playing the drums on this record?
Ozzy Osbourne: I think he’s a great drummer.
Question: I wanted to ask you in the liner notes to the album you thank your son Jack and you say he’s the man you — everything you want to be, and the man that you want to be. Can you talk about that at all?
Ozzy Osbourne: Well, you know, my son is everything I want to do because he’s got courage. He’s not afraid to take anything on, always go into something with the impression I’m going to fail, but when he was 17 he climbed the top of El. Capitan which is 1000 feet straight up, you know? Me, I wouldn’t go and climb it, and a couple of years ago he had his appendix out. And then he found out he had MS, and he just — I mean, the guy is just — he’s just an amazing kid. He’s given us a granddaughter. He’s married, and he’s a very, very grounded person. And I mean, it’s funny, not only what he’s done in 27 years, he stopped drinking alcohol, he stopped doing drugs, he lives a clean life and he’s a very focused guy.
Question: Hello, Ozzy. I was wondering if going back and listening to that and trying to make an album in the spirit of the first Sabbath album must have put you in a reflective mood at all, if you thought much about the early…
Ozzy Osbourne: No, I mean, I get asked this question, which is my favorite song I’ve ever recorded and what all that, but I don’t know which album would I say was my finest ever piece of work, and I don’t have a specific album that I like the best. What I got with the first album reminds — I go back to the way I felt when I was making that album. When I hear Paranoid or Volume 4, however, I remember where my head was at when we recorded it and I remember the first album. For instance, we just drove down in our van on the way to a ferry to go to do some work in the Stockholm or Hamburg somewhere like that, and we — the manager at the time said stop over this region and we’ll record you, and we’re going to do all those songs you’ve been doing on the stage, so he’s set the gear up, played it back to us as we were back in the van going to the ferry, It was quick. Really, the first album was a live album without an audience. It just took me back to the way we were on the first album,
Question: Now given how unlike it was you know, most of what was on the radio at the time, did you expect it to like, find the kind of audience it found?
Ozzy Osbourne: Oh, I mean, Sabbath in those days was always a band that was created by word of mouth, because you know, long-haired, dope-smoking crazy guys weren’t exactly the light of their lives. I mean, the formula for a successful rock and roll band would be a band that your parents love to hate and you get success and that was our philosophy, you know. The media never gave us one kind word or we never got a No. 1. I thought to myself, you’ll only last a couple of albums, and here we are 45 years later and we just got our first Number one, so I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I tried to read this article. ozzy just never really has any interesting to say though.
phew, this interview was longer than an Eddie Trunk monologue
Tony’s riffs made the band….everything else went in the pocket.
He’s a relic, with the good fortune of working with incredibly gifted guitarists…and Zakk ain’t one.