Ozzy Osbourne Interview: The Good, The Bad & The Ozzy
GW Now that you’ve worked with Zakk for a while, what do you think his strengths are?
OZZY That’s a difficult question. He’s still very young and still very impressionable. I think he’s still finding his own feet.
GW What are the drawbacks to working with young players?
OZZY I keep thinking I would love to work on a project with musicians my own age. I guess I’d better do it quick because with each passing year the number of people my age gets smaller. I’m starting to feel like a daddy or something. I don’t want to be the wild man of rock and roll for too much longer.
GW You could go the David Coverdale route and hire established guitarists, yet you seem to prefer to discover new talent.
OZZY I want someone that’s hungry. I want someone who wants to go out and kick Eddie Van Halen’s ass. I look for that hunger, that ability to succeed.
GW What was your most bizarre auditioning experience?
OZZY There’s been thousands of them. One guy did a break dance and spun around on his back on the floor while playing wild guitar licks. There were lots of guys who were great but horrible to look at. I mean, there’s always cosmetic surgery, I suppose. Besides being a great guitarist you’ve got to look the part; you’ve got to be able to attract people. Some of the people I’ve auditioned looked like they should’ve been in a sideshow at the circus.
I’m never worried about finding players, though. If Zakk walked through the door and said, “I’m leaving,” I’d say, “God bless you, goodbye.” There’s an abundance of guitar players jamming in their rooms who are brilliant. In fact, I often wonder why they aren’t out doing something.
GW You’ve got to have an interesting frontman.
OZZY Yeah, you’re right. There is a lack of good frontmen. Axl Rose is the best I’ve seen in many years. I appeared in a movie called The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, Part II: The Heavy Metal Years, along with a number of bands. I couldn’t believe the horseshit in that film. It seemed that all anyone talked about was partying and getting laid. What about being in a band and playing music? Guns N’ Roses is a great name for a band and they seem committed. I’m not trying to be trendy, but that’s what I think. I think they’ve got a great image, as well. Everybody likes the bad guys.
Take that band Stryper—that’s the highest form of hypocrisy. They wear the same clothes as me, but they carry crucifixes and Bibles. The difference is, nobody likes to hear a good person. I discovered that many years ago.
GW What’s your assessment of Tony Iommi? He’s left-handed, his fingers are chopped off, he had to detune his guitar three steps, yet he ended up defining a genre.
OZZY In the beginning he was brilliant—he was the master of heavy metal riffs. He was very clever. But I never really knew Tony; we rarely spoke. He was the god-almighty figure in the band and verged on being a bully. I must have learned something from him, though, because when I left I did pretty well on my own. I still keep in touch with the rest of the band, but I don’t speak with Tony because we never talked when I was in the band.
He’s very intimidating. To be honest, toward the end his playing bored me, because everyone else was progressing and he wasn’t. That’s probably not fair, given his problems with his fingers. I should be grateful for Black Sabbath. But Tony needs to stop writing about devils and bullshit—it’s already been done. Ultimately, I think it was good that I moved on when I did. It was starting to get frustrating, because Tony would get a good headbanger going, then he’d start doing all this weird stuff. It started getting too complicated.
GW Except for “Shot in the Dark,” your live versions of songs stay pretty close to the originals.
OZZY I’ve seen bands who’ve played endings that are longer than the actual song. I always think, Jeez, c’mon! End it already! I’m old-fashioned in the sense that I like the song to sound like the song. I don’t even like live records; I haven’t really acknowledged the release of Just Say Ozzy. Those songs have already been done. Why do them again?
GW Aren’t you ever tempted to rework songs to keep them from getting boring?
OZZY No. If I don’t get off on something, I just drop the song from the set. I’ve got enough tunes in the pipeline.
GW Millions of bands have tried to cop your formula, yet you endure. What is it about your songs that make them stand the test of time?
OZZY God only knows. I was touring with Metallica a couple of years ago and I went backstage to talk with them. They were hanging out, and all of them were staring at me in a very strange manner. Then a couple weeks later I wandered backstage and they were playing Sabbath tunes. I asked ’em if they were trying to give me a hard time. And they said “No, we’re mad for Sabbath.” They were big fans. I thought, What, Sabbath-mad? It’s incredible to me that people still like the music.
Sabbath was a band that used to pull into an arena, play and never see a fan on the street. We came, we saw, we conquered and went home. I’d see an occasional acid freak wandering around San Francisco like a zombie mumbling “Black Sabbath.” But we had no real contact with the fans, and we had no idea of the extent of our impact.
GW Of your albums, which are your favorites?
OZZY Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. I relate more to the period of time than to the actual album. If I was having fun, then it was a good album. If I wasn’t, then the album was crap. We had a blast making Blizzard and Diary—screwed-up and always laughing. Those first two albums were my revenge because I was fired from Sabbath. I thought, Man, I’ll show them what it’s about! I always come out with my best when my back’s against the wall. It’s always when the luxury and financial rewards come piling in that I begin to lose it.
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