Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne Open Up in 1990 Guitar World Interview
Here's our interview with Ozzy Osbourne and his guitarist at the time, Zakk Wylde, from the June 1990 issue of Guitar World. The original headline was "The Good, The Bad & The Ozzy: Or How to Become a Heavy Metal Guitar Hero in One E-Z Lesson."
Ozzy Osbourne, clad in a screaming yellow suit and black crucifix, and Zakk Wylde, attired in custom-made flared jeans, sit side-by-side on a couch. They rise as one at my appearance, their solemn, polite handshakes suggesting men of infinite wealth, taste and breeding.
Then all hell breaks loose.
Like two disruptive, spitball-throwing delinquents, Ozzy and Zakk proceed to crackle with nervous movement, swap barbs and tell tall rock 'n' roll tales, laughing idiotically all the while. When the conversation turns to life on the road, Osbourne looks around and quips nostalgically, ''Back in 1971, when I was touring with Sabbath, you could've fit all our equipment into this hotel room."
Zakk rolls his eyes like someone forced to listen to his father rehash ancient family history for the millionth time. Ozzy, catching Wylde 's smirk, sarcastically points at the guitarist's 24-inch bell-bottoms.
"He's giving me a hard time about living in the past? He's the one that's living in the Sixties. Jeez, I've got the only guitarist in rock 'n' roll that looks like he's been drafted into the Navy. This has got to stop," says Ozzy, turning to Wylde with mock-disgust. I'm going to start enforcing a bloody dress code."
I try changing the subject. Casually, I mention Zakk's solo concert spot, a topic that usually elicits serious commentary from even the most jaded guitar hero. But this is to no avail; the demented -- some say demonic -- duo are off and running.
"My solo -- that 's when everyone goes to the bathroom," Wylde laughs.
"One day," chortles Ozzy with a mischievous look, "Zakk says to me, I've got a great idea! During my solo in 'Suicide Solution,' I'll jump off stage and play it in the crowd ..."
Wylde slaps himself in the forehead, groans, and continues the story. "I wanted to dramatically leap right into the audience, but couldn't because the pit in front of the stage was too deep. So I ran backstage, went down a flight of steps and came out from behind a side curtain. But nobody saw me come out. Instead, everyone was looking at the stage, straining to see where the hell I went. I walked all the way through the audience to the back of the arena and not one person took notice of me. It was so embarrassing."
"On another occasion, during my solo, I was trying to get the crowd to clap along, so I screamed, 'All right, Let's see some hands!' I wasn't hearing any response, so I squinted through the lights and saw all these people with blank looks on their faces showing me their hands. I swear."
"One time," says Ozzy, warming to the subject, "I was yelling, 'Everybody, stand up!’ And some guy yells back, 'We are, you dummy!"'
"Spinal Tap lives!" says Zakk, cracking up.
What's a journalist to do? Remembering the approach used by junior high school teachers through the centuries, I decide to split the two up and interview them separately.
What follows is a two-sided look at what it takes to get one of the most coveted gigs in rock. Ozzy thoughtfully recalls what made each of his great guitarists special, and elaborates his criteria for choosing a guitarist, his audition process, and his theory on why it's good to be bad. On the flip-side, Zakk tells what it's like to play with Ozzy and describes his struggle to carve a unique identity.
If only half the rumors about him are to be believed, it's amazing that Ozzy Osbourne is still alive. Yet, after 21 years of twisted public behavior, the man who brought you songs like "Paranoid," "Bark At The Moon" and "Children Of The Grave," looks incredibly healthy and ready to take on the world. Ozzy recently celebrated over 20 years in the business by polishing off a live greatest hits EP Just Say Ozzy and is currently at work on his next studio metal masterpiece.
GUITAR WORLD: Let 's start by looking at your past guitarists. How did you find Randy Rhoads?
OZZY OSBOURNE: Thinking back, it was quite extraordinary. I had been in Black Sabbath since high school, and suddenly Tony Iommi fired me from the band. It was a shock because Sabbath had always been there. I was out of my brain on drugs and alcohol and I was stuck in the position of getting a band together. I had never auditioned anyone before and I was petrified.
The auditioning process was so embarrassing. How do you tell someone that they’re not what you're looking for? Back then everyone was trying to clone Jimi Hendrix. I heard nothing but "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady" riffs. One guy even hooked up several tape recorders and echo units so he could play both the lead and rhythms to Hendrix tunes simultaneously -- it was a nightmare!
I had almost given up when somebody told Sharon [Ozzy 's wife and personal manager] about this great guitar player in town named Randy Rhoads. Shortly afterwards, Randy came over to my Los Angeles apartment. He was so frail, tiny and effeminate that I thought, "Oh no, oh hell." But out of politeness, I invited him to play the next day. Unfortunately, when he turned up, I was stoned out of my mind -- I mean, I was on another planet. Some guy woke me up and said, "He's here!" I looked up and Randy started playing from this tiny amp. Even in my semi-consciousness he blew my mind. I told him to come by the next day, and that he had the gig.
The next day I told someone I dreamed that I hired a guitar player. They told me I didn't dream it, and that he was coming that day. I thought, "Oh god, what have I done? I hope he can play!"