Steve Vai says he once recorded an entire album with Ozzy Osbourne – and used an Octave Divider on all his rhythm guitar parts

Steve Vai (left) and Ozzy Osbourne
(Image credit: Lisa Lake / Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

For his most recent album, Patient Number 9, Ozzy Osbourne assembled one of the fiercest collections of electric guitar heroes of the modern age, calling upon the likes of Mike McCready, Zakk Wylde, Tony Iommi, Eric Clapton and the late Jeff Beck to fulfill six-string duties.

One guitarist who, for whatever reason, didn’t make the cut was Osbourne’s previous collaborator, Steve Vai, with whom the Black Sabbath frontman co-wrote the Ozzmosis track My Little Man back in the '90s.

But, according to a new revelation from Vai himself, the pair did more than just write a song together. Apparently, they got “carried away” and ended up recording an entire album together, which was never released.

Speaking to Eonmusic to promote Vai/Gash – another album that sat unreleased for almost three decades – Vai was asked about his time working with Osbourne, following the recent announcement that the vocalist would be retiring from touring.

And, rather than reflecting on the writing of My Little Man, Vai went one step further and revealed the existence of a whole Vai/Osbourne album that was compiled and later shelved.

“Well, I'm sitting on a whole Ozzy record, and it's like the Gash record – not 'like' the Gash record – but it's a project that I recorded that's sitting on the shelf,” Vai said. “I don't have any control over it or rights to it, obviously, but we did record some pretty good stuff.”

The Ibanez signature artist also went on to divulge some of the six-string intricacies of the album, claiming, “The interesting thing about that stuff we recorded from a guitar perspective is all of my rhythm guitar parts, I use an octave divider, and that record doesn't sound like anything else.”

Whether Vai means the classic Mu-Tron Octave Divider or just a standard octave pedal with a similar effect is unclear, but the prospect of Vai going to town on an album using the classic octave circuit is a pretty tantalizing one.

Vai continued, “There was some real, real heavy stuff because, as I mentioned, I used an octave divider on everything, and that was a conscious effort. 

“I thought, ‘Okay, you're going to work with Ozzy, and all these incredible guitar players have played with Ozzy; what are you going to do?’ I was not going to be conventional. Yeah, that's not me as you know, but I had to be accessible, so I thought, ‘I'm going to use an octave divider on everything’; I mean, all the rhythm.”

As for how the duo ended up recording an entire album when they started out as one-time-only co-writers, Vai explained the pair got “carried away” as they were “having a lot of fun," and ultimately ended up plotting to release their own collaborative record. Unfortunately, the suits behind the scenes weren’t too keen.

“Ozzy and I got carried away because we were having a lot of fun, and we ended up recording a lot of stuff,” Vai reflected. “And then we started scheming, ‘Hey, let's make a new record!’, and all that was fine and good, and we got excited about it until the hammer came down.

“They basically said, ‘What are you doing? No, you've just got to take a song from Vai and finish your record. We're already into it for this much money, and Vai is expensive,’ so it worked out perfect, really.”

Unfortunately for guitar fans, it doesn’t sound likely the unnamed Vai/Osbourne album will get a release any time soon, with Vai admitting he isn’t currently in control of the record’s rights. That means it looks as though an entire album worth of octave divider action from Vai is doomed to eternity among the ranks of 'records that almost were.'

Having said that, Vai did reveal that the pair worked on an early version of Dyin' Day for the album, which was later reworked for the guitarist's 1996 solo record, Fire Garden.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.