OZZY OSBOURNE: A SABBATH FEAST

By Paul Freeman [1997 Interview]

February, 2017, we await the farewell concert of Black Sabbath. So we thought weíd revisit our 1998 interview with Ozzy Osbourne, after the bandís ďReunionĒ album was released. It was recorded at Birmingham NEC, as the tour began, and featured the original lineup of Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward.

They band had begun in Birmingham in 1968. Blaming his drug and alcohol abuse, the other members ousted Osbourne from the group in 1979. Countless lineup changes happened over the years. Ronnie James Dio was among those who tried to replace Osbourne behind the mic.

Osbourne carved out an immensely successful solo career. But fans always hungered for a reuniting of Sabbathís original fiery four.

We spoke to Ozzy as that historic event took place, before he went from heavy metal god to reality TV star.

POP CULTURE CLASSICS:
What were you feeling the first night of the reunion tour in Birmingham?

OZZY OSBOURNE:
We hadnít played together in 20 years or so. Weíd done jams here and there, at Live Aid or whatnot. It was kind of all right. We had two shows in Birmingham to prove ourselves. The first night, the press there wasnít bad, but it wasnít great. The second night was phenomenal. You can hear it on the album. It was just absolutely fantastic.

PCC:
But were you nervous going into the first night?

OZZY:
Yeah, man. Itís like running a race. itís like going into the ring with a boxer. One wins and one loses, you know?

PCC:
What about getting everybody back together? Was that difficult?

OZZY:
No. We had tried for so long. We had all tried to get together on our own. But in the end my wife said to me again in the last year, ĎWhat do you want to do about this Sabbath thing?í And I said, ďWell, you know what? Youíre my manager. Iím your artist. Iíll say yes and you take it from there.Ē And then she came back and said, ďTheyíve all agreed to do it.Ē And I said, ďFine.Ē

PCC:
What about recording the two new tracks, how easily did those come together?

OZZY:
They said, ďTry and get some new stuffĒ and we just went straight into it and it came really easy.

PCC:
Were you surprised at how easy it was to get it to all click again?

OZZY:
Oh, yeah. I suppose thatís the way it goes sometimes. You sit around for three months and canít do one song. And other times it just happens quick.

PCC:
What do you think is the unique power and magic of you four guys together?

OZZY:
I donít know, but Iíll tell you, I realized there is a magic, when we got out there and the reaction of the crowd was deafening.

PCC:
When you hear tracks by Sabbath without all the original members, how do you react to that?

OZZY:
To be perfectly truthful to you, Iíve heard the occasional track on the radio with Dio and a few other singers, or the others drummers, and itís difficult for me to relate to it. Iím too close to it. They said itís a band called Black Sabbath and it didnít mean anything. But what do you expect them to do? I would have liked the name Sabbath to have been shelved for a while, but I donít own the name.

PCC:
And yet thereís so much excitement over the new project.

OZZY:
Yeah, because itís the original four.

PCC:
Did the four of you talk about how to avoid reviving old conflicts?

OZZY:
Itís been years and hopefully weíve learned.

PCC:
The way things broke up, was it easy for you to forgive and forget?

OZZY:
You know, if I would always have a f-ckiní burr up my ass about things that have happened in my life, I would never get out of bed in the morning.

PCC:
Are you surprised at how into the band the young generations are?

OZZY:
Absolutely. I mean, Iím 50 in December and some of the kids werenít even born when we were writing our first songs. Itís an honor, really.

PCC:
When did you first become aware of how much of an impact Sabbath had?

OZZY:
The first time I really, really had an inclination about Sabbath was when I went out on tour with Metallica in the 80s. They were opening up for me. And every time I passed their bus, going into the gig, I heard all the Black Sabbath songs coming out of the bus. I thought they were trying to f-ckiní psych me out or something. Theyíre trying to piss me off. Whatís up with that?

When youíre in something, you never realize. You just write songs and you think, ďOh, thatís good.Ē And then you get a breakÖ But then their tour manager says to me, ďNo way, man! Youíre the reason they got going in the first place!Ē

In my opinion, for the period of time when Black Sabbath wasnít together, if anyone took over, I would have to say Metallica did.

PCC:
What about your relationship with the fans? Henry Rollins has talked about the way you relate closely to them, thereís no distance between you and the fans.

OZZY:
Well, I have fun with them. I hate when you go to a concert and itís like your privilege to see the artist on stage. Itís my privilege to see the people who bought a f-ckiní ticket, because if they donít buy the ticket, I ainít gonna have a f-ckiní house over my head, you know? I never forget the days when I had nothing. And my job as front man is to go out there and give them the best show I can. Sometimes itís good and sometimes itís f-ckiní awful. But I always try.

PCC:
From the original Sabbath days, do you tend to remember the good stuff, rather than the troubled times?

OZZY:
I was stoned all the time, so my memory is very vague. I mean, we did a lot of traveling. And a lot of cocaine. And a lot of drugs. And a lot of booze. And f-cking a lot of groupies.

PCC:
I guess now life is totally different on the road.

OZZY:
No drugs. No groupies. [Laughs] Dogs and kids and wives.

PCC:
But itís still fun?

OZZY:
Well, the difference between the Birmingham shows and the shows years ago is that I can remember these shows.

PCC:
You mention kids. How do your kids react to Black Sabbath?

OZZY:
You know, I havenít really sat down and talked to them about it. Really, whether it be Black Sabbath or myself solo, Iím just Dad to them. Iím not that kind of guy, where I come home and demand that they bow down to me, because of who I am.

Sometimes Iím walking down the street and people will turn around and go [shouting] ďHey, man! Itís you, Ozzy!Ē And I go, ďOh, yeah, itís me.Ē Iíd forgotten who I am. I just want to be one of the guys, you know.

I love audience participation. When they sing along the lyrics with me, it sends shivers up my spine.

PCC:
Are you conscious of two Ozzys - the real guy and the stage persona?

OZZY:
Um, yes and no. I do my best to leave him, the performer, on stage these days. When you go home from work - some people do, some people donít - I donít want to take my work home with me. The performing side of me is one area of my work, but there are other areas of my work - signing photos, doing interviews, doing TV, doing radio, getting up at all kinds of hours and flying around the world to do this and that, you know. And then youíve got to write new music, as well.

With the media, the information highway, youíve got to be on the case all the time. Youíve got to try and tap into everything and it gets very hard.

PCC:
So does it seem like hard work?

OZZY:
I donít look at it as work. I look at it as the most enjoyableÖ I like music. I couldnít think of a better way of making a living than doing what Iím doing, because I love music. I donít have to get up every morning and get in the car in traffic jams, going to a job that I hate, working for someone I hate, so I can take home a f-cking paycheck to a family that I donít particularly care for.

I love my family. I love my job. I love my existence. Iím basically my own boss. Youíve got to do something to survive. Iím financially set up, but what am I going to do, sit in a big f-cking house somewhere and look out the window and wait till I die? This is the only thing I do.

And I havenít abandoned my solo career, because of this Black Sabbath thing. None of us have. Tony is working on a solo album right now, as we speak. And Billís just finished one. Geezerís working on another one. And no doubt, one day in the near future, Iíll start working on a new Ozzy album.

But the main thing Iím really happy about, at the moment, is that weíre all friendly again, after all these years. Itís so good. Because when I left Black Sabbath - or rather I got fired - it felt like it was unresolved.

We were all in tatters, because weíd been fired through that cannon once too many times. We were all rags and tatters. But so no one was any worse than anybody else. Someoneís got to carry the load. And unfortunately, I suppose it was me. And if wasnít for Randy Rhoads, I donít know where Iíd be now. Randy Rhoads helped me get out of my depression.

PCC:
But you and the other guys in Sabbath are more friends that business associates now?

OZZY:
Absolutely. I leave the business to the management. I donít want to know. I donít want to know what the financial side of it is. And my wife, all the managers, there are four managers, theyíve all got managers, and they all sort it out for their artists. So nobody can come back to me and say, ďYou ripped me offĒ or my wife ripped their manager off or whatever. Whatever goes on, theyíre all informed by their managers.

Thereís not one person whoís got the authority to tell another person what to do and how much to do. Itís all discussed through the managers and then the managers take it down to the individual artists and say, ďDo you want to do this TV interview with the band or do you not want to do this TV?Ē

So nobody can say I get too much publicity or Tony gets too much publicity or any of us gets this or that or whatever. So itís all discussed freely and openly. And the way it is, is the way it is, take it or leave it. And thatís the only way it ever could have happened, because Iím not a negotiator, Iím not a manager. Thatís why Iíve got my wife managing me. And sheís done a pretty damn good job so far, you know.

PCC:
After all these years, you all must have changed in some ways. What now brings you together as friends?

OZZY:
Friends and business, you canít have, you know. Youíre either in business or friends. We have a real good time, you know. Thatís the way it should be, because, if you donít get on with each other, how can you go on stage and be honest about your music and have fun with your music?

PCC:
But is it shared history, the love of music you have in common, the personalities?

OZZY:
I donít know. Itís a chemistry that was meant to be. I have done covers of Sabbath songs in my set over the last 20 years. And Iíve done pretty good covers. But nothing is like the original.

PCC:
How old are you kids now?

OZZY:
15, 14 and 13.

PCC:
Are they really into music?

OZZY:
Yeah, but to be honest with you, Iím so busy, I donít really knowÖ I know theyíre into Marilyn Mason a little bit. Itís all kinds of weird stuff. Whatever they want to listen to, I donít have any problems with it.

PCC:
You mentioned your 50th birthday coming up, when you began could you ever have imagined still rocking at that age?

OZZY:
No way. I mean, I never thought Iíd make it to my 25th birthday, you know.

PCC:
What do you think about rocking in your 50s?

OZZY:
You know what? I donít feel any different now than I did when I was 40. And I donít think I felt any different when I was 40 than when I was 30. But I never stop and go, ďWow! Youíre 50!Ē Iím just a 50-year-old person. What am I supposed to do, just say, ďThatís it. Itís all over. Iím going to retire. Resign?Ē What do you do? If you want to carry on, you carry on.

At any given time, whether youíre 20, 30, 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, you carry on as long as you want to carry on and then youíre free to pull the plug whenever you want to. But believe me, if there wasnít any demand for me or for Black Sabbath anymore, I wouldnít do it. I donít need to play to empty halls. What I love doing is getting in front of an audience and working an audience. Thatís what Ozzy is all about, whether it be a club or an arena or a festival or whatever, I love the feeling of being on a stage. Itís where Iím meant to be.

PCC:
Do you think people make too much of the age of rockers?

OZZY:
Oh, I havenít heard it lately. But when I was younger, I used to think, ďOh, the f-ckiní Stones, theyíve got to be over the hill, man. Theyíve got to stop.Ē As you get older, you donít feel older. How do you feel at 49? I donít know. Iím telling you now, I feel great at 49. I wouldnít want to be 21 again, because I was doing so many stupid f-cking things when I was 21. I still do stupid things, but not so often, you know?

PCC:
Sounds like you have a lot of exciting times ahead.

OZZY:
Well, thatís what I want. Until it becomes a problem, if Iím enjoying it, why should I stop? If Iím not enjoying it anymore, then Iíll stop.