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Recent Interview With Ozzy On New Album, Ozzfest & More (7/17/2006)

This was to be the year of the Ozzfest without Ozzy. He was going to hang back in England and work on a new album (it's been five years). But in the end, the Wizard couldn't stay away.

Ozzy Osbourne decided not only to crash his own festival, but also to do it on the fierce second stage, closer to the sweaty, black-garbed throng than he's ever been. When the tour rolls through the Post-Gazette Pavilion tomorrow, the Prince of Darkness will hit that parking-lot stage in the daylight, leaving the big, fancy one to the likes of System of a Down, Hatebreed and Disturbed.

This also will be the first time in three years that Ozzy is appearing with his solo band, having fronted the legendary Black Sabbath the previous two tours. That will mean "Crazy Train," "Mr. Crowley," one or two from the Sabbath era and other songs far more melodic than anything else that will be played that day.

In case you've lost count, this is Ozzfest No. 11 and, while package tours are practically a relic of the '90s, there's still no sign of this one slowing down. Till it does, the 57-year-old Ozzy will be its Wizard and, to some extent, its prisoner.

Last week, he called to talk about it, carrying on in a charmingly scattered and hilarious way. Two things you should know: We took a certain word out of virtually every sentence, and, no, we didn't ask him if he really bit the head off the bat 25 years ago.

What made you decide to join the tour after you said you weren't playing Ozzfest?

I suddenly realized that if I didn't play Ozzfest, they were going to call it The Ex-Ozzfest. [Wife] Sharon says to me, 'Why don't you just do the second stage?' I said, 'You know what, that's a good idea.'

So, how's it going?

It's awesome, because on that big stage I worked on, by the time I got on there, everybody's been there from 9 o'clock in the morning, and we're the last band of the day, it's time for bed, you know. When you're playing on the big stage, everyone's running around, going, 'Oh, don't do this, do don't that.' I don't understand, like, the stuff you have. This one, you just walk out on the stage and play.

So you get to see the people better now.

Not unless I have my eyes closed. But absolutely. I like to see the madness. I love when they start going crazy. The other day there was an ocean of hands in the air. It was just magic.

Why the solo band and not Sabbath this year?

I think, in a way, [Sabbath] played to some people who had never seen the original band, and that was great. But right now I want to pursue my solo career more. In fact, before I started to tour, Zakk [Wylde] and I went into my ProTools studio, and he must have put, like, 25 different riffs down on the machine. But doing the Ozzfest kind of screwed everything up, because I have a house and studio in England. My wife works in England. I miss my wife. I'm stuck here. It just gets crazy sometimes, you know. Not only that, this will be the very first time I've ever written an album sober and clean.

How is it different?

Let me ask you a question: Have you ever been to a nightclub sober?

Yeah, sure, for my job.

Have you ever been to a nightclub a bit loaded?

It's a lot more fun the second way.

It's the same for songwriting. ... But [drugs and alcohol] ain't fun for me anymore 'cause it was killing me. It's been a long time since I done booze now, maybe 2 1/2 years.

What's the new material like?

I want to rock this album. Everyone's using these machines to get these weird [sounds]. ... And back in the day with Sabbath, you knew it was people playing the instruments. The way I know if it's a good song is if the hairs on my arm stand up.

Has that happened?

I haven't done anything yet! I've done bits and pieces, but I can't say, "Oh, yeah, we wrote three chords of a song and my hairs stood up." It don't stand up! I'm going to get some starch.

You were finally inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame. What did it mean to you?

You know, for the last how many years, Black Sabbath and I have been on the list. And every year, we wouldn't get it. It would go to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, all these different people, and I knew they weren't going to do it. So, I sent them a letter and said, "Don't bother putting Black Sabbath on anymore, because you and I both know we won't get on there till we're dead." Then I was thinking about it and I thought, that was bad what I said. I ain't Black Sabbath. There's three other members, and I had no right to speak on their behalf. So when we got inducted, I just went there and made a short speech. I don't like those things. Believe it or not, I just got into that Hall of Fame in England, and even if you're a hit last year, you get into the Hall of Fame in England!

I think Jann Wenner oversees the inductions, and Rolling Stone was always hard on Sabbath.

Up until we had "The Osbournes" TV show, I'd never been on the front cover. In one year, we had three. The magazine is more like a snobby music paper.

Ozzfest is a really aggressive day of music, but it seems as if all these years it's been relatively incident-free. Why do you think that is?

Been a few kids overdosed. What I say, I'm not trying to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes, 'cause I was worse than anybody you could imagine. Up until a few years ago, I was smoking at 4 in the afternoon; I was done. What I say at the end of every show, "If you've been drinking alcohol or smoking weed or any mind-altering thing, please don't drive the car." There was one year this kid was walking home and it was pouring down rain, and he got hit by a car and died. I had to phone the mother the next day, and I don't like doing that, you know. On the whole, touch wood, there hasn't been all that much bad happening. One of the years one of the band members did too much coke and had a heart attack and died.

But there haven't been a lot of violent fights.

I don't think there have been. Over the years there have been a few fights. What I do: Stop the show and go, "Listen, if you two want to fight, get out of here, we want to have some fun," and the crowd will push them out.

You really seem to have a lot of fun with the water guns.

At San Antonio, they were begging me to spray them. Can you imagine being in a crowd of 25,000 clucked together in 120 degrees? Where are we playing the gig for you?


Oh, Pittsburgh is Ozzy's kind of a town. They love rock and roll there!

Do you have a favorite band on Ozzfest?

Yeah, me. I'm not one of these [guys] that watches every band. I like System of a Down. One thing with the Ozzfest that I'm happy about it is that I've kept this form of music going, which is called -- I don't know who invented this name -- heavy metal. 'Cause the heavy metal from the '70s is nothing like the heavy metal from the '80s, which was like glam gay rock, it was. The '90s was different, and now it's completely different. But I'm really happy that Korn got successful. I lot of bands got successful from Ozzfest, and it's kind of passing the torch, because I get the feeling that the industry doesn't want it to keep going, but I see whole families in the audience all going for it.

So, you think it's changed a lot from the '90s till now?

Oh yeah. I just wish that someone would sing a song -- with singing, not growling. Some of these kids come up to me and say, "If it wasn't for Sabbath and yourself, I would never have started." And I'll listen to it and it's all right, but I can't see where they got the influence from Sabbath. It's like playing a record on 45 and throwing it out the window, you know.

So many of the other festivals have failed. Why do you think Ozzfest has lasted?

I honestly can't answer that question, because I say to Sharon every year -- I get scared as it's going on -- I go, "When do think it's going to end?" She says, "We'll know." I say, "What do you mean we'll know?! How will we know?" I say, "Is a bird going to land on a windowsill and say, 'It's over?'" I'll do it for as long as they want me to do it. But if it dwindles to nothing, I can't complain 'cause I've had 11 years of just absolute ... I don't think there's been many festivals that have lasted that long, have there?

No, not at all. And it seemed like Ozzfest was the one that was least likely to make it in some ways.

I don't know. When I did the TV show, I was terrified that I was going to lose hardcore fans. They looove me ...

Source: Scott Mervis /

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