Ozzy on the cover of Maximum Ink in December 2001
photo by Paul Gargano
Sitting across from Ozzy Osbourne in his Tucson, AZ hotel suite the night before he would kick off his year-ending Merry Mayhem tour with Rob Zombie and Soil, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe—It’s Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy fucking Osbourne. And now, in the midst of the most widespread success of his career, he’s released Down To Earth—his most impressive album in practically a decade and is backed by what is arguable his most talented band to date—returning guitarist Zakk Wylde [Black Label Society], bassist Robert Trujillo [ex-Suicidal Tendencies] and drummer Mike Bordin [ex-Faith No More]. Less than 24-hours before embarking on the tour that would change the way we all look at the holidays, Ozzy was in rare form—Every part the heavy metal legend he’s cracked up to be, and more human than most of us ever imagined…
MI: So, Zakk is back…
Ozzy: People are asking what happened to Joe Holmes. Nothing really happened to Joe Holmes… We’ve got people who check our website all the time, and everyone there says that Ozzy and Zakk are the greatest together… So even though Zakk plays on the record, a lot of the songs were written with Joe Holmes and Robert Trujillo.
MI: You actually wrote with a lot of different people …
Ozzy: I wrote with a bunch of people. I wrote “Alive” with Danny Saber , I wrote the lyrics and melody and he did the music… It was written like a montage with different people. “Dreamer” was written with Marti Frederikson, Steve Jones and myself fucking three years ago! It didn’t take three years to write the album, Sharon would just say, “When you feel like it, you want to write something with Marti and Steve?” Because the OZZfest consumed my fucking life! I do that and think I’m going to be like the new Grateful Dead. I’m just going to tour forever and then die on the fucking stage! [Laughing] I had the album sleeve finished four years ago and I thought, “What the fuck am I going to call this thing?” And I thought of where it all began to me”. The cover looks like an alien… Black Sabbath was my first big success… We were called Earth before we were Black Sabbath… Down to Earth…” Bing, it came to me all at once, and I think of that photo as the Down To Earth guy.
MI: A lot of your older fans obviously grew up on Sabbath, but I think they are starting to become more that grew up as Ozzy fans, and discovered Sabbath from more of a historical perspective. Do you ever think about that split?
Ozzy: It’s really strange when I get people as old as me saying, “I’ve been waiting 30 years to see you!” And I’m going, “You waited 30 years to see me?” And he says, “Yeah, I’m married with six kids.” Fuck, that’ll do it! [Laughing] But there are young kids at five on one end of the scale, and guys at 55 on the other! If my father would have said to me when I was younger, “John , I’ve got this fucking guy called Al Jolson who’s a great singer. You’ve got to come and see him.” I’d have looked at him, with all the paint on his face, and gone, “What the fuck!” But now there are babies who love me, women who love me, and guys love me!
MI: When I was growing up, you were one of the scariest entertainers out there. Now it’s like you’ve reached the opposite end of the spectrum and have become a public icon. Who’d have thought you’d be doing skits on Conan O’Brien?
Ozzy: [Laughing] The big mistake a lot of guys make is that they take themselves fucking seriously. The only difference between Vaudeville and heavy metal is electric guitars, because we all say, “Are you having a good time?!” It’s entertaining the people. Because I’ve been accepted into mainstream society, it’s not because I’m the antichrist converted. It’s because these people who started when I was a kid are now my age! I’m going to be 53 this birthday, so I’m not some young punk! I feel dumb because I do radio shows and people love to ask me, “What new bands do you like?” I don’t know any new bands!
MI: Your right arm looks like a new tattoo…
Ozzy: It is the latest—it’s not finished, it’s only the first coating, but they got to the elbow and I said, “You know what? I’m too fucking old.” It was going to be a sleeve, and I thought, “No way!” For your readers that want a tattoo, I’ll tell you the truth. They fucking hurt! They hurt like a son of a bitch!
MI: Then why the hell are you doing your whole arm? [Laughing]
Ozzy: Because I’m a lunatic! [Laughing] I’ve been doing it for years. Some of these I did myself with Indian ink and a pen [his name on his knuckles, the smiley face on his knee], this one [on his lower left arm] was done in prison… But you don’t have a tattoo for the weekend, you have it for the rest of your life. I mean, it doesn’t matter if I lop my arm off right now, I’ve had a lot of fun, but I said to my wife, “Do you like them?” And she said she doesn’t even know they’re there anymore!
CD: Down To Earth Record Label: Sony
• Purchase Down To Earth on Amazon