Exclusive! Ozzy Talks Zakk, Dio, Macca, Jacko…
Ozzy Osbourne has been speaking to Classic Rock about his new album, his search for a new guitarist, and why he wishes Heaven & Hell all the best. PLUS: The weird world of Michael Jackson.
Interview: Scott Rowley
Classic Rock caught up with Ozzy Osbourne last week at the Slash & Friends gig in Norway, where the whispers backstage had guitarist John 5 (ex-Marilyn Manson, currently with Rob Zombie) lined up as a possible replacement for Zakk Wylde…
“Well, I’m getting a new guitar player as we speak,” said Ozzy, “and everyone has been saying to me for a long time, ‘Get Johnny 5!’ And I tried him at one time and I didn’t really give him a chance. We’ll see, I don’t know. I haven’t fallen out with Zakk, but Zakk’s got his own band, and I felt like my stuff was beginning to sound like Black Label Society. I just felt like I wanted a change, y’know?
“I’ve got a guy from Greece coming in – not the musical, the country of Greece – but I’m not going to say too much about it, cos I don’t know myself at this point. I’ve got a new album, I’m working on it as we speak. I’ve got a studio at my house and I’ve got a guy called Kevin Churko, the guy that did the last album [Churko also worked on Ozzy’s Under Cover album, produced Cheap Trick’s highly rated 2006 album Rockford, and has credits on releases by Britney Spears, Celine Dion and Shania Twain] – he’s great to work with.
“And it’s great to have your own studio. On one hand it’s great and on the other it’s not, cos when you’re at the studio you can go, ‘Sorry darling, I can’t get home for dinner, I’m stuck at the studio…’ But she can fucking come down stairs now! But I’m just enjoying my life now…”
So you’re taking it easy recording this album?
“Oh yeah. Zakk came down and did a bunch of stuff and I don’t know if I want to use it but I’ve got it there if I do. And this Kevin Churko is a bit of an all-rounder so I’m getting back to basics in some respects. One thing about a guy who can’t do all the finger-tapping stuff is that he plays better on the riffs cos it’s not all [hums riff for Iron Man followed by over-the-top widdling].”
Does Heaven & Hell having a new album out make you more competitive?
“No. Not in the slightest. I really wish them well. I mean I’ve been out of that band three times longer than I was ever in them. But people say, ‘What do you think about Dio?’ He’s great singer. I’ve grown up since the days when I used to get pissed and slag him off. For whatever it’s worth, good luck to them. I don’t want to make enemies – I made enough when I was drinking, I try to make friends with people these days!”
The Double O also revealed that he had considered putting an album out under another name like his hero Paul McCartney.
“I’m a Beatles fan and I’ve met Paul McCartney quite a few times now. Have you heard his Fireman album? It’s fucking great. I’ll tell you why – he doesn’t play safe. He doesn’t put it out as Paul McCartney. You can hear bits of his voice but it’s so refreshingly good and I thought, ‘Why didn’t he do this a long time ago?’ And I said to Sharon, why don’t I put a band together where nobody know it’s me – a project, if you like – I’ve got my own studio… And she said ‘Sure’.
“But I’m lucky to be alive, I’m lucky to be still in demand – I bet Michael Jackson wishes he was me right now.”
Did you ever meet Jacko?
“I ran into him a few times, but he always had his security thing. I remember one time in New York I was rehearsing in the same studios and I got in one morning and they had screens up, like when you go and see the nurse. I’m like, ‘What the fuck’s this?’ My room was next door to his. And I was like, ‘Where am I going to go for a fucking piss?’ They said, ‘Round the corner’. I thought, ‘Fuck this’ – and went to the toilet on the other side of the screen. So the next day there was this big row cos I wouldn’t honour this thing… And [that meant] he never used the toilet and they found cups of piss all around… He was a very isolated man, you know. It’s very sad. Cos when you get that big, where is there left?
“He was phenomenal talent in his day. I mean it’s not my kind of music but when you see him do the dancing and all the stuff that goes with it, he was a clever guy, man.
“And it’s sad when anybody in the game goes before their time, but in a funny, sick way it seems befitting – I mean, can you imagine him reaching 80 or 70? I mean, someone should have said to him, ‘Michael, you’ve got no more face to cut,’ y’know?
“It’s sad. I mean the King Of Pop, the King Of Rock – I’m glad I’m just the Prince Of Darkness or I’d be worried a bit.”