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  Ozzy Osbourne  

Ozzy Osbourne: The Godfather of Metal, Interview by Gabriella

Ozzy Osbourne is not just one of the founders of metal; he is an institution of metal. Born December 3, 1948, as John Michael Osbourne in Birmingham, UK, he founded the blues-rock band Earth in 1968 with schoolmates Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. Inspired by a horror movie, they decided to rename themselves Black Sabbath. They began playing heavy rock and international stardom soon ensued.

In 1979, after album sales began to wane, Ozzy left the band to pursue a solo career. The next few years left us with what Ozzy is perhaps best known for: biting the head off a dove at a record-executives meeting, biting into a bat on stage, not to mention platinum-selling albums such as
Diary of a Madman. The mid-'80s found Ozzy kicking his drug and drinking habits with the help of his wife and manageress Sharon – a step that ultimately helped Ozzy to make a furious comeback.

Before the current MTV show,
"The Osbournes," hit the screen, the younger generation knew Ozzy for the famous festival that he and Sharon founded in the mid-'90s. The Ozzfest has become a staple of the summer festival circuit, sporting the crθme de la crθme of international rock and metal acts, as well as giving rise to new and lesser-known bands.


How did you get started with music? Was it always your dream to be a musician?


Music was always really important to me, but when I was a teenager things were different. Birmingham wasn't and isn't a very rich area. It was rather dreadful and everybody in my family worked in factories, really mindless jobs that were physically exhausting. My father, my mother, my sisters, they all worked in factories in Birmingham and my dad thought I should become a tradesman, to get a chance and better myself, get away from the factories, you know. So when I finished school I tried to become a plumber. It didn't work out; it wasn't for me. Then I tried to become a bricklayer. It didn't work out. Then I tried to be a construction worker – same story. Everything I tried seemed to be doomed. I hated it, got sick of it really quick. Shortly before I left school, the Beatles got popular and they were my first addiction. I could switch off, forget my surroundings and dive into the music. It was something magical, almost a spiritual experience for me. Of course, my dad hated it. Way back then, the Beatles were revolutionaries and their music was revolutionary music. You know, they were considered to be a bad influence because they gave the kids ideas, the ideas to do something else with their lives than waste it in factories or become plumbers. For adults, it was a dangerous thing. But for us, they were heroes.


It's a bit hard to imagine that Black Sabbath was inspired by the Beatles....


  Ozzy Osbourne
I used to play in a band called Rarebreed, but the guitarist really annoyed me. Tony, Bill and Geezer were playing in bands, but they kind of split around the same time and that is how we all came together. It was really funny; I vaguely knew Tony. We went to the same school, but he was older than I am. One day I went into a record store and put up a sign saying "Ozzy Zig seeks gig" – I used to call myself Ozzy Zig because I thought it sounded cool and I thought everybody would start asking who Ozzy Zig was. Anyway, Tony showed up and I thought he'd think I'm a complete idiot, but he ended up joining our band. Right across the road from our rehearsal room was a cinema that showed mainly horror movies. One day I thought that it seemed strange that a lot of people spend so much money to see scary movies. Nobody really wanted to listen to us, so we decided to play slightly scary music. We liked it and, yeah, that's how it all got started. That's the story of Black Sabbath.


Many bands consider you to be the father of rock 'n' roll or metal. How does it feel to be their dad?


I really don't feel like the father of metal or rock, more like a big brother. And, of course, I'm really not proud of everybody who claims to be a fan and thinks I influenced them. I remember some terrible '80s pop bands who considered me their inspiration. One of them wanted me to sign all his Black Sabbath albums. By chance we were playing the same festival and that guy Limahl (from the '80s pop band Kajagoogoo) wanted me to sign all his albums. I told him to get lost and that I wanted no part of his music and no responsibility for his taste in music. Well, you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your fans, unfortunately.


You seem to have a great sense of humor. A lot of stars tend to take themselves too seriously. Obviously, you're not one of them.


I love comedy. Comedy is great. I grew up with Monty Python, the Goodies and the Three Stooges. In a way, they all influenced me and I think an element of comedy is missing in the music business, especially in rock. A lot of the bands just take themselves too seriously. There are so many idiots in the music business and they all think their shit doesn't stink, but smells of roses. You just can't take yourself too seriously. I don't take myself all that seriously. A little bit of comedy is healthy. You need to be able to laugh about yourself.


The Ozzfest is one of the biggest metal events in the US. Did you ever expect it would be so popular?


When Sharon – my wife and manageress – came up with the idea to do the Ozzfest, I was skeptical, more than skeptical. And I wasn't really sure that anybody would bother to come. But the kids are coming and I heard that a lot of them, in fact, do come to see me, old Ozzy. That's a great feeling and it's good to know that I'm not considered some old fossil.


The Ozzfest gave a lot of the new-metal bands their big break. What do you think of the so-called new metal?


I'm not so sure what's so new about new metal, but it's cool. You can't always reinvent the wheel and I've been around the block once or twice. So it's not so new to me. But I really do like some of the new bands, the guys from Iowa, Slipknot. They're really cool. I even like Papa Roach, even if they did cause a lot of trouble for us during the last Ozzfest! Their singer really acted like an asshole. He was getting the audience really worked up and encouraged them to cause some riots. The fans and the audience got out of hand and the cops cancelled the show. They fined him and since it was his fault – nobody else caused the incident – we did let him pay the fine out of his own pocket. I think it was fair, but he didn't like it. So the next day he was bitching on stage about the fucking Ozzfest, even though he caused the trouble himself. We were really all pissed off about it but, hey, that's the singer and his personality doesn't make their sound and their music any worse. As a band, they are really intense and you got to separate the music from the people. I can like somebody and hate their music. On the other hand, I can like the music and not like the people behind it. You've got to separate the art from the person.

June 2002

Related Content:

The Osbournes • Kelly Osbourne • Zakk Wylde • Rob Zombie • Ozzfest 2002
Ozzfest 2001 • Ozzfest 2000 • Black Sabbath Tribute Album • Slipknot
Disturbed • Papa Roach • System of a Down • Slayer • Pantera • Soulfly

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