Ozzy Osbourne Interview by Andrew Vontz
I wore a sweet cape that my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas, 2004 when I went to interview Ozzy in 2005 at his Beverly Hills mansion. This story ran as a Q&A in Mean magazine in an abbreviated format. It was a small but influential magazine that had access to huge stars. Every time I set out to do a piece that would run as an edited interview, I would try to get my hands on every interview the subject had ever done. Then I would look for patterns in how the subject responded, any anecdotes they'd used repeatedly, and also ask around to get background info that might get the subject to open up. My goal was always to get new, novel or deeper material than anyone had ever gotten out of the subject.At the time, he was at the height of his reality TV fame as the namesake of The Osbournes series. He was sharp, witty, polite, engaged and in no rush to boot me out of his mansion.
I think it's because he liked my cape.
Outside casa Osbourne, tourists in rented limos drive up to snap digital pics of the Prince of Darkness’s pearly gates—well, heavy wooden gates. The doorknobs are large enough to fit in the palm’s of a titan which makes sense because inside in the media room one of the true giants of rock’n’roll is treating Mean to a few tracks from his new box set on a goat-slaying sound system.
Damn that’s loud. Can you still hear?
That’s a really sophisticated sound system. I play it in my car, a Bose system, a ghetto blaster because nowadays the ghetto blasters are better than what I had when I was a kid. If it sounds good there it sounds good all around.
I always play music really loud because I can hear everything really well. Some of the songs I love. Some of the songs are okay but the production is really good. Everybody’s putting box sets out now so I suppose they had to scrape one together for me to do. I’ve always wanted to do a covers album. I’ve always wanted to record Whiter Shades of Pale but unfortunately everybody else is doing it so I didn’t do it. Mark Hudson and I love the same kind of stuff.
Do you like the taste of pork?
Do you like the taste of pork?
What does that mean?
What was it like working with Miss Piggy?
Miss Piggy. . .
She was uh uh, it’s only a voice in a fucking puppet. It’s not like I was sitting there with a fucking puppet.
Was it fun?
I can’t remember. It was years ago. I was like, for fuck’s sake, Sharon, I don’t want to do this. I enjoyed working with Busta Rhymes. A lot of people that I sang with are type 0 negative and they’ve already done their thing. I just go into the studio and put the voice down.
Arnold Schwarzzenager has proven that famous immigrants can go far in California politics. Any chance we’ll see Ozzy for Prez in 2008?
No way whatsoever. I don’t talk politics. Good for Arnold and all, he obviously wanted to do it but I have no interest in politics.
If you did get into politics what would be your platform?
I wouldn’t get into politics so I can’t answer the question.
Seriously, how does it feel to have a pot-smoking bodybuilder ruling your home state?
I don’t know. I haven’t noticed that much difference since he’s been in. The sun shines. We still have mudslides. We still have rain. We still have these fucking people who want to save the world and half of them want to blow it up.
But if you were President what would you do—maybe mandate that capes become part of the official dress code?
I don’t want to start talking about things I know fuck all about and get myself into a pile of trouble.
Let’s talk about capes. You’ve worn a few in your day or two right?
What makes for a good cape?
Originally we wanted to lift weights with you but it didn’t work out. . .
I can’t lift weights. I broke my neck last year. I have these iron bar things going. The screws are coming unscrewed you know.
What are you doing to stay fit these days?
I workout two hours a day. I do cardiovascular on a stationary bike and a cross-trainer and I do 550 crunches a day.
How are your abs?
I was watching an episode of the Osbournes and I got so pissed off. I hate being overweight and when I broke my neck I couldn’t do any exercise. The medication they gave me was a major steroid. I fucked everything up real bad. You gain weight on steroids. Plus television makes you look fatter anyway. I watched the show and it made me look like I get up in the morning, drink a giant cup of coffee, complain and go to sleep, drink another cup of coffee. I don’t even drink coffee. I drink tea. (he takes a sip of his tea)
What was your fitness routine during the 80’s—jazzercise?
I’d do starts and spurts. I was doing a lot of drugs back then, coke, pot, booze, smoking cigarettes. I don’t do any of that anymore.
How much do you bench?
I can’t bench press anymore because of the accident. I don’t know. I wasn’t into being the Arnold of rock.
Have you ever tried ecstasy?
Your son is a house DJ. Are you an electronic music fan?
He likes it. I’m glad he likes it. It’s specialized music. I went to one of his gigs and it was just like one record that lasts for four hours and he fuckin’ thinks it’s great. It’s a generation gap.
Have you ever been to a rave?
Do you ever want to go to one?
No. My life was a rave until about a year ago.
Watching your children come up in the music industry do you have any fears?
What I say is, whatever they wanna do, fine as long as it doesn’t harm them or is illegal. I was saying that when the TV thing took off. They all ended up on drugs. My son Jack’s got more clean and sober than I am. I’ve got nine months. He’s got a year and nine months.
What’s the hardest part about being a dad?
There’s no rules. The Osbourne’s is not like me and Sharon laying the laws down. You always learn by your mistakes. One of the mistakes we made was not setting any boundaries. If my father set me a boundary I’d fucking break it. They knew where drugs and alcohol would take them by watching me crawling out of a jail cell or rehab or hospital. I’m not proud of that you know. I don’t feel very proud of the fact that they go, I hear your dad was a bit of a boy in his day. Yeah I was but these last nine months of sober time have been the best time of my life because I can semi remember. People say why don’t you write a book—I can’t remember. I can remember things from way back but I can’t remember what I did yesterday.
What made you decide to finally become sober?
It’s kind of weird because this is the longest period of time I’ve ever had. Sharon battled cancer and she pulled through it. My son was doing Oxycotin and heroin and whatnot. My daughter was doing pain pills. Sharon came home one day and she said to me, you’ve been getting fucked up. I said no I’m not because every junkie lies. She said I can’t be around this anymore. Something inside me said you’ve gotta be sober. It stopped working. Believe me if I got some drugs now it would probably work but number one I’d end up depressed as fuck—I might even kill myself because I’ve gotta start from day one again and I don’t wanna.
Since the Osbournes went on the air you’ve become America’s favorite dad. . .
I don’t know how they get that. I think it’s a joke. I try to be a friend. When I was a kid I was afraid of my father. If you instill fear to your child he’s not going to come to you and say, daddy I’m thirteen and I’ve got these funny things growing around my private parts. I was never taught anything about sex, about alcohol, about the dangers of smoking, drugs, women, sexually transmitted disease. Everything I learned was off the streets. I learned that sex was a bad thing and it’s not. Any of us could go out to a club and get some fuckin’ thing and fuck her for a night. When I first came over to this country it was like I was at the fuckin’ sex Olympics. It was as much as I could get. In Great Britain in the early 70’s you’d meet a chick, you’d date her and about a fuckin’ month later you’d pop a question and you’d get a yes or a no. Came here and it was like they pull you in a room. I stopped smoking four years ago. I stopped fuckin’ around on my wife—I can’t even remember. It’s been years since I’ve done that. I would not like to be your age in this world now. That’s one thing I emphasize with my kids. I came home from Ozzfest years ago with a sack full of condoms and put them in their drawers. If you’re going to start fuckin’ around make sure the guy wears one of these. It’s a matter of life and death. Every time you do it unprotected these days it’s Russian roulette. I know a lot of people that have died from AIDs. I know people that are living with AIDs. It’s not a homosexual disease or a junkie disease, now it’s become a heterosexual disease.
Are you a Bush fan?
I’ve met a lot of politicians. I met George Bush. Tony Blair was alright you know. He came up to me and he started talking music to me and I’m like there’s a war in Iraq, what the fuck are you talking to me about Ironman for? It’s weird because politicians are different people from the rest of us. They have to be I suppose because they have to be accepted across the board. One thing someone pointed out to me recently is that this country, the United States of America has every creed, every nationality, every religion you can possibly think of from around the world. So how come there are only two parties with a shit here? Same thing with England—liberals and conservatives. You’d think you’d have 25 or 30.
Did you think Bush and Blair were trying to take advantage of you?
I don’t want to talk politics. No seriously, I’ll end up saying something to you that I don’t know what I saying. . .
Fair enough. How did it feel to be at the Press Correspondents dinner with President Bush?
I was fucked up. I was drunk. I was just having fun. One thing I will tell is that I was amazed at the lack of security at the entrance considering that September 11th had happened the month before.
What was security like?
It was a joke. Every politician was sitting on a dais. My guy Tony didn’t even go through the metal detector—he went around it. It was pandemonium.
PETA wrote you a thank you letter for not having Ozzfest contestants bite the heads off bats. That sure was sweet of them. What’s your interest in animal rights?
I have lots of animals, lots of dogs. I was a drunken, drugged out loony kid. You ask your fuckin’ father, dad did you do anything you regret? And he’ll go, fuck. . . All that shit with the bats. . .if people would only start caring as much about people as they do about flies and fuckin’ insects and wombats and whatever the fuck this country would be a much better place. My father would always say that charity begins at home. There was that fuckin’ tsunami but I bet there are a lot of people in this country that could do with a few handouts. It looks good for the nation when Great Britain gives a shitload, which is cool, I’m not putting it down. But if they can afford that why are there so many hungry people and people living on our streets in this country.
Battle for Ozz fest was a hoot. If you were a Battle contestant would you have made the cut? Not now, but in my day I would’ve given it a good shot.
Would you have cared?
What people don’t take into consideration is that every week one gets dropped. So there’s this stress and tension. I didn’t really want to get involved in that. I said Sharon, you’re the manager, you have to say sorry, but you have to go now. I’m on the band’s side. You’ve gotta understand these kids are playing in bars and wedding receptions in these small towns around this country and then suddenly they’re thrown on a television show and put through all of that. They all deserve a break. They’ve never seen my world or our world. It’s a different fuckin’ world. They’ve probably never gone further than the border of their town and then suddenly whoever wins is probably going to see more of this country than many Americans have ever seen.
What would have knocked you out of the running?
I probably would’ve been fuckin’ stoned or something. When I started touring it was a different thing. There wasn’t that many bands so if you came up with a kind of music you stood out. It’s not like Ozzfest where everyone’s a singing satan.
Is music less evil these days?
It’s more angry.
The approach, I don’t know about lyrically. We didn’t throw ourselves at you. If a band now was trying to break it the way Sabbath did I don’t think it would happen. It’s like the Beatles, any milestone. It’s like the first Exorcist film freaked me out and now you go see them and they’re a thousand times scarier and the graphics are more real. To be perfectly honest with you, where do you go in a sense to see good live music? I was stunned to find out that bands in this town have to buy the tickets and get them sold. If someone gets a gig at the Whisky they have to buy the tickets and sell them or give them away to get their money back. It’s fuckin’ weird. The Whiskey was the first gig Sabbath ever played in this town. It was fuckin’ awesome.
We have a hard time imagining you washing another man’s stinky underwear. Would you ever have done someone’s stinking laundry to get a gig?
No way. I didn’t watch the show. I was in England. It was Sharon who did all that and the MTV people.
What’s the most degrading thing you had to do to further your career?
I can’t remember.
You’ve been called the Prince of Darkness. What’s been the darkest thing you’ve ever done?
Drugs. I did a lot of LSD. Heroin was the worst thing I ever did. I snorted it in Germany. I was so violently sick for months afterwards getting flus and colds. It just seemed to take everything out of my body and a few years later somebody had some in a hotel and I did a little line of it and exactly the same thing happened. Hence I didn’t become a heroin addict and I got around that by going to doctors who would give me morphine.
What did you like about LSD?
LSD was great when it was great but then you start having bad trips and it’s over. It’s like everything I ever used—it was good until it stopped working.
What was the craziest experience you ever had on LSD?
At the end I would get completely fucking psychotic and I didn’t know which was the real world and which was not. I’d want it to stop and it’d go no, now we have fun. It’s like you’re possessed by some evil spirit.
Miles Davis was known as the Dark Prince of Jazz. Did you two ever meet?
I never met him but I saw him shortly before he died at the Grammy awards. He played the whole set with his back towards the audience and never said a word. Fucking great player.
I own a Hootie and the Blowfish CD. Do you have any guilty music pleasures you don’t tell anyone about?
Whatever happened to Hootie and the Blowfish? They had that one massive album. The Sinatra collection I think is fucking great. I always start to listen to people after they died. Sinatra was fucking unbelievable. I could take you to my recording studio across there inside a little fucking room that cost a fortune to build. When they made records back in the day it would be live and it would be the band and the singer and they’d do it in one take and everybody had to learn their parts because as you were doing it it was cutting the fucking record. If you fucked a note or your voice went you were fucked and you had to do another one. The body of work he did was fucking unbelievable. He was unique. The other guy who’s still alive, Tony Bennet, fucking amazing. That man can sing his balls off.
Are there any modern groups you like?
I don’t really listen. People forget that we’re in an industry called the variety industry. You’ve got rap stations, hip hop stations, pop stations—there’s no variety on the stations. Back in the day you’d hear Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac all on the same station. It went the same for festivals and shows. You wouldn’t have an Ozzfest where you get all the same bands. The younger bands on Ozzfest are all about Ozzfest. When I’m doing Ozzfest I don’t go there until about an hour before I go on but when I get there I can feel the energy in the air. It’s quite interesting. Black Sabbath one time opened for James Taylor many, many years ago.
How did it go?
I can’t remember because I was fucked up and loaded.
Would you like to see more of that in music today?
I would. I think that’s what Lollapalooza was trying to do. It’s very admirable but it’s much easier just to do the one thing because you haven’t got too many set changes and whatever.
Level with us: What happened with the burglars?
Sharon and I were in bed and this guy came through the windows to steal $4 million of diamonds in her dressing room. I caught him and I pushed him out the window. It could’ve been worse. He could’ve killed us.
Were you scared?
No. I was angry. If I’d have pushed him out the window from the second floor I could’ve broken his fuckin’ neck. I had him in a headlock and he had a ski mask on and he was choking and I though, oh, I could kill you but then I thought I’d have to live the rest of my life knowing I’d killed somebody and I couldn’t do that.
What did it feel like?
I thought I was dreaming. Me, I’m not the fuckin’ heroic type. I’ve got baseball bats and clubs but they’re never in the right place at the right time. It was alright in the end.
What's the worst ass kicking you've ever administered?
When I used to drink a lot I’d fight sometimes but I wasn’t a good fighter. I’d just pick up the nearest object and plow it through their head which is dangerous because it’s so easy to kill someone and I don’t want to kill anybody. I’m not a violent person anymore. But if I have to, if someone gets in my house. . .he could’ve tied up my wife, rape her, and slit her fuckin’ throat. In England it’s different. Over here if someone gets in your house you can kill them. Over there if you fight them off you get arrested. I try and avoid fighting.What was the worst ass kicking you ever administered?
Have you ever been hurt onstage?
The first show of the Ozzfest, about five Ozzfest’s ago, this big fuckin’ football player jumps up onstage and I’ve got 35 gigs to go, and he puts his arms around me in a bear hug and he goes, Ozzy I love you! I can hear my ribs goin’ pop! pop! pop! I don’t know if you’ve ever had a broken rib, but if you cough it’s like someone kicked you in the fuckin’ side. It was fuckin’ agony. That thing that happened to Dimebag Daryl was just fuckin’ terrible. Why does this society still have the right to bear arms? We don’t have to circle the wagons at night. There are no fuckin’ indians fuckin’ runnin’ ‘round your house with a bow and arrow. The Alamo is over. The Civil War is over.
Was Spinal Tap true to your experiences?
When I saw Spinal Tap I didn’t think it was fuckin’ funny. I thought it was a fuckin’ documentary. Things happen worse than that. Black Sabbath after I departed bought a Stone Henge twice as big as the real Stone Henge and it took them three days to get it into the fuckin’ venue. The overtime bill was a joke. Gettin’ lost on the way to the stage is what I would do. There was one of these 80’s bands from Holland and they couldn’t speak very good English. Let’s say we were playing Philadelphia. There was a sign at the bottom of the microphone stand and I’d always change the sign around so instead of being in New York they’d say Chicago. It was fuckin’ hilarious. I always liked having fun with it all. On the Motley Crue tour I had a guy stand in the lighting truss above Mick Mars and he’d just stand there and we had a 56-pound bag of flour, just sprinkling flour on him. He aged like 500 years. He never moved.