What is one to say about Ozzy Osbourne? What hasn't already been said? He's been around longer than anyone would've guessed. Loved and hated with a reverence and ire worthy of a Kennedy, he's an institution. He has a Grammy, a record label, and an annual summer package tour that bears his name. He continues to record, he's now appearing in films and he quietly does a healthy bit of charity work. Funny thing is, Ozzy retired almost ten years ago. But what else does one do after a two-decade blackout? If Ozzy speaks and thinks at a clip that is difficult to follow, it's probably because the clean and sober self-proclaimed Godfather of Rock is still playing catch-up with life in his own inimitable way. To mark the kick off of Ozzfest 2000 this weekend, we caught up with the man himself for a free-rolling chat on heavy metal, boy bands and life next door to Pat Boone.
A lot of the kids on the Ozzfest grew up Black Sabbath fans. When you got started did you ever think you'd influence so many musicians?
When Sabbath was originally together in the Seventies, we didn't really make music. We didn't have a crystal ball that we could say, "Well, they're going to look on us as an influence." We just enjoyed what we were doing. We influenced generation after generation, and that's kind of an eye-opener for me because I didn't think anything we did was spectacular. We were only in our early twenties and we were having a lot of fun with it. We just thought of writing horror music at the beginning. I remember we thought, "Let's just write some scary music."
Is there anyone out there that scares you today?
No, not really. I've been around thirty-seven years now. I listen to music that I liked when I was younger. I occasionally listen to things by kids. But mostly, I work out a lot. I'm a fitness fanatic now. About an hour-and-a-half every day. You know what I discovered when I did retire, is that you have to have something to retire to.
Is there something new in the works?
Yes, I'm working on a new album. I think we're going to call it "Inferno." They may change it.
Yours seems to be a pretty active retirement.
How can I retire from it? It's not like a job, it's a highly paid hobby, you know. I don't work a job I hate with someone I hate and end up at sixty-five with a piece of paper saying, "He survived. Here's his pension." I don't have to get up at seven or six o'clock in the morning and go through all the traffic. Well, sometimes I do . . . but my life is a lot better than a lot of other people's right now. I suppose there's a lot of people that've got a better life than me. But I don't know, I feel very fortunate and very blessed for the life I have.
Did you feel vindicated at all by Sabbath's Grammy last year?
Every year there seems to be more and more awards shows and I think it's becoming too much. These awards most of the time are not governed by the people who buy my records. It's a body of people in the industry and they don't know f***ing sh*t. We haven't been nominated for the Hall of Fame, and it's O.K. But I just know we're not gonna win, up against people like Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton, who I've got nothing against, because I love their music very much. Believe me, I don't give a f**k if I get in or not; however, it'd be nice for my kids. But I know if a terrible plane crash or something like that happened, we'd probably get f***ing nominated. My grieving wife would go up there like a f***ing idiot and get the thing.
But TV's got so many f***ing Oscars, so many f***ing Grammys, f***ing MTV and this and that, and it's gotten out of control. I honestly think it's getting to the f***ing point where it's boring. We're in a variety industry and there's no variety.
It sounds like television befuddles you.
I mean, I'm watching the TV last night and these boy bands, you know 'N Sync and all that, which is fine . . . but what happens is that there's so many on the television that I don't know who the f**k I'm watching. They're all doing the same moves, the same choreography, and they're all singing the same f***ing song, you know? I have a problem here. I go, "Oh sh*t!" I go to my wife, "Who's this now? 'N Sync? I don't know!"
Does she know her boy bands?
I don't know, better than I do. She goes, "Look at this, it's a f***ing joke." But she won't change the channel.
Like watching a car wreck?
"Oh look at the poor guy's guts. Oh, oh my god, don't look!" But I gotta look.
Speaking of visual mediums, I hear you're making your big-screen debut soon.
It's a really hard role to play. I'm playing myself. I must say the film sounds very, very interesting. As far as I know, it's about the devil having three sons. You got two bad sons, but what if the devil could have one good son? I don't know where they got that from. The two bad sons come up to earth and he sends the one good son to get them back and obviously they like Ozzy Osbourne music so I have to capture one of them or something like that. I must say that Adam Sandler and everyone involved on the film were absolutely wonderful. It's called Little Nicky, and it's coming out at the end of the year.
Do you find it harder to perform today than yesteryear?
No, I'm forever working on myself. I'm forever trying to quit something or stop something or slow down something. I'm fifty-one now, and I'm at that age where I'm thinking it hurts when I do that and I'll get a headache if I do that and I'll feel sick if I do that. So I don't do it. But it's not as easy as that, so I have to go to different therapy groups you know. I've been working on it for a long time. I don't drink, I don't take drugs, and I must've quit smoking 80,000 times now. That's the most addictive sh*t that I've ever put in my body. And being a singer, it's the worst possible thing I could do. It's like a professional runner kicking the wall all day long. One of the reasons I wanted to quit was that my singing was being affected by my addiction to tobacco. But rather than throwing the tobacco away, I started thinking, maybe I've done enough and I don't need to work. But I always said as long as the kids want to see me and as long as I'm pretty clear able to do it, I'll do it. But rather than quit smoking, I was denying myself the greatest pleasure of my life, the reason for me being here, was those people out there. Well, not all of them, but a lot of people get enjoyment out of seeing me perform. I hope.
Some parents in New Mexico still like to think of you as a drug-addled heathen.
That's fine. One of their fathers wouldn't want to hear me sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," that's fine also. It's a big country, America is. I had someone call me the other day on the Howard Stern show and they said "my mother died and so and so and if it hadn't been for 'Goodbye to Romance,' it helped get me through that grieving part of my life." I always hear from people who won't let their children hear Ozzy Osbourne, but I get letters by the bagful from people who say that, "'See You on the Other Side' has helped me."
I'm sick and tired of hearing this whole black side of it. I mean, I did a lot of work for the Make a Wish Foundation. I was seeing a lot of fans and whatnot. I mean, we ain't got a bad day, babe. On your worst possible day you ain't got it bad. I see these poor kids of fourteen and seventeen and they've got so many f***ing tubes sticking out of them that you don't know if they're human or a car engine, you know? And on a lot of occasions they would die shortly afterwards. And I did a service to them. And nobody ever writes about that because I don't really go on about that. But it kind of gets a bit thin when it's all, "Did you really bite the head off a bat?" It gets so f***ing boring I can't even tell it. "Did you piss on the Alamo?" Yeah. If you don't know the answer, then you must've been living on a different f***ing planet. But people are amazed when they come to my house that I don't hang upside down from the rafters with blood-curdled corn flakes in the morning. I don't read Satanic books all day long. And I don't f***ing practice devil worship.
So what frightens you as a parent?
More than the music and the movies and whatever, this country's got a real serious f***ing problem with firearms. I mean I was as disgusted as anyone else by the school shootings, this Columbine thing. I have kids that go to high school myself. What I do with my kids is tell them the f***ing truth. You'd be amazed at how quickly kids get to know things. Rather than getting down on the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, start lobbying Congress about the amount of f***ing firearms out there. I'm sick of f***ing Charlton Heston saying, "It's not guns that kill people; it's people that kill people," which is the biggest load of sh*t I've ever heard in my life.
On a more cheerful note, what's it like living next door to Pat Boone?
I was kind of shy towards him because I kind of got the opinion he was the white all-American boy. But as it happens, he's turned out to be a very nice guy. Very accommodating, a very nice person to have as a neighbor, never complains about anything. Believe me, he'd have plenty of occasion to complain with the f***ing crowd that comes out of these doors. It could be like Family-f***ing-Feud, it's like God living next to the devil. He's a nice guy. But I mean, I'm a nice guy, you know. It's hard work to be an asshole.
Are you surprised that you're still making music?
I thought we'd make one album. And I took it to my mum and said, "Look mum, I made a record." And everything after that was a big huge surprise. I don't like surprises.
I like nice surprises. I don't like bad surprises.
Do you consider your career a nice surprise?
Sometimes I stop and I go where the f**k did the time go, you know?