Black Sabbath‘s current tour is called “The End,” but to Ozzy Osbourne, it feels like a new beginning. The farewell tour, which runs through November in the States and wraps in February with a gig in Sabbath’s hometown of Birmingham, England, has featured some of the band’s best shows ever. “I used to resent going out on the road,” he says. “But now it’s fun. Nobody gets stoned. Nobody gets drunk. We’ve been doing some great shows.”
The band, which launched the trek in January, decided that touring was better than making a final LP both because, the singer says, “we’d be in our seventies by the time we finished and album” and because of the state of the record industry. “You can’t make as much money selling records anymore,” the singer says. “If we weren’t selling out concerts, I wouldn’t be on tour. People want to see live music, and that is great.”
The singer’s personal life is another matter – all he’ll say about his rocky relationship with wife Sharon is that “it’s great,” although since this interview took place he has announced he’s undergoing therapy for sex addiction. But regardless, Osbourne has been maintaining a full schedule this year.
In addition to the tour, he’s partnered with Slipknot to resurrect Ozzfest for a California one-off, which Black Sabbath will play next month. Osbourne also co-stars in a new History Channel series, Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour (airing Sunday nights at 10 p.m. EST), in which he and his son, Jack, road-trip to various historical sites. “I’m doing it between gaps in the tour, which means I don’t get a break,” Ozzy says. “But it’s OK. Jack and I are getting on great.”
In 1982, you were arrested for allegedly peeing on the Alamo. You revisited the site for the show. Were you nervous about going back?
Yes. I warned the producers: “Go to the Alamo, something will happen.” And then there was a fucking riot when we got there. [A crowd showed up] and started going nuts. It was scary.
While you were there, you learned that, back in the 1980s, you had been arrested there for intoxication, not for public urination. Did that make you feel any better?
I felt no different. I’d still gotten arrested.
What does it mean to you to be doing this show with your son, Jack?
For years I was always on the road or stoned or in jail for something or other. And I thought, “Well, he’s had his second child. He’s working his butt off. I should do it.”
You’re a World War II buff. What got you interested in it?
I was born in ’48. As a kid in England, I used to play on bomb sites. The insanity of it all got me interested. If Hitler honestly thought he was going to rule the world with people following him, he must have been fucking insane. He tried to invade Russia . . . that’s, like, four time zones. Even with 3 million men marching, it ain’t gonna last.
There was news this year about the possibility that Hitler had a micropenis.
He had a what?
Oh, I haven’t read that. I always thought he was gay. Back then, being gay was a criminal offense. When he would go to [vacation spot] Berchtesgaden, his cleaners would check to see if there were any stains on his blankets. And there never were any. He couldn’t have been having sex with Eva Braun.
It’s funny, though, that this is what people are talking about 70 years later.
They’re not gonna say he had a big dick. People would be, “Why did you kill him?” [Laughs]
You’re currently on Black Sabbath’s farewell tour, 48 years after the band formed. Has that been emotional for you?
It hasn’t been emotional at all. It’s sad that it’s the last tour, but this is the best fun I’ve ever had.
Some bands, like the Who, have launched farewell tours only to come back a few years later. Is Black Sabbath’s current tour really the end for the band?
We’re definitely finishing in Birmingham. We’re not going to re-form after five years and say, “Because of public demand …” Black Sabbath has been up and down and ’round the mulberry bush so many times. It’s good to end it on an up note.
What do you think of when you think of the old days of Sabbath?
Well, we were young kids. We formed a band. We got successful and the manager ran off with the fucking money. We didn’t start playing music to be accountants. We should have. For those 10 years we were together originally, we learned as we went along. At the end of the 10 years, I was fucking insane. We started fighting our manager. Then we fought the lawyers. In the end, we were fighting each other. I had to get out.
Well, they kicked you out and that’s when you started your solo career.
Tony was right when he said I wasn’t really into it anymore. When you write something with someone and it becomes a fucking burden rather than an achievement because of the fact that most of our royalties were going to pay our legal fees.
The last-ever Black Sabbath show will be in Birmingham in February. Does that make you feel sad at all? That’s it forever.
Not really. Right now I’m having a blast. I suppose I may have a different head on when we do the last show. I’m sad that Bill [Ward, Black Sabbath’s original drummer] never came through.
You and he shared some strong words in the press after he claimed he wasn’t offered a fair contract for the reunion. Will you be asking him to play the last show?
I don’t know. Every time I reach out to Bill I get yelled at for something. If something can be worked out, great. Tommy [Clufetos, Black Sabbath’s touring drummer] is doing a great job.
This year, you’re doing a one-date revival of Ozzfest, which broke a lot of young bands back in the day. What new artists do you like?
The band opening for Black Sabbath right now, Rival Sons. I saw them at an awards show and said, “Sharon, you’ve got to get them on the tour.” They remind me of the bands you’d see in the Seventies that were on a mission. They’re gonna be really big.
You named a stage on Ozzfest this year after Lemmy. Why did you want to commemorate him that way?
Lemmy was a dear friend of ours. People just think he was a smoking, slot-machine guy drinking booze. But there was a lot more to Lemmy. He was a very clever guy. He was into being a successful rock star, but that was it. He deserves a stage named after him. He was one of the founding forefathers of the music that we play. He was great. He recorded on 27 fucking albums for Christ’s sake.
“I don’t mind country, but the ‘Prince of Darkness’ with a cowboy hat? I’m a rock & roller, not a fucking country bumpkin.”
A lot of rock singers, like Steven Tyler, are beginning to make country records. Would you—
[Interrupts] Not me, thank you. Personally, I think you should stick to what you know best. If Steven’s having a good time with it, who am I to complain? But it would be absurd for me to do that. I don’t mind country, but the “Prince of Darkness” with a cowboy hat? I’m a rock & roller, not a fucking country bumpkin.
You tried retirement once, in the early Nineties, and it didn’t take. Why was that?
I was still going out and breaking my body. But I’ve cleaned my act up immensely since then. I don’t drink anymore. I don’t do drugs anymore. And I’m still having fun at the age of 67.
What will you be doing after the Sabbath tour?
I’m going to continue solo. I haven’t really thought about it, honestly.
Sharon recently said, “I don’t want Ozzy singing ‘Crazy Train’ at 75.” Do you want to retire?
I’m going to continue solo. I don’t know if I want to tour extensively much more, but I will still keep my fingers in the pie. As for singing “Crazy Train” at 75, we’ll see.