Metal fans waited impatiently for six years for a follow-up to Ozzy Osbourne’s 1995 hit album Ozzmosis. They were rewarded in late 2001 with a new studio recording titled Down To Earth.
Of course, during that period, Ozzy was far from inactive, focusing a lot of time and energy on shepherding the successful Ozzfest tours.
Inaugurated in 1996, Osbourne’s traveling show has introduced fans of all subsets of metal/hard rock music to a wide range of acts, including Godsmack, Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, System of a Down and Velvet Revolver (until 2006, Ozzy typically headlined either as a solo performer or as part of a reunited Black Sabbath, sharing the Main Stage with other top acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Pantera, Marilyn Manson and Megadeth).
Working for the first time on a solo project without the aid of Black Sabbath cohort Geezer Butler, he surrounded himself with a supergroup of supporters, including Zakk Wylde on guitar, Suicidal Tendencies’ (and, after, Metallica’s) Rob Trujillo on bass and Faith No More’s drummer Mike Bordin on drums. The resulting recording highlighted all aspects of Ozzy’s songwriting expertise, serving up fine examples of what keeps fans happy — from straight-up metal in songs like “Gets Me Through” and “Facing Hell” to introspective ballads such as “You Know” and “Dreamer.”
So, when Sony Records and Sharon Osbourne asked photographer Nitin Vadukul to come up with an image for the cover of Ozzy’s upcoming record release, the guidance he was given was to “think dark” (he is the Master of Darkness after all, isn’t he?).
Having photographed a wide range of other artists (from Radiohead and Moby to Mudvayne and Korn, as well as Dr. Dre and Eminem), you would think that Nitin would have been prepared to deal with the imagined extremes of such a photo session, but he found himself caught off guard by one aspect of Ozzy’s personality that shaped the entire creative process.
So, cue up the maniacal laughter from “Crazy Train” and read on…
In the words of the photographer, Nitin Vadukul (interviewed Nov./Dec. 2007)
“I was very pleased to get a call from Sharon Osbourne asking me to come up with ideas for Ozzy’s upcoming record, which was going to be called Down to Earth. I had never photographed Ozzy before but was always a huge Black Sabbath fan. Sony Records had actually recommended me for the shoot, as I had worked with them many times. The ideas I was to develop would create an image that would possibly be used for the cover, but there was no guarantee. I would have three days to work with Ozzy and develop several ideas.
The label and arist management people who were involved with the project were truly amazing — they gave me total freedom to create and then just picked the ideas they liked that I came up with. I feel that this is the best kind of working relationship, because you get to use all of your creativity, and the input from the featured subjects will often go on to inspire your final designs and, ultimately, the final product. The only specific direction I got was from Sharon, who said, ‘Think dark’.
The initial inspiration came from my first meeting with Ozzy, because I had never seen a human being with so many tattoos and amazing gothic jewelry in my entire life! That introduction made me think of the person behind all that; I wanted to know what was inside him.