Ozzy Osbourne is back with a real 'Scream'

The legendary singer admits that his newest album has a different vibe to it
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 “Even Jesus Christ wasn’t always wonderful,” says Ozzy. “Isn’t there one time when he goes ‘F**k, I don’t feel like giving a speech on this mountain.’?” Joseph Cultice photos courtesy of Sony Music.

“Even Jesus Christ wasn’t always wonderful,” says Ozzy. “Isn’t there one time when he goes ‘F**k, I don’t feel like giving a speech on this mountain.’?” Joseph Cultice photos courtesy of Sony Music.

By Carol Anne Szel

He is the man behind the curtain we’re not supposed to see. The man who will give us the heart, the brain, the way home. The mystic, the all-knowing, all-powerful Oz. Talking about everything from Jesus on the mountaintop to a woman’s obsession with shoes, Ozzy Osbourne takes us on the yellow brick road into his home, his mind and, at times, into his soul, as I settle in for the journey of my life.

“I’ve never spent that much time on any record I’ve ever made,” Ozzy says of his latest release, “Scream,” his first album in three years. “We started it about a year and a half ago. I mean, we didn’t do it for a year and a half every day. We’d go in. Do a bit. Then do something else and go back to it.”

This notorious prince of darkness has recorded 10 studio albums with Black Sabbath, sold upwards of 50 million records worldwide as a solo artist, sold out record crowds around the world, several times over. He has played at the Moscow Peace Festival, the Us Festival, Live Aid, and performed at Queen Elizabeth’s 50th Jubilee celebration at Buckingham Palace. Furthermore, he has dined with President Bush at the Washington Correspondents Association Dinner, won multiple Grammy Awards, had his own MTV reality show “The Osbournes,” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and launched the first national music festival dedicated to hard rock music called OZZfest.

On “Scream,” Ozzy relates that with his songwriting style, “I find it hard to write about boy meets girl and they fall out and the rain comes down and the sun shines and they’re up in the cloud of bulls**t.” He explains, “I go for the melody. One thing I got from The Beatles: they always had great, great melodies and great harmonies. You’re like ‘what the f**k is that about?’ But it fits the song, you know.”

Produced by Ozzy, along with Kevin Churko, who also worked on Osbourne’s 2007 platinum selling “Black Rain” release, Ozzy explains that with “Scream” they enmeshed old school with current technology. “In the past we’d find a place to go and start to play with my band and just jam when we feel like jamming,” Osbourne says. “But on this one, (with) Kevin Churko, we laid the foundations and my band played against the foundations. So I kind of lose a spiritual charge kind of thing, when you build it the way they do it now. I’m not disappointed. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. But to me, I like to get the band thing, you know, rather than put the band on afterwards.”

He is adamant, however, when he says “It’s an Ozzy album, but he (Churko) worked the buttons and pushed the knobs and got the sounds. With Kevin, I was under the impression that you can’t get a heavy sound on digital. But that’s bulls**t because the stuff on this album is very, very heavy.”

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With most of the tunes on “Scream,” co-written with Churko, Ozzy laments, “My thing is the lyrics. With lyrics I have a problem, because I’ll start something, I’ll get into something, but then I have to get out. So what I do ... Kevin and I will bounce things back and forth. For instance, I think it was ‘Let Me Hear You Scream,’ it was written seven times.” That song is the first single; it debuted in the Top Five on the Mainstream Rock Chart and Top Ten on the Active Rock chart, and was featured in an episode of “CSI: NY.” “There’s a bunch of other sets of lyrics. One day I will release all the other verses!”

Explaining his iconic style and musical freedom, Ozzy explains, “Being Ozzy Osbourne and stuck behind the Satan image and crazy guy, it restricts you to what you can do. This album, to me, has some Sabbath vibes in there, some Ozzy vibes, and some up-to-date things, but not too much.”

When the topic of music and the direction the industry is taking comes up, Ozzy insists, “Well that’s a good question, because I’m f**ked if I know. There are times when I walk around with my head in my rear end.”

He recalls, “I was out on Sunset (Strip) a while ago with Sharon, where there’s a bookshelf, where I always get the British newspapers. And I said, ‘Let’s go to Tower Records and see if they’ve got the new Sheryl Crow record.’ So I go in, and it’s empty at, like, 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I said, ‘Do you have the Sheryl Crow?’ And he said, ‘Yeah I’ve got lots of them; how many do you want?’ I didn’t understand what he was trying to get at. Then the following week, it was gone. That’s what’s happening. Everyone’s gone from reality to unreality in the respect that they all want to sit in their f**king houses now on their computers. So everybody has gone inward into their cave, if you like. We have to go to the f**kin’ JC Penney and all that s**t and to coffee shops now to buy music, which is kind of sad. It’s probably a similar thing when silent movies went over to talkie movies. All of the sudden, it kind of disappeared.”

On the other hand, Ozzy lends a sympathetic tone to musicians today. “I was also shocked to find out what young bands have to do now when they get signed to a record company. They take part of their publishing, their concessions, their gig money. It’s, like, ridiculous.” He reflects, “At the same time I’ve been so lucky to have my career. I’ve had such good fortune. I’m just plodding on, you know. People say, ‘Are you retiring?’ But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger. And if the crowd starts to thin, diminish, then I’ll see it as a sign that it’s time to hang up my microphone. I don’t want to go from arenas to bars, you know?”

To his massive amount of fans, and to himself, retirement’s not in the cards, as Ozzy remains as relevant today as he did when he first started playing music more than 40 years ago. As far as the reason for his longevity, Osbourne responds, “I don’t know. I don’t particularly want to know. But I’m glad. I was thinking if somebody like Journey, or somebody like that ... I mean, they used to fill football stadiums. Some bands end up playing in small clubs. I can’t do that.”

And for artists with staying power, Ozzy cites one of his musical inspirations. “I always have been, and still am, a Paul McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Ringo Starr, Beatles fanatic,” he enthuses. “McCartney. I mean, this guy’s sixty-f**kin’-six, man, and he still gets those notes. I mean, I have a problem getting them notes. He motivates me.”

“I met Paul McCartney on a few occasions, and Ringo Starr. Not the others. And, unfortunately somebody got the one, sadly. I remember where I was. Exactly where I was, when it was, what time of the day it was. I was in Wales. I was writing and rehearsing and Sharon calls me up and says, ‘You’ll never guess what happened.’ She says, ‘John Lennon got shot last night.’ My world just f**kin’ stopped. It was like when Kennedy got done, you know. But a f**kin’ guy like Lennon ... it just stopped my world.”

He ponders, “I mean, I never saw them play. How great would it have been if they hadn’t shot Lennon and he hadn’t died such a horrible death? If they’d ever gotten back together, they would have taken over again.”

As for the best of his musical catalog, Ozzy says, “I don’t have a favorite song per se. There are albums I like more than others. I mean ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ with Randy Rhoads was special, a very special album. ‘Bark at the Moon’ was OK, considering what I was going through emotionally. Then it was ‘The Ultimate Sin,’ which was ‘I can take it or leave it.’ Some good songs, but I felt I could have recorded it better.”

“The next big album for me was ‘No More Tears,’ Ozzy says of the album that produced five singles and went four times platinum. “That’s still a great album. I still like hearing them songs.”

Getting back to 2010, Ozzy Osbourne proclaims that, “This one, ‘Scream,’ has a different kind of vibe When I hear an old album, like an old Sabbath album I was singing, I always go back to the feeling that I had when I did the album. I go with the melody. We get the melody first. The lyrics and the melody. My father used to say, ‘If you haven’t got a melody, you haven’t got a song.’ I mean, God bless his soul. But I think if he heard hip-hop now he’d be f**kin’ talking. The hip hop stuff, I mean, some of the lyrics are phenomenal, they really are. So if you’ve got a great lyric, why don’t you put a great vocal melody with it? Some of it, I don’t mind if you’ve got a bit of a song and some rap and then a melody with it, you know?”

With a band made up of drummer Tommy Clufetos, bassist Blasko, keyboardist Adam Wakeman, and new guitarist, Gus G., Ozzy talks about the change that came with the departure of Zakk Wylde. “It’s not changed that much, apart from the fact that I thought I was beginning to sound like, um ... what’s his band called? Zakk’s band. My brain, it just started on the left side. Black Label Society. I started to sound like Black Label Society.”

Ozzy insists that Wylde wasn’t fired. “I don’t want anyone to think for one minute that I fired him. I never fired him. He never left. There was nothing to leave. Because all he was doing was his gig and mine. It kind of got to us crashing into each other. But I had to let go, because it’s me rather than him.”

Osbourne hopes fans give guitarist Gus G. a fair shake. “Just give Gus a chance, ’cause there was a time when Zakk was a new guy. Jake E. Lee was a new guy. Randy Rhoads was a new guy. Give him a chance; just check him out. Don’t expect Zakk, because he ain’t Zakk.”

Gus plays the songs like they were written as they were. “That’s not to say Zakk’s bad. Zakk’s phenomenal; I love him. I’m still very good, very friendly. His band’s doing great. We even went —he and his wife, me and Sharon — out to dinner with him a couple of nights ago.”

With the release set for June 22, Ozzy is headed out on the road to support “Scream,” and, of course, on the summer-long OzzFest tour. “We’re on the road for the next year and a half,” he says. “I mean, with touring, I have a love-hate relationship. I love it when it’s going great, and I don’t like it when I’m not singing as good. I’m not going to do, like, a straight 18 months. I’m going to do like five or six weeks on, a few weeks off. So we’re going to have gaps.”

Life on the road,

So just what can fans expect from the tour? “I’m trying to do some different songs, but I’m going to sit down with my band and go through the list. I mean, I have such a body of work to choose from, between Sabbath and my own. I mean, it’s amazing how much. I’ve been doing this thing for 42 years now. I’m amazing,” he laughs.

“I don’t smoke anymore. I don’t do drugs anymore. I don’t drink anymore.” he proudly tells me. As for his family, Ozzy insists, “My kids do what they want, you know, as long as it’s not illegal or stupid. But, mind you, we’re all guilty of doing stupid things sometimes.” But, he adds, “My family is really cool. But that can change in a f**kin’ five-second blast.”

In fact, his son, Jack, is filming a documentary of sorts on his famous father. “I said ‘Jack, don’t just do things that make me look like a f**kin’ saint. I’m not a saint.’ Because, you know, you see some guy on the biography channel or something, and they’ll say how wonderful he is. Well, even Jesus Christ wasn’t always wonderful. Isn’t there one time when he goes ‘F**k, I don’t feel like giving a speech on this mountain.’?”

But in all of his true Ozzy dichotomy, as we end our talk he tells me, “Love you, God bless you. Stay safe now.”

Indeed.

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Read a Goldmine review of Ozzy's album, "Scream."