Osbourne feels Ozzfest phenomenon is ducky


July 21, 2006


Like the proverbial cockroach after the nuclear holocaust, veteran Black Sabbath vocalist and heavy-metal icon Ozzy Osbourne is indomitable.

Ozzy has survived 57 years of hard living; a 2003 wipe-out on an all-terrain vehicle on his estate in Buckinghamshire, England; his wife Sharon's 2002 bout with cancer; a home life that has been anything but quiet (as depicted on TV's "The Osbournes") and, now, 11 years of the daylong traveling rock tour Ozzfest.

This year, in order to spice up the venerable jaunt, Ozzy is performing in his solo guise on the smaller and rowdier second stage, as he gears up to release not one but two albums this fall. We spoke by phone from his English estate just before the tour started.

Q. Tell me about playing on the second stage, Ozzy.

A. Well, I'm trying to have fun, because the Sabbath thing came to an end. Initially, it was great, because I hadn't played with them, and a lot of people hadn't seen them. But I have to be honest: I wanted to do something different this year, from my own head. So my wife, she yells jump, and I do! But that's what I love doing.

So Sharon suggested the second stage to me, but Blasko from my band [Rob "Blasko" Nicholson], who was the bass player for Rob Zombie, said to me, "Get ready for the f---ing experience of your life, because it's like playing in a f---ing soup bowl!" With the main stage, I can't see anything except for the f---ing roof! I always wanted to get in the middle of the s---; I like being able to touch the kids, you know -- though I won't be doing any f---ing stage dives, so they should get that out of their heads!

But what else I'm doing right now is writing a new album -- two albums, actually. I have my own studio, a Pro Tools system in my guest house. We've got 24 backing tracks, and I have to sing the vocals, but it's been so long since I've done an album. [Guitarist] Zakk [Wylde] is on the album, and he's going to be on the tour.

Q. You're making two separate albums?

A. Yeah, it's two different albums. I'm not using a producer; I've got a good engineer, and I'm just telling him what I want. No arguing! Zakk is f---ing unbelievable, with riff after riff after riff. I like to do an album with a rocker, a ballad, an epic and some general Ozzy-type vibe songs.

Q. Ozzfest has been going for quite some time now.

A. I think it's the 12th year. [Note: It's actually the 11th.] Last year was a bad year for me, because I had done New York first, and I got this really bad chest infection. My lungs were full of crap, and it plagued me through the tour; my voice was going. But the thing about Ozzfest is that once you start the wheels rolling, you can't stop.

Q. Did you ever think it would become as popular as it is?

A. Absolutely not! I'd say to Sharon, "Well, how long are you going to give it?" And she'd say, "Forever!" She'd sound like a f---ing tarot card reader, but I'd go out and think, "Oh, f--- me, it's going to go down the s---hole!" Then it got bigger and bigger, and now it's got its own steam. My wife is a force of nature -- she's my manager, and she knows what she's doing, but I haven't got a clue.

Q. Well, you each have different talents. But you'll keep doing it as long as Sharon keeps saying that it works?

A. Yeah! I can hardly say it's a f---ing bad job, you know? I go out for a couple months every year, and I don't have to get up at 7 a.m., get into traffic and go to a job that I hate, working with someone that I hate, and I can't look at my wife until 6 p.m. I have a blessed life, and the audience has kept me there. I'm more than grateful.

When Sharon got sick, I wouldn't let anybody talk to me about cancer or anything -- it freaked me out! Then I went onstage in Denver, and I don't know what made me do this, but I said, "I've got some news from the home front: Sharon is kicking this cancer's ass!" And the whole f---ing arena went, "Yeah!" That's one thing about American people: They give you the support.

Q. Now you both have a second lease on life.

A. If you recover from a near-death experience like Sharon or myself, I suppose when you come out of it, you either go overboard with work, or you don't want to do anything. When I came off of the bike, I broke my neck, cracked my ribs, my lungs were full of blood, my heart stopped twice, I was in a coma for eight days and I just went, "I'm going home!" The doctors said, "You can't." And I said, "Watch me!" And I walked out.

On the tour, what my wife and I are doing -- we always drive everywhere. I said, "Why don't we just get a nice bus? We've never seen the Grand Canyon. There are all these things in America that we've never seen! The kids are all grown up, and we haven't spent much time together." So that was the idea.





Though the notion of seeing Ozzy rocking the second stage is definitely the draw for Ozzfest 2006, there are several other highlights during the long, hard day of headbanging.

The main stage performers at Alpine Valley tomorrow include prog-metal champions System of a Down, who released not one but two strong albums last year (and who are always even better onstage); New Wave of Heavy Metal throwbacks Avenged Sevenfold, who are touring behind their gold album "City of Evil"; Chicago's inexplicably popular masters of angst, Disturbed, who scored another hit with their last album "Ten Thousand Fists"; the hard-core band Hatebreed; the Italian gothic metal band Lacuna Coil, and English metalheads Dragon Force, who are supporting their U.S. debut, "Inhuman Rampage."

Second stage acts include Black Label Society, the band led by Ozzy's pal, the occasionally wank-prone guitarist Zakk Wylde; Atreyu, the Southern California metalcore quartet; the Orange County, Calif., screamo band Bleeding Through; the Massachusetts metalcore combo Unearth, and the Christian alternative metal band Norma Jean.