Ozzy Osbourne is nervous. He's about to begin the Night of Merry Mayhem tour, his first solo outing in seven years, which kicks off in Tucson on Halloween night. A hard-rock living legend who has just released his first studio album in six years, the excellent Down to Earth (Epic/Sony), Osbourne is worried that the crowds might just stay home this time around.
Or at least he was when we spoke to him on October 4, when the numbness of the events of September 11 was finally starting to recede. Osbourne repeatedly strayed back to discussing the climate in the wake of the attacks; he watched the events unfold from a rooftop in New York City before heading across the street to a church with his wife and manager, Sharon.
Along the way, we also managed to discuss Chihuahuas and falling off the wagon, and Ozzy was incredibly affable, if occasionally a bit befuddled. What follows is an abbreviated version of our conversation.
Tucson Weekly: Ozzy! How are you?
Ozzy: All right, this fucking terrorist thing, I mean, I was watching the TV. So many airlines are going out of business now.
TW: It's insane. It's kind of brought this country to a standstill financially.
Ozzy: I hope there's a light at the end of the tunnel, y'know? We're going out on the road, and I hope people want to get some rock and roll. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that something like this would ever happen.
Hold on, hold on one second. [Screaming] Connie!! Strangle that fucking dog, will you!!! [Back] I've got a doggie; I got a Chihuahua and he's got a bark like Satan's uncle. He's about three inches tall. He's got the biggest bark in the world, and he barks at anything. He drives me nuts!
TW: Do you have more than one?
Ozzy: Lots of them. [Voice raised] Throw him in the ocean, Tom! ... You know, ehhhh, people ... I think there's a strong case of overreaction in a lot of areas, yeah. Because, mind you, the news doesn't do anything to help it. I'm watching the fuckin' news and they're goin', "This is what happens when you get anthrax [the interview took place prior to the recent anthrax incidents], and when you get all the, uh, smallpox." I'm sitting there, I'm looking for spots at the end of the fuckin' thing. But no need to worry. I've heard people say it's very hard to weaponize these fuckin' [things]. The media should stop fuckin' scaring people, 'cause everybody's running out fuckin' buying gas masks and guns, y'know! You should be giving people hope, y'know.
TW: Yeah, absolutely.
Ozzy: And last night I was watching that Saddam, uh, bin Laden has got the tactical nuclear weapons from Russia, and I'm going, "Oh fuck," y'know, "I need more good news."
TW: We don't know what we're up against.
Ozzy: Well, tell you what, don't forget, this is a charming bunch of fuckin' foes, this is true. Let's talk about life, or something more fun. Like my record or something.
TW: Fair enough. I haven't heard the new record yet; I think it's on the way. But how much is it influenced by the bands that appear on Ozzfest?
Ozzy: Not at all. When they asked me to do an album, I thought, "Well, where does Ozzy fit in this climate?" A woman called Polly Anthony from the record company said, "You know what you can do? Be Ozzy." And that's what I did. Zakk [Wylde, Ozzy's guitarist]'s playing is very current, but I'm not going [adopts scary, Satanic voice], "I wanna see your Satan!" I'm not growling down the fucking thing. It's a definite Ozzy album. There's some hard tracks, some rock tracks, some ballads. There's some psychedelic tracks. There's a track on there that I co-wrote with a guy called Marty Frederiksen and Mick Jones from Foreigner two years ago; it's called "Dreamer." You should listen to it; it's kind of like Ozzy's "Imagine," y'know? It's so perfect for today's climate. But then you're talkin' about, there's a list of songs they banned from the airwaves, y'know! They banned "Imagine"; they banned "New York, New York"; they banned "Bridge over Troubled Water."
TW: Yeah, it's unbelievable.
Ozzy: "Leaving on a Jet Plane," all these stupid fucking songs. I think "Bridge over Troubled Water" is a great song for people to hear now. And "Imagine."
TW: Yeah, "Imagine" is perfect right now.
Ozzy: But you wait 'til you hear "Dreamer." It's on the same vibe as "Imagine." It's a beautiful song. [Sounding somewhat wistful] I'm really proud of that song, y'know.
TW: I can't wait to hear it. How long are you planning on touring with this record? A year or two?
Ozzy: I think I start in your hometown, there.
TW: Oh yeah, I know, but are you going to be out for a while?
Ozzy: 'Til New Year's Eve.
TW: Not too bad, then. You're starting the tour in Arizona, and you're ending it here [in Phoenix].
TW: Any reason?
Ozzy: [Laughing] I don't know, y'know? Well, I think Arizona's a good rock place. Alice Cooper lives there in Arizona. The guys from um, um [voice in background says, "Megadeth"], Megadeth. Any more questions?
TW: I could talk to you forever, Ozzy.
Ozzy: [Laughs] Go on then.
TW: How long ya been clean?
Ozzy: I'm not clean.
Ozzy: I go out now and again, y'know? One thing I'm not is a liar. I'm not going to tell you I've been fucking clean for three, five years. Every now and again I go off the wagon, but I'm just getting tired of it now. I liked it when it first started, but it always ends up in fuckin' misery, y'know. It's not very often now.
TW: So when you go off the wagon, what do you do? Drink?
Ozzy: As much as I can, as fast as I can. But I can't stand them fuckin' meetings; they drive me crazy.
TW: Do you just drink for one night, or will it be like a week or something?
Ozzy: It varies. One night, two nights, three nights; and then my wife says, "You better, you know ..." When I wanna wake up on my own, I know it's time to stop, y'know. Can you give me one more question, 'cause I gotta move on, man? You must have a gut-wrenching thing that you've always wanted to ask, but you don't have the guts to. Ask me whatever you want.
TW: You're putting me on the spot, Ozzy.
TW: I don't know, man. Let me just say that Tucson's excited you're coming on Halloween.
Ozzy: [Genuinely concerned] Do you think it'll sell?