Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne, photographed in Los Angeles last December; Wylde is clutching a Wylde Audio Warhammer. Photocredit: Jen Rosenstein
Ultimately, Everybody has to say goodbye in one way or another, but for musicians, saying āfarewellā seems to be in vogue. In 2018, Elton John, Slayer, Paul Simon and Lynyrd Skynyrd are all hitting the road for what they say will be the last timeāand no doubt theyāll see high-priced ticket sales soar. Now you can add Ozzy Osbourne to the growing list of road-weary rockersāthe Prince of Darkness recently announced his No More Tours 2 run, a two-year trek across the globe in which heāll bid a fond āThatās all, folks!ā to his loyal fans.
The Oz man is an old hand at this farewell tour thing: Last year, he, along with cofounding members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, brought the curtain down on Black Sabbath, and before then, in 1992, he set out on his No More Tours excursion, although he reneged on his solo act adieu three years later, returning to the stage in 1995 for the Retirement Sucks Tour. His current road run is a winking acknowledgement of his first, short-lived exit, only this time he swears he really means itāheās done with touring.
āOkay, but letās be clear about what this really is,ā he says. āThis isnāt a real āfarewellā tour. I keep saying that to peopleāIām not retiring; Iām just not going to tour the world anymore. Iāll still do gigs occasionally. Maybe Iāll do a Vegas thing or something. But Iām not going away forever or anything like that. Itās a āno more toursā tour.ā
For some artists, farewell tours owe to circumstances such as advancing age or ill healthāearlier this year, Neil Diamond announced his retirement from the road after being diagnosed with Parkinsonās disease. Osbourne, who cited what turned out to be a false diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as his reason for his first No More Tours excursion, claims heās feeling fine. He simply wants to make the most of the rest of his life. āYou have to understandāIāve always been on the road,ā he says. āIāve been doing this for 50 years. I never saw my kids grow up. I was like a fair-weather father. Now Iāve got grandkids from my son Jack, and I want to spend time with them. I used to go away for long spells and come home for short spells. Now I want to reverse that.ā
Joining Osbourne for his final solo tour are longtime band members Rob āBlaskoā Nicholson (bass), Tommy Clufetos (drums) and Adam Wakeman (keyboards), and highlighting the lineup is the addition of Ozzyās main axe cohort of the past 30 years, Zakk Wylde. The irrepressible, hirsute guitar legend, who resumed working with Osbourne last year after an eight-year-break (during which time he was replaced by Firewind six-stringer Gus G), has his own account for why his employer is packing it in.
āIāll give it to you straight,ā he says with the kind of chuckle that indicates heās being anything but. āLast year, Oz came to me with some inside information. He said, āAll the money youāve made with me, and all the money youāve made since then with Black Label Society and everything else, I want you to put it all on Conor McGregor for the fight heās got with Floyd Mayweather.ā I was like, āReally?ā He goes, āIām tellinā you, do it. Everything Iāve ever made with Sabbath, the solo stuff, the TV show, you name itāIām bettinā it all on McGregor. Trust me, Iāve got inside information.ā ā
The August 2017 fight was scheduled to go 12 rounds, but Mayweather Jr. prevailed, winning a TKO against McGregor in the 10th round. āIt was so sad!ā Wylde wails dramatically. āWe lost it all. So now weāre brokeāwe both live in this van down by the river. Itās pitiful. Weāve gotta tour till 2020 to make our money back.ā He laughs again, then adds skeptically, āHopefully, Oz wonāt have inside information on frog racing. I may have to question his sources.ā
Ozzy, you have worked with other guitarists for short periods over the years. How important was it for you to have Zakk on this tour?
OZZY OSBOURNE Hereās the thing with me and Zakk: We never fell out. Thatās the truthāweāre close. The Wylde family and the Osbourne family are like relatives. Iām a godfather to his son Jesse. Our wives go shopping together. This goes beyond friendship. I know that I can be anywhere in the world at any time, and if my guitar player disappears, I can phone Zakk and heāll be on the next plane. And Iāll tell you this: We did some gigs last year, and I was blown away. Heās gotten so fucking good. He plays so fast!
ZAKK WYLDE I pay Oz to say that. He takes all my per diem money in exchange for compliments. [laughs]
Seriously, you two have had an on-again/off-again relationship. Youāve never fallen out at all? No fights or clashes?
OSBOURNE No. Why should there be? Like I said, I can depend on Zakk. No matter where I am, I can call him and heās there. Does that sound like weāve got problems?
WYLDE We donāt have problems. Weāve never had fightsāitās just not like that. People ask me if Iāve got any dirt on Oz, and I really donāt. All itās ever been is laughing. And listen, hereās the thing: Iām the most grateful fucking guy in the world. Everything that I have is because of Oz and Momāyou know, Sharon [Osbourne]. Iām good with whatever Oz wants. If he needs me to play guitar, or if he wants me to mow the lawn or clean the dog run, Iām there. He knows that.
Ozzy, letās go back to when you first hired Zakk. You had already been through a few guitaristsāwhat was it about Zakk that made you go, āHeās the oneā?
WYLDE It was a good tape. I had the āMr. Crowleyā solo on it and āCrazy Train.ā And then I did a bunch of improvising and jamminā. I did it on my buddyās Fostex.
OSBOURNE But then I looked at his picture that came with the tape, and I said, āOhā¦another Randy Rhoads clone.ā
Zakk, did you know that?
WYLDE Oh, yeah. When he met me, he said, āHave I met you before?ā He was thinking about the picture. I guess I looked like some kid who loved Randy Rhoads.
OSBOURNE Thatās what I thought. But when I met Zakk in person, he was a lot different than Randy. And then I heard him play, and that was that. Heās been with me longer than any other guitar player.
Do you remember what Zakk played for you at the audition?
OSBOURNE No. Thatās an impossible question. I just felt that he was the guy. There was an instant spark. Plus, he was funny. The guy could be a fuckinā comedian.
WYLDE I played with the band first. We did āSuicide Solutionā and āBark at the Moon.ā It was super cool. And then they flew me back out, and thatās when I met Oz. I remember he told me, āZakk, just play with your heart. And then you can go make me a ham sandwichāand go light on the mustard.ā [laughs] Right after that, he poked me in the eyes like the Three Stooges. I said, āOz, whyād you do that? That hurt.ā He goes, āYeahā¦so does life. Get used to it.ā
What was it like when Ozzy gave you the word that you were hired? Did you feel as if your life had changed?
WYLDE Sure, it was incredible. All my friends said, āHey, Zakk, can we get free tickets, and can we meet Ozzy?ā Suddenly, I had more friends than I ever imagined. I was like, āI canāt believe this many people like me! They really, really like me!ā [laughs]
You were like Sally Field.
WYLDE I was just like her. Same cheeks and everything. [laughs]
Ozzy, whatās that feel like to play Santa Claus? You do realize you were changing Zakkās life forever.
OSBOURNE Yeah, well, that feels good, sure. You know, people say to me, āMy God, youāve picked such great guitar players over the years,ā and I tell āem, āBut Iāve had my share of lunatics, too!ā Before I found Zakk, I had one guy come in and say, āThis songās written in D, but it would be better if it were in F sharp.ā I said, āWhyās that?ā And he goes, āBecause I play it in F sharp.ā So I said, āYeah, well, youāre gonna play it the way we do it.ā And then he starts arguing with me, this fuckinā guy. So finally I said, āYou know what? Fuck off!ā It was ridiculous.
People asked me, āWhy donāt you get a name guitar player?ā But thatās a headache, because you gotta deal with him and his fuckinā ego. I didnāt want to get Eddie Van Halen or Eric Clapton. I wanted somebody who wanted to be Eddie Van Halen or Eric Clapton. Or Tony Iommi.
You want someone whoās hungry. And that was Zakkāhe had that fire in him. It was great to see him go from playing his local bars to the stage at the Forum.
The first gig you two played together was at Londonās Wormwood Scrubs Prison. What went into that decision?
OSBOURNE No, no, that wasnāt the first gig. I canāt tell you what the first gig was, but it wasnāt the prison. What happened was, the prison had a band called the Scrubs. They were getting a fair amount of publicity for some song of theirs, and the prison requested that I come by and sing a song with them. I thought we could do better, so I said, āHow about if I come with my band? Weāll do our bit and then the Scrubs can do their thing.ā So thatās what we did. It was great. A lot of those guys were in there for life. A hell of a lot of dope in there, too.
WYLDE You have to remember, I was 19, 20 years old for that gig. I was a young, beautiful, blossoming Hollywood starlet, with petite yet firm breasts. I was the closest thing these guys were ever going to see to a young Sally Field. I went over bigtime! [laughs]
How long did it take for you two to become a true songwriting pair? Do you remember the first song when it clicked?
WYLDE That would have been āMiracle Man.ā
OSBOURNE Hereās the thing with our songwriting: Heās got a short attention span, like me. But you know, heāll be playing guitar, and Iāll hear something come and Iāll go, āOh, thatās it! I can put something to that.ā
WYLDE He just goes, āYou got any riffs?ā Yeah, āMiracle Manā and āDemon Alcoholāāwhen those came, we were like, āOkay, we got something here.ā
Did you two ever hit a wall creatively?
OSBOURNE Oh, fuck, I hit walls all the time. I get so boxed in, and I go, āWhere the fuck do I take this?ā But it always happensāweāll sit there for fuckinā days with nothing going on, and then out of nowhere a song will come to us in five minutes.
WYLDE Ozzyāll poke me in the eyes and go, āLifeās tough. Now go write me some fuckinā riffs already!ā [laughs]
Ozzy, Zakk started to assert himself more in the Nineties, slipping some Southern rock licks into your songs. Did you resist that sound at first?
OSBOURNE No, no, I liked that. I thought it was great. If we do another album, which Iād like to, I want him to put that stuff into it.
Of all your tours together, whatās the wildest story we can printāor even one we shouldnāt but will anyway?
WYLDE [laughs] There was goofy shit all the time, especially back in the drinking days.
OSBOURNE I remember this one time we were doing a gig. It was a while ago and Zakk was still a young guy. He got really sick, so he went to a doctor and got some antibiotics. The doctor told him, āTake one a day,ā but Zakk thought, If I take āem all now, Iāll get over this thing fast. So weāre onstage, and I look over at Zakk, and heās, like, paralyzed. He canāt even work the fretboard. I thought he fucked himself up from weightlifting, so Iām screaming at him, āItās from liftinā all them weights!ā I didnāt realize that heād taken all the antibiotics in the bottle.
WYLDE My hands were all cramped. I was dehydrated and shaking, and BT [Bobby Thompson, Osbourneās then tour manager] stuck my hands in ice so I could get through the show. It was rough, but we did it.
Ozzy, there was a bit of friction between you and Zakk when you let him go and hired Gus G. Any regrets?
OSBOURNE No. The press created a problem there. There was never a problem, so no regrets.
WYLDE I was never pissed at Ozzy. Honest. He wanted to make a change. He said to me, āZakk, I donāt wanna be the lead singer in Black Label Society.ā I get that. It made sense.
OSBOURNE Gus is a wonderful guy, and Iāve got no problems with him. Iād like to see him do well. But since this is my farewell to touring, Iām doing it with Zakk. Iāve had great times with him, and Iāve watched him mature. He knows what itās like to run a band and be a self-employed person. But Iāll tell you, I constantly get bags of mail from people who go, āI want to see you play with Zakk.ā And thatās all right, ācause itās not like Sharon has a gun to my headāāYou gotta play with Zakk.ā I want to do it.ā
Ozzy, can you sum up what Zakk brings to your musicāand his importance as a guitarist?
OSBOURNE Zakk is headstrong. He will not lie down, and you canāt stop him. He just plows ahead with whatever heās doing. I played six gigs with him last year, and I couldnāt believe how great he was. He had done this tour with Yngwie and Steve Vai and all these guys, and it must have made him get better, if you can believe it. He blew my fucking mind. Thatās the thing about Zakkāhe takes it to another level.
WYLDE Like I said, Ozzy gets my per diem money to say that stuff. [laughs]
Zakk, can you sum up Ozzyās importance as a singer?
WYLDE Sure. Itās like we could be talking about the Doors, and you said, āNobody sounded like the Doors before them, and nobody sounded like the Doors after them.ā Thatās Ozzy. Who sounded like him before him? Nobody. Who sounds like him since he came around? Nobody. Heās his own thing. He invented what he does. Thatās about as big as it gets.
Ozzy, you hinted that youād like to make another album with Zakkā¦
OSBOURNE I would love to, but weād have to write the fucking thing. Just for the hell of it, Iād like to do it. Iāve just moved into a new house, and I want to turn one of the rooms into the studio, but I donāt know which one.
WYLDE Iāll do another record with Oz, sure. Iāll bring some milk and eggs overāwhatever he needs.
Even though this isnāt a āfarewellā farewell tour, do you think youāll get emotional onstage, particularly on the last date?
OSBOURNE I donāt know. When I did the last Sabbath tour, I thought, Iāve been doing this for 50 years. I was with the band for 10 years [Osbourne departed Black Sabbath in 1979]. Iām not going to get emotional. But you know what? I got very emotional. The last gig we did was in Birmingham, where we started. The whole thing had come full circle. I must confess, I had a lump in my throat when I was singing āParanoidā with them for the last time. Maybe Iāll get emotional this time. Itās been an incredible journey for me. I know it sounds like Iām gonna die or something. I mean, I hope I donāt dieānot yet anyhow.
WYLDE You know, if this is really the end of touring, then it is what it is. I just thank the good Lord that he put Oz in my life. Heās been a part of my life since I was 11 and started listening to Sabbath. Getting to play with him and be part of the teamāitās amazing. But Iāll tell you, those same people who asked me for tickets when I got the gig? Theyāre still at it! Ever since Ozzy announced this tour, Iāve got so many friends. They like me! They really, really like me! [laughs]