ShortList's Tom Ellen recently spoke to BLACK SABBATH singer Ozzy Osbourne and bassist Geezer Butler. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On the band's new single, "God Is Dead?":
Ozzy: "I was in a doctor's office and there was a magazine in there with that line on the cover. I thought, 'Yeah — people flew planes into the World Trade Center because of God, there's all this f*cking sh*t going on in the world in the name of God.'"
Geezer: "Ozzy gave me that line, and I wrote the lyrics. I wanted to call the song 'American Jihad'."
Ozzy: "F*ck that. [laughs] I'm the guy at the front singing it; I would have had a f*cking army after me. 'And now we're gonna play… 'American Jihad' [makes gun sound, mimes slumping down dead]. I'm not worried about assassination, I just hope that if it happens, the bloke's a good shot and I don't feel any pain. [laughs] In the early days [of BLACK SABBATH], there was a lot of backlash from religious groups. I remember once in Memphis there was knock on my hotel room, and there were all these [Christian] kids outside with candles burning. I beckoned them towards me, and just went: [sings] 'Happy birthday to you!' I was sent letters written in blood. In my house I must have 25 f*cking Bibles, each with a marked-up passage that [the sender] wanted me to read."
Geezer: Do you remember that time in America, when you burned a Bible in the hotel sink? They allowed the rest of us in, but they said they 'wouldn't have Mr. Osbourne back after that.'"
On quitting drinking and taking drugs:
Geezer: As you get older, you either become a total alcoholic junkie or you get sensible. I think we're all a bit sensible now. The worst album we've made — 'Never Say Die!' — was the one where we were all the most drugged up and drunk. For the first few albums, we couldn't really afford drugs and booze."
Ozzy: "Well, you couldn't. [laughs]"
Geezer: We were definitely more concentrated on this new album without all that stuff.
Ozzy: In my alcoholic days, I used to bury bottles of vodka in the garden and then I could never find them again. There were probably rats running around my f*cking garden pissed off their heads. When I decided to throw in the towel on the drugs and alcohol — which I still battle on a daily basis; sometimes I'll have a drink, but mostly I can't — someone said: 'Do you think it'll affect your creativity?' I thought, 'F*ck, maybe all that sh*t was what made me come up with these melodies and lyrics.' I was freaking out. But then we made this album without anything like that. I remember one gig [in the Seventies] when we decided: no more coke. First song, we were playing great and I thought, 'Hey, we're much better without coke.' By the second song, the band was all [slumps, head down onto the table]. I'd go behind the speaker and do a couple of bumps, thinking that nobody could see me."
On stripping back the band's sound on "13":
Geezer: "When [BLACK SABBATH] started out, there was no such thing as heavy metal; we were just a jazz blues band. So, Rick Rubin [who produced '13'] wanted to get back to that stripped-back, live sound of our early albums. He said: 'Forget heavy metal, you're not doing a heavy metal album.'"
Ozzy: "I thought he meant a f*cking acoustic thing. Can you imagine an acoustic SABBATH album? Even with the lyrics, he said to me: 'I don't want you to use the word happy.' I had this one lyric: 'I'm a happy, isolated man.' Rick told me: 'Change 'happy' to 'crazy.''"
Read the entire interview from ShortList.