Ozzy Osbourne is out of his thoughts. Not within the ‘chunk a head off a bat and piss on the Alamo’ approach, however in a extra current sense. He’s climbing the partitions after being cooped up for shut to a few years as a consequence of a sequence of great well being points and operations.
“It’s been fucking depressing, man,” he says, talking over Zoom from his residence in Los Angeles. “I’m not good at this. I’ve by no means been this laid up in my life – I may barely stroll at one level.”
Ozzy’s downside dates again to his quad biking accident in December 2003, wherein he sustained six damaged ribs, a damaged neck vertebra and a damaged collarbone, necessitating the insertion of steel rods in his physique. Although he appeared to make a full restoration on the time, even enjoying with a reunited Black Sabbath the next summer season, he was left extra weak to damage. A fall in 2019 whereas he was recovering from a bout of pneumonia dislodged one of many metal rods, requiring him to bear surgical procedure to insert 15 screws into his backbone. That’s when issues went actually improper.
“The primary man who did my surgical procedure cocked it up actually fucking unhealthy,” says Ozzy angrily. “I ended up in hospital for 3 months.”
The singer underwent additional surgical procedure earlier this 12 months to right the unique operation. Ominously, his spouse and supervisor Sharon Osbourne stated the outcomes of this final op would “decide the remainder of his life”.
“The 2 operations they simply did, which have been presupposed to be extra intense than the primary, have been to restore his harm,” says Ozzy, who has additionally battled a life-threatening staph an infection, extreme flu and Covid lately. “One evening I was in hospital – that’s it!”
It’s been a tricky few years for Ozzy, one thing compounded by the pandemic, however fortunately his issues appear to be behind him for now. The previous few instances Hammer talked to him, he spoke with an air of resigned frustration, sounding each one in every of his 73 years. However at this time he sounds reinvigorated. Annoyed, sure, however there’s a steely willpower to his voice as he reveals the work he’s been placing in to get match once more, forward of his new album Affected person Quantity 9 and subsequent 12 months’s much-postponed world tour.
“It’s a sluggish restoration, however I’ve been burning the candle at each ends for 50 years,” he says. “I do an hour [of physio] a day the place I used to do 10. My coach says, ‘Stroll up the hill as soon as.’ Fucking as soon as?! I’ll be working up there by the tip of the week. I wish to get again.”
In fact, Ozzy has by no means actually gone away. Granted, once we communicate he hasn’t performed a present in additional than three and a half years, however he’s not precisely been idle. In 2020 he launched Abnormal Man, his twelfth solo studio album. That had barely hit cabinets earlier than it was introduced he was engaged on a follow-up. Hardly the work of a person at loss of life’s door.
“I believed I used to be completed,” says Ozzy, referring to the cancellation of the European leg of his No Extra Excursions II tour following his fall in 2019. “We’d needed to put the tour off and I was at residence considering that was it. Then Kelly says, ‘Dad, do you wish to make an album? I do know this man…’”
‘This man’ was Andrew Watt, the wunderkind guitarist and producer who has labored with everybody from Justin Bieber to Miley Cyrus. The mixture wasn’t as unlikely as it sounds. Andrew grew up listening to rock and steel, and he understood Ozzy. The pair gelled instantly, the producer’s youthful enthusiasm giving Ozzy the kick within the arse he wanted to get again to work.
“It was too fucking fast!” says the singer of creating Abnormal Man, solely half-joking. “It didn’t even really feel like I’d made an album. Usually, I come out of a studio and I must spend three months in a psychological establishment as a result of I’m driving all people fucking mad. However Andrew’s very fucking speedy – he’ll bounce from one to 10, and depart two to 9 out.”
Abnormal Man was an unexpectedly poignant album from a man now in his eighth decade, addressing themes of ageing and mortality in ways in which Ozzy albums by no means usually do. In contrast, Affected person Quantity 9 is a resurrection of the Ozzy Osbourne that crammed arenas around the globe, heavy steel’s unique madman at his maniacal greatest.
“Once I’m making music, I ain’t eager about me,” Ozzy says. “It offers my head a break. My head is fucking septic, man – it tells me unhealthy shit on a regular basis. If I hadn’t accomplished these albums, I’d be fucking insane.”
Sanity – or lack of it – is a key theme on Affected person Quantity 9’s opening title observe. Somewhat than a mirrored image of Ozzy’s time out and in of hospitals, the tune is definitely about being trapped in a psychological well being establishment. It options an look from guitar legend Jeff Beck. Ozzy offers Andrew Watt full credit score for cajoling the previous Yardbirds guitarist to look on the album. “We’d written the observe and Andrew says to me, ‘Jeff Beck can be good on that,’” Ozzy says. “I stated, ‘He in all probability thinks I’m a fucking dickhead!’ However Andrew insisted and we received him.”
Jeff isn’t the one visitor to look on Affected person Quantity 9. The all-star solid record consists of Eric Clapton, Metallica’s Rob Trujillo, Weapons N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. Ozzy requested Jimmy Web page to take part as nicely, just for the Led Zeppelin icon to clean him.
“I don’t even know if he performs anymore, however I believed getting Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Web page meant having the best guitarists on the planet,” Ozzy says. “However I by no means heard from him. Perhaps he’d misplaced his telephone or one thing!”
The brand new album additionally sees the return of one in every of Ozzy’s key collaborators: Zakk Wylde, his on-off guitarist and right-hand man for the previous 35 years. Affected person Quantity 9 marks Zakk’s first look on an Ozzy album since 2007’s Black Rain.
“I used to be on the highway when Ozzy known as,” Zakk tells Hammer. “Each time Ozzy calls, I’m there. I don’t care if it’s enjoying guitar, dropping off milk and eggs or taking care of the canines whereas he and Sharon are out – I’ll do it.”
Working remotely from his residence studio The Black Vatican, Zakk contributed to 4 tracks on Affected person Quantity 9, bringing among the wild vitality of Ozzy’s earlier releases again into the combo. “Credit score the place it’s due, it’s all Ozzy and Andrew when it comes all the way down to it,” says the guitarist. “Most of these songs have been already written, in order that they introduced me in to color in mainly, add a little bit of flavour.”
Although Zakk downplays it, Ozzy places extra significance on Zakk’s contribution. “I used to be driving Andrew mad,” Ozzy says. “There was numerous backwards and forwards about getting the album proper – I advised him it’s OK if he produces a foul album as a result of he’ll transfer on to the subsequent man. If I make a foul album individuals will say, ‘Ozzy Osbourne is completed.’ Ultimately, Zakk saved the day; he put a number of issues on there that made it really feel like a correct Ozzy Osbourne album.”
Nevertheless, the visitor to trigger the largest stir is Tony Iommi. His presence reunites the previous bandmates 5 years after they laid Sabbath to relaxation of their native Birmingham.
“Tony and I’ve been via rather a lot collectively,” Ozzy says. “We’ve had nice instances, horrible instances and every thing in between, however even once we’ve hated one another, we’ve all the time stayed in contact. And I don’t give a fuck what anybody says, there’s no different individual on this planet who can provide you with riffs like him. He’s unbelievable! I all the time go, ‘He ain’t gonna beat that!’ And he does, each time.”
Tony performs on two tracks – No Escape From Now and Degradation Guidelines – bringing a heft and darkness that can be comfortingly acquainted to Black Sabbath followers. “These Tony Iommi tracks, particularly No Escape From Now, if Geezer and Invoice had performed on them would have made a fucking nice Sabbath tracks,” Ozzy says.
At present, the singer speaks fondly of his former bandmates, describing Tony as “extremely supportive” whereas admitting that he hasn’t spoken to bassist Geezer Butler shortly (“Final I heard, he was residing in Vegas”). Even drummer Invoice Ward, absent from the Sabbath reunion in 2012 following a dispute over contracts, is in common contact.
“It’s my solely remorse [with Sabbath] that Invoice couldn’t work the deal out,” Ozzy says. “However I really like him – I really like all of them, in a technique or one other. We have been 4 children from Aston who conquered the world. I’ve received a bench in Birmingham – some individuals get statues, I received a park bench!”
There’s a gag that solely two issues would survive a nuclear holocaust: cockroaches and seemingly indestructible Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. It’s not a stretch so as to add Ozzy to that record.
Even past his once-epic urge for food for booze and medicines within the 70s and 80s, there have been a number of well being points that would have pressured him into early retirement over the previous 30 years. In 1992, he was identified with MS. “I had two spinal faucets, MRIs up the yin-yang; I used to be like a fucking laboratory experiment,” he recounts. The prognosis turned out to be incorrect, although it didn’t cease him from asserting his retirement after that 12 months’s unique No Extra Excursions dates. The retirement didn’t final; he later stated that he received bored very, in a short time simply hanging round at residence.
In 2003, Ozzy was identified with Parkinson’s, although he didn’t reveal the prognosis till 2020. “It’s no massive deal, I take a tablet and it’s tremendous,” he says dismissively now. “I’m fortunate. The physician who offers with my Parkinson’s stated, ‘You recognize what? I’ve seen every kind of Parkinson’s, however yours is the mildest case I’ve ever seen in my life.’ I’m a fucking fighter – I’ll struggle via. I’m nonetheless fucked up, however I’m getting higher.”
Issue within the quad bike accident that very almost killed him and his subsequent bodily traumas, and it’s simple to see why issues for his wellbeing have grown over the previous couple of years. However whereas others marvel that he may be at loss of life’s door, Zakk Wylde insists he by no means frightened. Though the guitarist wasn’t in a position to see Ozzy in the course of the pandemic, the pair shared texts on daily basis to cease the opposite from bouncing off the partitions.
“I knew every time he’d received one thing happening, so we’d textual content and I’d ask for texts as quickly as he received out of surgical procedure,” Zakk says. “Again when he had his first surgical procedure, we went to the hospital and really noticed him for a bit. It blew the entire thing again into proportion, as a result of he’s there and he’s tremendous. Even when he received Covid, it was similar to, ‘Oh man, what have you ever gotten your self into now?’ He’d make some goofy-ass remark afterwards, simply being himself.”
Even after every thing he’s been via, Ozzy stays adamant he isn’t planning on retiring simply but. “You recognize essentially the most precious factor I’ve received now? Time,” he says. “I’m 73, so I can’t do all this as soon as I’m lifeless. I’m doing as a lot as I can to go away behind earlier than I’m going.”
“With Ozzy, I all the time consider after they requested Keith Richards years in the past, ‘Do you intend on retiring?’” Zakk muses. “He goes, ‘Retire? From what?’ When you like going to the espresso store and studying guide, why would you retire from that? As a musician, if there’s nothing stopping you from bodily going out and doing what you like, why must you give that up?”
True sufficient, Ozzy’s primary focus proper now’s on getting again out on the highway. His No Extra Excursions II run, twice postponed, is now set to happen in summer season 2023. After a number of cancellations, Ozzy is totally decided to not put the dates off once more.
“It’s fucking killing me, man,” he says. “Sitting on my arse makes the ‘poor-me’s come on, however that’s not what I’m about. I’m about doing gigs – it’s in my bones and if I’ve one other 12 months like this, I’ll exit in a fucking wheelchair.”
Ozzy’s return to the stage comes prior to anybody anticipated. Three weeks after we communicate, he makes a shock look on the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Video games in Birmingham. He’s joined by Tony Iommi, plus auxiliary Black Sabbath members Adam Wakeman and Tommy Clufetos for a truncated blast via Sabbath’s Iron Man and a full, wonderful Paranoid.
It’s spectacular tribute to one in every of Birmingham’s favorite sons, and Ozzy is relishing it. As a number of tons of pyrotechnics illuminate the stadium, an enormous smile spreads throughout the singer’s face. He’s residence: not simply within the metropolis of his delivery, however up onstage, the place he belongs. “I really like you all, Birmingham!” he yells. “It’s good to be again!”
His response wasn’t a shock. Speaking to Hammer a number of weeks earlier, he’d as soon as once more reiterated his need to get again on the market. “My spouse and household imply the world to me,” he stated thoughtfully. “I’ve been residence for the longest time I’ve ever been residence and so they’ve been fucking nice. However do I wish to keep right here doing this? You’ve received to be fucking joking. I can be up there if I’ve to fucking crawl up there.”
Publish in Metallic Hammer #366. Affected person Quantity 9 is out now