Words by Ed King / Pics by Paul Ward
Everybody’s waiting. The media in a corridor upstairs, the fans against the railings downstairs. Gargantuan pillars of security standing stoic in the middle. We were all told to ‘be here by 1pm sharp’ but there’s been queues on the street for over 36 hours. Why? Ozzy Osbourne of course. Birmingham’s infamous bat biter is in back town and it seems half the city has turned out to meet him.
“I was here a few months ago,” says Ozzy,“promoting my new book (I Am Ozzy). Lots of things have changed, new buildings and that. I mean, what’s with that big golf ball in the centre? It’s changed amazingly,” a strong accent blows all stardust from the room, “I mean, I used to get lost when I lived here. But it’s always good to be back in Birmingham. I’d consider moving back here but Sharon likes it over in America.”
Modern Birmingham’s constantly under construction, but how does Ozzy feel about the city he grew up in? “Coming into Birmingham just now I was reflecting back on what it used to be like when I lived at No14 Rose Road (The Birmingham Observer cannot confirm this address),” I think I’ve just worked out why there’s been a delay, “I was sitting there thinking, such a lot has happened in my life. I just could not have planned this. It’s unbelievable.” A fair description of over 18 albums selling millions worldwide. Ozzy grins, “42 years later and I’m still playing the Town Hall.”
Ozzy is back on the road promoting his 10th solo studio album, Scream, released in April this year. 18 months long and internationally wide, Scream tours across Europe, America and Japan. During a year and half of globetrotting performances how does Ozzy plan to stay sane?
“Not by drinking that’s for sure,” Ozzy is very candid about his alcoholism and recovery, “I haven’t drunk for a long time now, about 7-8 years. If I was drinking I don’t think I’d make it a week.” Judging by the hype surrounding today I’m not sure Ozzy’s management team will make it 18 months without. “I’m quite a straight laced guy nowadays.”
So with no bats on stage what can we expect from the Scream album and tour? “Heavy. Very heavy. You know, real Rock. It reminds me of my Sabbath days,” many reviews echo the same, “and some of my early solo stuff. But it was unintentional, you know, not a conscious decision.”
Conscious or not it’s been three years since his last album, Black Rain. Is Ozzy happy with his latest release? “I’m never happy. About a week after Scream got released I’m thinking why did I put that there? Why didn’t I change that track?” So the artist still struggles even four decades on, doesn’t Ozzy feel good enough yet? ”That’s for the fans to tell me. What I’m good at is making an album and then demolishing it, you know. If I get a good review I kind of raise one eyebrow. What I have to do now is let go.”
Scream is the first Ozzy solo release since the mid eighties without longstanding guitarist Zack Wylde, cited as the most ‘endearing’ replacement since Ozzy’s original guitarist Randy Rhoades was killed in a plane accident in 1982. How does Ozzy find working with the new line up?
“Great. Gus is really, really good,” Gus G, aka Kostas Karamitroudis from Greek power metal band Firewind, “I’ve got high hopes for him. I mean, guitarists can be great but then you’ve got to find out if you can live with them.” A final grin as Ozzy’s publicist points to his watch, “we’re on the road for 18 months… I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Scream, Ozzy Osbourne’s 10th studio solo album, was released in April 2010. For more information about the album and worldwide tour visit www.ozzy.com