Black Sabbath are making their Middle East concert debut at Abu Dhabi’s du Arena. We speak to the frontman Ozzy Osbourne about the band’s legacy and the freedom of being a rock ’n’ roll wild man.
You are performing in the Middle East for the first time. For a band with such a long touring history, does it feel strange to visit new territories so deep into your career?
That is what it is all about for me, to go out and explore new places. I have still never seen any of the Arab countries, China and Russia. There is a whole market out that we didn’t know about. I also understand that in India we have a lot of Black Sabbath fans. That’s amazing!
You are visiting a raft of new places as part of a tour supporting your comeback album, 13. What has the touring life been like this time around?
Absolutely mind blowing. We have sold out every gig and had a No 1 album in 15 countries. It just feels like a regeneration for us and goes to show that life is full of surprises. We also don’t do drugs and we don’t do alcohol. The music is what we are about now. We have matured and we have families and responsibilities and I am just having a great time playing with the boys all over again. Another thing is also seeing the fans. We are having grandfathers coming in with their children and they are bringing their kids as well. That, to me, is just great.
13 is the first Black Sabbath album with you as the lead singer in 35 years. What made you return to the studio with the guys?
People were always asking me if we would ever do another Black Sabbath album together and I didn’t know. I mean, we did try before but we felt like we were forcing it and it just didn’t work. This time, it came naturally and a lot of it was down to working with the producer Rick Rubin, which was a joy. He had a vision of working on a Black Sabbath album for a long time and because we knew what he wanted, we felt like we were halfway there already before we started.
Rubin has a knack for rejuvenating legendary bands. How would you describe his approach?
He really made us concentrate and just told us to think about that first Black Sabbath album [the untitled release in 1970], don’t think of heavy metal. I was thinking: “What is this guy talking about, we invented heavy metal!” But when I heard the album again after many years, then the penny dropped. At the time of the first album we were really just a jazzy blues band and Rubin wanted us to have the freedom of that album. So we just got into the studio and jammed for hours and we recorded pieces of it and it went on from there.
Is it because of this freedom that you guys were able to fiercely mix different rock-music styles that went on to create the new aggressive sound that we now call heavy metal?
You know, I never really tried to analyse it. A lot of people ask me what we were trying to do and a lot of time I would just say that I didn’t know, as I was in my own world. If I knew every detail of our sound and why it was like that I would probably fall to pieces as I couldn’t handle it. All I know is that when we get together and jam, then we gel like nobody else.
With the success of 13, have fans and the record company been asking for a new album?
You know what? The way I look at it now is that I am 65, if we have another album in us, I would do it. To be honest with you, I haven’t talked to the rest of the guys about whether they want to do another album with me. We didn’t sit down and plan our next move. But I am up for it. If they say “let’s do another album” then I don’t mind. But at the same time I have my own solo career which is doing great, so I always want to work on that. Time is not on my side anymore, so I want to put all my irons in the fire and whatever comes out the hottest, then I will just go for it.
Do you view yourself as one of rock’s last wild men?
I am just Ozzy and there is only one of me, thank God. I do think that everybody wants to be Ozzy for a day and just go out and be crazy without injuring people. I think everyone wants to have a crazy day.