The May 12 announcement that metal festivals Ozzfest and Knotfest were merging for one giant head-banging event on Sept. 24 and 25 accompanies two major milestones for Ozzy Osbourne: the 20th anniversary and likely farewell of Ozzfest and the final California appearance of metal legends Black Sabbath.
No wonder the Los Angeles press conference was hyped feverishly all week, even on the heels of rumored marital strife between Ozzy and his wife of 36 years, Sharon Osbourne.
None of that drama was evident at the Palladium in Hollywood, where the couple stood shoulder-to-shoulder, accompanied by musician friends like Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Disturbed’s David Draiman, Dave Lombardo, Zakk Wylde and many others. The announcement wrapped with an all-star performance dubbed Zakk Sabbath, after which Billboard spoke with Ozzy’s manager and reportedly estranged wife as well as the duo of Ozzy and Geezer Butler in separate interviews.
Billboard: Did you ever think Ozzfest would get to 20 years?
Sharon: No, never. Looking at the Ozzfest film we played earlie and all the guys from the bands — they were all babies then. They’re all men now and doing extremely well and it’s just been an amazing experience to have met with and worked with such great people. And also to know the fans went away happy.
For you as a manager, is there a metal band out there you’d love to work with?
Sharon: There really isn’t. There’s nothing that’s come out maybe in the last eight years that’s really excited me, in this genre.
What about in another genre?
Sharon: I think Bruno Mars is incredible. Both Ozzy and I love him, he’s an incredible artist.
Is there an artist that has the same cachet and credibility to create their own festival?
Sharon: I would like to see somebody like Beyonce do something like they used to do at Lilith Fair, all women. I think that needs to be done again. … There are so many great female artists and singer-songwriters coming up. I think it’s wonderful.
Could there be additional Ozzfest meets Knotfest events?
Sharon: We haven’t talked about it, but Corey and the guys in Slipknot are such good friends, they’re just the best. There’s a big place in our hearts, we’ve known them for so long. Their album wasn’t even released when they did their first Ozzfest, so they were just a baby band. It depends.
How do you approach the last Sabbath show in Southern California?
Ozzy: With a lot of good memories. When we first came to Southern California it was amazing, it still is amazing. It’s a good place for rock and roll.
Are there shows that really stand out over the years when you think of California memories?
Ozzy: I remember doing two or three days at the Whiskey, next time we came back we were doing the Forum. It was like, “Whoa.”
Butler: California Jam has to be on there.
What does it mean to do this show with so many bands influenced by you?
Ozzy: Sometimes I’ll pinch myself and go, “Is it that influential?” When you’re inside looking out, you write songs. You don’t go, “Let’s write a bad song.” Sometimes you do, but sometimes you don’t. All along bands have come up to me and gone, “Sabbath are my heroes.” So I was aware of it for a long, long time. It’s just incredible. They call us “The Beatles of metal.” I could live with that. It wasn’t our intention, but that’s what happened.
Geezer: Beatles of metal, you couldn’t get any bigger than that.
Talk about how you have watched metal change.
Ozzy: What’s interesting, some of this new metal, it’s very angry and aggressive. It’s punk meets metal meets some futuristic thing. When Slipknot first came out I thought, “What the f— is this?” But they had a lot of energy and a lot of attitude and that’s what kids like, the attitude of a lot of these bands. Some of it may go a bit over my head, but then there must be something to it cause they’re on festivals.
How important is it to see metal left in good hands?
Ozzy: I just get on with it. I’m not stopping, Terry is not stopping, we’re just stopping Sabbath. We’re not gonna sit in our rocking chairs and look at our scrapbook. We’ll still be involved in the music scene, that’s what we’ve always done. It’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.
Are there songs you’re excited to revisit for the last time?
Ozzy: Some people ask me what’s my best Sabbath album, what’s my best song? Every album, for me, when I was singing on them, it’s like, “I was drunk there;” “I was miserable there;” “Couldn’t think of what to do there.” It’s like a diary.
Butler: It depends what mood you’re in while listening to or playing these songs. It can totally change. We’re doing “The Hand of Doom” on this set, we haven’t done that since 1972, and you get a different perspective on it. It’s so relevant to what’s going on in the world now as well. It’s good to revisit those songs that we have neglected.