Everybody has Ozzy lineage to a certain degree, whether it's that listening experience that happens or an actual concert memory, but my memory goes back to before I was even in High School.
When I was a kid, my best friend’s older brother was a Black Sabbath fanatic and he would play Sabbath albums for us, and basically scare the shit out of us. He’d have candles lit and you’d stare at that album cover, and that woman that was on the cover [of the band’s debut album] would seem to come to life! So my earliest memory of Ozzy was through Sabbath and being frightened by the album covers and the music - but it was all very exciting.
That transitioned into me being a young teenager learning bass and learning Iron Man for the first time - I think that and Smoke On The Water are the first bass lines that you learn, generally – and at a certain point one of my friends from High School asked me to join their band. They were playing Black Sabbath and Ozzy covers, and I soon found myself gigging backyard parties, playing Sweet Leaf, Iron Man and War Pigs…
Years later I got to meet Ozzy because they were recording No More Tears at Devonshire Studios in Los Angeles where I was recording the first Infectious Grooves album. Ozzy ended up guest singing on a song called Therapy. He was out of his mind back then, completely hammered every day, but it was a great time and a great moment for me because we were such huge fans of his. He really enjoyed the music of Infectious Grooves, and offered us a support slot on the Theatre of Madness tour: the label didn’t want us on that tour, but Ozzy did and he single handedly fought for us to be on it, so we ended up opening for him. It was a dream come true. It was also the scariest tour I’d ever been on because no one knew who we were and those shows were sold out way before we were even mentioned. I learnt quickly that you never leave a gap between songs, because otherwise they’d chant “Ozzy! Ozzy! Ozzy!” and the ground would shake at every show. So it was a wake up call for me, and it was an amazing learning experience because I had to learn fast how to pace a set. When you’re dealing with an icon like Ozzy and you’re sharing a stage with him, you have to be ready and be on your game.
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A few years later I got the phone call from Sharon Osbourne to come down and audition. It happened at a time when I was thinking about Ozzy daily, I don’t know why, just for a week or two I was really engulfing myself with Ozzy’s music again, reuniting with it. I actually had Over The Mountain on my outgoing message so when you called my house you would hear the intro to the song. When Sharon and her assistant Michael called the first thing they heard was Over The Mountain, and on the message they left I could hear her in the background going (affects Carry On British accent) “Oh my God, listen to that.” About an hour or two later I called them back. I auditioned and I got the gig - the rest is history. I did seven years with Ozzy and I’ll never forget those years being on that rollercoaster with him; travelling the world playing those same songs that I played in the backyard parties of the west side of Los Angeles with the man himself. It was a tremendous time in my life.
If there was a metal that was connected to Ozzy it would have to be the ultimate; it would have to be platinum. In fact, it would be beyond that. He’s a diamond. He’s such a powerful force in rock ‘n’ roll. Everything about Ozzy, I mean even when we were growing up we tried to talk like Ozzy and mimmick his accent because he was so cool to us. And he’s still incredibly relevant, I mean Black Sabbath really did invent heavy metal and to be the voice of that movement, and to still be the voice of that movement is really incredible. He’s very special. And he’s as physical as he ever was. In a lot of ways I actually see him healthier and stronger now than he was, say 20⁄25 years ago. He’s been on a rollercoaster ride throughout his career and he’s survived.
Most people could not survive what Ozzy’s been through. He’s been on the kind of journey that we can all only imagine. And he came from such humble beginnings. You have to give Ozzy credit. And everybody, I think, recognises his status in rock ‘n’ roll. Along with his bandmates in Black Sabbath he’s untouched. All of them are protected; they’re made men. It’s hard to surpass that. In metal, you can’t.