Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Getting There - The Archive Opens Up

Only downside of having written so much about rock and metal in the late 1980s and 1990s is most of it is in print only, so no digital copies. I'm in the process of finding the old stories, scanning them, or just retyping them, so I can get them up here.

But here's a bit of a preview of what's coming up over the next few months (or year)

Faith No More In Sydney - Interviews, Show Reviews, Hanging Out (1990)

Skid Row In Sydney - Interviews, Show Reviews, Hanging Out (1990)

The Baby Animals - Year One and Getting Back Together In 2012

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page Interviews from the early 1990s

In The Studio With The Angels (early 1990s and 2012)

The Screaming Jets In Full Flight - Behind The Scenes Of Their Breakthrough Year

Lemmy Interview

Guns N Roses Down Under

Chrissy Amphlett/The Divinyls

Lengthy Interview With Slash (1994)

Rose Tattoo/Peter Wells

Bodycount/Ice-T Interviews

Metallica In Australia

Rage Against The Machine, Green Day, Sonic Youth, Hole, Nirvana, Nancy Vandal, Freedom Of Fire, Bad Religion, Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, Fear Factory....

And plenty more.

One thing I did notice, reading these back, is many of these interviews are from bands' early days, before they bored with doing interviews, and there were much less restrictions then in how the interviews were conducted then these days. So lots of good info and great quotes.

Friday, October 14, 2011


By Darryl Mason


"You think of the Californian desert and you'd think it would be just sand as far as the eye can see," says Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder, "but there's this huge mountain, three four miles out of Palm Springs, and this mountain is like ten thousand feet high, or something. And on the mountain there is this...oasis, it's incredible. Sand, lakes, waterfalls, palm trees. They call that place Sky Valley."

Sky Valley is also the name this band of the desert chose for their third studio album, the visually-enticing moniker doing mighty fine justice to the jus'-jammin' man, free-form heavy rock, or stoner rock as it's becoming known, that flows and glows all across this disc.

As Reeder explains, growing up on the desert exposes you to an amplified version of the standard bored-beyond-belief monotony of youth. But this is tempered by the majestic sunrises and sunsets that crawl through the open desert skies most days, and the stunning natural beauty of the earth. Not a mall or multi-plex cinema in sight.

Sky Valley, the town, is not well-known and most of the locals would prefer to keep it free of swarming tourists. For Reeder, and the rest of Kyuss, the area is very much a private world they almost have to themselves. On calm Sundays, Reeder likes to head to the summit to laze by the crystal clear pools of water with his wife, his dog and a big bucket of chicken. "Just kickin' back for a few hours," says Reeder
The dry heat and lack of entertainment across the desert does, however, invigour remarkable creativity within the young desert dwellers in their search for pleasurable pursuits.

Skurfing is a popular Sky Valley sport now rapidly gaining momentum across the US.

Throughout the farmed areas of the desert, long wide irrigation canals run dead straight lines for miles. With a trustworthy friend in a car or on a motorbike (roaring along the access road running parallel to the canals), a pair of water skies, a boogie-board or a surfboard and a tow rope lashed to the back of the vehicle, you are ready to skurf.

More and more young desert bands, like Kyuss did, are finding an alternative to the crowded club circuits of faraway LA and San Francisco in Generator Parties. Food, friends, the stage gear and a generator to kick out the power, held loud and wild, miles from neighbours (and police) under the open desert skies.

For a band who create such heavy, relentless thunder rolls of music, as you'll hear all over the Sky Valley album, Kyuss lack the offstage intensity and paranoia of so many of the LA and New York street-spawned metal outfits.

Time passes slowly in the desert, plans are hazily made, life cruises along in the shade and that's just how Kyuss like it to be.

"A lot of the inspiration comes from just driving around," says Reeder, "without the stereo on, just making up your own thoughts....looking at just how fuckin' beautiful the desert can be, how beautiful the nights can be...."

Kyuss recorded Sky Valley in two weeks of casual sessions (and we mean Sessions), which Reeder prefers to call "just a jam, really."

"It's really free-form in the studio. There were a lot of ideas floating around in our heads before we went in, but not many of them really came into focus before we started. I think this is the best way we can work. We'd start recording in the early afternoon, have some red wine, whatever else, then we'd turn down the lights and just go for it till early morning....

"We tell people 'yeah, two weeks' and they're like horrified 'Wooahh!', but it was really relaxed in there, you have to be relaxed."

Sky Valley powers along on bass-pummelled, guitar churned heavy rock, owing more to the slower burns of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath than anything current. Songs like the booming 100%, the fluid earthquakes of Supa Scoopa and Conan Troutman and calmer outings like the acoustic coastings of Space Cadet reveal Kyuss carrying on the sounds of their last album, the mammothic Blues For The Red Sun, insurging them with new thunder, scores of flickering riffs and plenty of surging, circling swirls of speaker-cracking lead-heavy rhythm.

The band has an instantly recognisable sound, though for the most part, and certainly not a bad thing in any sense, Sky Valley is more of a second chapter to Blues For The Red Sun than an entirely new creative beginning. Any who have previously been infected with the bombastic, surreal sounds of Blues For The Red Sun will be already drooling when Sky Valley slips into their player.

There is, however, no great secrets to their unique sound.

"That's just how we sound when we play," shrugs Reeder, "we didn't try to sound any certain way. Like when we play, we don't use a set-list, we just play what we feel and what the audience seems to want to hear. We just go out there and see what happens....same in the studio.

"These guys never had a guitar tuner before I fucked it up and joined the band. They'd go onstage and the first song would be The Tuning Song. And as they'd play the tuning would just drift lower and lower, and then when they finally lost tuning, it sounded right."

One secre of their sound, if you want a spoiler, is guitars are often played through a bass amp. That's some instant thunder.

Australian heavy rock fans got a rare live taste of Kyuss, when the band suddenly appeared as the opening act on Metallica's 1992 Australian tour. The Sydney Entertainment Centre was mostly empty when Kyuss took the stage, and blasted out their tunes, while the foyer bars were crush-crowded with thousands whipping down as many drinks as they could in preperation for Metallica. It didn't matter, Kyuss loved touring Australia with Metallica, and those who did actually see them open came away raving.

"We found out we were going to tour Australia with Metallica less than a week before we got there," laughs Reeder. "It was crazy, a total last minute thing."

Kyuss prefer to make the sort of ambient musical flows that help the listener escape reality, instead of ramming the real world straight into the face. This is music to blast loud and drift slowly along to. The lyrics sound mostly senseless and little of Kyuss' music is out to set any new precedents.

But Kyuss couldn't care less about meaningful wordplays, snappy choruses, the Big Radio Hit, pop/rock song structure in general nor do they give a hoot about MTV rotation.

"We haven't done a video," says Reeder, "they can be weird things...they can be cool too, but 99% of the time they're just commercials for your record.

"It's just weird....when I was a kid I was into Pink Floyd and once I actually saw a video, or even a photograph of them, it took some of the mystery away. I like Tool's videos, the ones with all the animation, the band wasn't even in the video.

"I hate it when there's some guy right in front of the camera singing....it's like 'Fuck Off! Get Outta Here!'"


Thursday, September 15, 2011

1995 : Silverchair Live

Silverchair/Midget/Bluebottle Kiss


How do they do it? How the fuck do they do it? You can see that look on faces all across the Metro as Silverchair somehow pull their 10 minute long version of Pure Massacre back from a rollicking, ramble-jam that was becoming something seriously hypnotic and wrap it all up with a detonating epilogue of cannon-fire drumming and a whole battalion of bass n' lead riffaging.

How do three guys with only a few years of practise and less than a hundred gigs under their belt deliver such a wicked live show and such a headfuck of music and words?

The gold is that Silverchair don't know exactly either, but instead of holding back and doing safety first dot-to-dot gigs, the guys are in there messing with it, slapping it around, sonically kicking over their own glorious sandcastles to sculpt and shape something new, even more deliriously rock than what they captured on their debut album.

A glint over a year into weekend and school holiday touring jaunts, it's becoming obvious Silverchair are getting a taddly bored just reproducing their singles and album tracks onstage the same way every gig. Guitarist/vocalist Daniel Johns sang their punkola temple shot Findaway with a smirk and a fake British accent and watched silently, contentedly, as the crowd sang the verses of Tomorrow at their top of their voices.

Silverchair can do their album live, there's no doubt about that, and they can do it with the kind of furious energy so lacking on Australia's live rock stages, but sometimes it also seems like a full album show might be getting too easy for them, as though they might be wishing they had complicated and detailed some of their songs even more before they committed them to disc.

But where most successful bands get chilling doses of The Fear at the thought of fucking around with their own hit songs, particularly onstage (and in front of a 1000 strong crowd who mostly came tonight to see and hear those songs done the way they've come to love them), Silverchair instead revel and roll in their own ability to take a song like Israel's Son or Faultine and cut it loose and let it bolt off wherever it wants to go, storming into unknown territories, and sometimes it seems like the teenage trio is hanging on for the ride, gaining control now and again long enough to nudge the music onto another bearing, or to bring it all back for the close.

Nobody Came and No Association, two new songs the 'chair debuted tonight, take the exploratory wanderings and stop/starts of Frogstomp album tracks like Leave Me Out and Madman and rampage them fully into a rock of a new, or at least fresh, form. This is where songs stop being simply songs and become something much more, more musical dreamscapes, more instrumental questing than the 40 year old pop/rock tradish of verse/chorus/verse that has stunningly survived the arrival of punk and rap and techno to infest those new styles as catacombingly as it foundationed rock n' roll.

Johns has hinted that Silverchair's new music will be less traditional hard rock, less of the grunge shadings and pubrock shoutalongs, striding off into the hardened instrumental strongholds of Helmet and Tool, where the words tell more detailed stories than shouted choruses of confession and the music controls and colours the mood and soundtracks the tale being told.

Openers Bluebottle Kiss and Midget both do the free-form jam thing as well, in between some carefully crafted bursts of gut-thump pop. By coming out the garages much quicker, and bypassing the tradish Australian rock rules ("You must gig yourselves dead from Whyalla to Wollongong for at least five years before you are worthy of any success"), Bluebottle Kiss, Midget and Silverchair are skipping the less forgiving audiences who more often than not demand instant satisfaction in the form of "play sum'in we farkin' know", and are instead getting in front of audiences who're are mainly the same age as themselves and who are more open-minded and more willing to hear a band they dig and get into going off somewhere weird and tripped out just to see what's out there. They still want to hear songs they know, but soaking up a perfect live rendition of a band's biggest hits is no longer the holy grail of the evening out.

Purists will deem these live-jam experiments of the 'chair, Bluebottle Kiss and Midget as 'indulgent', and to some extent they are, in fact they have to be to even begin to work. But, as long as it is entertaining and interesting (or hypnotic in the case of the 'chair), it doesn't seem to matter that much to the many if the music sometimes craps itself out or wanders completely off track and gets lost in the trees.

It's okay for the bands to fuck their shit up here and there onstage, if that's the price for a trip to musical destinations that even the bands don't really know the geography of, or how they're going to get there.

The journey there is where the real excitement lies.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Regurgitator, April 1996

By Darryl Mason

Chances are, you're not likely to hear a more infectious, pop-catchy Australian tune this year than Rinsing (released as Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am), the opening song from Regurgitator's debut album Tu-Plang. Problem is, it's highly doubtful that you'll hear Rinsing on any radio station, short of a 3am airing on JJJ when the moral guardians of our (thankfully) perverted society are all fast asleep in bed.

Regurgitator bassist Ben likes the idea that they have come up with a song like Rinsing that screams "I could go Number One!" but in the process shot themselves in the foot because the lyrics doom it to be practically unplayable on commercial FM radio.

You see, Rinsing is a song about how far some people are willing to go to make their dreams come true, even if it means dropping to their knees and copping a load in the mouth.

"Rinsing's a generalisation of ambition, I guess" says Ben. "Doing whatever you can, or have to do, to get big. To make it. It's straight to the point. We didn't mess around with that one."

Witness the first line, and chorus, of Rinsing's lyrics : "I sucked a lot of cock to get where I am/I only wanna be the best that I can".

Not that Regurgitator had to subject themselves to such humiliations-of-stardom maneuverings to score their major label record deal. Far from it.

When Regurgitator were first offered a recording deal by Warners in mid-1994, they had barely performed a handful of live shows. Dreams of fame and fortune courtesy of Big Rock Star status hadn't even entered the 'Gurg's collective head at that stage.

Ben and drummer Marty had been playing together in Queensland for years in various bands before they heard about Vietnamese guitarist Quan, who had been making a bit of a name for himself with his musical experimentations.

The trio got together, started jamming, and within a week had played their first live show in a park. The fact that they only had four songs down and ready to go didn't deter Regurgitator from taking to the stage, they simply played the same four songs over and over until their set was finished.

"I walked past that park about two days ago," says Ben, "and I was just thinking 'we were so stupid back then'. We got offered the deal not that long after that gig. A tape from our rehearsals was sent down to Warners in Sydney by a friend of ours, and they rang back and asked us if we wanted to do some recordings. We were uming and ahhing for about six months, because we didn't know what we wanted to do, what we wanted to put out.

"The first EP was recorded after we'd been together for two months, and it was going to be a demo sort of thing, something to send out to people, but it ended up being the EP."

That first EP scored some airplay for the band and rose to the upper reaches of the alternative charts. It was the second EP, New, and songs like Blubber Boy and Track One that saw Regurgitator finding the beginnings of a national audience.

Regurgitator recorded the Tu-Plang album in Bangkok, partly to save money but mostly because the chaotic city was a world away from their hometowns in Queensland.

The band were flying to Europe for their first international shows last year when they stopped over in Thailand, and squeezed in a few days off.

"We looked around at some studios while we were there," says Ben, "and found this really good one for really cheap, so we thought we'd save money as well as go to a bizarre place to record."

Not being able to afford to freight a truckload of musical instruments and recording equipment over to Bangkok, the band made do with what was lying around the recording studio.

"We found all these old Hammond organs and busted up old trashy keyboards, so we used those, but they sounded really good. We made use of the bits of junk that were hanging around and we borrowed whatever instruments we could. We had to fix up a bit of the stuff before we could use it. I played my bass on the album through a worked over guitar amp."

As bodgy as some of the recording sessions may seem, the limitations of a cheap recording studio and having to make the most of whatever instruments they could lay their hands on means that Tu-Plang is, more often than not, a highly experimental adventure, not only in the recording techniques used, but also in sounds, rhythms and styles.

Tu-Plang is Thai for juke box, a more than appropriate album title considering the 16 songs that lie within. From a '60s surf-guitar outing to furiously catchy '70s flavoured pop songs; from hardcore techno to ambient synth stylings; from head-kicking gansta rap to metal heavy rock; from a bass thrumming ode to fortune cookies to a stuttering keyboard instrumental, Regurgitator have lived up to the high expectations stormed up by their first two EPs.

Regurgitator's diversity has flourished not only as the result of their individual love for a vast array of music, with a particular fondness for hip-hop and rock, but also due to the changing tastes of music listeners at large. More and more are finding their tastes spread across the board, no longer limited to strictly rap or blues, heavy funk or die-hard death metal.

"Some people are pretty true to their styles," says Ben, "and they become known for one sound or style of music. People come back to them again and again because they know what they're going to get. I don't think people necessarily think that way anymore. Some people are into metal or some people are into techno, but there are also people who listen to everything now, music from everywhere. And a lot of these styles are now crossing over into each other, taking elements of one style and mixing them with another. It's changing, all the time. Which is good for us, we'd be bored if we just played one type of music."

Did recording the album in Bangkok influence the sounds of Tu-Pang?

"I think the place had an effect on us personally. The effect was not so much on the music we made, but on ourselves living in that environment. Where the studio was, it was really a Third-World kind of place. There was this big canal area, a low lying floodland, and all these people living on stilt houses over the water, and they'd shit and piss in the river and just throw their garbage in there. The whole area just stank and was filled with rubbish. It was a poor standard of living, but the people there were really beautiful people and really nice to talk too and really happy. They didn't seem to get down on their surroudings. They had a real love of life."

Regugitator have scored themselves the opener for the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour of Australia. It's not a bad way to launch their debut album, to thousands of people every night. But Ben says they won't be undertaking all that much extra preperation for the tour.

"Ahh, we're a bit lazy, so we'll probably end up doing most of our rock songs live," laughs Ben. "No, we'll be doing some of the songs with sequencers, all the guitar stuff will be live. Maybe we'll clown around with a few samples. We haven't actually thought about it all that much."

But doesn't the tour start in two weeks?

"Yeah, I guess we should get prepared."


Monday, December 1, 2008

Jeff Buckley On Death, Fucking And The Lingering Influence Of Sesame Street

By Darryl Mason

August, 1995

"I'm weird in the head.....sometimes," says Jeff Buckley, his voice quiet and low and soft, as though he has gotten used to this fact. Simply accepted that his mind, his brain, does not function in what most would deem to be 'normal' ways. That's okay with him. He has put his 'weird head' ideas and moods to monumental use on his acclaimed debut album, Grace.

Buckley is convinced, he knows, that it was his "weird in the head" mindworkings that made the words, the music, the freaky energy and sombre, funereal moods of Grace so much more special. Unique. There's nothing else on radio today that sounds anything like Jeff Buckley. He knows that, too.

His songs sound familiar, but not of yesterday, or a week or month ago. Buckley's music isn't locked to a decade or a music trend, it sounds like music that has always been there. His songs became classic FM 'edgy' radio staples virtually the first time they were aired, last year. At least in Australia.

There's a beautiful mystery to Buckley's music, and even he doesn't know where a lot of it comes from.

A dreamy, surreal pulse runs through Grace, and the 'twenty-ideas-funnelled-into-one-song' style of his songwriting also permeates conversation with Buckley.

His thoughts, through his words, show his mind bolts off into a dozen different directions, and Buckley sighs sometimes as he tries to find his way back to his original point, as though the turmoil of his brain despairs him, or annoys him, when it's not helping him create brilliant music.

He talks, quietly, about how he ran away from LA, at seventeen, to find his music in New York City.

The son of folk singer Tim Buckley, Jeff made his first public appearance at a Tim Buckley benefit show in Greenwich Village, stunning most who saw him that night as he played a few of his dad's songs. Jeff's father died when he was eight, two months after he first met him, and only briefly.

It was in NYC that Buckley found his musical core, playing solo in small cafes and clubs as he wrote songs and dreamed of putting together a true band in every sense of the word. He wanted to find a gang who would live and breathe and sleep the music, as he did.

After scoring a major label deal, Buckley had almost a year to work on his songs, to plan the recordings of Grace, to put together his band, to get a live show happening. He’s done all of this now, and is ready to show the world that what he laid down on record is not even close to what he can do live onstage.

The rest of the world, as usual, is slow to catch on. But Jeff Buckley is already huge in Australia. Grace is set to go gold, Buckley's first, during his tour here in the next few weeks. He is surprised that there is such interest, down under, in his music, when his homeland has been slow to embrace him.

I explain, at length, that Australia has a solid record for not only delivering legendary live rock bands to the world (AC/DC, Midnight Oil, for starters), but noticing and getting into, sometimes getting hysterical about, bands and singers that are going to be huge, months and sometimes years before they break elsewhere.

Buckley is intrigued. Like who? he asks.

Well, in the 1970s, ABBA and the Bay City Rollers were massive in Australia before the rest of the...

Buckley laughs, a shriek, at the mention of the Bay City Rollers.

I was trying to explain to him that having Australians go nuts over his music is a good sign, that it perhaps might be the start of the same kind of interest, and record sales, and instantly devoted fans, in other countries as well.

Buckley goes quiet, he's humming something. He says he doesn't mean to be rude, a new tune has come to him, he has to hum it to remember it.

It can be as weird and surreal talking to Jeff Buckley as it is listening to his music.

Questions then. The answers come, spoken, but his voice rises and falls, like he is humming along, sometimes singing along, to music only he can hear, and long pauses, many long pauses, but not uncomfortable ones, not the pauses where you feel like you have to jump in and say something to fill the silence while he composes his next symphony of ideas.

Being at the centre of such success over the past twelve months, does it feel like you're living in a dream world, that is that you dreamed of this happening, and that you might wake up to find it all just a memory?

"It feels terribly real.....so real that there's a certain sensation to reality that I haven't felt before, in a lot of years, since I've been on my own, either because of my youth or the situation I was in......

"I think I've been building up a haze in my mind about what is real. Maybe that's just growing up, I don't know. In the last few years there's a certain sensation that comes with like feeling that you're in reality, and that all these things are real, and you are in this amazement of it all.....you wonder if you're a physical being or a mental being........I've been through that whole thing."

You were thinking about such things as a kid? Where did that influence come from?

"Living with a generation from the 1970s that got into all the metaphysical theories of God and of existence, and that the mind is the thing that matters, and that the body is the slave, or that the body is the main guy, and the mind is like the caboose of the train.......all that stuff.....you become an adult that thinks too much."

You mean along the theory that the mind, the brain, memory, imagination, all that is the soul, and the body is just the vehicle that gets it places, to absorb new info and experiences?

"I'll tell you what I found.....I can't get away from the idea that one is a direct reflection of the other, (the mind and body) aren't separated, they live together in eternal marriage, as so few things do......so few entities do.

"The thing that really shook my world and got my mind thinking about what is true, was issues of truth. Like living in this life as a public person now, which I never, ever, ever, ever used to be. "And it happens to many people, you're listening to them on the radio right now. I'm living in this place......this microcosm of the music world, and there's this really cool thing called here say, and I love it, it's my favourite (sarcastic tone). It's an amazing alternative universe. Just the way people base their decisions and their beliefs on the things they hear about other people, but not things that they actually find out for themselves."

That's a common human condition, it's faith that what you hear is the truth, thereby saving the person the hassle of finding out the truth for themselves....

"But then it's like you've lived you're life by proxy, constantly, and that creates a real problem in your life and in your body. You feel like you're surrounded by absolute non-trustworthy people, and life, and that can really kill you. And it did. It killed me. It got me, and it squeezed my brain till I couldn't think anymore......"

What changed that for you? Why did you stop trusting so faithfully?

"A few things happened to me that made me ask myself the question 'what is true? What is real around you? Who is real around you? Who are the ones that you love and trust?'

"Once I started to gather that knowledge it all came into focus. And it had never happened to me before, cause I always trusted everyone, always. I never put myself in the position to watch out for myself. If you live regular life you can pretty much coast, but in this one.......it's basically my music, and if that's not intact at the end of the day and able to grow, then I'm fucked. I have no purpose, all dressed up with no place to go, you just have the clothes.....and you're really fucked."

You don't want to be a caricature of yourself onstage? Do you fear being the fool?
"You can look like a fool and still live life....you must do it, you must be the fool, but to be the fool in vain, forever, is something I really can't take. Being the fool, playing the fool, but left with nothing to show for it, no amusement, no glorious hindsight with the rose coloured glasses, no scars, no nothing. Just a fuckin' fool. Like a fool god. I can't have that.........so I had to wake up."

But also in order to protect yourself, don't you have to allow yourself to be cynical, a little paranoid, suspicious about the people who flock themselves around you now?

"I've always been cynical. There's cynicism and then there's just blatant and unbridled hope, but neither of them are awareness. I take awareness over those two extremes. I fall into one or the other, but if I can balance then I can go forward with both of them instead of being.......ruminating in a stinky basement of cynicism, with your select group of music, and only that music and nothing else is allowed to come in, create a change.

"Or you can have that unbridled hope, which usually doesn't like to face reality.....(he speaks now in a high pitched, childlike voice, a true innocent) 'Oh everything's wonderful, sure. Knife in the heart? Oh sure, can I have two please? Great. Yeah, take my riches, okay, see you later, yeah sure, bye, everything's fine' (laughs)."

Is it simply finding a comfortable balance? Where you can draw from both cynicism and unbridled hope?

".....both of them.....it's slow death if you're in just one or the other. That's the same for all issues of balance, really. So you have to be awake....everything's a fight, everything.......it's good....even fighting to come.....fighting against disturbed neighbours or physical fatigue to have an orgasm with the one you want, that's a fight.....I need the fight, just like the needle needs to be on the groove, or else there's no music.

"That's not to stay I've got the answer.....I know that I need to know what I want."

Is it like you have all these other people, these many other sides to yourself, is that what it's like?

"People have many people inside them, many selves I feel, and I feel that they shift from one to the other sometimes in times or stress or total importance. I'm not talking about psychopaths, I'm talking about normal people.

"You notice the difference in your girlfriend if she becomes the mother, and she slips into the mother telling the child what they can or can't do - drawing boundaries around the child. It's a normal thing.

"And every side of you has a language and a feel and rhythm and a melody and a colour, and it's hard to get to it, you just have to be open and unafraid. The more uptight and conservative that I am, the more conservative the music I'm making will be."

Is that a totally different self of you up onstage, from the one who walks through a garden, thinking about the world?

"Oh yeah, (onstage) that's me with the floodgates open. A different me....I don't fear that person......that's more me, empty......like a faucet with water gushing through it. But I know who that person is.

"People are different when music is in them, they change physically. A child feels different when it is singing. The energy in the room is different, you stop and listen, or you laugh, whatever. "When any artist is channeling through other people, they transform into this......I don't know, some people might call it the divine.....it has a special nature that is yours, even though you don't see it very often."

Do you drift away onstage? Do you hear this person singing and playing, but feel detached?

"I don't loose myself onstage, I loose my concerns for yesterday, or what's gonna happen tomorrow. People having been forced, or getting into situations, where they compelled to act in the present, totally changes a human being. And makes them......you're an instrument of the present when you are fighting in a war, or saying your vows for a Christian marriage....or making love.....your arse is on the line somehow, or your heart is on the line and it's life or death.....or it's brilliance or a needless dull pall over your heart, something you really need to be yourself in. Like death......facing death....."

Have you got your head around that yet?

"These two friends of mine were robbed. These thieves broke in and tied them up and pointed guns in their faces.......my friends were talking about the numbness that came with the acceptance that they were going to die......and the calmness, almost a ridiculous calm."

He think about this for a while, a sigh, a silence of maybe 20 seconds.

"Like missing a bus, 'oh well, I'll just wait for another one'."

He laughs to himself. He seems appalled and fascinated by what happened to his friends. To face death, to know you are going to die.

"It must be the fear that hits you and it stops the mind from panicking, you just freeze and think 'okay, here I am'. I think that's the sensation that hits the rabbit before the truck plummets into it, they freeze.....I've frozen many times.....there's no life without death......it's very simple...."

What was it about music that first grabbed you? That sparked an interest to make music of your own instead of just listening to it?
"As a child it was just the pure.....spectacle of rock. It just looked cool and sounded so cool, but for me cool had a certain musicality attached to it, and a certain abandon, which is the reason why I grew up liking Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I knew what was going on, so do most kids.

"At the beginning it was the things on the radio, all that mellow post Dylan rock, including Dylan actually.....he could weave these deep dark magic spells, he had a quality even to a small child that he carried in his heyday.

"But as I got to be aware of what people were doing, Eagles, Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, Led Zeppelin, the classic rock ditties, American Woman, and Crosby Stills And Nash. Tonnes of Joni Mitchell, tonnes of Stevie Wonder, when I was a kid, and Sesame Street."

It's amazing how many people forget that Sesame Street is where children first hear a whole lot of different music, over and over, and learn lyrics, even if it is 'C is for Cookie and Cookie starts with C'.

"I remember.....lots of stuff from Sesame Street.....James Taylor was on there singing one of Oscar The Grouch's songs.....and there's this Stevie Wonder song from that show.....it was one of the baddest, funkiest things I'd ever heard….”

Buckley then breaks into a wonderfully accurate Stevie Wonder voice, singing the alphabet. He is delighted with his impersonation.

You used to play around with home recordings as a kid, stringing together different records of your mum's with stuff that you liked, slowing records down, speeding them up?

"Yeah, that was just playing around, trying different things.....I used to scare the shit out of myself playing Beatles albums backwards.....I'd heard those stupid things like when you played it backwards you could hear Satan......I wanted to hear Satan, so I'd play the albums backwards.

"So then I started playing Funny Girl backwards, and I was totally terrified. Playing anything backwards will terrify you as a kid......"

Did you get obsessed with one album or one artist as a kid? That thing where you get addicted to playing the same album over and over and over? Where it's almost like you are inside the album?

"Yeah, anybody who I thought was brilliant I totally pounced on and they became my every waking thought.....their worlds were so appealing I couldn't help but get sucked in......Nina Simone's world, the Sex Pistols world, Dylan's world.....I think my father was pretty good....."

When did you first listen back to the records he'd made?

".....I was having nightmares when I was eighteen.....so I decided to listen to his records.......he had that too, in songs like Blue Afternoon, that thing where the song becomes its own world, and I could go and visit those places.....

"But his songs never really became a favourite.....it's just not my kind of music......"

POSTSCRIPT : On May 29, 1997, Jeff Buckley died, aged 30. He was in Memphis, getting ready to record the follow-up to his debut album Grace. He took a swim in a tributary of the Mississippi River. He was fully clothed, wearing boots and singing Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' before he disappeared under the wake of a passing boat. His body was found four days later.

An autopsy and police investigations revealed no drugs were in his system at the time of his death. Friends and family do not believe he committed suicide. Perhaps he just decided at that moment that taking a swim was the right idea. An irresistible impulse.

Buckley had told a friend, a few months earlier, that he believed bipolar disorder might have been responsible for his intense, musically fruitful and very emotional mood swings.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ozzy Osbourne : You Can Only Live As An Alcoholic, Drug Addict For So Long, Then You Don't Live Anymore

By Darryl Mason

This is the original long version of a story that was published in On The Street Magazine (in Sydney), and other music press, in September, 1991. The published version was much shorter, and tighter, but I always preferred this one. Most of this story was written the night of the interview and listening party, in the always productive hours between 11pm and 4am

September, 1991

The glorious life of an aging Rock God…As soon as the new album is completed, it’s time to do a one week world tour, for promotional purposes. Hundreds of interviews in eight or so days, across seven countries. No time for sight-seeing, or kicking back. This is pure work, and at a pace that would shatter most.

In Australia, Ozzy visits three states in only two days. That’s hard on anybody. But it’s particularly hard on Ozzy Osbourne. He can’t even have a beer to make the whole experience of hearing the same five or six questions asked hundreds of times, day after day, seem a little less like self-replicating dejavu.

Ozzy can’t drink beer now because Ozzy drank all the beer when he was making his new record. Most days he got through a couple of dozen cans. Now he’s on medication to handle life without beer, heavy medication. And the man is so fucking tired.

When Ozzy and his wife, and manager, Sharon Osbourne arrive at the Park Hyatt at Circular Quay, Sharon is immediately entranced by the magnificent view of Sydney Harbour. From the balcony of the Osbournes hotel room, the vivid blue harbour, the glorious white sails of the Opera House, is laid out, the views uninterrupted.

“Oh this is so beautiful,” she said, “Come and look at this, darling.”

But Ozzy has already found the bed. Sleep is all he wants, maybe a solid week or so of it. However, he only manages to squeeze in ten minutes.

Straight off the plane, up for almost 48 hours (without cocaine), the extreme insomnia Ozzy Osbourne now lives with has clearly taken its toll.

When Ozzy walks through the foyer of the Park Hyatt at 2pm, he looks like an elderly man from a distance. Bent over, shuffling. A really old bloke, who’d maybe been run over a couple of times. Ozzy’s head is down, his arms hang limp, dripping like raw sausages from his slumped shoulders. He shambles along and drops with a groan and a grunt into a lounge chair next to his wife.

“Oh…fuck…” Ozzy begins to say, but his words mumble away into nothing.

For the moment, the original mad man of heavy metal is simply a bone-tired middle aged man, who would trade all his latest wave of fame and success for some privacy, some goddamned sleep and some time alone with Sharon.

Once, actually not that long ago, Ozzy would have just drank himself into a coma and slept wherever he happened to be. Hotel foyer, highway, elevator. But beer, all booze, is out now, so he can’t beer himself to sleep, even if he had time to sleep.

Despite being barely able to speak, as he waits with Sharon for the interviews to begin, this is about the straightest that Ozzy has been since he was a teenager.

“You can only live like that for so long,” he says later, “and then you don’t live anymore.”

Ozzy has done his obligatory stays in rehab clinics over the years, but he came to realise he was an alcoholic and a drug addict anyway, and that he would always be both. He wasn’t a slave to booze and pot and cocaine. That is, he didn’t hate drinking and snorting half gram lines of cocaine. He didn’t go for the idea he was punishing himself with this abuse. He did vast piles of drugs and booze because he loved getting high, then getting fucked up.

When he started work on the new album, No More Tears, his best in years, Ozzy was drinking a case of beer a day, starting at breakfast. He ballooned, his health deteriorated and he was so out of shape that he grew deeply worried about how he was going to play the hundreds of big arena and stadium shows across the world that loomed on the horizon.

“But I read an article on Mick Jagger, and he said that before he does a tour he goes into training, and I thought that made a lot of sense because world tours are a very athletic thing.”

He could get fit, he figured. Fit enough to make the tour easier. Being fucked out of your mind and doing two and a half hour shows three or four nights a week was hard work. Jagger made Ozzy realise that there was an easier way, but he had to get clean. Or cleaner. Long enough to do the tour.

Ozzy had been moving in slow motion in the hotel foyer, seemingly unaware of where he was, calling for his wife in an extended, moaning cry, “Shaaaaa-woonnnn!”

But a few minutes into the interview, Ozzy suddenly perks up when I tell him something that appeared to, briefly, blow his mind.

I was telling him how he once said that the metal of Black Sabbath was the sound of Britain’s industrial cities and towns. Literally heavy metal. Black Sabbath had turned into music the crashes, booms, sirens, metallic shrieks and wails of steel-making and heavy industry that filled the air, and the nights, of the Northern England neighbourhoods where Ozzy and his Black Sabbath band mates grew up.

But Ozzy missed the part where I told him that it was actually Ozzy Osbourne who said all that, many years ago. He thought this definition of early Black Sabbath was a brilliant insight. A revelation.

“I wish I’d fukkin’ thought of that,” Ozzy said.

Errr, you did, actually.

But his conservation was flowing now, as he talked about his tour plans.

“Before (to prepare for a world tour), I’d have been sitting in bars, swilling beers, drinking vodka and doing all the bad things, and then I’d go out on the road and wonder why I was feeling fucked after a week, you know…

“So I’ve been dieting, I’ve dropped 40 pounds and every morning now I get up religiously and work out on this exercise cycle. I don’t eat meat…”

Ozzy looks suddenly concerned at hearing himself say this out loud. “I don’t eat meat.”

He moves on.

“I eat a little bit of fish and I take vitamins, and I’m just preparing myself for this tour, whereas before I wouldn’t have even bothered. I hope and pray this will be one of the best tours I’ve ever done.”

Even though Ozzy will have no trouble pulling crowds across the US, he still can’t afford to fuck it up. You could be incoherently smashed onstage in the 1970s, because most of the audience would have been blasted as well. Every gig was mostly awesome when you were cratered, or least they seemed to be awesome, and that was all that mattered.

But arena rock, where Ozzy now dwells, has turned corporately Professional. There are the sponsors to consider. You can get fined for going onstage late, or playing beyond the curfews that are becoming almost standard at major gigs now.

He might be The Godfather Of Heavy Metal, but there’s no room on those big stages for overweight, drunk, stoned, semi-delirious rock stars, who can’t remember the words. You just can’t get away with that 70s unprofessional shit anymore. The audiences, raised on MTV, expect to hear old hit after classic, and they want them done note perfect. Ozzy knows all this. He feels the pressure. It’s forced him to change his life, and lifestyle, to such a dramatic degree, he still finds it hard to believe that it is Ozzy Osbourne who is doing it. To himself.

“These shows have to great. I’m not doing all this fuckin’ exercise and fuckin’ bicycling and push-ups and sit ups and eatin’ all this fuckin’ healthy food for nothing.”

Now he’s wide awake. He gets angry at the idea that he has forced himself to exercise and eat healthy and that the pay off might be something short of a pummelling live show.

Ozzy has steered clear of filling his live shows with old Black Sabbath songs. He hasn’t needed to. His solo albums, like Bark At The Moon and Blizzard Of Ozz, sold millions through the early 1980s and gave him all the hits he needed to fill two hour plus live shows. Iron Man and Paranoid were always standards of any Ozzy live show anyway, but for this new tour he wants to sing a whole bunch of old Black Sabbath songs, one last time.

He’s not expecting reactions of outrage and fury from his fans for getting nostalgic. God, no. Is there any kid who first heard Ozzy in solo mode, and then went back to the early Black Sabbath and had any other reaction than Holy Fucking Wow?

But Ozzy doesn’t want to revisit old Sabbath to become his own cover band, he wants to sing the old songs again because he can’t remember singing many of them, on tour, or in the studio, the first time around.

He does seem to regret not having those memories. He sighs when he reveals he doesn’t really remember anything much about the 16 straight hours Black Sabbath spent in a studio, when Ozzy was only 21, laying down a whole album of songs, live in the studio, only one take for most of them. Or what is now seen by Sabbath addicts as the magical hour when the band needed an extra song to fill out the second album, and came up with Paranoid right there in the studio. Much of it was improvised, the immediately classic riffs and lyrics pulled from a river of beer and dope.

“The funny thing about Black Sabbath being a part of history,” Ozzy says, “is we never knew what the fuck we were about. I never, ever thought we were very good, to be honest. I mean Iron Man and Paranoid were good riffs, but we weren’t a great band. We were always fucked up on drugs and booze. The whole thing is actually a hit of a haze to me….Anything bad that happened we never took seriously because we just went off to the pub and got pissed again….”

Another big sigh, a shrug.

“We missed out on a lot of reality.”

But look at the music you made. That stuff rocked the lives of millions of people. It still does. You gave millions of kids a rocking soundtrack for their youth.

“Yeah, I suppose.”

But Ozzy doesn’t want you to get him wrong on his opposition to alcohol and drugs. It’s for a reason related more to his work, the upcoming world tour, than to a looming tower of regrets for having had so many good times when he was younger.

He’s not anti-drugs, and he doesn’t want to be a role model for anybody.

“Do whatever the fuck you like.”

Ozzy considers this statement for a moment.

“Do what you wanna do as long as you’re enjoying it. If it becomes a problem, then go and get some fuckin’ help. There’s a ton of help.”

Ozzy raises a hand to scratch his face. He misses. He fingers tremble.

“This is where I kinda get pissed off in the respect that just because I was an alcoholic drug addict and I cleaned up my act…” Ozzy is starting to shout now, “what gives me the right to tell you not to do it? You are you and I am me. If I worked in a steel mill, and I went up the foreman and told him he shouldn’t drink, he’d tell me to go and fuck myself.

“I’m not a politician. People have always drunk and people will always drink, and people will always die of liver disease due to alcohol, or kill themselves in a car wreck or murder somebody, you ain’t gonna stop it…”

The shouting ends. His energy dissipates.

“I’ve been in some fuckin’ terrible states, man, because of it, but I’m not gonna be the one to wave the flag and say, ‘It’s the right way to be sober’…Fuck that man.”

He clips a Malboro into his cigarette holder and looks around for a beer, remembers there aren’t any in the room. He smokes, has a quick doze, really only a few seconds, maybe twenty or so. Do I wake him? Or just let him sleep for a while? But then he’s back and railing dramatically, fantastically, against the wave of ‘hair metal’ bands filling up stadiums and arenas where he will be soon trying to compete. Most are half his age. This rise of glam metal and pretty-boy bands fills Ozzy with disgust. He hates the way the media mentions him and bands like Poison as playing the same sort of music.

“Fuck that, man.”

Ozzy explains he didn’t grow his hair long when he was young to be pretty, he did it to piss off his parents and anyone else over twenty in his home town of Birmingham, England. Either it was rebellion, or you couldn’t be bothered going to a barber.

Bands from his generation had to prove themselves, on stage, on record, over and over again, there was no debuting at number one with your first album. The marketing machine behind rock today, but particularly behind what he derides as the drift net rock brand that is now known as ‘heavy metal’, mystifies and infuriates Ozzy. But it’s part of his business now, and so he must play along, to a point.

“In America, if you’ve got long hair and a guitar, and you wear all those weird, gay spack things and you look like Nelson or Poison…that’s supposed to be heavy metal? Fuck that, man.

“Now the thing is to grow your hair, get tattoos, buy a guitar and get the fuckin’ look before you get the talent. Just play the fuckin’ music, and cut out all this garbage.”

Angry is a fairly common daily experience for Ozzy. I ask him why he never played guitar and he explains his daily battle with TV remote controls, telephones, juice makers. He’s not good with technology.

After the interview, Sharon says she loves how Ozzy can be so passionate, even if it’s only because a band “like fuckin’ Nelson” has appeared on a music channel he’s watching while working out, and he can’t change the channel or mute the volume fast enough.

“Ozzy can be more passionate about trying to change the TV channel,” Sharon says, “than most people are about their children.”

But he has far more love than anger now, Sharon says.

Ozzy, while absolutely pissed, tried to kill her once, and she has saved him more times than he can remember. It seems unlikely that Ozzy would have even made this album, let alone do such a fast media tour, without Sharon. She keeps him upright and moving forward, and he loves her like a man, but like a child, too. She loves him back with passion, and fire, and forgiveness. She is his protector now, and Sharon has told entire boards of the world’s biggest record companies that Ozzy sells too many records (millions of back catalogue solo and Sabbath albums a year) to be ignored, or treated like shit by their corporations.

It is Sharon who has made Ozzy feel like he can keep going, and that he deserves to be acknowledged not only for what he did, but what he’s still doing.

For the anger, Ozzy sees a therapist. He loves telling stories of his childhood, and a therapist is, after all, a professional listener.

“It sort of rebuilds your personality,” he says.

“We talk about what goes on in my life. There are feelings that you have and you can’t understand why you’re having those feelings. He helps me to go back and remember when I first had these feelings….when my dad comes home, his bicycle had a flat tyre and he whacked the cat over the head with the bicycle pump.”

Ozzy pauses, a tear touches one eye, the tremble returns to his hands. This is hard for him.

The long ash of the cigarette he forgot about falls onto his pants. I have to resist the urge to reach over and brush the ash off his clothes.

“It’s like going back in yourself and rebuilding your personality…”

Is it working?

“So far so good.”

An hour later, Ozzy is still doing interviews, and Sharon is waiting for her husband in the foyer. There’s a handful of reporters and die-hard Ozzy Osbourne fans standing around. The five fans were waiting outside and asked me to take in their Ozzy and Black Sabbath records to get signed. This is regarded as “very unprofessional” behaviour for a rock journalist. Hell, if it was cool to bring in a swag of records to get signed, I would have brought my own. When I tell Sharon that there are Ozzy fans waiting outside, and they’ve been out there for hours, she immediately heads outside and collects them herself.

Back in the hotel foyer, they all look stunned to be standing with Sharon, waiting to meet her husband. The Oz himself.

Sharon, a self-confessed “lover of all gossip”, talks about a recent LA metal wedding. Lots of leather, lots of big hair, booze, drugs, insanity. The bride and groom, both rock-metal stars themselves, were so pissed they could barely stand up for the ceremony. Within an hour or so of getting married, they were cheating on each other at the reception. Sharon laughs.

Some idiot from a music video channel blubbers a reference to the only thing he know about Ozzy Osbourne – that he once bit the head off a live bat onstage.

Sharon is the mythologiser of Ozzy, no matter how painful the personal story may be for the both of them. She will pointedly tell you that her husband tried to kill her, and will then explain why she forgave him. They’ve had a marriage that would have destroyed most people.

Sharon waves away the old legend that Ozzy bit off bat heads onstage (he bit the head off a dead one, once, that had been thrown onstage. He thought it was a rubber bat, from his own stage show).

She has a better story than that tired old tale.

When Ozzy was welcomed back to a major label in the mid-1980s, after Sharon had fought hard on his behalf for long-overdue respect and attention, someone thought it would be a wonderful idea to have some doves in a cage in the record company boardroom for the official signing. The Demon and the Doves, or something. Ozzy was pretty wrecked that morning. Sharon had made sure all the record company staff and board members at the signing understood that Ozzy was one of their best selling acts, and he deserved some fucking respect. Ozzy prepared himself for the photos with the record company staff. He took a dove from the cage, posed with its frightened little head inside his wide-open mouth. Everyone laughed. The tension was gone. Ozzy was a joker. Everybody relaxed, Sharon said.

Then Ozzy bit through the dove’s neck and spat the head on the table. There was screaming, maybe some vomiting. There are photos of Ozzy doing this, grinning maniacally, as record executives lurch away in revulsion.

Sharon is right. This is a better story. Far more Ozzy.

But those days are over for him, for now anyway. He has to behave himself.

Reality for an aging Rock God can sometimes feel like a damn hard slog when you don’t have cocaine to get you up and booze to bring you down, and pot to even out the kinks, just a little. That used to be Ozzy’s realty. Not anymore. He needs to be kept busy, to have his missions, in order to stay focused. But he also has to work in the music industry, surrounded by drugs and booze, or at least the temptations of them.

Sharon once took Ozzy’s clothes away so had no choice but to stay in his hotel room. Ozzy simply dressed in Sharon’s clothes and found the nearest bar, and began drinking. She admits he could try that one again. So he has to be watched. Sharon trusts Ozzy, but she also knows him, only too well.

One of her first missions when Sharon arrived at the Hyatt was to tell the staff that they were not to give Ozzy alcohol, under any circumstance, no matter how he threatened them, or begged them. She made sure they all understood, and told the manager that if Ozzy went missing during his overnight stay at the hotel, she would hold him personally responsible.

"You don't want to get on my bad side," Sharon warned the manager. "Do you understand?"

He nodded yes, very quickly, as did all the other staff standing at or near the front desk.

"I have to do this at every hotel," she explained to me later, "I trust him, but I don't trust his addictions."

That night the record company holds a listening party. Ozzy shambles in, mutters a few hellos and sits down on the lounge. And there he stays as his new album, No More Tears, fills the room. The chatter of record company staff, media and others is steady and Ozzy has to listen hard sometimes to hear his record. He raises a hand as if to shush the crowd. It’s a listening party, why aren’t they listening?

And Ozzy is the only one not drinking here tonight. People come up to say hello and Ozzy watches them closely as they laugh and take a long belt of their beers or bourbons. One journalist leaves a freshly opened beer on the side table, right next to Ozzy. His jaw drops, and stays open.

“Sharon…” The call for his wife starts low and quiet and rises through the word to a shout, then becomes a bellow.


He’s not demanding her to immediately come to his side, it’s like he just wants to know she is still close by.

Then she is with him, by his side, talking to him quietly, she says something that makes him laugh and he can finally tear his attention away from that open fucking beer. I get rid of it, and tell the journo who left it there what an absolute dickhead he is.

Ozzy grips Sharon’s hand in both of his. He whispers, “I want to fuckin’ go.”

There are tears in his eyes.

Ozzy drank a couple of beers that night, back in his hotel room. Just two or three, that’s all. Just enough. And then he melted into the bed and fell into that deep sleep he had been waiting more than 50 hours for.

Finally, finally, he and Sharon were alone again.