Bob Daisley has been in the music industry for many years now. Playing bass with such greats as OZZY OSBOURNE, GARY MOORE, Ritchie Blackmore's RAINBOW, URIAH HEEP, BLACK SABBATH and many more. Throughout his career he has encountered many changes, seen people come and go, and recently been involved in a massive lawsuit with the Osbourne's. He talks about the past, the lawsuit, the music, his passions and the new projects he is working on; being a part of LIVING LOUD, Blues band THE HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN and resurrecting one of his earliest acts, the pioneering Australian Prog-Rock outfit KAHVAS JUTE.
It seemed like RAINBOW was your first big break, what do you remember were the best and worst moments of that time?
I think the best moments were the times when it meant being 'at the top' and that I was experiencing the freedom of a truly professional organisation. I mean, not being in an 'opening act' gave more freedom of expression in our art which gave full focus on what we were playing. Even the touring part was so much more bearable, being in better hotels, better transport etc. The most important 'best moments' were really the standard of musicianship and professionalism though, and being with the great players (and singer) that they were. The only 'worst moment' I had to endure was really only the fact that it was Ritchie's (Blackmore) band and not a true democratic situation. I can understand why it was like that but there was still an element of frustration because of it.
All in all, RAINBOW was a great opportunity for me to experience the business from a higher level, an experience that taught me a lot from many different perspectives. For the most part, it was a very enjoyable and creative time for me.
So how much does the 'professionalism' improve the freedom and enjoyment of being in a band?
Immensely. Professional attitude can make or break a band and certainly affect the level of enjoyment experienced within playing and writing. Being professional means being reliable, mature in attitude and being able to deal with other people, i.e. musicians, promoters, record executives etc. Having a diplomatic attitude towards people and situations can sometimes mean compromise but it can also save working relationships and in the long run make for a more enjoyable experience.
What was it like to play with Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads (guitar)?
Every time I'm asked the 'What was it like to play with Randy Rhoads?' question, I think of the time I was standing on Stafford Railway Station with Randy soon after we met in 1979. We'd been at Ozzy's house to start writing material for the record and to audition drummers. As we stood waiting for the train back to London (where I lived and where Randy was staying in a flat), I had an overwhelming premonition that one day I'd be asked that question over and over again. I've always been a bit what people term psychic and so was my mum, even more so, which explains it to a point.
As far as the answer goes, I think you only have to listen to the product we all came up with to get an idea. Ozzy was the 'name' and selling point of the band, and of course his input was very important as a part of the recognisable sound. The overall direction of the music and the trademarks came from a total of the ingredients, that is, the chemistry of the four people that joined together to 'bake the cake'. To quote a lesser used cliché, the whole was much bigger than just the sum of the parts. Randy was such an important ingredient, with the great flair in his guitar playing style and his classical music family background. But I think that each and every member was as important as the next, no-one was any more important in making the final music than anyone else. Ozzy had just been fired from BLACK SABBATH for being drunk and non-productive and he wasn't much different with the new band, which was called BLIZZARD OF OZZ. This was NOT an Ozzy 'solo' record as they, the Osbourne's, will now tell you.
But to get back to answering the question, it was great to work with both Ozzy and Randy and equally enjoyable to work with Lee Kerslake (drums). The four of us had a great time in those early years making music together. The first album was done without Sharon (Osbourne) on the scene and when she began managing the band the camaraderie went out the window. She wanted to focus on Ozzy and make it the Ozzy show and she had dollar signs in her eyes looking at Randy. Sharon and Ozzy didn't recognise the winning formula staring them in the face and decided they wanted to fire Lee to get Tommy Aldridge in as drummer, but I wouldn't agree so they fired both of us. When we first went into the studio to record, we didn't think about what was going to be a hit or what was going to make money or get airplay, we just wrote and played the music we loved and that's an important characteristic in the magic of it all. I think later that Ozzy got 'Sharonised' and as history tells, Randy got killed. Randy wanted out from them anyway. He didn't know how to get out of his contract or how to get away from the Osbourne camp. In the end, sadly he found his own way I guess. Long live his memory.
Tell me more about the psychic premonitions?
As I mentioned, my mum was very much that way and she could do it at will, but mine's just when it happens, it happens, if you know what I mean? I remember Ozzy being worried that his career was over in 1979 when we formed BLIZZARD OF OZZ. One particular night we were travelling through London in a black London taxi, I still remember where it was, we were going through Bayswater down Queensway, and I said to him, 'I just know that this is going to take off and be successful - look me in the eye, I can honestly tell you, don't worry'. It was something that I just 'knew'. There have been many instances where things just 'come to me' but like I said, I can't do it at will, I have to wait and if it comes, it comes. Don't ask me 'what's the future of mankind?' though, don't ask me, I don't know!
You mentioned before that Randy wanted out of the whole Ozzy and Sharon thing, what did he say to you, how did he show that he didn't want to be involved with them anymore?
Randy wanted to get out of the Rock business and study/concentrate on classical guitar. He was serious about music and wanted to deepen his knowledge and involvement in music theory and the classics. There was also a deal done by Sharon and Ozzy with Sharon's father, Don Arden (Jet Records), where Ozzy and the current band were to record a whole album of BLACK SABBATH songs live and Randy hated that idea. He was contracted to Ozzy and Sharon and felt trapped. When Ozzy found out that Randy wanted out, he punched him in the face and called him an ungrateful little shit. Randy didn't hate Rock music or the music of BLACK SABBATH but he did hate feeling trapped and he did want to get away from the Rock business to study more seriously. Who knows, maybe if he'd had his way, he would have studied classical guitar for a while and come back to Rock stronger than ever. I'd like to think so.
What did you do when you first heard that Randy Rhoads had died in the plane accident? Did it make you reassess your life in any way?
When Randy was killed, Lee (Kerslake) and I were out of the band and had reformed URIAH HEEP. We (URIAH HEEP) were in the air on our way from London to Houston, Texas, to start a U.S. tour when the incident occurred. When we got to Houston, Lee and I went to the place we were to play at the following night, to have a look at the venue. As we walked in, the girl on the door recognised us and began talking to me. Lee went on ahead into the club... Cardi's it was called. She told me that 'some of the Ozzy band had been killed in a plane crash that morning', but she didn't know who? She then told me of a radio announcer in the club at the time, who would know, so I asked him. He told me it was Randy and Rachel, the wardrobe lady. I was speechless and walked into the club and sat next to Lee at the bar. He turned to me and said, 'What's wrong? You've gone all white'. I told him about Randy and we just sat there drinking and crying, it was so sad. We were tired and jet-lagged as we'd only just arrived from London and this all seemed too unreal. We went back to the hotel bar and drank a toast to Randy with all his favourite drinks. I had a floral wreath made in the shape of a bow-tie, for his burial, as Randy had a thing about bow-ties; they were even on his guitar as fret-markers. We couldn't make it to the funeral because of contractual commitments, which for us was even sadder. I began to think about how this could have been me with Randy had I been still in the band, but I always remain philosophical in these matters and take the view that we'll all be at the place we're meant to be when we go. On a lighter note, my Irish grandfather used to always say, 'If I knew where I was going to die, I wouldn't go there'. Which I think is a humorous way to look at it.
There have been many times on the road that I've felt very lonely and too far from home doing the job that's my life and work and Randy lost his life in the line of duty. It's very sad that his mother, Delores, had to file a lawsuit in the 80s to get what her son was owed. As she later told me 'I just ran out of money, patience and it all became too much'. Don Arden, Sharon's father, told me personally that within days of Randy's death, Sharon came into the office to change Randy's contract. I wouldn't put anything past that lot. Now in her 80s, Mrs. Rhoads is an old lady and Sharon Osbourne manages the Randy Rhoads estate. He must be turning in his grave. Rock on Randy, we miss you. Bless you.
Both Ozzy and Randy have big reputations (more Ozzy than Randy). What do you make of what both of them have created and what they have/will leave behind?
To be honest, I get a little sick of the 'Ozzy/Randy' thing. I've even seen it in print that 'Randy Rhoads saved Ozzy's career single-handedly'. With all due respect to Randy - and don't get me wrong here, he deserves all the praise and respect he gets - he didn't do it alone. Ozzy had been fired from BLACK SABBATH for being non-productive and continuously drunk and consequently had earned himself a bad reputation. Randy, Lee and I supported Ozzy to get him back on his feet. I know QUIET RIOT, Randy's L.A. band, couldn't get a recording contract which goes to show that Randy wasn't the 'cavalry' alone, or maybe they would've been signed on the strength of Randy alone. Ozzy was 'the name' with the following that came from BLACK SABBATH and that helped us a lot, which is the reason we accepted a lesser royalty rate to Ozzy, but never got paid anyway. Randy was a fantastic guitarist with great song ideas and Ozzy had the 'trade mark' voice. He wasn't/isn't a great singer but he was original with a recognisable voice. Randy and I put most of the first album together musically and Ozzy's vocal melodies were creative and important. I think the lyrics are equally important to the whole thing as are the drum and bass parts. We had auditioned over forty drummers before Mr. Right (Lee Kerslake) came along. That whole chemistry was a magical union of us all, not just Ozzy, who took more credit than he deserves, and Randy, who does deserve much credit but as I said, he didn't do it alone. I mentioned before that 'the whole was much greater than just the sum of the parts'. I'm proud to have been part of something that will go down in Rock history as classic, and that is, two albums, 'Blizzard..' and 'Diary...', by a band called BLIZZARD OF OZZ, and NOT a 'solo' project by someone who can thank their lucky stars for being surrounded with people that helped pull him out of the shit. It saddens me when I see Ozzy on the TV nowadays, that something we created together became the source of greed, lies and litigation and I think of all the good times and laughs that we shared together making great music. The legacy of all this is obviously the music, but even that's been changed as most people know by now that Lee Kerslake's and my performances were removed from the original recordings in 2002 when we sued the Osbourne's for unpaid royalties. Who knows, maybe one day the original recordings will be re-released? I'd like to think so, for the sake of the true fans of those albums.
You have mentioned that your performances, as well as Lee's, on the albums have been re-recorded. How does it make you feel that not only did you originally write some of the best songs of Ozzy's 'solo' career, with little recognition, but you have now had both of your performances tampered with, with little notice given to the public with regards to the 'remastered' versions of those albums?
Well, this is typical of what they, the Osbournes, will stoop to. Let's not forget the way that Lee and I were blatantly omitted on the credits of 'Diary Of A Madman' for our performances and production after we recorded them and then were fired. I put a lot into the production ideas of that album - even the title was mine. When the album was released, the credits stated Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums, neither of whom played a note nor a beat on the record. Obviously Lee and I expected to get some kind of slap in the face around the time of the re-recording because we were suing them, but to insult the memory of Randy, whom this has also affected, is truly selfish on their part. I'm always getting letters and comments on my website about how disgusted music lovers are with the way this has bastardised Rock History. For us, the making of the music was the fruit of the labour of love and can never be duplicated nor recreated, it happened once and once only.
Randy had no say in the matter of changing the overall sound of these records by what they did just to spite us and when I spoke to Delores, Randy's mother, she expressed her regret and disappointment. It's such an insult to the record buying public to change drastically the recordings without appropriate labelling, with intent to deceive and now there's no choice, no-one can buy the originals anymore. Nowhere on the exterior artwork is there labelling that states 'Not original recordings', 'Not original artists', it just says 'Remastered' which is a load of 'what's good for the garden'. This just goes to show where their priorities are, with greed for money, power and control, forget the art and music itself. I think it was a bit like saying 'we'll show 'em, we'll ruin our own product'. Duuuuhhhh!
I wrote in excess of 95% of all the lyrics on the first five albums and there's a song that I wrote the lyrics to entitled 'You Can't Kill Rock 'N' Roll', which in essence, this statement in the title may be true, but in their case, they've had a good go at crippling it!
After all of the troubles you have had working with Ozzy, why go back to do 'No More Tears' and 'Bark At The Moon' and also again with Ozzy and STEVE VAI in 1994?
That's a very important question and the answer is a complex one. The first time I went back to work with Ozzy was for the writing and recording of 'Bark At The Moon' in 1983. He'd had Rudy Sarzo, Don Costa and UFO's Pete Way on bass at various times, none of whom Ozzy was satisfied with. Lee and I had started a lawsuit against Jet Records/Don Arden, Sharon's father, for non payment of royalties from the first two records and lack of appropriate credits on 'Diary Of A Madman'. Because Sharon and her father had had a serious falling out, and were no longer speaking to each other, Sharon and Ozzy decided to help Lee and me with being witnesses in our case to prove that we were meant to get royalties and proper credits. So off I went to help write and record 'Bark At The Moon', which was followed by a promo world tour. By July 1983, Sharon had done a deal with her father to buy the rights and the catalogue of the Ozzy records, unbeknownst to Lee and me. This meant that they, the Osbourne's, were now receiving our royalties from those records and were still 'helping' us sue her father. When the case finally went to court in 1986, Sharon changed her mind and sent into court a signed declaration that we shouldn't be paid but it was to no avail as we won and got a payout from Jet/Don Arden who later declared bankruptcy. Lee and I thought then that the credits would be changed and that our royalties would continue, but that didn't happen as the Osbourne's owned the rights now but still didn't make it known to us. Of course being on good terms with Ozzy meant that we could work together and Sharon promised numerous times that the credits on 'Diary...' would be changed in our favour.
Because of complications with publishing company contracts, Jake E. Lee and I agreed to write the songs for 'Bark...' and let Ozzy take the credit. That's why on that album it says 'All songs written by Ozzy Osbourne'. That really hurt us, but there was no other way at the time. He even told 'International Musician' in an interview, that he'd written all the songs with one finger on a piano - I wonder where the other hand was! The next album, 'The Ultimate Sin', was written by Jake and me while Ozzy was in The Betty Ford Centre for rehabilitation, which is why most of the material was written in Palm Springs. Ozzy decided to get rid of Tommy Aldridge on drums at this time so Jake and I got the job of auditioning drummers in L.A. Still without a drummer, we began to continue writing/auditioning drummers in London. One weekend we were asked to go into the studio to record some demos for the record company to hear. Ozzy had hardly been at rehearsals all week and when it came to do the demos, we only had two days to record four or five songs and mix them, so there was a degree of urgency. When Ozzy showed up at the studio, he began to drink and smoke pot then decided he wanted to change arrangements and parts of the songs whilst getting off his face. I said to him, 'Ozzy, it's a bit late now to start changing things, maybe you should've showed up at rehearsals'. After that there was tension in the air which later came to Ozzy and me yelling at each other and him firing me again. A month later I got the phone call requesting me to write the lyrics for the album and we agreed a deal. Of course, when the album was released the first five hundred thousand pressings contained artwork that said 'All songs written by Jake E. Lee and Ozzy Osbourne', a 'mistake' according to them. I threatened to sue and my credit was added.
The whole history of our working relationship has been an uphill struggle and a 'love-hate' one most of the time - they loved my work but hated paying for it and crediting me! It wasn't until much later and after I'd recorded the 'No More Tears' album and worked with Steve Vai in 1994 at his studio on new material for the next Ozzy record, that Lee and I found out about them getting our early royalties and the deal that they'd done by buying the rights to the Ozzy catalogue - and not telling us of course - in 1983. I had been asked to play on the next record for Ozzy in 1994 and had allotted the time for it to be messed about yet again with 'We're using Geezer Butler now, instead of you' after I'd put in weeks of preparation and rehearsals, not to mention turning down other work I'd been offered for that period. Sharon promised me a 'cancellation fee' - do you think I got it? Hang on there's a pig flying over! Steve was still owed for the use of his studio but neither got paid nor played on the record. Lee and I then, in 1997, sought legal advice and were informed of the great strength of our case by very reputable lawyers in L.A. For us though, it was like suing the government, as the Osbourne's were very rich, very powerful and super connected.
Around 1999/2000, Don Arden contacted me offering to help us in our case against the Osbournes. Lee and I met with him in London and we thought we'd have a good chance. It was at this time that he told me about Sharon changing Randy's contract soon after he was killed. Not long after that, Don went back on his word and made up with Sharon and became our enemy, saying that we'd offered to pay him to lie. Nice family eh?
Why did I work with them for so many years? Because I believed promises that weren't kept, and above all, I loved being a part of the music, which often leaves you vulnerable in being taken advantage of.
It seems that you and Lee place a higher price on the music than a dollar amount can ever achieve. Since the court case was dismissed in October 2003, has there been any further legal action taken against the Osbourne's? I know that you probably can't talk about it in great detail, but what's happening now?
Yeah there's really not much more to add. It seems so weird that for the first four years of the lawsuit from 1998 - we met with our lawyers in 1997 but the suit officially began in 1998 when the Osbourne's were served - through to 2002, that every issue in the case, and there were many, was allowed by the judge in every summary judgement, until out of the blue and all of a sudden, the same judge said that we didn't have a case. It was a female judge and I've heard that it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind but this was nuts. We then appealed the decision and after that went to the Supreme Court but to no avail, they wouldn't hear our case. I know that the Osbourne's are very connected, rich and powerful and I wouldn't put anything past them. I do have faith in the law of Karma though, so we'll all have to wait and see what happens. We are very disappointed in the so called 'justice system' though.
We'll have to wait and see whether Karma does come back to haunt them. Let's move on shall we? After playing with Ozzy, in the first instance, you went on to play in URIAH HEEP. Tell me about some of the most memorable experiences from that time in your life?
The URIAH HEEP episode of my life was a very enjoyable one. When we reformed The HEEP in 1981 it was like a family from day one. There weren't any bosses or leaders, just mates having fun making music. The first instances of us playing together were when Micky Box (guitar), Lee and I had a play together at Jumbo rehearsal rooms in London. Soon after that John Sinclair (keyboards) and Pete Goalby (vocals) completed the picture. I remember getting a phone call from Ozzy when he was in L.A. and he'd heard our first album since the reformation of URIAH HEEP, which was entitled 'Abominog' (1982), and he was raving about it. He said he was going to have a sandwich-board made to wear up and down Sunset Boulevard to tell people to buy it. The album got good reviews and began to make a noise in the U.S., but the record label didn't get behind it and it only had minor success. We did quite a lot of touring which was always fun with the HEEPsters and in 1983, soon after recording another album entitled 'Head First' (1983), I got the phone call from Ozzy to rejoin him to help write the next record, 'Bark At The Moon.' It was a difficult decision to make as I loved The HEEP but the situation hadn't been handled right from the management/record company point of view and I had a family to support and a mortgage and bills to pay.
It was never the same with Ozzy, what with Lee and Randy gone and me 'working for' a band I started with Ozzy. Jake E. Lee did an admirable job of filling the hard-to-fit shoes of Randy, and Tommy Aldridge, although a great drummer, didn't suit the band like Lee had. All these things made me miss the HEEP even more, but I just had to get on with it and do a professional job. I remember being on the road with Ozzy in the U.S. and Mötley Crüe were opening up for us. Nikki Sixx, Crüe's bass player, played me a track from an album he'd just bought and said to me 'Hey dude, check out the bass on this, it's the coolest'. He played me a song called 'Stay On Top' which was a song from the Uriah Heep album 'Head First' that I'd just recorded. 'Yeah that's me', I told him, 'not bad is it?'
John Sinclair was/is a great keyboard player, one that I often recommended Ozzy to use on his records. Years later, John became Ozzy's keysman and we worked together again, this time on the albums 'No Rest For The Wicked' and 'No More Tears'. I just wish that HEEP had been promoted and handled better and seen a greater success than we did. Such is the record industry. They still work hard and sound great though... Rock on HEEPsters!
You've just recently been recording with GARY MOORE, after a break of some years? How did it come about?
Gary and I remained friends and kept in touch over the years even though we hadn't worked together and even after I moved to Australia. I came back to the UK on numerous occasions and often hooked up with Gary for a drink or meal and a chat. We always got on well and have a similar sense of humour, I always get his jokes and vice versa, whilst quite often, others in the room don't. As to the question, how did it come about? Well, it was kind of ironic, I was sitting watching a programme about air disasters on TV, it was around October 2003, and I was thinking, 'thank goodness I don't have to fly anywhere for a while' - it's never been my favourite means of transport. I'd done a live DVD with Jon Lord and my blues band THE HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN, earlier that year, and then in July flown to Florida and London to record the LIVING LOUD album with Steve Morse, Don Airey, Lee Kerslake and Jimmy Barnes. So I thought that being close to the end of the year, I would have done all my flying for that year by then. Wrong! A couple of days after watching the air disaster programme, Gary phoned me out of the blue, pardon the pun, and asked what I was doing. When I told him I had some time off, he asked if I'd like to play on his forthcoming album, a Blues album but a rougher, ballsier style of Blues than previous. 'Can you be in London next week?' he asked. 'Certainly', I said and off I trundled to start recording with Gary. It's always a good laugh with Gary and this was no exception. Of course it's serious music and usually fairly demanding but fun at the same time. He's such a great player; I always enjoy working with true pros. The album 'Power Of The Blues" got very good reviews when it was released in mid 2004 and I flew back to England in June that year to rehearse for some live shows. We were to play at outdoor festivals in July/August and we did the first few when Gary injured his finger which went septic and he had to be hospitalised. I waited around to see if we could do some more of the shows but he didn't recover in time. We were also to do a UK tour in November of that year but Gary's finger wasn't 100% so contracts and promotion couldn't be locked in. It was such a shame and it must have affected the sales of the album. The 'Power Of The Blues' album is certainly worth a good listen, I think it's one of his best in years, so did a lot of the reviewers. I think because we didn't use a 'click-track' and just let rip, you can hear that it was fun for us and the music has a natural spontaneity. I look forward to working with Gary again, if that happens?
You've just mentioned the LIVING LOUD album. How did it come about? What was the idea behind it?
When I did the shows with the Blues band THE HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN with Jon Lord in February 2003, the promoter, a friend of mine called Drew Thompson, made the suggestion of doing an album with Jon along with a singer here called Jimmy Barnes who had got up with us at The Basement gig in Sydney to sing. Jon had just left DEEP PURPLE at that time and the suggestion of Steve Morse for the guitar slot was made. It was all sounding very good and the next recruit would be the drummer. I immediately thought of Lee Kerslake as Lee and I had talked about doing something together for years with the idea of re-doing some of the songs that we had co-written and performed on from the BLIZZARD OF OZZ days, from the first and second albums, as a sort of personal tribute to Randy (Rhoads) and our time together as a band. As early as around the beginning of the 90s we'd discussed this idea, so it was NOT a retaliation to what the Osbourne's had done the previous year when they replaced Lee's and my performances on those first two records. The original idea that Lee and I had for this project of doing the old songs was to have various guests on the record, a few different singers, guitarists and keyboard players. People like Gary Moore, Jake E. Lee, Brian May, Ronnie James Dio, Don Airey, Jon Lord etc. etc., but when Lee and Steve (Morse) and I got together at Steve's place in Florida in July of 2003, I thought, 'wait a minute, this sounds and feels too good to change or tamper with by having anyone else get involved', so we kept it as a band instead of a 'project'. The same happened when a few days later Jimmy came in to sing, it all just sounded and felt right, so no-one else was asked to guest on the record. Originally the keyboard parts were to be shared by Don Airey and Jon Lord, but when it came time to record, Jon wasn't available so Don did it all. I think that it turned out best this way as it sounded more like 'one band' rather than a project and Don had been the keyboard player on the first BLIZZARD OF OZZ album. Johnny Cook played the keyboards on the second BLIZZARD OF OZZ album, 'Diary Of A Madman' but guess what, he didn't get his credits and had to get the Musician's Union to fight for his payment.
I wasn't sure if everyone involved would want to do our old BLIZZARD OF OZZ songs but the idea was well received and the new versions turned out great. We didn't really want to recreate the originals, like some people, but wanted to do new arrangements with new parts and give the old songs a breath of fresh air so to speak.
We were more than pleased with the result of the LIVING LOUD album ('Relentless') and we wrote and played together with great enjoyment and enthusiasm, so there should be another one. That first one is to be released in the U.S. in January 2006, so let's hope it makes its mark.
During 2004, when Steve and Don were here in Australia with DEEP PURPLE, and with Jimmy and me living here, we took advantage of the situation and flew Lee out from England so we could do a few shows and record/film them. The result is a live DVD and album which we are all happy with. It's not always easy to get together with everyone in different bands and different countries but we'll do what we can and when we can, and if we have our way, this'll be the only band any of us are in.
Of all the people you have worked and played with over the years, which have you felt the most comfortable with, the most creative with, the best musicians, the ones that just clicked?
There have been many situations where because we all naturally just clicked, that the creativeness also just flowed. I think it's very important to get on well with whom ever you're working, so that there aren't any inhibitions or egos in the way of the creating process. Apart from the politics and bad-blood that came later, Ozzy and I had a good working relationship together with Randy and Lee. When Randy and I first jammed together, we simultaneously said, 'I like the way you play' afterwards, and when Lee and I first worked together it was like reuniting with a long-lost friend. That situation was the most creative when it was a 'band' and the camaraderie was strong, before it became the 'Ozzy Show' and promoted as such. Now those records are publicised as Ozzy's 'solo records', when in actual fact it was a band called BLIZZARD OF OZZ.
Sometimes it was just getting on together that was enough. As an example, Gary Moore and I have always got on well together but didn't really create that much together writing-wise as most of the time he was self-sufficient in the material department as was Ritchie Blackmore, a similar situation. It's very difficult to say who is the 'best musician or player' as so many of them are brilliant in their own way and different to the next. I never like to say who was 'best' or 'better' as there are so many different 'horses' for 'courses'. When I did the BLACK SABBATH album 'Eternal Idol' in 1986, Toni Iommi and I hit it off very well and he commented that he hadn't had a writing rapport like that since Geezer had been in the band, which made me feel very comfortable.
Jeff Watson (MOTHER'S ARMY) and I clicked musically also, in the writing department ideas flowed very freely and had many a good laugh. Coming up with musical ideas, for me, is better working with someone to bounce ideas off, whereas most of the lyrical writing I've done was alone, as I prefer to be alone when writing lyrics. Another very enjoyable experience was the writing/recording of the LIVING LOUD album with Steve Morse, Lee Kerslake, Jimmy Barnes and Don Airey - a very natural free-flowing working situation. Even though the pressure was on time-wise, there were no egos, bosses or leaders, just professionalism and enjoyment, and I think it comes out in the music.
All in all, I've been fortunate enough to have been able to enjoy most of the situations I've worked in, creative-wise, friendship-wise, musically and fun-wise. The business side of things hasn't always been easy but I guess that's part of the name of the game of show-biz, or should I say 'shite-biz'!
You've been in a number of bands over the years, knowing that it was not entirely your choice, but have you ever wished to stay in one single band for your whole career?
When I look back I always remember the first pro band I was in. It was a band called DENNIS WILLIAMS AND THE DELAWARES and I had only just turned sixteen when I joined them. They were all nineteen, twenty, twenty-one etc. and for me it was like being in THE BEATLES - they'd had records released and done TV shows etc. I was learning and experiencing so much and music and working with good musicians was so important to me. Of course the inevitable happened, the band broke up which disappointed me immensely. At the time I wanted that situation to last forever, being in the DELAWARES with players I liked and respected but I know now that it had been just a learning curve and that better things were to come.
I suppose the true answer to the question would have to be the band I had formed with Dennis Wilson and Tim Gaze in 1970 called KAHVAS JUTE. When I listen to the only album we did, entitled 'Wide Open' (1971), I know it still holds up today. That album was recorded in about three days on a four-track machine, more or less 'live' in the studio, and still sounds good even in comparison to many others I've done since. Both my daughters, as they were growing up and through their teens, used to say 'Dad, the KAHVAS JUTE album is the coolest thing you've ever done' and in a lot of ways, I agree - I'm very proud of that record and I think it embodies some of my best playing ever. It was a kind of Progressive Rock band, as it was termed in those days, with obvious influences including THE JEFF BECK GROUP, circa Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood etc., LED ZEPPELIN, CREAM, Hendrix, JETHRO TULL and even a bit of KING CRIMSON. Very recently, Dennis, Tim and I got together and wrote a few new songs, recorded them and then did a live performance at The Basement in Sydney which was filmed to be released on a DVD later this year, along with the remastered original album.
I've enjoyed so many different situations I've been in professionally, and for different reasons, but often it's the combination of politics, business and egos that gets in the way of the true object of the exercise - MUSIC. That's what I was always in it for and still am.
You just mentioned KAHVAS JUTE reforming and recording a DVD. Tell me why start playing again with them after all this time?
Sheer enjoyment really. Dennis, Tim and I have kept in touch over the years and as an experiment and out of curiosity, we decided to write a few ditties to see how they'd sound. We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it so much that we thought it would be good to play live as a one-off and the new songs felt and sounded like a continuation of the old stuff. I got in touch with a drummer I knew, Mark Marriott, who's a very good player and he was more than keen to do it. The original K.J. drummer, Dannie Davidson, isn't really on good terms with any of us any more and has a 'Yoko' wife, so we steered clear of them - too much baggage, politics and B.S. It would have been good to have the complete original line-up but a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1971 and besides, I think Mark is an improvement. The whole idea of a KAHVAS JUTE's reunion was only art for art's sake - we don't expect to sell millions or get rich out of this but it'd be nice if people get to hear the old and new material and what the band was/is all about. Drew Thompson, who handles all the LIVING LOUD stuff, will handle this as well and we're hoping for a release this year of the remastered original 1971 album/new DVD/new bonus tracks package. We had fun doing it and hopefully that'll show in the music. The name KAHVAS JUTE is a bit of a legend here in Oz, and outside as well, and if you can find an original copy of the vinyl album from 1971, you're talking around $500 U.S. although re-issues are around too. The 'Jute' album is some of my personal favourite playing - those were the days!
Continuing to work with GARY MOORE, LIVING LOUD and KAHVAS JUTE as well as many other things, what creates the enthusiasm and drive to continue to work on so many different bands?
I suppose the enthusiasm is an inbuilt thing that's always been there. I've always been one to give music and performing the priority, and it seems to come naturally. I must admit that there are times that I would prefer to kick back and relax and not have to do a certain project or whatever, but if I do that for too long I start wishing for something to do again. I take the view that if someone has a talent and is asked to use it in various situations, then they have an obligation to make the most of it and utilise it. The most important thing to me though, is enjoying what I do. If it's just money and I don't enjoy the work, then it's not for me. There have been a few times when things were quiet and I was wishing for work to materialise, so any time I think about turning something down, I think of those times and appreciate what does come along and there hasn't been much at all that I haven't fully enjoyed. Because so many of the things I've done are very different, that is another ingredient that keeps it all interesting. Variety, diversity and the different colours and textures to it all add to the enjoyment and then the final satisfaction of listening back to the finished product is always a buzz.
You've also played varying different styles over your career, Blues, Rock etc. Which do you prefer? Which style do you think best describes your style of playing?
My playing influences are so varied. I started playing guitar at age 13 and got my first bass when I was 14. In those early days, I listened to a lot of instrumental music like THE SHADOWS, VENTURES and a lot of Surf music like THE CHANTAYS etc. Soon after came the British Beat Boom with the likes of THE BEATLES, ROLLING STONES, ZOMBIES, KINKS, YARDBIRDS etc. which opened up the way into Blues and Rhythm & Blues. By the time I was 16 and after THE DELAWARES had broken up, I joined a band called THROB, which was a band who had had a hit with a cover of a song called 'Fortune Teller' - The 'STONES also did a cover of this song that year. We also played a lot of Bluesy stuff by artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker etc. Later during the 60s I was drawn to anything that had a Blues flavour, like CREAM, John Mayall, LED ZEPPELIN, Jeff Beck, JETHRO TULL and the like. I loved the combination of Blues and the heavier style of Rock and people like Jack Bruce with CREAM, Ron Wood with JEFF BECK and John Paul Jones with LED ZEPPELIN really had an influence on my playing style. I loved Jimi Hendrix, another Blueser, but wasn't that into Noel Redding, his bass player. One of my favourites of the 60s though, is Paul McCartney, with his well thought out melodic bass lines and brilliant sound, and for me one of the all time greats. A player that I discovered in the early 70s is Willie Weeks, who played on an album by Donny Hathaway entitled 'Donny Hathaway Live', and that recording has about the best bass solo I've ever heard - brilliant sound, tasteful playing and some of the best groove I've heard played. Of course James Jamerson who played on a lot of the Tamla Motown records is another wonderful bass player who must have influenced so many other players. It's difficult to say what exactly my favourite music is and playing style but I'd have to say Blues is the true roots that so much other music comes from; it's like the uncut diamond. In 2003 my Blues band, THE HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN, did a few shows here in Oz with Jon Lord (DEEP PURPLE) on keyboards, and I must say that I enjoyed playing pure Blues again immensely and again later that year when I recorded the Gary Moore album 'Power Of The Blues' which was released in 2004. Nearly all of the bands I've enjoyed most have been Blues orientated, even KAHVAS JUTE had that CREAM-based Blues flavour. I still love to Rock though, and let off steam, blow out the cobwebs and let it rip, so anything that's aggressive and has a Blues influence, count me in. As for describing my playing style, I'd have to say melodic, McCartney influence, aggressive, Jack Bruce/Ron Wood influence, whilst trying to be tasteful but percussive and rhythmic, Willie Weeks/John Paul Jones influence, to add to what the drummer's doing. I guess the Surf music influence is long gone?!
Considering that you have written the lyrics for a great number of songs over the years in all of the bands you have played in, how does the lyrics process work for you?
Sometimes I jot things down when I think of a good line and use it later if it fits, and sometimes I write from scratch, depending on the situation. With a lot of the Ozzy stuff, I wrote according to his phrasing and melodies as most of the music was written first and he would sing any old thing over it and I'd take a tape of his melodies and phrasing away with me and write the lyrics to fit. Sometimes he'd have to change a little bit of the phrasing but most of it seemed to work. Lee Kerslake came up with some of the vocal melodies whilst we were writing for the 'Diary Of A Madman' album when Ozzy didn't show up. Lee's quite a good singer. I remember when we were writing for the 'No Rest For The Wicked' album, Ozzy had a title for a song to be called 'Bloodbath In Paradise'. I thought 'dear, what am I going to write that about?'. I was driving through L.A. near The Hollywood Bowl, stopped at the traffic lights and there was a Volkswagen beetle in front of me - good memory eh? - and the number plate surround had a caption on it that said 'just another day in paradise' and I thought 'of course, Hollywood's paradise' and a very famous 'bloodbath' was the Manson murders, so I wrote it about Charlie and The Family. The strange thing with that song is, when we were mixing that particular track, Charlie came on TV being interviewed and he hadn't been seen for close to 20 years before that. That was in 1988 and he'd been locked away since the 60s - freaky eh?
I've always been one for trying to make song content interesting and sometimes philosophical. I'm not big on the 'boy meets girl etc.' love songs, I prefer to be a bit more either controversial or thought provoking with lyrics. I quite often get ideas and inspiration from whatever I'm reading at the time or what's in the news and true life experiences come into play a lot too. Often there's been an element of fantasy as well. The song 'Suicide Solution' became a very controversial song when a young lad in the U.S. shot himself and was found to have had our record 'Blizzard Of Ozz' on his record turntable at the time. Ozzy is quoted over and over again as saying 'I wrote that about Bon Scott of AC/DC'. I wrote the lyrics to that song before Bon died and I wrote it about Ozzy's drinking problem. He'd just been fired from BLACK SABBATH and was feeling very depressed and rejected and was drinking his cares away. I came up with the title as a play on words - 'solution' being liquid as in booze, or as in solving a problem. Really it was meant to have a positive message which was don't try to 'solve' your problems with booze, it can kill you. He still says it today that he wrote it. Bon Scott was a mate of mine and I would admit it if it had been written about him by Ozzy, but neither is true.
In general, the lyric writing process for me is usually the last thing done. The vibe, attitude and mood of the music can often influence what the song should say. In general, I prefer to be left alone when writing lyrics to get really into it, and for that moment live it, and if there are other people 'chipping in ideas' it can be distracting. It's been a big thrill for me when I've been on stage looking out into the audience and they've all been singing the lyrics that I wrote, and it's equally nice to hear from people that say my lyrics were a part of their enjoyment of the music and affected their life in some way.
Which songs are you most proud of?
I take it you mean songs that I've written/co-written. That's a difficult one to answer because there are many different reasons to be proud of a variety of works, like who else was involved, recognition and favourable reviews, lyrical content/message, success in sales and airplay etc. There are also songs that I didn't write or co-write that I feel proud of just performing on, examples being 'Bold As Love' with Steve Vai, great guitarist, Paul Rogers, one of my favourite singers, and Tony Williams, a living legend drummer at the time but now deceased, with Hendrix's original producer Eddie Kramer on the Hendrix tribute album 'In From The Storm', and a song on the RAINBOW album 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll' (1978) called 'Gates Of Babylon', a very well written song that contains one of the best Ritchie Blackmore solos to date and a keyboard feature written by keyboardist David Stone completed with the vocal gymnastics of Ronnie James Dio and wizard drummer Cozy Powell.
There's a song on the Ozzy album 'Bark At The Moon' called 'So Tired' that I co-wrote with Ozzy and Jake E. Lee, and we performed this song on a T.V. programme in the U.S. called 'Solid Gold'. Having written all the lyrics on that song, and the whole album, I felt some pride in performing it on 'Solid Gold'.
There are many songs which I'm proud to have been a part of and for different reasons. The first album I ever recorded, the KAHVAS JUTE album 'Wide Open', still hits the 'pride button' when I hear it, being that I was only 20 at the time and I still have to listen carefully to what I played to learn the parts. I didn't write much on that though, but performance-wise it's one of my favourites. Of course I'm proud of most of the songs I wrote and recorded with Ozzy over the years, especially the ones that have become Rock anthems like 'Crazy Train', 'Mr. Crowley', 'Flying High Again' and 'Tonight', which has a bass line in it that many people comment on as being a favourite with them. That's why I chose some of those songs when we recorded the LIVING LOUD album, which brings me to a song that's had great reception from those who've heard it, a song called 'Every Moment A Lifetime' also on the LIVING LOUD album, written by us all - Steve Morse, Lee Kerslake, Jimmy Barnes and me.
When I played on and wrote for the BLACK SABBATH album 'Eternal Idol' in 1986, a song stood out to me as being one of the best 'heavy' songs I'd been involved with and that was the title track of that record. With most of the lyrics I've written over the years, I've tried to have something to say, like the song on the third MOTHER'S ARMY album 'Fire On The Moon' (1998) called 'Moruroa Atoll' which is about the French nuclear - not 'nucular' Mr. George Dubbya - tests conducted in the South Pacific in the 80s and early 90s. Another song from that album is 'A Day In The Night' which to me is very musically satisfying. A song on the first MOTHER'S ARMY album, 'Mother's Army' (1993), called 'Memorial Day' is a song I wrote about my mum who had recently passed away at the time, a song I'm proud of because it turned out just as it was meant to and captured what I was feeling at the time, appropriately written on Memorial Day in the U.S. in 1992.
As for the Blues material, there are a few that stand out, '24/7 Blues' with THE HOOCHIE COOCHIE MEN, 'The Blues Just Got Sadder' written for Guitar Shorty in the U.S. and recorded recently by KAHVAS JUTE here, and a song I co-wrote with Gary Moore for his last album, entitled 'Power of the Blues' (2004), called 'Get Away Blues'. All this for me has been satisfying stuff and I've had the immense pleasure of meeting and working with some of music's best.
You once described your musical career as 'Sometimes it feels like I was in the centre of a hurricane'. What do you mean by this statement? Isn't the centre of a hurricane actually quite calm?
Yes and that's what I meant when I said it. I was talking in another interview a while back about some of the things I've done over the years and people I've worked with. What I meant was, at the time of the event, it was the music and work I was concentrating on, without always taking a step back to see where I was and what I was doing and with whom. Like the time George Harrison wrote a song for the GARY MOORE album 'Still Got The Blues' and George played guitar on the track he wrote, but it wasn't until later that I thought, 'wait a minute, I'm on a track with a BEATLE', which to me, is a big deal. I suppose it's while it was going on I didn't think about it as much, whenever and whatever it was, and there were many, but in hindsight, and out of the centre of the hurricane, I look back and begin to take it all in and digest it all and think, 'did all that really happen?'. It's a bit like being on a mountain and not being able to see it until you get off it, step back and take a look at it from a distance. I always regard myself as being fortunate in my career with the amount of bands, projects, albums etc. I've been involved in and feel gratitude that the practice, hard work, dedication and sacrifice paid off, as it doesn't always for everyone - there are no guarantees in this business and in some instances, things could have been better for me too. But I think it's always best to keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole, as the optimist's creed says.
Are there any musicians that you want to play with that you haven't played with yet?
Yes, I've always wanted to do a recording with Jeff Beck. He's one of my favourite guitarists and I often refer to him as 'Jeff Best'. I liked his playing as far back as THE YARDBIRDS days and a real highlight for me of his career is his first two JEFF BECK GROUP recordings 'Truth' and 'Beckola' with Rod Stewart - vocals, Ron Wood - bass, Nicky Hopkins - keyboards and Micky Waller - drums. Tony Newman played drums on the second album 'Beckola'. J.B. is always very innovative and never fails to come up with something original. There's a track on one of his later recordings called 'Nadia' on the 'You Had It Coming' album. It was originally done by Nitin Sawhney on his 'Beyond Skin' album as an Indian-style vocal and J.B.'s guitar on his version sounds like a singing sitar - wonderful stuff. On that same album, 'You Had It Coming', his rendition of 'Rollin' And Tumblin'' with a female vocal just rips. Whether I'll ever get to play with Jeff is something I can hope for and if it ever becomes a reality, then that would be the icing on the cake of my career for me after having been fortunate enough to play with a lot of the all-time greats already.
Do you have any advice for new bands and musicians, even some of the older ones, on how to persevere in the music business?
I know things have changed a lot over the years in the music business but certain attitudes and energies can still be effective. I mean, there's an old saying that goes 'throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick'. Unfortunately there aren't any real short cuts to success. Hard work, practice, dedication and a certain amount of sacrifice are still essentials. This business has always had the reputation of being a tough one, and for good reason, because it is. Players, writers, 'stars' often come and go quickly with a 'flash-in-the-pan' career, but the ones who remain and stay are the ones who remain focused and dedicated. It's a good credential to be honest and fair to yourself, even if others you have to deal with aren't always honest and fair themselves. Don't expect anything for nothing as nothing that's worth anything comes easily. Don't stand for shit from people, stand your ground and believe in yourself. Be reliable and develop a reputation as being so, it'll pay off. Don't 'burn' music CDs either for yourself or friends, it's stealing music and that's not good karma. Go out and buy music, it's good for the business you want to be a part of. Copying and downloading stolen music is damaging the music industry and there is no justification for it. If you're in it for the music, that should help you persevere with some of the knocks that come. Money, fame and glory are okay in their place but music is what it's all about.
Do you have anything more you wish to say?
Only thanks for the opportunity to get a bit more of the truth out there and of course thanks to those who take the time to read it. The "Living Louders" will be getting together soon to collaborate on some new material for another studio album for next year. I'm waiting to hear back from GARY MOORE for a recording schedule for his next album, which hopefully will be this year.
Interview by Beth Price for Rock Detector, 9th September 2005