SALT LAKE CITY — Guitarist Zakk Wylde didn’t know what to expect when he auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne.
He was a 19-year-old Black Sabbath fan, and, aside from his father, a World War II veteran, Osbourne was his big hero. He was just excited to be in his presence.
The young guitarist took Osbourne’s advice to "play with your heart," and when Wylde played his last riff, the Prince of Darkness uttered an unexpected request: “Go make me a ham sandwich and go light on the mustard.”
“Then he just poked me right in the eyes, and I said, ‘What is that for?’” Wylde recalled. “And (Osbourne) said, ‘Because life’s tough. Now go get me my sandwich.’ So I’ve been going light on the mustard for 30 years now.”
Whether the ham sandwich is an extended metaphor — and if it is, for what? — remains a mystery, as Wylde is an enthusiastic joker. But he’s been wielding his heavy-metal ax alongside the former Black Sabbath singer on and off since 1987, and although he’s never witnessed the singer bite the head off a bat, Wylde said he has seen Osbourne eat a lot of his carefully prepared ham sandwiches.
“He hasn’t complained about any of them,” Wylde said. “He’s like, ‘Zakk, the mustard is perfect. I don’t like it overpowering the flavor of the sandwich.'”
Wylde brings his high energy and one-of-a-kind humor to Utah on Thursday, Oct. 4, when Osbourne’s “No More Tours 2” stops at USANA Amphitheatre. The guitarist, an apparent “Seinfeld” fan, called the show “a high calorie-burning Festivus miracle” that’s “a combination of metal meets Richard Simmons.” “No More Tours 2” has the band performing shows into 2020 and marks the end of global touring for Osbourne. But according to Wylde, the singer already has plans up his sleeve.
“It’s a farewell to Ozzy’s solo career. … He’s not going to retire from music,” Wylde said. “After we get done with this tour … then Ozz is gonna join Zakk Sabbath, so it’ll be Zakk Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne — he’ll be the lead singer in Zakk Sabbath. It'll be an easy move for him because he's already familiar with the material.”
Once again, it’s hard to know whether Wylde is joking. But Zakk Sabbath, a cover band Wylde formed in 2014, is very much real.
“Zakk Sabbath started as a retirement fund for Black Sabbath just in case they all got gambling problems and lost all their money,” Wylde said. “This way we could have a retirement fund for them in appreciation for all they’ve done, how they changed music and how they are the greatest.”
Wylde’s devotion to Black Sabbath extends far beyond the cover band — he named one of his children Sabbath Page Wielandt Wylde.
“You name your kids after great things,” he said. “You got Black Sabbath, Jimmy Page and my father, … and then he’s got my last name, so it completely ruins everything.”
Wylde also named one of his sons Jesse John Michael in honor of Osbourne (full name: John Michael Osbourne), who is a godfather to his son. The way Wylde sees it, touring with the singer again — Wylde left the band in 2009 — has been a family reunion of sorts.
“Mrs. Osbourne ... I lovingly refer to her as Mom because she’s been like my mother since I was 19 years old,” he said. “And Ozz is like an older brother — there’s nothing I can tell him that he hasn’t already gone through. … If he called me up and said, ‘Zakk, we have company coming over. Can you come over and clean and do the dishes and bring some milk and eggs over?’ It’s just like, ‘Yeah, whatever else you need.’”
Wylde might be a fervent jokester, but he’s completely sincere when it comes to music and his relationship with Osbourne. To say Osbourne has had many ups and downs on and off the stage is a vast understatement, but Wylde has also been through much of it and has learned a thing or two from it all.Comment on this story
“Even down to the setback of (Osbourne) getting kicked out of Black Sabbath, he was truly down then. It was just like, ‘The dream’s over.’ And then he finds (guitarist) St. (Randy) Rhoads. Randy gets in the band and (Osbourne’s) back on top again and he’s like, ‘I never thought I’d have a second chance. This is the greatest thing ever.’ And then all of a sudden Randy passes away, and now he’s down again," Wylde said. “And here he is now, he’s going to be 70 in December and he’s still killing it every night onstage. … That’s why he’s my hero; there’s no quitting. He’s like the Winston Churchill of rock.”