Alex Skolnick Recalls Having to ’Load Equipment in the Truck’ While Playing for Ozzy Osbourne

Testament axeman Alex Skolnick looked back on the one-time gig playing with Ozzy Osbourne. During his recent interview with Ultimate Guitar, Skolnick, who’s famous for being the guitarist in Testament, looked back on auditioning and, eventually, playing one live show for Ozzy back in the 1990s.

Despite not getting the permanent position in the band, when asked about this opportunity, he admitted that the whole thing felt “surreal,” especially knowing that Ozzy’s former Black Sabbath bandmate Geezer Butler was also in the lineup. Skolnick offered:

“At that point, I think I was already sort of on my path towards just taking a few years off, just to study and just to see where that took me. And I would have been happy just being a lesser-known guitar player playing breweries and coffee shops, bopping around colleges on the east coast, I don’t know, music theory teacher, jazz guitar, teacher, whatever.”

Alex Skolnick on Ozzy Osbourne, AI & solos | On The Record

“But then that Ozzy call came through, and that’s, that was one rare gig. I would just have dropped everything for it. Because it’s Ozzy.”

“And I didn’t even know that at the time Geezer was playing with him. I flew out to this audition and there’s Geezer. Half the band is Black Sabbath. Whatever happened — this is really, really cool.”

But despite Ozzy’s incredible success and immense popularity back in the 1990s, Alex was met with a “dysfunctional” camp. Although he got the gig, things were far from what one would expect to see with a major arena act. Skolnick explained:

“I was surprised at how dysfunctional it felt. Most of the band didn’t seem to know what was going on. They knew they were auditioning people — ‘We tried this guy, we tried that guy.’ Apparently, when I played, it went really well. And they stopped auditions and wanted to do a live show.”

01 i dont know - Ozzy Osbourne with Alex Skolnick

“And then, the live show — I think Ozzy had a sore throat. So the whole thing was canceled. It was planned, and then it was canceled. And then it was planned again, and then it was planned again… [Laughs] And then I remember Geezer like getting really annoyed. ‘What am I doing?’ And he would actually be gone in about six months.”

He also added:

“So I think it was kind of a turbulent period in the Ozzy world. He wasn’t doing ‘The Osbournes’ yet, which would just really reignite his career. But the new record at that time — I think I still have the demo of it, or the unreleased cassette — it was ‘Ozzmosis,’ which was a great record.”

O7 mr crowley - Ozzy Osbourne with Alex Skolnick

As Alex also pointed out, the show was finally given the green light. However, due to miscommunication and all the back-and-forth, he ended up having to do the heavy lifting. Quite literally. He continued:

“Finally, the show did get called. It was on. And it was so last minute there was some miscommunication about getting the equipment there. I think only one of the techs and the drummer at the time, Deen Castronovo, and me — we had to load the equipment in the truck.”

“This is Ozzy Osbourne, this arena act. There’s got to be like this machine where everything’s taken [care of]. And suddenly, I’m like, in high school, like huffing gear.”

Mister Crowley - Randy Rhoads Remembered - Alex Skolnick - June 4, 2014

But that wasn’t all. Apart from doing the road crew work, Skolnick also had to deal with other issues at the Ozzy camp:

“We go to do the gig. They told me when Ozzy comes in, he likes to be alone before the show. So I go find this room that nobody’s at.”

“And suddenly, Ozzy comes into the room, decides he’s gonna take over the room and he wouldn’t let me go. And he just starts shadowboxing and talking in that voice. [In British accent] ‘You know, Alex, when we get out there, just do your thing, I’m not one of these [unintelligible British accent imitation] fucking perfectionists.'”

“You couldn’t make it up. When ‘The Osbournes’ show came on TV, I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s it.'”

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Nonetheless, despite these setbacks, Alex reveals that his performance was received pretty well:

“And the show went great. The show went really well. I was told by the road crew and everybody else like ‘We haven’t seen Ozzy this happy since before all the auditions.’ So it seemed like things were going to go really well.”

Well, it was received pretty well except for one person who’s actually running the show — Ozzy’s wife Sharon:

“But I had also gotten these messages. Never directly too. I know who they were coming from.”

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“It was the person running the show, married to Ozzy. [Laughs] But things like, ‘Can you lower the guitar? Can you stand this way?’ And knowing what I know about the entertainment business now, I get.”

“I mean, she’s seeing something. She’s focused on the image and she was so used to Zakk Wylde, just a hulking lumberjack that has these wild poses, and the guitar is down to his knees. And that’s just not how I play.”

Despite his great performance and positive feedback, Skolnick ended up not getting the spot in Ozzy’s band. He added:

“I got all these congratulations after the show, but I never got one from her. And then I never heard anything, I had to follow up.”

“ELECTRIC CROWN” SOLO (Transcription of a solo by some dude named #AlexSkolnick)

“And then I figured out that… The guitarist that they went with, he was a very good player — Joe Holmes was always sort of in the mix. And apparently, he was at auditions in the past.”

“I think [he] was selected at one point. The whole thing was very confusing. He was almost there and then they work things out so that he was going to be the guitarist for this tour.”

Again, despite all these setbacks, Skolnick still looks back at the opportunity as a positive thing. He concluded by saying:

“I was hoping it would work out. But I also just greatly appreciated the whole experience. And then, much later, when I saw clips of the tour, you could barely see him.”

O4 war pigs - Ozzy Osbourne with Alex Skolnick

“I think they reached a point where they decided ‘Okay, we’re not going to make the guitarist such a feature.’ So he was really dimly lit and put in the back.

“And I don’t think he was even on a recording that I’m aware of. And a few years later, Gus G was the guy and he was a little more featured. And then, of course, Zack ended up back, who should have been there all along probably.”

“So it was a crazy, crazy experience. Definitely a unique one. And just to have gone through that and to have played with half of Sabbath. I mean, how many people can say they did that?”

O3 suicide solution - Ozzy Osbourne with Alex Skolnick

Photos: Stefan Brending (2017 Testament – Alex Skolnick – by 2eight – DSC9182), Carlos Varela (Ozzy en Chile 2011 (3))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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