Incubus Guitarist Mike Einziger on Ozzy and the New Album — Interview
‘God Bless Ozzy Osbourne,’ the new film documenting Ozzy Osbourne‘s life beyond the spotlight, is soundtracked with dozens of songs by Osbourne as well as Black Sabbath. However when the producers wanted to incorporate another type of music into the film, they recruited Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger to compose a score that would capture the non-rock star parts of Osbourne’s life.
“Everyone thinks he’s this big British heavy metal superstar or kind of a crazy funny guy, and he’s become a celebrity for being this funny, lovable, quirky kind of guy,” Einziger recently told Noisecreep. “But with the movie, I think they wanted to show that he’s a humble, kind man with a lot to offer the world than just being a crazy person. So they asked me to make music based on those ideas. It would be more emotional and slightly more interconnected because a lot of the music in the film is Black Sabbath and Ozzy’s own music from his solo career. That’s a lot of loud rock music for the most part, so [my pieces are] supposed to be the counterweight to all that rock music. I was very happy to accept that responsibility.”
Not only have Incubus played with Ozzy on a number of occasions, the California band was also thrilled to open up for the original line up of Black Sabbath back in 2000. Einziger is very grateful for how Black Sabbath have influenced him as a musician.
“I grew up listening to Black Sabbath,” he says. “It’s sort of impossible not to be aware of Ozzy’s presence in the music world. Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ was the first song I ever learned how to play on guitar. I was actually introduced to Black Sabbath by my guitar teacher when I was about 12. For a period of time, during my younger teens, I was very, very into Black Sabbath’s music, and even still today.”
Einziger also admitted how much he loved Black Sabbath’s response to the hippie movement of the late ’60s. “[Other] people were all about peace and love and flowers and cherries and psychedelics, and their music was loud and in your face,” he says. “It was a big f— you to the whole hippie movement, and I genuinely love that they did that. And they don’t get a lot of credit for starting a whole musical genre, which they did single-handedly. For me, during the film, [it was great] to see Paul McCartney actually give those guys credit for doing that.”
While Einziger enjoys composing music for films (including a short directed by actress Kirsten Dunst last year) as well as studying at Harvard, he says he and his fellow Incubus brothers missed making music together. “We took a couple of years [off], and one of our members had a baby,” Einziger says. “Brandon wanted to pursue painting for a while, and I wanted to study. So it was a great time for us to explore our own personal spaces, and that just sort of reached a critical mass. Then at that point, it was time to make a new album.”
If you’re wondering why it took them five years to get to ‘If Not Now, When?,’ due out on July 12, Einziger says that the band just needed some time to “smell the roses.”
“I think we all just got to this point where we’ve been a band for 20 years,” he says. “We’ve made seven records, and we’ve come to a place where I think a lot of people needed some distance from our day jobs. We all love being in a band, and we all love making music together. But it’s been so full on and so non-stop for so many years, that nobody got to really stop and smell the roses.”
Now that the band has had time to grow and mature, Einziger says the group’s sound has evolved as well. Although they have been known to play hard onstage as well as on previous albums, ‘If Not Now, When?’ will be going in a different direction. “Over the years, we’ve become less and less aggressive as far as our music goes. There’s always moments of that aggression, but this album is pretty free of that. It’s definitely not a hard rock record,” Einziger says.
Since ‘If Not Now, When?’ won’t be what Incubus fanatics might expect to hear, Einziger understands if long-time fans aren’t into it at first listen. “I think we’re asking a lot of our fans,” he says. “We’re asking them to listen for things that they normally wouldn’t listen for. We’re not leaning on the strengths of our last records either. It’s that much different than our previous work. I think we took a risk by making his type of album. But it’s not some crazy, experimental album. It’s a very straightforward concise album. And it’s a lot more focused than anything else we’ve ever done. So naturally I think this might disappoint some people, because there’s a pretty obvious lack of heavy rock music on this album.”
However, Einziger remains confident. “This is the best record we have ever made,” he says. “By far.”
Watch the Incubus video for ‘Adolescents’