TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick has once again spoken out about the experience of auditioning for — and ultimately landing — the guitarist gig in Ozzy Osbourne‘s band, only to be told less than a month later it had been given to someone else. Speaking to Loudwire for the site’s “Wikipedia: Fact Or Fiction?” segment, Skolnick recalled the only show he played with Ozzy, which took place in June 1995. He said: “It was at a venue that’s still around called Rock City in Nottingham in England. And I remember it was… The whole thing was like a whirlwind.
“I jammed with [Ozzy] for the first time. And everybody told me Ozzy hates to rehearse. ‘Here’s what’s gonna happen: he’s gonna come in the room, he’s gonna call out a song. Whatever song he calls out, just know the song. It’s gonna be one of these songs’ — they gave you a list. ‘Don’t tune. You don’t have to tune. If your amp makes noise, turn it off. He hates noise…’ So I got this whole preparation. Sure enough, he came in, he barged in the room, he called out songs. And apparently, it went really well, because then I heard that we were doing this unannounced show. But then I heard, ‘Oh, we’re not gonna do the show now, because he’s got a sore throat.’ ‘Oh, we’re doing the show again.’ And it was on, and it was off, and it was on, and it was off. But then finally it was on.”
Skolnick continued: “I remember at one time, he had a teleprompter. That’s not a big secret now… And believe me, he’s not the only singer that uses one. But I know they were auditioning a teleprompter operator; this nice lady. She’d never worked with him before. At one point, though, she screwed up and I knew she lost the gig. ‘Cause she pressed the wrong button and the song disappeared, and he was looking. And he looked over, and I swear it was the most evil look I’d ever seen in my life. It was like Satan. [Laughs] But after the show, he gave me a big hug and he actually told me I was hired, and all the road crew congratulated me and they thought it was great.”
According to Alex, he had a hunch that things hadn’t exactly gone exactly as expected, hinting that Osbourne‘s wife and manager Sharon ultimately made the decision to replace him in Ozzy‘s band. “I had a feeling,” Skolnick said. “There was one person who didn’t congratulate me. And I had also gotten these… A lot of hints had been dropped. Things like, ‘Maybe you could lower the guitar. Maybe you could stand like this.’ And I realized, ‘Oh, you know what? I think she wants me to be Zakk Wylde.’ I think she had gotten so used to that image.”
In a 2004 interview, Skolnick called the experience of being dropped from Ozzy‘s band “a major lesson in the music business.” He explained: “I go home [after playing the Rock City gig] and don’t hear anything for three weeks. Finally I called Sharon‘s assistant, who was surprised that she hadn’t called me yet and that I should expect a call from Sharon. I sensed bad news. When Sharon called, she told me they really liked my playing and appreciate the time I put in but they’ve decided to hire someone else, Joe Holmes. With all due respect to Holmes, to this day everyone I’ve spoken to has no idea why they (or she) made this decision. I was told it might have been because Holmes was a former student of Randy Rhoads.”
He added: “Anyway it worked out for the best, as the whole experienced motivated me to get my jazz thing together and I wouldn’t have taken the path I did if I’d stayed with Ozzy. And I’m grateful for the experience. How many guys get to say they were onstage playing ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Paranoid’ with Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler?”