TORONTO — Ozzy Osbourne says that his mythical persona as the black-clad, bat-chewing Prince of Darkness comes with certain constraints.
For one thing, the 61-year-old godfather of metal says he might like to branch out musically, but he’s not sure fans would accept it.
“Being Ozzy Osbourne has its restrictions,” the British rocker told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday morning at a posh Toronto hotel.
“I’d like to explore other musical areas, you know, but it’s very difficult, ’cause they all want you to sing about death, Satan and hell, you know?”
Of course, Osbourne — good-natured chap that he seemingly is — happily obliges. His upcoming solo record, “Scream,” is 11 songs of throwback heaviness with track titles including “Crucify,” “Let it Die” and first single, “Let Me Hear You Scream.”
But 10 records into a solo career he began with 1980’s “Blizzard of Ozz,” Osbourne still seems bemused by the urban legends that continue to surround him.
“When we did the TV thing, ’The Osbournes,’ I guess people thought, ’Wow, he does have the same problems as we do, he does have the same nagging wife, he does have the same loving wife,”’ said Osbourne, referring to the popular MTV reality show about his home life that aired from 2002-05.
“I suppose, in one way, it shattered a few dreams in the respect that people thought I lived in a castle in Bavaria and slept upside-down on rafters and ... hooted and howled looking for my next bat. You do become kind of typecast.”
Yet, that old reputation still preceded him when he decided to interview new guitar players.
“Scream” (set to drop June 22) is Osbourne’s first record since 1986 not to feature Zakk Wylde (Osbourne explains that Wylde is just too busy, calling him “family”), and he found Greek guitarist Gus G after an exhaustive round of auditions.
“When Ozzy Osbourne puts the word out for a guitar player, you can imagine the first 500 lunatics who want to meet me,” he says. “Satanists or Jesus freaks, come dressed in hoods or whatever — (with) flaming torches.”
That didn’t quite describe the devoted cluster who showed up at Toronto’s historic Casa Loma for a afternoon listening session and news conference with Osbourne on Wednesday.
One enthusiastic fan peeled off his shirt so that Osbourne could sign his back (“I’m going to turn it into a tattoo later,” the headbanger beamed) while others cheered and nodded their heads approvingly as tunes from “Scream” blared out from behind the stage.
After a man in a black cloak provided an ominous intro on the organ, Osbourne — clad still in all black, with gold jewelry jingling around his neck and wrists — settled onto a brown throne onstage, surrounded by various knick-knacks: a knight’s armour, a prop black crow in a cage and a stuffed peacock.
But mostly on display was the back-and-forth between Osbourne and his wife, Sharon.
During the Q&A session, Osbourne opted to defer many questions back to his wife — queries about his album artwork (“It means absolutely nothing,” Sharon clarified), Ozzfest (“Yes, we’ll be coming” to Canada, she said) and re-issues of his classic solo records (they’ll be out later this year).
After each question was asked, Osbourne would squint and wordlessly turn to his wife for a translation. Eventually, she called him out on it.
“You can ... hear every word,” she said, dropping an expletive. Osbourne them mimed hitting her with his microphone.
Indeed, Ozzy Osbourne stayed in a playful mood throughout the 40-minute session. When asked what was different about touring at his age compared with 40 years earlier, he said: “No fun. No sex, no drugs, only rock n’ roll.
“I like it much better,” he added, before pantomiming that his nose was growing like Pinocchio’s.
And asked what was left to accomplish in his storied career, he responded: “I guess, death.”
But, Sharon reminded him, he did have something new to look forward to — his recently published autobiography, “I Am Ozzy,” is going to be turned into a movie.
Osbourne nodded in recognition then.
“Denzel Washington’s going to play me,” he said to a chorus of laughter.