In February 2003, Robert Trujillo's life was forever changed when Metallica invited the bassist to become a permanent, full-fledged member of the biggest heavy metal band in the world. Back then, your average radio-listening, MTV-watching, "Enter Sandman"-loving rock fan probably first learned about Trujillo's thrashing fingerstyle playing, boundless energy and untiring positivity from watching his tryout in Metallica's illuminating Some Kind of Monster doc — but dedicated metal connoisseurs had known him as a straight-up low-end killer for years.
For the previous decade-plus, the Santa Monica–born musician held down bass duties for L.A. crossover kings Suicidal Tendencies and Mike Muir's funk-metal supergroup spin-off Infectious Grooves, before joining up with Ozzy Osbourne in the late Nineties for years of touring and to help create 2001's Down to Earth.
"Ozzy's been an important part of my life," Trujillo tells Revolver today from the Westside of Los Angeles, where he's gearing up to go surfing. "I mean, it's safe to say, [if it wasn't for] Suicidal Tendencies and Ozzy Osbourne, I would've never got the opportunity to be in Metallica. You know what I mean? Ozzy's been a really important human being in my life and I'm grateful for him."
In the nearly 20 years since he's joined the Bay Area giants, Trujillo has more than earned his place in the band. He's played on Metallica's two crushing return-to-form studio albums, 2008's Death Magnetic and 2016's Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, as well as multiple live records and collabs. He's toured the world multiple times — from iconic Big Four packages to Master of Puppets anniversary gigs — and started a fan-favorite mid-set tradition with Kirk Hammett of performing cover songs (a passion they spun off into their side-project the Wedding Band). Trujillo's ascent is a testament to both his A-level skills and his affable temperament. And no matter how much success comes his way, the bassist has never forgotten about, or lost touch with, his roots.
So when Ozzy reached out to Trujillo to help him complete his new album, Patient Number 9, the bassist was down, no question. Osbourne's 13th album was helmed by producer-guitarist Andrew Watt (who worked on 2020's Ordinary Man) and, in addition to Trujillo, features a wrecking crew of guests including Jeff Beck, Tony Iommi, Zakk Wylde, Eric Clapton, Duff McKagan, Pearl Jam's Mike McCready, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith and the Foo Fighters' late drummer Taylor Hawkins. Recorded in L.A. under strict COVID protocols, Trujillo recalls the experience of being physically back in the studio and rekindling the camaraderie with Ozzy as a welcomed "therapeutic" escape and "a relief from the madness that was going on all around the city, and world."
Ahead of Patient Number 9's release, we caught up with Trujillo to talk all things Ozzy: from the hilarious first time they recorded together and the bassist's unexpected and "powerful" Randy Rhoads meeting to the best advice he's ever received from Osbourne, their first "cursed" tour together and much more.
TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST DISCOVERED OZZY OSBOURNE'S MUSIC.
ROBERT TRUJILLO Oh, that's a good one. So back in the day when I was in elementary school, all of my best friends back then — who would've been anywhere from 10 to 12 — their older brothers were die-hard Sabbath fans. And we were introduced to Sabbath in a very theatrical way … meaning that our friends' older brothers would have candles and lava lamps and they would play the first Black Sabbath album. What my friends and I would do, we would sometimes sneak in their room and listen on their turntable and, you know, light up the lava lamp. [Laughs] We would scare the shit out of ourselves by listening to tracks while staring at the album cover trying to figure out what these guys were all about … We're just like, "Oh my God, that's so scary."
So that was my first introduction. Then I started playing in a backyard party band on the Westside of L.A. called Oblivion, and we actually covered "War Pigs" and "Iron Man." We also covered "Crazy Train," as well … and maybe a little bit of "Sweet Leaf." So that was my playing introduction to him, and I must have been about 16 at that time.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OZZY OSBOURNE ALBUM?
Diary of a Madman … I love that song "Diary of a Madman." To me, it's the classic Ozzy song. It's just got a balance of everything. I love what the rhythm section's doing on there and the counterpoint or sort-of pulse rhythms. The dynamic range of that song is really, really powerful.
PLUS, RANDY RHOADS IS NEXT LEVEL ON THAT SONG…
Oh yeah. You know, I remember when I was a teenager being at Guitar Center — I think I had ditched school and I snuck over to Hollywood by myself — and I saw Randy. I think he was in Quiet Riot at the time. He wasn't even in Ozzy's band yet. There was nobody else in the store, just him and these guys that worked there handing him guitars. He was this small little skinny kind of dainty guy — and he was ripping! He seemed very shy and I went up and, you know, nerded out on him for a second, like, "Hey man!" [Laughs]
Some of the stuff he was doing reminded me of John McLaughlin, like Mahavishnu Orchestra. In fact, if I remember correctly, I feel like he was playing the chord progression to "Diary of a Madman." And I was like, Wow. … And he looked up at me and kind of smiled. Again, he seemed very shy, but he was just ripping. And I was like, Who is this guy? And then when I discovered Quiet Riot, I realized who he was … and then all of a sudden he's the guitar player for Ozzy. And the rest is history.
THAT'S AN AMAZING RANDOM ENCOUNTER.
Yeah, that's the kind of stuff that happens in Los Angeles. Like, you'll run into your heroes at the oddest place. I've seen Alex Van Halen at the supermarket. [Laughs] I remember being at a teenage club back in the day, and he was driving with his friends on Santa Monica Boulevard… by the beach. And I went over to him, and I was like, "Hey, you know, I'm a really big fan." And one of his friends got me into like a choke hold because he thought I was gonna attack him. [Laughs] Alex was cool. He was like, "Hey, nah, it's cool, man. He's cool. He's cool. … We love our fans." This would've been like back in '82 or '83. So, you know, that kind of stuff happens in L.A. … and running into Randy was definitely a highlight moment for me. It was brief, but it was powerful.
SO, BACK TO OZZY: YOU MENTIONED "DIARY OF A MADMAN" BEING A FAVORITE SOLO SONG OF YOURS. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BLACK SABBATH SONG?
It's gonna always be "War Pigs" for me, because I love the vocal arrangement, the groove and the free-form sort of playability. … [Geezer] Butler and Bill Ward are just kind of dodging and weaving. It's almost like they're doing this dance as a rhythm section. And then you got Tony Iommi there and he's in it, too. It's almost like they're surfing together. You know, it's just such a powerful moment in rock & roll, those jams, and then how it all comes back together and it just breaks down. Kirk [Hammett] and I have a cover band called the Wedding Band, and whenever we play that song every single person is singing. … It's just the lyrics, the vocal melodies, the groove and the powerful statement that the drums are making: It almost feels like sort of jazz and metal cause it's swinging, you know, it has the balance. So "War Pigs" would have to be my favorite song. That's my jam.
YOU'VE SPENT A BUNCH OF TIME OVER THE YEARS WRITING AND RECORDING WITH OZZY. HOW WOULD YOU SAY HE HAS INFLUENCED YOUR OWN CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT?
Well, I was fortunate to be able to work with Ozzy for many years, and, you know, Zakk [Wylde] and I played together in the Nineties in Ozzy's band. I was always really inspired by the bass playing of Bob Daisley and the rhythm section. [Daisley played on and co-wrote Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman and continued to work with Ozzy until the early Nineties.] Ozzy used to tell me, [affects an Ozzy accent] "Rob, you know, I'm your best friend, man. I'm your best friend because I love the bass. I don't want you to turn it down. I want you to turn it up!" [Laughs] You know, singers never say that. [Laughs] I mean, the only other singer that's ever said that to me was Lady Gaga when we jammed with her with Metallica — and James [Hetfield] kinda looked over and was like, What? [Laughs]
[LAUGHS] JAMES WAS NOT FEELING IT?
Yeah. [Laughs] James loves bass. He just doesn't want to hear the bass when he's trying to sing and have that kind of taking over his sonic bubble, you know. But yeah, so I was already in heaven [with Ozzy], because here is this singer saying, "Play louder … I want to hear more." But you know, I would have to definitely say that the style of bass playing on Ozzy's solo records is an important ingredient to the recipe. You hear songs like "No More Tears," where it's a prominent melodic statement in the song, and even the powerful accents on songs like "Crazy Train" or "S.A.T.O."
So bass was very important to both bands: Ozzy solo and Black Sabbath. And for me as a bass player, you're a kid in a candy shop, you know what I mean? You can't go wrong. It's a very special place to be. A lot of times people say, "Oh, it's about the guitar in Ozzy's bands." But no, it's also about the bass … it's about everything. It's like a power trio with a great, incredibly soulful singer.
YOU TOLD US ABOUT YOUR RANDOM RANDY RHOADS MEETING. DO YOU RECALL THE FIRST TIME YOU MET OZZY?
The first time? Well, oh God, let's see… That's a good question. The very first time I crossed paths with Ozzy was at the Concrete Convention. I believe it was in L.A., but they had different venues around town, and you'd have different gigs and Ozzy was playing one of the convention gigs. I remember crossing paths with him and meeting him there, but … I don't count it as the official meeting because it was so brief. I was in Suicidal Tendencies at the time, and we were going to see him play. Somehow, we were able to get backstage, maybe through management or something, and have a quick hello.
WHEN WAS YOUR "OFFICIAL" OZZY MEETING?
When I really met Ozzy was at Devonshire recording studios; it was a compound in North Hollywood and Ozzy was recording No More Tears. Mike [Muir] and I were recording the first Infectious Grooves album [1991's The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves]. We were also on the same record label too; we were on Epic Records at the time. So, we were basically like a fraternity there. We had this place for — I don't know how long — and we're both making records. So we're all hanging out. And at the time Ozzy would sneak over into our room.
Our dream was to have Ozzy sing on one of our songs. We had a song called "Therapy," so we invited Ozzy to sing on it. And he said, "Absolutely." But we didn't know when he was gonna actually show up to sing, you know? [Laughs] We were in the middle of recording something completely different and he randomly shows up, and goes, "All right, let me hear the song." [Laughs] And we're like, "Oh… Okay!" So we had to rearrange everything for him to just get in there right away and sing. He sang the chorus on the song "Therapy," and he was amazing. But the funny thing was after that he would sneak away from his assistants and his minders and come over to our section of the compound … and they didn't know where he was half the time. [Laughs]
OH MAN, THAT MUST'VE BEEN HILARIOUS. ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR MEMORIES THAT STAND OUT?
He was like playing a game with [his assistants] and quite often he'd end up in our room, and he would want to hear that song. Sometimes to mess with us, he would say things like, [in Ozzy accent] "You got any booze? You got any weed? You got any cocaiiiine…" [Laughs] And then we were like, "No, Ozzy, we don't have that stuff." And he'd go, "You're boring." [Laughs] Then he would laugh and say, "Turn on the song, let me hear it." And he would do these interpretive dance moves, like head bobs and creative things with his hands and his jewelry would be clanking. He was just a lot of fun.
It was a great time to be around him back in those days. And of course, Zakk Wylde was hanging out as well, and [bassist] Mike Inez … That's how albums were made sometimes. You would share a compound and it would be with your heroes. For the Infectious Grooves, we were very lucky to have Ozzy around us at that time. And then it ended up that he took us on tour. When the No More Tears album came out, he did a theater tour called Theatre of Madness. And he took us on tour with him. We didn't really have a band because we were Suicidal Tendencies, so we had to recruit [Jane's Addiction drummer] Stephen Perkins and [guitarist] Adam Siegel from Excel. We put a band together with the musicians that were a part of the recording section session, but it was Ozzy who actually helped us become a band at the time because he was the one who demanded that we open for him on tour.
YOU REUNITED WITH OZZY TO PLAY ON PATIENT NUMBER 9. HOW DID THAT COMPARE TO OTHER SESSIONS YOU'VE DONE WITH HIM? WERE YOU EVEN ABLE TO RECORD IN THE STUDIO BECAUSE OF COVID?
Well, we were able to meet up. We pretty much created a bubble. There were two recording teams that I was involved with — that would've been Andrew [Watt], Chad [Smith] and Ozzy, and then the second was Taylor Hawkins, Andrew and Ozzy. We basically just wrote all day and it was really therapeutic. It was a relief from the madness that was going on all around the city, and world, to be able to physically get in a room and play with amazing players and drummers and have that camaraderie.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PATIENT NUMBER 9 SONG, OR ONE THAT HOLDS MORE OF A PERSONAL SIGNIFICANCE FOR YOU?
The song "Patient Number 9," specifically, was very important to me. There's another song called "Dead and Gone." Those two tracks are really important because I really felt connected musically. The intro to "Patient Number 9" … I had actually written years ago, like it could have been 10 years ago. … To me, it always reminded me of something Ozzy would do, so to have the opportunity to introduce it to the team and jam on it and have it be one of the featured tracks was really a dream come true for me.
WHAT OTHER MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE FROM THOSE PATIENT NUMBER 9 JAM SESSIONS?
It was great to be with Ozzy again and have his energy. At one point we actually jammed on some Sabbath songs, "War Pigs" was one of 'em. And that was a lot of fun because Chad had never played a Sabbath song with Ozzy … So he was just gleaming with happiness. It was a moment for him, and he's played with some amazing people, you know? There was a lot of that kind of energy going on at that time. And it was just a great place to be when everything just seemed dismal in the world at that time. So I was very thankful that we were able to have that experience together and share those moments of creativity.
IF YOU THINK BACK OVER ALL THE YEARS WORKING WITH HIM, IS THERE ONE BEST PIECE OF OZZY ADVICE THAT STICKS WITH YOU?
He says, [in Ozzy accent] "The best rehearsal is a gig! There's nothing like a gig. You can rehearse a hundred times, but it's all about the gig." That's the best advice he's ever given me because it's true, plain and simple.
IS THERE A PARTICULARLY WILD TOUR STORY FROM YOUR TIME WITH OZZY? I'M SURE THERE ARE A FEW TO PICK FROM …
Yeah … there's kind of a crazy story that happened in Austin, Texas. … When Infectious Grooves first opened for Ozzy it was a theater in Austin. We were really excited. We had done a warm-up show just before that in Houston — and now we're pulling up to the back of the venue in Austin. And the first thing we see when we get off the tour bus is … a pentagram on the ground and a dead raven, black roses and candles. [Laughs] And we're like, Oh my God. [Laughs] It's like, Welcome to the tour. We're literally like, What are we getting ourselves into? [Laughs]
[LAUGHS] HOW DID THE SHOW ITSELF GO?
The actual show itself was interesting because we hadn't learned how to pace our set yet. And with Ozzy, similar to most well-known metal bands, the crowd starts chanting the name — Ozzy! Ozzy! — and they didn't know who we were. They didn't know who Infectious Grooves was. So, they're chanting and the balcony was literally moving. … But we knew once we got into the songs, we could divert that energy and that attention. So the whole thing was kind of edgy: from the pentagram to the show itself … And we were just like, like, "Oh my God, we survived, but barely."
And then and topper was … Ozzy's playing, and we're all excited. I think it was myself and two of the band members we had a beer and we're like creeping around the backstage as Ozzy's playing and it's dark — and I tripped over a pile of cables. I basically fell [into the] connectors for the monitors, the power lines and everything — and I knocked out the power to the monitor system! [Laughs] It was like slow motion. I see myself falling ... and I'm knocking out like three of the input jacks and all of a sudden the power's out onstage.
THAT MUST HAVE BEEN TERRIFYING.
All you hear is Ozzy and the drums, acoustically. Ozzy looked over, everybody looked over and no one knew what happened. I was so scared. Luckily the monitor guy saw that that's what happened. And he was able to patch it back in really quickly. I was like, "Oh man, we're going home." So I went into the catering and I was trying to just play it off. Like, you know, maybe no one noticed. And Ozzy's tour manager came behind me and he was really nice about it, luckily. He put his arm around me and said, "Robert, did you knock out the power to the monitor rig?" And then I said, "Yes." And he goes, "Okay, don't do that again, please." I go, "Are we going home?" And he goes, "No, just don't do that again. … You're lucky. Ozzy thinks that there was a power outage in Austin." [Laughs] I just remember that because between the pentagram and that being our introduction to the crowd in a small venue to me knocking out the power to the monitor rig…
AT THAT POINT YOU PROBABLY THOUGHT IT WAS A CURSED GIG.
It was! [Laughs] It was a cursed first gig. Welcome to the world of Ozzy Osbourne. [Laughs]