PHIL SOUSSAN is a bass-guitarist, he played is several projects, he was member in his career for example in Michael Schenker Group, Vince Neil Band, Billy Idol Band, but the most famous Heavy Metal record, where he played is „The ultimate sin” album of OZZY.
To start this interview Phil, I would like to know, how and when did you get in touch with hard rock/metal music at all? What did you find so exciting in this untrendy music?
I never thought that hard rock music was untrendy! When I was growing up in the UK in the 70’s and 80’s this was the music that we all wanted to play. I listened to all kinds of music but I remnember very well hearing the openeing of „Good Times Bad Times” on the Led Zeppelin 1 album – it blew me away!
Were you a fan of classic hard rock bands such as LED ZEPPELIN, BLACK SABBATH, RAINBOW, DEEP PURPLE etc. or were you rather into the NWOBHM ones, such as IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, RAVEN, GIRLSCHOOL, SAXON etc.?
As I have said I was a big fan of all the music that you just mentioned, Status quo too! I was not really a fan of NWOBHM because these bands were my peers. I mean, I really liked some of them, Joe Elliot and I have always been really good friends and I liked all the music, but I wasn’t a „fan” as such because I was a player at that time and it had becoma my indusrty. I still enjoy all kinds of music to this day however.
At the late ’70’s was in England a strong punk movement, was there a big difference between the punk and the metal scene?
Yes, the punk movement was at the surface and the metal scene had gone a little underground. Punk represented a politically frustrated generation and as such I went along with it even though I was also into rock music. Rock music was not really political at that time.
From where did come the idea playing an instrument? Did your parents support your musical activities?
Music was my life and playing instruments was important to me. My parents did support my playing music,although I don’t think that they thought I would do it as a career!
How did your choice fall on bass? Who are/were your patterns or idols such as John Paul Jones, Geezer Butler, Roger Glover or…?
I was a guitar player. When I was a kid there were many guitarists around. I kept getting asked if I knew any bass players and eventually I agreed to play bass in a band. I liked the bass – I enjoyed playing it and eventually I became known as a bass player.
Were you self taught? Do you play other instruments as well?
I studied many instruments, particularily classical violin for over 10 years. I taught myself guitar and bass but at that point I was only learning the mechanics of playing different instruments – I had already learned theory.
How and when did your musical career begin exactly? Did you play perhaps in several school or garage bands?
Yes, several school bands. There were many music bands that came out of my school Pink Floyd, the Stranglers, Madness and many other pro players. We would play at partys and at street fairs etc.
Your first bands were TERMINAL RESCUE, CUDLY TOYS and REFLEX, what about these groups? Were you jamming tunes of likes such as BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE etc. or did you write own songs?
The bands that you mentioned were all original bands and had their own hits. I did not play with these bands for very long, Terminal Rescue was probably my first „professional” band!
Were these groups punk or rather rock/metal ones?
They were rock or pop/rock even new wave but not punk bands.
Can we say, that your first professional band was WILDLIFE? Do you still remember how did you get in the band exactly?
Wildlife was my first band that had a record deal in the works. I had an ad in the Melody Maker as a bass player looking for a band and I got a call from Simon Kirke. He asked ma a bit about myself and then asked me to come down to an audition. I went down to play with them and I got the gig.
What was the line up of the band? Were they known, talented musicians or rather unknown ones, whom WILDLIFE was the first band as well?
Obviously Simon Kirke was known from Free and Bad Company, but the was Mark Booty on keyboards and the Overland brothers – Chris and Steve. I believe that the last three had played together for many years in different incarnations of Wildlife. Other than that I don’t think that they were very well known; none of us were!
You recorded and released an album called „Wildlife”, what about the recordings sessions? How do you remember about it?
It was a lot of fun. We recorded at the Sol Studios that belonged to Jimmy Page and the backing tracks went down very easily. We were there maybe a couplle of weeks and then we went ot Ridge Farm to overdub and to record vocals and then finally to mix. Mick Ralphs was producing and there was a lot of drinking, laughing and generally enjoying what was a fine summer in the English countryside!
How would you charakterize the „Wildlife” record both music- and lyricswise?
Musically it was very British blues rock. Like Bad Co, like early Whitesnake. All of those influences. It was right up my street in style and genre. I am very proud of that album. I did not care too much for the production, being a producer myself I thought that it soounded rather washed out, but that is easy for me to criticize now! I was not a produer back then!
The album was released by Swan Song Records, how did you get in touch with them? Had you to record them a demo or an advance tape or did they simply like your music?
Actually, the band was due to sign a deal with Atlantic and at the last minute we were offered a deal by Swan Sonbg. They were Bad Co’s label and they still managed Simon and they were distributed by Atlantic and so it really made a lot of sense.
Was it at that time a big or a small label? Which bands were still by them?
It was a very exclusive group of people. I don’t need to tell you that! There were only 4 bands on the label; Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Midnight Flyer and us. Later they also had Michael Des Barres and they signed AirRace – Jason Bonham’s band. I don’t think that any of the last two ever released anything on the label though.
You went on European tour to support the record, were you a headliner or a support act? What about the tour in general?
We did quite a bit of touring – mainly in the UK doing both. We jeadlined and then we opened for Michael Schenker on a big tour that he had. The tour was great. The band were really terrific musicians although I think that there might have been a little charisma missing!
Unfortunately things didn’t work out between Swan Song and Atlantic and the whole thing eventually fizzled out, did it mean that the album was released and distributed by Atlantic? What kind of problems were there at that time?
The album was released by Atlantic/Swan Song but then all the promotion dried up as the relationship between Atlantic and Peter Grant at Swan Song soured.
Why and when did WILDFIRE split up at the end? Did you split up in a friendly term?
After our deal ended Simon left and we carried on with another drummer. We changed management and changed the name to Illegal Tender. Eventually we all started to get tired and started to think that we might be better off splitting up. It was funny though – I had gone away for a few days and when I got back the guys called a meeting to tell me that they wanted to disband. About a week later they announced a new band which was the same but for me and the drummer! I didn’t really care at that point.
Then you got in touch with Robin George and Jimmy Page, what about these cooperations? Did you learn a lot from Jimmy, as far as songcomposing, bassplaying etc.? Did you only jam together or did you write some tunes as well?
I learned a lot from Jimmy. It was a very exciting time in my career. We rehearsed and jammed for months and we started writing a lot of material. I founnd out that one of my ideas ended up on the Firm album. The track „Closer” is one that I wrote. Jimmy used it but I never got credit on it. I had already left to work with Ozzy and I didn’t know whether to be flattered or pissed off!! From Robin george I learned everything that you SHOULDN’T do ha ha!!
I read on your website that you received a call from Ozzy after doing a live TV show with some bands, what was the antecedent of Ozzy’s calling? What was your reaction when you have heard Ozzy’s voice?
My reaction? I was a little surprised but I know Ozzy and had spoken with mim many times before so I wasn’t shocked or anything.
Did you know him already earlier? Have you ever met him?
Yes I had met him many times. I also knew Sharon farly well and all of his management personell.
Were there auditioned more bassplayers or did Ozzy unambiguous know that he wants to have you in the band?
No there were extensive auditions taking place
In 1985 BLACK SABBATH reunioned for a gig at the Live Aid festival, did you see them live? How do you remember about that gig?
We were going to play that show as the Ozzy Osbourne band, but at the last minute they decided to reform Sabbath to do it. I spent that day watching it on the front lawn of Fin’s house (my friend, the singer from Waysted) It was a glorious day and some of the most beautiful weather!
Before the recording of „The ultimate sin” album were some line up changes: instead of Bob Daisley you got in the band, instead of Tommy Aldridge took over the drumkit the Mexican borned, ex-THE OFFENDERS, THE MOTELS, STONE FURY, LITA FORD BAND member Randy Castillo, what about these changes? As I as know Bob left the band because of Ozzy’s alcohol problem, is it true?
I have no idea why Bob left. He was always in and out with Ozzy, for all I know he would be re-appearing again at any time. By the way, Randy was from New Mexico in the USA not Mexico the country.
Mike Moran became the new keyboarder, was he only a sessions musician or a permanent one?
Mike Moran was not the keyboard player, it was John Sinclair.
You entered the realm of the madman, was it for you like a dream of yours came true?
My dream was to be able to play music and make my living doing it. I was thrilled to be playing with Ozzy and very happy to be able to say that I was now seeing a way that I could realize my dream. I was having a great time although I knew that there would be many other people that I would want to play with further down the line.
Do you know, why was called Ozzy „madman”? Did he still have at that time drug and alcohol problems? Was he still a drug costumer?
Ozzy was called the madman because he would do anythng to get a laugh! Just look at the magazines and papers at the time. I never saw him take drugs, but he used to drink like a fish! He was either drinking heavily or not drinking heavily if you know what I mean!
Since the releasing of the „Bark at the moon” record played Lake E. Lee guitars, did you hear at that time about the airplane tragedy of Randy Rhoades?
I was not around in the band at the time that Randy was killed.
How was the mood within the band? Was still Ozzy sad because of Randy’s death? Couldn’t he process Randy’s death?
I cannot answer that question, you should maybe ask Ozzy.
As far as the musicians, the musicianship, would you say that you were already at that time an experienced, talented bassplayer? Were the youngest member in the band?
I would say that I was talented although not as experienced as the others. I was the youngest in the band at that time. I was 24.
When and in which studio did you enter? How much time did you spend in the studio?
The Town house and AIR in London. I was there most of the time.
What about the recording sessions? How was to work Ozzy with?
He was fine. We recorded what we had rehearsed and everyone played great.
As far as the songs, largely of the lyrics were written by Bob Daisley, but what about the music? Did you compose it together?
No, most of the music had already been written when I came into the band.
„Shot in the dark” was written by you, which was an old tune of yours, would you have thought that it will be the most popular and known Ozzy hit? Would you say, that it brought Ozzy more popularity?
No idea. I offered it to Robin Gearge but he turned it down. When Ozzy wanted to do it I never thought that it was going to become the hit that it became. It brought Ozzy a huge and young following. We were playing the biggest shows of his career after that hit, and there were girls, young girls and thousands of them – at an Ozzy show!
As far as the other songs, such as the title track, „Never know why”, „Thank god for the bomb” or „Killer of giants”, I would say, they are awesome as well, do you agree with me?
I agree, great tunes.
What about „Thank god for the bomb”?
It was a great tune too. A great idea for a lyric and I like tunes that make you sit up and listen so that you can hear what the story is telling you.
There were also released some singles, such as „Shot in the dark”, „The ultimate sin”, „The ultimate live Ozzy”, were they a kind of promotional stuffs to promote the new album?
I guess so.
Why was released a Japenese version of the „Shot in the dark” single?
I don’t know, why not?
On this single was an unreleased song called „You said it all”, why didn’t you put it on the record?
Sometimes you can only put a few songs on a record and you still want to release antother track That was always the great thing about B-sides. Theese are sadly something that has now gone for good.
Were these singles limited as far as the releasing of them? How many copies were they limited? Were they released on vinyl or on CD as well?
I think just on Vinyl, CDs were not really out yet.
The producer of the record was Rob Nevison, was he the perfect person for this job? Were you satisfied with his achievement? Were you satisfied with the sound or would you say that it could have been heavier?
I have very few nice experiences to talk about with Ron Nevison. I like to call him the RE-ducer not the producer! Anyway, my mom always told me that if you cannot say anything nice about someone then say nothing.
The cover of the record became excellent as well, who did paint it?
In your opinion, how much did you develope cmpared to the previous OZZY records? Are there similarities and differences between „The ultimate sin” and the previous OZZY records?
Definite differences. Different writers, players, and a different time.
What kind of reviews, reactions did you get at that time? Would you say that „The ultimate sin” was a successful record?
We got spectacular reviews. Sharon told me that Ozzy would be retiring after the Ultimate Sin Album and they did not have a hit single on it. After Shot in the Dark his career was jusmp started and the rest is history. I believe that to this day that tour was Ozzy’s biggest and I believe that he has never had a bigger selling single.
You have shot three videos for the title track, „Lightning strikes” and „Shot in the dark”, you have released a VHS as well called „The ultimate Ozzy”, what about the clips and this VHS? Where and when was the gig filmed?
The videos were filmed in a stage in Los Angeles and the Ultimate Ozzy was filmed in St. Louis Missouri.
Talking about your gigs during „The ultimate sin” record which came out on the 22nd February 1986, I have in my CD collection a lot of bootlegs which were recorded at that time. To mention a few: 16th February 1986 at the Playhouse in Edingburgh Scotland, at the Keil Auditorium St. Louis 02. 04. 1986, 1st April 1986 at the Kempter Arena Kansas City or 30th August 1986 at the Zeppelinfeld –„Master of madness”- Nürnberg Germany, any memories of these shows?
Many memories. Too many things to talk about here although we performed hundreds of shows.
I think so, the gig at the Donington Festival was a highlight during this period, do you still remember about the Donington show? Which bands did still play on that day at the Donington Castle? Could you tell us detailed about it? I have this show on CD as well.
We played at night and it was the biggest show that I have ever played. I remember it well although there was nothing particular that happened different from any other show that we did. I think that Def Leppard and Motorhead also played, maybe the Scorpions too.
At that time you wore black-yellow striped clothes as far as the shows, was it a kind of uniform? What about this clothes?
Then you went on tour with METALLICA, whose idea was to invite them? Were they the support, the opening act?
They opened for us as they were starting to really make a name for themselves in the USA.
Did you get on well with them? They were at that time a young, ardent thrash band, weren’t they?
Yes, we got on really well with them.
METALLICA released „Master of puppets” in 1986, do you consider it one of the most influental, most important thrash record? How did you like this album? Are/were you a thrash fan at all?
They were at the top of their game and it was the beginning of many bands that would soon come out playing that style of music. I recently played on a Metallica tribute album with Scott Ian.
Talking about 1986, I would say, it was the best year of the metal music, a lot of excellent –mostly thrash- records were released, such as „Reign in blood” of SLAYER, „Darkness descends” of DARK ANGEL, „Eternal devastation” of DESTRUCTION etc., how do you remember about this age?
I remember all those bands starting to come up at that time.
Would you say that thrash metal was on their peak at that time? What was the reason of it?
No idea – just a new type of sound I guess.
Around this time or so Ozzy did some guest vocals for Bill Wards solo record „Ward one”, what about this album?
I know nothing about that record.
When and why did you decide to leave Ozzy band? Didn’t you think about to establish an own band after you left Ozzy?
I thought that it was time to move on. I wasn’t happy with the business and publishing arrangements that were in place and I felt that it was time to explore some of the other avenues that I had spoken about earlier.
Did you remain in touch with Ozzy after you left the band?
No. Not really. I would have like to have done. I got on great with Ozzy and Sharon and I miss them to be honest with you.
Not only you, but Jake E. Lee and Mike Moran have left the band as well, why did they leave Ozzy?
I cannot speak for them.