Cover Story – Ozzy Osbourne’s “Down To Earth”, with photography by Nitin Vadukul

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Copyright 2001 and 2008 by Nitin Vadukul Photography – All rights reserved.

Subject – Down to Earth, a 2001 record released by Ozzy Osbourne on Epic Records, with cover/insert images by Nitin Vadukul

Metal fans waited impatiently for 6 years for a follow-up to Ozzy Osbourne’s 1995 hit album Ozzmosis, being rewarded in late 2001 with a new studio recording titled Down To Earth.

Of course, during that period, Ozzy was far from inactive, focusing a lot of time and energy on shepherding the successful Ozzfest tours. Beginning in 1996, Osbourne’s traveling show has introduced fans of all subsets of metal/hard rock music to a wide range of acts, including Godsmack, Slipknot, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, System of a Down and Velvet Revolver (until 2006, Ozzy typically headlined either as a solo performer or as part of a reunited Black Sabbath, sharing the Main Stage with other top acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Pantera, Marilyn Manson and Megadeth.)

Working for the first time on a solo project without the aid of Black Sabbath cohort Geezer Butler, he surrounded himself with a supergroup of supporters, including Zakk Wylde on guitar, Suicidal Tendencies’ (and, after, Metallica’s) Rob Trujillo on bass and Faith No More’s drummer Mike Bordin on drums. The resulting recording highlighted all aspects of Ozzy’s songwriting expertise, serving up fine examples of what keeps fans happy – from straight-up metal in songs like “Gets Me Through” and “Facing Hell” to introspective ballads such as “You Know” and “Dreamer”.

And so, when Sony Records and Sharon Osbourne asked photographer Nitin Vadukul to come up with an image for the cover of Ozzy’s upcoming record release, the guidance he was given was to “think dark” (he is the Master of Darkness, isn’t he?). Having photographed a wide range of other artists (from Radiohead and Moby to Mudvayne and Korn, as well as Dr. Dre and Eminem), you would think that Nitin would have been prepared do deal with the imagined extremes of such a photo session, but as you’ll read in today’s Cover Story, he found himself caught off guard by one aspect of Ozzy’s personality that shaped the entire creative process. So, cue up the maniacal laughter from “Crazy Train” and read on…

In the words of the photographer, Nitin Vadukul (interviewed Nov./Dec. 2007)

“I was very pleased to get a call from Sharon Osbourne asking me to come up with ideas for Ozzy’s upcoming record, which was going to be called Down to Earth. I had never photographed Ozzy before, but was always a huge Black Sabbath fan. Sony Records had actually recommended me for the shoot, as I had worked with them many times. The ideas I was to develop would create an image that would possibly be used for the cover, but there was no guarantee. I would have 3 days to work with Ozzy and develop several ideas.

The label and arist management people who were involved with the project were truly amazing – they gave me total freedom to create , and then just picked the ideas they liked that I came up with. I feel that this is the best kind of working relationship because you get to use all of your creativity, and the input from the featured subjects will often go on to inspire your final designs and, ultimately, the final product. The only specific direction I got was from Sharon , who said, ‘think dark’.

The initial inspiration came from my first meeting with Ozzy, because I had never seen a human being with so many tattoos and amazing gothic jewelry in my entire life!! That introduction made me think of the person behind all that – I wanted to know what was inside him.

I submitted 5-6 different ideas before my clients chose the ‘X-rayed Ozzy’ one. One of the ideas was to make up Ozzy as Nosferatu, who was the first Dracula in the movies. As you can see on the accompanying photo (below, left), the make up by Screaming Mad George was amazing. We both liked this idea as it allowed Ozzy to play someone truly dark in broad daylight and get away with it. Another image we shot in New York’s Meatpacking district – we seemed to have found the stairway to Hell (see photo below, right). Some of these shots were also used in the booklet as well.

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Copyright 2001 and 2008 by Nitin Vadukul Photography – All rights reserved.

The CD cover is actually the final image in a sequence that begins inside the CD booklet. It shows a multi-step transformation from Ozzy standing on a path in a forest and then some sort of force or beam hits him to begin the transformation. The transformation idea came from someone at the record label, and I loved it without question. We created ‘the forest’ totally indoors, in the studio.

The entire process – from project approval to the delivery of the final image – took about 8 weeks. I used only a 10×8 PLATE camera, sheet film and my own eyes to shoot the initial images. The only other equipment we used was an X-ray machine and then Photoshop. Sharon had really let me do my thing and suggested some tweaks in the final image – let’s not forget, she did OK the ideas to begin with.

I know that they were very happy with the results. I should say they were completely shocked in a good way, because no-one expected what they finally saw. They must have liked my work during this session as they came back to me to license another image for use on the cover of 2003’s Essential Ozzy Osbourne, which was part of Sony Music’s ‘Essential’ series of limited-edition two-disc compilations of major artists.

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Copyright 2001 and 2008 by Nitin Vadukul Photography – All rights reserved.

I have to tell you that Ozzy is an amazing professional. He was on time, did everything I asked of him and at the same time taught me a great deal about believing in yourself and being the best you can be. I also think that, in my life so far anyway, he is the only person that has managed to keep me laughing for 72 hours non-stop (yes, even in my sleep)!

On top of that, he’s ‘fit as a fiddle’. I know that because before anyone showed up for the second day of shooting, I found him doing 100 push ups in the studio. He was up for just about anything, but on the day we were going to use the X-ray machine he was in the x-ray room and as he started to take his clothes off I burst out laughing. He then asked me if the procedure was going to be harmful and I said ‘no’, but then told him that I needed to leave the room while they did the x-ray. He looked at me and smiled -‘Not bloody dangerous, eh?!?!?'”

About the photographer, Nitin Vadukul

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Copyright 2001 and 2008 by Nitin Vadukul Photography – All rights reserved.

Photographer Nitin Vadukul was born in 1965 in Nariobi , Kenya. At the age of 4, his family moved to London, England where he grew up. His photography career started at the age of 14 and he lived in London and Paris before settling in New York City in 1994, where he now lives.

Nitin’s photographs are truly one of a kind. He creates an individual voice for each subject. His style and sensibility along with his strong technical yet artistic flair make him a true visionary and talent. For publications such as Rolling Stone, Esquire, Vogue and Detour he has photographed well know musicians, actors and celebrities including Donald Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Tim Roth, Radiohead and many others. Nitin has been behind the lens for a diverse group of advertising clients including IBM, Nike, Credit Suisse and Peugeot.

For music clients, he has created groundbreaking CD and publicity packages for musicians such as Radiohead , Mudvayne , Korn, Moby , Iggy Pop, The Secret Machines, Wyclef , Missy Elliott, DMX, Eve, Dr.Dre , Eminem, Herbie Hancock and Ozzy Osbourne.

His solo exhibitions include shows for BBH Advertising (New York City – 2007) and the Richard Sena Gallery (Hudson, N.Y. – 2006), and he’s participated in recent group exhibitions including Art Miami (Miami, FL – 2007), Photo Miami (Miami,FL – 2006), the Vaknin Gallery (Atlanta,GA – 2006), Hudson Arts Walk (2006), the Hardcore Art Contemporary Space (Miami, FL – 2006), the “HIP HOP IMMORTALS” showing at Galerie Patricia Dorfmann (Paris, France – 2004), the Govinda Gallery (Washington, D.C – 2004), the Proud Gallery (London, UK – 2003), the Adidas Store (NYC, NY – 2003), the Plus 81 Gallery (Tokyo, Japan – 2002) and the Festival R’encontre (Arles, France – 1998).

His works are also on display at The Saatchi Gallery site – www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk – and he is currently working on a series of images for a project called “ The Art of War”, depicting an epic journey of warriors in worlds unknown. You can see more on this project at his Web site – www.nitinvadukul.com/aow

See more of Nitin’s work on his website, which can be found at www.nitinvadukul.com

To see all of the Ozzy-related items in the RockPoP Gallery collection, please click here http://rockpopgallery.easystorecreator.com/items/ozzy-osbourne/list.htm?1=1

About Cover Stories – Our series of interviews will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

In each Cover Story, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 2001 and 2008, Nitin Vadukul and Nitin Vadukul Photography – All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2008 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved