From Hamburger-Joint Basements to Major Festivals: The Weird and Wonderful World of Mac Sabbath

According to Mac Sabbath manager Mike Odd, lead singer Ronald Osbourne believes that he teleported across space and time from the 1970s to 2014 to start the band. Think Back to the Future in reverse. The true origins of Ronald Osbourne are shrouded in mystery, as is the case with his bandmates, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze, bassist Grimalice and drummer Catburglar. But Odd's role as band manager began in 2014, when he received a strange phone call from someone telling him to come to a Los Angeles hamburger restaurant for a secret meeting that would change his life.

Prior to that time, Odd had run a freak museum in East Hollywood from 2004 through 2007 called Rosemary's Billygoat & Odditorium. It had features that you might expect — mermaids, two-headed taxidermied frogs and other refinements. “When you do stuff like that, you end up being this guy that is not only chasing down weirdness... [but]strange things tend to start chasing you down. So you get calls from weirdos that want you to come down to their shed and look at their conjoined squirrel or whatever it is. I closed that place, but that lingers on for a long time and the weirdness follows you around. [After getting that call, I figured] I wasn't doing anything that day and thought it could be a goof.”

Odd was not fully prepared for the strange encounter that followed.

“So I go down there and sit in this booth and I eat some french fries, and this crazy clown busts through the door, and all eyes are on him, and he's just ranting and raving, dripping with yellow and red tassels, skull make-up on,” says Odd. “He starts spewing these concepts all over me and tells me it's my destiny to manage his band Mac Sabbath and that it's going to change my life. Of course he got kicked out of there immediately. But the next thing I knew, I was in the basement of one of these burger places at three o'clock in the morning for this secret thing. A guy shows up with the keys and lets in a few people in the know, and I'm watching Slayer MacCheeze's giant cheeseburger-headed Tony Iommi just shredding and this Ronald Osbourne guy ranting about Monsanto and GMOs, all while I'm leaning against freeze-dried condiments. It was the craziest thing that had ever happened to me. I thought it was hilarious and I would work with them.”

Those clandestine basement meetings became shows and a genuine phenomenon that eventually became too big to continue as it was. So Mac Sabbath had to get out of the underground. But Odd wasn't sure where a band with such unusual characters, playing Black Sabbath covers, usually from the first three albums, fit in with even the weirdo music world in which his own band, Rosemary's Billygoat, tended to play. But because of the subject matter of the alternative lyrics, with no mentions of drug use or sex, and because the band wasn't truly scary, it struck Odd as a kid-friendly show. Even Ronald Osbourne often told Odd that he wanted it to be family-friendly. So one of the earliest Mac Sabbath shows outside of hamburger-restaurant basements was at a grammar school in Silver Lake, California, a gig that a friend of Odd's helped to set up. “This woman came up to me and asked, 'Are you responsible for this?'” says Odd. “And I said, 'Yeah, I'm sorry, is there a problem? Do you want me to make it stop?' She said, 'No this is amazing! This is the best thing ever. The kids love it and you should play more schools.'”

After that, the early plans were to tour and play the night shows at rock clubs and play shows with a healthy-food theme at schools during the days. But that didn't end up panning out. Mac Sabbath might have been merely a brilliant, short-lived gimmick, but the band that inspired it gave Mac Sabbath a boost resulting in a bona fide career for the band and a full-time job as manager for Odd.

“On New Year's Day 2015, Black Sabbath posted on their Facebook and Twitter the Mac Sabbath 'Frying Pan' video,” says Odd. “When that happened, the numbers just went crazy. It's over one million views now. That's when it really took off, and now we've playing a festival in England with Mötley Crüe, Kiss and Judas Priest. In more ways than one, Black Sabbath is responsible for the success of Mac Sabbath. There was no comment whatsoever, [just the share]. It's great to see they get it.”

While there are no plans for an album, as Mac Sabbath remains very much a live experience, and with Ronald Osbourne's hints at releasing an album on eight-track not commercially feasible, Odd suggests that there is something coming down the pike in terms of a release, but cannot now say what that is. Until then, you'll have to catch the bizarreness and the magic of the band by going to see it live at a rock club or at a big festival like Outside Lands in San Francisco rather than a hamburger-restaurant basement.

Mac Sabbath with Lotus Gait and Wake the Bat, Saturday, August 27, 7 p.m., Marquis Theater, 303-487-0111, $5-$15, all ages.
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.