Sweet Leaf features a veritable who’s who of the local metal scene.
Singer Lance Ozanix still leads Skitzo, one of the first thrash metal acts in the world—the band was formed in 1981—and the very first from Sonoma County.
Guitarist Steve Smyth plays in the recently reunited Forbidden. He has done countless national and international tours, playing with the likes of Testament, Nevermore, Vicious Rumors, Forbidden, One Machine and Dragonlord. He also teaches guitar to budding students across the globe.
Drummer Chris Newman played with Intense, one of the largest drawing speed/thrash metal bands in Sonoma County during the late ’80s. The ultra-talented bassist, Steven Hoffman, from the defunct Esseness Project, rounded out the group. Longtime bassist Dave D’Elicio will play their Sacramento Christmas show one week later.
Bohemian: How many years has Sweet Leaf been around, and how did the project get started?
Lance Ozanix: Sweet Leaf started in 1989 with the idea of being a Black Sabbath tribute. People would say I look like Ozzy, and we tried doing a few Sabbath songs, and it fit well. There were no tribute bands around at that time. In 1992, we had our first tribute show at Uncle Charlie’s (now defunct club in Corte Madera) with Long Gone Bon (AC/DC tribute), and the show went over very well. By 1994, my current band members just left and did their own thing, so I brought the idea to Steve Smyth and Steve Hoffman (who was already involved), and the team meshed pretty well. The rest is history.
Bohemian: Aside from the Santa Rosa show, how many total Christmas shows this year?
Ozanix: Just one in Sacramento at On The Y. I think that’s it. Ha! We are a once-in-awhile band.
Bohemian: Do you like playing Ozzy Osbourne or Black Sabbath songs more than the others?
Ozanix: I love the Jake E. Lee era and songs off Diary of a Madman. As for Black Sabbath songs, “War Pigs” is a fan fave, and the audience gets to sing long and loud.
Bohemian: What are your favorite Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne albums?
Ozanix: My top three records for Black Sabbath are Born Again, Master Of Reality and Never Say Die. As for Ozzy, it would be Diary of a Madman, Bark At The Moon and No More Tears.
Bohemian: How many practices do you need to shake off the cobwebs?
Ozanix: Very little. Check this out. When the pandemic hit, we stopped playing for like three years. At our very first rehearsal three years later, just a little over a month ago, we played an hour and a half without any hiccups. Amazing.
Sharing the bill with Sweet Leaf is Head Rush (a tribute to Rush) and Age Against the Machine (a tribute to Rage Against The Machine). Doors open at 7pm, and the show starts at 8pm. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Barrel Proof Lounge, 501 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa. 21 and over only.
Tickets are $15 advance and $20 day of show and can be purchased at bit.ly/sweetleaf-23.
There will also be a raffle with music gear prizes from BC Rich, EMG, Dunlop and Ernie Ball, with proceeds benefiting the Strides For Life Colon Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society. For more information, visit BarrelProofLounge.com.