Hailing from “the bowels of outer space,” heavy metal parody band Mac Sabbath has made a super-sized impact on the music scene since forming in Los Angeles in 2014.
The quartet — vocalist Ronald Osbourne, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze, bassist Grimalice and drummer The Catburglar — may look a bit familiar since their appearances parody characters created by fast-food giant McDonald’s along with musical icons like Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Slayer and Kiss.
After building its audience playing clubs in Los Angeles, Mac Sabbath has gone on to larger stages, festivals and tours, delivering songs with a fast-food twist as Black Sabbath hits like “Paranoid,” “Iron Man” and “Sweet Leaf” become “Pair-a-Buns,” “Frying Pan” and “Sweet Beef.” After being locked down due to the pandemic, the band hit the road last year on its Pop-Up Drive-Thru Tour in support of its vinyl album release and accompanying pop-up book.
With new stage props and the promise of even more live chaos, Mac Sabbath is playing several shows near home including Jan. 26 at the Observatory in Santa Ana; Jan. 27 at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown; and Jan. 28 at Ventura Music Hall in Ventura.
“These shows will be a lot of fun,” band manager Mike Odd said during a recent phone interview. The players in the band maintain their anonymity and speak exclusively through Odd, who also fronts the L.A. heavy rock band Rosemary’s Billygoat. Odd discussed the band’s mythology and its anti-music industry, anti-technology and anti-corporate food industry stance.
While borrowing the look from famous McDonald’s characters, Mac Sabbath’s lyrics argue against fast food eats for general health reasons and decry industry greed and low-wage jobs in the multibillion dollar businesses.
“We’re absolutely not promoting that,” Odd said, lest anyone think they were somehow advertising the industry.
“After a while, you start to come around and realize that the organic food and plant-based food is really amazing and makes you feel so much better,” he said, adding that it’s not easy to find healthful meals on tour but he tries in the midst of all the other work. “If I have a minute, I’m chasing down organic and plant-based food for the band.”
The players may look a bit creepy, and metal music is often evocative of the dark side, but Odd said Mac Sabbath is a family-friendly band. So they don’t curse up a storm or bite the heads off of bats while on stage. Real bats, anyway.
“I can guarantee that Mac Sabbath is family-friendly, but I can’t always guarantee that about the opening bands,” Odd said with a laugh. “We have great opening and supporting bands and please come and see them. But if you’re bringing your kids, that has nothing to do with me.”
Mac Sabbath live shows include wild props, pyro, giant inflatable hamburgers, audience participation and more. According to Odd, the band has added a few more tricks to its already colorful repertoire.
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“It’s all about the live show,” he said. “The thing I hear more often than anything is, ‘Oh my God, I had no idea it was going to be like that.’ Even from people who have seen the videos posted online, they’re always saying, ‘Wow, it’s so much better than I thought it ever could be.’”
According to Odd, if it were up to vocalist Ronald Osbourne, the band would promote itself with old-school tactics like handing out flyers along the Sunset Strip. While the group begrudgingly uses social media to share photos and information about its upcoming performances, Odd said the members all prefer to live in the moment and not in the virtual world, which sometimes makes his job of managing and promoting the band hard.
“It can be a little difficult because they do have specific opinions about the way things should be, so dealing with the band being anti-technology can be very frustrating, but also very fun,” he said. “The more I am on social media and the more technology-driven things I see — like robot police dogs or that it’s going to cost me $600 for a key to my car — I see Ronald’s point.”
Mac Sabbath doesn’t release its music through traditional channels either. While the group has a YouTube channel and has uploaded a couple of music videos, it hasyet to put out music that’s available via streaming or on CD. A handful of years ago, the band put out a coloring and activity book that included a Flexi-disc with the single “Pair-a-Buns” and now it’s promoting a new release that includes an exclusive seven-song vinyl and pop-up book.
“Drive-Thru Metal” includes songs such as “Organic Funeral,” “N.I.B.B.L.E.” and “Sweet Beef” and the book follows the band on its journey through a dystopian fast-food world polluted by its own waste that’s beautifully illustrated by Gris Grimley. The Los Angeles-based artist is known for his dark, whimsical drawings and paintings that have illustrated children’s books. His work also inspired “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” film by the Mexican director that debuted on Netflix in December.
“Gris is a true weirdo and a friend,” Odd said. “We’ve known each other for a very long time and I’m lucky to have been able to get him to do this because if it were just some random band, he wouldn’t have time. But he made time for Mac Sabbath because he actually is a fan and he’s done so much for the band. He made the whole foodscape backdrop that goes behind the band at the shows and he did one of the early T-shirts, too.”
There are two editions of the book and album, both of which include the 12-inch pop-up book with a gatefold opening that expands to 24 inches and has three pullouts. The regular version includes the standard black vinyl album and the limited edition comes with a gallery-quality print, a gold foil accent cover, character sticker pack and a ketchup- and mustard-splattered vinyl. While this book-record combo merch isn’t cheap — $60 for the regular version and $120 for the limited edition — Odd said it’s a collector’s item.
“The pop-up book was a challenge because I kept thinking to myself, ‘Why has no record company ever done this’ and I found every single reason why not and they’re all financial,” he said, noting that after this initial run of books is gone they won’t be reprinted.
While Mac Sabbath may not have a stamp of approval from the fast-food industry, it did get the blessing of Black Sabbath. Early on, Black Sabbath posted some of Mac Sabbath’s videos on its social media pages and singer Ozzy Osbourne himself came face-to-face with the band in 2017 during the taping of an episode of “Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour.” Osbourne’s son, Jack, surprised him with a private performance by the band, which delighted Osbourne.
“That was the turning point for the band because in managing the band and working with the PR and stuff, going through and reading comments, there were always those guys that were like ‘This is disrespectful and blah, blah, blah,’” Odd said. “That totally disappeared after that clip was shared. We never heard that again because what it was actually saying was that they had less of a sense of humor than the people it was perpetrated upon. Black Sabbath also posted several videos along the way and that was big support that didn’t just go out to 20 million people, it went out to 20 million of the right people.”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26
Where: The Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana
Tickets: $20 at LiveNation.com
Also: 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27 at Pappy & Harriet’s, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown. $20 at pappyandharriets.com; 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at Ventura Music Hall, 1888 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. $23 at venturamusichall.com.