Zakk Wylde (guitars, vocals) – Black Label Society (SMNnews exclusive)
Back in the 80’s OZZY OSBOURNE had a revolving door of guitar players. Then he found a kid from New Jersey and when I saw Miracle Man on MTV, I was an instant fan of ZAKK WYLDE. His pinch harmonics, fluid solos, and ability to write memorable riffs help keep afloat Ozzy’s career throughout the 90’s. But Zakk was never complacent and always had other avenues to express himself. Fast forward t0 2013 and BLACK LABEL SOCIETY is releasing Unblackened on September 24th which is a live CD/DVD filmed in Los Angeles, CA. I had the opportunity to catch up with Zakk, have a chat, share a laugh, and this is what I bring you here as Zakk leads in with, “Hey Mark, what are you doin?”
Q: Zakk brother, how are you?
A: What’s happenin?
Q: It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken with ya.
A: I dig it, how’s everything goin over there?
Q: Things are great and my life is better now that I’m Unblackened!
A: Very good (laughs).
Q: I live here in LA and I missed that gig because I was out of town, but damn it came out phenomenal.
A: I dig it brother, thanks man! We did a DVD with Eagle. We had production out on the last run and I remember JD saying we should film some of the dates and yada yada yada. We had the video screens, the pyro, and things we don’t usually have but the whole thing is we got approached to do this thing. With Berzerker Nation people always ask can you guys do more mellow songs. When we’re headlining we’ll wheel the piano out and do the Dime Song (In This River), Darkest Days, or Spoke In The Wheel or something like that. On every Black Label record, and there’s nine of them, there’s some mellow tunes on the record but they never get the chance to see the light of day live. We can only do a couple of ‘em then it’s back to the Marshall Wall of Doom. So this was a great opportunity so when it presented itself we were like, why don’t we just do it now? So that’s how it came about.
Q: History wise for you and my first introduction was hearing Miracle Man and the band I was in was like, “shit, we have to cover this song.” (Zakk laughs) On through your career, and with everything you’ve done, Book Of Shadows is one of my favorite albums of all time. Now you kind of got to play in that style some of your other songs which is cool to hear.
Q: Do you see yourself doing more of this in the future?
A: Umm, well yeah! I’ve always listened to the mellow stuff. What got me into music was ELTON JOHN before I found BLACK SABBATH and LED ZEPPELIN and everything you listen to that’s a staple on Classic Rock. Whenver we’d be sitting on a 16-hour bus ride we’d be sitting on the submarine at the end of a gig sitting back drinking and listening to everything we love that is mellow whether it’s BOB SEGER, NEIL YOUNG, Elton, anything, even CROWDED HOUSE or the Motown stuff. Just chillin out in the front. It’s always been there anyways, even with Ozzy doing Mama, I’m Coming Home. It’s always been a part of who we are and the cool thing about now that this is out, we can actually tour then a year later come back around and do it as an Unblackened gig so everybody knows it’s going to be a different show obviously.
Q: You brought Derek Sherinian (kayboards) in for this.
A: With Derek, I’ve known Derek since I came out here with Ozzy and he was playing with ALICE COOPER and stuff like that. And JD knows him as well, they’re both BERKLEE (school of music) guys. But the whole thing is, I’ve jammed on Derek’s records and it was a killer opportunity to just get together and for us to finally do something together.
Q: I thought it was real cool what you guys did with Speedball.
A: Oh yeah, that’s the love for AL DIMEOLA and CHICK COREA and all that stuff, definitely cool. We had it down.
Q: How’s life out at the compound?
A: I’m just sitting here writing because the guys get out here on the 27th or 28th and we start firing up and making noise.
Q: You got a bucket full of riffs to give them right now?
A: Totally! We’ll listen to some CARPENTERS records, some Sabbath and Zeppelin, mixed in with some DONNY & MARIE video tapes of the old shows and we’re good to go. (laughs)
Q: I remember being on the Merry Mayhem Tour with you back in 2001 with Ozzy, ROB ZOMBIE, MUDVAYNE and SOIL.
A: That was brutal (laughs). That’s when the firemen in New York had that Crucifix made with some pieces of the Towers.
Q: How’s your health right now?
A: It’s great! I take blood thinners twice a day once when I wake up and before I hit the sack. Of course, no booze for like four years. I can’t drink anymore because that’s like putting blood thinner on blood thinner. I still feel great, I’m still high on life like I was before. (laughs)
Q: You sound like the same Zakk!
A: Yeah (laughs), nothing’s changed! Some people are like, ‘did Zakk find God?’ because I don’t drink anymore. I go, ‘No’, what are you talking about? I rolled with Jesus when I was drinking now I don’t drink and still rolling with Jesus. Let’s not complicate things, okay? (laughs)
Q: I guess it’s the cliché thing with Rockers that when they mature (Dave Mustaine, Head, etc.) they become Jesus Crispies or something.
A: HaHa! I’m more like, ‘when did you lose him [Jesus]? Were you following the trail, what’s going on here? (laughs)
Q: They were playing hide n seek with him.
A: HaHa – I guess so!
Q: How are the kids?
A: They’re doing great! They’re 21, 20, 11, and now we got Sabbath Page, he’s 1. He’s a 4th of July baby so it’s definitely comedy.
Q: You’re still firing bullets.
A: Oh yes! I have to remind everyone cause of the age difference of the kids they’re like wow, you’ve got a 21 year old, a 20 year old, and a 1? And I go, ‘Yeah, I’m not some new guy, I’ve been here for the whole ride.” (laughs)
Q: So the guys are coming out, you’re doing a Black Label record, how soon do you hope to have it done?
A: Probably first week of December we’re looking at.
Q: Wow, that’s quick!
A: Yeah, it’ll be no time at all. We just have to go in and get the sounds going. The studio is already set up. We just added some new stuff to the outboard gear. Drums are still sitting there from when we did the last album.
Q: This is all at your place, right?
A: Yeah, the Black Vatican!
Q: Is recording something you enjoy a lot now?
A: I always have! Now I got my own studio. I love it all! I run into some guys I’ve met through the years and they’re like, “I hate touring, I wish I was home with my family.” I love touring dude! I love making the records, I still love practicing. A lot of guys hate being away from the family. That’s like you and me being professional baseball players, yet we can’t stand to travel.
Q: Yeah, that would suck.
A: That’s the reason you’re playing for the Yankees! I don’t get it. Being a baseball player, traveling is part of it, I don’t get it.
Q: If you don’t want to tour you can join THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT.
A: Yeah, or STEELY DAN. But I love it just as much as I first started with Oz.
Q: You can see it in how you approach it. You go up there and you have fun.
A: Yeah, without a doubt. It’s always a blast! On top of it, I’ve never been in a band with a bunch of guys I can’t stand so that’s makes it easier. Ever since it started when I was 15 years old playing in a pickup band then getting older I was playing keg parties, in people’s kitchens, and the whole nine yards, high schools, and we all loved hanging out together and jamming. The same thing when I got with Ozzy, then PRIDE AND GLORY, then when me and Nick went out and did the Book Of Shadows thing then Black Label. Everybody that’s been in Black Label we all did hanging out with each other. Especially in the early days with the drinking it was comedy all the time, it was ANIMAL HOUSE.
Q: Outside of Black Label there’s a lot of rumors, what if’s, etc. when it comes to a PANTERA reunion and what if we could get Vinnie and Phil to talk and iron things out, and put Mr. Wylde on guitar, is that ever a possibility?
A: Well I was just out with Vinnie at the first game of the football season at Texas Stadium watching the Cowboys and Giants. We were hanging out and we just did Gigantour together. I love Vinnie. He’s in our video for There Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone. All the guys are great. If the guys ever start talking and the guys were like, ‘Zakk, we want you to honor Dime’ of course I’d do it. Everybody always says nobody cane replace Dime. And I say nobody can replace Randy Rhoads either and all the guys we love. When I was explaining this to one of the guys I was talking with, it’s a matter of honoring him. If everyone is wearing 7 on the Yankees, it’s because they’re honoring Mickey Mantle. What you’re doing is honoring Dime’s greatness and all the great things Pantera achieved. As far as I’m concerned in that genre of music, they’re the Led Zeppelin of that genre, Extreme Metal. That’s what they are and always will be. All bands, in that genre of music, are measured against Pantera. It would be a celebration of all things Pantera, all things Dimebag, it’s a beautiful thing. If the guys say Hey Zakk, we want you to honor Dime, of course I would do it.