Former long-time Ozzy Osbourne axeman and Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde is one of the most beloved and respected guitarists in heavy music. Plucked from obscurity as a 19-year-old by Osbourne in 1987, he was Ozzy's lead guitarist until earlier this year, when Osbourne revealed in an interview that he and Wylde had parted ways, primarily due to fears that material being written for Osbourne's next solo album was sounding "too similar" to Black Label Society. Wylde was in Sydney recently to promote three new Gibson guitar models - the Les Paul BFG Bullseye, Buzzsaw and the Graveyard Disciple (the latter designed by Zakk himself - for more information on these models, visit his official website). PyroMusic got the legendary guitarist on the phone during his busy press and meet and greet schedule to discuss his departure from the Ozzy ranks, the future of Black Label Society, his replacement in the Ozzy band (Gus G from Firewind) and inspiring other guitarists.
Spiritech: Hey Zakk, how are things?
Zakk Wylde: I'm alright brother, I'm just hanging out and shooting the shit with you bro.
Spiritech: You did an in-store appearance in Sydney yesterday - how have they been going?
Zakk Wylde: Everything's been going cool man, all the other ones that we did throughout Japan and then when we were in China and Singapore... we ended up doing a prison gig down there. Just going into these guitar clinics and promoting the Graveyard Disciple and the BFG thing. Just meeting all the Black Label Chapters wherever we're going, so there's a batch of 'em in prison as well (laughs), so besides that everything else was cool man.
Spiritech: What's got you excited about the three guitar models you're out here promoting?
Zakk Wylde: Well, the guys asked me about it and I was like, "yeah, sure, you want me to go out and promote them, I've got no problem with that". You know, obviously when I'm usually promoting them, I'm doing the guitar magazines or just doing stuff when I'm out on tour and stuff like that, but I was like, "yeah sure, if you want me to do the guitar clinic thing I'm all up for it, no problem". (Before I) put together the Graveyard Disciple with the coffin, the Epiphone one, I ended up getting a promotional item for my merch company, they had given me these... like in the shape of a coffin with a Black Label logo on it and they had lollipops and in there and they had all the song titles like 'House Of Doom', 'Graveyard Disciples', 'Death March', 'Genocide Junkies'. That was like goofy as hell, but I was just sitting there holding it one day 'cause I was looking at these old guitars on EBay 'cause I read these vintage guitar magazines, like all the old ones where there's like the Phantom or the Vox and all these Teardrop guitars, all these butt-ugly guitars. Then Bo Diddley's the Box guitar he has and everything like that and Billy Gibbons has like Bo's thing, it's this god-awful, ugly... but that's the whole beauty of the guitar, but I mean it was just like, "how is this thing going to go?" (I thought if) if they put a neck on this thing it'll probably be cool, so they ended up making the body like a coffin. So they did a kick ass job and I jam on it all the time, the thing plays great and it sounds slamming. It's kinda like an SG, 'cause it has the whole mahogany body, except on mine it has... the neck is, the back of the neck is maple and the front of it's ebony. But it's got the Floyd Rose on it, the EMG pick-ups on it - I dig the guitar, it sounds slamming, bro.
Spiritech: Do you feel it's a guitar just suited to someone looking to play a similar style of music to yourself...
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, I mean I don't believe... I mean, I understand for like with country music, a lot of guys play the Kellys and stuff like that, you know and it's just like a Les Paul with the humbuckers and everything like that for hard rock and stuff like that, or a Flying V. I mean, the Flying V's more a body shape, you know. You can play any style of music on any guitar, you just put it in any good guitarist's hands... you put Al Di Meola on a Strat or a Les Paul he's going to sound like Al Di Meola, you know what I mean? Just the tone might be different from a Strat single coil pick-up to a humbucker, you know?
Spiritech: I was talking to Steve Vai recently and he said he has had countless guitarists approach him to tell him he was the reason they picked up a guitar in the first place, but it was only during the past few years that he felt he was good enough to really be "that guy" who inspired others to learn the instrument. How does it feel when people come up and tell you that Zakk Wylde is their reason for even being a guitarist?
Zakk Wylde: That's awesome, man. That's like me going up to Randy Rhoads and saying that's what Randy did for me, or Eddie Van Halen, all the guys that inspired me. That's an awesome thing for anybody. People coming up and just saying, "dude, you're the reason I picked up the guitar", it's like "awesome man", you know what I mean? That's killer that you actually inspired somebody to want to do something.
Spiritech: Great stuff. Now, changing topics, I understand Black Label Society have a new album in the works. What's the latest there?
Zakk Wylde: Well, the studio's getting built right now, it's just like the Black Label bunker or whatever up at the Compound. So we're going to have that thing going on and the label I'm with right now is going to give me a Black Label recording (label), giving me the chance to like sign bands and stuff like that. So I can record bands right there in my studio, so it's going to be awesome. With the new Black Label stuff, just fire it up - January/February make the record, March we'll mix it, April do promo and then figure in May fire up the Black Label machine.
Spiritech: How's the new material shaping up compared to your previous releases?
Zakk Wylde: Well, every one of the Black Label albums or any record I've done with Ozz and everything like that, the whole thing is like you just go in, I just go into it... that's the beautiful thing about music, you don't know what you're going to get, it's like a box of Crackerjacks, you don't know what you're going to get until you get to the bottom of the box, you know what I mean? So it's just like, you go in and just like one day you might hear some Zeppelin and go, "oh dude, man it'd be cool if we wrote something like that", something that inspires you to go, "let's do something like Zep today" or something, or whatever. That's the beautiful thing about music; as soon as we start doing the heavy stuff on there and I might start getting bored with that, then I'll sit behind a piano and then we'll start doing something on the piano and then once that gets boring pick up the acoustic guitar for a bit and do something like that, then after that go back to the heavy stuff, you know what I mean? That's the beautiful thing about it.
Spiritech: You mentioned the more mellow material. Would you consider doing a whole album in the vein of 'Hangover Music Vol. VI' again?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, without a doubt. Not only that, I mean the older we're going to be getting anyways, that'll just be the direction I would figure eventually that the older we get (that we'll take). Being 42 now and it's just like, doing Neil Young unplugged type-stuff, you know what I mean, where I actually have a whole full band - you know, pedal steel, a Hammond, a B3 and a piano and the whole nine yards.
Spiritech: Will we see the band in Australia again for the next album?
Zakk Wylde: Oh yeah, without a doubt man. That's the whole reason why... when we do the next tour on the next album obviously we'll be putting our own thing together, like we started the Black Label Bash and everything like that, just have our own like a festival where we're bringing people out and then also when we go back out again as well... we were just in Japan, we're going to be going on the next run going to Japan, China, all the rest of the Asia and then obviously heading to Australia and New Zealand again. It's like literally, you can literally tour the world now that you can go to China, Russia - it's all open now.
Spiritech: Great stuff. BLS have a rather extensive back catalogue now - for someone who may read this who is perhaps only familiar with you from the Ozzy material for instance, if you had to recommend the ideal Black Label album they must check out that best represents what the band are about, what would it be?
Zakk Wylde: Well, it's just like the same thing, whenever I'd ask Geezer (Butler) and Ozzy what their favourite Sabbath record was. They'd always say the same thing, Geezer was like the Masters Of Reality from the beginning to end or whatever. But I mean, look at Jimmy Page. He picks the best Zeppelin album he did (and) that he remembers that gave him the most challenge and (he said) that it was the Presence album and that was their least-selling album, you know what I mean? So I think with everybody it's different with the records, 'cause they're all different, you know I mean? I dig 'em all, but it's just like if somebody said, "dude, I'm going to pick up an album" I'd guess I'd say The Blessed Hellride or the Mafia record or something like that.
Spiritech: Of all the riffs you've written, is there one that particularly stands out for you?
Zakk Wylde: Well, like I said... obviously the first one I ever did with Ozzy was 'Miracle Man', so that will always pop out. But there's always like certain moments where you think that this one came out really good or this one or whatever... "that was a cool riff". Then you've got ones like 'Stillborn' or whatever, that's just one note! (laughs)
Spiritech: Interesting. Now you received a lot of media attention earlier this year following your departure from Ozzy's ranks. Now that you've had some time removed from the situation, do you wish you had done anything differently, or that Ozzy himself had gone about things in a different way?
Zakk Wylde: No, I mean it's no big deal. I mean, it's just like... ever since we did No More Tears, with the boss, our relationship is different, it's bigger than music anyway. So even after we did No More Tears he was like, "guys, I'm pretty much going to be going back with Sabbath, we're going to just do a reunion thing and like do another record and then a whole other tour, so guys, if anything comes up, you've gotta do something". He's always been super cool with everything, so it doesn't... he'll be the first one to tell you; "Zakk, I don't feel like touring for a while" or "I don't want to do this", you know, it's just like, "Well, I hope you guys got something else you can fall back on and do, don't be calling me up asking for dough, 'cause you don't have money for rent!" (laughs) You know what I mean? I mean, that's the way I've always been anyway, so it's just like when we weren't touring after No Rest For The Wicked, or after No More Tears or whatever, right after that I went out and did guitar clinics for a while, you know that's what I did for that year to keep busy and everything like that. 'Cause we weren't touring, we weren't working on a record and then after that, that's when Geffen offered me a deal to do a record and that's when we did Pride and Glory. Then we did Book Of Shadows and then Ozz would call me up and say, "Zakk, I want to do another record or something, do you want to do something?" And I was like, "yeah, of course". It's always been that way anyway, I've always been busy doing things. The way I always looked at it was if Ozz ever said, "Zakk, I really don't want to tour anymore, I just want to do select dates and maybe pump out a record once in a while", you know what I mean? 'Cause Ozz has a million things going on too, between the TV show he was doing and all. I mean, it's the same thing with Black Label - all the guys in the band, Nick's (Catanese, rhythm guitar) got his own thing going with Speed X and JD's (bassist John DeServio) got Cycle of Pain and Craig (Nunenmacher, drums) is doing stuff. All the guys have stuff going on, but we have the Black Label... Black Label is the foundation of the house but everybody can go off and do different things.
Spiritech: So the door isn't completely shut on you maybe working with Ozzy again in the future?
Zakk Wylde: Well, put it this way - Gus is a great guitar player and Gus is going to be awesome with Ozz, so it's just like... he'll have a blast because Ozzy's the coolest and everybody in the camp - Blasko and Mikey - everybody's super cool man. It'll be the same thing with Gus, he's got his own band and everything like that and I'm sure after he pumps out the record and tours with Ozz, Gus will be jamming with his buddies again. Everything's super cool man. Let me put it this way - if Gus, you know, hurt his hand in a bizarre porn accident in the back of the bus (laughs) or something, I'd fill in for 'em for like two weeks or whatever the hell it was 'till Gus is better or whatever. 'Cause we're a family, so it doesn't matter man.
Spiritech: When you were leaving the Ozzy band, were you aware that Gus was the guy that Ozzy had in mind to be his new guitarist?
Zakk Wylde: No, I think Ozz was... 'cause we wrote some stuff right when we got off the road with Ozzy, this was like a year ago, after we did that with Metallica. We were back just jamming on a bunch of stuff over at Ozzy's studio, so we did that and then I went back out on the road. We jammed on about 15 or 16 songs and then I just started jamming, then I went back out on the road with Black Label and then Ozz was like, "Zakk, I think I'm going to jam with some other guy", 'cause I was just so busy with the band and everything like that, so I was like, "Alright Ozz, no problem buddy". So that's about it, man, how that all went down. I was like, "alright cool brother, have a great gig with the rest of the guys" and I think I had a gig the next day, or that day, 'cause I was going to fly down the next day to see Ozzy for rehearsals and then come back and then go back down, do the gig, then go back out on the road with Black Label.
Spiritech: Final question - do you have any last words for PyroMusic.net readers?
Zakk Wylde: Oh yeah Brendan, just tell the rest of the Australian Chapter to keep bleeding Black Label and stay strong and I'll see you guys in a little bit when we come out for the new record, 'cause it'll be coming out pretty soon. In 2010, we'll fire up the Black Label battleship and off we roll!
Zakk Wylde Interview With PyroMusic.net
Talk about Zakk Wylde here.
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Zakk Wylde Interview With PyroMusic.net
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