INTERVIEW: Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society/Ex-Ozzy Osbourne)
Levi: You're coming to Australia, it's going to be awesome. I saw you last time you played, it was at Soundwave and it was a great show. What can we expect this time around from the tour?
Zakk Wylde: Oh, it will be more Paula Abdul dancing, bossy inspired dancing that is. It will just be more pure erotica, and then lassoing a couple of bears and some great white sharks, and then floating around in Black Label men's lingerie and making sure that our makeup doesn't run as we're sweating (laughs). It does usually, with the big Rock show.
Levi: Looking forward to it, man. It's going to be awesome. Just before we talk more about your music and your new "Book of Shadows" album, I want to talk about about, in my opinion and probably your opinion too, the greatest band of all time, Black Sabbath. They're doing their last ever tour, The Farewell Tour. How do you feel about this, man?
Zakk Wylde: Hopefully they get done doing The Farewell Tour, and then right after that decide, "We still want to make another record and tour again." Hopefully that's what will happen. Any day there's more Black Sabbath is always a good day.
Levi: Oh, yeah. I'm sure they'll do something again. I think one of the most important members of Black Sabbath was Bill Ward. He had just such a unique sort of Jazz style to the drums, do you think it would be great to see him do the last tour? I know I think he's sitting out at the moment, but how do you feel about him not finishing up the band?
Zakk Wylde: All that stuff is down to the fellas. I kind of wish we would have had to jam with the old bass player, you know what I mean? I wish we could go out with the old four. There's bigger things that are going on than me and you don't even know about whenever it comes down to that stuff. Then, for that matter, why doesn't Robert Plant want to go out and be Led Zeppelin? He's just like, "Nah, I'm done with that."
Levi: You never want to let go out those bands, because they're just so legendary. But I guess things must end at some point.
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, but like you said, that's all up to the guys. Out of all of them, Bill and stuff like that, I mean obviously I've been with Oz forever, between Tony and Geezer, but that's up to them to work it out, you know?
Levi: Yeah, for sure. You did a cover, I don't know if you still do it regularly, but you used to play "Mama, I'm Coming Home" with Black Label Society, and I quite like your version of it. I like it just as much as the Ozzy version. Do you still play that song often?
Zakk Wylde: No. Right now it's just full throttle Black Label. Full time now.
Levi: Yeah, you've got, what is it? "The Book of Souls 2" that's coming out soon as well? It will be following your ...
Zakk Wylde: Oh, yeah. No, "The Book of Shadows" record? We did that one. That was like several years ago actually, '96. That's what we're working on now, "Book of Shadows 2". That will come out some time in 2016, but we still have some more touring to do on the Catacombs album.
Levi: Yeah. Just talking about when you first started with Ozzy Osbourne, you started out in the '80s, and I think it was just such a great decade for guitarists. You had yourself and Jake E Lee, Vivian Campbell, Randy Rhoads, just so many legendary guitarists, but then come the '90s there wasn't really much emphasis on guitar. You had the big bands who were Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. How did it feel going from a decade where guitarists were very praised, everyone wanted to be a shredder, and then all of a sudden in the '90s there was less emphasis on guitar solos and whatnot? How do you feel about the differences between those two decades?
Zakk Wylde: It is what it is. That's how it is, and everything goes in cycles, you know what I mean?
Zakk Wylde: The fact that guitar solos went and came and whatever, I never thought to myself, 'Oh yeah, well I guess I can't put solos on the record.' Because Led Zeppelin, when Punk Rock was going in, all they got to do is just keep making great Led Zeppelin records. I wouldn't want to see Robert Plant with a Mohawk, and I wouldn't want to see Jimmy Page with piercings in nose and green hair and Mohawk, and shave his head. I'd go, "Guys, what are you doing, man? You're Led Zeppelin, you're not the Sex Pistols."
Levi: Did people ever tell you in the '90s, "Try to sound more Grunge," or, "Try to sound more New Metal"? Did industry types ever suggest you change your sound to what was hip?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, but that's what I always tell kids: Whatever music it is that you love and you have a passion for, that's what you should be doing. All the bands that you do love, they were just them when they came out. You've just got to stay the course, and hopefully if people like you, great. But at least you're playing the music you love playing and you're going to excel at it because that's what comes easiest to you, instead of it being contrived. When you wake up out of bed and you're playing the music you love playing, then just play that, man.
Levi: Yeah, totally. I've actually collected some of your guitars. I've got you Epiphone Bullseye guitar, and I've got one of your overdrive pedals, but you've now actually got your own line of musical gear, it's called Wylde Audio. How come you decided to stop playing for Gibson and start your own guitar line?
Zakk Wylde: For me it was just the next progression of where I'm at right now. It's just like moving out of your parent's and then you have your own place. I've been blessed with the fact that I've been with Gibson and Marshall and Dunlop for all these years. Outside of endorsing them, I helped them create stuff and that was always a blast, so now I just get to create all the time. It's great, man. I'm truly blessed that I was with all those companies, it was a dream come true, and now that I have my own company, it's a dream come true.
Levi: Your company, how different does a Wylde Guitar sound to a Gibson or an Epiphone? Is it different in tone quality?
Zakk Wylde: The quality has to be crushing, because otherwise why would I bother playing it? That's what I'm saying - the craftsmanship and everything has to be right up there with both companies I was with, the two of them. If you played for the New York Knicks and you ended up starting your own franchise, good quality has to be important, you know what I mean? It's just like how the Yankees were. It's the same attitude, man.
Levi: Yeah, for sure. You've got a few products coming out at the moment. I think you've got your own range of coffee beans as well as, is it, and barbecue? How come you're all of a sudden becoming a bit of an innovator? In Black Label Society you've got so many different things coming out at the moment.
Zakk Wylde: For me it's no different to back when we were kids. First we had a paper route, now we're mowing lawns, now we're shoveling snow to save for a Les Paul and a Marshall, or you're saving up for a drum kit. For me it's no different. It's just on a bigger scale.
Levi: We're doing a section on our website where get people from bands to pick out the five favorite albums their listening to at the moment, or they could be all time favorite albums just for Black Label fans and Zakk Wylde fans to check out. If there's anything that you've got playing on your car stereo at the moment, what albums would you suggest people have a listen to?
Zakk Wylde: Let me see here, we've got "Physical Graffiti" by Zeppelin, "The Inner Mounting Flame" by John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Levi: It's really funny, I actually bought that album last weekend at a vinyl sale for 20 bucks.
Zakk Wylde: Well, there you go.
Levi: Yeah, I don't know how I found out about it, but it's definitely different from what I listen to. Great musicians on the album.
Zakk Wylde: Totally. Then you've got Black Sabbath, "Sabotage", and then just put Elton John's "Greatest Hits".
Levi: Yeah, he's got some good tunes, Elton John.
Zakk Wylde: Without a doubt.
Levi: Oh, yeah. I'm just wondering, have you got the chance to hang out with Ozzy much lately? Do you still see him often?
Zakk Wylde: I still talk to him on the phone, stuff like that. He's doing everything with the Sabbath guys, and we did shows with him and everything like that, but no, I keep in touch with Ozzy. It's great, man. It's all good.
Levi: Do you miss the days of playing with Ozzy, or are you pretty happy doing your Black Label thing now?
Zakk Wylde: Without a doubt. I couldn't ask for more, to do it every day I wake up, and in the middle of the day and before I go to bed. I'm truly blessed, man.
Levi: Yeah. I follow you on Instagram, and I noticed you've been lifting a lot of weights lately. You're looking ripped, man. Are you getting more into the gym and stuff at the moment?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. I've always lifted, it's just that it's been 20+ years of lifting weights and, along with the steroids and the glue and all the female growth hormones (laughs).
Zakk Wylde: And the protein powder. It works.
Levi: That's good stuff. Man, I can't wait to come see your tour, I'm going to be taking photos, so I should be up the front and I'll get some awesome photos of your shredding and I'll give a link to you on the Facebook page and whatnot so you can check them out.
Zakk Wylde: Awesome.
Levi: Thanks for doing the interview. You're definitely one of my favorite guitarists of all time, and one of the reasons I got into shredding, and then I've got your equipment and I've learned a fair few Ozzy songs, so it's definitely a pleasure talking.
Zakk Wylde: Very cool. Rocking.
Levi: Yeah, fuck yeah. Awesome, man. I hope you have a great show. If I get the chance, I'll come shake your hand, man.
Zakk Wylde: All right, my brother. We'll see you in a little bit, and just all the love to the chapters down there, and just stay strong, keep bleeding Black Label, God bless, and we'll see you guys in a little bit.
Levi: All right man, enjoy. Thank you, bye.
Zakk Wylde: All right, my brother. I'll see you when we get down there, buddy.