INTERVIEW BY: PAUL SALFEN
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Born and raised in New Jersey, Zakk Wylde has been playing guitar since he was 8 years old. After gaining notoriety as a guitar hero while playing with Ozzy Osbourne for five studio albums and over many years of touring, has his own line of guitars and equipment under the Wylde Audio banner, and has had a successful run with Black Label Society since 1999, and the band is now on their eleventh release with last year’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican. He’s also married with four children and now sober, but that hasn’t slowed him down a bit.
Joined by John DeServio on bass, Dario Lorina on rhythm guitar, and Jeff Fabb on drums, Wylde will bring his unique brand of metal and world-renowned riffs to Gas Monkey Live in Dallas for a show on Monday, December 28th.
On the dawn of the New Year’s tour, Wylde called from home to check in about his love for the road, why he’s not scared of attacks, some great memories with Ozzy, and his love of sports – all with his notoriously sharp sense of humor and ferocious laugh.
AMFM Magazine: You just rattled off a dizzying amount of countries that you’ve just been to and now you’re about to hit the road again. Aren’t you worn out?
Zakk Wylde: Back during the “Animal House” days, me and you would have been tickled the whole time, laughing, getting smashed, and having a good time. We just had this tour that was all flights, no bus. It’s not the travel when everybody was boozin’. We’d say, “You don’t need anyone to kick the shit out of you. You’re doing a mighty fine job.” As long as you get sleep, that’s about it. Whenever I did that Rock Star movie, we would do it so early that anytime anyone would get a break, you’d just see people sprawled out on the floor. It looked like a crackhouse, man.
AMFM: So you manage to keep things fresh by just being out there, right?
ZW: I just love it. I have so many of my friends from when I first started with Ozzy that aren’t touring as much anymore because we’re older and have families and I’m like, “Man, I’m just glad I didn’t take that approach.” [Laughs] If I had stayed in New Jersey, I’m sure General Motors would have been cool with that. “Hey guys, you don’t mind if I cut back a little bit? I’ve got kids.” They’d be like, “OK, you can leave.” [Laughs] You’re either cut out for it or you’re not. It’s like when I played football. You either like the contact or you don’t. If you’re a boxer and you don’t like getting hit, you really shouldn’t be boxing. It doesn’t matter how badass you are. Like Bruce Lee said, “Boards don’t hit back.” For me, I still love touring. I love the whole thing. I love making the records and going out and playing them. It’s a good time.
AMFM: But there’s only so many times you can see the sights. Now what do you do for fun? Or do you still go and maybe ride a camel in the desert when you’re in Dubai?
ZW: No. A lot of times, I’ve done the thing when we’re in Paris and had a day off I’d go check out the Eiffel Tower and the things you see in books and stuff like that but I’ve done it so now it’s restaurants. If there’s a cool restaurant and me and you have been there, we gotta go hit that place again. Most of the time when we’re out, we’re working, anyway.
AMFM: Speaking of Paris, do you feel vulnerable out there on stage with the recent tragedy? We should also note that this is the anniversary of Dimebag’s passing.
ZW: I don’t think anybody thinks about it. It’s like guys that drive a racecar. I think you just get in the racecar and go, you know what I mean? It’s just really insane with the thing that just happened in Paris and Dimebag thing and the John Lennon thing. You can’t stop mental illness. It’s crazy that the Dimebag thing happened the same day as John Lennon. The one guy said that Dimebag broke up the band [Pantera] and stole his songs and the guy with John Lennon figured he would kill him, get his fame, and get a date with Jodie Foster. It’s like, “Bro, I don’t know if any chicks are going to want to date you now.” [Laughs] You can’t stop crazy. If it’s not guns, we’ll be banning samurai swords or whatever weapon you can get. It’s pointless, man. And the thing that happened in Paris, it’s ridiculous, man. If you’ve got a problem with America, get an army together, and try and come over and whoop our ass then instead of this punk shit. (more after the picture)
AMFM: We’re excited to have you come back to town, this time to Gas Monkey Live. What can we expect this time around?
ZW: There will be Black Label from every record but we try and up the ante every time we come through. Between the stage costumes, the fishnets, the high heels, the bras, and the other special things we wear on stage [laughs], we bring it to a new level each time.
AMFM: That would be horrifying, but I might have to see that.
ZW: [Laughs] The reason I life weights is not that I dig the sport of bodybuilding and enjoy that moment of me versus the iron, but mostly because I want to fill out my corset on stage and really wow the audience. [Laughs]
AMFM: Brings you back to your early outfits with Ozzy, right?
ZW: [Laughs] Exactly.
AMFM: Speaking of Ozzy, you recently played with him again. That had to have been nice, right?
ZW: Oh, it’s awesome, man. It’s definitely cool because when you go back to the fam, everybody is still with him from when I was rolling with him. It’s like going back and seeing your family during the holidays. I’m truly blessed, man.
AMFM: Not to mention he’s a godfather to your kids.
ZW: He’s the sweetest guy on the planet, so I definitely picked a good one.
AMFM: When I interviewed Ozzy, he had a really funny memory of getting arrested in Texas. What’s your favorite Ozzy memory?
ZW: I remember when we were first in Texas, Ozzy hadn’t been there in years because of the Alamo incident [where he urinated on The Alamo]. I remember it was a benefit with Sepultura and Alice In Chains, but it was a big deal because a batch of the proceeds went to restoring The Alamo and I always thought Ozzy would play Texas but before I was in the band, he wasn’t allowed back in. The best was when he said, “I had no idea, man. How many American people know every monument in London?” He was blasted out of his mind, though.
AMFM: We also talked to Mike [Inez, bassist for Ozzy and Alice In Chains] and it sounds like you guys had the best time then.
ZW: Oh, without a doubt. Whenever it was Randy [Castillo, Ozzy’s late drummer] and Mikey, it was nothing but good times. It was a miracle any work ever got done because we were laughing our balls off, man.
AMFM: Mike told me about the fantasy football bracket you had and the Madden tournaments. It sounded like a fun distraction.
ZW: Oh, I’m looking at the trophy right now! I remember one time Ozzy got this award from Metal Hammer I think and Ozzy had a lifetime achievement award – and this was back in ‘91 – he said, “Look at this thing” and I said, “That’s pretty cool, Ozzy” and he said, “The Madden trophy is cooler than this pile of shit!” [Laughs]
AMFM: People may not know you’re such a big sports fan. Who’s your team?
ZW: I’m a New York guy So New York Yankees and New York Giants because I grew up in Jersey. I can’t believe the Giants, Cowboys, and Patriots are all tied at 5 and 7. [Laughs]. I think it’s awesome, man. The quarterback position in Dallas right now is mind-blowing, man. I’ve got a lot of friends in Dallas and we were talking about this. Right now there are literally eight guys on this planet that could play that position on a high level. Literally eight guys you could put on a team and it would make a good team. As amazing as the other guys are, Dallas has Tony Romo and if anybody else goes down on that team, they’re still moving. But Tony goes down? It’s insane – they can’t win. Last night was unbelievable. No touchdowns scored. It’s not like they had the ’85 Bears defense out there or the Ravens defense when they won the Super Bowl. You have those two quarterbacks that couldn’t be backup quarterbacks. You’ve got Drew Brees [New Orleans Saints quarterback], Aaron Rodgers [Green Bay Packers quarterback], Eli Manning [New York Giants quarterback], Tony Romo [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] – and neither one of them could score a touchdown. It’s like having baseball without pitching.
AMFM: You probably were better off naming your guitars after the Yankees then.
ZW: Yeah, I did that. Let’s just stick with that. [Laughs]
AMFM: Sports seems like it’s still a good way to pass the time on the road for you.
ZW: [Bassist] JD has Skype and it goes right to his computer so no matter where we are – and when we’re backstage we have the games on. It’s hooked up to his TV at his house in New Jersey. It’s amazing.
AMFM: This year you announced Wylde Audio at NAMM with custom guitars and amps and now it’s launching. You must be excited about that.
ZW: Yeah, the guitars are coming along slammin’, amps, the string sound – it’s gonna be everything. That’s why it’s Wylde Audio, not just Wylde Guitars. And as we keep moving along, there’s the studio gear, outboard gear, plug-ins, microphones, the whole nine yards – along with the men’s lingerie line. [Laughs]
AMFM: You’ve got the coffee and hot sauce, so why not?
ZW: It’s like the manzier or the bra – you’re only hitting half the market. [Laughs] It’s great. The whole thing is you surround yourself with great people and you’ve got great ideas that know what they’re doing – check out the amps, the gear, the hot sauces, any of our buddies you can partner up and do great stuff with them. It’s like Dallas – we need a quarterback like Tony Romo because he’s great. That’s how you do it.
AMFM: You have the best fans. They’re so dedicated – and proud members of local chapters –what a cool thing.
ZW: It’s bigger than me and it’s bigger than the band so it’s truly awesome. If you’ve got the Black Label on and you’re hanging out in a bar in Dallas – I know a guy that had a buddy in on business trip from Seattle and they start talking and six years later he’s the best man in his wedding. But what brought them together was the band. We’ve got people that road trip it and have hooked up with other people. It’s like the Dallas Cowboys. You guys road trip it to New York when they play the Giants and hang in New York, go to the restaurants, then you go back home. But what brought you together was the teams.
AMFM: But you wouldn’t necessarily do that to someone with an Ozzy shirt on so that is a great community.
ZW: Without a doubt. The fans are a family. It’s killer.
AMFM: And we hear there’s going to be a new Book of Shadows [Wylde’s mostly acoustic solo album from 1996].
ZW: Yeah, we’re working on that right now. It’s crazy. Between all the touring we’ve knocked down all of the basics. Whenever a get a break, I come back and knock out a couple of songs. It’s the weirdest record because I’ve never done one like this with the stop and start, start and stop. Usually once we start something, we concentrate on it but with this, I keep getting pulled away all the time. I’m home now and before we go to do the New Years Crusade of Doom, I may knock out some more.
AMFM: And somewhere in there we’ll get a new Black Label Society album?
ZW: Yeah, without a doubt. Well, after Book of Shadows because we’re actually going to tour behind that one. I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since I did that last record. We were doing [Ozzy’s album] Ozzmosis when I wrote it. Then we’ll roll behind that and make another Black Label album.
AMFM: Thanks for taking the time to update us on everything, Zakk.
ZW: Tell the Dallas Chapter hey and we’ll see you in a bit. Stay strong, bleed black, and God bless. I’ll see you in a little bit, my brother.
Black Label Society performs at Gas Monkey Live on January 2, 2016. Tickets are $29.50 in advance and $35 the day of show and can be found here: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/960053
For more info on Black Label Society: http://www.BlackLabelSociety.com