Black Label Society – ZAKK IS BACK!

photo credit: Clay Patrick McBride

2010 has been one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride for Rock & Metal fans all over the world.  The news of Zakk’s blood clots hit me like a ton of bricks and the fear of loosing yet another icon in the world of Rock & Roll sat with me for months.  Thankfully Zakk is back on track with Black Label Society & the release of their latest album  ‘Order of the Black’ and of course the already announced tour to support the album.

Zakk as well as JD took some time out of their hectic schedule preparing for the Black Label Society tour to talk with me about all the events of 2010, the album and of course the tour.  Never loosing his hilarious sense of humor, Zakk had me laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  Tommy Shakes from Calgary based metal band ‘Throne of Vengeance’ sat with me in my office for the entire interview with Zakk and even threw a few questions at him since Black Label Society’s music is such a huge influence on Tommy’s own music.  To say the least – we had a HELL of a good time with Zakk that afternoon!  Here’s what Zakk and JD had to say about all the events leading up to the new album.

TFL: ZAKK!  How the hell are you buddy?!

ZW: I’m good doll, thanks.  Just getting off the Ozzfest tour and gearing up for the Bezerkus tour now – all that happy fun shit.

TFL: Hey – so I have ‘Order of the Black’: as I bow down to you & thank you with graces for producing such a fabulous f***ing album once again.  THANK YOU!

ZW: Thank you very much!

TFL: Oh dude…you know it’s almost like a follow up to ‘Book of Shadows’ even though it’s not..know what I mean?

ZW: I dig it, with the mellow stuff on there.

TFL: Yeah! You know, you scared the shit out of me earlier this year thank you very much with your illness there.  I was seriously afraid we were going to loose such a legend.

ZW: Well I was terrified because when I woke up in the hospital, it was Barb & her girlfriends with a birthday cake and the insurance guy.  I didn’t know how to take that but I mean (we are both laughing) you know! Cause they were all like chanting (laughing) and when I came to the music stopped. (laughing)

TFL: The cauldron wasn’t turning anymore?! (laughing)

ZW: (laughing) you heard the record go “EEEERRRWWWW”

TFL: Did that whole experience, you know you had to do a complete re-vamp on your life Zakk.  Since we spoke 2 years ago when you came through when you had ‘Dope’ on tour with you and you celebrated St. Patrick’s day here in Calgary.

ZW: Oh yeah! (chuckles)

TFL OH YEAH!  THAT was fun!

ZW: Then again, everyday is St. Patty’s Day in Black Label – everyone is just shit faced all the time!

TFL: Did your writing style change at all Zakk after going through that?

ZW: You know,  it’s so funny..it’s just like uh – I’m not afraid of dying cause I believe in Jesus and everything.  If that’s what he has written for me, I’ll just thank him for a good run.  As far as “oh do you look at life differently?” ‘NO – that’s usually reserved for guys that are complete douchebags you know.  I didn’t have this epiphany.  (laughing)  I had this one person go “so Zakk – since you were so close to death did you feel you had to write this album?” I told him “NO you know cause I always saved the other ones cause I figured I’d be around a little bit longer so I figured the other albums would all suck!” (the whole room burst out laughing) When we wrote this album it was the same way we wrote all of the other albums, I can’t believe it was 4 years in between.  With this blood clot thing, we were out on the road and I was like mother f***er  my leg was just killing me.  I think we were on just a day off and some of the guys were going golfing and what ever, so I was just going to go bar hopping you know the same old usual stuff.  I was going to go hit the gym and just go bar hopping you know…that was the plan.  I remember we went to one bar and I was sitting there hanging out going man my f***ing leg is just killing me, and it had been hurting for awhile.  So the next day we had like a 24 hour drive and it was one of those things were it was like just suck it up, pour some beer on it, give it a week or 2 and you’ll be fine. I figured it one of those usual routines where you have a couple cold ones, numb it out a little bit & get on a nice buzz and get on with the rest of the day.  It was getting stupid cause I was putting ice on it, doing what you’re supposed to do – everytime I elevated it, it was the ONLY time I got any relief.  That’s why I went and got an ultrasound, the guy just goes ‘Dude you have like 3 big blood clots behind your leg’ and I was like that just great.  He said ‘Zakk you don’t want them going up towards your groin cause then they go towards your heart or your head’.  I asked him what was behind door #3? (chuckles) and he said ‘you get married and have 3 kids’.  Well I already got THAT one!  He told me that your body has to break them down.  So when I was taking the blood thinners, the Doc told me that with the sauce it was putting blood thinners on blood thinners.

TFL: Was it hard to stop drinking?

ZW: I was asked if I was on the 12 step program!  NO dude – I’m on the one step Black Label program – you just stop! I told him – what do you want me to do?  Go to rehab and pay some guy 35 grand to tell me what I already know?  People need to have like one ounce of f***ing will power ya know.

TFL: So coffee is your new vice now buddy?

ZW: Well yeah, I always drank coffee anyway but it’s just like now instead of drinking 500 cups a day I’m up to like 2246 cups (laughs).  It’s the same old shit, I just cut the beer out.

TFL: You’re too much Zakk (laughing).  Ok – ‘Order of the Black’ 13 songs, is it lucky #13 to place #4 on Billboard’s TOP 200 for the first time EVER for Black Label Society?

ZW: That goes to show you what strippers and payola can accomplish! (all of us burst out laughing).

TFL: I was so proud when I read that because it’s about bloody time!  I’m so sick of the Pop shit that’s out there and the wanna be bands that are trying to sound like all the bands from the 80’s.

photo credit: Clay Patrick McBride

ZW: You know, with the music scene you are always going to have  – like even with the boy bands…The Beatles were really the first BIG “boy band” and Elvis was the Justin Bieber when it was going down.

TFL: That’s right!

ZW: I’m telling you, The Beatles were the first REAL boy band.  You can even add The Rolling Stones to that list too!  Mick was the great looking guy, Keith is the bad boy – there ya go!  Look at The Beatles, this one is the quiet one, this one is the shy one, this one is the crazy one and this one is the smart one.  This has been going on forever.  It’s no big deal – it is what it is doll.

TFL: Any TRUE Zakk fans knows you dig Sabbath, Zeppelin, Guns & Roses, Elton John & Sarah McLachlan.  Any newer bands have your attention right now Zakk?

ZW: I’m trying to think…The Stone Temple Pilots’ record is cool, Slash’s album is cool – those are the staples I usually listen to you know.  The guys that are in my genre.  I listen to Jeff Buckley, I’ve been listening to Chris Cornell’s solo stuff – anything Chris puts out is great.  I bought the new Sarah McLachlan album, I have her whole catalogue of stuff.

TFL: What is your favorite Sarah Mclachlan song Zakk?  I meant to ask you that last time we spoke.

ZW: I don’t know, I’ve been cranking a bunch of the new stuff now – the new album.  She has this one song I’ve been listening to, I ended up buying it off of Itunes…hang on I’ll put it on right now…let me find it…she’s got this new one called “One Dream” have you heard this one yet?

TFL: Yeah – I’ve heard all her new stuff as well – she’s brilliant!

ZW: I dig that song – that thing is slamming.  I dig everything she does anyway know what I mean?

TFL: Zakk – I actually have a guest with me today in my office named Tommy Shakes, he just finished recording the band’s debut album at Slaughter House Studios here in Calgary – he popped by and I told him to just hang tight because you are one of his icons.  The band is called ‘Throne of Vengeance’ and I think he has a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind Zakk.

ZW: Nah – go ahead!

TS: What’s up Zakk!

ZW: How you doing man?

TS: My name is Tommy dude, how are you?

ZW: I’m doing good brother – just hanging out talking with you bud.

TS: I’d like to say first of all f*** Fred Durst and all that wigger ass shit (the entire room laughs) and I was just wondering – for Black Rain when you recorded with Ozzy did you use all your pick ups & all your guitars and shit?

ZW: Yeah yeah – I use everything I endorse bro.

TS: I think that ‘Overlord’ is one of my favorite songs off this new album dude, it’s f***ing killer!

ZW: I appreciate it!

TS: I’m glad you’re keeping it real dude – it’s f***ing awesome.

ZW: Thanks alot brother!

TFL: What’s your all time favorite Black Label song & why Zakk?

ZW: I think ‘Overlord” I’m having a good time with that thing.

TFL: I like ‘Godspeed Hellbound’ for sure cause it’s fast, it’s aggressive & it’s a dirty bad ass Black Label song.

ZW: I dig it, I appreciate it doll.

TFL: Then you go to ‘Darkest Days’ and ‘Time Waits for No One’ and I have to say, I hear a tone in your voice that I’ve never heard before.  Maybe it’s no beer?

ZW: (laughs)

TFL: I truly do hear tones that I just never heard before in your acoustic work & it almost drew tears cause it’s just the way you’re carrying your voice and the way you’re carrying the vocals it really is touching.

ZW: I appreciate it doll, really.

TFL: Thank you for listening to your Doctors, thank you for making all the changes in your life Zakk because we still need you man.  We lost Ronnie this year and that was hard enough.

ZW: Oh I know (sighs)

TFL: I could not have handled this year if we would have lost you too.

ZW: Ok Tracy, you take care of yourself doll and we’ll see you in just a few weeks OK!

Never is there EVER a dull moment when you sit down to talk with Zakk!  His sense of humor is certainly one of his best attributes shy of his stellar talent on stage as well as in the studio.  Legendary man on so many levels who has showered his fans with solid performances night after night.  I could list albums, stats and other nonsense, but real Black Label Society fans and die hard Zakk Wylde fans already know all of the important data – the bottom line is there is NO BAND that I can compare to Black Label Society.  Zakk is held with such high regard in my life for being the artist, father, husband and all American that makes him ZAKK WYLDE!

I also spent an evening chatting with my other friend and Black Label member John DeServio (JD) about the new album as well as having to watch his Black Label brother go through such an exhausting and fearful experience with his life long friend Zakk.

TFL: I know you’re busy getting ready to tour, but I wanted to talk to you about ‘Order of the Black’.

JD: OK

TFL: So you put this album together, earlier in the year as we all know, Zakk scared the hell out of all of us with his blood clots and such…but thank God he is fine and back on track – that mus have just blown you away when that happened.

JD: It was unexpected to say the least.  He was feeling pain in his leg for awhile.  So I thought he had like Sciatic or something you know what I mean cause the back of his leg was hurting.  So he went to the hospital and I guess they found like about 20 blood clots in total.  Then they managed to move up into his lungs which was scary & I think some of them passed through his heart.  Yeah he got very very lucky & they put him on thinners and all that other shit and he hasn’t been able to drink since…so it was actually a blessing in disguise.

TFL: Did you find…and if it’s just me then please say so…but when I listen to “Order of the Black’ and especially when you’re looking at specific songs like ‘Darkest Days’ and especially ‘Time waits for No One’ I hear tones in his voice that I’ve never heard before – it’s almost like his voice is cleaner.

JD: Well, you know it IS cleaner, I mean his voice does sound better.  Plus in the studio we work  and we took our time with it to make sure everything was good you know pitch wise & everything was good tone wise and everything & just the fact that he’s not drinking and not partying and not f***ing ruining himself is a big benefit.  I love when he sings like that on the ballads cause it’s really more or less HIS voice…his real, natural voice.

TFL: YES!  Exactly!  Just the way he carries certain notes you know and just to hear that little bit of vibrato but it’s still ROCK..but DAMN he gives you goosebumps when he hits certain notes.

JD: (chuckling) I hear ya!

TFL: So you’re Associate producer, you’re mixing – you were 100% involved in this baby.

JD: Yeah, everything good is on there because of me!  (laughs) So put that down there for the record! (both of us are laughing)  But we had a blast making it.  You know, I mean we’ve been musicians our whole lives we don’t really need anybody to produce us.  We ARE producers you know so that was cool that I did get the title you know and I got to work the shit out of the record which was really great you know.  Mixing it was cool, I mixed MY record & I produced MY record with ‘Cycle of Pain’ so it wasn’t new to me and I learned a lot from doing that one so I just kind of carried it over to this one & it sounds really good…I’m really excited.

TFL: There are so many changes, there are so many different vibes on this album.  This album is not monotonous like a lot of albums that are out there where it’s almost the same song over and over again just arranged differently.

JD: You’re right – a perfect example is the new Godsmack – the first song is ‘Cry Like a Bitch’ the second song sounds exactly like that you know what I mean?  A lot of bands today, they have like one sound and that’s it.  With Black Label we’re diverse in our influences as well as our musicality so we like to mix it up a bit.

TFL: But you still, at the end of the song – come out sounding like Black Label Society – I don’t go “that sounds like a Judas Priest song”.

JD: Exactly! It all blends together really nicely.

TFL: Yeah – but it’s always YOU – it’s your signature – it doesn’t come across as a maiden rip off or a Sabbath rip off you know what I’m saying where you listen to some of these other bands and have to ask yourself..was that AC/DC or was that Airbourne?  They sound so much like each other it’s confusing to some listeners.

JD: Right – no I agree.

TFL: you slap ‘Order of the Black’ on and you go…YEAH…that’s (and we say it simultaneously) BLACK LABEL!  There is no doubt!

JD: I hear ya!

TFL: That’s why your chapters are so loyal – there is never a doubt to what you’re going to bring to the table as far as an album OR a concert goes.

JD: Without a doubt – we’re the real deal.

TFL: Zakk was saying you’re having a lot of fun with the track ‘Overlord’ right now – are you guys doing a video for that track?

JD: I think we’re going to do the video when I go out to LA, I got to go out to LA on the 7th because I’ve got to record 3 more bonus tracks or something, and then I’ve got to mix them as well and then we’re going to shoot a video for ‘Overlord” I guess & it’s going to be funny as hell.  It needs to be, I mean you do a generic rock video and it’s whatever..it’s a cool song..but I don’t remember the video at all.  When the Beasties did ‘Sabotage’ years ago that was like the funniest shit ever and we’re still talking about it.

TFL: I think if people knew you, the way I’ve been graced to get to know you guys – you ARE funny!  You all goof around with each other, you’re not the serious types after the show – you do unwind..you do play pranks you do tell jokes – you guys are hilarious!

JD: We have a lot of fun without a doubt.  We travel with our roller blades, hockey sticks and pucks you know – we love to have fun!  People don’t realize how funny we are, we have a freakin blast!

TFL: JD tell me about the song ‘Darkest Days’, it’s my favorite ballad on the album…when I first read the lyrics..I was like awwww he wrote this for Barb – but when you read into it more..makes ya wonder!

JD: That’s the great thing about lyrics – they are left to interpretation.  That song is really about Marvin Gaye.

TFL: REALLY?!

JD: It’s about Marvin Gaye and how his Father killed him.  “Love is a bullet that sometimes kills” yeah it’s about Marvin Gaye.  See you could read it and maybe it feels like it’s about you and your relationship or whatever.  John Lennon said it best when asked what do your lyrics mean to you?  He said “They don’t mean anything, what do they mean to you?”.

TFL: What’s your favorite song on the entire album?

JD: Hummmm…that’s a tough one.  When we recorded it, I thought ‘Overlord’ had the best potential of reaching people as far as a Rock song.  To me ‘Darkest Days’ is the best song on the record.

I could not agree more with both of them.  ‘Order of the Black’ is by far…in my humble opinion…the BEST Black label Society album they have released to date.  Fans will find a wide variety of tempo as well as style to each and every song on this album.

Many thanks to Zakk as well as JD for spending as much time as they did with me over 2 days for this feature.  Always humorous stories & comments from both of them but in the same sense, they are always so open and honest about their love of their music.  Black Label Society has been a part of Backstage Live Magazine’s family for years now.  We love the guys, we love the band and we absolutely love the music they give to us each and every time they tour & record.  HORNS UP Black Label Society and see you September 26th…your Calgary chapter awaits your return!

NOTE: Live photos will be added on Sept 27th, 2010

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