Without a doubt Zakk Wylde is known best for his unique style of hammering out mind blowing solos & riffs over the past decades with Heavy Metal legend Ozzy Osbourne; however there is much more to this “beer drinking, guitar playin’ madman” then his work with Ozzy. Black Label Society has been pounding out album after album since its conception in 1998 & they are now heading out on a North American Tour this spring followed with a touring in Europe this summer.
Black Label Society is packed with talent, drive and absolute passion for the music they have created. Band members Zakk Wylde (guitars/vocals), Nick Catanese (rhythm guitar), John “JD” Deservio (bass) and Craig Nunenmacher (drums) have created some of the best rock/metal songs this music lover has heard in a long time. Songs such as ‘Suicide Messiah’ – which will make you bang your head from the moment it starts, ‘Stillborn’ – containing CLASSIC Zakk riffs, ‘Fire it Up’ – giving a rock/soul groove at the start and melting into a metal style while consistently maintaining the soul feel throughout the song are just a few examples of what this talented group of musicians bring to the table each night they rock their fan’s world.
‘Shot To hell’ is the title of their most recent album and it truly is a must hear for ANY Rock & Roll fan who cannot get enough of Zakk’s impeccable style of playing his axe. If you are missing and of Black label Society’s albums in your music collection, then I’m afraid I have to inform you that your collection is quite incomplete.
Zakk Wylde took the time to talk with me about the upcoming tour, the songs, the music industry and what his fans can expect from them in 2009.
TFL: Thank you & hail to you for the starting of Black Label Society.
ZW: Thanks doll!
TFL: You have the song ‘In This River’ which is what most Zakk Wylde fans would not expect if they were to sit down and hear it. You hear the name Zakk Wylde and think OK he plays with Ozzy & on stage is a crazy guy. You hear the piano and actually have the opportunity to listen to how beautiful the song really is – were your fans taken aback by you showing that side of yourself?
ZW; Ah…well look it, with Ozzy I’m at home and everything and I love the mellow stuff. I love listening to Elton John as much as I love listening to Sabbath or Soundgarden. So I mean the whole thing is I love mellow stuff – The Eagles, all classic rock stuff you know I listen to Sarah Maclachlan she’s awesome. I love the mellow stuff as much as anything I mean good music is good music know what I’m saying?
TFL: Exactly, it will speak for itself if it a good song, it does not have to be classified into a genre it will just grab a music fan.
ZW: Yeah – just because I love heavy stuff you know – there has always been mellow stuff flying around.
TFL: ‘Shot to hell’ has been out for awhile now & it’s the album you are out promoting yah?
ZW: ‘Shot to Hell’ was the last one we’re getting ready to do some dates right now, we’ll head out and do a Black Label Society batch. We’re going to go out and have a blast doing that, starts March 6th until about the middle of may. Then we will either go back into the studio then either finish Ozzy’s record – we already have like 14-15 songs & then after that I think we are going to do some dates over in Europe for like the festivals. I’ve been spending most of the summers over here doing Ozzfest and everything like that. I think Ozzy is taking a break this year. People always ask me ‘when are you coming over here (Europe)?’ and I’m like well I’m on tour dates with Ozzy yada-yada-yada so in between that I gotta fit in Black Label.
TFL: When did you have your Holy Shit moment in yoru career where you sat back and went holy f**k I’m Ozzy’s guitarist, I have my own instrument line – when did it hit you and go ‘hey I made it!’ ?
ZW: Well I don’t think it’s even that. The funny thing is when we are doing these in stores or what ever…I mean I love working anyways so it’s like my wife will just go you’re out on stage and this and that. First off when I go home, all I want to do is just be in the house I mean that IS my vacation. I’m never sleeping in my own bed anyways, I’m either sleeping on the floor, I’m sleeping on a bus or I’m in a hotel – most of the beds are not mine. When I have a month off from the road it’s not even a month off, I’m getting ready to go into the studio or we’re still working on coming out with merch stuff but at the same time if we do go on a vacation…my niece got married out in Turks Cacaos down there in the Bermuda Triangle somewhere I mean the whole thing is just like – I brought my guitar, I’m getting ready for the tour and I’m calling JD up and we’re talking about the set list or some shit. I’m NOT a beach guy first off & second off I don’t go surfing so I mean it’s just like I don’t like laying out in the sand. I don’t get tanned I get burnt like a f**king lobster I’m this pasty Dutch/Irish so you know I don’t want to be hanging out there you know. I’d rather be working so I mean if I’m just sitting around I feel like a f**k, if I’m watching TV I put a guitar in my hands and just go over scales and shit like that. I’d rather be f**king working otherwise I fell like I’m not getting anything done. After the gigs obviously I like going to the pub and chilling with people and solving the problems of the world and just getting the f**k away from music for like 2 minutes, but to me that’s just relaxing & f**king chilling and having nothing to do with music. After sitting out on a damn f**king beach for a f**king week just f**king blows and I want to get back to work.
TFL: (laughing) You sound just like me – I can’t stand just sitting still. I either have to be writing or working on the next interview…I can’t sit down and surf through the channels – it’s just mind numbing.
ZW: Mind you I enjoy watching Seinfeld and f**king watching Comedy Central and shit like that, watching ESPN or watching the game. I mean at the same time me and Barbara watch a lot of Seinfeld late night at like 10 to 11 at night when the kids are like sleeping or whatever you know then after that it’s f**king back to bed and then I’m back up again at 4:00 in the f**king morning know what I mean
TFL: Yeah because your mind is racing again.
ZW: Well not only that but that’s when the f**king kids get rolling (laughing)
TFL: (laughing) well mine are all teenagers so I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
ZW: Even the little guy he’s 6 so he’s gets started at like 4 or 4:30 in the f**king morning.
TFL: Children’s chewable morphine Zakk…(Laughing)
ZW: Yes! Exactly!
TFL: It will save your life!
ZW: But it never ends…
TFL: With Black Label Society you basically released your first album in 1998 & you’ve done an album or something consecutively every year – is that something that is difficult for you or do you just have so much flowing through your mind that it just comes naturally?
ZW: I do all of my writing as soon as I get into the studio, I don’t like write at the house and do f**king demos – there is no such thing as f**king demos. You go in, you write and get inspired, you get in on the board and it’s the end of the f**king song. We may go let’s make this part shorter or what ever but the songs write themselves. As soon as we get into the studio it’s write the f**king song! I don’t know how bands take a year to make a f**king album, it’s like are you for f**king real – we’re talking about 10 songs here man, 10-12 songs and you’re recording for a f**king year? I mean like Axel with that ‘Chinese Democracy’ coming out…13 f**king years – like dude! I mean it would have been better off the original band staying together or if you’re going to come out with anything – just put a f**king album out and call it f**king what ever you want to call it – the Axel Rose band or whatever. Ozzy is not with Sabbath anymore, it’s the Ozzy Osbourne band know what I mean? You know just put it out and if it doesn’t explode it’s not under the GNR monacher know what I’m saying? But at least you are out there & people especially nowadays forget quick.
TFL: YES! Very quickly!
ZW: Well without a doubt! Everybody today nowadays J***us C***st even my kids. My daughter, she’s 16 now, but when she was like 13 and all of these bands were coming out like Fallout Boy and Green Day you know all the punk rock shit. I mean these bands would get about 15 minutes of fame – you’re talking about like 18 seconds you know what I mean where it’s like holy shit! I’d be like ‘you like that band My Chemical Romance?’ and she’d be like – no they suck I don’t like them anymore…and I’d be like WHAT? She would be just ga-ga about them 6 months ago and I get Nah – I’ve moved on! It’s just f**king crazy! Bands back when I was listening – you would go to hell and back with them you know what I mean?
TFL: Yeah I know what you mean Zakk – but I also think it’s the generation itself really – they’re pretty flip-floppy on most topics…not just music.
ZW: Oh I know! Without a doubt – I mean with the computer now and everything. Let’s be real – kids don’t really need to go to a school anymore aside of the social thing or social skills. If you wanted to find out who the 5th President of the United States was, where he was born, who the Vice President was, all you have to do is slap it into your computer! You can find out any information you want to on a computer.
TFL: Any new bands out there where you like what you hear?
ZW: Well yeah I mean obviously, I just always laugh – we were just talking about this the other day. I liked Soundgarden and they broke up, then you had Audioslave then all of a sudden they break up, Guns N Roses – forget about it I mean that’s done, then all of a sudden you go at least Slash has Velvet Revolver – then now they break up I’m like what the f**k man! (laughing) Any bands you actually like you might as well not bother liking them because they’ll be broken up after 1 or 2 f**king records know what I mean? I can only listen to my Zeppelin and Sabbath albums a f**king 120 trillion times before I’m like ‘is there any bands that are in this genre of f**king music that are good at it that I can listen to?’ and it’s like Nah they’re broke up (laughing) You know the younger bands are f**king slamming too though – and it’s amazing with that guitar game, people are finding out about these other f**king bands now just because of that f**king game which is awesome I mean I think it’s f**king great!
TFL: Yeah – and it’s fun! If you’re musically declined – you actually feel like you’re playing the song!
ZW: I know, it really is f**king crazy babe! I think it’s funny as f**king hell!
TFL: It is! Trust me – my Son asked me for Guitar Hero for his birthday 2 years ago and I was like ‘what – you want what?’ What the hell is Guitar Hero? So I went and got it and watched him & I was like ‘how the hell are you doing that?’ Gimme that – I need to try that! (laughing)
ZW: (chuckling) I know! I think it’s funny as f**king hell! I mean I was on the thing the other day and my son comes up to me the and he was like ‘Hey dad – I can kick your ass on Guitar Hero!’ I told him pick up the real f**king thing and we’ll see who kicking who’s ass! Know what I mean? (laughing)
TFL: Here’s the thing – if some of these kids would put the same amount of time, energy & focus into the real thing…
ZW: Into really playing! Well I think that’s what is going to happen eventually you know – kids are going to eventually think ‘I’m going to try the real thing’ which is great!
TFL: Well I can’t wait to see ya! I’ve been waiting to see Black Label Society for quite some time ‘Funeral Bell’ is my all time favorite tune!
ZW: Where you at right now Trace?
ZW: Oh you’re in Calgary – so you’ll be down at the show right?
TFL: I WILL be there on the 17th you betcha!
ZW: Alright doll!
TFL: I’ll be the one blinding you with my camera in the media pit (laughing)
ZW: Sounds good doll! Well you know if I can see you backstage just come on back and say hi.
TFL: Will do Zakk – see you in a few weeks!
ZW: Thanks Trace! Take it easy sweetie.
Talking straight from the heart and never beating around the bush, Zakk Wylde will always give you his open and honest opinion regardless of the question. His sense of humor had me laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face during the interview – he’s hilarious! Finding many similar experiences with parenting & views on the industry – Zakk is by far one of the most memorable interviews I have conducted to date.
Watch for tour dates in your area & don’t even think about skipping his show. Black label Society is 100% pure Rock & Roll…THANKS ZAKK & see you on the 17th…it’s going to be one hell of a party!
Photo credit: top Zakk Photo ~ Neil Zloz
Photo Credit: Live shots from Calgary ~ Tracy Forsyth-Lundy