From Crazy Baby to Black Mass Reverend: An Interview with Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society

“Strength, Determination, Merciless, Forever!”

”Black Label” has always been known as a term for labeling your best reserve, your vintage offering. For almost 20 years now Zakk Wylde has been shredding his way into our musical hearts, not only as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player but also the lethal axe grinding frontman for one of heavy metal’s most respected bands, Black Label Society. Since being discovered at a New Jersey gas station by Ozzy in 1988, Zakk has elbowed his way out of Randy Rhoads’ shadow and developed a style and technique all his own. Having many times graced the cover of Guitar World, won a Grammy and had his acting debut in the movie Rock Star, it’s obvious Zakk Wylde is one of the hardest working men in music. With the DVD Doom Troopin’ and the eagerly awaited Roadrunner Records release Shot to Hell dropping September 12th, as well as a long overdue Ozzy record in the works, Zakk Wylde reminds us that there is no rest for the wicked!

Zakk: This is Zakk doll, how you doing?

Crave: I kinda thought that was you. You have one of those unmistakable voices.

Zakk: That’s what I keep trying to tell my beloved wife of 23 years. We’ll be going at it and she’ll be like, “oh Frank, Andy…Joe” and I’m like “What the fuck, its ME!”

Crave: Yeah that’s what happens when you tour too much buddy!

Zakk: I’m like, sweetie it’s me! And she’s like, “whatever just keep going!” I guess it just depends on what pool boy was supposed to be there that night. As long as somebody’s keeping a smile on her face, that’s all that matters. So anyway, how you doing, where are you calling from?

Crave: I’m great, I’m waking up here in Portland; you guys play here in late November. I read you co-produced with Michael Beinhorn. What was the studio process like with Shot to Hell?

Zakk: The record company decided they wanted to bring someone in to work on the album so I said “look, if they think they’re going to get somebody to come down here and start telling me what the fuck to do and turn this into a fucking dental appointment, its not going to happen!” The last album hit the charts at 15; I think I know what I’m doing! Me and Mike worked on Ozzmosis together and we had fun just kickin’ around the guitar tones. I write all the songs in the studio, so there’s no pre-production. We just go down to the studio and eight days later I wrote 23 songs.

Crave: Three bands, over twenty years, how do you remember the lyrics to all these songs?

Zakk: I don’t! What I end up doing at shows is putting down a lyric sheet that’s there just in case I’m headbanging or I get a brain fart, it’s not so much that I need it but I can just glance down if I forget one of the lyrics. Even with Ozzy, I say to him “Hey Oz, why don’t we try this one?” and he says “Zakk, I haven’t sang that one since 1975! What do you think I go walkin’ around the fucking house singing “War Pigs?” He’s the greatest. He’s the Godfather of our first boy, Jesse John Michael, who we named after Ozzy.

Crave: Is it hard to balance all the touring with having a family?

Zakk: Yeah, ‘cause my wife is always busting my balls about the beer tab. When we went out on Ozzfest she told me “that’s it, you guys are done, I’m shutting you down, and the Berserkers are cut off.” I tried to guess how bad it could be, we were only out for two months, She’s like “asshole, do you know how much money you guys spent on beer?” She went to see the accountant and that summer we spent $44,000 and the next summer was $38,000. That’s why I’m on my own tour bus and the guys are on theirs this time around.

Crave: Has it been a big switch to move over to the Roadrunner label?

Zakk: Yeah, but I’m happy with the change. You look at some of the bands that have been on Roadrunner. I mean Sepultura has been on that label for twenty-five years. On some of these major labels, the bottom line is if your first album goes platinum and your next album goes gold, you’re history. With the music business today and everybody downloading it’s so hard to sell records. It aint like it was back in the day when I was out buying vinyl!

Crave: You’ve been working on the new Ozzy album, how’s that going?

Zakk: There’s like twenty tunes so far but it’s just a matter of him singing his ass off like he usually does, just getting it done. We wrote

everything before the summer and Ozzfest, once we get touring its just mass chaos, there’s not enough time to work on shit. His schedule is so fucking crazy. It’s a matter of taking 80 pounds of shit and stuffing it into a two-pound leaking bag.

Crave: It’s got to be so much better than the way the last album was written though.

Zakk: No, this time it’s the way it should be, where its all about let the band be the band. You don’t need all those outside songwriters and stupid fucking people coming in that don’t know what the hell is going on. In the 70’s when you had Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and then the Sex Pistols and The Clash and all the punk shit was coming out, could you have imagined the labels telling those bands to be punk? Ozzy doesn’t need to be getting a green mohawk and Robert Plant doesn’t need to be shaving his head and getting piercings and yelling about anarchy! I remember when I had to go around sucking ass trying to get a record deal and this executive comes to me and says “This whole biker, berserker Viking image thing you have going on might not be working, we think you should change your image to be more like Limp Bizkit” and my jaw hit the fucking floor. All those years playing with Ozzy, and I’m not supposed to be proud of that? The lineage I come from is Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, and Jake E. Lee and you want me to make believe that never happened and put a stupid hat on sideways and wear some baggy pants and some vans and shit and start saying “Yo, G, where’s all my homies and my bitches at?” Like that’s going to fix anything!

Crave: You are constantly putting out new projects; do you ever get tired of the game?

Zakk: I enjoy doing it. If it was a pain in the ass I would be the first one to say “fuck this!” It’s like “here, let me whip out my twelve inch schlong,” yeah right! I wish I was double digits but I’m not! I’m about eight and a half, maybe nine on a good day! It’s the same with music, so I’m not double digits yet. I wish I was, but I aint. You make it work.

Crave: You have been an inspiration to guitar players everywhere; do you have any words of wisdom for someone just getting started?

Zakk: I still look at pictures of Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen and Hendrix and all the guys I love. Whenever kids are starting to play music, whatever you do you just got to play what you love and don’t fucking listen to anybody else. It’s like back when we were being told we should play more music like Bon Jovi, since we’re from Jersey. I say God bless him, more power to him, it’s hard to make a nickel in the music business but the bottom line is I don’t like that shit! Why would I want to play like that? The music they were writing on that last record sounded so much like Bon fucking Jovi it made Bon Jovi look like Motorhead on steroids. It’s so horrendously bad that it’s amazing how hideous it is. And Bon Jovi, we were just talking about the other day, unbelievable that he is playing three nights at Giants stadium and I don’t know a single person who owns any of his albums. Maybe my sister Amy back in the day. Anything that happens to the fucking planet it’s all Bon Jovi’s fault because he’s this unstoppable rebel force. I’m beyond terrified of the power of the Jon Bon.

Crave: You have done some movie and voice over work, is that something you want to do again?

Zakk: Yeah, without a doubt. Some of that stuff is just fucking stupid but I ended up loving it. When we did that Rock Star movie I asked them what they wanted me to do and they were like “Zakk, just go on down and be yourself, you’re gonna fire a shot gun and party a little.” So I was thinking, I’m gonna go play music all day, lift weights, and drink beer and you’re gonna pay me for this? That’s fucking cool. I was doing the voice overs for Aqua Teen Hunger and the guys were telling me about the characters and I was like “meatwad?” I mean I know what I’m drinking but what the fuck kind of hallucinogenic are you on? You always gotta have something to laugh at. You especially have to have a sense of humor in the music business. There were some people bitching about the album cover with the nuns on it and I couldn’t believe it. I grew up catholic; you know who has the biggest fucking sense of humor of all? GOD motherfucker! So no, I’m not offending anybody, if you don’t have a sense of humor, don’t listen to the shit, and lighten the fuck up!

Crave: So next up is the headlining tour with Black Stone Cherry, I’ll buy you a Beck’s when you get to Portland.

Zakk: Tell everybody there, and especially the Portland chapter of BLS, to stay strong and keep bleeding Black!

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