“Are you a warrior of Christ?” asks a fan during a Q&A session at NYC’s jazz club, The Iridium.
“Of course, I’m Catholic,” replies Zakk Wylde almost immediately.
“Can you explain why?” the man follows up.
“Well, you know, because being with Ozzy, between all the satanic rituals and the orgies we have, it just kind of balances things out.”
If there is a better way to explain the charisma and attitude that exudes from guitar legend Zakk Wylde, I’m having trouble finding one. Well, maybe reading his exclusive UTG Interview below would be an equally concrete portrayal.
On June 10, 11, and 12, Wylde played three nights in a row selling out the small club. The first night he played alongside the Les Paul Trio, who were honoring the memory of guitar pioneer Les Paul’s 98th birthday. The following two nights showed a more intimate side of the buff, bearded, biker who many know as the frontman of Black Label Society and prior guitarist of rock icon Ozzy Osbourne. He played acoustic versions of many of his heavier tunes, told stories out of his book, and even held a brief question and answer session which allowed the crowd to participate in the show.
His story-time and narrative was equally as entertaining as the music, telling stories about touring and comparing the ridiculousness of the record industry to Seinfeld.
The bartender at the venue told me that in the seven years he’d been working at The Iridium, he’d never seen the place as packed as that closing night.
I was able to grab Zakk Wylde for a solid interview, in which we discussed his new music with Black Label Society, this summer’s Gigantour, and his relationship with Ozzy Osbourne. He even cared to tackle the whole Tim Lambesis situation.
What made you decide to do these smaller, more intimate shows here at The Iridium?
Originally we were gonna do these book tours, and instead of going out and just promoting the book and doing book signings and hanging out, which is always cool anyway, when we put this together, I said “Why don’t we just have me and Nick go out and actually, whether or not we’re doing a Barnes and Noble, set up a mini PA? And me and Nick could just jam.” Then we were brainstorming and we said, “Why don’t we just book it in clubs? You could do a Q&A, and tell some goofy ass stories out of the book.” Any of these Black Label gatherings, like when we have Black Label Mass of Doom, it’s just a dysfunctional Black Label family gathering. We don’t have fans, we have fams. Everyone we know, it’s like the Grateful Dead on fucking steroids. Everybody from all the different chapters hookin’ up — barbeque, drink, and we’re the house band. It’s always cool when we hang out and do these gigs, these are really no different than if we set it up in the living room of my house and we’re jamming and everyone’s having a good time just chillin out.
How was the show you did on the 10th with the Les Paul Trio different from the next two nights?
It was just me sitting in with the gang, doing cover songs. Just shreddin over the stuff and having a good time jamming. That was more of a jam — obviously when me and Nick get together we do all Black Label stuff. I have a great time doing both because you’re playing, man.
There were a lot of video cameras there filming the show. What are they doing with all the footage?
Yeah, some PBS stuff [for Les Paul’s 98th birthday celebration]. Some stuff we filmed for the Zakk Wylde TV on the Black Label site. Putting together a Youtube type thing, grainy black and white, we are gonna put the footage up.
You were saying the other night how Les Paul and Jimmy Page are some of your heroes. Are you friends with Jimmy Page? Who’s your biggest guitar mentor who’s alive to this day?
Obviously, Randy Rhoads is huge on me. Randy made everything awesome. I was first learning guitar and it was so exciting. Obviously Randy, then King Edward, I know Ed. That’s beyond amazing. And he’s beyond sick, we know that. I know Jimmy Page; I met Jimmy a couple of times. He’s really cool and I’ve met Robert, I’ve been blessed with the good fortune of all my heroes that I’ve ever met, I’ve met them on a good day. So I wasn’t eternally bummed out. I’ve been blessed. Obviously Ozz, playing with Geezer, Tony Iommi I know. I’m still a fan, which I’ll always be. You never wanna lose that, when you’re 14 years old and everything’s larger than life and everything’s awesome. You never wanna lose that man, ever.
It’s funny you mention Tony Iommi. I just finished reading Ozzy’s book where he explains Tony’s accident. Could you ever imagine being able to play guitar after losing your fingertips?
Well, if there’s a will, there is a way man. That’s life, if you’ve got a flat tire, then you’ve got to fix it. You know, if we were friends with Tony back then and he was like “What. The. Fuck. Man.” Then we’d be like, “Well, dude, we’ve got to figure something out that you can keep playing, because you’re the man.” If we were buddies we’d rally around him back then, it’s just like, “Holy shit, what the fuck?” We’d have to explain, it’s just the tips, at least you’ve still got your fucking fingers, let’s go see a doctor and figure out if there’s a way you can still play.” You have to go to Plan B, and if Plan B doesn’t work, you have to go to Plan C. Thank God Tony played, because look at all this amazing shit; he created a whole genre of music.
How has the response been to your book, “Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination”?
Without a doubt, I think everybody digs it just because of the comedic value alone. For me, a lot of the books I like reading are autobiographies but also people like George Carlin, all that goofy shit. If you’re sitting you can just pick it up anywhere and start laughing your balls off. Or your Labia, [laughs]. Whatever it is.
You are going out on Gigantour with Megadeth this summer. Are you excited for that? How are the guys in Megadeth?
It’s gonna be like a high school reunion gone ballistic. I’ve known Dave for a bit now, I always run into Dave at these festivals we’re doing, we’ll catch up and talk. Obviously Father Draiman with Disturbed and Dan and all the guys in Disturbed from Ozzfest. Will is obviously a Black Label brother because he toured with us. It’ll be great seeing Will and the rest of the guys. We’ll see Vincenzo with Hell Yeah and all the rest of the brothers in Hell Yeah–they’re all good buddies. Obviously Father Newstead, me and Jason played with the Boss [Ozzy Osbourne]. It’ll be great seeing everybody. Then you’ve got the young kids, the Death Division guys. I’m excited.
Are you in the process of record a new Black Label Society album? Can we expect it to be heavy?
I’m just stockpiling riffs and song ideas. We want to finish the record by December, after we get done doing this, rolling with Father Dave and company on Gigantour, about a month after that, late September, October, November, we’ll be knocking the record out. On the last album we did the mellow versions of the heavy songs on The Song Remains Not the Same — without a doubt it’s gonna be cranking up the Marshalls again and getting to it.
Black Label Society has almost a cult following of devoted fans. What is it about all the chapters that make them so committed? You consider them family?
Yeah, without a doubt like I said it’s like the Grateful Dead on steroids. It’s always a good thing, Deadheads all bond together and hang out and the Dead is just the house band. Same thing with us. Wherever we roll, whether Boston chapters want to hook up with some friends in a New York chapter, they road trip and it’s just an excuse to get together and we are the house band at a big old Black Label family gathering.
Are there any newer artists that you really like?
Uh… Daft Punk, I think is amazing. [Laughs loudly] Nah, I mean, Macklemore, amazing. No, but, as far as more obviously the younger kids you have Black Veil Brides, they’re doing really well and they’re playing guitar. They’re actually doing solos and ripping. More power to them and God bless ’em. Obviously some of the younger bands on Ozzfest, when Shadows Fall came out, John and the guys. Everyone is always saying, “What’s the state of guitar?” But you’ve got Dragonforce out there and they’re beyond ripping. The Avenged Sevenfold kids are shredding and having success. It’s all promoting guitar and promoting rock music, so it’s all good.
Did you ever tour with As I Lay Dying? How do you feel on that whole situation?
Yeah, we did gigs with those guys out on Ozzfest. That’s just a massive, massive mess over there. It’s just like any of our friends, if any of our buddies were gonna do something like that, we’d be like, “What are you talking about man?!” I get it if he’s pissed off saying, “I swear to God I want to rip her fucking head off,” but that’s okay, you can dump your feelings out, go to the bar and get tanked and spill your guts, but you’re not fucking killing anyone dude. Let’s just chock it up as a loss. See what happened to OJ, so why would you want to go there? She’s gonna get the fucking house, she’s gonna take half the money. Now, me and Derek, as your managers [Nice, now I’m working with Zakk!], we’re gonna be booking As I Lay Dying till the fucking cow comes home. The band is doing great, you’re gonna be fine and you just keep moving forward. Think about it, one fucking dumb decision like that, and his life is over dude. And the band was doing really well; he had everything to be thankful for. Everything was kicking ass. Yeah this was a hiccup, it’s a road bump, I get it. I understand him being pissed, but you’re not killing anyone. You can’t go there. Just like a manager says, “you can’t be knocking people out in bars.” That’s why you have security guards. It’s dumb, dumb, stupid shit. What a waste. Even if he wasn’t in a band, if he just worked at a construction job, I understand him talking about it. It’s fine and dandy — you can say that all day long but you’re not getting a fucking gun and blowing her brains out. I understand him getting it out of his system, but like I said, once we get back out of that bar, we move forward. That’s the only way to do it, you’ve got to move forward.
One of our other writers who has a serious beard wants to know what you do to maintain such an awesome beard. Do you have any tricks? Special shampoo?
No, you just fucking grow it man. Fucking Vikings didn’t use fucking shampoo. I love it when people ask me, “What do you do?” because I don’t know, it just keeps growing. You oughtta see the hair on my balls and my ass; it’s completely out of control. Fucking funny man.
You have kids right?
What is it like going out on the road and trying to maintaining a family life?
Of course I miss my fucking kids. When you have your pictures of Jimmy Page on your wall and Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads and all your heroes, it’s part of the job. You’re doing what you love. It’s almost as ridiculous as being terrified of heights and then you and me are working on skyscrapers. You picked the wrong job. I still love touring, I still love it when you and me jump into the submarine and everyday is another town and another gig. You’re hanging out with all the other chapters, it’s all win, win. I don’t go, “Oh dude, I’m homesick…” none of that bullshit. I love doing it. Me and you are out there doing what we love, how the fuck can we complain about it? I have buddies of mine who are amazing musicians who can’t stand touring. They hate it.
I find that strange, considering it’s what your life revolves around as a full-time musician.
Yeah, to me, it baffles my mind. People also say that they dug it at 21, 22, but they don’t dig it anymore. I don’t understand, I had a fucking blast playing at The Iridium just like I had a blast playing with Ozzy at the Garden. That shit kinda just baffles me, I don’t get it.
Do you see yourself going back into the studio or on the road with Ozzy again?
You never know man — my relationship with Ozz, Gus is throwing down with Ozz. I’m friends with Gus. I did 6 weeks filling in our tour when his wife was pregnant I said, “sure, do you want me to bring milk and eggs over?” That’s my relationship with Ozz and Mom [Sharon Osbourne]. Everything is awesome, I just saw Ozz before they went out on the road. I congratulated him on the record, he’s looking forward to getting out with the guys. He’s so excited that the press and everybody is digging the record. He’s blown away. But if Ozz asked me if we wanted to do something together I’d say, “of course, no problem.”
A few years ago at Ozzfest, I got to see you play with Ozzy on the second-stage during the afternoon. Did you guys do that often?
That was the whole tour. I remember Black Label went on in the afternoon, right after we got off stage I walked over to the submarine, you and me were in there, we’d have a cold beer or two or three, I’d walk right back out and we’d play either “Bark At The Moon” or “I Don’t Know.”
How long will he keep going? How long will you keep playing?
With me, I could go and do those Iridium shows like Neil Young, obviously the heavier shows are definitely more taxing on you, mind you, even with the Black Label stuff, now that I’m singing I’m stuck at that microphone the whole show, it’s not like with Ozzy when I was running around like a fucking jackass for an hour and a half. When you look at Neil Young, me and you as his manager, we can book him with an acoustic guitar, a harp, and a piano, stick him out on the road anywhere. Look at Elton John, he goes out and does arenas with him and a piano. My career’s moving more into that phase, if you were managing me, you could book me doing that stuff forever.
With The Boss [Ozzy Osbourne], it is like Keith Richards said, “Retire from what? Doing what I love?” It’s not football. It’s like Clint Eastwood is still acting, obviously we’ll put Clint in a different type of role as opposed to him acting 22 years old, I get it. You just fit different roles, he still loves acting and he’s still good at it, so why shouldn’t he do it?