My absolute guitar hero is Zakk Wylde. There are a million great guitar players but there is just this down to earth thing about Zakk that makes him relatable and therefore stand out amongst the greats. You feel like you know the guy without having met him. Currently he’s on the Gigantour with Megadeth, Device, HELLYEAH, Newsted and Death Division. This fall the long awaited live album/DVD “Unblackened” comes out and then he’s getting back into the studio for the next BLS album. I caught up with Zakk at Gigantour to talk about these things.
I highly recommend listening to the interview as opposed to reading…you’ll understand.
Listen to it here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): How’s the tour going so far?
Zakk Wylde (ZW): It’s hot rocking (laughs).
BZ: I hear the weather hasn’t been that cooperative.
ZW: No no it’s been cool, I mean we did the show the other day in Oklahoma that was ridiculous between the thunder and lightning. It’s like so we are Vikings I guess. I was fucking cracking up. Before Father Draiman went on it blew the generator out so they were like this fucking blows. We were like I guess that’s it, because if there’s no power you can’t play.
It sucked because first we were going to do a softball game to raise money for charity. That got rained out the day before. We were like forget, if it were a football game maybe. I’m just thinking about back in the old days, get us all sauced up, a bunch of big motherfuckers playing tackle football no pads. I went…ah maybe we shouldn’t, we’d all be down at the fucking hospital before you know it. It was just fucking funny. It pissed down rain, the baseball game was cancelled, then when we were doing the gig and Device got fucking cancelled and we figured we weren’t going to play and Megadeth was done then all of the sudden they got the power back up.
It was still drizzling out but the wind wasn’t blowing it onto the stage, I’ve done those gigs with the old man before at Red Rocks, it’s fucking silly. The only thing missing is the famous show of George Washington in the fucking boat. What are we doing man? It cleared for a little while so we went out and jammed and as soon as we got off the stage, literally about ten fifteen minutes later not even we’re all sitting fucking around and boom all the fucking power went out. I was like what did the generator go out again? No it went out in the city dude, it hit the main generator in Oklahoma. It was a good time to rob bank and then use that money for charity. It was pretty fucking comedic. Father Mustaine and the fellas they didn’t even play because they couldn’t, there was no power. The only power was in the buses. Aside of that it has been cool.
BZ: Do you prefer these festival like tours or the more intimate Black Label headlining tours?
ZW: Actually before we went out on this we did the Book Tour of Doom, just me and Nick (Catanese). That was a good time and you’re not going to get any more intimate than that. It was just me and Nick, we’d play a batch of tunes and then after we did that we’d do a storytellers type thing on steroids (laughs). Then a Q & A, that was a good time and then getting back to playing the heavy stuff again, you know the walls of doom, because otherwise its just the acoustics and stuff.
I love them both. You’ve got other guys who can’t stand being on the road, but that’s the reason why you had the pictures of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and Randy and Ozzy. This is part of the dream. I can’t tell you how many of my buddies that are my age or older that can’t stand touring or they like touring but they don’t like making records. I love doing it all. To me it’s the whole meal. It’s all good to me.
BZ: A week or so ago you did that all star jam with Megadeth, is that going to be a reoccurring this or was that just a special night because Slash was in town?
ZW: We just did it again last night. It was cool getting up there with the guys. We did “Cold Sweat” the Thin Lizzy song.
BZ: “Unblackened” is finally coming out in September, we’ve been hearing about it for awhile was this supposed to come out last year?
ZW: Yeah yeah, it was just a matter of getting the whole thing together and then filming it and coordinating it. In the mean time while all of that was going on we were touring and everything like that. There’s always something going on. The minute this tour ends I get home, more writing then we start doing the new Black Label album starting September 1. Then that’s when “Unblackened” gets released and I’ll be doing press for that. After we did “Unblackened” it was just mixing that thing, every day. We had to mix that get the artwork done. Everyday there’s something going on in Black Label.
BZ: “Unblackened” has a couple covers on it, you’re redoing some of the hits, what was the motivation for “Unblackened” just to show a different side?
ZW: No we got approached to do another DVD again and we’ve already done two of the heavy ones. Since we did the “Doom Troopin” one and obviously we have more records so there’s more tunes to pick from so it’s not the same DVD’s with the same songs on them. With our Black Label family everybody’s always asking if we’re going to do an “Unplugged” type thing or a show…because usually we’ll wheel out the piano and do Dime’s song and another mellow one like “Spoke in the Wheel” or something like that. During the heavy shows we’ll do tops two mellow songs because there’s too much of a lull in the set. That’s when every one breaks out the cots and the heroine and the oxycontin. It’s kind of dangerous so we prefer to stay away from that at the hard rock shows when everyone’s drinking whiskey and smashing their head through a wall. It’s that fine dichotomy of the show (laughs).
As far as the “Unblackened” thing we just came up with a set because there are so many mellow tunes that we don’t do live. The whole purpose for doing “Hangover Music…” because whenever we make a Black Label album we just go in and…like when the Stones make a record or Zeppelin made a record they just go in and here’s ten tunes and if “Going to California” is one and “Black Dog” is another one then that’s part of the ten songs you got. “Hangover Music” was the only album where we had the intention of it being mellow from the beginning of the album to the end. It’s just like a road trip record. That’s why it’s called “Hangover Music” After you get smashed on Saturday with the fellas, Sunday you just pop this on in while you’re opening another cold one while you’re entering reality again (laughs). That was the only album that we’ve done where we said lets do an album of this. That’s pretty much what “Unblackened” was.
BZ: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen you, but at every show without exception at least some random guy has asked if you’re going to do something off of “Pride and Glory” or “Book of Shadows?”
ZW: Everybody always asks if we’re doing any of that stuff. With Black Label we have nine albums. We don’t have as much of a problem as say the Stones with 6,228 records to choose from. We’ve got enough albums where if we wanted to we could put on a three-hour show.
BZ: Did any songs off of those albums make “Unblackened?”
ZW: Yeah, we opened the whole thing up with “Losin’ Your Mind” with the banjo and everything like that. I’m trying to think what other ones we did, “Thowin’ it All Away” there’s some “Book of Shadows” on there as well, “Thank You Child.” Just mellower Black Label stuff, “Sweet Jesus” was in there, that’s a “Pride and Glory” song. There’s some P&G stuff there’s some “Book of Shadows and then a batch of Black Label stuff that never gets played live.
BZ: Are you going to take that on tour at all?
ZW: Eventually down the line with out a doubt because then everyone will know that when we’re doing “Unblackened” they’ll know what its going to be. Even if we do an “Unblackened” tour it doesn’t have to be everything on the DVD or CD, you know you’re going to see the mellow stuff…with pyro and then we lynch some of the doom crew, good wholesome family fun.
BZ: It really hasn’t been that long since we’ve gotten a new Black Label album, but in Black Label years it’s been forever. Have you been aching to get back in the studio?
ZW: Yeah, but like I said it’s not like we haven’t been working. It’s not like we put the last record out and haven’t been touring, we toured for over two years on the last album. Then I’ve been doing those acoustic shows with Nick. It’s not like I’ve been chomping at the bit because I’m so busy touring and in tour mode and I’m having fun doing that. Like I said I love doing both, I love touring and I love making the records. The studio is great too, it’s a controlled environment. It’s where you can paint the canvas and do everything. Live is pretty much a free for all.
BZ: The music industry is falling apart right now. Radiohead recently pulled their music off of spotify, do you think that’s the answer?
ZW: Any of the bands that I like between iTunes and stuff, it’s great. I buy records still from all my favorite artist whether its Robin Trower or Robert Plant. If I want to buy a new John Mclaughlin record or Al Di Meola I just order it off of iTunes and I got it on my iPod. As long as you can buy it and pay the artists. Its not so much even the artist, you’re paying the artist, but it’s the guy who engineered the session. My nephew he doesn’t understand, ‘it’s only $10.’ Yeah but it cost money to make the records. A baby band, they still have to pay a studio fee, they have to pay an engineer and all these people. It’s the trickle down effect. That’s the whole thing. As far as it ever being normal again forget about it. It’s extinct, it’s exterminated, it’s vaporized. If people can download it and get it for free then why would they pay for it? It is what it is.
BZ: Is it affecting the music at all?
ZW: I think any band that you really love. I think Led Zeppelin would still make Led Zeppelin records, AC/DC is going to still make AC/DC records and that’s all they should do anyways. Whatever new bands out there like Five Finger Death Punch or Avenged Sevenfold or the younger bands just let them keep making the records they want to make. Black Veil Brides, the younger kids coming up. I don’t think it’ll ever affect…the fact that there’s downloading people are still going to make the music they love making. It doesn’t affect me at all. It is what it is. You just keep trying to make the best records you can, that’s all.
BZ: You’ve found a way to bring creativity to the business side of thing, I mean Black Label Society is basically a club. Was that the idea the whole time?
ZW: It is like the Grateful Dead on steroids (laughs) or just gone wrong. With out a doubt. The whole thing was bigger than a band, it’s a mentality. The whole Strength, Determination, Merciless, Forever, you know face your fear, accept your war and destroy and conquer. If you get cancer it’s like man I feel sorry for cancer, he’s a Black Label dude. You have to have that mentality. General Patton is a huge fan favorite in Black Label.
It’s like what you said it’s a big family, kind of like the Dead. If you see somebody wearing tied dye you know they’re on their way to a show. If you see someone wearing the colors, you’re at a bar getting ready for the gig, you run into them it’s like, ‘hey Bob how long have you know Joe,’ ‘I ran into him in '01 at a Black Label gig,’ and next thing you know he’s the best man in your wedding. You rib each other all the time about football baseball, whatever, but the band brought you together. It’s definitely way cool.
BZ: Recently David Draiman has been really vocal about the new “Rolling Stone” cover, what are your thoughts.
ZW: I know what “Rolling Stone” is doing. They just want to cover what lead this kid to do this. That’s the story. They’ve put Charles Manson on the cover. Why would this moron do this? I think it’s more or less that. I don’t think they’re glorifying him by putting him on the cover. My buddies say they should put the victims on the cover and put the story on the inside. Either or, nobody is trying to make a fucking hero out of this asshole. You might as well put Bin Laden on the cover. The reason you’re putting him on the cover is because of the story behind what caused him to be the head of Al Qaeda. You’re not putting him up there because some day kids if you try hard enough and you’re this big of a scum bag you can get on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine, but I understand why people are upset about it. It is what it is. They’re just trying to write the article of why this kid did this shit.
BZ: You’re a pretty accessible guy, you’re on Twitter, you do a lot of interviews, you did the book, has that come back to bite you where you say something and it becomes a headline?
ZW: No, we’re always taking the piss out of ourselves. If I’m going to offend anybody it’s going to be me and that’s not going to happen because I don’t give a shit (laughs). We are always having a good time on it. I think it’s great because I can keep in touch with the whole Black Label family.
BZ: Guys like Alice Cooper and James Hetfield have had a hard time separating the guy on stage from the real them?
ZW: No but my wife has, when we’re having “relations” she’ll go, ‘Oh Frank, Frank,’
‘Andy? Barb it’s me Zakk’
‘Whatever just keep going.’
Aside from that everything else is good (laughs).
Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.