Live Photos Courtesy of Photos by Nicki Chang-Powless NCP Imaging
What can be said about Zakk Wylde that hasn’t already been said? He’s talented, versatile, a guitar virtuoso, and an iconic personality to metalheads worldwide
He’s played with Ozzy Osbourne, as well as a whole host of other notable members of the music community, and released 13 studio albums with Black Label Society. Among his long list of accolades, it might surprise those not in the know, to learn he’s only released two solo albums. Book of Shadows, released back in 1996, and, after a twenty-year wait, Book of Shadows II, in April of this year
In support of that long awaited second solo release, he embarked on an international tour in that took him from the US, to Europe, Canada and back to the US.
As Zakk and his band were riding in the “Submarine of Doom” (aka the Black Label Society tour bus), I had a chance to chat with him, via phone, as they made their way to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for their scheduled show that night.
Shannon: Twenty years since last album. You said you wanted to break CD record, now that you’ve done it, where do you go from here? Can you make another one when you’re 80? 30 years from now?
Zakk: That’s a reason to keep living. If you get bummed out, you get depressed, you’re in one of those dark places, you can just remind me, ‘Zakk, you’ve got 4 more years, and you have to start working on Book of Shadows 3’. I go ‘your right, actually I can start living another couple more years’.
Shannon: What does this new album mean to you at this point in your life?
Zakk: The thing is, the constant between the two albums, with everybody, the music that you loved, it’s still the same music that I loved listening to when I made the first record. When I’m listening to stuff, when you write, or whatever, that’s how you learn, that’s part of your education. When I’d be sitting up in the front of the Submarine, we’d be listening to Eagles, or the Stones, Elton John, whatever. You’re digesting all that music while listening to it. You’re learning while you’re listening to it. You always reference it. I always think it’s awesome. It’s where things come from. It becomes part of your DNA, that’s how you do your own thing.
Shannon: Do you write on the road? Or that a studio thing?
Zakk: I’ll write on the road. Once you get in the Black Vatican (his home studio), it’s just a breeding ground for inspiration and writing. So once you’re done, once the album is done, you just want to get away for a little bit. Then you just gotta recharge the batteries, then you’re excited to go back in, and start doing it again. When we’re on the road, you’re playing every day, we look forward to getting off stage every night. It’s like in the NFL, you do all this training pre-season and off-season. Then once season starts, you’re in “game mode” that’s the reason why you lifted all the weights, studied all the game-plan, just to get ready for the season. Then once it starts it’s “game on”, it’s kind of like that once you’re on the road.
Shannon: You’re a guitar God to many, what guitarist do you look at and say “damn”?
Zakk: I still get inspired by the same guys I did when I was 14, or whatever. John McLaughlin, Randy Rhoads, Otis Rush … There’s tones of guitarist .. jazz guitarist, they’re great. Not only that, whenever you see anyone that excels at what they do, it’s inspiring to see somebody play, that’s really good at what they do. I still find tones of inspiration from all the guys I grew up idolizing .. Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, all those guys.
Shannon: One guitarist you’re obviously inspired by is Jimi Hendrix. How old were you when you discovered his music, and what did it do to you?
Zakk: That’s what I don’t understand, when people go ‘yeah that was before my time’. It’s almost like saying Derek Jeter’s your guy, but you don’t know who Babe Rush is. When you hear your favorite musicians or guitar players say who they’re into, that’s when you go backwards. You research it out and find out who all these people are. Then you hear how music mutates into what it becomes. Which I always think is really interesting. When I first started playing guitar – you kind of know. With jimmy Hendrix, he’s pretty much the Jesus Christ of electric guitar.
Shannon: Would you ever do a duet with a powerful female voice, like Maria Brink or Christina Scabbia, or any of those lovely ladies?
Zakk: Yeah! I also love Sarah Mclachlan, and stuff like that. Yeah, without a doubt.
Shannon: I heard in other interviews, you mentioned later this year you’re going to start on another Black Label album, what else is coming up in the future?
Zakk: The cool thing with the social media thing, we always let everyone know what’s going on, on a daily basis. Not right now. Always try something new; mud wrestling, wet t-shirt, bratwurst eating contest. Take a little break in there, and start working on the next album. Then we’re also doing a Zakk Sabbath (Zakk’s Black Sabbath cover band) thing, going on the road with Clutch. Then back into the Black Vatican and start working on the next record.
I’ve been fortunate to see Zakk and Black Label Society live a total of three times over the years, and one thing has always stood out to me at his shows; the sheer number of BLS emblazoned attire on almost every person in attendance. It’s obvious, his fans not only spend their money on tickets to see the man live, but also on merchandise, which they proudly display, for all to see. They are more than fans, it’s more like devotees, of all things Zakk. He’s more than just musician, his Icon status has grown to a religion for metalheads, and those sermons are born in his Black Vatican Studio, undoubtedly hallowed ground to the faithful. Preach on Zakk, preach on!