Party In The Paddock. Ricky Ponting. Cascade beers. The humble Apple Isle has gifted us …
Zakk Wylde. At the neck of his guitar his fingers dance like ants at a picnic, producing insane riffs, and insane hard rock anthems culminating in a staggering body of work spanning 30 years.
How do you narrow such a career down for discussion? You don’t, you can’t, for his might is just too mighty. At the helm of Black Label Society, Wylde is back with new album Grimmest Hits, yet another inspired addition to solidify his status as a legend–but just how has he done it?
“What I end up doing is, I take all the Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber records and put them on backwards and listen to all the satanic messages and the riffs,” he says most seriously. “Then I convert back to Catholicism and play the riffs normal–then there you go, we have a whole bunch of Black Label Society songs. I do it all for the art.” Wylde concludes, laughing heartily.
This inspired song writing method would naturally garner Wylde more followers. “Well, see now, I don’t do it for the money,” he chortles. Who does, Zakk? Who does? More of Wylde’s manically laughter shadows the thought. Black Label Society houses some of the best musicians in the biz but many flock to the call solely for Wylde. First and foremost, yes, Wylde is a guitarist, but as Black Label’s vocalist too, there are naysayers in our midst who would defame him for not being the greatest frontman out there, in spite of his passion and soul.
“The whole thing is, as far as naysayers,” he says, “I’m surrounded by my wife, children and the fellas in the band. They all belittle me and deeply abuse me so I’m kind of accustomed to it and that’s the only thing actually I know. So when someone says something un-nice about me I’m like … ‘Yeah? You should hear what my children have to say about me, and the fellas in the band. It doesn’t bother me whatsoever, to me it’s just normal. I think if somebody said something nice I’d kinda get a little upset!” Wylde finished with an infectious chuckle.
And who should Wylde turn to for a little lovin’ when he’s upset but his compadre in darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. “I talk to The Boss [Osbourne’s pet name] and then, figurin’ when I need a hug, Oz will look me and I’ll say, ‘Oz, I need a hug’, and he just pokes me the eyes and I’ll say, ‘Now what was that for?’, so he’ll say, ‘Because life sucks, so get used to it–now, go make me a ham sandwich, light on the mustard.’ That’s a moment of compassion in my life.”
I take all the Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber records and put them on backwards and listen to all the satanic messages and the riffs
[ Zakk Wylde ]
Is he serious? Hard to tell but you want to hope not. Wylde is like a metalhead Santa Claus; jolly, chuckles a lot, brings joy and is the gift that keeps on giving. Mind you, there’s one thing he is serious about and that’s sandwiches. “You gotta go light on the mustard,” he advises, “You don’t want to overpower the flavour.”
New music, naysayers and fawning fans are a necessity–there’s a family to be taken care of, even if Wylde is out on the road a lot—a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. “I’m around the world all the time, doing about 300 shows a year,” he says, “But that’s the reason why you have posters of Jimmy Page up on a wall, because you’re doing what you love. “People are always just like, ‘Why’d you have a wife and four kids and you’re out on the road all the time?’ So I’ll say, ‘Well, somebody’s gotta pay for all the macaroni and cheese!’ and then that’s the end of that conversation.”
Playing that many shows in the year and with his extensive catalogue to pull from, there’s nowhere Black Label Society go where they won’t have the right thing to play for that audience–Wylde considers Australia in that, too. “We’ll definitely be down there with Black Label Society for sure on this run. The Grimmest Show On Earth Tour, without a doubt. We’re just doing a States and a Canadian run, then we’ve got the European crusade for a little bit then after that I start with Oz—home for two weeks and we get an Ozzy group circle going—rehearsals there with all the band the fishnet stockings and the whole nine yards. In between touring with The Boss, we’ll definitely be down to Australia.”
Wylde has enough going on with Grimmest Hits without considering any future 11th Black Label Society album. “I like to get away from thinking about it, as far as writing goes, then it allows me to get inspired again,” he says wistfully. “Like, I read this article about this chick that got possessed, I’m gonna write this book called The Exorcist, more laughter ensues. “After an explosion of inspiration and ideas, it’s nice to get away from it for a while—it’s the same thing as in sports. Get through the season, whether we won a championship or came close or had a terrible year or whatever, to get away from it for just a little bit, then when September’s coming up again, we start training, getting ready for the next year.”
Zakk Wylde is certainly a staggering man with a staggering life, one wonders if someone will make a film about him. “Yeah, it’s called Nightmare On Elm Street!” Wylde laughs. Hard!