Zakk Wylde Loves Spontaneous Fun of Black Label Society’s ‘Room of Nightmares’ Video, ‘Truly Blessed’ to Play With Ozzy Osbourne Again
It's been a banner year for Zakk Wylde, who has indulged his love of Black Sabbath music touring with Zakk Sabbath, rejoined Ozzy Osbourne's solo touring lineup and also found time to complete the next Black Label Society album, Grimmest Hits. While the new BLS album won't arrive until 2018, we do have a new single and video already for "Room of Nightmares." We recently had a chance to speak with Zakk about the track and video and also hit on a few other key things going on with the guitarist-frontman.
In the interview below, Wylde opens up about what it means to him to get to return to Ozzy's lineup, especially with Osbourne announcing his farewell tour, he speaks about Black Label Society's own run with Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod and Red Fang, he praises the ShipRocked Cruise that his band will be playing in 2018 and he discusses what it meant to him to present Tony Iommi with the Courage Award at the recent Loudwire Music Awards. Check out the chat below.
Grimmest Hits, awesome, awesome record. I know some of the albums have been solely you, but you've had this lineup here for a little while. Can you talk a little bit about putting the album together and how much involvement the other guys had along with you?
It's business as usual. We just got done doing a Black Sabbath tour ... I'm like, Chad, we gotta knock out a new record for when you get back on Aug. 2, you can start writing. I'll give you a month to start writing. I'm just like [to the guys], "What did you come up with today? You know, while we're having coffee." You're just like, "I got a cool bunch of riffs that's just kind of a Zeppeliny thing meets Sabbath." Then it's just like what's the next thing you got? The Zeppeliny thing and Sabbathy and Sabbathy and Zeppeliny.
I always say, as far as writing goes, the running joke with Blasko is, "Yeah, it's going to be a great Black Sabbath album." Everything's always riff driven anyway. I always say, "Here's two strings, let's see what you can write," because then you're forced to have to write riffs. If you were just writing on a bass guitar, that's all, you only have four crayons. How many color combinations can you come up with? You're forced to have to, because it's just got to be riff-driven.
With writing, you got, me, you and the rest of the fellows, we show up and there's a mile radius and we know there's bones out here so we'll start digging over here today. If we find anything, great, but we know they're out here. It's just a matter of if you didn't come up with something that you liked, it's just like, we'll put that to the side. If I call you up I'll go, "What did you come up with today?" You're like, "Nothing that really got my dick hard," but I mean it's just like I may be able to use something. Usually when I'm writing, I just write from the beginning to the end. I rarely just write something and then I'm like, "I don't have anything."
To me, that's the joy of it. Like with the guys, we don't do pre-production and band rehearsals where you just grind the song into the ground. That's rehearsals for the tour. Even then, we don't even do that. With Ozzy or whatever, it's just like everybody go home, do your homework. Well, you tell me, you go "Zakky, here's the setlist." Alright, cool. Everybody just learn the songs and we show up, and everyone knows the song.
No, but we're writing. I think, with the guys, you manage me, and just say, you go, "Zakky, we got a month til those guys come out in three weeks." So I said, "Alright, cool." And I just go in there every day, just writing riffs, with the practice amp, until I come up with something I'm happy with. Then I'll just write the song.
When JD and Jeffy get out here, everything's ready to go, up in the Vatican. So the whole thing is we just have some Valhalla Java. The guys show up, and I just go, "Here Jeffy, check this one out." The first song on the record, "Trampled Down Below," (singing). Jeff will sit next to me playing air drums. He's like, "What's this part here?" I'll go, "This will be the pre-chorus, then this will be the chorus, then we'll go back to the intro riff or whatever." He's like, "Oh, cool," and he's just sitting there playing it on his lap. But everybody already knows what they're doing, bro. Especially when you're surrounded by guys that can play, you know? I'm just saying, if you get traded to a football team, the bottom line is, you know the routes, you know what I mean? They're really not going to be much different than they were with other teams that you're playing with.
Usually we always have the guys come out for like a week, then Jeff would just stick around if I pull anything out of my ass. Or just tomorrow, you wake up and you end up writing "Iron Man" or "Sweet Home Alabama." It's just like, what's that one? You never know what you're going to get. That's what's always fun about making the records.
But Jeffy and JD will hang out and then I'll end up putting all the guitars. Because there will be scratch bass on there, stuff like that. Then I'll just do the vocals and everything. JD comes back out, he puts all the bass on in probably like one day. Then, JD starts mixing, him and Father Adam. Then next thing you know. Then, I'll come up at the end of the day while you get done mixing and you're like, "I'll do the soup tasting right after that. You know what I mean? How about a little more sour cream or a little more cilantro or whatever, and that's it." It's pretty much either done or, you know, me and you eat and try the soup. You're like, "Zakk, a little more salt." I'm like, "Alright no problem, put it in there." You're like, "Yeah, perfect."
Let me jump in and ask you about "Room of Nightmares." Love the video you guys did for that with the variety of characters, costumes and the slapstick humor, especially the Airplane line of characters waiting to join the beatdown. Where did you develop that sense of humor over the years and how did that factor into what you wanted to do with this video?
Obviously, us wearing the costumes, that's pretty much the whole band -- our love for Diana Ross and costume changes. We're planning on incorporating more of that and more dance, in the upcoming tours. That's why it will be the Grimmest Show on Earth. I mean, the whole thing is ... you'll feel sad, when you're at the show, but then once you start dancing, you'll feel beyond grim, at that point. It's tragic, because we have no business dancing, but we will attempt it anyways. [laughs]
Half the stuff in that video, we're just making it up on the fly, when we were there. The Airplane thing, it was just get in line and JD's just knocking everybody out. It's just like with the Adele thing we did, when JD knocked me out when I was singing Adele. Everybody was covering that song and I'm just like knock me out while I'm singing it. [laughs] Half the time, we're just making it up on the fly.
It's kind of like the Black Label Society Hollywood gossip reporter. Me and you could be at the supermarket, me and you have to make a run to go get creamer or something or whatever at the supermarket. Then me and you hit the newsstand and we see this at the checkout. We see any of the mags? ... We see any of the Enquirers or anything like that? And I just see it, I'm like, "Wait hold on a sec, this is perfect." I'll do five right then, then get home and we'll cut the little snippet. I just humor myself. To me, it's just like, why wouldn't you want to have a good time while you're doing it? This is the way it's always been anyways.
This isn't anything new. When we're rolling with Ozzy, if social media would've been around when I first joined the band and started playing with The Boss ... I always said it was a miracle we ever got anything done. First off, he's always making fun of himself or, he's talking about Black Sabbath, he tells about stories about Saint Rhoads or Jake [E. Lee] stories, or anything, and it's always comedy because he's just talking about when everything's back firing and nothing's working. This was supposed to be so grand and so epic and then somehow it just failed miserably or whatever. He's always talking about all these Spinal Tap moments on steroids. And we're always around him, we're always literally crying, laughing. Obviously, you love playing and everything like that, but it's fun taking the piss out of it.
You mentioned Ozzy. The big news is Ozzy's farewell tour is coming up. What does it mean to you to get a chance to be back playing shows with Ozzy again, especially knowing that you're going to be part of the winding down of his touring career.
It'll be awesome. It's like I always said, I'm just blessed to have him in my life. Ever since I first started listening to him when I was 11-, 12-years-old and I got my first Sabbath album, he's been a part of my life. Then, obviously, he's the godfather of our son. Loving Sabbath and loving Ozzy and Randy, and Ozzy and Jake, just being a fan all throughout. Then being in the band. It's just like, being a huge Thurman Munson fan and catching for the Yankees. You know what I mean? Standing in the same spot where my hero stood. You know, I'm truly blessed, for sure, man.
Then to be playing with The Boss again, it's like I said, it's just comedy once again, everyday when we're doing the shows. It's nothing but a good time for sure. Looking forward to the tour and I'm gonna have fun. We just got done with Ozzfest yesterday, and that was a blast. So it's all win/win.
As far as your own touring, Corrosion of Conformity, Eyehategod, Red Fang, all going out with you in late December all the way through February. Thoughts on the three bands that are going out with you on tour? What's your past relationship with them and what are you looking forward to in terms of the upcoming dates?
Oh, Pepper [Keenan] and the guys, I mean, I've known Pepper for a while now. I'm a huge fan of his singing and his playing and everything like that. He's a brother. So, you know, I love Pepper. Gonna be a blast rolling with him and all the other guys. I mean, we always have a blast where all the other bands go to the tour with. You know, we have Them Evils out with us just on the last Zakk Sabbath tour and a bunch of great guys, and a kick-ass band. It's not the same roll of guys that are going to be out on this tour, which if you ... You know, it's an ass-kicking rolling good time.
"Trampled Down Below" kicks off the record on a high point. Let's talk a little bit about that track and where it comes from.
Well the way it starts off, it's very scary, and I was actually, every time I hear it I have to turn it off, because I'm frightened and I just run into a corner. Everything's just driven by riffs, music always changes and it's morphing and it's changing and everything like that but I remember being out on throughout the Ozzfests and everything like that, but then there's more chord-driven songs whereas it just happened, so wow. A lot of the younger bands or whatever when I hear them I'd go, "Wow, not a lot of riffs." If you think about the ocean or you're thinking about into the void or whatever, where things are just riff-driven.
For me, you just force yourself to write riffs, so the songs are just all riffs. I just always say, "You know, you're a byproduct of everything that you love and everything that you listen to and what moves you." So, with me, I'm obviously on a steady diet of everything that I love, so whether it's Sabbath, Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Bad Company, Skynyrd, Elton John, Sam Cooke. These are just the all the things that I'm usually listening to, so obviously, if that's what you're digesting, that's what's going to be in your DNA.
And that's where all your inspiration and all your influences and everything like that come in. You just twist it and bend it and eventually it comes out sounding like you. I mean, all the bands that we love, and everything like that whether it's the Stones, The Beatles and everything, their love for all the bands that they love and all the artists that they love, and then they ... You put it in a blender and then it ends up coming out as your own thing. And that's it, that's the joy of writing and that's the joy of making a record.
How enjoyable was "The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away"? The guitar is just unreal. It feels timeless. It feels like it could've been done in the late '60s as easily as it is today.
There I think that the chording and everything like that is completely Saint Hendrix for sure, I mean that's all complete Jimi's chord voicings, whether it's "Wind Cries Mary" and all these voicings, "Like a Rolling Stone" and everything like that, the whole thing is just the way he chord-voices those, that's completely Hendrix influence for sure. But then, like, the choruses and the rest of the singing, and everything like that it just reminded me, like, Percy Sledge type stuff, the Sam Cooke stuff, the actual vibe of it.
.And also like you were kinda saying it's timeless, when you listen to this Percy Sledge stuff, "When a Man Loves a Woman," and all the Sam Cooke stuff, and everything like that to me that music's completely timeless. I love all that stuff. So, obviously like you said, that song is obviously a byproduct of everything that I love.
I also wanted to hit on, "The Only Words." This love song is such a nice song on this record if you want to talk a little bit about that track as well.
Well obviously it's my love for the Stones and the Allmans and Van Morrison. Stuff like that. To me, that's what ... And obviously the solo, to me, it's completely Dicky Betts for sure. To me that's what it is when I hear it, that's what I just seek out. That's all I'm tasting when I listen to, it's what I'm having in that soup. But I love Dickey Betts. And like you said, it's my love for that style of music, and that's what came out.
I know you guys are going to get a chance to do ShipRocked. Let's talk about your past experiences, what you're expecting from this year's ShipRocked and what you would say to somebody who hasn't done that before.
Oh, it's great. It's complete drunken man root dominating food-experience, of doom, put it this way, I don't drink anymore, but that just means more booze for everybody else, but the whole thing is ... Every one of these cruises that I've done, all the ShipRockeds, whether it's the Motorboat, and everything, it's just always a great time. Everybody was having a blast.
And you know look at it this way. On the boat and everybody that's in these bands, I mean you're friends with everybody, so it's great seeing everyone again. It's like a massive high school reunion. And then everybody on the boat is super cool. So, you get a chance to hang out with everybody, and you get a chance to jam, so I mean to me it's all worthwhile.
All my friends I know that have ever gone on them, they're like "Dude I had a blast on the one that day." And then they always go back out on them. All the friends that I've known that have gone back out on them, they go back out not even knowing what bands are going to be on the bill, because that's just what they always do. We always a blast.
At the recent Loudwire Music Awards got a chance to honor Tony Iommi, Lord Iommi. If you want to talk a little bit about what he meant to you as a musician coming up, what got you into Sabbath initially, and what it meant to actually have a part in honoring him at the Loudwire Music Awards.
Let me put it this way, I would've just shown up at the awards just to honor him and speak about him and what a massive impact he's had on my life, so the whole thing was ... I mean, he really is the Henry Ford of the whole genre of music, it's basically created by him.
So I mean the whole thing is, like all other cars that are designed after that, it's after his template and his schematic that he designed. So I mean it's just like, you know, whether, all the way from the Model-T, to a NASCAR, to a hot rod, to a Formula 1 race car, or land cruiser going 600 miles an hour, and, you know, there in the flats breaking sound barriers. It's all designed after Henry Ford's original car.
That's who he is. Hands down, started this genre of music. He created it. And you know, from all the way, and as heavy as it gets, whether it's Meshuggah and Pantera it's all from his design, and his schematic.
So we all owe him that debt, and always will. And it's true, when I was saying when we were talking about him, the impact and his magnitude is just as, to me, it's as monumental and it is, it's not even an argument. It's as important as, like, Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart where their music is still played today at the Hollywood Bowl, that orchestra's down there playing their music. It'll completely exceed their lifetimes, it'll just keep going and going and going because it's timeless music.
That's what Sabbath is. It really is. So I mean, the whole thing is Tony's riffs. And it's like Ozzy always said, he said, "Each record was almost, let's see if he can top himself from the last bench press that he just put out." It's like, each record was just like another, "Man, I wonder if he can go up to the 500-pound barrier," and it's just like, "Dude I can't believe you did 550." And then the next bench press is like, then he does 605 at the next bench press. It's just like constantly topping himself. All between what Ozzy did it would be mind-blowing, whenever he'd come up with these things. Really it's like, "Wow, I didn't think he'd be able to beat what he got last time."
But yeah, that's the genius for sure. Don't ever forget the solos, too. It's just like his lead work is amazing, as well. The whole thing, just his compositions and everything. So, I love him for sure. Everybody does. It's like there's nobody in this band that hasn't been affected, or doesn't know all these Sabbath songs.
It's like part of your education. If you're a classical musician you know how to play Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. It's part of your education. Learning Sabbath songs and Lord Iommi's riffs, people are like, "Yeah, you know this one" or "I know that one" or "I know this one." You might not know the whole catalog, but you know, you've learned some of them at some point in your career, whether you're in a cover band, you're playing keg parties, and the whole nine yards or you're just starting out.
But yeah, that was a huge honor for me, you know, and obviously the whole gang of Loudwire who provided the opportunity to do that.
Very good. Zakk, thank you so much for your time today. Much appreciated. Can't wait to see you guys back out there touring again.
Alright my brother. Well, it was great talking to you, tell the rest of the gang I said hey.
Our thanks to Zakk Wylde for the interview. Black Label Society's 'Grimmest Hits' is due Jan. 19 and you can pre-order the disc via Amazon or iTunes. See the band's upcoming tour dates here. Zakk will also be playing shows with Ozzy Osbourne in 2018 and you can see those dates here. And if you want to catch Black Label Society on the ShipRocked Cruise, look into details here.
Black Label Society, "Room of Nightmares"
Black Label Society, "All That Once Shined"
Zakk Wylde Plays 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?'
Where Does Zakk Wylde Rank Among the Top 66 Hard Rock + Metal Guitarists of All Time?