Zakk Wylde Breaks Down How He Writes With Ozzy Osbourne
There's always something going on in the world of Zakk Wylde. In 2016, he released his second solo acoustic record, Book of Shadows II. One year later he rejoined Ozzy Osbourne's band and released Grimmest Hits with Black Label Society. It's another busy year in 2019 as he took part in the Experience Hendrix tour celebrating the work of Jimi Hendrix and Black Label Society are looking back on 20 years with a newly-recorded version of their debut album, Sonic Brew.
While his schedule may be heavy, he always keeps things light while joking around and he recently discussed his year with Full Metal Jackie on her weekend radio program. Check out the chat below.
You're busy as usual. I hope that you still like touring because you seem to do it a lot. [laughs]
Like Norm from Cheers, I'm still paying off that booze bill from the early Animal House years of Black Label.
Zakk, you grew up admiring other guitarists who have played with Ozzy Osbourne. What should young guitarists who admire you pay attention to with your playing?
If you really wanna annoy people, then you follow me. When you wanna clear a room and you wanna just have the room to yourself so you can just think, just play anything by me. People will leave.
I always tell any young guitar player or anyone that's starting out, play what you love. Whatever it is that moves you is what you should be playing. I remember starting out with our first band. We had management and everybody like that. It's pretty much 101-How-Not-to-Do-Everything. Like trying to play music that was popular at the time and we're like, "Well we don't even like this kind of music. I would never even own one of these records. Why am I playing this?"
It's ridiculous and so that's how not to do it. Because all the bands that you love and that you're into, to them they're just doing what comes natural and what they enjoy playing. Whether it's Sabbath, Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Poison, Guns & Roses, or Pantera or Meshuggah or James Taylor, they're just doing what they enjoy playing and if people dig it, then cool. They're not going out of their way in their thinking, "Well if I add a little of this and that then maybe then it'll happen." No.
Just, what do you like. "Well, that is what I like." All right, well then do that. That's what you should be doing. Whatever it is that you love and that moves you is what you should be playing. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan loves blues so why is he in a pop band? Do you know what I mean? He's like, "Yeah, I know." It's like all the time at soundcheck you're playing all this blues stuff, why don't you just do that? That's what comes naturally to you.
Jake E. Lee said recently that he would like to tour with you. If you had the chance, what songs would you want to jam with him?
I pay tribute to Pontiff Jake every night. Between him and Saint Rhoads. Obviously Lord Iommi - It's always my honor to play all this stuff. Whatever, I love Jake, and I love his playing and I'm glad he's still out there. I'm glad he's doing it again with the band. He sounds great. He always has. It's just great that he's playing again and he's kicking ass.
When it's time to make an album — from writing to recording you're known for working pretty quick. What makes the process go so fast for you?
I think that's any musician. Once you get in the studio, it's just a breeding ground for creativity. It's like if you were an artist and you were sitting around with an open canvas, you'd have all these crayons in front of you. You can't help but get inspired. Because everything sounds great as soon as you get in the studio — the drums sound like cannons and then you sit behind the piano. You just start getting inspired. That's pretty much it. I think with any musician, you ask them when they're inspired, it's when it just naturally starts coming out of you.
Ozzy said he wants to do another album with you. When you're coming up with instrumental ideas for Ozzy's songs, what is he like?
Ozz will go, "Zakk - what do you got?" Whether it's a soundcheck or just back in the day it would just be us sitting in a jam room. It would be like (imitating riff) you know and Ozzy would go "What's that?" and I'd just be like "That's a riff I was just jamming on" and he would go "I like that one." Then (imitating riff) and it would go to that part and it would stop and he goes "I'll start singing on this part I guess." Pretty much that's the process right there.
The Experience Hendrix tour features world-class players channeling one of the most revolutionary guitarists in history. What do you think Jimi would like most about the tour?
Without a doubt, he would just get a kick out of everyone playing his stuff. I can only imagine. I mean whenever I see anyone play anything I've ever done it's just like the coolest honor that you could ever - you know when someone is playing it. It doesn't matter whether it sounds amazing or not it's just like, "Wow, that's pretty cool."
So, I mean I think he would get a kick out of the whole thing for sure, thinking here we are since 1970 to now and it's been still that iconic and still that legendary and his music and his playing still has a tremendous impact on people. So I think he would be just be getting a chuckle out of the whole thing. You know he'd also say, "Look at all these people I'm employing as well."
Ozzy is from England and almost 20 years older than you but you get along really well together. What made your personalities click so fast when you met him?
Because we both enjoy listening to the Beatles and we both enjoy alcohol so that was two things right off the bat that we definitely had in common. [laughs] I guess like I always said with my sons — they're pretty much 20 years apart our oldest to the youngest — but I've always said the two coolest guys I've had in my life between my father and Oz would be like an older brother so I mean I could either talk with them about anything - you know anything in life in general and the result would always be pretty much the same.
If I came to them complaining about something like going, "I can't believe this happened or that happened" then I'd ask them for advice and then the two of them would poke me in the eye. I'd say, "Why did you do that?" and they'd go, "We don't know, we just felt like doing it" and that would be the advice. "Life's tough get used to it." Then they would chuckle at me. They would chuckle.
Black Label Society will be out on tour and you're gonna be very busy for the rest of the year.
We're looking forward to the Sonic Brewtality tour. Right now that's the game plan.
Thanks to Zakk Wylde for the interview. Follow Black Label Society on Facebook and pre-order your copy of the new version of 'Sonic Brew' here. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
Where Does Zakk Wylde Rank Among the Top 66 Hard Rock + Metal Guitarists of All Time?