Zakk Wylde has made a living in the heavy metal scene, first dominating with Ozzy Osbourne, and now with Black Label Society. With Black Label’s motto being “Strength Determination Merciless Forever,” Wylde and the rest of the Doom Crew are ready to take on the world with all that they do. It was recently announced that Wylde is unleashing his own line of amps, guitars, and any other electronic accessory a musician could need. And to add to the news, Wylde will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of his solo album, Book Of Shadows, with a new installment next year.
As much as Wylde loves bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, he still takes inspiration from artists like Neil Young and The Eagles. With every killer track that he has done, there always followed a ballad that was just as good. On No More Tears he had the title-track and “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” On the newest release, Catacombs Of The Black Vatican, songs like “Scars” and “Angel Of Mercy” went hand in hand with the heavier tunes like “My Dying Time” and “Fields Of Unforgiveness.”
I had the opportunity to chat with Zakk again and discuss the Unblackened tour, Book Of Shadows Volume II, and Wylde Audio. Topics of discussion also included the European trek for Catacombs Of The Black Vatican, and what mindset local musicians and bands should be in to make music their career. Check out what Zakk had to say below:
First off, congrats on Wylde Audio. A lot of people are looking forward to this.
Yeah, it’s great. Besides me making my own guitars and amps, there’s gonna be speakers, strings, picks, really everything. Anything you can think of. As to why we announced it so early, I just wanted to let everyone know that we are starting to roll with this now. I’m not going to string along Gibson, Marshall, Dunlop, and everyone we’ve been loyal to since the beginning. There is no blowout with any of these companies and we are all still family. To me, it is just a matter of moving out of your parents’ house (laughs).
You played the prototypes in January when it was announced. Have you had a good amount of time to play with them before you went over to Europe?
Yeah, I played the first six guitars that they made back in January. From those, you know, me and you could tweak them and point out anything that we would like to fix. If we find them to be perfect, then the process continues. People wonder how come I am not playing those amps or those guitars live. Those specific guitars and amps are just the first batch that was made. Actually, now that I am home for the next few days, I’ll listen to and tweak some of them in the Vatican. Or maybe I’ll think the fellas did a slamming job and they knocked it out of the park. That’s the whole fun of doing it.
Yup. In either 2016 or maybe even later this year.
Black Label has really dominated in many ways, but the amount of merch available to fans is impressive. With vests, jewelry, and tons more including coffee, and now Wylde Audio, it seems like you have something for everyone.
Yeah, it’s awesome in the regard that anything you and I think of, we can do. With the Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend, it’s just a prime of example of me and you sitting down and going, “Dude, we drink coffee all of the time, why don’t we just make our own?” It’s the same thing with Wylde Audio. There can be an old piece of gear that we both use that they don’t make anymore, or it isn’t road-worthy, or really fragile. It’s like, “Why don’t we make our own version of this thing that we can improve on?” Then we just make it. That’s the beauty of doing your own thing.
Absolutely. You have a lot more freedom to do what you want.
I always tell kids just make the band your everything. If playing music for the rest of your life is your dream, your goal, make the band your everything. For every moment that you aren’t picking up your guitar or practicing, you can do other things like coming up with t-shirt designs or ads for the band. Every waking moment should be, “You know what we should do for the band…” If it was a pub you owned, you’d be doing the same thing.
Exactly. And with all of the resources available nowadays, local acts can do a lot of different things on their own.
Yeah, when I look back to when I was 17 or 18, playing and practicing was the main part, but there are also so many other things involved. Let’s say me and you are amazing chefs and one day we decide we want to make our own restaurant. Now me and you have to figure out what we need to do so we could make a living off of running our own restaurant. And while there are a lot of different elements and aspects to it, we are still doing our own thing and having a good time. The joy of it all is that we are in control of everything.
Definitely. And after you announced Wylde Audio, you went over to Europe to tour for Catacombs Of The Black Vatican. How was the trek over there?
We spent almost six weeks over there with the European Crusade O’ Doom. We just got back home yesterday afternoon. As for the shows, oh it was crushing, man. Just because we did it for almost six weeks though, I kept joking and calling it the eternal second set (laughs). As soon as we got offstage, we would roll into the next town the next day and the running joke was, “Didn’t we just do this about two hours ago or so?” (Laughs) Europe was absolutely great. It was a cool time.
And you will be hitting the road again for the Unblackened tour in April. Do you have any downtime or is it right to rehearsal?
Just five days, man. And it isn’t technically five days off. Today, the goals are to memorize some of the lyrics for some of the songs. When the fellas get here, we will get everything in tune. For some of these tracks, we haven’t gone over them in a very long time.
Now, I know you’ve mentioned you wanted to take it on the road previously. Was it something you considered doing before the release of Catacombs Of The Black Vatican?
Me and J.D. [John DeServio, bass] used to always talk about it. As much as we love the heavier stuff like Sabbath and Zeppelin, we enjoy getting into the mellow stuff like Neil Young and The Eagles. It really has always been a part of Black Label since the beginning. Even with Ozzy, we would do stuff like “No More Tears” and then “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” It also breaks up the monotony of doing just the heavy thing. When we were working on the records, we would be writing heavy riffs all the time. When we got a little tired of that, we would pick up an acoustic guitar and work on that. I love it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s great about Catacombs Of The Black Vatican is that it’s got a few songs that would work nice in the Unblackened set. What can fans expect set-wise for these upcoming shows?
Obviously, right now, we do “In This River,” you know, Dime’s song. We will definitely be doing “Scars” off of Catacombs for sure. We have a lot of stuff from Sonic Brew up until now. You know, it’s not as bad of a problem as The Rolling Stones have (laughs). We don’t have like 65 albums (laughs). But Black Label has been around for almost 18 years now, and we have a plethora of shit we can roll through.
And you’re looking to release Book Of Shadows Volume II in 2016 to celebrate 20 years of the first record?
Yup, time is flying by, dude. I can’t believe it’s already been 20 years. It’s insane. And that is actually next on the agenda. I am sitting on a bunch of material right now. Sometimes I will wake up in the morning and get to the piano or the acoustic and just jam on some stuff. I’m definitely looking forward to that.
Black Label Society will play at The Paramount in Huntington, NY on April 3 and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on April 6. Catacombs Of The Black Vatican and Unblackened are available now. For more information on Wylde Audio, stay tuned to wyldeaudio.com, and for more info on the band, head over to blacklabelsociety.com.