It’s been 20 years since the head honcho of Black Label Society, Father Zakk Wylde, released his debut solo CD, Book Of Shadows, a disc that was critically acclaimed and gracefully accepted by Black Label fans. Unlike his work with Ozzy Osbourne and BLS, Zakk showcased a different side to his music with an introspective and mostly acoustic style on the 1996 release.
Well, on April 8, amongst the touring he is currently doing with the Experience Hendrix and the upcoming Generation Axe tour featuring Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Nigerian guitar whiz, Tosin Abasi, Zakk Wylde will be releasing his long-awaited sequel to Book Of Shadows with his second solo CD appropriately titled, Book Of Shadows II, featuring songs like “Tears Of December,” “Darkest Hour,” “Harbors Of Pity,” “The King” and the CD’s leadoff single, “Sleeping Dogs.”
I was lucky enough to catch up with the extremely busy Zakk Wylde while he was on the Milwaukee stop of the Experience Hendrix tour. It might have been the funniest chat I’ve had with him to date. Here’s how it went:
Father Zakk! Why did it take you 20 years to put out Book Of Shadows II?
Well, Chinese Democracy from Guns N’ Roses took 15 years and the goal was to beat that record. (Laughs) And the thing was when I think we were at about 18 years, we were just like, “Maybe we can make it now,” and I was just like, “No, let’s just go for 20!” The only person who can break this record will be, maybe, Richard Branson (laughs), if he started making records. Because you gotta work some way or another, but so when we hit the 20-year mark, I figured the CD would be secured for a long time. And then when we want to break this record, then we have to go for Book Of Shadows III, which will be a either a 22- or a 25-year wait. (Laughs) So, yeah, there’s that one.
I’ve been listening to Book Of Shadows II for the past few days and would I lose my MAN card if I said these songs are beautiful?
Nah, it’s great, man! Like Book Of Shadows, it’s a road trip record. When I’m just chillin’ out and want to relax and something like that, the style of writing is just a conglomeration of everything you love and you listen to. So for me it was The Eagles, The Band, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Elton John…I mean this is stuff I listen to anyway when I’m just chillin’ out, whether it’s Bad Company, Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, Stones with “Wild Horses” and stuff like that. If you put it all together and you make a compilation of stuff you like to listen to and chill out to…
Do you think some of your fans will be surprised to hear this softer side of Zakk Wylde?
No way! Because if you go back to “Mama I’m Comin’ Home,” “Road Back Home” and “Time After Time” and stuff like that, the mellow stuff has always been there. I mean, on the last Black Label album, “Angel Of Mercy” was on that thing and then “Scars,” we did for that. So, no, but for me, it’s just not so different than Black Label, we just made a whole mellow record. We just called it Book Of Shadows II because it was the 20th anniversary.
Whenever we were touring with Black Label, whether it be the Boston Chapter, the Seattle Chapter, the Australian Chapter, the Canadian Chapter, wherever we’re rollin’, people are always like, “Hey, Zakk, man, are you ever gonna get around to doing another one of those Book Of Shadows records? I really dig that album and am really into the mellow stuff.”
Like I said, when it came on the 20-year anniversary, I was like, “Wow”…First of all, I can’t believe it was 20 years ago, but we did a short run for Unblackened from New York to L.A. and after blasting away the last two years with the Catacombs record, it felt good doing the mellow stuff, so I decided why don’t we knock out the mellow thing when we get home. So, the whole time we were rollin’ on the road, I was just writing song ideas and everything like that for “Autumn Changes,” but lyrics are always the last thing.
Being that this is a sequel to your first solo CD Book Of Shadows, it almost sounds conceptual, but I don’t see these CDs as concept albums. Is this something you might want to do in the future?
I don’t know because the ones I do dig, they all came out really well. They kick ass, but I don’t know. I’ll never say never because if it’s something to do and you feel like doing it, you just go for it. Even when I did the first Book Of Shadows, was when we were doing Ozzmosis… Like after I’d been tracking all day, I’d go out at night or roll around the city just bar hopping and just chillin’ out and I’d end up at this one bar, Brews, till about six or seven in the morning just drinking, but on the jukebox they had The Stones, they had Neil Young, they had The band, they had Crowded House, obviously The Eagles, Elton John, Bad Company, The Allman Brothers, everything we’ve been talking about…I think Sam Cooke too, Percy Sledge and stuff like that. We would just be drinking all night, listening to ass-kickin’ tunes, then I’d crawl back to the hotel room and then I’d pick up my acoustic and start being inspired after listening to all the ass-kickin’ stuff like that all night.
So, I would just start writing songs that were in that vein because that’s what you get inspired by. I mean, that’s how the first album came about, so my love for that music is still there. That’s what the common denomination is between the two records.
Were these songs brand new or were they left over BLS songs?
No, they’re pretty much all brand new stuff. There’s a ton of stuff we have in there right now that can be used on the next Black Label album or whatever. I think there ended up being 40 actual drum tracks of different song ideas. When I write, I don’t write the verse and just record that. Like “Autumn Changes,” I write it from the beginning to the end and then I go, “Alright, let’s track this thing.” I never write in pieces. When I get up to this part, I gotta figure out what I’m gonna do here. It’s usually when I’m sitting down like with “Mama, I’m Comin’ Home,” I had all the music from beginning to end, and Ozzy was just like, “Zakk, play that for me again.” And actually, that was me and Ozzy. We wrote that song on a piano and then changed it over to guitar. But the music is always written all the way through with me.
So, are your BLS guys performing on this record or are you helping our unemployment rate by hiring out-of-work musicians?
(Laughs) Out-of-work musicians? (Laughs) You mean most of my friends? (Laughs) No, I used my Black Label brothers. It’s JD [DeServio]. We’re like the Glimmer Twins over here. I mean I’ve known JD since we were 17 years old, but JD’s my right-hand guy. He’s godfather to our youngest son, Sabbath Page, but JD’s there when we’re mixing the record and the whole nine yards. Him and Adam [Klumpp] end up doing the mix and I’ll come up there and taste test the soup. It’s like putting my guitar up is like adding a little bit more cilantro and a little more Tabasco.
So, we got it worked out and that’s how we mix all the records and everything like that now, so then it’s all done. So yeah, JD played the bass and mixing, and then obviously, Jeff Fabb, “The Fabbulous Moolah,” did the drums.
Speaking of other outlets outside of BLS, you’re currently on the road with Experience Hendrix, but then you hit the road with Generation Axe featuring Steve Vai, Yngwie, Nuno and Tosin Abasi. It sounds to me you’re having a lot of fun with your guitar playing peers. Who are you most excited to jam with?
Well, I’m pretty much friends with all the guys. I just got done doing a thing with Yngwie and I’ve always got along great with Yngwie. So, I’ve known Yngwie for a bit. And obviously, there’s Steve, and I’ve known Nuno for a while as well. It will be my first time meeting Tosin, and he’s ridiculously phenomenal, so it will be fun watching him jam every night too. I mean, it’s a good time because they’re all your buddies and plus you’ll get to hear them blow the stage apart every night anyway, so it’s a good time.
So, once you’re done with Experience Hendrix and Generation Axe, will you be heading out on the road to promote the solo CD?
Yeah, it will be the band. We start sometime in May over in Europe with the London Chapter the first show.
Oh, so it will be as BLS or Zakk Wylde?
No, it will be Zakk Wylde, but it will be the fellas. We’ll all be rollin’ together and everything like that. But I think everything that we’re going to play is from the two records because now we have enough material there we can just do both records.
Is there a new Black Label Society CD in our future?
Yeah, without a doubt! From now until about 2018, we’ll be touring behind Book Of Shadows II, which will be a fun break from doing the heavy stuff, so we’ll be itching to get in and start doing riffs again. So yeah, it will be fun going in fresh and making another Black Label record and doing riffs and stuff like that. Then we’ll be out again doing festivals in 2017 and all that stuff!
I was reading about your Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend of coffee. Where can I purchase some? I’ve already tasted Charlie Benante’s Benante Blend, I want to compare the two…
Well, you have to get the Odinforce, man! (Laughs) It’s funny, someone asked Charlie, “What’s the difference between your coffee and Zakk’s coffee?” and he goes, “My coffee’s better!” (Laughs) I go, “That’s just such Un-Catholic-ness by Father Charlie!” (Laughs) He goes, “I’m sick of that dumb Mick crap! How can my coffee not be better?!” (Laughs) I mean to me, it’s the flavor. It’s not so much that you have it so strong that you get all jittery and shit. It just tastes good. It doesn’t taste like watered down piss. It’s like, what am I drinking? It’s like this dark murky water where I can’t taste anything.
Now, I interviewed Dave “Snake” Sabo from Skid Row a few months ago, and I asked him who he’d like to collaborate with in the future, and he said one guy he’s never collaborated with, except for writing an excerpt for his book, was you. He also told me that you’re both very good friend, so how can we get this collaboration to happen?
Well, I’ll tell Dave, “All’s we have to do is get Sebastian to sing!” (Both of us burst out into uncontrollable laughter) That will further keep it as, “Never gonna happen!” (Laughs)
That was an amazing answer! I wasn’t even expecting it that quick!
Oh my God! Well, if you ever wanted to prevent me and Dave ever collaborating, we’ll just get Sebastian in the room as well! (Laughs) The best is with those guys, Rachel and Dave, I go to Rachel, “Man, now why don’t you just get Sebastian back in the band? I would go, me and Tim here, we’d manage you guys, we’d get Sebastian back in the band, you guys could be doing decent numbers and making decent money and having nice things again.” But with the two of them, especially Rachel, he’s like, “I’d rather live in a, not in a van, in a box down by the fuckin’ river!” (Laughs) [Reference to the old Chris Farley skit on SNL for those of you who don’t get that.] He prefers cardboard over a nice house! (Laughs)
Oh, my God! I mean, I’ve never been in a band like that where you’re like, “I can’t stand this motherfucker!” Even back when we were like 15 or 16, we were all drunk and hanging out with each other, doing keg parties, we’re going to see who can get a hold of Susan Anderson’s tits, but that’s what we did when we were 15 or 16 years old and we were having fun. And then when I started with Ozzy, I’m hangin’ with 40-year-old guys and I’m 20 years old at the time, they didn’t have time for my juvenile shit. So, I’ve never been in that situation.
And with Black Label, it’s like Animal House, especially in the early days with all the drinking! It really was like Animal House. Everyone was like a cartoon character. But we always said we were “drinkin’ like a fish and rollin’ like a tank!” So, we had no time to ever argue because we were too busy laughing our balls off!
Well, here’s another question about bandmates who hate each other…There’s been this hypothetical question that has been going on for many years and I’m sure you know what I’m going to ask, but the hypothetical is if Phil Anselmo and Vinnie Paul ever made up and they grabbed my buddy Rex Brown for a Pantera reunion, your name always comes up to fill in and play for Dime knowing how close the two of you were. Would you do it?
Yeah, well, whenever anybody ever asks me and they say, “Well, it’s not a Pantera reunion!” I tell them it’s a celebration of Pantera. Just kind of like how we’re doing this Experience Hendrix. It’s a celebration of his legacy and his greatness. I mean, every night when I was playing Randy Rhoads stuff with Ozzy, you’re celebrating Randy’s life and greatness. I said that’s the same difference.
What if Eric Clapton was asked to sing Jimi Hendrix’s stuff and honor him, say back in 1972? Of course Eric Clapton would have done it because he was buddies with Jimi and would have said, “Yeah, of course, I’d be honored.” And no one would be thinking it was a Jimi Hendrix reunion, you fuckin’ idiots! (Laughs)
I support all the Pantera guys and if they ever get around to it and they become friends again, I support them, I’m always here and I’m a phone call away. Of course, I would learn all of Dime’s parts and do the best job I can playing them. He’d be watching every night and when I’d fuck up, he’d be gigglin’!
One last question before I let you go. How can I get knocked out by Zakk Wylde in a Facebook video? Those videos are the best!
(Laughs) Dude! They’re so epic! I think the Adele one got like 10 million hits and then the other one where JD knocks me out again and starts singing after, that one got another five million. It’s just so ridiculous. (Laughs)
Book Of Shadows II comes out April 8 via eOne Music. Catch Zakk Wylde on the Experience Hendrix Tour on March 18 at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, March 19 at The Borgata Event Center in Atlantic City, and March 22 at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. The Generation Axe tour stops on May 5 at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby and on May 6 the NYCB Theatre At Westbury. For more info on Zakk Wylde, visit ZakkWylde.com.