[photo by Alex Kluft]
After wrapping up an incredibly busy year touring the world with Zakk Sabbath, the Experience Hendrix Tour and his former “boss” Ozzy Osbourne, guitar legend Zakk Wylde is currently enjoying some well-deserved peace and quiet with his wife Barbaranne before hitting the road all over again on his Noise Presents Black Label Society tour.
See, when Wylde is offstage and his iconic striped guitars are unplugged, the six-string soloist is a lot like us. “I’d rather just sit on the couch,” he tells us jokingly looking into the New Year. Being that 2017 was such an active year for the hard rock icon and because his 2018 is looking to be just as busy with a new Black Label Society record on the way, Noise contributor Jimmy Smith reached out to Wylde to recap the year that was and see what the long-haired, fun-loving guitarist/vocalist anticipates moving into January.
To check out Jimmy’s interview with Wylde chalk full of laughs, stories about the Ozz Man and insight into how the Book Of Shadows penman has been able to maintain his success for 30-plus years, be sure to see below. Afterwards, make sure to pick up tickets to see Black Label Society out on tour with Corrosion Of Conformity and pre-order their forthcoming album Grimmest Hits before it hits stores January 12th.
This may or may not be the hardest question I ask you today: What was your favorite album of 2017?
Well, the most recent record I just got was Robert Plant’s new album, Carry Fire.
What’d you think about it?
I think it’s slammin’! I’m a big fan. I also like that other band he played in, Led Zeppelin. I think they’re good too [laughs].
[Laughs] Yeah, I think some people might have heard of them.
Yeah, his side project. I also enjoy his “side project,” Led Zeppelin [laughs].
So, what about your favorite movie of 2017?
Probably, Get Out. I thought that was really good. The actual plot and the whole thing — I was like this is kinda new. This is pretty cool. So that was fresh and done really well.
Favorite TV show of the year?
It’s gotta be either Curb [Your Enthusiasm] or Seinfeld. Whatever’s on of the two, those are great. Or just old Star Trek – original Star Trek.
Are you enjoying the new Curb season so far?
Without a doubt. What’s not to like about it? It just keeps getting sillier and sillier [laughs].
Yeah, it’s awesome Larry David’s back doing that stuff again. Your favorite song of 2017?
Uh… Favorite song of 2017? So far, um, I wanna say… of this year?
*Barbaranne Wylde in the background*: “Room of Nightmares!”
Oh! It’d have to be “Room of Nightmares!” Yeah, what am I thinking?!
That’s a very good pick. And that may or may not lead to our next question of your favorite music video of 2017.
Well of course! I wouldn’t actually call it a music video [though]. That was more a documentary about us playing a children’s birthday party. Ozzy was asking me, “Zakk, is this real?” [And I said] “No, you know what? It’s all too real, Oz. It’s a sad fact that the music business is what it is and we gotta play 11-year-old’s birthday parties, circumcisions, proms and weddings.” So it is what it is. But you know what? At the end of the day, a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks [laughs].
So that video was pretty fun to shoot, I imagine?
Yeah, without a doubt. It was awesome. It was just beyond silly and the kids had a lot of fun, so it was a good time.
What was your favorite Internet moment of the year? It could be your favorite viral video, meme or gif.
Well, the new ones I got up on my Instagram and all my social media right now. The day I worked at Generation Records is pretty good right now.
I saw that one. That one was pretty funny. Do you have a lot of time on your hands to put those things together?
Well of course, I look in the mirror and I go: I have no friends and no one wants to hang out with me. [laughs] I might as well come up with something.
[Laughs] Well that’s interesting. When you talk to other bands who don’t have much of an online presence, do you look at them and get confused? Like, as if they don’t realize the audience they can reach with their social media platform?
Well I mean that’s why I always tell kids, you know, younger musicians [who ask] “You got any advice?” or their parents go, “Hey Zakk, you got any advice for my son or daughter? They want to play music.” The interesting thing is, back before I got the gig with The Boss [Ozzy Osbourne], me, you and the band were trying to get— you know, the big thing was to get a record deal blah, blah, blah. But the whole thing back then was, if you didn’t get signed by the time were 30-years-old, it’s kinda like the dream’s over [and] I guess it’s time to get a horrendous job for the rest of our lives. Whereas nowadays, the cool thing about [social media] is, if nobody signs me and you, it’s like, “Dude, we’ll just do it ourselves. To hell with it, we’ll just do it ourselves.”
Just like us starting our own burger joint. I mean, it’s just like we’ll get a hot dog cart and we’ll start from there. And we’ll do it ourselves, you know what I mean? We’ll go door-to-door and we’ll build this thing. So I mean that’s really kinda the cool thing about [social media] because you can actually be your own boss. It doesn’t matter what level the band is on because I remember telling Oz, I go, “Oz, think about it. Back in the day, if this was 1969, 1970 and you guys are in England, me and Jimmy could be living in Seattle, New Jersey, Boston or whatever. And we’re like ‘Dude, check out this band. It’s Black Sabbath. They’re from England.’” You know what I mean? It’s just really cool. I’m saying, “Oz, if no radio stations are playing Black Sabbath or anything, you’re reaching everybody on social media. You don’t even need them.” You don’t have to kiss anybody’s ass to get anything. It’s just like I don’t need any favors from you. Me and Jimmy will just do it ourselves. We’ll post it up on social media. We’ll make our own records, we’ll take them out and then we’ll get the packaging done and we’ll go door-to-door and we’ll sell it at our shows. So [with social media] you’re completely hands on. I mean it really is like me and you bought the building. Me and you make the coffee. Me and you make the donuts. Me and you box them up and ship them out. So that really is the cool thing about it. I’ve seen so many younger bands do it. Without a doubt, if I was eighteen years old again, me and you would be doing that. We’d have our band, we’d have our U-Haul and we’d be going door-to-door to make sure me and you don’t have to have a crummy job the rest of our lives. I mean like, literally, make the band your job. It really is the truth.
I think that’s great because I feel there are some metal bands that don’t even know how to log into Facebook. They’d rather just play music. But in today’s world you have to have that avenue to keep building your audience otherwise people may or may not just forget about you.
But I mean like I said, you’re either up for doing it, or I mean, put it this way: If me and you owned the New York Yankees, I would want me and you being involved with everything – aside of the drafts, the trades, the free agency. And then, me and you own it but we have all our buddies that we hire who are working that are really good at whatever. I’m saying, like, me and you every day [have] the grocery list of domination that is kinda like talking about how we’re going to make the stadium basically a year-round mall, year-round shop. And so when it’s not baseball season, we got concerts going on, we got shopping going on, we got restaurants in the stadium, we’ll have apartments in the stadium. I’m just saying: So it’s a completely living, functioning thing. It’s not just cause it’s baseball. I mean obviously me and you want the Yankees to win every year, that’s the whole thing. That’s priority number one. [However], me and you are involved with everything – making transportation to the stadium better, making it easier, making it safer — just improving constantly every day. Me and you are sitting going, “Oh dude, it’d be cool if we put a movie theater in it” and yadda yadda yadda. And it’s like yeah, we’ll do that.
So I mean, I always tell kids, “If you’re not practicing [music], you’re not writing songs, then you should be either doing your artwork or dialing in the merch.” I mean you should have a hand in everything. You should never be going, “I can’t believe we made a million dollars and me and Jimmy only have $8.15 in our bank account.” I mean that’s nobody’s fault but us. It really is, you know what I mean? At the end of the day, if we owned a bar and each beer was a dollar and we noticed that a hundred beers were sold [then] me and you check the cash register at the end of the night and we go, “There’s only eighty bucks in here man. We’re twenty—there were a hundred beers sold and they were a buck each. We have eighty bucks in here— who’s pocketing cash around here? We’re missing money.” Then we just shake everybody down, hang them off the building and then we get our money back.
[Laughs] That’s interesting because obviously that business savviness can be seen in everything you have going on other than your music (Wylde Audio, Valhalla Java, etc.). When you started, did you always have that business mindset or did you kind of grow into that throughout your career?
I pretty much grew into it. When I was younger giving guitar lessons, I would keep up with everybody and just say “Hey, just a reminder, Jimmy - tomorrow we got the lesson at five or whatever” and you’re like “Yeah, alright” or be like “Hey Zakk, can we do it the day after because I can’t do whatever.” So I’d be up on that. But you know, between mowing lawns and everything going door-to-door, saving up money to get a guitar, an amp, petals, whatever. So, I mean, the working aspect I’ve always—you always realize that if you want something nice, if you want a guitar, if you want something, you gotta work for it. You gotta start mowing lawns and that’s that. So shoveling snow, whatever it is you gotta do before you get a job. But, no, like I said, it’s not for everybody, but I love doing it.
Going back to the best of 2017, what was your favorite onstage moment of the year?
Hmmm… it would have to be “Room of Nightmares”! – playing for a bunch of eleven-year-olds!
[Laughs] That’s good! I mean you could’ve picked playing Ozzfest, but I’m sure doing that music video was pretty memorable.
Yeah, I mean obviously Ozzfest was great and playing with The Boss again is always a laugh fest. Just being around Oz for five minutes, you’ll be on the floor crying laughing. It doesn’t matter how depressed you are, all you gotta do is hang around him for five minutes. It’s like being with Larry David [laughs].
I feel like it should be a goal of yours to get Larry David and Ozzy Osbourne in the same room.
[Laughs] Ozzy is the Larry David of metal!
[Laughs] That’s great! Next is… your New Year’s resolution?
I never make any New Year’s resolutions. I just plan on being as lazy and depressed as possible. Why be happy and get off the couch? You know what I mean, why?
You could get off that couch to go do a tour next year. That could be a good reason.
Yeah, I just stay horrendous. But then you gotta put work in. Yeah, that’s work. I’d rather just sit on the couch [laughs]. I’m not bothering anybody.
Let’s go into next year then. Obviously exciting stuff – the tour, the album. What’s the thing you’re most excited about releasing the record?
Well obviously it’s Grimmest Hits, not greatest hits. So the thing I’m most excited about is there are no expectations. It’s not like “Oh, let’s listen to these hit songs.” It’s just like, “No, they’re not hit songs. Don’t worry about it. You won’t find any hits.” That’s quite the relief and it’s not a burden on my back [laughs]. But between that, obviously just getting back together with the fellas and rollin’ – cause you know we’ve been doing the Zakk Sabbath thing for a bit and that’s been a blast rolling with Blasko and Father Joe and the rest of the Doom Crew. I think the last show we did on the Book of Shadows tour was well over year ago now, like a year and four or five months ago. We played with Guns ‘n’ Roses in Arizona. So we’ve just been, I mean we did the record and stuff like that, but I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of my Black Label brethren and us going and seeing how the choreography works out and the dance steps.
When you named the album Grimmest Hits, did you think people may have thought you guys were just putting out a greatest hits album?
I had no concern for that at all. Because somebody did ask me, “Zakk, do you think they’ll get it messed up with a greatest hits?” and I go, “No. Why would they get it mixed up?” “Why are you so relaxed about it?” “Well first off, in order to have a greatest hits record, you need one important ingredient: hits. And we don’t have that yet.” [Laughs] So there you go. That’ll just de-confuse the whole idea. And when they hear Grimmest Hits, they’ll go, “Actually, you know what? These songs aren’t as grim as I thought they’d be.” So that’s a win right there.
So pretty much once the album comes out, the confusion will be cleared up?
Yeah, because they’re gonna listen to it and say, “There are no hit songs on this record.” [laughs]
What’s the thing you’re most looking forward to about this tour? I know you touched on it a little, but getting back and doing Black Label stuff for the first time in a while, you’re obviously going out with such a great package. Is it interesting to think about doing your own stuff again and not playing Black Sabbath or Ozzy songs but all your own songs again?
To me, I wouldn’t change my situation for anything. I always said playing with The Boss is like playing in the coolest cover band ever. And you get to play your own songs too. And then when we’re doing Zakk Sabbath, it’s like me and you doing Sabbath when we were sixteen years old playing keg parties in people’s kitchens and like I said, circumcisions and eleven-year-old parties. Now, I’m fifty years old and I’m still playing Black Sabbath songs [and] that’s just awesome. It’s an awesome reason to get together and jam. That’s a lot of fun. Then obviously, playing with the fellas. I really am truly blessed. I couldn’t ask for a cooler situation. Like you said, each one of them is awesome. I love rolling with The Boss. I love rolling with Blasko and Father Joe. Then I love rolling with the rest of my Black Label brethren and the Doom Crew. I wouldn’t change my situation for anything. I thank the good Lord when I wake up, that’s always important. Because when you wake up, you think, “OK, I’m breathing and this is very good.” And then in the middle of the day, and then before bed. Then when you wake up in the middle of the night for a midnight snack, I thank him then too. I’m truly blessed, man.
When you’re doing Black Label tours, do you feel like things are more on your shoulders versus when you’re doing other things? Or is it just another show for you?
No. To me, it’s just the love of music. The cool thing about it is that it helps keep a marriage fresh. Bottom line is like, if I’m just doing Black Label all the time, Barbaranne would just go, “Whatever, it’s just Black Label Society.” Then when I’m playing with Ozzy, she’s like “Oh my god! You’re the guitarist in Ozzy Osborne?” And she’s like really into me. Then all of a sudden, if I’m not playing with Oz and that kinda gets old, she’s like, “Oh my god! I love Black Sabbath! You’re in that Zakk Sabbath band?” It really works out good, man [laughs]. People ask me how you keep a successful marriage? That’s one way. Being in a couple different bands [laughs].
[Laughs] Just keep it exciting at all times. Switch it up.
Without a doubt. Because the energy and excitement start wearing off, you know what I mean? Me and you just start doing the other bands and our girlfriends are like “Oh my god, they’re sooo hot!” Because then they’ll go like this and they’ll actually say, “Well we haven’t slept with these guys yet!”
[Laughs] That’s amazing advice! As a newlywed, I’ll definitely keep that in mind.
The marital pitch from Uncle Zakk.
We talked a bit about the business stuff you have going on. Are there any business endeavors in the New Year you’re looking forward to starting?
Yeah, obviously we’ve got Wyld Audio expanding. We got the electrics obviously that we’re going to start working on. The amps and the acoustics are next. And we’ve got strings in the works right now. So just a bunch of new, some new fresh Krispy Kreme donuts about to leave – some Black Label Country Donuts o’ Doom over there. So I’m definitely looking forward to that.
As a fellow bearded guy: Have you ever had the idea to pursue a beard oil? Maybe it could be a beard and hair, like, Mane and Tail type thing?
Well, I eat a lot of protein. So it’s a lot of eggs and chicken and stuff like that. And fish and lean beef. So I’m sure the beard stuff would be made out of that because most of the time I leave my food in my beard because you never know when you might get hungry for a snack later on [Laughs]. You and me could be hanging around and I’m like “Jim, you hungry?” “Zakk, I got a chicken sandwich hanging out of my beard, I’ll be fine.”