Guitar Talk: Hanging with Zakk Wylde at Ozzfest
Sure, Zakk Wylde is an incredibly talented guitar player, with the kind of soloing skills that would make any player envious.
But, he’s also a really nice, down-to-earth guy.
That’s something I learned back at Ozzfest 2010, when I had the chance to hang out with Wylde and Black Label Society on their tour bus.
At the time, I was scheduled to take photos of Wylde for an upcoming Guitar Edge feature. My friend Rebecca and I texted his tour manager, and since timing at the festival was a bit off that day, the manager welcomed us to wait up on Black Label Society’s tour bus for Wylde to return. Everyone in the band was very cool and professional, and we swapped various concert-going stories and chatted about how the tour was going thus far.
When Wylde got on the bus, he was extremely gracious and personable. Even with the schedule being off for the day and things not going as planned, he sat down with us and chatted at length about the band’s new album at the time, “Order of the Black,” and his continued appreciation for Ozzy. And, yes, we even got to hold his trademark Bullseye Les Paul.
As for songwriting advice, Wylde had this to offer to upcoming metallers: “It always starts with a riff. The riff will easily dictate the melody, because it just inspires you to start singing something.”
Here’s more from my interviews with Wylde over the years:
You recorded much of Black Label Society’s latest album, “Order of the Black,” at your new home studio, The Bunker. Tell me about the process.
Yeah, it’s awesome. When you think about it, with all the money you end up spending, it’s worth it. I remember telling Ozzy when he put up a studio, “Ozzy, can you imagine how much money you must have spent from the first Black Sabbath album until now on recording?”… With Pro Tools, people can record at their homes and actually put out album-quality stuff.
So many musicians look up to you. Flattering?
Well, my friends always said, “Zakk, stick around long enough, and they’ll have no choice but to actually like you.” [Laughs] I’m like, “Thanks, guys.” So, between all the moral support I get from my buddies, it’s a miracle I’m still playing. [Laughs]
What inspired your now-famous Bullseye design for the Les Paul?
Obviously, being a huge disciple of Rhoads, I had an alpine white Les Paul when I started out… when I joined Ozzy, between the blonde hair and the white Les Paul, I thought, “Oh, it feels like this is a Randy Rhoads tribute band!” [Laughs] And obviously Randy also had the polka-dots, and what I wanted originally was the Vertigo design for the Hitchcock movie, and my buddy Max, who built Slash’s original Gibson Appetite for Destruction guitar, he painted my guitar. I had a photo shoot, and I said, “Max, I want this spiral thing, and I’m doing a cover shoot for all these things, and can you get it done before Tuesday?” And when I opened the case, it was a bullseye. So I was like, that wasn’t what I wanted, but obviously I did the photo shoot with the guitar, and the rest is history.
What stands out to you about Gibson guitars?
It’s the history and the quality of the instrument, too. It’s an amazing instrument. It’s like a cheeseburger; it doesn’t go out of style, no matter what generation. Whether somebody picked a Les Paul up in ’58, that same guitar still works today. It doesn’t go in and out of fashion. And that’s because it’s a great instrument. It doesn’t matter what violin player is going to pick one of these up and whether it was made 10 years ago or 100 years from now. You pick up a Les Paul, and it’s always going to sound great. When you buy it, it’s an investment, and you’re never going to have to buy another guitar again.
Even though you’re devoted to Black Label Society now, are you still really close with Ozzy?
Absolutely. Without Ozzy, there’d be no Zakk Wylde. There’d be no Black Label. I wouldn’t have the Bunker studio. I wouldn’t have Black Label hot sauces or Black Label beer or Black Label beef jerky. I’ve got all these things flying around on the table, all because of Ozzy.