Zakk Wylde by Justin Reich

From the moment he became Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist in 1987 at just 19 to his current, high-octane work fronting Black Label Society, Wylde has been unstoppable with his Gibson arsenal.

Wylde plies a variety of Gibson models, from the Zakk Wylde Les Paul Bullseye to the Zakk Wylde Flying V Bullseye Floyd Rose to the brand new Zakk Wylde Moderne of Doom . We combed through the fierce lead guitarist’s archives to learn more about what makes him such a Gibson loyalist.

Check back next month for Gibson.com’s interview with Wylde regarding Black Label Society’s upcoming album, Catacombs of the Black Vatican, out April 8.

On his gear, as told to Gibson.com:

“I’m playing the Pauls and the ZV, and the Flying V and the double-neck for ‘The Blessed Hellride.’ Me and Nick [Catanese, former Black Label Society guitarist] both play double necks for that one in Black Label. It’s cool. And we have our signature Marshalls — JCM 800s. And we both go out of two of them each, and we both go out of two cabinets and we’re in quad sound. Nick uses Paul Reed Smiths, too, but I play the Gibsons. And then I have my pedals: chorus, distortion, Eddie Van Halen phase shifter, the Zakk wah, and the Roto-Vibe. Let’s put it this way: any 15 year-old kid could have my set-up.

“It amazes me when people say, ‘Hey check this new amp out, or this new rack gear. It sounds just like a vintage Marshall.’ Well, why not get a vintage Marshall? Nuthin’ sounds better than a Gibson plugged into a Marshall.

“And next time we get to Nashville I’m thinking about having Gibson design me a custom guitar that looks like a motorcycle joined with a Flying V. They did a great job on the ZV, putting together the horns of an SG with the wings of a Flying V and a Les Paul Custom neck on it. That thing slams.”

On the birth of the Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Vertigo , as told to Guitar World :

“When I first got to LA, I had that cream Les Paul, which is an amazing-sounding fiddle,” Wylde told Guitar World. “So I had the blond hair and the cream Les Paul -- and it was gonna look like a Randy Rhoads tribute band when I get up there with Ozzy. So I wanted to get something painted on it. Eddie Van Halen had the stripes and Randy had the polka dots.

“I saw the poster from Vertigo, the Alfred Hitchcock movie, and thought that would be … awesome. So I explained it to my buddy Max, who ended up doing Slash’s guitar, but when I went down there for the photo shoot, I opened up the case and saw the Bullseye logo. … I had drawn it on a piece of paper and everything, but it was too late anyway. So we did the photo shoot, and the rest is history.

“So then I saw the Vertigo logo again just recently, and I said, “You know, I’m just gonna get this … done.’ It came out cool. So there’s the Buzzsaw, the Bullseye and the Vertigo -- which is like a Bullseye, but 21st-century-style.”

Zakk Wylde by Anne Erickson

On what stands out to him about Gibsons, as told to Gibson.com:

“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.”

On whether he studied Randy Rhodes’ playing before auditioning for Ozzy, as told to Music Radar:

“Oh, totally. Without a doubt, I studied him. He had unbelievable technique and could do all the things on the guitar that are astounding. His scales, the diminished scales he used – unreal. But it was his writing and the way he composed his solos – I mean, his solos were songs within the songs… He was way ahead of what everybody else was doing.”

On his 2012 Gibson Les Paul Custom “Maple Vertigo,” as told to Guitar World:

“This is basically the 21st century version of the bull’s-eye. I used it a lot on the new record. It’s pretty rare to see a maple fretboard, and I had originally done a camo paint job, but then we changed it to the vertigo. It’s basically a maple top with a rosewood body, maple neck, and maple fretboard. It gives the tone these glassy highs and it’s just a great-sounding guitar. It’s loaded with an EMG 81 and an EMG 85. That’s what I started out on with the first Ozzy record and I’ve used them ever since.”

On what initially drew him to Gibson guitars, as told to Gibson.com:

“Being a kid, it’s the coveted grail. When see all your favorite players playing a Gibson Les Paul. Obviously, seeing Jimmy Page play one was a huge influence on me, and obviously Saint Rhoads – Randy. That was the thing: to try to get a Les Paul. I just love the body shape of it, the sound of it. To me, it’s a perfect guitar. Les Pauls, you have the custom guys and the standard guys. Like, Slash is strictly a standard guy. But other guys, like Randy and me, I just love the way a custom is, for the style of music that I do. But, I have a bunch of standards, as well. I think for that classic rock tone, it can’t be beat.”

Black and white photo credit: Justin Reich.

Color photo credit: Anne Erickson.