ZAKK WYLDE Back In The Shadows – “There’s A Difference Between Good Loud And Painful Loud”
April 8, 2016, 2 years ago
I wrote this up listening to Pride & Glory loud, and man, love that album but it got me thinking just how cool Zakkworld is in all its dimensions, and how, seriously, one could take a couple weeks and listen to nothing but Black Label and be renewed and reinvigorated for it, like coming back from a physical exercise vacation. But then there’s the other side of Zakk, the acoustic, with the Jersey Viking surprising everybody and becoming a pretty notable acoustic rock artist, making logical the crafting and release of Book of Shadows II, out as you read this on Entertainment One Music.
The motivations to make the record are pretty much the same as 20 years ago, when Book of Shadows was issued... when? A bad time for metal and a good time for Sap and Jar of Flies. Forgetting what was happening in rock in the middle of the ‘90s, let’s bear in mind that this was before there ever was a Black Label Society—in effect, the damn thing was the follow-up to Pride & Glory, so, in essence, Pride & Glory unplugged.
Eschewing all this time-travel about ‘er, Zakk figures at the core, “It’s just my love for all the music in that style and genre, whether it’s the Stones doing ‘Wild Horses,’ Van Morrison, Allmans doing the mellow stuff, Elton John, The Band, Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s mellow stuff, The Eagles, Zeppelin. So I mean, it’s my love for all that. That’s a constant from the first album to this one, is my love for that kind of music. Percy Sledge and Sam Cooke and everything—I listen to all that stuff.”
And lyrically? “Well, there’s 20 years of living, and things that you don’t do and you don’t got. You look back on certain things and you go, oh my God, I can’t believe... you know, like looking back in high school, I can’t believe I was that unbalanced. Susan Anderson broke up with me. You think back and you go, you fucking idiot. Things that were important to you, we look back on it now, you go, yeah, whatever. It’s just like water to a duck now. But no, there are more things to write about, things that have happened to you, and things that you’ve seen, situations that inspire you. I read biographies and stuff and it just inspires you to say something about a certain situation. So as far as the lyrics go, they come from a lot of places, man. But I mean, to me, I always feel like the lyrics have to have depth and weight. Still, the constant that remains, the line between both albums, is my love of that style of music. I still love doing the same stuff I loved doing 20 years ago. And that’s just playing and playing live and recording, the whole process. Yeah, I still love it. It’s just different songs, newer songs. I look forward to it every day. We’ll be touring behind this one, and then after that, we’ll be itching to do the heavy stuff again.”
The funny thing is Zakk comes to light music honestly. In other words, he didn’t “mature” into this music from a misspent youth as an angry metalhead.
“No, I was never like that. I was like... my first introduction to music was Elton John. So I always liked the mellow stuff. You know, and then I found Sabbath and Zeppelin and everything like that. So no, I was never… Good music is good music, man. I don’t care what style it is. I guarantee any of my friends that love black metal and death metal, they’ll tell you what the good black metal and death metal bands are. They’ll tell you the same thing, whether it’s jazz or whether it’s R&B; they’ll say this is the shit, and this is terrible. Actually, I started on piano, then went over to electric guitar. You had ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and all that stuff, but I was just like, I want to learn how to play Elton John songs. This isn’t helping me (laughs). Or, Neil Young songs. So it’s just a matter of that. But I’m pretty much just self-taught. It was so I could play songs. It wasn’t that I was seriously dedicated to the piano or something like that. I got serious about guitar when I was about 13 years old, right around first year high school. That’s when I decided this is what I want to do with my life.”
In terms of window dressing-type advancements over and above the first Book of Shadows record, Zakk says, “I guess in this one, compared to the last one, I’m playing the Hammond organ on this one. But I mean, on a lot of those ‘70s records with the bands that we’re talking about, Hammond was huge on those albums. But nothing out of the norm. I mean, it’s just, once again, pick up an acoustic guitar and get inspired and start writing stuff. And I’m like, ‘What was that you were playing?’ ‘Oh, I just wrote it this morning.’ ‘Oh, let’s record that one.’ So it’s just a matter of that. I mean, you can be riding up to the store, making a coffee run, and then ‘Heart of Gold’ comes on and you say, oh, it would be cool if we had something like this. And then we get into the Vatican, and you pick up an acoustic and you start writing something like that, or you come up with something really different. But it’s the spark that you hear in ‘Wild Horses’ or ‘Heart of Gold,’ you know what I mean?”
And in that spirit, it’s pretty much all new, although one gets the idea there are always unused ideas hanging around the Black Vatican.
“Actually nothing, really. The whole thing is, usually when I write, if I have something, I usually write it from beginning to end. Whenever I’m writing anything. But in regard to that, I’ll have songs lying around for years. But most of the time, I just realize, oh, I’m going to be working on a new album in a month from now, I just start digging, like digging for diamonds in this two-mile radius. We know they’re out here, but today we’ll dig over here and hopefully we’ll find something. If we don’t find any, we’ll dig over there tomorrow. It’s just a matter of that. That’s the way I look at it. So you just start writing. Like, ‘Martin, you got anything today?’ ‘Actually, I wrote two songs today.’ ‘Oh, awesome.’ Tomorrow, you might not have anything you really like. So the next day, you’re like, ‘Oh, dude, I got another one.’ ‘Oh, cool.’ It’s just a matter of that.”
And you’ll be hearing these songs soon on tour, Zakk gone acoustic, quite the experience, due to... well, the hair-whitening that takes place hearing him solo on the acoustic.
“Yeah, I mean, the acoustic stuff, when we do the seated stuff, I remember, I was going to play electric guitar on some of the solos, and I had an acoustic, and I stepped on the pedals, and I was like, wow, this is slammin’ just like this. So I mean, that’s how that all came about, where I’m actually doing the solos on the acoustic guitar, with the distortion and everything like that. But yeah, we’ll be reproducing the new album, and we’ve got Book of Shadows, the first one, and so we’re sort of touring behind both of them.”
Given what has recently happened to Brian Johnson, I’ve been asking rockers lately about how they’ve managed to keep their own set of ears working.
“Well, I mean, for Brian, I feel terrible for him,” answers Wylde. “But it’s just like... but you saw what he said now. He felt his eardrums burst when he was in a race car, you know? Because he didn’t have his plugs in. He said it was never because of the live stuff that he was doing. And the Pete Townsend stuff that I’ve ever read on Pete, Pete always said that it’s because he had the headphones on and he had the volume cranked when they were making the records, more than the live stuff. So no, I’ve never had my cabinets where it’s just blasting straight at my ear and directional. I think that’s… I never had music slamming me like that. I’m talking about playing where it’s just so frigging loud where you’re just turning your head. You know, ‘Oh my God, that seem to be loud.’ But like I said, Brian said he never had any hearing issues until he was doing this racing thing. So no, I don’t wear earplugs when we’re…… if it’s loud, I’ll put them in, without a doubt. If it’s like on stage silly loud, or I’m in a small room or something, I’ll put them in. But if I’m on a bigger stage, it doesn’t hurt me. I wear in-ears now, when I do Black Label gigs. But outside of that, I always make sure the monitors aren’t killing me. You don’t want it to that point. There’s a difference between good loud and painful loud.”
Final words? Any other projects going on, besides your Berserker hot sauce?
“Well, I’ve got Wylde Audio, my own guitar company and amp company and everything.”
And that takes up a lot of your time?
“Yeah, between that and changing diapers, cleaning the dog run, world peace, without a doubt my plate is slightly full, my brother. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, man. I enjoy it.”
And what’s the next Black Label gonna sound like?
“We’ll find out what side of the bed I wake up on that day.”