BLACK LABEL SOCIETY – No Strings Attached

September 23, 2013, a year ago

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By Aaron Small March 6th, 2013 - BLACK LABEL SOCIETY descended upon Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California for a unique, stripped-down show. Don’t worry; ZAKK WYLDE remained fully clothed throughout the performance. On September 24th, that once in a lifetime event will be unleashed upon the masses, courtesy of eOne and Eagle Rock. “Yes, and my wife was very lucky she experienced it that night,” laughs Zakk. “It was a good time man. It came about ‘cause Eagle (Rock Entertainment) wanted to do another DVD. So I said, instead of doing the heavy stuff again that we did with Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned (in 2003) and with Doom Troopin’ (in 2006), the Black Label Berzerker Nation is always asking if we’re going to do one with just the mellow stuff. Cause usually we wheel the piano out and do Dime’s song (‘In This River’) and ‘Spoke In The Wheel’ or ‘Darkest Days’. So let’s just do a whole show – ‘cause a lot of these songs, the mellower tunes, never see the light of day. Your set’s an hour and twenty minutes long, now that we have nine records out… I don’t want to turn it into a SPRINGSTEEN set where it’s two hours – everyone can go do some more steroids, get a massage, another adult beverage – and then come back and listen to the rest of the show.”
Zakk switched it up a little bit for Unblackened. Normally BLS is a quartet, yet the group was expanded to a six-piece with the addition of keyboardist Derek Sherinian, whose albums Zakk has guested on, and backing vocalist Greg Locascio. “Yeah, Greg’s the singer in (bassist) JD’s band CYCLE OF PAIN. They’re both friends, brothers; that was a no-brainer. We wanted to get someone to sing – JD, ask Greg if he wants to double my vocals and do harmonies. It worked out great! We were supposed to have strings originally. I did the strings for about 29 songs with the cello, viola, and violin; wrote a whole bunch of parts for all the stuff. But when we got the guys in to do it… it was a four-piece string section. It was a fucking train wreck of fucking Hindenberg, Titanic-esque proportions. It was such shit! The guys were like, ‘we’ll stay an extra couple hours if you want.’ Couple hours? We need a couple months to make this shit sound right. Forget about it! They really wanted to do it, but I said they’re not doing it. There’s not enough fucking time to make this thing work. So that’s why Father Sherinian – between the Mellotron and the Hammond, he just made it happen.” Why wasn’t this toured across North America? “Well the DVD will establish the Unblackened thing, but in September we’re going in to make the next Black Label album. We could literally tour for three years straight, just doing a normal tour, and then come back around with the Unblackened thing. Not that it would be the exact same set, but you know what you’re going to see. The tunes you usually don’t hear and mellower versions of the songs. It’s not going to be the big full-blown wall of Marshalls with the steel curtain; the whole nine yards with the pyro, the explosions, strippers, ice sculptures… all that stuff.”
Unblackened will be issued in multiple formats: DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital, and CD. The CD is a double disc containing six bonus tracks, of which two are cover songs. ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’, originally done by BILL WITHERS, was issued prior to street date. Truth be told, Zakk’s version is better than the original; it’s so full of emotion. “Let’s not go too far here ‘cause Bill Withers is the man! But is it going to help you get laid tonight? That’s all I’m concerned about. If it does, it’s done its job.” The other cover tune is LEON RUSSELL’s ‘Song For You’. “Yes. Actually the first time I heard that song was RAY CHARLES’ version; I saw it on VH1 Classic. It’s just an amazing song! I learned it on the piano and we’d be jamming it, especially during the drinking days (Zakk is now sober). Everybody’d get hammered and there’d be a piano in the bar where we were all getting plastered, and I’d always end up playing ‘Song For You’. So that was a no-brainer.” Unblackened consists of 17 songs performed live, plus the six bonus tracks on CD, which equals more than two hours of music. “The reason why there’s so much material… if at least the first 14 songs don’t get you violently ill, the rest of them will.” Sarcastic humour aside, despite playing guitar on eight OZZY OSBOURNE albums (five studio and three live), Zakk chose not to include any of those iconic songs on Unblackened; ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ would have been a perfect fit. “Without a doubt,” agrees Wylde. “Me and Nick (Catanese, guitarist) years ago on the Book Of Shadows tour ended up doing ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’. I didn’t even think to do it. But like you said, I’ve always done mellow stuff with The Boss (Ozzy)… ‘Time After Time’, a bunch of stuff like that.”
Speaking of The Boss, Ozzy has reunited with guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler in BLACK SABBATH. This past June they released 13, their first studio album together since 1978’s Never Say Die! “It’s slamming! I’m really happy for the guys. What they created and how awesome they are… the album went #1 in 50 countries and various planets in the galaxy; it hit dimensions we don’t even know about. So that was cool. We saw them at The PNC Arts Center (in New Jersey) and it was packed!” Does original drummer Bill Ward’s absence taint it for you at all? “Well no, because I know Bill through hanging out with Ozzy, and I played on his record (Ward One: Along The Way). Obviously it’s a shame for all the guys, but that’s between them. I can’t say anything. I’m friends with Father Tommy (Clufetos) on the drums; he’s amazing, I’ve jammed with him in Ozzy. He’s awesome, a good dude. It’s the same thing, Tommy says, ‘I ain’t saying nothing, I’m gonna throw down and then I’ll go home.’ But it sounded awesome, killer.” Just recently, the Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend of Coffee, forged from the volcanic soils of Indonesia and nutrient rich soils of Central and South America, with maximum flavour and caffeine content, was launched. “Yes, and your wife will enjoy this thoroughly because there’s Viagara and Cialis blended into it, with horse and bull testosterone also mixed in. She will be thoroughly impressed.” It’s available to order online from BlackLabelSociety.com, but sadly it cannot be shipped outside the US because of customs regulations. Will it be available in grocery stores? “Well that’s the game plan. Otherwise we’ll just book Carnival Cruise Lines so people in various parts of the world can come to America and purchase the Odinforce blend.” Was this a long and involved process, coming up with the Odinforce blend? Did you try 20 different blends before deciding to put your name on this specific one? “Yeah, if it tastes like prison ass I don’t feel like drinking the stuff. Just like with all the gear I endorse, we’ll keep making it until we get it right. What’s the point in putting your name on something if you don’t drink it? We got Valhalla Java Odinforce Blend, if you have any asshole friends come over to the house, give ‘em the Odinforce; we’ll be drinking the Folgers over here. No, this stuff’s good.”
Also newly issued are the replica mini guitars of doom – 10 ¼ by 3 ½ inches each. “JD needs a guitar,” jokes Zakk. Countless unauthorized imitations are available in rock souvenir shops worldwide and online, it’s great to finally have the real deal. “That’s the whole thing. Why don’t we just make them? That’s how that came about. I’m not going to track these guys down who make them, so let’s just make them official.” But limiting each model to 100 pieces causes them to sell out almost instantly. Why not a larger run? “Who knows down the line? But we plan on doing a run of each one of my fiddles. The next one will be the shattered glass guitar, after that will be The Rebel, then the Orange Buzzsaw; all the guitars I’ve used throughout the years… the Redwood Bullseye from the ‘No More Tears’ video. We’ll make all of them down to the current guitars I use now. The guys that are making the guitars; it’s hysterical. They come out and I say, no, the fretboard’s got to be black. They’ll come back the next day and it’s exactly the way the guitar really is.” Zakk has personally signed and numbered the back of each mini guitar. “Yep, then off they go.” Safely secured in their own cardboard road case. “Yeah, I took a picture of the road cases and said; you’ve got to make it like this. It’s like a real road case man. Definitely beyond goofy, it’s perfect.”
As far as the new, as yet untitled Black Label Society album goes, “I’ve got eight riff and song ideas started. I’ve just been noodling around. I’ll come up with ten or twelve solid things, then we’ll go in the studio and knock it the hell out. Usually when you get in the studio, you start writing more stuff too. You whittle it down to the ones you like, and off we go.” Can we expect a first or second quarter 2014 release? “Yeah, hopefully; sometime in April would be great. Then start the next Black Label Crusade of Doom.”

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