By Martin Popoff
ZAKK WYLDE and his doom-fuelled wrecking crew BLACK LABEL SOCIETY are no longer on a path to their own destruction, due to Zakk being told he better quit drinking or die tomorrow morning before his first beer and barbell. Ergo, there goes the bearded Viking, on tour forever, hilarious new bible of Black to his name, and a new “sensitive” DVD planned before he and his brothers try fashion together a follow up to the well-received and even better put-together Order Of The Black.
BraveWords.com went with Q&A form for this chat with Barbaranne’s lap dog, because, well, I guess main reason is because our jaw session was a long-overdue catch up on a bunch of rock ‘n’ roll things Zakk has stumbled into, even though he doesn’t exactly stumble into things any more.
BraveWords.com.com: Well, this is just to kinda catch up on a number of things you’re into these days. So I guess the first thing is, tell us about this Unblackened DVD situation.
Zakk: “The thing is that we got approached to do another DVD. So instead of doing another thing with the Walls of Doom up there, another heavy one, I was just like why don’t we do... ‘cause a lot of people are always asking, ‘Dude, you gonna do another Book Of Shadows, or another mellow thing?’ So the whole thing is when we did Song Does Not Remain The Same, it was almost like an appetizer type of thing towards us doing this thing right now, the mellow thing. So, obviously we’re going to have a whole four-piece string section; DEREK SHERINIAN is going to join us. He’s a Black Label brother. Derek’s gonna be playing mellotron, Wurlitzer, and Fender Rhodes piano stuff when I’m on guitar. Then obviously when I’m on piano, Derek will be doing other stuff. But we’ll have strings, background singers, my buddy Andy will be joining us on guitar. So it’ll be like me and Nick. Nick will be playing acoustic and Andy will be playing mandolin and I’m playing the electric doing a solo. So I mean, it’s still gonna be electric mixed in with the acoustic stuff, you know, pretty much like the records. So that’s what we plan on doing, and taking like some of the heavier tunes like we did on Song Does Not Remain The Same” and then put doin’ a twist on them, you know, doing a mellow version of it.”
BraveWords.com: Who are some of your favourite writers when it comes to the piano stuff? I know you’re big into the piano stuff, but who inspires you in terms of songwriting on the piano?
Zakk: “I mean, obviously ELTON JOHN! Still to this day I’m a HUGE ELTON JOHN guy. But also NEIL YOUNG, THE EAGLES, SKYNYRD, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS, you know GREGG ALLMAN with his solo records. I’ll listen to all that stuff like when I’m just chillin’ on the road and want to listen to mellow stuff. BOB SEGER, I love Bob. All the guys I just mentioned, I mean it’s just grade A’ quality stuff, you know what I mean?”
?BraveWords.com: Now where are you in the process for the next Black Label album proper? And where’s the writing going for the next batch of heavy songs?
Zakk: “Well, I mean obviously the way that always ends up poppin’ up is... I mean I could write, and write and write now until we do the next album, then as soon as we get in there we start writing. You know, it depends on what side of the bed I wake up that next day and what riffs are coming out. It’s the same thing with all our favourite bands, with LED ZEPPELIN or whatever. If they’re ready for ‘Black Dog’ they would’ve stuck it on the first album, but they weren’t there yet. And ‘Achilles Last Stand,’ they would’ve stuck that on Led Zeppelin II. you know what I mean? They weren’t there yet. That’s the great thing about writing. It depends on where you’re at or where you get inspired that day. That’s why I always say, all albums are pretty much just a snapshot in time. Where you were, what was goin’ on, and that’s where I was at when that happened.”
BraveWords.com: How has Nick (Catanese, rhythm guitarist) affected or contributed to the writing over the years? What kind of music does he tend towards versus you?
Zakk: “Well, Nick... I’m an older guy... Nick and JD (John DeServio, bassist) were huge KISS guys growing up. I was just a big Sabbath and Zeppelin guy. But me and them both love the Stones. I always call Nick Ronnie and I’m Keith, you know what I mean? But as far as the writing, I just write all the time. When we get in the studio, we just go!”
BraveWords.com: What is the sort of short story on the drummer musical chairs you’ve had in Black Label over the last while? I guess starting with the most important one, which would be Craig (Nunenmacher, drums). I mean, why did Craig go and what’s happened since then?
Zakk: “Well no, I mean the whole thing is the unique situation with Black Label. It really is just a gigantic brotherhood and it’s a gigantic family. The whole thing is that if anybody in the band gets opportunities to financially make more money with... you know, Craig gets an offer to go play with CELINE DION in Vegas for twelve months, it’s like, Craig you gotta take that gig! You can always come back here! (note, Zakk says this a lot; it’s just a supposin’ – it didn’t happen!). Or if I feel like leaving, I’m gonna go jam with some other guys. You know you can always come and go as you want. I mean Will (Hunt, drums), when he did the record he was like, ‘Oh Zakk, there’s a chance I might be going back to EVANESCENCE.’ And I said, ‘Dude, you’re more than welcome to make this your home until you gotta... if they call you back. Until then, this is your home away from home. So whatever you wanna do, man.’ So when Will did the record, then all of a sudden then Amy and the gang called him up and was like, ‘Man, Will, we want to have you come back,’ then Will was like, ‘Alright, well dude, let me help out.’ Then Will worked the process of helping us getting other drummers. John Kelly came in and saved the day when we went over to Europe, and John, when he was playing, he got offered some other stuff. He already had it on the table with DANZIG. He was like, ‘Zakk, I can go out for the two and a half months. I can knock that out for sure!’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’d be killer man!’ So, John came out and killed it. And he kept his commitments with Danzig AND he has a band of his own. And that’s the cool thing. I mean, all the guys that play in Black Label all have there own projects going on as well. That’s what’s so cool about the band. There is no arguments and hissy-fits. The qualifications are you gotta know how to play your instrument and you can’t be an asshole. So, ya know, if you can fill those requisitions... that’s why nobody in the band... there isn’t any arguments or pissing matches. We all dig hangin’ out, and we all have a good time.”
BraveWords.com: How has not drinking affected the career and your relations with the band? Like, have these other guys changed at all? Have they started behaving?
Zakk: “No, the whole thing is, no matter how banged-up we’re getting, we all roll together. If you wanna drink like a Navy Seal, then you gotta answer the bell like a Navy Seal. And like, when it was, ‘Oh, what was the writing like...’, I’m like, ‘Dude, I was NEVER blasted while I was writing tunes anyways!’ I mean, I never drank beer like a drinking contest anyways. If we started drinking early in the day, it was just like, we’re nursing beers and just chllin’ out and we’re writing and recording. But it wasn’t until the end of the night where we’d have friends come over, crank the playbacks, listen to the new stuff and this and that, ya know where we’d wanna get hammered. Then I’d be like, the hell with this, I ain’t driving anyway. I’d end up sleeping on the couch. I’d be like, ‘Dude, we’re gonna be back here in about six hours from now anyways, so I might as well just sleep on the couch.’ That’s how’d that would always go. I never was like blasted and, ‘Oh, what was that? What song’s that? ‘Stillborn’?’, or, ‘When did we write that? I don’t even remember writing that.’ No I never had that. I mean from writing ‘Miracle Man’ with the boss, to today. I remember everything that I was doing. So it was never a case of, ‘Oh dude, if I’m not drinking, how am I supposed to write?’”
BraveWords.com: And how about a little bit on your experience putting your Bringing Metal To The Children book together? Tell me about the mechanics of how your story, you know, ended up between two covers.
Zakk: “When ‘Eric (co-author Hendrikx) and me did the book it was just like... originally it just started off kind of like a guitar instructional thing meets, rock ‘n’ roll stories meets... I was like, ‘Eric, it’s two different books.’ If I’m gonna do the instructional book, I’ll save that for a whole ‘nother thing. I mean, I’ll really go to town, which I’m working on now anyways; I’m compiling this thing. I’ve been at it for a year and a half to two years now. It’s just gonna be the Zakk Wylde Black Label guitar bible. I mean that’s what I said; It’s a whole thing unto itself. I don’t wanna confuse it with us talking about goofy shit and everything. And then the one day we were just sitting there on New Years Eve, talking, going, ‘But what are we gonna do with the book? Where are we gonna start this thing?’ Then we started talking about the first story I had, you know, with the Ginger Lynn thing. Then we started talking about management and everything. Then it started with me going, ‘I’m a soldier of Christ and I believe in helping others and being kind to others, unlike my manager who’s into Satanism, selfishness and money-crunching.’ And like where I look at the crowd as a sea of berserkers and one gigantic Black Label family, my manager looks at it as a bunch of cash-crops with legs. Me and Eric were on the floor cryin’, laughing, writing this shit. That’s when it started turning into a GEORGE CARLIN book, and I go, ‘Eric, from the beginning to the end... THIS is the book!’ I go, ‘It’s gotta be George Carlin on steroids, from the beginning to the fuckin’ end!,’ and that’s how it just kept going from there.”
BraveWords.com: Now are you recording this and Eric has to go and transcribe it? Then you come back and edit? How does that work?
Zakk: “Eric would come up on the weekends and stuff like that, and then me and him would either watch football or whatever... watch the MMA fights, whatever we’d get on Saturday nights. Eric would come up and you know, we’d work throughout Saturday and Eric would stay Sunday and then head home on Sunday night or whatever, and we’d just be writin’ away. Ya know what I mean? Like I’d be telling the stories and then Eric would add something. I mean, that was like fuckin’ hysterical. It’s just me and him just throwing ideas at each other and just making em’ stupider and stupider. You know, just embellishing the stories that already exist. Almost kinda like Seinfeld or Larry David. We had these actual stories happen at like a record company or something like that, and he’s like, are you fucking kidding me? Nah, I’m not making it up. So, there you go. There’s another story right there, and then we’d just add to it and make it even stupider.”
BraveWords.com: Does it ever come up or, is it coming up more increasingly, this idea of you joining a reunited PANTERA?
Zakk: “Well, yeah. I mean put it this way. I’d be beyond flattered if the guys wanted me to do it and were like, ‘Zakk, we really want to do it and we want you to honour Dime’ and everything. I would say, ‘Yeah, of course I would honour Dime.’ But it’d be like THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE; you know Mitch and Noel, they wanted to get together to celebrate Jimi’s life and they asked ERIC CLAPTON to fill in and play the guitar and sing the songs. I mean, of course Eric would do it. ‘Cause he was buddies with him. It would be that type of thing. But that’ll be a bridge we cross, if the guys ever get to that point and they wanted to do it. But I’m friends with all the guys. I always wish the guys the best with whatever they’re doing. I just had Vinnie on my radio show and everything like that, so it’s all cool. Like I said, I’m good with all the guys. So it would just be up to them and like I said, it’d be a bridge we cross when we get there.”
BraveWords.com: Realistically, it’s hard bridge to cross, those guys getting along.
Zakk: “Well, who knows? I mean like I said, the guys... they’d have to talk about it. THEY’RE Pantera (laughs). I mean, they’re the boys. You get em’ in a room, and I mean it should be like Led Zeppelin gettin’ back together. You know, the guys gotta work it out.”
BraveWords.com: Is there any sort of situation where you’re still kinda on the line to get called back by the boss and be in Ozzy’s band at any point? I mean, do you guys still talk?
Zakk: “Yeah. The whole thing is like I’ve said. Sharon is like my mother since I’ve been 19 years old and then ya know Oz... I love him. I had my dad and then Ozzy, you know, as far as two older guys in my life. Oz is like a dad and I got a big brother all in one. The whole thing is, they know if they’d call me up today to bring over milk and eggs I’d go do it. Ozzy’s the godfather of my son, and Barb still talks to mom all the time. I still talk to mom. So the whole thing is, we’ll always be there for them. Cause I always said my relationship with Ozzy is bigger than the music. I mean, just ‘cause I’m not playing with him... I mean just ‘cause you’re not living at home with your parents doesn’t mean you don’t love em’ any less. You still go there for the holidays. Plus, I talk to Gus G (current Ozzy guitarist) all the time. Gus’ is super fuckin’ cool. So aside from being an amazing guitar player, he’s just a great guy. I mean, it’s all good, man.”
BraveWords.com: And what essentially is the schedule like with respect to the next proper BLS album?
Zakk: “I guess, trying to think... well you figure if we’re gonna do this Unblackened thing, and then we’re still gonna be doing some dates over in Europe and everything like that... the Unblackened thing is going to take us obviously into 2013, and 2013 will be the next studio album I guess. 2013-2014.”
BraveWords.com: That’s quite a gap. I guess to close out, how about your thoughts on the Order Of The Black album, after a couple of years now?
Zakk: “I’m still... without a doubt, I mean I love the production on the record. Without a doubt, I think it came out slammin’. The whole thing from top to bottom... the mellow tunes, the heavy tunes.”
BraveWords.com: Yeah, these are your most fully-realized mellow tunes I would imagine? Like, they’re really full-bodied, fully produced.
Zakk: “Well, I think on each one of the albums, there’s something on everything. I love ‘Darkest Days.’ I think that one came out really cool and I love ‘Shallow Grave’ and ‘January.’ But I like the whole album from top to bottom. But then again, every one of the records we’ve done, I’ve had a fuckin’ blast making all the albums. When I was all done with every one of ‘em, like I said... they’re snapshots in time. I was happy with every one of ‘em. But obviously when we go and make the next record, obviously you want the production bigger, better, cleaner... you’re going in to top what you did last time.”