Black Label Society

an interview with Zakk Wylde
by Angela Villand
May 2011

Black Label Society on cover of Max Ink in May 2011 - photo by Kelly Lloyd

Black Label Society on cover of Max Ink in May 2011
photo by Kelly Lloyd

We caught up with Zakk Wylde while he was in Southern California, hanging out with family, getting ready for the upcoming Uranium Tour that kicks off this month. The Armageddon of Black, as he affectionately calls it, fires up the Black Label “Armada” on the fourth of this month and lands at the Majestic Theater in Madison on May 27 in support of the new Black Label Society album “The Song Remains Not The Same,” due out May 10, 2011.

MAXIMUM INK: Recently, on your Twitter, you shared a photo of the Misfits Skull with the Bieber hair, with the caption “I’ve got Beiber Fever! And the only thing that will cure it…is More Cowbell!”  I lost it, when it saw that; couldn’t stop laughing.
ZAKK WYLDE:  A buddy of mine sent that, and I was laughing my ass off. Dan Cantor, who is the guitar player with Justin Bieber, actually has a Zakk Wylde Les Paul, so we kept in touch with Dan, and stuff like that. It’s hysterical, we just keep cracking up laughing, because the whole point of it is – you know, Dan’s playing the guitar, and when all the Justin Bieber fans see me, they go “Look at that guy, he must be a fan, he’s playing a Dan Cantor guitar!” (Laughs) It’s awesome, man.  But it’s cool, Dan’s good people, and he’s out there kicking ass with Justin Bieber.  It’s hysterical.

MAXINK: You’ve recorded “Iron Man” with William Shatner for his upcoming Sci-Fi compilation CD. That had to be pretty fun for you, sitting there with someone that you watched on TV when you were a kid.
ZAKK: Oh totally! It was awesome. I remember telling him I was a huge Star Trek freak when I was a kid. I still love all the old Star Trek, like I’ll be on the submarine, (tour bus) and I’ll throw the old Star Trek DVD’s in. I remember my dad bringing me and my buddy Bobby to a Star Trek convention in NYC. I would talk to him (Shatner) about that, and he was just laughing his ass off. And here I am, 44 years old, and we’re working on a record together. He was a huge part of my childhood. Without a doubt. And he’s a real super-cool guy. It was hysterical.

MAXINK: The new Black Label Society CD, The Song Remains Not The Same will be released May 10th. It not only features acoustic, unplugged tracks from the previous BLS album, it’s very “dialed down” with mellow piano and completely different versions of the same songs. Totally caught me by surprise; wasn’t expecting a lighter side of BLS.
ZAKK: I call it another “Road Trip” record. Black Label had already done ‘hangover music,” which is basically an acoustic/bass album. But I mean, as much as I love doing the heavy stuff, like when I’m listening to Sabbath and Zeppelin, I also love listening to Elton John, Neil Young, the Eagles. Eventually, this album is kind of like an appetizer, or a precursor to us doing an acoustic thing. We’ve been talking about the next DVD, and it’s going to be an all-acoustic, like an un-Blackened. That’s the reason this CD is called The Song Remains NOT the Same because (aside from us all being huge Zeppelin fans) it’s the same songs, but some of them are completely different versions of the songs, not even acoustic.  The only thing that’s still there is the title of the song and the lyrics. Some of them melodies are different, or they’re on the piano instead of cranking a Les Paul through a wall of Marshalls. This is like a road trip record, or at the end of the night when you’re just chillin and you want to relax and go to sleep; you just put on the headphones and put this thing on.

MAXINK: Why a bullseye on your signature guitar? How did you come up with that idea and does it have some significance for you?
ZAKK: Well, obviously I have a cream (color) Les Paul, because of my love for Randy Roads, but when I got the gig with the Boss, with Oz, obviously I’m touring, and I’ve got the blond hair, and the Les Paul. But I wanted the vertigo. It’s from the movie Alfred Hitchcock movie so I wanted to have that on there.My buddy Max, who actually made Slash’s guitar, was the one that painted it; he put the bulls-eye on it. And I remember I had to do a photo shoot that day, and it was done, and I said “Max, this isn’t the Vertigo, it’s a bulls-eye!” But it was done, so I went down and did the photo shoot with that guitar, and ever since that point, it was the bulls-eye.

MAXINK: It’s been said you’re not a caricature, you’re actually a character. You walk the walk and talk the talk. What’s your take? Does “fame” change a person or “once a prick, always a prick?’
ZAKK: Put it this way – I don’t think “Oh, he changed since he got famous.” If you were an asshole before you got famous, you’re going to be more of an asshole. I don’t think that changes people. If you’re a jerk-off, you’re a jerk-off. You may meet someone and think, “He’s the same scumbag he was when I knew him in high school.” If you had no work ethic before you started doing anything, you’re still gonna have no work ethic. The way I look at it, either you’re a lion or you’re not a lion. A lion is a lion; it knows what it is, and it works its balls off, and that’s what it is. It doesn’t need to be told what to do. Put it this way – you know the difference between right and wrong. You don’t steal from people, you don’t do scumbag shit. If I have to tell you that, and you’re 44 years old, then you’re an idiot, you know what I mean? With Axl, he was going on stage late, everybody acts like he never did that before Guns N Roses blew up. But if you know anything about them, they used to say he would go on late when they were nobody, when they were playing the Troubador for three people! It’s just that it gets blown up; it gets magnified because now they’re the “biggest band in the world.

MAXINK: How do you keep the “rock legend” status from getting inside your head?
ZAKK: I’m still doing the same shit I did before I got the gig with Oz, before Black Label and all that other stuff. I still practice, I lift weights, and I’m doing the same stuff I did before.

MAXINK: You’ve written what I like to comically refer to as your first “children’s book, “Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination - ” and it will be released in September 2011.
ZAKK: With that book it’s like whenever you’re sitting around talking with your friends, at the pub or anything like that, and you’re just talking about stories, about how ridiculous the music business is. There’s so many in the cast of characters involved in this. You’re just laughing your balls off at how ridiculous the whole thing is. You’ve got your posters up on the wall, Jimmy Page, Randy Roads, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, all the guys I love. You practice 12 hours a day and you take everything serious, but then you step into the world of the business, you can flush everything right down the shitter. It’s hysterical. It’s just us talking about stories and about all that shit throughout the book. It’s a piss-tape from the beginning to the end of the book. It’s like laughing your balls off. “Bringing Metal to the Children” is actually making fun of the whole thing. It’s not an autobiography like Nikki Sixx or Slash’s books.

MAXINK: In recent years, you’ve really stepped out into the more mainstream pop culture. You showed up on American Idol, George Lopez, Californication. You look like you’re having fun.
ZAKK: That was a lot of fun! American Idol happened because Chris (Jericho) was over there with Dancing With The Stars, and he called me up and told me he’d been talking with James Durbin, and mentioned how we were friends. James had said “Wouldn’t it be killer if I could get Zakk to come down and play guitar.” That’s when Chris told James, ”I’ll call him up right now.” And it was that easy.  I said, “Sure, I’ll come down there, I don’t care.” He asked me which song: did I want to learn Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal.” And I said, “Yeah, I’ll learn it, no problem.” Tom Campin always records the Californication show, and he digs Black Label. Hank’s daughter digs Black Label, she’s a guitar player. He says “Zakk, you wanna be in an episode?”  I said, “Yeah, of course, no problem. Just tell me what you want me to do.”  And it was the same thing with the “Rock Star” movie, they said “Zakk, you wanna play on the soundtrack?” I said “Of course, you’re going to pay me for this? No problem!” Why would I turn it down? It’s always a good time doing it.

MAXINK: Would you have some words of “Wylde Wisdom” that you could offer to an eager musician that wants to get on the stage, stay on the road and make things happen?
ZAKK: The whole thing is, if you really love music, make it your life. It’s either all or nothing. But you gotta play the music that you love, and don’t be swayed by anything. Stay true to the music you love. With Alice in Chains, everyone was telling them they should sound like Warrant, like Skid Row, whatever was out at the time that was huge. They said “But we don’t sound like that, we’re doing the music we want to do.”  All the bands that were successful, whether Skid Row, Warrant, Bon Jovi, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, they were doing the music they wanted to play. And that’s the reason why they were successful; because it’s real.

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Black Label Society
CD: The Song Remains Not The Same Record Label: Entertainment One Music
Purchase The Song Remains Not The Same on Amazon