Zakk Wylde, som just nu befinner sig på de amerikanska vägarna med sitt Black Label Society tillsammans med Down, är en pratglad och ytterst skäggig man. Rocksveriges Niclas fick nyligen möjlighet att konversera en längre stund med denne riffmakare av rang och han berättade bland annat att han aldrig någonsin haft ett tillfälle då han tröttnat på att spela gitarr.
–I genuinely love what I do. It´s not like, “I do this because I can make money out of it.” For everything in life you´ve got to have passion for what you do, otherwise, what´s the sense of showing up? It´s like when you play sports. The whole point of it is to win the championship every year. Otherwise, what are you going to training camp for? I´m not gonna get myself beat up for nothing. I´m truly blessed to be able to do what I love doing.
Do you think that had you gone on doing what you were doing, drinking wise, you could´ve ended up like Philip Seymour Hoffman?
Zakk: I don´t know. It´s sad. I guarantee you that he just thought he´d do that and then be fine. I don´t think it was suicide or anything. It´s just really sad. I never drank because I was depressed or anything like that, I always had a good time. When I was 42 they told me that I would either die or I could just stop. When I had my blood clots, I went to the doctor and said “Doc, do I have to like chill out on the sauce?” and he said “We´ll put you on blood thinners. How much do you drink?” I told him “I drink every day.” And he just told me to stop. You don´t wanna go to Hooters, watching a game and start bleeding out of your schlong, your ass… The doctor told me that it was like I had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car and I was trying to go 500 miles. There was no way I was gonna make it. He said “By your 47th birthday, I´ll bet my house you won´t be here.” And I was like “That sucks!” and then he went on “You have door number one and that´s a liver transplant and that´s a pain in the ass and will definitely change your life. Door number two is the pancreas thing. We don´t really have that down now, as good as the liver transplant. Most guys die on the table. They´ll have their friends come in and say goodbye to them, because they´re not going home, or you have door number three, you can hang out and listen to your Led Zeppelin records, watch porn, hang out with your family and do whatever. Does the drinking mean that much to you?” (laughs)
Your new album then, “Catacombs of the black Vatican”. When making a new album, do you go at it thinking you´ll take it in a certain direction or does things just happen by themselves?
Zakk: It was four years between “Shot to hell” (2006) and “Order of the new black” (2010) and then four years between that one and the new one. It´s not like I´m stockpiling riffs. The only songs we had when we went into the studio, were “Angel of mercy”, because I wrote that one the piano and then it was “Shades of gray”. I only had the melodies and not the titles or lyrics and I had two or three different versions of how was singing it. That was one of the last ones and “My dying time” was the last one that I sang. After we got done with the Gigantour we had like 25 days to make a record. I would get up in the morning, have some Valhalla Java go out to the garage, turn the Marshall on, turn up the volume and reverb so it sounds like I´m playing Madison Square Garden and then just start playing riffs. It´s just riffs and riffs and riffs and then some more riffs. If you listen to Sabbath and Zeppelin, it´s just riffs. Everything is riffs. You also have chord songs, but Sabbath and Zeppelin is all riffs, like “Kashmir”, “Into the void” and “Snow blind”. If I can´t write songs on two strings, I´m not doing it. Basically you´re just stockpiling riffs and it´s a lengthy procedure, but it´s worth it. It´s all for the art. (laughs) The title comes from the studio, The Vatican and it´s Black Label Society, so it´s the Black Vatican. The catacombs are the songs.
I would love to see you do another album with more of the slow, tender songs.
Zakk: “Hangover music volume VI” is the only Black Label Society album where we consciously said that we were gonna do this type of album. It was like putting your favorite, mellow Zeppelin songs together. Like making a disc with “Going to California”, “Battle of Evermore”, Thank you”, so you don´t have to skip over the rock tracks. As much as I love listening to “Black dog”, I love listening to “Going to California”. Whenever we get done with a Black Label Show and you´re sitting up front in the submarine and have a 13 hour drive, we´ll be cranking The Beatles, Bob Seeger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John, Neil Young, just all this ass kicking mellow stuff and chilling out. We´ll play Ray Charles or Marvin Gaye.
Any chance of a new “Hangover music”?
Zakk: We´ve got three mellow tunes on the new album, but I´m sure eventually we´ll see another one of those albums down the line, with the mellow thing from beginning to end.
A song like “In this river”, for each new album, are you aiming at writing something similar to that one?
Zakk: No. I wrote that song before Dime passed. I just looked at the lyrics and knew it was Dime´s song. On the first album we had “Spoke in the wheel”. That was actually the first Black Label Society song I wrote. I was sitting on a boat in Japan doing promotion for “Book of shadows” or something and it ended up being Black Label Society. It´s funny how it happened to be on an acoustic guitar and a mellow song. It´s not even with the band, it´s just me with an acoustic guitar. It will always be part of me and Black Label Society for sure.
I talked to you about Pride and Glory some years back and you mentioned some live stuff?
Zakk: I remember hearing a bootleg with some stuff and the sound quality was pretty good on the thing. I don´t have any of that myself. It´s the 20 year anniversary now, which is pretty crazy. We had a great time making that thing.
Could you see yourself doing another Pride and Glory album?
Zakk: Well, in between my fourth Nobel peace prize and coming up with a cure for cancer… I´m still friends with the guys, so it´s all good. (laughs)
With a new album like “Catacombs of the black Vatican”, how do you pick songs to play live?
Zakk: JD the Mongoose and godfather of Sabbath Page, I always ask him, “Goose, what are you feeling?” and he´ll go “Why don´t we try this one and that one and we haven´t done this one in a long time.” We´ll just bounce ideas off each other. Obviously there are certain songs in the set that you gotta keep in there.
Nick Catanese left the band. How´s the new guy, Dario Lorina, working out?
Zakk: Blasko turned me onto him. He said “I know a guy named Dario. He´s an awesome guitar player and a young kid.” I said “Cool, let´s check him out!” We saw that he could play his ass off. He came out and we had him do the Chippendale dance routine and after we saw him dance, that´s when I knew we had our guy. (laughs) It seems to be working out well. He can play his ass off and it´s his gig till he doesn´t wanna do it anymore. Nick is working his ass off on his own stuff. That´s the great thing with Black Label Society, guys can come and go and it´s a brotherhood. If someone says you have the opportunity to go play with Celine Dion in Las Vegas for the next two years and they´re paying you a king´s ransom, you gotta go do that!
What was your first reaction to Nick leaving?
Zakk: It was good that we found out when we did, because we had that NAMM show coming up. I support Nick whatever he´s doing. JD has his own thing. Everybody´s always got something going on and that´s what we want. I
It looks like a busy spring touring wise?
Zakk: Oh, without a doubt! I love working and I´m not a vacation guy. Vacation for me is sleeping in my own bed. When I´m at home it´s like “Let´s go on a vacation!” and I´m like “This is a vacation! I´m actually in my own house.” (laughs)
Are you planning on doing any more books?
Zakk: Well, all I gotta do is jump onboard the submarine (tour bus) and start rolling. The thing is that I don´t come up with those stories, they just write themselves. I breathe and I live, my friend, and that´s all you need to do in order to get a complete pallet of comedy each and every day. (laughs) I was just down at iTunes the other day and saw some friends. In the music business there are so many unimportant people making important decisions. Someone said about Sarah McLaughlin, “If we had Sarah flash her tits more and get her ass out, like Miley Cyrus…” and I´m like “Shut the fuck up! Dude, all Sarah´s gotta do is sit behind a fucking piano. Shut the fuck up!” and it´s like “I just thought it would be good for her career.” and I go “That´s why I have no idea why the fuck you have a job!” (laughs) “And who invited you, man?” These are the same people that when Zeppelin was around and it´s 1976-77 with the Sex Pistols and The Clash and everything´s going on and it´s just like “You know, maybe if we put Robert Plant into something green and Jimmy Page got some piercings and tattoos and shaved his head?” It´s like “And you get paid to work here?” (laughs) “All Led Zeppelin needs to do is keep making ass kicking records! They don´t give a shit what the fuck Sid Viscous had to fucking say nor does it matter what Sid Viscous had to say about Led Zeppelin.” These are people that have jobs and I just go “You gotta be fucking kidding me?”
It´s interesting how the music business is today, with shows like “Idol” and “America´s got talent” and the focus on looks and so on. Zakk: None of that stuff bothers me. The final thing is that, if a 19 year old Barbara Streisand went on “American Idol” today and we saw her, we would both go “Holy shit! She´s fucking amazing!” To me “American Idol” is today´s form of A&R, really. If Sarah McLaughlin went on “American Idol” we couldn´t deny her talent or if Chris Cornell was on there. It would be like “Holy shit!” You get the exposure and then it´s what you do with it after that matters. Like if Adele went on there, who are we to deny that she can´t sing? She´s amazing!
Do you ever get star struck meeting other musicians?
Zakk: Yeah, of course! Having heroes is fun, man. That makes life fun. I have my Jimmy Page guitar, my Eddie Van Halen striped guitar that I play on, my Randy polka dot guitar. It´s awesome!
You just turned 47. How do you feel about getting older?
Zakk: Someone brought me a picture to sign and on it I was like 22 rocking out on stage with the boss (Ozzy). Do I wish I was 22 again? No! It was fucking awesome back then, but it´s fucking even more awesome right now. I don´t sit here and go “Wow, I wish that was still going on!”. We went to see Robert Plant in Santa Barbara and the show was fucking slamming! Does he wish “The song remains the same” and all that was still going on? No! He´s got a lot of other stuff going on. Those days were awesome days, beyond awesome, but he´s doing this now. I remember my mom saying to my niece, sitting around the kitchen table and it was fucking scary, but she said “When you graduate, hold on to it, because those are the best years of your life!” and I was just like “That´s pretty fucking sad! High school, the best years?” I couldn´t wait to get the fuck out, so I could leave and get on with my life. To start doing what I really wanna do.
What were you like in school? Was it all about music?
Zakk: It didn´t get serious until I was 14 in high school. I didn´t like to cut school or anything like that. I was just a normal kid and I played sports and stuff like that. I didn´get in trouble all the time or something like that. I pretty much stayed away from that. I did some stupid goofy stuff, but me and my friends were mostly into sports and riding dirt bikes and everything like that, until I found music and guitar and then it was just guitar, guitar, guitar. Just music all day long. I still love it!
What was the first song you learned to play?
Zakk: Chord wise I think it might´ve been “Hey Joe” with Jimi Hendrix. C, G, D, A and E major and another one was probably “Tangerine” by Zeppelin. Then obviously “Iron man” and “Smoke on the water”, like on one string.
Has there ever been a time through the years when you got bored of it?
Zakk: No, because I genuinely love what I do. It´s not like “I do this because I can make money out of it.” For everything in life you´ve got to have passion for what you do, otherwise, what´s the sense of showing up? It´s like when you play sports. The whole point of it is to win the championship every year. Otherwise, what are you going to training camp for? I´m not gonna get myself beat up for nothing. I´m truly blessed to be able to do what I love doing.
You grew up in Jackson, New Jersey, right?
Zakk: Yeah, it´s small town but I loved growing up there and I had great friends and as I said, high school was cool and we´d listen to “Diary of a madman” and Sabbath and Zeppelin, so it was cool.
Do you ever go back there?
Zakk: Yeah, I go back every now and then but both my parents are gone now, so it´s not like I´m going back to see my folks or anything like that. If I go back, I go and visit the old watering holes and see the old gang or whoever is still around. But as I said, growing up there was killer. Pretty much everybody´s gone now, but it still pretty much looks the same.
Did you change a lot when you became a father yourself for the first time?
Zakk: Nah. It´s just like, “Did it change when I got with Ozzy? Or “Now you´re famous, is everything different now?” No, I still do the same crap I did before when I was nobody. I still gotta practice every day. If you wanna be good, you gotta practice. I´m still the same guy and I still have the same drive and the passion that I had when I first started with Ozzy. When we had our kids and everything like that… I still do the same things that I love. Same with getting married. Nothing´s changed, we´re still together. (laughs) It´s just like playing a big place or a small place. If we´re playing “Suicide Messiah” or “Into the void” or “War pigs”, whether we´re playing it in front of 20 people at a frat party or in front of 120.000 people, it´s still “War pigs”, you know. You´re hands are still going the same places. It´s definitely a different vibe and a different rush playing in front of that many people or in a small club, but it´s just as fun. You´re up there doing what you love. To me it´s all good.
And your wife, you two really have to be a team, since you´re travelling all the time and are away from home?
Zakk: Well, if I was a truck driver or working on skyscrapers, it´s the same thing. I´d be gone all day long, working my ass off so you get the bills paid, can get nice things for the kids. I just happen to be in a rock band, being a musician and travelling. I´ve got friends of mine that can´t stand touring anymore, but I still love it. I completely understand it if they don´t enjoy it. You can´t force somebody to like vegetables. If they don´t like them, they don´t like them. I´m not gonna force my kids to eat them if they don´t like them.
Who´s the boss at home?
Zakk: Both of us. I don´t want any of that and I don´t boss her around. Do whatever you want and everybody be cool. She doesn´t boss me around and who´d want that anyway?
The acting stuff then, like the stuff you did in “Californication”? By the way, the writer Tom Kapinos, is he a metal fan? There´s a lot of metal stuff on that show.
Zakk: Tom is super cool and a great guy. He just asked me and I said “Well, what do you want me to do?” and he said “You work behind the counter and here´s a couple of lines!” and it´s like “Can you read?” (laughs) Who knew? (laughs) Whenever I get asked to do those things, its´always a good time.
Are you planning on doing something more right now?
Zakk: Nah, between touring and getting my fifth Nobel peace prize and trying to come up with a solution for world hunger… (laughs) I haven´t done any TV stuff as of lately. Last thing we did was the video for “My dying time” and that´s about it.
A final thing. When you gave your demo to Dave Feld, who then later gave it to photographer Mark Weiss, who gave it to Ozzy, if you hadn´t done that, do you think you´d still would´ve made it out to LA eventually?
Zakk: Yeah, we always talked about doing that. I have all these musician buddies that are all still playing music and just because they didn´t get to Madison Square Garden, it´s still in their dna and you bleed fucking music. That´s what you do. It´s not a hobby, it´s part of who you are and it completes you. If that hadn´t happened, we´d have a music store, we´d teach, we´d have our own cover band and play all the cool shit and play weddings and shit. Record our own originals. Everything we´d do, would be based around us playing fucking music. Whenever I had day jobs, like when I was working at the supermarket or when I was pumping gas or mowing lawns, that was never a career goal. Every hour and every lawn I moved, I was just that much closer to getting that Gibson Les Paul. We´d be doing music one way or the other. I meet my old friends and I go “Whatever happened to Andy? He was an amazing drummer!” and they go “He doesn´t play anymore. He sold all his shit and he´s married now.” And I just say “Oh wow, that´s sad!”
Av: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foton: Therés Stephansdotter