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The Lowdown: Zakk Wylde

The Lowdown: Zakk Wylde

"I prefer to be addressed as Mr God."

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Last Edited by: Cristina M July 28th, 2010.

My phone interview with Zakk Wylde was meant to be on a Sunday morning: I wouldn't have done that for anyone else. But guess what? It didn't happen. Normally I would have gone mad, insulted everyone and told our boss Mr Maguire to do it himself... but it was Zakk Wylde. So on Monday I was up again, phone and recorder in hand, coffee on my desk; the phone actually rang this time... only to say, again, it wouldn't happen.

For the third time, we rescheduled a phone call with the newly crowned Golden God: this time, finally all went according to plan! So, you will all be wondering, was it all worth it? Go on, read and judge yourselves... I'm still rolling on the floor laughing!

Altsounds: Hello Zakk! First question is… Are you aware you stood me up twice?
Zakk: Eeerr… No, I have no idea! I’m always told to call and that’s it, I’m always the last one to find out things anyways! (laughs). I just found out I have three kids as well, from the same woman!

Altsounds: Oh God!
Zakk: I've been wondering for 25 years, then I asked her, “who are these three people in our house?”, “Your kids”, “Ah. Ok.” (laughs)

Altsounds: Ok, now, the serious stuff: you’re a Golden God!
Zakk: Oh yes! (big laughs) It must just take your breath away when you’re talking to me! (more laughs) Oh man!

Altsounds: After four years you’ve been pretty much out of the spotlight, you come back and you’re a Golden God AND Best Guitarist…
Zakk: That’s what I should do next, I should go away for at least twenty years, and I’m gonna kill three birds with one stone: I’m gonna break the Chinese Democracy record going away for twenty years instead of just fourteen, and then also I’m gonna expect a Pulitzer Prize and a Nobel Peace Prize.

Altsounds: Yeah, I think it’s the least you can expect really!
How does it feel being a Golden God then?

Zakk: Put it this way, I’m not as rich as I was before, because it has cost a lot of money for these awards, but it was worth it, to feed my massive ego! Was well worth it. See Cristina, the fact is not that I deserved or not these Awards, the fact is I won them, and makes me feel better. It’s all that matters!

Altsounds: You won these Awards before your new album is even out, which means there are big expectations on it; does this put any pressure on you?
Zakk: Exactly, so everyone is gonna be thoroughly disappointed! I keep saying that everyone is going to be disappointed, so at this rate there’s really no disappointment, you know it’s gonna suck anyway!

Altsounds: Well, I listened to it and I quite like it (Zakk laughing madly!) and you will still be a Golden God anyway…
Zakk: I prefer to be addressed as Mr God.

Altsounds: Ok Mr God!
Zakk: Oh man, my ego may boost even higher!

Altsounds: "Order Of The Black" is your first ‘sober’ album right? The first since you quit drinking?
Zakk: Well, yeah, but you know, when people say ‘oh, you’re sober now’, I mean, when we made all the other records we were drinking, we were having a good time, but we were not wasted while making records. Put it this way, I never made those albums and then not even remember making them. Ozzy used to say at first he was so loaded all the time that the Black Sabbath records that he doesn’t even remember making them, I never got that hammered.

I’ve never been so hammered not to remember things, or when a fight broke out, you know, when someone says to you ‘do you remember doing this last night’ and you don’t know what they’re talking about; I never had that happening. Yeah, there have been times after gigs all going out at bars and getting hammered, going back to the hotel bar, and the day after going like ‘dude, I don’t remember getting to the room from the bar, I ended up in my room but I don’t remember how’, stuff like that; but not to the point where we robbed somebody’s house and then going like ‘what, I don’t remember doing any of this!’. Never blacked out like that. And I wasn’t wasted when I wrote the songs anyway. Normally I’d be playing the piano in the morning with a cup of coffee, or going to the studio we'd discuss a sample or hear something on the radio. But if we were getting loaded it would be at the end of the night, not during the recordings.

I’ve never been drinking throughout the day, ‘cause you’ve gotta do the singing, and then, you wanna make sure to make some cash, you know what I mean? I’ve got recordings where I was actually hammered and you can hear some of the funniest shit that you’re ever gonna hear, but you would listen back to it the next day sober, some of it we were just on the floor laughing and it’s horrendous, we just couldn’t believe how wasted and pathetic we were!

Altsounds: I found the album very diverse…
Zakk: Like all the Black Label albums, you get the heavy stuff then you get the mellow stuff. We can’t be personal all the time, but then again, all I’m saying is, I’m married I have three kids and I am catholic: yeah, I am pissed off! As much as I love listening to Sabbath and the heavy stuff, I also love listening to Neil Young, Elton John and The Eagles, stuff like that.

Once we’re done with the heavy stuff in the studio and get bored with that, I just sit around the piano, play some guitar, and then once we get bored with that we get back to the heavy stuff. It just gives you a break as well, after a while when you do heavy stuff it can start sounding all the same riff wise, and you just have to get away for a little while, start doing some mellow stuff that has got nothing to do with riffs.

Altsounds: What do you expect from this album? After all you already won everything!
Zakk: Definitely global domination, and obviously this is an anti-terrorism album, so I expect world peace, therefore that’s where my Nobel Peace prize is gonna come in.

Altsounds: That’s good news, so we don’t have to wait twenty years for that! Ok, can I ask you... well, you may not wanna answer (both laugh) Why did Ozzy decide to replace you, and how do you feel about it?
Zakk: I love Ozzy, I always said he’s the coolest guy, you know, my father and Ozzy. But it’s like if Randy Rhoads was still doing Quiet Riot the same thing would have happened, or if Jake was still doing Badlands and at the same time playing with Ozzy it would have sounded like a Ozzy record; if Eric Clapton was still doing Cream while playing with John Mayall, then everything would sound like Cream. At the end of the day it’s a compliment if you say everything started sounding like Black Label. Put it this way, I love Oz, so I always got his back whatever he wants to do. I support Gus and I hope he does great, he’s an amazing player and I wish him all the best.

Altsounds: What’s your advice to him?
Zakk: He’s an awesome guitar player and a sweet guy, really cool dude. If he has a quarter of the amount of fun I had, that’s tons! I just want him to have loads of good times as I had.

Altsounds: Do you have any plans for a Pride and Glory comeback?
Zakk: No, Pride and Glory was more like a jam band, a three piece, there was a lot of improv going on; Brian is playing for Whitesnake now, JD and I are doing the Black Label thing, so...

Altsounds: When did you develop the style of using pinch harmonics in your playing?
Zakk: Actually, my guitar teacher showed me how to do that from watching; he showed me, he just did it on the higher strings, and I was like ‘what is that sound, and how is he doing that?’.

Altsounds: Many guitarists find this technique difficult; is it the person who plays it or the instrument that makes it easier?
Zakk: I guess someone may be a natural, but doesn’t matter who you are you still have to practice, time after time until you get better. I guess it’s like it would be for anyone who has a natural good genetics: someone who doesn’t have a very good physique to start with will have to work out harder, but if you have a good physique you still have to work out to achieve certain results. The same happens with guitar playing, if you want to achieve certain results, even if you are a natural you have to practice.

Altsounds: You have your own home studio now and you’re creating your own label; any particular act you have your eyes on yet?
Zakk: No, what I’m planning on doing is having a Battle of Bands kind of thing, and then now that I have the bunker I can record and produce, make some records, and then it will be great! I’ll do it in typical fashion. I’ll make sure I take all the publishing, steal all the merchandise rights, (laughs), I’ll just rob them blind, so that they end up with drug and alcohol problems, divorces, and I’ll just sit there and get rich while they all go broke! (laughs)

Altsounds: Yeah, as you do!
Zakk: You know, just to keep the circle of life going on!

Altsounds: And that’s gonna earn you another Golden God you reckon?
Zakk: Yeah! I mean, I’m not being cruel, I’m not being mean, it’s the circle of life!

Altsounds: Well, I’ll be mean then. I heard about a picture of Justin Bieber's guitarist playing one of your customized guitars…
Zakk: Oh yes!

Altsounds: … and apparently had a really good impact on the number of your Twitter followers!
Zakk: Our Twitter account went from like 30,000 people to 18 million!

Altsounds: Are you thinking of a collaboration to show your gratitude?
Zakk: Yeah, why not! Put it this way - he’s sixteen years old, I started playing with Ozzy at nineteen. At sixteen years old he’s already playing in stadiums, I was playing in people’s kitchens! (laughs). By the time he’s twenty, he can already have a drug and alcohol problem, go to rehab several times, get married and divorced twice and have kids! By the time he’s twenty he’ll have a comeback tour! It’s gonna work out fine (laughs)

Altsounds: You think so? There seem to be plenty of one hit wonders and disposable icons nowadays though?
Zakk: Yeah, I agree with you, but even back in the day in the sixties and seventies, the whole thing is to make that leap into a credible adult contemporary artist. If you got the talent there’s no reason why it can’t happen, as you get older people will take you seriously. All the same thing with actors; when you have a kid actor it’s hard for them to get over that concept to be that cutie little kid, but if they make a great movie and play a serious role, then it’s undeniable.

Look at Justin Timberlake, he broke that curve, ‘cause now everyone takes him seriously and he’s older, and he’s super talented. Justin Bieber is a great musician too, he plays guitar, he plays drums and does a lot of other things, so…

Altsounds: Do you realize that if you do actually go for a collaboration with him, Metal Hammer may take your Golden God back?
Zakk: Yeah I know, that’s terrible. That would be the only reason why I might not do it, because, put it this way, that Award is the only reason why my wife is sticking around! (laughs)

Altsounds: I’ve heard an old story about you playing with Ozzy in London many, many years ago, and joining the roadies for drinks in a rock bar in Shepherd’s Bush after the show…
Zakk: Like 22 years ago?

Altsounds: Probably something like that, yes!
Zakk: I didn’t upset anybody, did I? (laughs)

Altsounds: Not at all, actually everybody was impressed at how down to earth you were joining the crew rather than hanging out with the rockstars!
Zakk Yeah, just having a good time!

Altsounds: Would you still do something like that now that you’re a Golden God?
Zakk: Oh yeah! (laughs)

Altsounds: Where are you right now?
Zakk: I’m in the UK and we are rehearsing right now and getting ready to do the High Voltage Festival and actually doing a prison gig tomorrow.

Altsounds: Oh yes, I heard about that!
Zakk: Yeah, ‘cause we support the police and military at Black Label and we have a Black Label brother working there; he said ‘Zakk, would you like to play for the inmates? It’s a bunch of guys probably on good behaviour type of stuff…’, ‘yeah, no problem man!’. We do charity work, if you can help somebody out just do the right thing.

Altsounds: That’s cool!
Zakk: It’s a bunch of guys trying to turn their lives around. I mean, I’m not going there as a motivational speaker, I’m going there to jam with a bunch of them, who are musicians and know who I am, and we’ll have a chat, they’ll probably want to hear Ozzy stories, you know, that sort of thing, relaxed vibe, it’s pretty cool.

Altsounds: Good luck with that!
Last question: are your hands insured?

Zakk: Yeah, by Lords of London. And since J-Lo got her ass insured, I made sure my ass is insured too, especially after the acceptance of the Golden God Award (laughs) and the crotch region!

Oh man, what can I say? was well worth waiting and I'd definitely do it again... Yes, even on a bloody Sunday morning!

"Order Of The Black" is available for download from August 9th and in all record stores from August 23rd.

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