How ZAKK WYLDE's Failed GUNS N' ROSES Collaboration Led To Formation Of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY
July 1, 2019
During a recent appearance at Musicians Institute's "Conversation Series", Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE) spoke about what it was like when he auditioned to join Slash in GUNS N' ROSES in the mid-'90s.
"I'd known the guys, on and off, for years when I first came out here [to California] and I started playing with the Boss [Ozzy Osbourne]," he recalled (see video below). "So I met Slash and I met Duff [McKagan, GUNS N' ROSES bassist] and we became friends and everything like that, and that's when GUNS was just starting to blow up. So I've known the guys, and, obviously, when I ran into 'em every now and then, when we were all drinking, it's always good to catch up with the guys and everything like that. And I knew Steven [Adler, former GUNS N' ROSES drummer]. So then, after that, I met Matt [Sorum, former GUNS N' ROSES drummer]; he was playing with THE CULT. It's a small group of people that you end up running into and you just become friends and stuff like that.
"The guys were just talking one day, and Axl [Rose, GUNS N' ROSES singer] was telling me — I'd never met Axl before — and Axl was just saying, him and Slash were talking, like, 'Who else would you wanna get on guitar?'" he continued. "And I guess my name came up. 'Why don't we ask Zakk what's going on?' And Axl was, like, 'All right. I'll call him up.' So Axl ended up getting my phone number and called me up: 'Hey, Zakk, man. It's Axl. I just wondered if you wanted to get together and jam with the guys.' And I said, 'Yeah. No problem.' So we ended up jamming. We were recording [Osbourne's 1995 album] 'Ozzmosis' at the time. And so we were jamming on and off. We were recording the record, we were doing 'Ozzmosis', having a blast doing that, and then in between, when I'd come back out to L.A., I'd end up hooking up with the guys and we'd jam down at the rehearsal hall. So it was just ideas floating around. But nothing was happening there with the GUNS guys. And then Ozz was going, 'Zakk, listen, we're gonna get ready to tour. Are you gonna jam…?' Ozz was, like, 'You can do both, but, Zakk, I've gotta have an answer, if you're gonna be jamming with them and me. This ship leaves twelve o'clock Monday. Are you gonna be ready to go or not?' I couldn't get an answer from the fellows, and everything was up in the air, and Ozz was, like, 'I've gotta get somebody else in here, man.' So that was it. So I was just sitting around, going, 'What am I gonna do? I've got all these riffs laying around. I'm not playing with Ozz right now. I'm not doing the GN'R thing. Fuck it.' And then I came up with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. So that's basically how BLACK LABEL was born right there. I was, like, 'What am I gonna do?' 'Cause I did the 'Book Of Shadows' thing, and I was, like, 'I'm not ready to be a singer-songwriter, James Taylor kind of [artist]. I'm not ready for that yet, as much as I love doing it.' I was just, like, 'I still wanna do riffs and I still wanna do heavy stuff, mixed in with the mellow stuff as well, obviously.'"
According to Zakk, he is s"still friends" with all the members of GUNS N' ROSES. "We've opened up for them — BLACK LABEL has opened up — and then with the 'Book Of Shadows' stuff, we opened up for GUNS N' ROSES at an Arizona stadium. So I'm still buddies with all the guys, and everything is good, man."
Asked what a Slash/Wylde combo in GUNS N' ROSES would have sounded like, Zakk told Gibson.com in a 2015 interview: "It sounded like the riffs I write and the way I write, mixed in with the way the guys write, you know what I mean?! It would have been like… When I was jamming with Slash and all the guys, even if I'm in the band, there's only one guy that's playing the solos to 'November Rain', 'Sweet Child O' Mine' and all those classic songs. I'm not going to do anything there. But the future stuff that we would have been writing, it would have been cool! Because I love Slash's playing and I'm buddies with him. It would have been cool, but with those guys, there was nothing happening, so we were jamming, but it wasn't going anywhere."