Guitar Player magazine (web site) recently conducted an exclusive interview with OZZY OSBOURNE guitarist/BLACK LABEL SOCIETY mainman Zakk Wylde for the cover story of its June 2006 issue. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Guitar Player: Now that Dime is gone, you're kind of "the guy."
Zakk: "There are still a lot of great players out there. You've still got Eddie Van Halen, Vai and Satriani."
Guitar Player: But those guys are a generation ahead of you.
Zakk: "Well, there's Kerry King of SLAYER — the heaviest band on the planet. Then you have newer bands like SHADOWS FALL and LAMB OF GOD that have ass-kickin' musicians, beyond super-heavy, who all know how to play their instruments."
Guitar Player: But when it came to headlining giant crowds like Ozzfest and doing a giant guitar cadenza, you're pretty much the last guy standing. Why is that?
Zakk: "It's weird. I mean, you've still got Slash throwing down. You're never going to hear a VELVET REVOLVER album without any guitar solos. Jerry Cantrell — he played solos even when the whole Seattle thing was happening. Dan Donegan from DISTURBED is now taking solos. He's shredding, and they never used to do that. It's cool. And I've noticed more and more at Ozzfest that bands are starting to do solos now, because, for a while there, it was only about the super-heavy thing. So I think guitar solos are definitely getting popular again."
Guitar Player: No matter what the climate was, you've certainly never stopped throwing down.
Zakk: "There was a time when producers were definitely telling guys like me and Dime that solos were 'dated.' We'd be like, 'How can a solo be dated if it's good? Tell Randy Rhoads and Van Halen that.' Listen to 'Over the Mountain' or 'Crazy Train'. Those songs are great — you gotta have a good song — but if the song is the cake, then the solo is the icing. Good solos never go out of style. I can understand some radio edits, but just imagine 'Stairway to Heaven' without that solo. It'd be a different song.
"When I first started with Ozzy, BON JOVI was the big thing, and I couldn't stand that kind of music. I was into SABBATH and ZEPPELIN, but we were writing these songs that sounded like BON JOVI because the producer guys were telling us, 'You're never gonna make it if you're playing that old crap. That stuff is going out of style.'"
Guitar Player: How do you deal with that kind of pressure from the guys who write the checks.
Zakk: "You gotta play the music you want to play. When LIMP BIZKIT and all them were coming up, I was being told, 'You should be doing rap shit like that. What are you doing with this whole Viking berserker biker image you've got going?' I was like, 'You gotta be kidding me. You're saying that if I put on a backwards baseball hat, a pair of shorts, some Vans, and an oversized T-shirt, that's gonna fix everything? Take your record company and cram it!'
"You just gotta stay true to what you love. That's what all the great bands I love did. I think it was Alvin Lee who once told Ozzy, 'You're gonna call your band 'BLACK SABBATH?' You'll never go anywhere with that name.' Well, that's what the band name became, and, last time I checked, SABBATH got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
Guitar Player: What did you learn being friends with Dimebag?
Zakk: "The reason why Dime was such a great player was not because of his great technique, but because he had such great feel. Dime had chops, and chops and technique are certainly awesome — they give you way more options — but speed is just speed. Jimmy Page didn't have the chops of John McLaughlin or Paco de Lucia, but he could speak with the guitar like no one else."
Guitar Player: For a while there, Ozzy was looking for another guitarist to do his new album.
Zakk: "It wasn't that I wasn't gonna do this record. Ozzy knows I'm always a phone call away. He was just jamming with some other guys, and that's no big deal. He was like, 'Zakk's so busy doing BLACK LABEL, let me see if I can get some other guys in here.' Who gives a shit? Our relationship is bigger than music. I mean, he's godfather to my son, you know? All he had to do is call me up and say, 'Zakk, wanna do some jamming?' And that's what he did. I'm going up to his house tonight to start writing songs. I'll just start putting down some riffs, and we'll take it from there. We're hoping to get the album done in time for the summer Ozzfest tour."
Guitar Player: What are you guys going for with [BLACK LABEL SOCIETY's new album] "Shot to Hell"?
Zakk: "Zero record sales. [Laughs] I just look at it as just another BLACK LABEL album. As long as it doesn't sound like the last album, we're good to go. This is number eight. It's meat and potatoes, man. You get bored with the others, you can listen to this one. I can't stand it when bands say, 'This is the best thing we've ever done,' because it's like, 'But you said that about the last one.' If this is the biggest record I've ever done, great. But if it's not, I won't discredit the other albums I've done, because at that space and time, that was the best job I could do. That's the cool thing about music — it takes you back in time."
Guitar Player's June 2006 issue is available on the newsstands now. More information can be found at www.guitarplayer.com.