Zakk Wylde Talks New Book, Sobriety, Pantera, and Going ‘Un-Blackened’ [INTERVIEW]
Black Label Society frontman Zakk Wylde talks about his new book ‘Bringing Metal to the Children,’ as well as sobriety, jamming with Ozzy again on an upcoming tour, sobriety, his thoughts on going solo, the rumored Pantera tribute/reunion performance and his future plans with BLS in this exclusive interview.
Zakk Wylde is going to be one busy dude in 2012. The heavily-bearded axe-grinder just released his first book, ‘Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination,’ but will also hit the road in Europe for the ‘Ozzy & Friends’ tour. In addition to that, Zakk has previously announced plans for an “Un-Blackened” DVD with appearances from friends Jerry Cantrell and Slash — we asked the BLS mastermind about all of that as well as the oft-rumored Pantera reunion and more in our recent interview.
So in addition to guitar icon, singer/songwriter, actor, all around badass – you’re now an author. For those who haven’t heard about your new book ‘Bringing Metal to the Children,’ how would you describe it to them?
It’s in the same realm as ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Just an epic…it’s epic. Not so much in the form of their’s is great, it’s just, like an epic turd [laughs]. But it’s epic nonetheless [laughs].
In the foreword of the book you thank Vaseline for helping your ass heal from the metaphorical pounding you’ve taken over the years, is that really how you feel about your career or was that more of a joke?
When anyone says, “Do you have any advice?” [I say] “Whatever you do, don’t lose your sense of humor.” If you’re gonna be in the entertainment business, whether it be in acting, writing books, or in a band…whatever you’re doing — you gotta be able to laugh at yourself, because it’s a tsunami of comedy that never ends. All the stories in the book are just like you and me sitting around a pub one day…laughing our asses off talking about the goofy ass stories and you saying, “Zakk we should just write this stuff down and make a book out of this stuff,” because it’s so ridiculously stupid. Could I make a volume two out of this? Of course, all I have to do is go out on the road. It never ends you know? When you sit with Ozzy [Osbourne] and listen to the boss tell these stories about Sabbath back in the 70′s it’s like, “You gotta be making that up.” No, sadly, I’m not making it up. Just basically like every ‘Seinfeld’ episode, it’s like, “What did you guys write that story?” No, we didn’t write anything. That actually happened, we just elaborated on it. Everything in the book is like a George Carlin thing on steroids but rock and roll.
You used to be quite the drinker — In the book you even mention that you and the BLS crew spent 30 grand on alcohol during one month of Ozzfest…
No it was like 51-grand. That’s a down payment on a house. Out of the 12 of us, there were only four of us that were big booze hounds. That’s when the warden called up –the wife– and was just like “I gotta put the clamp down on the Berzerkers. You guys are just blasting through alcohol like nobody’s business.” Mind you it’s not just us, it’s all our buddies in each town…[in] Black Label we got the rest of our Berzerker brotherhood come rollin’ out [and] everyone’s guzzlin’ down like it’s nobody’s business. Put it this way, 51 grand later a good time was had by all.
What’s your drink of choice now that booze is off the table?
It was Shirley Temples but to make it feel like more of a tough guy I go with the Roy Rogers.
Chris Cornell says that the way he writes is completely different than it was when he was drinking, do you find that to be the case now that you’ve adopted sobriety?
For me, no — it’s not any different. We’d be drinking beer throughout the day, I mean nobody would be blasted. It would be just like I’m drinking coffee — you take a swig and get back to jamming or whatever. It’s not like we were doing drinking contests. When I was writing the stuff it was never like, “I gotta have some cocktails in order to write.” To me it was never a big deal. I was never blasted when we’d write the stuff anyway. The stuff that we did write when we were blasted was pretty good, ’cause whatever we did record — we’d listen back to the next day and then we’d be on the floor crying and laughing because everyone is so blasted nobody could play [laughs]. There would be 20 ideas and maybe two of them would be salvageable, the rest pure gold — comedy. It seemed like a good idea last night [laughs].
When Black Label first got underway, you guys were kicking out albums almost every year. Then there was a 4 year gap between ‘Shot to Hell’ and ‘Order of the Black,’ that being said – when can we expect to see another BLS album?
We got this eight week crusade coming up with the boss…then I’m gonna do a book signing and an acoustic set and then after that were gonna do it with the band and a string section and a couple of my buddy musicians. We’re playin’ at the Mayan Theatre [in Los Angeles] and were gonna tape it for a DVD. Then we’re gonna record a couple bonus tracks of some mellow stuff for like an “Un-Blackened” thing. That’s on the game plan now in August. After that we have a batch of gigs in South America and then a run through Canada…I think we’re going back over to Europe as well. So obviously sometime after that is when we’re gonna make another studio album with Black Label, you know, with all the heavy stuff.
So when can we expect to see the “Un-Blackened” DVD?
It’s gonna be a blast I’m looking forward to it. We’re just coming up with the setlist now. Mind you we don’t have a problem like The [Rolling] Stones do trying to figure out a setlist. But between [our] nine albums, were just trying to figure out what were gonna do with the tunes to re-work ‘em. Like we did with ‘The Song Remains Not the Same,’ where we took heavy tunes and made them acoustic.
You mentioned hitting the road for the Ozzy & friends tour, are you excited about jamming w/ the boss again?
Yeah, Without a doubt. I just saw [Ozzy] not too long ago [while] Jack [Obsourne's] wife was having a baby shower. I was there, Slash was there, Blasko and Ozzy. It was hysterical because none of us were [drinking]. The bar was right there and we’re all ordering coffee, Arnold Palmer’s and waters or whatever, and I go, “Wow, how things have changed.” ‘Cause back in the day all four of us would’ve been plowing booze like it was nobody’s business — especially at a baby shower. Excitement is at an all time level at that thing [laughs].
You’ve guested on a ton of songs over the years, have you ever thought about going the Slash/Santana route of doing a whole album of collaborations with other artists or are you more of a band guy?
I’m blessed for the fact that with Black Label it’s like me owning the Yankees — I get to pick the players, I own the franchise. Everything down to designing the stadium, the uniforms, everything. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
There has been a lot of speculation about a Pantera tribute with the guys and you in place of Dimebag Darrell, what are your feelings about that whole conversation because it’s a pretty polarizing issue among fans?
We all love our brother dime, I love [Vinnie Paul] and the guys so, if they were ever to actually do that and they asked me — of course I would do that in honor of Dimebag. Why wouldn’t I? It would just be an amazingly beautiful thing to celebrate Dime’s greatness and what the band achieved. And I’m friends with all the guys so if they ever did that, why would I say no?
You recently got roasted by your peers, how brutal was that?
In Black Label, that’s what it’s like on a daily basis. Whenever anybody will look at Blabbermouth or anything, they’re just plowing away on you…’cause nobody gets out alive on that thing. We’re all crying [and] laughing. The more brutal — the funnier it is. Some guys cant take a joke, but not in or around Black Label. If you come at me and throw something at me I’ll be like, “Is that all you got? I got a wife and kids, you know. You think that’s gonna hurt me?” [laughs]
You had a cameo in ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ and I have to know, is there any chance that you and Master Shake will get your band Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary back together?
We were out on the road at the time and we pulled into a studio to do that. All I remember was reading the lines — and this was before I knew anything really about the show — and I was like “What are you guys smoking down there? Whatever it is you’re drinking, can I have some of it?” [laughs] I love the show, [it's] hysterical. I don’t know if they can have me back on it because I got killed in the scene [laughs]. The banjo playing scorpions ended up shooting each other and there were bombs going off and the whole nine yards. When I exploded, remember they said, “What are you gonna tell his wife?” [laughs]