Zakk Wylde has had a busy 2021. While a lot of artists have put a pause on releases and tour plans, Zakk’s band, Black Label Society released it’s eleventh studio album, Doom Crew Inc and toured North America with Prong and death metal godfathers Obituary. Zakk spent some time with us to give us the current state of things. Rumour had it that he’s been a little under the weather.
‘Yeah, I just didn’t have enough rock and roll in my diet! It’s nothing that a little Led Zeppelin can’t take care of, you know?’
You must have had enough rock and roll on the recent tour? ‘It was great man, we did like forty-four shows in fifty-one days.’
Being that it was a post-lockdown tour, how was the vibe? ‘It was just great, man. I’ve known Tommy Victor from Prong since No More Tears, and the Obituary guys were great and we had a great crew – we all had a blast.’
Any moment that stands out from the tour? ‘Just that everybody survived! Nobody got Gonorrhea or herpes … a good time was had by all (laughs)!’
Congrats on the new record. You’ve been at this for forty years or so – how are you keeping it fresh these days? ‘I always love making every new record, because it’s like the beginning of a new season. I mean, regardless of whether we won the Superbowl or had a good season with injured players, or a terrible season. It’s the chance to start something new. There’s always some new buried treasure out there and it’s just me going out there to see what I can find. For me writing new riffs it’s like an archaeological dig – you know there’s dinosaur bones buried there and some days you go out and don’t find anything, then you go out again the next day and so on until you find something.’
That’s a good way to approach it. I know as a musician myself there’s that worry about whether I’ve written every riff I’m going to write … ‘All you have to do is look at your favoUrite bands and artists. You take someone like Zeppelin, a perfect example, Stairway to Heaven didn’t come out until their fourth record. Obviously, if they were ready they would’ve put it on the first record, but they weren’t there yet. If after Stairway to Heaven they said ‘oh, I guess we’ve done everything and we can quit now,’ but after that they had No Quarter, Song Remains the Same, Kashmir, The River, and after that Achilles’ last Stand – I’m just saying if they would’ve quit after Stairway they wouldn’t have any of that. Same thing with Black Sabbath. That first album had N.I.B. and Wicked World then you get to War Pigs which leads to Into the Void, then Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, what I’m saying is if they quit after War Pigs, they never would have gotten to Symptom of the Universe et cetera … just any of your favourite bands you find inspiration from, imagine what you would miss if they quit after one or two records.’
You also were part of the Generation Axe tour with Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tosin Abasi, and Nuno Bettencourt. How did that come about? ‘Father Steve was the one who put that all together. Him and Joe Satriani would go out with G3 and he wanted to put together his own thing, so he reached out to me then he got Yngwie, then Tosin, then Nuno. I mean it’s a blast! Between the musicians there is so much comedy, and there’s these music business horror stories discussed late nights after the show. They would say, this happened and that happened, and I’m thinking no way! You’re making it up – these stories are so crazy they don’t need any embellishment.’
I was thinking that while watching the show you have yourself, Nuno, Yngwie and Steve, then you have Tosin who seems so young and innocent … ‘Yeah, we’ll he’s been at it long enough to have some horror stories of his own. Anybody who gets into the music business – I mean the stories Ozzy Osbourne would tell me, I would be like, this is insane! With musicians, they’re just focused on what they do, playing music. They’re not paying attention to the business side of things, but now I think they teach that at MI (Musicians Institute). I mean, say what you want about Gene Simmons, but he would watch how everybody got ripped off and go ‘that’s never going to happen to me!”
Artists in general seem to have a tendency to not want to fight for themselves. ‘I always tell young kids starting out: make the band your job! I mean Jimmy Page‘s life revolved around his band – even today as we’re on the phone, his life revolves around the band. Even though the existence of Zeppelin was only twelve years — he’s still the curator of that empire. It’s not something he just did on weekends. It’s just like: go all in! Don’t have any other eggs in other baskets — Jimmy Page had only one egg in that basket and it was Led Zeppelin.’
Entering into 2022 what do you have going on?
‘Oh just cleaning the dog run, more laundry… more dishes. Aside from that we’re going to start touring again, we’re getting ready to go to Europe, provided that Omicron then Optimus prime virus have run their course — over here in the states the tour was great and didn’t have any issues. No one on the tour got sick and it was good.’
Anything from the Ozzy camp? ‘Yeah, I just spoke to him the other day. He’s doing good – he’s working on his record, they’ll be wrapping that up. My position is like on the last – everything was already written and they say just put your fiddly diddly things over them and do your thing the way you would play. So it’s like, oh yeah, no problem. It’s always a good time with him – it’s fun, you’re playing, so it’s not going to be bad!’
Doom Crew Inc. is out now.