“I mean everyone asks, “Zakk, is this a greatest hits record?” and I say no in order for it to be a greatest hits record you need that one vital, important ingredient and that would be hit songs, we don’t have any hit songs. So that’s the reason it’s ‘Grimmest Hits’.”
From Release: One part invading horde and all parts traveling carnival party, Black Label Society traverses the world powered by caffeine and cacophony. BLS engages and inspires audiences everywhere they go, on every radio dial they burn, inviting all comers to join in and participate in their brotherhood and sisterhood of hard rock and vigour. Now ten studio albums deep, with solo records, Ozzy shows, and Zakk Sabbath tours all kicking ass simultaneously, Black Label Society rides ever forward, fist held high.
We gave Zakk Wylde a call while he was getting ready to roll with the Seattle chapter to talk about the new Black Label Society album, writing, touring, advice, and so much more!
So, it’s been just under two years since we last chatted, so let’s catch up, how have the last couple of years been for you?
it’s amazing, the sex change operation has gone well, my vagina is at full power and that’s why we’re out rolling here tonight with the Seattle chapter. In spite of that everything’s been good. *laughs*
‘Grimmest Hits’ has just been released, how does it feel finally having it out there?
It’s wonderful, I mean the whole thing, I mean everyone asks, “Zakk, is this a greatest hits record?” and I say no in order for it to be a greatest hits record you need that one vital, important ingredient and that would be hit songs, we don’t have any hit songs. So that’s the reason it’s ‘Grimmest Hits’. So this way when everyone listens to this record they say we don’t hear any hit songs on this record. Exactly, jackass that’s the reason that it’s called ‘Grimmest Hits’ not greatest hits. With things like this I explain to my wife when she wakes up in the morning and she looks at me and into my eyes, I go “Hey sweetheart, it’s with genius like this that you are the lucky winner of the sweepstakes and you’re my wife” *laughs*.
Far from grim there then?
*laughs* It’s beyond grim, it’s beyond bleak. *laughs*
After making and touring the ‘Book of Shadows II’ record, was it somewhat weird strapping the electric back on and writing and recording ‘Grimmest Hits’?
No I mean actually it’s nice, I’ve been doing both and I’d imagine we’ll be doing another Black Label album after this one so it’ll be more riffs abound, but then after that we’ll do another ‘Book of Shadows’ record, you know what it is, it’s a road trip record, it’s a mellow album from the beginning to the end, so you can decompress. After that you’re kinda looking forward to doing the heavy side of things, so I wouldn’t change it for anything I love doing both. As much as I love listening to Zeppelin doing ‘Black Dog’ I love it when they do ‘Going To California’.
Aren’t you supposed to wait another eighteen or so years for the nest ‘Book of Shadows’ record?
Um, yeah without a doubt, that’s why I love doing them. Like I said I love listening to The Stones doing ‘Street Fighting Man’ and then they go into ‘Wild Horses’ so I love all of it.
This is the band’s tenth album, looking back to your first what do you see as the biggest difference in the way Black Label Society works now compared to your beginnings?
I think with everybody you look from where it started whether it’s Zeppelin or Sabbath, if you look from the beginning the first album and how things are morphing and changing all the time, so I mean I look back on some of the earlier stuff to where we’re at now and I remember what we were doing when certain records were going on, obviously it always depends on when you wrote those records, what side of the bed you woke up on that day and what’s gonna happen. Like this album, with ‘Grimmest Hits’ I had twenty days at home to write the record before the fellas come out and recorded at The Black Vatican. I got just as excited doing this album as I did doing the first record I did with Ozzy, we did ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ doing ‘Miracle Man’ and everything like that. So for me if it was sports I look at it like we were in the world championship and we got real close or won a part of the year, I just look at it as excitement and the new season and what it’s gonna bring. I mean I’m recording all the time and even though I have The Black Vatican and stuff like that and the studio and I’m not gonna be like Prince and in there tracking and recording every day, it’s like my favourite sport, after the season I need to get away from it for a little while and just like I’m done writing and I ain’t gonna play today.
Does that help when you finish writing and recording an album and then you go out on tour, does that help cleanse you and bring you back to writing once again?
Exactly, you get into show mode when you’re out there you know what I mean. Obviously in the off season with sports me and you are lifting heavy and we’re trying to make gains and stuff like that, so it’s a different type of training. Then when the season begins it’s more about maintenance me and you are like Conan, we’re not power lifting because just yesterday I mean physically you can’t even lift that heavy anyway, it’s more about maintenance and the reason why you did it is training and to get ready for the reason. So, it’s kinda like that, so when you’re out on the road, even for this new record the riffs that I’d written out on the road were like Zakk Sabbath, I wrote ‘Trampled Down Below’, I wrote ‘Seasons of Falter’ and I did a little stint in a hotel room and wrote and had the beginnings of ‘The Only Words’ it reminded me of that Stonesy kinda ‘Wild Horses’ type thing when I started writing it, so I just left bits and pieces of it in that regard but when I got home is when I finished it. Usually when I write I wrote songs from beginning to end, I don’t have bits and pieces lying around and I put them all together, usually you just sit down and write it, here’s the beginning, here’s the middle and here’s the end. The end. That’s what’s going on. There’s tonnes of stuff recorded that didn’t make the album and I usually don’t go back and listen to them because I’d rather just start on the new season like what have we got, I’ll start writing, like I said I’ve got twenty days to write the record, I wake up and have some Odin Force and just start writing riffs. The way I look at it and me and you are gonna start digging ‘em all and we’re looking for the Padegi statue just like Father Merrin in The Exorcist and we’re gonna dig out the old Padegi statue and then all hell is gonna break loose after this *laughs*. It’ll just turn into a complete nightmare *laughs* then we question ourselves and we go why am I doing this? *laughs*
So it’s somewhat easy to say what’s changed over time, but on the other side of that what’s the one thing you would say has stayed the same in your time together?
You’re passion for doing it, the whole thing is my joy from when I was fifteen years old to now that I’m fifty one years old, even in The Black Vatican, when you’re fifteen years old you have picture of Jimmy Page up on the wall, Tony Iommi, Frank Marino, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Saint Rhodes and all my favourite guys, and now that I’m in The Black Vatican I still have those same pictures up but now they’re really big and they have frames around them now and just duct tape hanging them on the wall, so my passion for doing this is still the same. Even when we were doing Zakk Sabbath shows I mean me and you are fifteen years old we’re playing down in our friends basements, were playing in their kitchens and playing backyard kid parties and now that I’m fifty one years old me and you are still playing Zakk Sabbath shows but the keg parties are kinda bigger so it’s actually kinda funny. I mean that’s the one constant that’s remained throughout it. I mean I have friends my age from when I started with Oz when I was nineteen / twenty years old, they were in bands too when I came out to L.A. They’re completely out of music now or they’re still in the band and they really don’t tour, they’re like “Zakk I got tired of tours and wanted to spend more time at home” or whatever, to me yeah I’ve got four kids and I’ve been with the same girl since I was in sixth grade and I mean the whole thing is just like if me and you were truck drivers, it’s how we pay and we feed our families, it is what we do, we love driving trucks. I couldn’t imagine, and it doesn’t matter how much money you have or what you have in the bank account, it’s like people say to Keith Richards, they say “when are you going to retire?” he replies “retire to what? This what I do” it’s like breathing, it’s like a great white shark, when are you going to stop swimming? It’s what I do, if I don’t swim I die. *laughs*
Looking back, was there one piece of advice you were given when you started making music that’s stuck with you to this day?
I mean the famous saying if I knew now what I didn’t know then and all that stuff, without a doubt in regards to if somebody says “hey Zakk, you got any advice for my son or my daughter they want to play music” I go it really is fun, if you want a cult secret, the illuminati of cult secrets, it’s just glaring right in front of your face but it’s just like magically no one gets it. It’s just whatever you love doing and you have passion for and whatever comes out of you naturally that you don’t even have to try to do, it’s as easy as taking a shit or a piss, you just do it, you don’t think about it you just do it, and that’s just play what you love. If it’s something you can’t stand doing no matter what you do, it doesn’t work that way, all our favourite artists that we love and bands that we love and whatever when they first came out The Stones were The Stones, Zeppelin was Zeppelin, Sabbath was Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix when he was playing with Little Richard that was his training ground, then the whole thing when he became Jimi Hendrix he was like this is what I love. Just be the best Jimi Hendrix you can be, what it is you love and what it is you like, I love wearing these clothes and I love playing this music well good you should just do that, just do that and be the best version of that you can be. I mean put it this way if you want to listen to The Black Crowes or whatever you guys like, you like Humble Pie, you like The Small Faces, you like The Stones, you like The Allman Brothers, that’s what we love. Good, you guys should do that and do the best version of that you can do. Why are you guys playing pop music that you don’t even like playing? You wouldn’t even buy records by those artists, it’s like “yeah I know but we were told we’d get a record deal if we did that” it doesn’t work that way man, you just have to play what you love playing. Before I had Ozzy in my life I did the same thing, I loved Black Sabbath, I loved the albums starting with Randy and he was an influence on me, an inspiration and they’re the guys I love from Mahogany Rush, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Tony Iommi, and Jimmy Page and everyone like that, and the band you were in had zero chance and you would find no posters of anyone I just mentioned because of the whole you’ll never make it if you’re in a band doing stuff like that, and being fifteen years old and you listen because you’re like “I don’t know” and you focus on what you want to sound like and making things and if you like it then maybe you should do that. That’s it, if anyone says you got any advice for my son or daughter, yeah, do that.
We missed the Book of Shadows shows, but when do you think we might see you back in Australia?
Without a doubt, for sure we’re coming down there, we would’ve loved to get down there with the Book of Shadows thing but obviously it didn’t fit in because there wasn’t enough time or whatever between touring but for sure on this next run we’re definitely coming down there. We’re wrapping up this one then we’ve got a day home and then straight to Russia so I’m gonna start knocking out the European crusade, then after that I get home and there’s two weeks and some other stuff going on, then we go into Ozzy Boot Camp which I’m getting ready to roll with The Boss. In between rolling with The Boss is when we’re gonna go back out and do Australia, South America, New Zealand and then go to Asia, so yeah we’re still gonna be rolling around.
Any chance we’ll see you back here with The Boss?
I’m sure I’ll be down there with The Boss without a doubt, we’ve been out rolling for two years so now that’s the game plan and who know what goes on beyond that, you know with Oz he’s like “Zakk we’ll just keep going”, so whatever Ozzy wants to do.
You’ll be hitting twenty years with Black Label Society this year, have you started thinking about what presents you want for your big party?
Yeah we’re gonna have a birthday cake and it’s gonna say ‘Black Label Society, Happy Twentieth Birthday, now you only have thirty years to catch up to The Rolling Stones’ *laughs* and the way The Stones are going they’re padding those numbers up as well, it might be forty *laughs*.
We all know Keith will be the last one standing as well.
*laughs* God bless him, I love Keith, that’ll be a hundred year celebration *laughs*.
What do you put the longevity of Black Label Society down to?
That we have an outstanding alcohol bill that we have to pay off, that’s what we’re still doing, and I haven’t had a drink in nine years but I’m still paying off the previous Black Label animal house years tours so that’s an incredible Mt Everest bill that have to pay so we’re still chipping away at that. We don’t really like touring, we don’t actually like recording, we don’t even enjoy being around each other at all but the fact of the matter is you have bills to pay and that bill is incredible *laughs* it keeps me in work.
Lastly let’s look ahead to the future, finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2018 Zakk Wylde will…
Be putting duct tape and crazy glue on my vagina to go back out on the road and pay this outstanding alcohol bill that we have *laughs*.
Thanks for your time as always, Zakk, we hope to see you soon.
Tell the Australian chapter to stay strong, keep bleeding Black Label, God bless and we’ll see you guys in a bit.
Band Members: Zakk Wylde – Vocals, Guitar, John DeServio – Bass, Jeff Fabb – Drums, Dario Lorina – Guitar
Latest release: Grimmest Hits (out now)