Crazy about Zakk Wylde
by Naughty Mickie Photography by Keith Durflinger
Zakk Wylde is taking on not only the nation, but also the world, with his edgy band
Black Label Society. They will be touring the U.S., Japan, Europe and Canada and,
hopefully, pairing up with Pantera later for another run across the states. Their second
release, "Stronger Than Death, " is hitting the market offering a dish of
classic metal and raw power, but Wylde himself is in reality a mild-mannered jokester.
Wylde calls BLS a "reaction to other garbage bands," stating that there's just
not a lot of good music in the scene anymore. On the recording, he sings and plays both
guitar and bass, with only the drums handled by Philth Ondich. Wylde laughs when I remark
that it must have been a lot of work in the recording studio. "If you want it done,
just do it yourself," he says.
The preparation for the tour is no sweat either according to Wylde, "Drink some
beer, knock out some tunes and hit the road." Wylde obviously will need some help to
recreate his tunes at his shows, so he's toting along his faithful drummer Ondich and
adding Nick Catanese on guitar and SOB on bass. Crowbar will open for the band on this
self proclaimed "Brotherhood of Brutality" tour.
Wylde is one of the few, the lucky, who rose from obscurity to become a household (at
least in mine) name. His childhood was very normal with a mother, father, sister and a
grand piano. The sister, Amy, became the classical pianist, while Wylde lasted about two
lessons. "I wanted to be Jack Lambert," Wylde explains. "I wanted to be a
But music has a way of catching up to you. Wylde was visiting family friends and heard
a voracious guitar player. The musician was covering Halen and Sabbath covers with finesse
and Wylde was intrigued. He found himself asking Leroy Wright, the handler of the Les Paul
git, for lessons and studied with him for about two years.
"I would get home from school at 2:30 p.m. and practice until midnight,"
recalls Wylde. "Learning the songs I liked made it super cool for me to
Wylde was true to his calling. Unlike other high school musicians, who he
considered "all hacks," he wasn't concerned with playing tunes to get laid-
Wylde wanted to play tunes to get paid. I know that his talent cut short Wylde's
education, but that doesn't stop him from teasing me that he holds a "Master's Degree
in the Art of Drinking."
Wylde tells me that he managed to land his gig with Ozzy Osbourne at age 19 because he
was a drug dealer and could supply Ozzy with the best cocaine around. He states Osbourne's
promise, "If you can give me good drugs and you can play, then you're in the
band." Wylde waits a beat for my reaction and then, unable to hold it in any longer,
bursts out laughing. It seems he loves giving this story to the media- it tends to make
them real quiet.
Finally down to a stifled giggle, Wylde spouts out the truth, "I was playing in a
shit-hole bar in New Jersey and a guy recommended that I audition for Ozzy."
He got the details and sent some photos and a tape of his playing off and heard from
Sharon Osbourne, Ozzy's wife and manager, a few weeks later. When Wylde met Osbourne, they
found out that they were on the same wavelength- Wylde had cut his musical teeth on
classic tunes such as Sabbath's and Ozzy's- and the deal was made.
In between working on "Ozzmosis," Wylde spent some time jamming with Guns 'N'
Roses. Unfortunately Axl Rose had a slew of legal problems which killed any chance of
making things happen. But Wylde and Rose are still friends; in fact, Wylde speaks quite
warmly of the reclusive vocalist.
Wylde then made the decision to do his own thing. Pride & Glory was formed by Wylde
in 1994 and released a self-titled album which received good reviews. But it still wasn't
quite what he was looking for, so he let the project go and finally came up with BLS.
On Wylde's web site, you can find a technohead's dream- a list of his gear. He has
"always used Marshall gear" and only uses "two sounds- clean or
"I have a distortion pedal that's always on and I turn down the guitar to get a
clean sound," explains Wylde.
I remarked that on his first tour with Osbourne, Wylde had a huge rack of stuff on
stage. He informs me that it actually looked like more than it was and he dumped it
"The shit was breaking down half of the time," says Wylde. "My gear is
much easier to troubleshoot now."
Wylde is following the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule by paring his tools down
to the basics- three pedals and his Marshall. Currently, Wylde is reaching out to other
ventures. He has been working on the soundtrack for Warner Bros.' upcoming film,
"Metal Gods," based on the life of Ripper Owens of Judas Priest, and has even
tried his hand at a small role. He was offered, and took, the part of a beer-guzzling,
gun-firing guitar player. Wylde says that the role is pretty easy for him (I wonder why)
and it's fun to be paid for knocking down beers.
What does the future hold for this "Wylde-guy"?
"Drinking more beer," he laughs.
But realistically, Wylde hopes to open a microbrewery one day. "Sammy Hagar is the
tequila guy, I'm the beer guy," states Wylde. As for family matters, Wylde's music
keeps a nice roof over the heads of his wife, son, 6, daughter, 8, and dogs. He's very
private about his family, but his devotion shines through, even in his song writing.
"Rust," a ballad on "Stronger Than Death" was written for Wylde's
wife. The tune contains one of his favorite solos. The cut, though mellow when compared to
most of works on the release, stands out as an example of Wylde's capabilities, expertly
capturing an emotion and sharing it clearly with the listener.
Wylde puffs up about his tour, threatening his fans and warning them to "build up
your tolerance for alcohol and get ready for BLS." But he deserves this bit of
egotism, as he speaks quietly about his talents and sums his life up in one simple
sentence- "I'm a musician at the end of the day."
For more information on Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society, visit