Zakk Wylde Talks ‘Book of Shadows II,’ Learning Guitar, Staying Humble + More
Legendary guitarist Zakk Wylde was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The axeman discussed his new acoustic album, 'Book of Shadows II,' taking guitar lessons as a kid, staying humble and more. Check out the chat below.
Lots going on in Zakk Wylde's world. Book of Shadows II is out now, Zakk Sabbath is going to be out with Clutch in the fall. Let's talk Book of Shadows II. Why is acoustic playing, Zakk, so important to being a well rounded guitarist?
Well, as far as being well rounded, I always tell kids, you have to play what you like and what you have passion for. So as far as being well rounded, as long as you're playing what you love, that's all that really matters. You don't have to be well rounded, in that regard. I mean, AC/DC doesn't have one acoustic song on any record. So, you won't find any "Wild Horses" on any AC/DC albums. I just think it depends on what you like and what you feel like doing.
To me, the acoustic stuff or playing piano or doing the heavy stuff — with riffs and everything like that — it's whatever you're in the mood for. As much as I love listening to [Led] Zeppelin doing "Black Dog," I love it when they do "Going to California." It's just a different flavor and a different mood, that's all.
Book of Shadows is regarded as a pivotal album in terms of establishing your musical identity. What's the importance of BOSII at this point in your career?
Everyone always asks, "Why 20 years? Is this by design?" Yes, it is, because after we did the first one, the goal was to break the record of Chinese Democracy, which was 15 years in the making. So, once we got to 16 years with Book of Shadows II, I said, "Ah, the Hell with it. Let's just go another four years and make it 20." Cause 20 is a good number, a nice rounded off number instead of 16.
So, we got 20, and then I figured that the only person that could break this record and be unemployed for about 20 years without making a record would have to be maybe Richard Branson. So, I figure maybe, if anyone likes the record, that's great. If they don't like the record, that's great too because it could make a wonderful beer coaster. The whole thing is, at the end of the day, the record is secure 20 years. You have to have a reason to get out of bed.
Growing up in New Jersey, there was a community of great musical talent around you. What guitarists and bands from that scene made the biggest impact on your development as a musician?
Well for me, it was obviously my guitar teacher, Leroy Right, he was huge for me. Just to physically see somebody play like that. He was just an amazing teacher, as well. He would teach you your scales and everything like that, but at the same time, he would always keep it fun because you could learn from your favorite bands and stuff like that.
But he also broke it down for me, why things work and how it everything connects together. Like, taking a car apart and going, "Well the reason why you need this part–" I say, "What is this part?" 'Well, without this part, this won't work. And then that is connected to this, and this is connected that.' I say, "Oh, alright." So now it all starts making sense. So, Leroy was huge, without a doubt. Then obviously when we were starting to play out and opening up for bands, like Stone Pony and stuff like that. Seeing Dave DiPietro from T.T. Quick, they were huge. And Kenny Dubman, he was in a band called Prophet at the time. I mean, for me and my development, they would be the big three for sure. To see them all physically play was inspiring, like, awesomely inspiring all the time.
How would your dedication to playing guitar be different without the career opportunities that you've had?
Well, I'm without a doubt truly blessed to have Ozzy in my life and then have Ozzy to take me from working at a gas station when I'm 19, 20 years old. It's the biggest platform you can have, I mean Saint Rhoads started that way. And then being a huge fan of Jake [E. Lee] and obviously Tony Iommi 'cause I'm a huge [Black] Sabbath freako. It's just like being a kid and you love the New York Yankees, and I love Thurman Munson, and now I'm catching for the Yankees. So, it's pretty mind blowing.
Me and JD [John DeServio] always talk about, you know, if you're a musician and it's in your blood and it's part of who you are and what you do, it's part of breathing. The whole thing is, all my buddies — I know a lot of real musicians — they still play and they will always play. Everything would revolve around music if I wasn't blessed to have Ozzy in my life and our Black Label [Society] family.
Me and JD would either have a music store, we'd be teaching, we'd have our cover band, we'd have a wedding band on the weekends, we'd be doing our originals. Everything would revolve around music. All the music buddies I know are still playing, and you're either a lifer or that's it. It's part of who you are and part of what you do when you wake up, it's just like breathing. You play music.
Zakk, in an industry full of ego you've always been humble about being regarded so highly as a guitarist. What keeps you so grounded?
Me and my buddies always talk about everybody. This guy's a tool bag or whatever. I don't think fame has anything to do with it or how much money you have. I really think the same tool bags you knew in high school — if you just add fame or money to them, you're just adding water to a tool bag plant, or a tool bag tree so it just gets bigger. That's when you just go, man that guy just doesn't get it.
The whole thing is, you'll go "man, why can't you just be one of the guys?" Because he can't, because he's not. Ozzy has always just been one of the guys. Anybody I've known that's known Ozz since, I remembered Pete Merton (God bless his soul) he [was a tech] for Saint Rhoads. He's gone now too, but he knew Ozz since they were kids. Like 7 years old. He's like "Zakk, he's always been the same." No matter how much money Ozzy's had or how much fame he's got, he's like, "That's the greatest thing about him."
If you were working anywhere, if we were working at McDonalds with any of our friends where you go, this guy is a tool bag. It doesn't matter. If you work with him at McDonald's he'll still be the same clown that he is just with a ton of money and a bunch of fame. I don’t think it brings out anything, you are who you are. If you're a nice person, you'll be a nice person no matter how much money you've got — I think you'll keep working hard. If you have a work ethic and it's in you, nothing is going to make that go way because you're driven.
Driven people don't need motivation and driven people won't change. Whereas you can pile as much money and as much championships on Captain America Tom Brady, every time he shows up at training camp his goal is to win another Super Bowl, it doesn't matter. You can pump another 10 million dollars at him, but that's great. What time is practice today? That's how driven and motivated people are. As far as people being humble and the difference between that and being a tool bags, I just think you are who you are whether you have money or fame.
Agreed. Some people change, and some people don't.
Nah, they've always been that way. You just notice it now. [laughs]
Zakk, your life changed when you came to California and auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne. If you haven't gotten that chance, do you think you would have eventually ended up in Los Angeles anyway?
Yeah. Actually, me and my wife Barbaranne, this is when we we're just boyfriend and girlfriend, we talked about it then. For me, there's nothing in New Jersey in regards, back then to hook up with a band or do anything or whatever we're gonna do. Without a doubt I eventually — we had plans on coming out here before I started playing with the boss [Ozzy]. Yeah, I think so. Just to give it a shot.
Let's be real, if you want to be an actor you have to come out to California anyway. The majority of connections or people you want to meet in the music business are out here. Without a doubt I would have come out here, just to get a taste of it anyway. Just go, "eh, this isn't for me" or whatever then you go back home and do what you want to do. Also, nowadays with social media and everything else, young bands can promote from anywhere. It's not that you have to be out here, it is cool when you physically meet people and discuss things if you want to help the band out.
What else can we expect from you in 2016?
I'll be mowing lawns, dishes and laundry and I'll be shaving my legs furiously. The reason we do keep touring is because the budget on our fishnet stockings and tearing them if I don't shave my legs properly before the big rock show. I'll be doing a lot of that. Also, we'll be playing music.
I see the order of priorities. Thank you so much.
Thanks to Zakk Wylde for the interview. Pick up your copy of ‘Book of Shadows II’ at Amazon or iTunes and keep up with Zakk's touring activities on his Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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