by Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – Zakk Wylde is considered one of the most influential guitarists in the history of modern music. His heavy tones mixed with unimaginable lead solos earned him guitar duties for metal-icon Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, during the Ozzman’s prime. Wylde is the axeman behind some of metal’s most memorable riffs, marking his debut on Ozzy’s No Rest for the Wicked at the young age of 21. Now 51, Wylde has been the frontman for Black Label Society over the last two decades.
“Hellooo thereee,” a withering voice elongates upon answering the phone. Wylde has disguised his vocal tonality to match that of the type of creepy old man who would try to lead you from a dark alleyway into his van for candy, similar to Herbert from Family Guy. After a brief, confused pause, I ask Wylde how his day was going. I was not prepared for Wylde’s inner jokester.
“Very good!” he responds. “We’re doing the South Carolina chapter of the almighty Black Label tour. Getting ready for a big, fat Festivus miracle tonight! I am very excited. I just finished shaving my legs and my anal bleach appointment is coming up in about an hour and a half. The first one was already done and it was perfect, so I said ‘let’s just do it again!’ Second anal bleach of the day, I’m just that kind of guy.”
Black Label Society is touring in support of their newest release, Grimmest Hits, which was dropped earlier this year. Though the title may seem as such, this is not a greatest hits record. The album was recorded over 20 days in Wylde’s home studio, the Black Vatican.
“The record company was like, ‘Are there any hits on this record?’” he says. “I said ‘No. It’s rather bleak and rather grim.’ That’s why I went with Grimmest Hits. You see, in order to have greatest hits album you need to have one special ingredient: good songs. We don’t have any of those.”
Grimmest Hits, despite Wylde’s exaggerated claims, contains all the classic stylings that brought him to the pit: thrashy riffs, ripping solos, and heavy tones, with a couple piano-laden mellow tunes sprinkled in. Wylde admits that he wasn’t trying to explore anything new on the record, opting to continue thematic trends from throughout his career, much of which was also spent drinking booze and partying. As of 2009, Wylde is no longer on the liquor.
“It’s not that I’m completely sober,” Wylde chuckles. “I shifted from alcohol and moved on to paint kits and glue. Glue and paint kits are less filling; they aren’t that high in calories. They’re good for the abs and the vascularity.”
Many of Wylde’s craziest road stories are featured in his book Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination.
“If you ask anyone in a band or who’s been a part of the music business, they’ll tell you the comedy that comes along with it is a gift that keeps on giving,” he says. “You figure that when you get out of high school, you don’t have to deal with this crap anymore. But then you realize that life is one giant version of high school, except more silly and ridiculous. You either laugh at it or you’ll just be crying profusely. Then you write a book about it.”
Black Label Society headlines the Ranch Roadhouse (Edmonton) on February 12, the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver) on February 14 and MacEwan Hall (Calgary) on February 17 with Corrosion of Conformity.Black Label Society, Commodore Ballroom, Valentine's Day