, the wild Viking god of heavy metal, has just released his eighth album with Black Label Society
. Order Of The Black
is a blistering mix of pounding riffs and dark ballads built around the musician's penchant for Elton John-meets-Motown-styled piano tracks. The new album has already dropped two singles, the adrenaline-driven riffer "Parade Of The Dead
" followed by another heavy rocker, "Crazy Horse
." But that's just the top of the laundry list in terms of what the bearded one has been up to. Since leaving Ozzy's band and dealing with blood clots in his legs, he's had some time on his hands and in recent months he's been working on:
Two books (one instructional and the other a How-to guide for metal maniacs).
Some new and original guitars.
A new guitar pedal.
Another signature amplifier.
A pub (yeah, you read that right).
And if you can believe what he says, there's also beef jerky, coffee, hot sauce and beer.
Not to mention that he recently completed construction of his new home studio dubbed the Bunker where every track of the new album was recorded and mixed. And has just assembled Berzerkus, a package tour with Clutch
, and Children Of Bodom
that will take him out on the road for the next two years. So it's not too surprising that Zakk doesn't have time to sit one-on-one with every writer who wants to talk with him. Rather, several journalists were gathered together on various phones for a conference call. Here is the result of that communal exchange.
[* denotes a question from the writer]
*You just built a home studio the Black Label Bunker. What does that mean to have your own recording studio and be able to spend all the time you wanted on the Order of the Black album?
I remember telling Ozzy when he put the studio in [at Ozzy's house], I just go, Ozz, could you imagine how much money you must have spent in studio time since the first Black Sabbath album to now? I mean you could have basically bought a small country with the amount of money you've probably spent. Break it down: if it's a $1,000 a day, you're in there for 80 days, it's $80,000 right there. You know what I mean? It's just like buying a house; it's not so much the mortgage payment, it's the down payment on the house. I think any young band startin' especially when they used to get big record advances or whatever, the best thing would have probably been to do: buy your own recording studio and just record your album in there and then you always have this recording studio forever. Any band, when you get a record deal, you sign a record deal and then you have to pay the studio and then you have to pay the guy that's gonna engineer the record or whoever the producer guy is. The next thing you know there's $250,000 gone that you coulda used to buy a studio. Ya know what I'm sayin'? I'm just sayin' that's always what the case is. Obviously having a studio is gonna save me a ton of money down the line. Makin' this record obviously bought the studio but I keep makin' records for the next 15, 20 years, the whole thing will have paid itself off already.
*What has it felt like to be able to devote all the time you wanted to dial in guitar sounds and stuff like that?
Put it this way, I never had any time restrictions; I never recorded like that back in the day. Every Black Label album we've done or Ozzy record, we go in there [and] miking up my rig is pretty simple. It's just a JCM800 and I've done enough records now so I know what types of mics to use and EQ settings and everything like that. When I want to get clean guitar tones, I use my Roland Jazz Chorus or I'll take my Marshall and dial it in or whatever or just like a little combo or something like that. I've been doing it long enough where you know what clean guitar tones you want to get and nice, warm, clean guitar sounds and acoustic or 12-Danelectro or whatever.
That was never a problem in the past; we wouldn't take a week to get drum sounds. That's just insanity [and] obviously the engineer doesn't know what the hell he's doing. You know what I mean? It shouldn't take that long. I remember reading with Ozzy when they were doing Bark at the Moon, or not Bark at the Moon, Ultimate Sin, Jake E. Lee was sayin', I remember readin' an article, he said, Oh, yeah, it took us like four days to get a guitar tone. I mean that's insane and that's with Ron Nevison who worked with Led Zeppelin. Four days to get a guitar tone? I mean are you guys smokin' crack? You take 10 minutes to get the guitar sound and then the rest of the whole day is just getting loaded? I don't understand it. I mean four days; give me a break, man. But I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. I'd end up breakin' somebody's legs if it took me four days to get me a guitar tone. You know what I mean?
I never look at it that way. But havin' the Bunker, no, it's definitely great, man. Zack Fagan who made Ozzy's studio, his company Under the Wire, they made the Bunker and put it this way: it's road tested now. Cause originally and usually when you have the studio you're gonna need another place to mix or whatever. We recorded and I brought it to another place to mix which got a big ol' SSL board, the whole nine yards and all the bells and whistles, and the mixes from the studio like smoked it.
So now I can actually make the donuts in here, actually wrap em up, box em, and send em out. Know what I mean? It's one-stop shoppin' now. So I mean I could actually do everything in the Bunker so I'm completely stoked.
Have you ever broken anyone's leg?
When I played football but that was about it though; not intentionally though.
Did you pull out any different gear for Order of the Black?
Just still all the same thing: the Marshall Signature JCM800s; the 2203's. And then pedal-wise, all my Dunlop pedals that Jimmy and the guys make for me. The Zakk Wylde Black Label Chorus pedal [ZW38]; the Zakk Wylde Overdrive; my wah-wah pedal [ZW45]. On Crazy Horse, I used the Eddie Van Halen flanger. I used the [MXR] Phase 90 on some solo things. And that's about it. And I used the [Dunlop] Rotovibe for the solo in Parade of the Dead. But aside of that, that's it, man. I just try and keep it as simple as possible. Because the less stuff you've got goin', the better the signal is. All you need is an ass kickin' soundin' and you're good to go. And then you know 200-watt EVs I use for speakers; the more wattage they're gonna break up less. So it's just a cleaner, punchier sound. And the Monster cable; all the stuff I endorse, I use. It's not a paycheck. You know what I'm sayin'?
All my Gibsons and my Epiphone, the Graveyard Disciple, I used that on some solos and stuff like that. I got all of it in the mix.
You have the Gibson and Epiphone Signature guitars like you mentioned. Would you actually like to design your own guitar?
Well, I got the [Epiphone] ZV part SG with the V and everything like that. That's definitely mine right there. I got a couple other designs I actually came up with just recently so yeah, we're gonna see how that goes. I'm in the middle of doin' that and comin' up with another pedal with Jimmy Dunlop and the guys. And then obviously with Marshall we're makin' another Zakk Wylde Signature JCM800. So that's comin' out pretty soon, too.
*Craig Nunenmacher is gone and has been replaced by new drummer Will Hunt. What is that about?
"The two requisites to be in Black Label, to be in the band: can't be an asshole and you have to know how to play your instrument."
With Craigo he just said, he was like, Zakk, unless we're tourin' year-round, I've gotta move on and start doin' some other thing. Either getting into the medical field or whatever. I said, Alright, well, Craig, you know you always have a home here. Like I said nobody's ever been fired or quit Black Label. If you can make more money playin' drums with Celine Dion, I'm not gonna stop ya from doin' that. You can always come back to Black Label; you always got a gig here. You know what I'm sayin'? That's the beautiful thing about Black Label you know what I mean? You could always come and go, do whatever, and that's the beautiful thing about it.
What has it been like working with Will Hunt on drums?
Like I'm at this point in my career where we don't have to like set up 50,000 drum auditions and go through tapes. The whole thing is Will was out on the road on the Pedal to the Metal Tour and he was jammin' with Static-X so we all hung out; we all hang out with each other. When Craigo told me, he said, Zakky, I'm not gonna be able to keep rollin' on this thing anymore so the first thing I did was I spoke with Nick and then I said, Dude, what's Will doin'? See if he's doin' anything with Evanescence or he's doin' the Static-X thing. See what his status is. And we talked with Will and he said, Nah, Zakk, I'm just chillin' out right now. I got nothin' going on. He goes, Yeah, I'll come out, we'll make a record and he goes, We'll take it from there. If I'm gonna be jammin' with Evanescence again. I said, Well, dude, we'd love to have you if you want to do the record and do the tour you're more than welcome to do that.
So Will just came out and knocked the record out and now he's doin' the tour so it's game on. Will is awesome. The two requisites to be in Black Label, to be in the band: can't be an asshole and you have to know how to play your instrument. So Will fits the job description fine. So you know, everything is killer, man; Will is awesome.
Did Will Hunt bring out anything different in you as a player as opposed to what Craig used to do?
Everybody's got their own unique way of playing. I mean Craig's been throwing down with us for the last 10 years. Will is playing his balls off on the new record; we're psyched that Will's jammin' with us, man. At the same time we love Craigo and whatever Craig's doing, we wish Craig all the best and everything like that. Yeah, but Will's throwin' down, man.
Back in the day you'd always be working on Black Label and Ozzy records. Now that you just have BLS to think about is it different knowing you can let it all fly without having to hold anything back musically for an Ozzy record down the road?
No, you know why? The only thing that I ever said, Well I'll definitely use this and I'm not gonna bring this to the Boss was when I was doing the Pride and Glory stuff. You know what I mean? You're not gonna have banjos and mandolins flyin' around on an Ozzy record you know what I mean? So it was just like if I had all those P&G ideas, I would just leave those to themselves. No, whenever I would go in and write an Ozzy record, it was just like I'd write the riffs just like I was gonna write a Black Label album. It's gotta be a metal or a rock riff, a hard rock riff. I never approach it that way: I'm gonna save this for Black Label. It's like Jimmy Page if they woulda wrote Stairway to Heaven on the first album, they would have put it on the first album. It's like, Oh, well save this one for down the line. I mean you know it's like, Dude, you got it now. We might die in a bizarre gardening accident later on today. I mean just friggin' record the thing.
Is there any meaning behind the title of the new album: Order of the Black?
Nah, I just thought that would be a cool [title.] I read a lot of stuff. I'm Catholic and everything but I just like religion and Crowley [and] all types of stuff. You know whether it's covens, lodges, the order and with Black Label it has to be the Order of the Black and then the Black Label Order and everything like that. Because Black Label is just one gigantic family. That's why I always say, We don't have fans, we have fams. The fam club. As regards to that, it's just like, The Order? I said, Yeah, we'll just name it almost like a religious movement. On the one album, Mafia, it was just one gigantic family.
How does the songwriting process work for you?
It's always gotta be the riff, man. I don't know how you come up with a melody without [a riff.] I mean I could sing a melody off the top of my head. But I'm sure when Paul McCartney wrote Yesterday or Long and Winding Road, usually you're sittin' because you're playing behind a piano or something and then the chords will inspire you to sing a melody over it. So usually with me when I'm writin' on a piano or an acoustic guitar or we're gonna do somethin' heavy, the riff will dictate kinda what the melody's gonna be over it. Whether I'm gonna sing the riff or how Ozz always had his trademark things whether he was gonna sing a riff on certain ones and other ones he'd just do a polyrhythm against the riff or whatever. The sky's the limit. For me it's always usually the music first and then a melody and then I'll start singin' or somethin' like that. Or else I'll see somethin' like a cool line goin' to see a movie or I see a title in the newspaper. And I go, Man, that would be a great name for a song. I'll write it down and then later on down the road it'll be like, Yeah, I wanna use that as a title for a song. And then that'll be like a chorus or whatever and I'll write the song about that.
Parade of the Dead and Crazy Horse are the first two singles released from Order of the Black. You don't go into a store and buy a vinyl 45 anymore because everything is downloads. How does that impact the way you craft an album?
I don't think you're ever gonna stop it. Me personally? I mean Robin Trower's album is comin' out the same day as ours I'm goin' to buy the Robin Trower record. And then I'm gonna illegally download the Black Label album. Screw them guys! But I will legally purchase the Robin Trower record. Back in the day, if my Led Zeppelin record broke I went and bought another one. I wanna own the thing. You know what I'm sayin'? My nephew, I remember goin' through this with him cause he's all into the rap stuff and everything like this. And he had like DMX and Biggie Smalls and all this stuff. I remember he had a stack of CDs with just Sharpie marker on it, you know DMX, this one, that one, Run-DMC. He had a Run-DMC t-shirt on and I go, Where'd you get that shirt? And he goes, Ah, I went down to the gig. I saw them when they were in New York. I go, Let me ask you did you buy the shirt? He goes, Yeah, of course; I bought it at the concert. I go, So did you reach over the counter and just grab the shut and just take off? And he goes, No, the shirt cost $20. I go, Exactly. Do you know what you're doin' is basically stealin' a t-shirt every time you download one of these CDs, dude. I go, It's your favorite band. Do you realize you're stealin' from em, man?
So, yeah, I get it, Jimmy Page has enough money already but you know what though? He did the work and not only that all the guys that worked on the record down to the engineer and all the other guys that busted their balls so you could have that great Led Zeppelin IV record, that's what you're payin' for when you but it. I mean, Do you understand that? Or are you just that damned cheap that you can't spend $10 on a record, bro? I was like, Whatever, man. It's just like you're never gonna stop it either. Me and Rob Zombie were talkin' about it a couple days ago. He was sayin', Zakk, these young kids, I don't even know where to start, man. Cause unless you're an established live act now, you can go out and sell your t-shirts and tour. It's gonna be like the old days you gotta get in a van and you just gotta bust your balls doing touring. You know what I mean?
Do any of the tracks hold any special significance for you?
I dig em all. January, the lyrics are about my father because he passed away in January so I wrote that song about my dad. But, uh, like every record I've ever done like each song I love em all. It depends on what mood you're in. If I listen to all my Led Zeppelin records it's just like Well, what's your favorite one? It's like, Dude, I love em all It depends on which one I haven't worn out yet or what one I'm in the mood for. Cause they each got their own thing.
*Are those strings on January?
That's me playin' em on a keyboard, man; I'm playing those myself. Cause I got a killer Korg keyboard. It was just like one string at a time; I play like a cello, an oboe, the violins just like a four-piece quartet.
*And you're playing the string parts on Shallow Grave?
Yeah, totally; all the strings and the piano and everything.
What about a song like Darkest Days?
It's just about life in general. When I'm on the bus, me and J.D. listen to Motown stuff and Elton John and a lot of the chord progressions in that are like Motown-type chord progressions. So, you know, you got that and then the lyrics pretty much sums it all up.
*You touched on this before but because you have the new studio did you maybe take a little more time with these piano pieces? Working on different keyboard sounds or different vocal tones? Your vocals seem to reach a little deeper on this record than what you've done on previous albums.
Oh, I don't know. Not really. I mean it's just business as usual Black Label style; just knock it out. I mean it's just like I'll sit there and you just start singin' and the guys go watch Seinfeld; there's an hour of Seinfeld on and I'll just sit here and write some lyrics and listen to it over and over cause I already got a melody. I just gotta come up with the lyrics. So I mean that's the way we've always done it and [the] same thing: we went in the studio and it took us from beginning to mastering with George Marino was 94 days. I never understood the mentality of spending six months writin' a record and another four months rehearsin' it and then another three months writing again and another two months of rehearsal. I mean it's like, Are you kiddin' me? Get in there and play the thing already.
What about Chupacabra? [on the download of the album, this track was spelled Chupacatra but certainly it was misspelled and Zakk was referring to the mythical goat sucker creature.]
The little flamenco piece? I've done like Speedball, T.A.Z. and Takillya. I've got four little guitar pieces. I mean those things are just like my little ode cause I listen to a lot of flamenco guitar players. They're just like my ode to Paco de Lucia, Al DiMeola John McLaughlin, and Carlos Montoya and all those guys that I dig. With Eddie Van Halen, he just said, Well when are you gonna do a guitar record? He was just like, Every record I do is a guitar record. But they said, When you gonna do like a solo record? [and] he goes, Everyone of my records is a solo record. I'm just playin' the songs I wanna play.
Do you have any advice for younger players?
I dunno. You could never run out of ideas. All's ya gotta do is just listen to all the great artists or the bands that you love. I mean whether I'm listening to Zeppelin or there's this running joke, we were just laughing the other day. They go, Well, Zakk, do you think you'll ever run out of ideas? I go, Well, it depends: I'm already halfway through the whole Zeppelin catalog and the Sabbath catalog. I'm workin' my way towards the Eagles and Neil Young and I've worked my way through most of Elton John's stuff. We were just crackin' up. I said, It's endless as far as songs go. You just hear something from another artist and it just inspires you. It's just like, Oh, dude, we oughta do something like that or whatever, yaddah yaddah yaddah. And then you just twist it, bend it, snap it and turn it into your own thing.
You have your own Berzerkus tour coming up. What's that about?
We thought of the Bash last year so I just came up with the term Berzerkus. So I just go, Why don't we just call it tour' from now on but every time we go out and do these things, we'll franchise the thing; it'll just be the Black Label Berzerkus. We were talkin' about bands to bring out and stuff like that and one of my buddies he really digs Clutch and stuff like that. And I was just like, Dude, we oughta see if they'd wanna come out with us. One of my buddies mentioned that and I was just like, Yeah cause I dig Clutch as well; they're a kickass band. 2Cents, my manager Bob knows the manager who manages the band so I heard them and they're an ass kickin' band so we're bringin' them out with us. And then obviously Children of Bodom. Me and Alexi [Laiho] did a cover for Guitar World with Steve Vai and we were just talkin' about doin' something years ago. You know we were going, Man, it would be killer if we ever went out or something like that. So now's the time. I called em up and they're finishing their new album so it's like perfect timing so they can go out and promote their new album and everything like that. So I'm lookin' forward to the whole thing.
Were Clutch, 2Cents, and Children of Bodom your first choices for the Berzerkus tour?
It also comes down to who's not workin' and who's out and who's available. Originally before anything went down, before even the Berzerkus, I was talking to Slash and Jerry [Cantrell] about doin' Alice, Black Label, and Slash; all three of us idiots going out, the Three Amigos, going out on the road together. So we talked about doin' that but Jerry had already committed to puttin' this tour together that they're doing right now with the Deftones and the guys and then Slash was already committed to doing his thing. So that was out the window. And so I just put the Berzerkus together and I said, Let's see who's not tourin' and who's makin' records and what the hell everybody's doin'.
I saw Clutch with Corrosion of Conformity years ago and they're an ass kickin' band. Actually one of my buddies mentioned it, he said, Dude, man, Clutch is an ass kickin' band. Why don't you ever see about doin' somethin' with them? I was just like, Dude, that's a great idea. So we got in touch with Clutch and that's how that happened.
And then the Children of Bodom, I remember me and Alexi did a cover with Steve Vai for Guitar World and we talked about it back then. We were like, Dude, it would be cool if we ever had a chance to do something together. So that's why I got in touch with Alexi and then the rest is history.
Were there any plans to do something with the ex-Pantera guys? Damageplan or Hellyeah?
"Will is playing his balls off on the new record; we're psyched that Will's jammin' with us, man."
Vinnie [Paul] already made commitments; we were talking about Vinnie going out. And the Drowning Pool guys. So I'll see those guys out on the Ozzfest. Yeah, we all talked cause I'm friends with all the guys. So it's a matter of just callin' each other up and going, Vin, what're you doin'? He's like, Zakk, we're busy; we already committed to this. I was like, Alright, well maybe we'll do it later on when you get done doin' what you're doin'.
What about taking Nick Catanese's band, Speed X, on the tour?
We were gonna have Nick's band come out on a couple of these gigs but Nick couldn't get it together or something like that. I forget what the hell happened.
From around 1999 through 2006, Black Label were releasing albums just about every single year from Sonic Brew to Shot to Hell. But it's been four years since you last recorded Shot to Hell. Why such a long time between albums?
I can't believe it's been that long. I mean we were tourin' and doin' stuff in between it but I don't know. I can't say it'll never happen again but I mean obviously this tour's gonna be probably almost two years we plan on being out on the road. While I'm out there, I'm writing a script; I want to do a movie. I'm writin' it, I'm gonna direct it; I'm gonna do a movie when we get off the road. If we're out tourin' for two years and then you take a month or two off I wanna start doin' a movie anyways actually I won't even take a month. To do what? To sit around and do nothing? I like workin' but I would imagine if we're tourin' for two years obviously we're not gonna put an album out for two years.
We'll figure something out in-between there. Maybe put out an acoustic EP or something because now that I got the Bunker, if we take a month off, it's not even a month off it's just a month of recording. And then we go back out on the road.
Would you go out on the road in an acoustic setting?
We could go out with Black Label and just do an Unplugged tour. We'd just go out with a quartet of strings and the band actually do like an Unplugged thing. I always thought that would be cool; like a real small intimate thing.
What is that movie script you mentioned?
I've got this idea for this movie and stuff like that. It's gonna be basically like a Mel Brooks/Monty Python-on steroids type thing. I'll let you know more about it the more it's coming together.
Will it be like a horror movie? Like a Rob Zombie thing?
No, no, no; that's Rob's thing, man. I told Rob, I just talked to him a couple days ago, I said, Hey, Rob, you gotta get me in one of these movies, man, so I get whacked. The wife will be happy [laughs.]
You went through some health scares a while ago. How are you feeling?
The longest I ever went [without] drinking was if we had a contest and I went like three months when I was doing the vocals for Blessed Hellride. And then that last day of the third month, we all went out and got tanked. With the blood clots, the back of my leg was freakin' killin' me. I was puttin' ice on it, the whole nine yards. I was just like, What the hell did I do to my leg? We were tryin' to troubleshoot it: maybe we went out drinkin', hit an Irish pub, and I was doin' like David Lee Roth splits off the bar top or something. I don't know what ridiculous thing we were doing. When we're onstage doing the Black Label gigs, I'm strapped up with that microphone. It's not like with an Ozzy gig where I'm jumping off of things or whatever.
When I got the ultrasound, the doctor was just like, Yeah, Zakk, you got like three blood clots. I was like, How the hell did I get these things? And he was just like, Well, Zakk, do you travel much? And I said, Well, yeah, I'm a musician. And I said we're either in the submarine, the tour bus, or we're going air force or otherwise flying planes. And he just goes, Well, Zakk, usually truck drivers will get it or airplane pilots. I go, Why because they're sitting around? For that matter people working on a laptop, sittin' there for 12 hours a day on a laptop doing that for a living, a graphic artist or something. And he goes, Yeah, well pretty much. Zakk if you're just stationary in one position like that that's the reason why these things happen.
Anyways basically all I was taking were these coumadin pills because he said your body has to break em down. It's not like havin' a toothache where you just go and you get a root canal and you're good to go. He said that it's not like that. He said, Zakk, your body physically has to break it down.
As far as the alcohol went, he was just like, Well, Zakk, you gonna be on board?Then he goes, Look at it this way: you don't drink like one or two beers and be watchin' Monday Night Football with the guys or nothing like that? Or you're watching the Superbowl? I go, No, probably not one or two beers. He was just like, Alright, you could be out watching a fight at Hooters with the guys. And Zakk, if you guys are berzerkin' and you're like hammering em down like it's nobody's business, between the blood thinners and the alcohol which is a blood thinner, you'll just start spillin' over, bleedin' out inside. Literally you'll be bleedin' out of your eyes, your mouth, you're done, dude. And I go, So it's safe to say the pub is closed for Zakk Wylde. And he goes, Yeah, pretty much, jackass.
Some of these guys were asking me, they were like, Well good for you, brother, well you're with the 12 Step program? I go, No, the Black Label One Step: that's it, you're done. OK? I don't need to spend $40,000 on some guy telling me that I shouldn't be drinkin'. The doctor told me, That's it; you're done. You just quit; I don't know what to tell you. How'd you learn how to play Stairway to Heaven? You practice. I don't know what to tell you I'll show you how to play the chords, you've got to put in the time. It's that easy. That's why in Black Label the colors are black and white. The gray issue? Yeah, there's a lot of gray issues but the only thing that anyone cares about is what happens from point A and the final result. So there you go. You know what I mean?
As far as do I miss like drinkin' with the guys? I still go to pubs and I still hang out cause I like the whole social thing and just like chillin' and getting away from the whole music thing and the biz part of everything. Just to go out and hang out with my buddies and talk about anything that's going on in the news, sports or anything.
How did your health scare affect your family?
Whenever anything like that goes down, to me it's just another bump in the road. I don't look at it, Oh, my god. It's just like, Alright, if we get a flat tire on the bus, what are we gonna do? It's gotta get fixed; we gotta get to the show. It's like, Well, my leg's killing me. You've got blood clots. So how do I fix it? It's that easy. I don't even dwell on the things. It's just like, Alright, well that sucks, let's just fix it and then let's get goin'. What time am I on stage?
Would you ever write a song about sobriety?
I would never write a song about sobriety. The funniest thing is I remember with Ozz, I think was on Ozzmosis, we had a song called Denial and the song was goin' [Zakk sings] You're in denial/You know you are and all this stuff. And I go, Did Ozz just come back from one of his A.A. meetings or something? I was just laughing. It's like a Seinfeld episode, I'm just trying to picture us singing this. Cause I go, Ozz, do you realize everybody in that audience is in denial? I said, Everybody's wasted, smokin', drinkin'. I said, Ozz, it's almost kinda like us goin' to a cigar smokers convention and we just start tellin' em the perils of smoking and lung cancer. It's like, Who put these jerkoffs to the party, man? That would be pretty classic. Yeah, we start singin' about songs about sobriety. I don't think that's gonna happen around here.
*Les Paul passed away last year. Do you have any feelings about that or any memories about Les?
We just went and saw Jeff Beck play on Les's birthday [Paul's birthday was June 10 and this special event held at the Iridium Jazz Club fell on June 9, 2010] and that was awesome. Kirk Hammett was there, Warren Haynes, Brian Setzer, Ace Frehley; all the guys were there. I was sitting at a table with Little Steven and stuff like that. No, I mean Jeff was amazing and so was Brian Setzer; he got up and sat in with him. It was a good night out and it's what Les would have loved.
Les was awesome. It was so funny the one time I remember I sat in with him a while ago. He looked down at a napkin and it said Zakk Wylde. They said, Oh, we're gonna bring a guy up right now. His name's Zekey Wildey. He goes, Oh, man, it sounds like a venereal disease. So anyways, he goes, Come on up, Zeke or whatever, Zakk. So I get up there and I'm sittin' there and when I got up there he went to shake my hand and I shook his hand like a Don. I knelt down and I kissed his hand. And he goes, Hey, while you're down there, I got something else you could kiss. Right after that he goes, Zakk, son, where do I know you from? Where do I know your name from? And I'm thinking to myself the only way because I know he's not listenin' to Ozzy records or anything like that. He doesn't listen to heavy metal or Black Label or whatever. And I'm just thinkin' the only way he musta known my name was we have Artist Les Pauls: there's one Slash one, they got a Zakk Wylde one, they got an Ace Frehley one. Maybe my name came up in that regard cause he's not gonna know who the hell I am. So I go, Well I got a Les Paul named after me. And he goes, That's funny, you know, because I have a Les Paul named after me.
Anyways, no, Les was great, man, he was freakin' hysterical. And he was always playing his ass off right up until the day he went up to God's tavern, man.
How does it feel using the same guitar as the guitarist in Justin Bieber's band [on a recent episode of SNL Saturday Night Live a musician in the young singer's band was playing a Signature Zakk Wylde Les Paul]?
It's an honor! The day that Black Label is playing Gillette Stadium and Wembley Stadium, I'll definitely get you tickets for that one. No, Dan Kanter [Bieber's musical director/guitarist] is cool as hell, man. Put it this way all the Justin Bieber fans when they see me? They go, Yeah, that guy with the beard over there? Yeah, that dude in the Bleak Label whatever the hell their name is? That dude plays a Dan Kanter guitar, man.
The Ozzfest starts back up soon and you're on the bill. How is everything with Ozzy and what are your feelings about Gus G.?
Everything is great. Ozz is singin' great on the record and Gus is playing his ass off and I'm happy for Blasko; he's a Black Label brother. I'm looking forward to seeing the guys in August. I talked to Ozz on Father's Day and before that me and the warden went out to dinner with Ozz and mom and stuff like that. It's just like you don't live at home with your parents anymore. It's not that you don't love your parents any less. Because let's be real: without the Boss there'd be no Zakk Wylde; there'd be no Black Label. I wouldn't have the Black Label Bunker; I wouldn't be doing my own record label and I wouldn't be getting ready to put out books and doing all this other stuff and getting ready to write a script for a movie and starting Black Label pubs. The beef jerky, the coffee, the hot sauces, the beer, all this stuff wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for the Boss.
Do you have any plans after the Berzerkus tour ends?
I'm in the middle of writing the Zakk Wylde/Black Label Guitar Bible; that's this book right now I'm writing. Just like an instructional thing with a DVD in it; I mean it's gonna be a big ass book. With all my gear and explaining everything: mic techniques in the studio, live, just an ass kickin' book. I'm workin' on that and I'm actually writin' another book right now with my buddy Eric: Zakk Wylde Bringin' Metal to the Children. It's like this rock and roll survival guide. It's a coffee table book you can pick up anywhere in this book and start laughin' your balls off.
Like I said, every day when I wake up on the Black Label crap to do list? The thing is loaded. Put it this way, I don't sit around goin', I'm bored. That just never happens. There are no Saturdays or Sundays; it's 25/8, 366 days a year which I wouldn't change it for nothin'.
In Ozzy's book, I Am Ozzy, you're only mentioned once or twice. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Well, that's enough for me, man. Whoever would have thought I would have been in Ozzy's book when I was 15 years old? I love Ozzy. He sent me a copy of the book and he wrote some stuff in it for me and everything like that. I think the book's great.
And you're actually going to open a Black Label pub?
It's gonna be like a mix of a sports bar-type thing and also I'm gonna have live bands, man. Without a doubt it's gonna be ass kickin'.
Zack Fagan "Bunker Builder"
, owner of Under The Wire
, was the man responsible for building Zakk Wylde
's very specialized home studio dubbed the Bunker
. He has built at-home studios for everyone from Ozzy
and Joe Walsh
to Ringo Starr
and Olivia-Newton John
. He's a true professional and here are some of the services he offers:
Design and Installation of:
Post Production Studios
Control Systems/Home Automation
Rack Wiring and Engineering Master:
Building custom rack systems
"Zack Fagan: As for working with Zakk, all I can say is that he really likes to scare people!"
But beyond all the technical expertise, Zack knows how to hang. He understands that building a studio for someone like Zakk Wylde requires a lot more than just soundproofing rooms to contain the explosive volume of his Marshalls. It means being able to deal with Zakk's demands, quirks and let's face it, craziness.
Strangely enough, this writer actually met Zack Fagan many years ago. When I wrote to his company, Under the Wire, Zack remembered that I'd visited Quality Clones, his tape duplication facility in Hollywood, California, many years ago. So he kindly took a few minutes to talk about the building of the Bunker.
Can you talk a little bit about what you did to construct Zakk Wylde's studio?
We soundproofed the rooms by building true room within room construction. We built new walls on top of the existing floors and isolated them with limp mass, which is also referred to as mass loaded vinyl. We then built a new floating floor system, which coupled with the new walls helped to knock down the noise from room to room. The doors were also custom built double thick studio doors. The hardware was also custom made and the hinges were ball bearing loaded to accommodate the weight of the double thick doors.
What about some of the gear in the Bunker?
There are many pieces of gear that are nothing less than necessities in the studio. Neve and API mic pres; Shure SM57's; Royer 121 ribbon mic' and the Telefunken U47 are a few of the must haves that I made sure were part of the gear list. I was adamant about having DBX compression as well as the EV RE20 microphone. We went with a Digidesign C24 console because of it's flexibility, offering some spare mic pres we can use in a pinch as well as being an overall good control surface. Overall it's a simple board that does the job it needs to. We did a Pro Tools system (HD3 Accel) and a state of the art Mac computer loaded with Plugins and extra RAM and hard drive space. All of the outboard gear is analog and that's by design as well. Almost all of the effects on records these days are done in the box via software so there was no need to put resources into fancy digital outboard gear. Zakk's more of an old school guy when it comes to making records and we designed the studio specifically for that type of record making.
What was it like spending time with Zakk?
As for working with Zakk, all I can say is that he really likes to scare people! He would always be bringing us Jersey Mike's subs and burgers while we were working. He would always sneak up on us and deliberately try to scare us. It worked almost every time. He would sneak in and yell at the top of his lungs... You get used to it after a while but he's very animated and that kept us all in good spirits. He's a funny bastard, too and when we would be done for the day it was always fun to sit and shoot the shit with Zakk. He's got a very funny personality and interesting way of looking at things. I think talking about music and the musicians and records of the past were my favorite conversations with the Wylde man. Oh, and the day we had lunch at Jersey Mike's then dessert at Der Wienerschnitzel was a pretty fun day too.
Craig Nunenmacher: "I'd be lying if I said I left BLS because I just wanted to stay home"
has been playing drums with Zakk Wylde
for a decade. Recently he felt there were other things tugging at him so he decided to leave Black Label Society. Here he puts a few thoughts together on his departure.
"I wish Zakk all the luck in the world and hope he and his family stay happy and healthy. I'd be lying if I said I left BLS because I just wanted to stay home or wanted to do something different with my life. There were many factors that went into the result. That being said it truly opened my eyes to life in a way I hadn't seen it. My faith is bigger than ever and I'm happier than ever. My family is happy and healthy and I'm doing three different music projects. I'm a foreman for a fast-growing remodeling company here at home so life is great.
"I did nothing but treat those guys like my brothers and I gave em everything I had so that's why I'm happy. I've got three brothers and I've beat the heck out of everyone one em before and they've done the same to me. And they're still my brothers and I'd still take a bullet for everyone of em and I still love em. I wish them all nothing but the best.
Interview by Steven Rosen