Zakk Wylde: Wylde World
Though he’s typically produced his own records in the past, Zakk shares production credits on Shot to Hell with Michael Beinhorn, who’s previously worked with Korn, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden and, of course, Osbourne. “The record company said, ‘We know you’ve produced all the records, but we want a big-name producer on this,’ ” Zakk explains. “I told them, ‘You’re fuckin’ high if you think I’m going to work with someone who’s gonna tell me what to do.’ But I’d worked with Mikey on Ozzmosis, and we had a blast making that record, so I told them, ‘Find out what Mikey’s doin’! Get him down here!’ ”
Given that Ozzy once went out of his way to virulently slag Beinhorn to this Guitar World correspondent, I remark that Zakk’s choice of producer seems a bit surprising. “Oh, that’s just because Mikey wanted to make sure that, when you double the vocals, you make it tight,” Zakk responds with a chuckle. “Ozzy was always like, ‘What the fuck? I’ve gotta do this again?’
“But if I’m gonna have anybody with me,” he continues, “it’s gonna be someone who I can ask, ‘You think I oughta take a left here, or go straight? Should we go over Laurel Canyon, or go down Highland?’ With Michael, I can go, ‘Was that good?’ and he’ll go, ‘I think you’ve got a better one in ya.’ That’s all. And I’ll be the first one to tell you if I think I can get it better—the ‘pings’ [artificial harmonics], the double-tracking, my vocals…whatever. We’re all here for the same goal: we want to win the World Series championship, you know? And it was so easy working with Mikey. We just bounced ideas off each other, like, ‘Let’s try this guitar tone or that one.’ ”
Though Zakk filled the small studio with a veritable arsenal of guitars and amps, his main weapons of choice for the sessions were, as always, his Les Pauls and Marshall JCM800s. The guitars that saw most of the action were “The Rebel”—his used-and-abused Les Paul Custom with the burned Confederate flag finish and a couple-dozen bottle caps nailed to the top—and his Les Paul signature models, each one of which is named after a particular New York Yankees great. “Whatever the serial number is, that’s how I name ’em,” he explains. “If it’s 15, then it’s ‘Thurman Munson’. On this record, it was mostly ‘Lou’ [Gehrig] and ‘Joe D’ [DiMaggio]—numbers 4 and 5.”
Although all of Zakk’s Pauls are outfitted with EMG 81s (bridge) and 85s (neck), he insists that no two of them sound exactly the same. “It’s amazing,” he says. “You stick the same goddamn pickups in there, same kind of wood on each guitar, and they all have their own characteristics. It’s crazy, but it’s a beautiful thing.
Like my ‘Mirror’ guitar”—Zakk’s Mylar-wrapped Les Paul—“I can use it live, because nobody’s gonna know the difference. But in the studio, I know it’s not gonna sound as good, because it’s made with mahogany, and maple’s way harder and brighter.
“I urge any kid who’s going in to the studio for the first time to take all your guitars, run ’em through the same amp, and listen back to them on those little fuckin’ studio monitors. They don’t lie, and you will know in a minute which guitar you’re gonna use for the rhythm, lead…whatever. When you’re in the room with your guitar cranked up, it’s like looking at a chick with a ton of makeup on. But when you’re listening to it through those little speakers, it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s see what she really looks like!’ ”
The ripping tones on Shot to Hell aren’t entirely EMG flavored, though. “If I wanted something that’s a real departure, then I’d use a ’57 Junior or shit like that,” says Zakk. “You go to P90s, and it’s a completely different pickup than an EMG. And I’ve got a Les Paul Classic with a Fernandes Sustainer pickup. I used that on ‘Blood Is Thicker than Water,’ and that thing is fuckin’ awesome. It’s like an EBow, but a million times better!”
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