Zakk Wylde Discusses Pride & Glory, His New Band (and Album), in 1994 Guitar World Interview
Here's an interview with Zakk Wylde from the July 1994 issue of Guitar World, which featured the Allman Brothers on the cover. To see the Allman Brothers cover -- and all the GW covers from 1994 -- click here.
Zakk Wylde crosses his arms behind his head and leans back into the grassy backyard of his suburban Los Angeles home.
"Some people just don't understand," he sighs. "They say, 'You're crazy to leave Ozzy, Zakk. You could have played arenas forever. Now you're going to have to play small clubs.' Well, fuck you. I'm not in this for a rock star lifestyle. I'm in it to play my guitar. And I'd play it in a toilet if that's the only place people would come hear me."
A noble sentiment, to be sure. But if Pride & Glory, the self-titled debut of Zakk' s new band, is any indication, don't expect to see him in a men's room near you anytime soon. The album is a wild, wide-ranging romp: Headbanging heavy metal stampers rub shoulders with swampy Southern rockers; an Ozzy-style power ballad segues into a lushly orchestrated Elton John-style piano number; gentle country rock tunes explode with distorted heavy metal harmonica breaks. All are part of Pride & Glory's odd musical equation.
"I just love so many types of music," Zakk says with a shrug. "I love the Allmans and I love Sabbath. I love the Eagles, and I love Zeppelin. And I don't see why other people shouldn't also like all this stuff."
Pride & Glory's musical hybrid may seem perfectly natural to Zakk now, but it's actually a testament to the growth he underwent during his eight years with Ozzy Osbourne. In 1987, when he was plucked from a bar band in his hometown of Jackson, New Jersey, and thrust into Osbourne's exalted guitar seat, Zakk was a Black Sabbath fanatic and an eager young guitarist who gravitated towards "anything fast."
As he matured as a player and a person, however, Zakk became more and more obsessed with country chicken pickers like Albert Lee and Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Soon Zakk formed "Lynyrd Skynhead" with the rhythm section of White Lion, who opened for Ozzy in the late-Eighties. Like Zakk, bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D'Angelo were looking for a musical outlet from their day gigs; Skynhead, which played strictly covers, was just the ticket.
A series of club gigs followed, as did "Farm Fiddlin,'" an outrageous country metal cut that was a highlight of Guitar World's 1991 compilation CD, Guitars That Rule The World. Somewhere along the way, Brian Tischy replaced D'Angelo and Lynyrd Skynhead became Pride & Glory.
After Zakk completed work on Ozzy's Live & Loud album last year, he bid his mentor farewell and began to concentrate on his new band. "Oz is like family," Zakk says. "I still talk to him all the time and I've already recorded stuff that will be on his next album. But it's been over a year since I toured with him and I didn't want to be in a rocking chair before I made my own record. He understood what I had to do."
Pride & Glory journeyed to Seattle to record their debut album with Rick Parashar (Temple Of The Dog, Blind Melon), who helped the band capture the raw, spontaneous sound they sought.
"The recording went great," says Zakk. "But that was last fall and now I'm just itching to get out there and start jamming again. Since we finished the record we've been doing all the promotional stuff -- interviews, photo shoots, meetings. I’ve had it with all that; I just want to play my guitar.
GUITAR WORLD: Do you think you'd be doing the kind of material you do in Pride & Glory if you had never hooked up with Ozzy?
No way; my music would never have ended up like this. Before I was with Ozzy, all I listened to was Sabbath. I was familiar with Southern rock because a couple of my buddies and their older brothers listened to it when we were hanging out together. When I heard the Allmans or Skynyrd on someone' s Panasonic tape recorder, I thought they were cool, but I didn't own any of their records. I was a Sabbath man all the way.
But once I was in a band with Ozzy, I couldn't listen to Sabbath all the time anymore -- l wanted to listen to other things. Also, being on the road, away from home for the first time, I missed my buddies, and listening to Skynyrd and the Allmans reminded me of hanging out and drinking beer with my buds down at the sewer plant.
And now you've put it all together on Pride & Glory. It's a very ambitious album. For one thing, it has 14 cuts ...
Yeah. Some people told us that we should "save something for next time." What next time? I'm not arrogant enough to even assume that we'll have a second album. And I have to have enough faith in myself to assume that when the time does come I'll be able to come up with another batch of good songs. Plus, albums have gotten so expensive now that I think you owe it to the buyer to include a lot of music. If someone’s busting their ass to come up with 15 bucks for your record, you should give them their money's worth. So I didn't hold back. If you don't like a song, skip to the next one.
The album begins with a banjo riff on "Losin' Your Mind." Did you write that on banjo or guitar?
I did it on acoustic guitar first and then realized that it would be cool on a banjo. I don't really know how to play a banjo, so I just tuned it like a guitar. I tuned it so that all the fingering was in one spot -- on the third fret. And that about sums up my banjo skills. I can struggle along with Irish folk songs, but that's about it. I mean, I couldn't kiss Roy Clark's ass. If he asked me, "Can you play banjo?" I'd be like, "What's a banjo, dude?"
The banjo riff is joined by a heavily distorted guitar line, both of which run throughout the song. You could say that sort of sums up what Pride & Glory is all about.
Yeah; I think that's a pretty good representation of the band. It's got the heavy guitars and the serious Marshall sound as well as my Southern bit. That's why we're making it the first single, instead of something like "Horse Called War," which is very heavy. I could have done that on an Ozzy record.
It could have been on an Exodus record; it's got virtually a thrash rhythm. Did you ever get into thrash?
Not really. When I was teaching guitar, Metallica was just getting really big on an underground level, and kids were always bringing me tapes and asking me to teach them Metallica licks. So I learned how to play their stuff pretty early. But I always found the slower stuff -- like Sabbath -- to be heavier
The solo on "Horse" is pretty scary. Do you try to match the solo to a song's lyrical content?
Not really. I just let it rip. That solo track was all live -- there is no backing rhythm guitar track. It's just the three of us playing, and once I drop out and start soloing, it's just James and Brian.
James gets pretty out there during your solo.
Yeah, he plays a walking jazz bassline throughout the solo. It's the way we always end up playing. It's like Cream gone wrong. [laughs] It makes it more fun; why play the same old stock shit and have the producer going, "Oh, the bass player's playing too much"? Fuck it, man, that is the way he naturally plays. Why try and be something that you're not?
Did you ever consider adding another guitarist?
Never; that's an extra mouth to feed beer to. Seriously though, I couldn't; it would get frustrating for both of us. 'Cause any guitar player worth a damn is going to say, "Can I get a moment to shine here?" It ain't fair to never let a guitarist solo; it's only right to give someone else their 15 minutes of fame.... And I don't want to. [laughs]
And the only reason I ended up singing is; what's a singer supposed to do when we get into one of those mammoth jams? "Excuse me, do I sing anywhere in the next 30 minutes? If not, I'll go down to the bar. Tell me when you're done." It's hard to be a lead singer in a jam-oriented band. It was even difficult for [Lynyrd Skynyrd 's] Ronnie Van Zant, who was the coolest looking of them all. When they went into the ''Free Bird" jam, there were only so many things for him to do. I mean, how long can he play air guitar? So I just figured I'd sing.
Did you feel any pressure to make a guitar statement on this album?
No. If I felt that kind of pressure I would have never done an Ozzy record. If I felt I had to live up to Randy Rhoads or Jake E. Lee, I never would have been able to play a note with the guy.
Did you approach your guitar playing on this album any differently than you did with Ozzy?
Not drastically, but, yes, in a couple of ways. With Ozzy, I doubled virtually everything -- on No More Tours there were two solos I didn't double -- and on Pride & Glory I barely doubled anything. Also, I did a lot of the solos on Pride & Glory in one take, whereas with Ozzy I really constructed them; I sat down with a tape machine and put them together. Ozzy would say, "Zakk, anyone can jam anything. Try to write something." There's a lot to be said for that, but I like jamming too. Improvising is one of the really fun things about being a musician.
With Ozzy you had to play the parts of Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Tony Iommi. Is it kind of liberating for you not to have to play other guitarist's solo now?
Not really, because it was never like, "I gotta play this fucking song again." or, "I've gotta play Randy's solo again." I love all those tunes and I never had to play any solos note-for-note, anyhow; Ozzy encouraged me to do my own thing. And even when we play out live now, I like playing Cream, Skynyrd and Allmans' songs. You can express yourself in the setting of someone else's song.
I think "Lovin' Woman" is the song that's going to --
Put the album straight down the can! [laughs] When my Ozzy fans hear that, they're going to come kill me!
No, no! It's going to make you a star. It's a great song, and your old fans will understand. But I was thinking more the other way: if it's a hit and a lot of people think, "Oh, this is nice... " and buy the album because they really like this nice, pretty song...
And then they hear "Horse Called War'' and run screaming and terrified. I can see the headline: "50-year-old mother of six dies listening to Pride & Glory's 'Horse Called War."' The masses will scream, "What is this shit? I didn't buy this tape for this!" [laughs]
Do you worry about that?
No, not really. I love so many types of music and I don't see why other people shouldn't too. I love the Allmans and I love Sabbath. I love the Eagles, I love Creedence, and I love Zeppelin. I go through stages where I just listen to one thing. For two months, I'll listen to nothing but Sabbath, and then I'll like just listen to the Eagles for two months. Or the Marshall Tucker Band or Queen. I'll just zone out on it. Maybe Pride & Glory will tum a lot of metal fans onto other stuff. Who knows.
"Cry Me A River" is another pretty song. It's very Creedence and the solo starts out with a really straight country sound…
It sounds Creedence because it uses a strum that's one of their trademarks. The country solo you're talking about is a pedal steel lick that I ripped off directly from Jerry Donahue of The Hellecasters. All the strings are still ringing, but you just bend them down. It's so easy to do, but it sounds really hard.
But then from that intro, it develops into a real metal sound.
Country metal. [laughs] The tone really changes there because the clean, country guitar part is just my silver Les Paul plugged straight into the board. That's clean as bass water. The distortion was just my Marshall -- same thing I used on the whole record and the same thing I used with Ozzy. I wanted the guitar to sound very natural and that's why we chose Rick Parashar to produce. I heard the Temple Of The Dog album, and thought it sounded great. It sounded old, and that's what I like. You'd think that as technology has gotten better, sounds would have gotten better, too, but I think the sounds in the Sixties and Seventies were bigger and fatter -- you could hear the band. During the Eighties a lot of production became so that you couldn't even find the band through the soup. You had all these huge reverb-drenched snare drums that sounded like Zeus throwing a thunderbolt. I just wanted the snare to sound like a snare.
But back to "Cry Me A River": I wrote that three or four years ago, just sitting in a driveway, drinking a beer. It's the only song from our original demo that made it to the record. I wrote everything else two or three weeks before we went in to the studio.
I was just writing a lot. And as soon as you get anything new you get excited. Anything that you've written a while ago sounds old, and you want to move on. I wrote some stuff in the studio, including "Lovin' Woman." I woke up in the morning with the words and the harmonica part in my head. Brian had never even played it before the first time we cut it. That's also how we did "Sweet Jesus."
Did you write so much because you were inspired by the process of recording?
You can get inspired when somebody brings another case of beer into the studio. You never, ever have enough songs. Anyone can write songs, but you can't just turn it on and off. You might come up with a good idea while watching TV and just absently plucking a guitar.
Three songs -- ''Fading Away," "Sweet Jesus" and "Chosen One" -- feature a full string section. Were you there when those were cut?
Yes. Paul Buckmaster, who did Madman Across The Water with Elton John, did the arrangements. They had 18 string players in the studio and it was funny as shit watching them try to play along to "Chosen One," because it has a real Sabbathy riff, and there's feedback on the bass. They'd never heard the songs -- they just had the charts in front of them -- and when they heard the bass, they all cracked up, "You want us to play on this shit?" We all had a laugh. But the sound of them playing was just killin' -- and it was incredibly loud.
Who is "Hate Your Guts" about?
It could be anybody. I think we can all relate to that song.
It's funny when you hear the first verse, and then each verse just gets more extreme. And the barbershop quartet background vocals are as funny as the lyrics. It's refreshing to hear a strictly humorous song these days.
Yeah, well, nobody's always down and out. You get happy and act goofy too, and you can write songs then just as easily as when you're bummed out or want to kick someone's ass. Actin' goofy is just another part of somebody's personality and it's a big part of mine. If you can't laugh at yourself, you're in trouble. You can't take this rock and roll shit too seriously.
There's a perception, at least, that the grunge guys are too serious.
Yeah, but the guys in Alice [In Chains] are the goofiest dudes you'll ever meet. When we were on tour together, it was like a goofball fest. Jerry [Cantrell] is a real good friend of mine and a great guitarist.
What other contemporary guitarists do you like?
Jerry and Slash are my two favorites, but I don't really listen to people my age too closely, because I don't want to copy them or get too influenced by them. There's a difference between digging your peers, which is cool, and actually being influenced by them, which is fuckin' cheesy. I love listening to those guys, or jamming with them, but I'm not gonna sit down and learn Jerry or Slash's stuff. At my age, I think that's kind of embarrassing.
I heard that you jammed in Seattle with Steve Vai. How was that?
It was hysterical. We were playing one of Steve's songs, a "Voodoo Chile" -type thing. I just started playing something in E major -- it could have been from "Ramblin' Man" -- and Steve went right into playing harmonies with me. I had Steve Vai playing harmonies on Allman Brothers' licks. And nobody can harmonize better than him.
What's his deal with Ozzy?
They're jamming together, but I talked to Ozzy a couple of days ago, and he said it was too early to tell what would come of it, and that he understands that Steve's got his own thing. Actually, Steve told me that he would be happy playing clubs and little shitholes for the rest of his life, 'cause he's doing what he wants to. So Oz is looking for a new band at the same time he's playing with Steve.
Last summer you played a gig with the Allman Brothers. How did that come about?
I was in the studio recording with Ozzy when I got a call from their manager, who knew that I'm a big fan. He called at six o'clock and said that Dickey couldn’t make the next night's show, and that they'd like me to sit in but I'd have to fly out that night -- at 11:00 on the red eye. I grabbed my guitar and headed for the airport.
I got there at seven in the morning, listened to the tape they had for me and jammed a couple tunes. Early in the afternoon we had a quick soundcheck/rehearsal, which was hilarious. [Allmans drummer] Butch Trucks asked, "Hey Zakk, you know how to play 'Dreams'?" And I said, "What, that Molly Hatchet song?" And they all cracked up. Gregg said, "Brother Zakk, keep talking like that and we're gonna have to send you home."
So they were all cool to you?
They were way fuckin' cool, man. But it was hysterical, 'cause when we played "Dreams" I must have soloed for 20 minutes. I'd died and gone to heaven and I just wasn't going to stop. I was just jamming. But I almost gave Butch a coronary, 'cause every time we got to where the band was repeating the same lick, preparing to come out of the jam, I'd just keep soloing. I came over to Butch in between songs and he goes, "Zakk, fuck, man! Calm down a little bit brother." And I go, "But this is my favorite band." And he goes, "Yeah, it's mine too, but just fuckin' relax!"
Were you just thinking, "Fuck it. I'm playing with the Allman Brothers, I'm gonna do my thing?"
Yeah, that's basically what they told me to do. Butch and Gregg said, "Zakk, just have a good time. Just go out there and play. You know how the band works. Just listen. We all listen to each other in this band." But I was kind of out of control -- I was playing with my teeth, and behind my head, and doing all the crap I do with Ozzy -- and taking off my shirt, spitting beer and running around the monitors.
What was Gregg doing while you were doing this stuff?
[laughs uncontrollably, then pantomimes someone receiving CPR] You know, we even did an acoustic set; we did "Melissa" and "Midnight Rider." Warren [Haynes] was really helpful. I spent a lot of time standing next to him, staring at his hands and saying, "Dude! What the fuck?" [laughs] Warren's a killer guitar player which made it a lot easier on me. But I had the time of my life. It was just awesome.
You also played with Skynyrd recently.
Yeah, I jammed with them on "Mr. Breeze" and it was a blast. And one time with Ozzy, on the No Rest For The Wicked tour Bill Ward joined us onstage for Paranoid. Geezer Butler was in the band then, so I was playing with the original Sabbath. So I've played with my three favorite bands -- Skynyrd, Sabbath and the Allmans. If I died tomorrow, I couldn't ask for much more.
I guess you also had a pretty good seat when the original Sabbath reunited for the encore at one of your Ozzy shows.
Yeah, that was killer. They did "Black Sabbath," "Fairies Wear Boots," "Iron Man" and "Paranoid." Ozzy said he couldn't hear for a week afterwards, because he wasn't used to the stage volume being so high. I only go out of two 4x 12's even if it's a stadium gig, but Tony was going out of six stacks. That's why Tony always stood in the middle with Sabbath -- he didn't want to stand in front of his rig. Ozzy did. Later he said, "No wonder I was singing out of tune half the time."
Now that your album's coming out, are you going to start the endless tour?
Yeah, I'm dying to get out and start jammin'. It's been over six months since we made the record and I'm itching to go. You know, I just want to do what the Allmans do. They come off the road, make a record, then go back out on the road. I mean, it ain't work. I hate when people go, "Gosh. I can't wait to get off the road. It's so tough." It's like, "Get a real fuckin ' job, pal, and talk to me about tough." Being able to make a good living from doing something you love -- making music -- is a blessing.
It don't take much to please me. I don't own big fancy cars and I don't want them. I got my wife, my two kids, my four dogs, and my guitars and that's all I need. Beer, John Madden Football and my friends are my "indulgences."
How does it feel having kids looking up to you and trying to learn your solos?
It's wild. It's the coolest thing to see something you wrote transcribed in a guitar magazine, or to walk into a bar and see someone playing your solo -- probably better than you can.
Do you consider yourself a great player?
No. No way. Not compared to all the guys I dig, like Clapton and Hendrix and Dickey Betts and Duane Allman and the guys in Skynyrd. They'll always be above me; I'll always look up to them. You always strive to be as good as your heroes, but they're the standard, and I'll never beat that. I don't even consider myself anywhere close to being in their class. I do my own little thing, and that's fine with me.
Before you got into Southern rock, who were your favorite guitarists, other than Tony Iommi?
I was into anything technical -- Frank Marino, Al DiMeola or anyone who could rip. I hated Angus Young -- I thought, "He can't play fast Fuck him!" Now I think he's one of the best guitar players that ever lived. 'Cause he hits one note and you're there.
That's a normal progression. When you're learning to play guitar, anything fast...
Well, you don't know. You don't understand feel when you're a kid -- you think if it's slow it's got feel. If you learn a David Gilmour solo, does that mean that you have feel? When you're 15, you think, ''I'll learn blues and have feel, because they all play slow." No, you don't get it; it's what they're playing. I'd learn blues licks, and they were the whitest blues licks you've ever heard, man. I was like, "I showed them I have feel. Now I can shred."
It seems like shredding is played out.
Everyone kept wanting to take things to another level. But it hit the ceiling. In fact, it went right through the fucking ceiling, and had no place to go except back to where it came from. Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen started the whole thing and everybody else jumped in the boat. But Eddie and Randy had a lot of feel; people forget that because of everything that came after, but Van Halen is godly.
At the time, a lot of people thought, "Oh, this is just really fast."
I know. But listen to it now -- it's just blues on steroids. Eddie had everything: sounds, chops up the ass, feel. Jazz and fusion guys are always like, "Rock players suck. They got no chops." I remember being in a music store and hearing people say of "Spanish Fly," "That's sloppy. McLaughlin's much cleaner."
Those guys are still around. They turn their nose up at Guitar World because we cover the likes of Dimebag Darrell
Hey, Darrell is smokin'. I think he's one of the best young dudes out there. He's got a lot of feel. Of all the heavy metal guys that are out there, he's the best, 'cause he plays with the most balls. His rhythms are good and dumb. They're not played with that attitude of, "My rhythms must be equally as technical as my lead playing." It's just really good heavy guitar -- very good meat and potatoes playing.
So is that how you classify yourself: as "a meat and potatoes player"?
Pretty much. Nothing more than that.