Zakk Wylde: No More Beers
Originally published in Guitar World, 30th Anniversary 2010 issue
Throat surgery! A hernia! Liver disease and pancreatitis! Blood clots that nearly killed him! What’s next for Zakk Wylde? The fast-living, hard-drinking guitarist talks about his brush with death, his split with Ozzy Osbourne, and how he’s staying brewtal without the brew.
Zakk Wylde is behind his picturesque ranch house in the mountainous Castaic Lake area of California. The Black Label Society maven is laughing his ass off as he watches Dexter, his 18-month-old male Shiba Enu, trying to hump his two new Rottweiler puppies.
“It’s like watching Caligula,” Wylde roars, a reference to the 1979 sexually graphic film about the Roman emperor. “The puppies don’t know what he’s doing. They just think he’s playing with ’em. [My wife] Barbaranne goes, ‘Look, he’s going for either one of ’em.’ And I go, ‘Well, he’s bisexual. Look, he’s got David Bowie’s haircut when he was doing Ziggy Stardust.”
When Wylde isn’t immersed in the home chaos of seven dogs, three children and drop-ins from the Doom Crew—his road crew—he’s usually working out at his gym, watching sports on TV or practicing guitar. At the time of Guitar World’s visit, he’s finalizing plans for the Zakk Wylde Hellfire Halloween Bash in New York, which will mark the release of his two new guitar lines: the coffin-shaped Epiphone Graveyard Disciple and the Gibson USA BFG. Afterward, Wylde will fly to China and Australia to take part in international marketing campaigns for Epiphone and Gibson, and in January, Black Label will start working on the follow-up to their 2006 album, Shot to Hell.
“I need to stay busy all the time,” Wylde says. “If I had $360 billion in the bank, I’d still want to work. After a while, doing yard work and lifting weights at the house is gonna get kind of old, you know? So, it’s like, call the boys and fire up the machine. Let’s get rolling again.”
The new Black Label record—tentatively scheduled for release in spring 2010—will mark the christening of Wylde’s new home studio, which is being built by Zack Fagan, who has constructed two studios for Ozzy. The studio should be finished by the time Wylde returns from overseas, and while the guitarist doesn’t have much to say about the next BLS record (“We’ll slam together some riffs and it’ll sound like fuckin’ Black Label”), he’s pretty vocal about having his own studio.
“They’re wiring it up now and knocking out walls, and it’s gonna be slammin’,” Wylde says. “It just doesn’t make any sense to keep paying $1,000 a day for some fancy studio. It’ll definitely pay off in the long run, and if guys like [Black Label Society guitarist] Nick [Catanese] or [bassist John] JD [DeServio] want to record their bands, [Speed X and Cycle of Pain, respectively] there, they can just come in and knock it the fuck out.”
At 42, Wylde still has the overblown personality and sky-high energy level of a teenager dreaming of stardom and reveling in every morsel of success. And he has pretty much been that way since 1987, when he was plucked out of the New Jersey bar scene by Ozzy Osbourne to replace Jake E. Lee. Tirelessly prolific, Wylde played on six Ozzy albums and has co-written five of them. He’s also written seven Black Label Society studio discs, a record for his previous band Pride and Glory, and a solo album, as well as made guest performances on well over a dozen albums by his friends. Between studio stints, Wylde has toured exhaustively, often playing double-duty with Ozzy and Black Label Society.
Added together, it accounts for more than 20 years of musical activity, during which Wylde has remained in nearly constant motion. But over the past six months, the guitarist was hit with a double-whammy of misfortune that could have flattened the tires of even the most dedicated road warrior. First, during a tour with Mudvayne and Static-X, he discovered he had developed a rare blood disorder that caused life-threatening blood clots. Then, without warning, Ozzy replaced him in the band with Firewind guitarist Gus. G.