Zakk Wylde: Psycho Circus
GW It seems that a lot of Black Label fans don’t get your sense of humor. A while back, some of them claimed online that Nick and JD had left the band after they’d seen videos on the Black Label web site.
WYLDE That’s good. We put all of these stupid montages on the Black Label web site, like “Zakk Speaks.” Once a week we’ll put something up there, but it’s always a comedy video. There was JD’s “Order of the Bass,” where JD is mixing the album and all you hear is bass. JD is sitting there with Adam [Klumpp, engineer], going, “Do you hear that?” and all of a sudden he turns it off. Adam goes, “What?” and JD says, “Do you hear anything?” Adam says, “No,” and JD goes, “Exactly! Turn the fuckin’ bass up!” It’s all goofy shit like that. Nick and JD are still in the band. I think the rumors started because of one video we did where I’m playing back vocals that sound like Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” on one of the songs we were recording. Nick just got up and walked out of the studio. Then he walks back and hands me his Black Label vest and says, “I don’t need this anymore,” and he leaves. Next thing I know, people are saying that Nick quit the band!
GW When Black Label started out, the future of guitar-heavy music seemed a little uncertain. Now it’s actually cool to play a guitar solo again.
WYLDE Back when I started Black Label, in the late Nineties, bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were huge. I remember going to a record company back then to try to get a deal. One executive I met with didn’t like the idea for Black Label, and he said I should try to be more like Limp Bizkit. I don’t hate those guys—I don’t even know them—but I don’t want to be like them. You’re not going to contort me into something that I’m not. I’m a square peg that won’t fit into a round hole. I told him that the whole biker/Viking thing was just me being me, and that Limp Bizkit was just them being who they are. There was as much chance of me changing to be like them as there was for them to change to be like me. That’s the way it should be. You’ve got to stick up for yourself. I said, “So you’re telling me that if I get rid of the beard, wear a backwards Yankees baseball cap, an oversize T-shirt, shorts and Vans that’s going to fix everything?” I wanted to knock the guy’s fuckin’ teeth out, so I just got up and walked out of there.
He also wanted me to pretend that I never played with Ozzy. You’re talking about a band that had Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Brad Gillis and Bernie Tormé as guitar players. That’s four legendary guitar players. That is the team that I came from. I should be proud of that, not frowning on it. Without Ozzy there would not be a Black Label. It would be like telling Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to get Mohawks when the Sex Pistols and the Clash came around. Look at how long it took to establish the fuckin’ brand of Led Zeppelin. You don’t want to change that. People strive their whole lives to develop a sound and an image. You can’t tell Jimmy Page to put down the Les Paul and violin bow and pick up a striped Eddie Van Halen guitar, or tell John Paul Jones to put on a strap-on keyboard and get a Flock of Seagulls haircut and expect that to fix everything.
GW Black Label have been around for 12 years, which is about the same length of time that Zeppelin were around and that the original lineup of Black Sabbath was together. How do you feel looking back at the body of work you’ve produced over that time, and did you ever expect Black Label to last this long?
WYLDE When you first start doing something, you want it to be successful so you can keep playing music. The beautiful thing about Black Label is that it keeps getting bigger and bigger. Every time we go out, we’re playing in bigger venues. It’s pretty much the way it was supposed to be. The game plan from day one was to grow into one big, giant family. And we have.
Artists:, Zakk Wylde
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