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Black Label Society: “When you rehearse too much before recording, you take away all the spontaneity, all the magic, all the fire. You suck the life out of the thing”

[L-R] Zakk Wylde and Dario Lorina of Black Label Society
(Image credit: Jen Rosenstein)

Zakk Wylde has released 10 albums with Black Label Society over roughly the past two decades. And while the band has always functioned as a two-guitar juggernaut onstage (the more axes and amps the better, we suppose), in the studio BLS has always been strictly the Zakk show, with the Wylde One handling all the guitars – from riffs to melodies to solos (and even twin harmonies) – himself. That is, until now.

Behold Doom Crew Inc., Black Label Society’s 11th record, and the first to feature a second guitarist going lick-for-lick alongside Zakk. And the guitarist in question – 32-year-old Dario Lorina – is, as would be expected, no slouch. 

Lorina has served as a member of Black Label Society since the tour for 2014’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican, and on his own has released two albums of high-intensity shred on Shrapnel Records, as well as logged time with long-running metal acts like Lizzy Borden. As for what led Zakk to bring him on board in the studio this time? “Because Dario’s awesome,” he says simply.

Much of the beauty, as it were, of Black Label Society’s music is that, to some extent, you always know what to expect – crushing rhythms built on the foundation of what Zakk calls “Mount Riffmore” (that’d be Sabbath, Zeppelin, Cream and Deep Purple); fist-pumping choruses; insanely intricate, mind-bogglingly speedy solos – and Wylde and the band once again deliver in spades. 

From the Sabbathian stomper Set You Free to the jacked-up boogie blues workout Gather All My Sins, the classic-rock-on-steroids groover Shelter Me to the sludge-metal chugfest Gospel of Lies, there’s no shortage of high-octane bangers on Doom Crew Inc. 

And while there’s also a smattering of characteristic Zakk piano ballads in the form of Forever and a Day and the closing Farewell Ballad, Doom Crew Inc. is, as Wylde proudly states, a celebration of the power and glory of the guitar. 

And this time, there’s two of ’em. “To me, it’s just about getting more,” says Zakk about bringing in Dario. In this exclusive interview, he sits down with Lorina to tell Guitar World exactly how they did it.

Black Label Society, at least in the studio, has always been a one-man-operation when it comes to the guitars. What made you decide to bring Dario into the recording process this time? 

Wylde: “He’s an amazing player, and there’s just more that we can do together. When you have a real two-guitar-player band like the Allman Brothers or Judas Priest, you can do those harmonies. And not only that – Dario can shred. So it’s just like, ‘Why don’t you do a solo here?’ 

“It’s like Night Ranger, where you have Jeff [Watson] and Brad [Gillis], and they’re doing harmonies together, but at the same time, they’re both shredding all over the records. That’s where we’re at now. So having Dario in the band is awesome. That’s why I said we have to make sure Dario is included on the cover of the magazine. Because he’s all over the record. It’s not just me this time.”

As far as playing on the new record, it just kind of progressed to this over the years. The back-and-forth thing just kind of became part of the show, and that continued onto this album

Dario Lorina

Plus, he’s a very handsome man.

Wylde: “[Laughs] Of course! He brings a lot of mutants and people like that who otherwise probably wouldn’t be at a Black Label show!”

Dario, you’ve been with Black Label Society for several years, but this is the first time you’ve been on a Black Label record. How did it come about?

Lorina: “I guess I’ve been in the band, what, seven years now? The way I joined was I was going back and forth with Blasko [Rob Nicholson], who plays bass with Ozzy and manages Black Label, and I think at the time he had heard one of my instrumental albums. 

“Then it came to me that Black Label were looking for another guitar player. We were already communicating, so they were like, ‘Send over some videos of you playing and singing some Black Label stuff.’ I sent the videos over and then Zakk had me come out and meet up at the Black Vatican [Wylde’s home studio in LA]. And that was it. 

“As far as playing on the new record, it just kind of progressed to this over the years. During live shows we would be trading solos, or I would double one of his leads, or during something like Fire It Up [from 2005’s Mafia] we’d go out in the crowd and jam together. The back-and-forth thing just kind of became part of the show, and that continued onto this album.”

Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society

(Image credit: Rick Kern/WireImage)

That back-and-forth thing is all over Doom Crew Inc., with you guys trading solos in a headcutting style. A good example would be on the first single, Set You Free. Were your parts worked out separate from one another, or were you improvising together? 

Wylde: “For a lot of the solos I actually wrote out the whole thing. The Set You Free one, that was completely constructed, and it was recorded with just me soloing. And I really dug the way it came out. But it was long enough where I just went, ‘Dario, you play this part, I’ll play this part and then at the end of it we’ll do that pentatonic lick together.’ 

“So we sent the track from the Vatican over to his studio, the Dark Chapel [Lorina’s home studio in Las Vegas], and 10 minutes later Dario sent it back. And we were like “Slamming. Great. Done.” 

When you’re playing somebody’s else’s stuff, that person has his own style and his own technique. And with Zakk, it’s not easy

Dario Lorina

It’s a pretty intense lead, to say the least. Dario, is it difficult having to play Zakk’s licks? 

Lorina: “Absolutely. But in general when you’re playing somebody’s else’s stuff, that person has his own style and his own technique. And with Zakk, it’s not easy. Some of his diatonic runs, I might play them one way, and, of course, he’s gonna play it a different way. Or some of the cool, tricky pentatonic things, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a little different than what I would normally do…’ 

“So I just have to get my head around things like the transitions between the strings, or if the note’s double-picked or whatever’s going on. I definitely had to sit down many times and go, ’Okay, let me practice this one out first…’”

How did you handle the leads on the rest of the record? 

Lorina: “The ones Zakk had written out completely were Set You Free, End of Days and You Made Me Want to Live. For the rest of them I wrote my own parts. And a lot of it was improvised. 

“The way I work is, I’ll start playing and then I’ll keep bits that I like. Or I might write out part of the lick, because maybe I want it to end a certain way. But I’ve done two instrumental albums of my own, and doing this one was sort of the same process for me. I’d just improvise, come up with some licks and then try to get a good take.”

Zakk, you’ve played with some great guitarists over the years, both in and out of Black Label Society. What makes Dario special? 

Wylde: “The cool thing is that Dario, even being so much younger, he has a great grasp of the guitar. He has a great vibrato, he’s blues-based… and the blues stuff is where a lot of your phrasing and things like that come from. And you can’t force somebody to like blues, you know? 

“Somebody might be really attracted to King Edward [Van Halen], and they love the tapping and they love all the crazy stuff. But then you go, ‘But, you know, the base of the King Edward soup is blues.’ Like, if you asked Eddie to play Red House, he could play it. Or Crossroads

“I mean, Eric Clapton was his guy. So it was all based in blues. It’s not just Spanish Fly and all the shredding, ripping fast stuff. I remember when I was younger I would go see Dave DiPietro [guitarist for New Jersey metal act T.T. Quick] play in the clubs. I could run scales and play fast and stuff like that, but when he would play blues stuff I was just like, ‘Wow!’ I could feel what he was playing. And to me it was a completely different vocabulary than just blazing finger exercises. 

“And I see that in some of these younger guys now, whether it’s Jared James Nichols or Richie Faulkner or Dario. They have great technique and can play fast, but they also have great vibrato and they can play blues.” 

I have one of my amps with a 4x12 out in the gym, and I sit out there with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I play at a low volume with reverb and delay so it sounds like I’m at Madison Square Garden and I just start writing riffs

Zakk Wylde

Lorina: “I started playing when I was six or seven, and Eddie Van Halen was my guy. I remember driving around in the car with my dad and I’d always put in the Van Halen cassette. And I loved guys like George Lynch and John Sykes, but then I also loved Johnny Winter and a lot of the classic blues stuff. 

“So as far as blues influences, there’s definitely a similarity there in style and technique between me and Zakk. But I’m also just rooted in, like, that '80s kind of playing.”

Dario, I remember first hearing about you when you were just a teenager and playing with [former Warrant singer] Jani Lane. 

Lorina: “Yeah. Thinking back to the Jani time, those guys were so awesome because I was definitely a lot younger. But they took me under their wing and guided me and helped me grow. Those were just great times.”

When it came to the new album, what was the writing process like for you, Zakk? 

Wylde: “Like it always is. I have one of my [Wylde Audio] amps with a 4x12 [cabinet] out in the gym, and I sit out there with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. I play at a low volume with reverb and delay so it sounds like I’m at Madison Square Garden and I just start writing riffs. [Laughs

“I think of it like this: you and me are going looking for dinosaur bones – we know in this area over here we’re gonna find something, so why don’t we just dig today and see what comes up? And if we find nothing? No problem – we’ll come back tomorrow. But they’re out there, you know what I mean? It’s just a matter of digging. We’ll find something. And then eventually we’ll dig up the Pazuzu Statue [from The Exorcist] and all hell breaks loose!”

Are you working alone during the recording process? 

Wylde: “The way we end up doing the records now, I’ll do everything. For this one I recorded all the rhythm guitars before the fellas came out. 

“Adam [Fuller, engineer] and I went up to my studio and did it to a click track. If there’s certain parts where the tempos are changing, we’ll stop right there, up the tempo on the click and then I’ll play the riff. Then when it slows back down we’ll stop again, slow the click down and keep going. 

So by the time JD [bassist John DeServio] and Jeff [Fabb, drums] get out here to track the bass and the drums, I’ve already doubled the guitars and it sounds exactly like what you’re hearing on the record. 

if we’re ever doing shows where we have to use rental gear it’s always a JCM800, a 2203

Zakk Wylde

“Jeff will listen to it and he’ll play air drums to it and then he’ll go, ‘All right, I know what I’m going to do.’ And he goes into the drum room and lays it down. It’s the same with JD. That’s pretty much the way it works. 

“To me, it’s just the most painless way to do it. I mean, the way we used to do it with Ozzy on No Rest for the Wicked and No More Tears, we’d just rehearse and rehearse these songs, and it’s just like, ‘What are we doing? We know the songs, right? We know Miracle Man. We know No More Tears. We know Mama, I’m Coming Home.’ 

“Rehearsing is what you do when you’re getting ready for the tour, you know? Because when you rehearse too much before recording, you take away all the spontaneity, all the magic, all the fire. You’re sucking the life out of the thing.”

Dario, did you just record all your parts at your own studio? 

Lorina: “I did. Zakk pretty much sent me everything all at once, and I think it took me about a week to do all my parts. I’m a morning guy, so I was up with coffee, banging them out one by one from Friday to Friday. And then I would listen back and make sure, ‘Okay, is this what I want as a final thing?’ And then I sent it all off.”

Black Label Society

(Image credit: Jen Rosenstein)

What gear were you using? 

Lorina: “I used a Wylde Audio Barbarian with EMGs through a [Marshall] JCM800 100-watt and my old [Peavey] 5150 cab. And I think I threw an overdrive or two on there – a [Boss SD-1] Super Overdrive and a Seymour Duncan 805, which is sort of Tube Screamer-esque. And that was really it.”

How about you, Zakk? 

Wylde: “For guitars I used my [Wylde Audio] Nomads, and also a couple of the Heathens. I could have used one guitar to do the whole record if I wanted to, but I felt like picking and choosing because the guitars were all just sitting there. I was like, ‘Oh, let me do a solo with this one…’ 

“And then for amps I was just using my 100-watt Wylde Audio head – the same one I used for [2018’s] Grimmest Hits. That was it. It’s just crushing. It’s based off my JCM800, which to me is the perfect amp. When we designed the Wylde Audio amp, all I was going for was, ‘Give me more of that.’ 

“Because the 800 does everything you want it to do. It’s like a pair of Levi’s and a T-shirt – I don’t know how you’re going to improve on it. It pretty much never goes out of style.”

Every night before we go up onstage, JD and I fist bump and he goes, ‘Dude, we’ve got the best job in the world.’ And I’m like, ‘No shit!’

Zakk Wylde

The Wylde Audio amps still aren’t available to the public, correct? 

Wylde: “No. We’ve talked about putting them into production, and that would obviously be the next thing to do. I definitely want to do the head, because that’s the one I use. Although when we go out on the road, I still bring out my old Marshalls just in case anything goes down. 

“And if we’re ever doing shows where we have to use rental gear it’s always a JCM800, a 2203. Because it has everything you need. And if you want more distortion? Just throw a pedal in front of it and you’re off and running.”

So you were writing at home, you were recording at home, you were off the road due to the pandemic… that’s a lot of at-home time. 

Wylde: “I mean, I loved every second of being home. I always do. And when I’m touring I love touring. When we’re out on the road, we’re doing what we love, you know? 

“That’s the reason you had posters of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all your favorite guitar players up on the wall when you were a kid. Because that’s what you wanted to do with your life. And I’m doing it. So I’m blessed. Every night before we go up onstage, JD and I fist bump and he goes, ‘Dude, we’ve got the best job in the world.’ And I’m like, ‘No shit!’”

Zakk Wylde

(Image credit: Jen Rosenstein)

What did you do to fill your days during this extended break? 

Wylde: “The same thing I do all the time. I lift weights. I drink coffee. I walk the dogs. The running joke I’d tell my wife was, ‘You’re married to a professional dog walker now!’ Then it came time – ‘We’re going to do another record.’ And it was, ‘Okay, cool. I’ll start writing.’ And here we are.”

How about you, Dario? 

Lorina: “I have an online guitar school called Death Grip Academy, and I was doing a lot with that. So I was still playing every day. And then at some point Zakk called and he was like, ‘Hey, man, I’m going to send these songs to you – come up with some solos.’ 

“It just happened like that. But other than that it kind of felt like an extended break of not being on the road. Because here we are now starting to play shows again, and looking back at that year-and-a-half or whatever it was, it just feels like, ‘Did that really happen?’”

When you’re home, you don’t stand up with the guitar on. You sit on the couch or at the kitchen table, noodling, running scales, whatever you’re doing. Now we have to get used to playing standing up again!

Zakk Wylde

Wylde: “We did a show at Sturgis recently and me and the guys were laughing about getting out onstage again. I was telling them, ‘I had to practice standing up!’ Because when you’re home, you don’t stand up with the guitar on. You sit on the couch or at the kitchen table, noodling, running scales, whatever you’re doing. Now we have to get used to playing standing up again.”

Maybe the Doom Crew Inc. tour can be fully seated performances… 

Wylde: “[Laughs] That’d be great. Just roll a couch onstage. Comfortable metal!”

Zakk, you’ve been doing Black Label Society for more than 20 years now. Does it feel like it’s been that long? 

Wylde: “Not at all. The crazy thing is, I remember looking at old magazines from the '70s and Keith Richards would be on the cover and it would say, ‘Keith Richards – 16 years with the Rolling Stones!’ 

“So I’m laughing because Black Label’s been 23 years now. But it doesn’t seem like it. I remember when my dad turned 80, he was just like, ‘Where has the time gone?’ He would show me pictures of him during WWII, hanging out at the barracks playing cards or whatever, and he would go, ‘This guy got killed. This guy got his brains blown out. This guy died with me, he was under a tank. This guy got cancer. This guy’s still alive…’ 

“It didn’t seem that long ago to him. Just like for me, first playing with the boss [Ozzy Osbourne] doesn’t seem that long ago. No More Tears doesn’t seem that long ago. I don’t feel like I’m 54. I still feel the same as I did when I was 23.”

Just like Dario, you got your start professionally when you were fairly young. Recently, a video emerged online of you playing guitar alongside a pre-Skid Row Sebastian Bach at rock photographer Mark Weiss’ wedding in 1987. You’re 20 years old, you’re wearing grey slacks, you’re playing a Telecaster, and you had just joined Ozzy’s band. What advice would you give that guy? 

Wylde: “Well, I’ll say this. My son was studying to be a doctor, and one day he was like, ‘Dad, I don’t think I want to do this…’ And I went, ‘Fuck what your mom says. Fuck what I say. Whatever it is that gets your dick hard and that you have passion for and that you look forward to doing every day, that’s what you should be doing.’ That’s it. So that’s my advice for that guy, and for anyone. Whatever it is that you love, that’s what you should be doing.”

Maybe I’d also suggest that a Tele might not be the right axe for him…

Wylde: [Laughs] Or, ‘Change your pants!’ But then again, between having that guitar up high and those pants and shirt, here we are 30-plus years later. So it all worked out!”

Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.