By: Tom and Maria Watson
It’s early September. Zakk Wylde‘s home from Ozzfest where he did double duty with Ozzy and Zakk’s own Black Label Society (BLS). Time to rest? Hardly. He’s up at 4 a.m. doing whatever it is he has to do as hard as he can do it. The BLS motto of Strength, Determination, Merciless, Forever is no marketing gimmick. The son of a now 87-year-old WW II D-Day Omaha Beach veteran, combat intensity is in Zakk’s blood.
Over his 20-year-stint in the rock ‘n’ roll limelight, New Jersey-born and raised Wylde has evolved into a Rock persona. But, don’t be fooled by the merchandise on the right. He’s a character, not a caricature. The man lives what he preaches. The entertainment world of pampered celebs, whose primary talents are the self-based arts of absorption and victimization, needs a breath of fresh Zakk.
We’re not the only ones who appreciate a dose.
“Zakk Wylde is one of the world’s greatest guitarists and one of the hardest working musicians in the business. Gibson Guitar has a long partnership with the Black Label Society frontman and his signature models remain one of our most popular. Who wouldn’t want to be able to play like Zakk on stage? The Zakk Wylde Gibson Custom Model, The Epiphone Bullseye and the newest Zakk Wylde Flying V are only some of the great collaborations we have been able to produce with Zakk. Aside from his great music and signature model guitars, meeting and hanging with Zakk is definitely one of the highlights of the business.” —Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar
The Wylde persona is an American Rock blend of hard playing, beer drinking, leather wearing, combat swearing subculture mixed with a serious dedication to a code of ethics centered on hard work, family, duty and loyalty. This Wylde man’s a rock ‘n’ roll anti-hero with a strong sense of purpose.
If you’re looking for an in-depth Zakk Wylde gearhead interview, this isn’t it. If you’re offended by raw language, click elsewhere. If you want to read Zakk comment on reports of his sex change, his graphic recipe for freedom, a new Zakk Wylde Gibson guitar and the secret of life, scroll on.
Maria Watson: Do you consider yourself a family man?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, without a doubt. I’m not a rockstar. I don’t go to parties and shit like that. Like, when I got home, Barb will go, “You know, we haven’t been on vacation in how many years?” And I just go like this, I go, “Barb, when I get home? That is a vacation,” because I’m already sleeping in a bed that’s not mine, you know what I mean?
Maria: Do you take your kids to school?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. Barbaranne most of the time will take the kids to school, because I’m not going to be around here, or I’m going to practice. I’ve got shit I’ve got to do. Barb’s running around like a fuckin’ mad woman, you know what I mean?
Tom Watson: Does show go with you on tour?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. What we’ll do is sometimes is we’ll take the kids out with us on the road. We’ll actually give them a job, you know what I mean? So they’re actually making money. We do work them. But, you know, it’s summer so they want to hang out with their friends and shit like that. They’ll come out for maybe about a week or two and then they’re like, done. “I want to go home, and I want my friends.” You know what I mean? You can’t blame them. I mean, they’re kids.
Maria: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen Ozzy do?
Zakk: Not too long ago, me and Ozzy were in Prague when we were doing a show. We played in front of about 60,000 people. We were headlining this festival. [After the show] me and Ozzy were just talking about some goofy shit. We were talking about John Bonham stories, because Ozzy was good buddies with him and everything like that.
We were just laughing, like, you know, Zeppelin back in the day at the Riot House, throwing TVs out of fuckin’ windows, running motorcycles through the hallways right through the walls and shit like that. And we were just laughing about it. You know, obviously you’re going to pay for the damages, so, the only person you’re hurting is your wallet.
So, me and Oz are like, “oh yeah,” and he goes, “You know, I’ve done some crazy shit, but I’ve never thrown a TV out of a fuckin’ window.” We’re in Prague at the time and I go, “Well, you know, Sharon and Barbaranne are going to have our fuckin’ balls tomorrow if we fuckin’ do this.” He goes, “Oh, fuck that. I’m paying for everything anyway. Let’s fuckin’ heave the fuckin’ TV out the fuckin’ window.” So, we’re so fuckin’ loaded, we’re about on the sixth floor, I go, “For the love of God, look out that fuckin’ window because the last thing we need to do is to fuckin’ kill some motherfucker when we launch this thing out the fuckin’ window.”
It’s about 3:30 in the morning right after we got done doing a show. So it’s like we end up heaving this fuckin’ TV out the fuckin’ window. When this thing hit the fuckin’ ground, the explosion that this thing made … all’s I remember is that me and Ozzy are on the floor fuckin’ crying laughing, and Oz goes, “Zakk, I’ve heard a lot of things in my life, but I’ll never forget the fuckin’ sound of that.”
All I remember is the next day, Oz got charged $34,000 because they couldn’t use the suite for 34 days because the window was broke, which was bullshit. They could have fixed that thing in about an hour. But the whole thing is, he got clipped for $1,000 a day, and I got clipped $10,000 for that fuckin’ TV. This TV must’ve fuckin’ cost them about $500. Yeah, I paid $10,000. I go, “This TV had better give a fuckin’ blowjob and a handjob and eat my ass.” I said, “$10,000 for a fuckin’ TV? This thing’s a fuckin’ piece of shit. You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding me.”
Put it this way, $10,000 for a TV, about $1000 in beer, $34,000 for the room, and the look on Ozzy’s face? Priceless. You can’t make this shit up.
Tom: Black Label Society is more than a band. It’s developed into a subculture, a lifestyle. How would you describe it?
Zakk Wylde: It’s just one gigantic family, man. That’s what Black Label’s all about. You know, the whole lifestyle is just that you’ve got to work your fuckin’ balls off, you thank the good Lord for everything you’ve got, you know, and you love the good Lord. That’s what Black Label’s all about.
Tom: Are there similarities with motorcycle culture?
Zakk Wylde: No. My father’s a World War II vet, D-Day, Omaha Beach. The brotherhood thing is all about the military. That’s what it’s all about. We raise millions of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Cancer Foundation and everything like that. No, it’s not a motorcycle club because otherwise, we’d have an MC on the back.
It’s SDMF, which means strength, determination, merciless, forever. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, you know what I mean? So, that’s what it’s all about. The three piece patch, which just represents brotherhood and unity. And the military is the fuckin’ ultimate brotherhood.
Tom: I get that “don’t tread on me” feel from it.
Zakk Wylde: Yeah, without a doubt. It’s all about the military.
Tom: Who came up with the motto SDMF?
Zakk Wylde: Me. I’m the fuckin’ commander in chief when it comes to this shit.
Maria: What do you mean by merciless?
Zakk Wylde: That’s just fuckin’ relentless. There is no fucking quit.
Maria: So, more or less persistence?
Zakk Wylde: Nah. It’s just, you know, my love for the good Lord, it’s merciless. Fuckin’ relentless. Never fuckin’ quit.
Tom: What’s your idea of guitar culture? You can relate to other guitar players, other guitar players relate to you. You have something in common. But there’s also a lifestyle involved with guitar playing.
Zakk Wylde: Totally. I just thought of this the other day, the whole secret to life is? You just find what you love and you do it to death. That’s it. People looking for, searching for the secret of life, that’s it. That’s all there is. I mean, you’ve just got to find what you love and then do it to death. People ask me, “Man, what do you do when you go on vacation?” I go, “I am on vacation when I’m fuckin’ playing.” I don’t have any aspirations and go, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to do this shit no more so I can fuckin’ do something else.” I’m doing what I want to do. You know what I mean?
It’s not like I go, “I can’t wait until I can go sailing around the world.” It’s like no. I’m doing what the fuck I want to do. I’m playing fuckin’ music. I’m afforded the fuckin’ chance to do what I dream of when I wake up every day. I get the fuckin’ chance to play fuckin’ music.
Tom: How much do you practice?
Zakk Wylde: Every day I’m fuckin’ jamming. It doesn’t matter, it could be fuckin’ two hours, it could be fuckin’ six hours. You know what I mean? I’m always playing. Either that or I’m writing. Or, when I wake up in the morning, if I’m not jamming we’re coming up with merch ideas … everything revolves around Black Label, and, you know, me taking care of Ozzy. When Ozzy needs me, it’s like, Zakk, I want to do another record or this and that, then we’ve got to whoop some ass. I’ve got to take care of Ozzy. My life revolves around my wife, my kids, Ozzy, the band and the boys, you know what I mean?
Tom: How’d you get involved with St. Jude’s?
Zakk Wylde: Well, we’ve always given money to them and everything like that. Then Barbaranne came up with the whole thing of maxing it out so we can give as much money as we can. So, we go down to the hospital now all the time. It’s the saddest thing in the world, but at the same time it’s the coolest thing because at least these kids have hope, you know what I’m saying?
Tom: Were the kids at St. Jude’s familiar with your music?
Zakk Wylde: Well, yeah, put it this way, I’ve actually done a gig when we were down there. They set up a piano for me and I jammed on the guitar for them and we had a little PA and I did a show. We had the little kids coming up and jamming on the piano and the guitar and stuff like that. It was really cool, man.
Tom: How are your Gibson guitars doing?
Zakk Wylde: They’re doing great, man.
Tom: Which ones are you playing the most?
Zakk Wylde: They made me the Flying V, so I’ve been jamming on the V a lot. I designed this other one, it’s called a ZV, Zakk-V, it’s a combination of an SG meets a Flying V, which sounds slammin’. They did an awesome job with that, so they’re going to end up putting that one out as well. I’ve just been using, you know, same thing, my Les Pauls and then the Flying V.
Maria: I have one last question for you, Zakk.
Zakk Wylde: Okay. It’s not about my sex change operation, is it?
Maria: No, no.
Zakk Wylde: Oh, my God. Go ahead. What have you got?
Maria: What is your recipe for freedom?
Zakk Wylde: My recipe for freedom? Oh, let me see…my recipe for freedom…um…a case of beer and a blowjob from my wife.
Zakk Wylde: If I could fit that in, that’s some severe freedom right there, without the kids knocking on the door.
Tom: What started the sex change operation story? The kilts you were wearing?
Zakk Wylde: Yes. Exactly.
Tom: What inspired you to wear a kilt?
Zakk Wylde: We were in Seattle at the time and I’d seen this store that’s called Utilikilts, and all they sell is kilts. So, we were joking about it and I walked in there and go, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Like the whole store, that’s all they sell is kilts. I couldn’t believe it. If you ask me to make a business investment and go, “Hey, Zakk, I’m going to give you a quarter million dollars and we’ll start a store,” and I go, “What is it? Are we opening a pit bar or what the hell do you want to open up?” And you go, “No, we’re going to sell kilts,” I’d go, “Are you out of your fuckin’ mind?”
When we walked in there, they had nothin’ but kilts. People are walking around with sneakers on and shit like that, I couldn’t fuckin’ believe it. So, I said, “I’ve got to make a purchase. I’m going to get one for Hendrix.” He’s 5 years old and I let him go to school in his fuckin’ kilt. I bought them for, like, everybody in the fuckin’ band. It’s some funny-ass shit. When Ozzy saw me wearing it, he just goes, “You are fucking kidding, right?” I go, “Oh, no. This is the new look.”
Tom: What about your 14 year old? You going to let him go to school with one?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. Why not? I’ve just got to make sure he’s not wearing any underwear under there.
Tom: Oh, boy.
Zakk Wylde: Feel the breeze.
Tom: Any of your kids playing guitar?
Zakk Wylde: Oh, no. None of the kids. I play video games with my son, Jesse John Michael. He’s into baseball right now and school. Eventually he wants to become a pediatrician, which is awesome. And he’s playing sports. My daughter, Rae-Rae, was taking piano lessons from Randy Rhoads’ mother, Dolores, but, now she’s got her social life going on with friends, boyfriend, all that shit. She still noodles on the piano.
Hendrix, he’s only 5, so he’s doing what 5 year olds do. He just plays with his friends, skateboards, does all that crazy-ass shit, video games, all that stuff. But, no, none of them … as a parent, I’m not going to force them to play the fuckin’ guitar and play music just ‘cause I do it, you know what I mean?
Tom: Of course. Dolores still has the music store?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. It’s the same one that Randy taught in, man. Musonia. Right there on Tiara [a street in North Hollywood, California]. It’s got the same room where Randy taught, the same little amp that he taught through and everything like that.
Tom: And Dolores still runs it?
Zakk Wylde: Oh, yeah. And she still teaches.