Jeffery Phillip Wiedlandt was born on January 14, 1967 in Bayonne, New Jersey. Today, however, he’s best known as Zakk Wylde – leader of Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne’s axeslinger. Zakk has built a reputation for his unique style of guitar playing and aggressive technique. For three years straight he was voted “Most Valuable Player” in Guitar World Magazine polls and was recently named “Riff Lord” by Metal Hammer Magazine.
2006 has been a productive year for him, as he just released the new Black Label Society album Shot to Hell, was a guest player on Derek Sherinian’s latest album Blood of the Snake, and co-wrote and played on Ozzy Osbourne’s upcoming album. I had the great honor to be able to catch up with Zakk during this summer’s Ozzfest tour.
IC: What’s going on right now in the Zakk Wylde world?
ZW: Just having a blast being on the Ozzfest tour as usual. Drinking beer, lifting weights, doing what the hell I gotta do, brother. Soon I gotta get ready to get out and whoop some ass and then after that it’s back to drinkin beer and lifting weights, havin’ sex with the old lady. You know, life as usual man (laughs). So we’ve been doing two of these a day… Black Label Society will do about 45 minutes and right after that I’ll have time to crack another beer, have a cold one and then get right back up on stage with the boss [Ozzy Osbourne], for another hour or so. So you know, we’ve been havin a blast, the crowds have been ass-kicking.
IC: Can you tell us about the title of the new record? Why Shot to Hell?
ZW: Ah, the hell, why not? It’s just the state of our livers, kidneys, and pancreas at this juncture. (laughs)
IC: What kind of gear did you use this time around?
ZW: Same as always. Marshall JCM 800’s with the 200-watt EV’s. I got some 300-watt EV’s that I used on there as well. The Roland AC-120 – it’s always great for the clean sounds. Pedal-wise the only thing that I used differently is the Eddie Van Halen Phase 90 … that’s what I tried for like 2 or 3 of the solos, just to do something different. I’ve got Randy Rhoads Polka Dot [Flying] V, and it’s got a Floyd Rose on it so I used that on a couple tracks. But aside from that it’s just my Les Pauls.
IC: Can you give us a preview of what’s to expect from the new Ozzy album that’s coming out?
ZW: I think it sounds ass-kicking. There’s one [song] that’s like old AC/DC or something like that. Then you got your vintage Ozzy stuff on there. It’s just meat and potatoes stuff. Then obviously you’re gonna have your more mellow stuff – the Mama, I’m Coming Home’s, Goodbye to Romance’s. When you get an Ozzy record or a Black Label album you gotta have a balance of the two, you know what I mean? So you’re gonna have the mellow stuff and the heavy stuff.
IC: On the previous album, Down to Earth, just came in just to lay down tracks once the album was already written. Was the process different on this one?
ZW: It’s the whole thing this time. I just go in the studio with Mike, just like a Black Label album, and just start plowing out riffs out of my ass and Ozzy sings his balls off throughout the whole goddamn thing.
IC: You mentioned before that you still practice on a regular basis. Do you have any sort of routine you’d like to share?
ZW: Usually when I just pick up the guitar I’ll just start going through scales, just like everyone else. Everything’s diatonic and then I’ll just go through a batch of pentatonic patterns and then I’ll just start playing. And it’s anything I want – I might start playing some Zeppelin stuff, maybe ‘Spanish Fly’ or whatever… Eruption, solos, just going over a bunch of stuff. If there’s something I want to learn, I’ll just learn it.
IC: How did you first get in touch with Ozzy and get to audition for him?
ZW: I was playing in a club in [New] Jersey and this guy Dave Feltz saw me playing and he’s buddies with Mark Weiss, who’s a famous photographer who took all of Ozzy’s pictures… Dave saw me playing in the club and said ‘hey Zakk, did you ever think about auditioning for Ozzy?’
This was right around when Jake [E. Lee, Ozzy’s second guitarist] had just left… and I love Randy Rhoads and Sabbath and all that, so I go ‘you know the guys from Led Zeppelin, too?’ I’m just like… ‘What are the chances of meeting some guy in Jersey that could get me in touch with Ozzy Osbourne?’ He goes, ‘if you give me a tape and a Polaroid of yourself, I can’t promise you anything, but I can get it to Ozzy and Sharon [Ozzy’s wife].’ And I was working at the gas station so I had nothing to lose. So then I got a phone call from Sharon at my mom and dad’s house – I was nineteen years old at the time. So they moved me out to LA, I crapped my pants, met Ozzy, and the rest is history, man.
IC: What would you say set you apart from the others that auditioned for Ozzy?
ZW: I don’t know… I think the fact I could do laundry and dishes. (laughs) I don’t think it was the guitar playing. They said ‘dude, the way you can do the laundry is unbelievable!’
IC: What kind of stuff did you put on the tape that you sent them?
ZW: Probably ‘I Don’t Know,’ ‘Mr. Crowley,’ and I think maybe the solo to ‘Crazy Train.’
IC: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
ZW: Whatever it is you love, do it… you have to have passion for what you do. If you’re into Sabbath and Zeppelin and that’s all the stuff you love, then your music should be in that vein. If you love Al Di Meola, if you love fusion, that’s the kind of stuff that you should be doing. You can’t be doing something just because Green Day is huge. God bless them, they’re a killer band. But if you’re like ‘Zakk, I don’t like that kind of music,’ I go ‘then why are you doing it?’ It’s like ‘it’s huge right now man, I wanna get signed.’ ‘Well, you’re never gonna get signed like that, because you don’t even like playing this kind of music, so what are you doing?’ You gotta play what you love, flat out. That’s what’s gonna last forever.
So that’s my only advice, because I remember when I first started, before I got the gig with Ozz, we had this management guy and he was just telling us ‘you gotta sound more like Bon Jovi’ and I’m going ‘but I love Ozzy and I love Sabbath.’ We dug Van Halen, we dug Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it’s like ‘we don’t wanna sound like Bon Jovi, we can’t stand that stuff.’ They’re like ‘well, you’re never gonna make it anywhere.’ I remember when we were writing these songs, they were like the worst Bon Jovi songs you’ve ever heard in your life. It was unbelievable; I got a demo of it at the house somewhere. It made Bon Jovi look like Motörhead on steroids.
Nobody in the band even liked doing it and I’m going ‘what are we doing? We despise this kind of music. Why are we playing it?’ ‘Well, it’s huge right now.’ Well, that doesn’t matter. It’d be like telling Alice in Chains or Soundgarden they gotta sound like Bon Jovi… let them just be Alice in Chains and let them be Soundgarden. If you love Randy Rhoads, that’s kind of stuff you should be doing man. That’s the only advice I can give to anybody.