Without a doubt one of the most influential and recognisable guitarists to emerge within the heavy music world over the past few decades, playing with Ozzy Osbourne as well as his own band Black Label Society amongst various other projects, Zakk Wylde is a man who loves what he does. At 45, the man has reached a point in his career where others might sit back and relax and watch the money roll in. Not so with Zakk. Aside from working with Ozzy and on his own music, he produces other bands, oversees most aspects of the band and even works on the merchandising, not to mention raising his kids and spending time with his family.
Soon to be making the journey out to our shores for Soundwave 2012, coming out with Black Label Society, we caught up with the man to discuss his workaholic ways and how much he loves what he does.
Music Feeds: Morning Zakk. How are you?
Zakk Wylde: Good. Just been jamming, I was up at The Vatican jamming for a bit before you gave me a buzz, but I’ll get back to that in second.
MF: Sounds great man, that’s the dream I imagine, just doing music all the time?
ZW: Yeah, it’s great, but it’s not all just music these days. I’ve been working on the merch recently and it’s great; we’re doing everything now you know, we’re doing coffee, Zakk Wylde beef jerky, everything.
MF: So you enjoy working on all parts of, well I guess you’d call it your brand?
ZW: I just love doing the whole thing; when we’re on tour I love working on all the production and everything, it’s much more than just a band. For a lot of people, it might be a pain in the ass but I just love working on all the different aspects of the band.
MF: You like keeping busy then?
ZW: Yeah, I love it you know, there are no days off. Sunday isn’t god’s day, everyday is god’s day so I’m always working. You know, I’m not the type of guy to sit at home and just wait for the publishers clearing house cheque? I mean, wouldn’t you get bored sitting at home and not doing anything? It’s boring! I love doing things.
MF: Of course, but it must get a bit tiring; do you ever take vacations?
ZW: Vacations are for people who hate what they do. I don’t take vacations, why would I? So I can stop doing what I love doing? I mean, tell that to The Stones, ‘when are you going to retire?’ ‘What, so I can stop doing what I love doing?’ I mean, I love it when people say The Stones are too old, go tell that to B.B. King you know. You wouldn’t tell any of the blues’ artists to retire, it’s what they do. With those guys, they just get better with age too, like wine.
MF: Sure, but do you think that there comes a point, perhaps with members leaving or the music just no longer being relevant, where a band should call it quits rather than tarnish their name?
ZW: I guess, but with loosing members or whatever I don’t know. I mean, look at the Grateful Dead, if I were to manage that band I mean, that band created a culture and it was bigger than one guy. Jerry Garcia was the figurehead, you know the face of the band, but what they stood for was bigger than him. I love that band but can you imagine if they’d gotten in guest guitarists coming in in tribute of Jerry, it’d be great. You know they could have Slash come out for a few months, then have Warren Haynes come out for a couple of months, get me in, you know what I mean, why would you stop it? People love that band and they love the music and they love everything that it represents why stop it? A band is a movement in itself and the music is more than the members.
MF: So you’re in favour of a lot of these old bands where you have men in their 50s and 60s singing songs they wrote in their 20s?
ZW: Obviously, with The Stones and everything like that, even with Sabbath like Ozzy was saying about how they started out with nothing, they come from a shitty town and how was he meant to sing the lyrics about that time now he has tonnes of cash? I remember seeing Elton John on storytellers talking about how he always cracks up laughing when he sings the lines ‘if I only had a bit of money, then again now, he’s got more money than he could spend in five lifetimes if he went out and bought a Maserati everyday. So you know, where do you draw the line there, are you going to go and tell Ray Charles to stop playing music? They’re musicians, it’s what they do.
It’s different with sport or something like that. I can imagine after playing a sport for so many years, just going through so many wars and reaching your mid forties, you’re not going to want to go up against a new and improved version of yourself at 21. I understand quitting there, but then you go on and you use your name to become a promoter, a manager or a brand name, you know, you make use of that empire that you already created, so you don’t have to fight anymore. You just move on to the next stage in your career.
MF: I think it’s just very important to stay in touch with your passion, in whatever way you can, preferably without what made it special in the first place. Loosing touch with your passion is terrible, just thinking about it brings to mind all the stats of how people tend to die later if they have something to keep them going?
ZW: You’ve got a have a reason to get up in the morning. I mean, I get up thinking I’m going to practice, I’m going to hit the gym, work on some Black Label ideas or maybe produce some other bands, I mean, there aren’t enough hours in the day. I don’t think you should ever be bored, there is always something to do. When my kids say they’re bored, I’m just like, pick up a book bro.
MF: Definitely. Speaking of kids though, before you mentioned the idea of coming up against a new and improved version of yourself at 21, what’s it like to look at all these kids coming up who’ve been influenced by you and to just see the crazy shit a lot of them are doing?
ZW: It’s great, it’s just the evolution of everything man. I’m sure that when Eddie Van Halen emerged, Jimmy Page was just loving it. I mean, I’m a massive history buff so for me I just love looking at where it all came from you know, all the way back with Elvis you know, it’s really interesting how everything mutates and evolves. You know Zeppelin, and Sabbath and Cream; they all got it from blues, then that turned into heavy metal and then the wave of British metal bands like Maiden and Priest and everything you know, it just keeps moving.