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Feature Story: Zakk Wylde

| July 1, 2016

Zakk Wylde

Between his band Black Label Society (BLS), his part in the Hendrix Experience Tour, his performances on the Generation Axe Tour, the release of his second solo album Book of Shadows II, the launching of his own line of guitars, amps and pedals called Wylde Audio and his Sabbath cover band Zakk Sabbath, guitar god Zakk Wylde is one busy dude. Book of Shadows II (released April 8 via eOne Music), comes 20 years after its debut, Book of Shadows I, and continues the same amazing acoustic stylings reminiscent of his other project, Pride & Glory. IE’s Kelley Simms was graciously granted an interview with the hilarious Mr. Wylde.

It’s been 20 years since his first solo album Book of Shadows I. I asked Zakk what took so long for its follow-up. “The main goal was to break [Guns N’ Roses] Chinese Democracy’s 15 year mark,” Zakk joked. “So once we got to 16 years and the record was broken, we said ‘what the hell’ and went another four years and made it 20 years! The only way someone can break this record, to go unemployed for 20 years, would maybe have to be [Virgin chairman] Richard Branson if he wanted to start making records. Regardless if anyone likes the record or if they think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, the whole thing is, you and me now have that record!”

Sober for several years now, Zakk’s wild (wylde?) partying days may be behind him, but his enthusiasm for performing and kicking ass on stage is still present. “You have to be cut out for it and you either want it or not,” Zakk says about being sober and touring. “You either embrace the grind and you love it. For other people, it’s just overwhelming and they don’t like it. You just have to enjoy traveling. Once I had a family, I have four kids, I don’t have the same goals as I did in the sixth grade. I guess it’s the same thing when people say, ‘Zakk you don’t drink anymore, what’s it like being on the road?’ There’s booze everywhere, except I just don’t drink it. It’s all in the way you look at it. Put it this way, you and me could lose the Super Bowl and we can either crawl in a hole and be super depressed or be motivated to win next year, if you and I owned the team.”

Zakk gets asked this next question a lot. With Black Sabbath’s The End tour winding down, is there a possibility of joining Ozzy’s band again in the near future? “That’s Gus’s gig,” Zakk states. “I just saw Gus (G) over in Europe, he’s a good buddy of mine, he’s a brother and an amazing musician. With all of the Ozzy guitarists it’s like a fraternity, that’s the way I always look at it. My relationship with Ozzy and ‘mom,’ Sharon, she’s been like my mother since I was 19 years old. It’s beyond the music thing. If Oz called me up and asked me to bring some eggs and milk over, I’d do it without question. If Gus wasn’t doing it and Ozzy asked if I’d like to get together and do a record or a tour, why wouldn’t I? I’m always here for Oz.”

Zakk Sabbath, Zakk’s other side project that plays innovative Sabbath covers, will be joining Clutch for a fall tour. It’s another opportunity to get to play classic tunes from one of his favorite bands. “Whenever we got together to do the Metal Allegiance thing and whenever we did these benefit gigs, we’d always do a couple of Sabbath songs. This way no one really has to learn anything, it’s pretty much in your vocabulary if you play hard rock music. That’s just part of your education; it’s common ground for everybody. Blasko (Rob “Blasko” Nicholson, Ozzy, BLS, Rob Zombie) started nicknaming it the Zakk Sabbath set because we’d always do Sabbath tunes. That’s how it came to where it’s at now. So just as a goof type thing, now we have a great time playing it. It’s just nothing but us doing Allman Brothers versions of Sabbath, we extend the jams on them. It’s just an excuse to have a good time to play music by your favorite band!”

Zakk will be performing his solo music consisting of Book of Shadows I and II at Concord Hall on July 24, and he has many fond memories of Chicago, as he enthusiastically reflected. “Back in the drinking days, we’d start off at the Sears Tower [now Willis Tower], have some cocktails there, then go out to Gibsons Steakhouse, or any amazing steak house we could find,” Zakk reminisces. “If we had a night off, we’d just bar hop for the rest of the night until the sun came up. It was amazing every time we went out there. We were just out in Chi-Town when the river was green. We were just out there for St. Paddy’s Day, that was on the Experience Hendrix tour. I always have a great time when I’m in Chicago, it’s always awesome. Everybody’s awesome, the Chicago (BLS) Chapter is awesome. Nothing but great times.”

After the Zakk Sabbath tour, Zakk promised that he will be working on a new Black Label Society album. In the meantime, there’s plenty of Zakk to go around! I’m still jamming and writing,” Zakk concluded. “Between the Wylde Audio stuff, the band, the records and tours, I couldn’t ask for anything else. Everyday on the Black Label list of things to do, there’s always something going on.”

Appearing 7/24 at Concord Music Hall, Chicago TICKETS HERE

-Kelley Simms

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