ZAKK WYLDE – The Tales Remain Not The Same
Bayonne, New Jersey-born guitarist Zakk Wylde – figuring among the line-up of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo outfit intermittently between 1987 and 2009, as well as being the founding member of metal assortment Black Label Society and southern rock side project Pride And Glory – issued hardback tome Bringing Metal To The Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide To World Tour Domination during April 2012 via William Morrow. Penned in collaboration with Eric Hendrikx, its paperback release arrived a year later in April 2013.
“The book all started from me and Eric just sitting around, talking, like any of the guys,” Zakk remembers. “It’d be like me and you sitting at the bar, talking about ‘You’re not gonna believe what happened the other day,’ and this and that. It’s the music business, where there are no rules (laughs). There’s no qualifications; you don’t have to have a Master’s degree. You just show up and you’re there, but that’s where you get the cast of characters, and that’s where you get all of the comedy man. Like I always say, it’s unimportant people making important decisions. They have no business doing what they’re doing, but that’s how it gets run. Anywhere else, if you wanna apply for a job welding or being a brain surgeon or any of that, you have to have a degree and you have to have a license, and everything like that (laughs). Not in the music business, though. But yeah, it just came out of funny stories and us just laughing our balls off, talking about how ridiculously goofy the music business is. That’s how the book came about, me saying ‘You’ve gotta write a book about all this crap someday.’”
Interviews were conducted across several sessions, the sessions taking place at the axeman’s home. “We actually had bits and pieces of the book,” he shares. “In the beginning, the book was kind of all over the place. It was like an instructional thing, and then it was talking about the studio, and then it was stories. I just go ‘But there are two books here right now.’ When we started it off taking the piss out of everything, I remember it was on New Years Eve. We just got together, and we just started writing it from there. We were just on the floor, literally crying, laughing. We were adding stuff to it, and just literally taking the piss out of ourselves and the music business. I just go ‘The whole fucking book has gotta be like this man. I mean, it really has to.’ It’s just a brutal laugh-fest from the beginning to the end of the book.”
Tales which paint a negative impression of friends were omitted. “I wasn’t gonna put any of my friends in a bad light, or anything like that,” Zakk explains. “I would never do that. With the Lars (Ulrich, Metallica drummer) story where he’s handing piss to everybody, I was like ‘Lars, what the fuck are you doing?’ Lars was like ‘Dude, I thought you were fucking handing me beers. What the fuck are you doing to me?’ (laughs). It’s all goofy shit that actually happened, but no. If I ever had stories about my friends which put them in a bad light, I wouldn’t put any of them in there. If we came across any stories like that, I would say ‘Dude, maybe we should leave that one out.’”
Bringing Metal To The Children’s target audience is aspiring musicians, and music industry personnel. “I’m not talking about how hard the music business is, or anything like that,” the Black Label Society founder cautions. “The music business is just like any other business, like if you and me were starting a hot-dog stand, or wanted to start a pub. Business is business, man. It’s like everybody else. Trying to get your business or your company off of the ground, you lose money in the beginning until hopefully it becomes successful. You’re doing what you love, but no, it’s not just me. Everybody’s got a book in them; all you’ve gotta do is go out on tour. You don’t have to write this shit, because it writes itself (laughs). It’s just pure comedy all of the time. I’ve got volumes of these books; all I’ve gotta do is go out on tour, and just wake up everyday. Something ridiculously goofy is gonna happen, so there’ll never be a shortage of that.”
Of the outing’s various stories, Zakk’s favourite inaugurates Bringing Metal To The Children. “The guy was doing porn, and doing mountains of cocaine,” he recalls. “I’m going down to the studio. I’m like 17-years-old, and it’s just like people fucking everywhere. My mother had me going down to this thing, but my mom had no idea what the fuck I was going to (laughs). There was just tons of cocaine everywhere, people fucking all over the place, and I’m making an album – I’m recording guitar tracks for a fucking porn star. That was my first paid recording session. The whole time I’m just thinking about my mother, going ‘Oh, I’m so proud of my Zakky. He’s going to record’ (laughs). If there was me and you going to this fucking thing with my little amp and the fucking guitar – me and you walking in – people fucking all over the place, I’d be like ‘Anthony, I guess we’re not in Kansas any more, man.’ You’d be like ‘No shit, man.’ You can’t make it up.”
Nowadays is arguably a different kettle of fish. “Yeah,” the songwriter confirms. “I remember all the gigs that we went to when I was a teenager. I still keep in touch with the guys back from when we were 17-years-old, playing stag parties, jamming in people’s kitchens, and in people’s living rooms. It was nothing but good times.”
Though Zakk’s first paid recording session was a wild experience, one can’t help but wonder if cutting tracks with Ozzy was an even wilder experience. “With the Boss, there would always be drinking going on and just us having a good time,” Zakk recounts. “Even with Ozzy though, we were just making records. It was always good, man. When we were making records we were having a blast, having a laugh. I never understand when bands go ‘That album almost killed me, and it was such a pain in the balls.’ I’m like ‘What the fuck? What are you talking about? You’re making a record. It’s not brain surgery, man.’ I don’t get that. If you’re not having a good time and the guy you’re working with is a fucking asshole, just knock his fucking teeth out. You know what I’m saying? It’s your fucking record; you’re paying for it, man.”
Luckily, the Black Label Society mainman has yet to work with an ‘asshole’. “I get along with everybody, man,” he contends. “If I’m at a bar, I’d much rather buy you a beer than knock your fucking teeth out.”
Though genial in nature, Zakk’s overall demeanour suggests a gentleman capable of knocking someone’s teeth out. “Yeah, but what’s that gonna accomplish?,” he questions. “Some jail time and a lawsuit. Fuck that. That gets in the way when you’re trying to rule the world (laughs).”
The guitarist was a friend of the late Pantera and Damageplan axe-slinger ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, the Texan fatally shot on December 8th, 2004 at the age of 38. That evening, Dimebag was performing at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio as a member of Damageplan. “Dude, he was the life of the fucking party,” he enthuses. “Let’s put it this way; he would’ve been the ultimate gameshow host, because he made everybody feel good and he wanted to see everybody succeed and everyone to be happy. You could’ve been having the shittiest day on the planet. Dime would walk in the room, and you’d forget about it. He’d turn it around in a second. Dime was always up, man, and never down. He always wanted to have a good time.”
Other potential hazards face performing artists. Vocalist Randy Blythe of Richmond, Virginia-based metallers Lamb Of God, for example, was arrested on June 27th, 2012 by Czech police on suspicion of manslaughter. It was alleged that on May 24th, 2010 during a Lamb Of God concert in Prague, the frontman was responsible for fatal head injuries sustained by 19-year-old fan Daniel Nosek. The Prague Municipal Court acquitted Randy on March 5th, 2013. “Dude, what a mess man,” Zakk laments. “Randy’s a good dude and he would never hurt anybody, let alone a Lamb Of God fan. It’s just terrible, because the whole thing is when you go to extreme metal concerts, extreme rock concerts – like Pantera, Slayer, Lamb Of God, that genre of music – crowd-surfing, stage-diving, and moshing is actually part of the whole experience. When you buy a ticket for a rollercoaster ride, the 18-storey drop, the three loop-the-loops, and the spiral, that’s all a part of the ride.
“Especially with what happened with Dime’s situation, and then now with Randy, it’s literally almost to the point where you really wanna stop that and just do this. You go on a soccer field, you go on a football field, you go on a baseball field, you jump on the court, and you go onstage at a concert, then you get two years mandatory in prison. Two years in jail, and that’s it. You jump up onstage, you jump on the field at a soccer game, or you run on the field, then you get two years in prison and that’s it. Then you’ll see how many people will jump up onstage. People will go ‘Dude, I’m gonna spend two to three years in prison if I jump up onstage? Fuck that. I’m not doing that.’ I don’t give a shit how much you like the band (laughs).”
Incidents such as the aforementioned could potentially instil a climate of fear, but the vocalist argues that this isn’t the case. “I don’t think anybody thinks that,” he reckons. “When you’re up there fucking playing, you’re playing. It could happen at a soccer game, it could happen at a football game – it could happen anywhere. So no. When you’re up there playing, you’re playing. I don’t think anybody thinks that when you’re up there playing. We have security with us, anyway. We have Black Label Special Ops rolling with us all of the time, anyway. If you’re on the side of the stage as security, you’re gonna fuck somebody up and take them out if they get onstage anyway. I’m not worried, because they’re standing on the side of the stage. Security would already have gotten them before they got near me.”
“But nowadays, it’s even more fucking ridiculous. It’s like the airport; after 9/11, you can’t even walk through there without being fucking strip-searched, and anally probed, and all that shit. It is what it is. Nobody ever thought that that was gonna happen, but now that it happened you do everything you can to prevent it from happening again.”
Potential dangers aside, touring across the globe can impact the amount of time musicians can spend in the company of their children. “It’s just like if I always dreamed about being a truck driver, travelling and everything like that,” Zakk reasons. “If I’m doing that, then that’s what you love doing, man. I have some friends that are just like ‘Dude, I can’t handle the touring, the hotel rooms.’ I’m like ‘I love it.’ That’s the reason why you have those pictures of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Randy Rhoads (original Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) up on your wall, because that’s a part of the whole experience. I love it, playing out. I love the touring, and I love travelling.
“My kids have seen more things and have gone around the world, where other kids can only see it in a book. I’m blessed with the opportunity to where I can afford to do that, because I’m touring and that’s what I do. Plus, I can make a living doing it. So no, I never complain about being away from the kids, touring. On top of that, my kids have a life anyway. My father, he would get up at 4:30am every morning and he’d be home at about 7pm at night. He’d talk about his day, have something to eat, and before you knew it he was back working. He was always there for all of the important things, though. My Little League games, football games, and stuff like that. My dad was always in my life, and my mom. You still work, man.”
Should the Black Label Society founder’s children ever wish to tread in their father’s footsteps, the mainman would be supportive. “As a parent, you tell them to find out what they love and to do that,” he notes. “If they can make a living doing it, then do it. Everyone has something special and everyone has a unique gift, so it’s just a matter of finding what you love. Like I said, if you’re able to make a living doing what you love, then that’s it. The only thing you can do as a parent is introduce your kids to other things, and if they find something they love and it’s something that makes them happy, then that’s it.”
The music industry is rife with unsavoury characters, characters that could perhaps lead Zakk’s children down the wrong path. “You don’t need music for that,” he observes. “If you’re gonna be a fucking idiot and end up in jail, then that’s your fucking problem. I have one friend where one of their kids has been in and out of jail, and the other one is super-successful and super-smart, and works hard. Both of them were raised in the same household. You can have David Branson, and then his older brother is in and out of fucking jail, a fucking loser and an idiot. It’s like, how the fuck can these guys be brothers? You’ve gotta make decisions on your own, dude. Your parents can’t hold your balls up and wipe your ass your whole fuckin’ life; you’ve gotta get your shit together.”
The composer’s book collaboration with Eric Hendrikx causes one to speculate whether the pairing could lead to the authorship of a fully-fledged autobiography. “I think I need to have a couple more experiences, and more living before I write that one,” he chuckles. “Down the line somewhere, I think everybody’s got one in them. I’ll keep compiling the comedy, and keep compiling the stories. The only way you’re gonna do that is by living. I could see me and Eric doing Bring Metal To The Children, Volume Two.”
An acoustic performance was recorded on March 6th, 2013 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, California, the performance scheduled for DVD and CD release later in 2013 under the moniker Unblackened. “The Unblackened thing was awesome, because we had been talking about doing it for awhile,” Zakk muses. “It was just that we were touring for so long, for over two years. That’s why it kept getting pushed back, because we were gonna put it in-between there somewhere. I said ‘Dude, we don’t have enough time,’ because we had to rehearse and everything like that. To actually do the show was great, because we had fans from all over. Canada, from the East Coast, from Boston, from New York, from Texas, from North Carolina. People from all over.
“An album as well, that’ll be next. We’ve gotta knock that out. I think we might be firing that up maybe in about seven weeks. I’m getting ready to do a book tour with this thing right now, and then we’re talking about going out and doing some festival dates. I have been stockpiling riffs and getting ready in many ways, though. It depends on what I’ve been listening to that day, whether I’ve been listening to Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Abba. All the quality stuff, man. It depends on what side of the bed I’ve woken up on. I pretty much listen to everything. When I’m in the truck, I’ll either listen to Woodstock Radio or usually the same stuff that I listened to when I was 15. Just a lot of classic rock. Maybe I’ll put on some Ministry, Dimebag, Meshuggah, or some (Led) Zeppelin, or (Black) Sabbath, and then you’re good to go.”
Bringing Metal To The Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide To World Tour Domination was released in paperback format on April 9th, 2013 via William Morrow.
Interview published in April 2013.
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