Zakk Wylde has played with a wide range of rock icons including Ozzy, Gregg Allman and the ever-reclusive Axl Rose. And now Wylde has evolved beyond mere musician into a card-carrying member of the Screen Actor's Guild thanks to a role in Metal God, a film based on the life of singer Tim Ripper Owens, a former Judas Priest cover band frontman who was recruited by the real Priest after longtime vocalist Rob Halford left the group.
Of course, since leaving Ozzy's band, Wylde has maintained a level of consistency without repeating himself, whether plucking soulful acoustic blues licks or sawing savage power chord cacophony. Since his debut with Pride and Glory (1994), Wylde has remained true to his roots: Skynyrd, Zeppelin and Sabbath. His current offering, Black Label Society's sophomore outing, Stronger Than Death, marks a slight departure for the guitarist, featuring elements of grunge, experimental noise and melodic rock within its metallic framework.
Guitar.com: When you left Ozzy, you could have made a shred record but you didn't. Was that a conscious decision?
Zakk Wylde: No. You have to do the music you want to at the time. I dig everything -- like Neil Young, The Eagles, Skynyrd. I love Pissing Razors and I've been listening to the new Pantera. I listen to that stuff when I lift. I'm a musician. I don't care what kind of music. The Stones, I mean Keith Richards doesnt have a wall of Marshalls behind him, but his balls are about the size of fuckin elephants. He can play "Start Me Up" and it sounds heavy as hell. It's because of the attitude behind it, you know? It has nothing to do with the sonicality of something because otherwise it's like, "If you don't have the Marshalls then it's not heavy." Well, Neil Young can do "The Needle and the Damage Done", and that's a fucking heavy song. It's because it's void of fluff, that's why. There's a big difference between "The Needle" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. It's like Sabbath doing "Changes". Yeah it's a piano song, but it's fucking heavy. It's them and the delivery of it [rocks]. You have to play what you dig and what you believe in. When I did the Pride and Glory album, that's when grunge was at its height. I wasn't even following what was going on. You gotta get the baggy shorts, those cut off ammo shorts. Why? I actually like being me.
Guitar.com: But at the time when the Pride and Glory record came out there were bands that were doing what you were doing that were successful. You were going against the grain but you were in good company.
Wylde: It's like Zeppelin or Sabbath back in the day. When The Sex Pistols came in, it's like seeing Jimmy Page and Robert Plant on In Through The Out Door with Mohawks and piercings because the record company is telling them, "This is what's in."
Guitar.com: Will you be writing with Ozzy again?
Wylde: I was just over his house a couple of months ago to play him the new Black Label Society. We were talking about jamming. There's really not enough time in the day. I'm gonna tour behind the new record. If we can do the Ozzy thing, then great. But the great thing about BLS is I'm producing the record, the artwork, everything. There is no compromise. There is no democracy. Being with Ozzy is like being at my parent's house. I know my role and I have to respect that role cause I love the guy. When you go to your parents' house you don't put your feet up on the furniture and start throwing beer bottles all over place. It's not your house.
Guitar.com: Stronger Than Death is a departure for you.
Wylde: [That kind of heaviness] is always gonna be in there because that's the way I learned to play, listening to Sabbath records and listening to Skynyrd -- that's what I like hearing. With me it's just a matter of trying to get the stuff as heavy as I can.
Guitar.com: It's a brutally heavy record, and it pays no concessions to the new wave of alternative metal.
Wylde: I didn't play all these years just to fucking sell out. I like music that is void of fluff. Hell, every band would like to sell five million records and have a huge album. But at what cost are you going to do it? I could go out and make a Blink-182 or Third Eye Blind record and then have that one shot. Then you can't play music. You're like Leif Garrett. I don't give a fuck if he starts playing Motorhead, no one's going to buy it because it's him! Hes ruined. He's done because he decided to be Leif Garrett.
Guitar.com: Are there any new young bands that you respect?
Wylde: Sevendust is cool. Great guitar sound, cool riffs and a good production. I heard the Slipknot stuff. That's beyond fucking insane.
Guitar.com: Any players you respect?
Wylde: It's weird because there's not a lotta guys out there. What's gonna happen is there's gonna be that one band with a kick ass guitar player, it's just going to take that one guy Van Halen on steroids and growth hormones to legitimize it all. I was talking to Dimebag Darrell the other day and we were laughing about it. We're both 33 years old, I'm talkin about a 22-year-old kid that dug the stuff that Dime or I did that sits around all day just fuckin wailing, but you know, not just for the sake of just shredding. Someone who's got riffs and muscle. Then it will open those floodgates for everyone to actually begin playing again. Right now it's just about a riff and a groove.
Guitar.com: Why didn't you use a bass player on the album?
Wylde: It's beer economics. With two guys and a case of beers, that's twelve beers each. You get a bunch more guys there then you gotta start splitting shit up. If I was in Slipknot, I'd end up killing a couple of guys in the band.
Guitar.com: How did you get hooked up with the Metal God movie?
Wylde: Well, me and Duff [McKagen] had demoed some stuff over at his house. Axl [Rose] never sang on any of it. The song "Black Petal Garden" was on the last Black Label Society album. I changed it around a bit, put a melody in and sang on it. Duff's manager must have submitted it. They liked the song and while we were doing the Stronger Than Death record they came down to the studio, all the music people and the director. They wanted to get someone in the movie who could actually play guitar as opposed to some actor. When they did tight-ups on your hands they just figured it would be best to have someone that could at least play scales.