Following the death of his legendary guitarist, Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne bounced back by hiring axe-slingers with their own unique greatness.
Following a short stint in which he utilized the skills of Jake E. Lee, Osbourne turned to a kid from Jackson, New Jersey, named Zakk Wylde to help push his career forward.
Rather than stepping in and recreating Osbourne’s past sounds, Wylde pushed Osbourne into a new realm, with teeth-pinching guitar riffs and chicken-plucked country licks. The decision to head in that
direction was a conscious one, said Wylde, who, like Rhoads, was playing classical-based guitar when he began with Osbourne.
“When I got the gig with Ozzy, I said I have to be Zakk Wylde, not Randy Rhoads,” Wylde said.
So, Wylde went looking for other music avenues to travel. After seeing an Albert Lee instructional video, Wylde decided that he had reached his destination.
“I bought the tape and basically stole everything on it,” he said.
And so came the signature country flavor heard in Osbourne’s hits like “Mama, I’m Coming Home.” Wylde still buys videos from country guitarists like Danny Gatton.
“Some country players are some of the best pickers in the world,” Wylde said.
Mixed inside the country melodies is the reckless-abandon style of the players Wylde grew up on. These include Tony Iomi, Frank Marino, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower. He also learned a lot
from guitarists in New Jersey clubs, such as Dave DiPietro of TT Quick.
In his early learning years, Wylde learned songs from artists like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and spent many hours playing scales and finger exercises. At age 14, he took lessons from an instructor
named Leroy Wright for two years.
Watching the shredding fingers of Wright always inspired Wylde to punish his guitar strings.
“Seeing Leroy playing ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘Eruption,’ seeing shit like that, I was like holy Christ,” Wylde said.
It takes time to develop a personal guitar style, he said.
Wylde’s solo band, Black Label Society, is a colossal, heavy mix of crunchy, old school metal.
It continues to build on his early Sabbath and Zeppelin influence, Wylde said.
“That’s the reason it sounds the way it does,” Wylde said. “It’s just alcohol-fueled brutality from a bunch of pissed-off motherfuckers.”
The band was formed as Wylde waited to hear about a chance to play guitar in Guns N’ Roses. Osbourne waited to see if Wylde was joining the Guns.
“What happened was, Ozzy was just like, ‘Are you doing the G n’ R thing,'” Wylde said.
But, eventually, too much time passed and Wylde was replaced by Joe Holmes.
The Guns opportunity fell through, leaving Wylde with some heavy riffs he wanted to put to use, so he formed Black Label Society. Wylde now plays with BLS and Osbourne.
“(BLS) is just another outlet,” Wylde said.
“After a while Ozzy’s going to want to take a break for a while,” he said.
BLS gives Wylde the chance to create his whole product right up to the CD cover art, he said. “With Black Label Society, I get to do the whole kit and caboodle."
Wylde likes to have a lot of projects on his table and may eventually work with Dimebag Darrell of Pantera, he said.
Wylde writes the majority of the band’s songs. Too much songwriting collaboration makes it tough to create, he said.
“That’s the joy of being a musician, just writing,” he said.
In Osbourne’s band, Wylde writes his guitars parts to Osbourne’s melodies and lyrics.
“Ozzy will be like, ‘Zakk, what do you got, play me some riffs,’” Wylde said.
Working with Osbourne taught Wylde about the record making process, he said. When he first began with Osbourne, Wylde said he had no idea how to get guitar tones. Through the years, Wylde has learned
that good tone comes from the hands, he said.
“Eddie Van Halen sounds the way he does because it’s Eddie Van Halen; it’s in his hands,” Wylde said.
Wylde mainly plays Gibson Les Paul customs with EMG pick-ups and GHS gauge .11 strings through Marshall JCM 100 amplifiers.
Wylde recently presented his first guitar to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. The 1985 Les Paul Custom was a graduation gift from his mother.
His selection of pedals is rather simple: a chorus, super overdrive, rotovibe and wah-wah.
"You want to hear the tubes on the amps and the wood on the guitar," Wylde said. “Once you start processing them, you loose the feel of the whole fucking thing.”
When Wylde improvises his solos, use of scales is second nature, he said.
Wylde constructs many of his lead breaks.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of that, too,” he said. “You know, when you sit down and listen to 'Stairway to Heaven,' Jimmy Page wrote that (out).”
Writing out solos can open up some doors, he said. However, “being a musician, there’s no joy like improvising,” he said.
BLS’s new DVD Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned, is a collection of Wylde’s high-energy performances, from his skull-penetrating solos, to his ballsy vocals. The band is a mix of metal all-stars
creating a tight wall of darkness.
The DVD has reached number three on the Billboard charts.
Much of it was recorded in a packed Detroit club called Harpo’s, one of the band’s stops during the Ozzfest tour.
Wylde’s future will include touring more with Osbourne and BLS, he said.
Osbourne’s European tour, set to begin in late October, was recently postponed due to the frontman’s medical problems he has successfully been dealing with.
[ Website: www.zakkwylde.com ]