Wylde rolls with the punches
By DARRYL STERDAN, QMI Agency
Zakk Wylde is still riding the crazy train. And loving it.
Over the past year, the 43-year-old singer-guitarist has faced enough personal and professional upsets to send anyone off the rails. But if you think it's got him bummed, you don't know Zakk.
"The best is when people get all concerned and go, 'Aw, it's been a rough year for Zakk -- he's not playing with Ozzy Osbourne anymore, he got these blood clots and had to give up drinking, his father passed away,' " explains the burly, bearded metalhead from his Southern California compound. "And I just go, 'Yeah ... and?'
"That's just a normal day for me, dude. That's what my life is like. I mean, I died three times. I had three pulmonary embolisms. People say, 'Oh my God, you must be such an emotional wreck. Do you look at life differently now?' Um, no. That kind of thing is reserved for dudes that are complete d-----bags."
Besides, it's not as if Wylde -- born Jeffrey Wielandt in Bayonne, N.J. -- is just hanging around the house polishing his bullseye guitars. His solo band Black Label Society just released its 10th CD Order of the Black. He's barnstorming Canada on the Berzerkus Tour with Clutch and Children of Bodom. And like Ozzy and Sharon -- aka "Boss" and "Mom" -- he's expanded beyond music, dabbling in everything from hot sauce to Hollywood screenwriting. Here's what the hilariously foulmouthed rocker thinks about Ozzy, sobriety and his odds of winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
How do you stay so positive?
It's all how you look at it, bro. When somebody says, 'Aw dude, there's only half a beer left,' I say, 'Hey, there's still half a beer! If we drink it real fast, we might still cop a buzz.' And like I've always said, the colours of Black Label Society are black and white. Nobody cares about the gray stuff. If we've got a gig, they don't care if I went to the liquor store to get some beer for the guys and got shot at, or if I got a flat tire on the way to the show, or if Joe's girlfriend Susan gave birth in the back of the tour bus. All people care about is that we get onstage and put on an asskicking gig.
Was it tough to quit drinking? It seems to have been a big part of your image.
People ask if I'm on a 12-step program. No. I have a one-step program: I'm done, dude. I mean, I still go to bars. I hang out with my buddies and watch Monday Night Football at Hooters. I just drink the fake stuff. After all, what am I supposed to do for the rest of my life? Stay home? Everyone I hang with gets hammered out of their minds. So many of my friends say, 'I couldn't quit.' But after I had the blood clots, the doctor told me that if I went out berzerking with the guys and was throwing down like nobody's business, I'd literally start bleeding out of every orifice -- my mouth, my nose, my ass, my eyes, my d---. It would be a tsunami of blood, dude. And I'd be dead. Right there. I'd be leaving Hooters on a f---ing gurney, dude. So it was easy to quit after that. And my friends just say, 'We lost a drinking partner -- but we gained a designated driver. Come pick us up, jackass.'
Ozzy said your drinking was part of the reason you parted company. Is that true?
Well, he was also saying for a couple of years that he wanted to change things up. So I don't know. And whatever reason it was -- my drinking, my beard, my weightlifting -- I still love Ozzy. He can't do any wrong in my eyes. When I do interviews, people want me to say something bad about the Boss. But without him, there'd be no Zakk Wylde. There'd be no Black Label. I wouldn't have my own brand of coffee and hot sauces and beef jerky. These wouldn't be any Doom Crew pubs, which is this new sports-bar venture I'm working on. I wouldn't be starting my own record label. I wouldn't be writing the Black Label Guitar Bible or this coffee table book I'm writing or the movie script I'm working on. I wouldn't have my Black Label Bunker or my studio. I wouldn't have any of that without him. So yeah, I really hate the guy. (Laughs)
You're obviously a disciplined, ambitious, smart guy. Is Zakk the loudmouthed, drunken biker dude really you or just a character?
Uh, well, I don't know. I mean, I don't take myself seriously. If you do that, you're only setting yourself up for a really long fall, man. I mean, I take the music seriously in terms of practising my ass off and wanting the albums to sound good and wanting to put on a good performance. But everything else, man, it's just Spinal Tap all the time.
It seems to be working for you.
Well, Black Label is my whole life. Literally everything revolves around it. It's bigger than a band. It's bigger than me, which is beautiful. Because that's the way it was designed. I always thought it would be really cool to have a club and bring people together. When I was a kid, some of my buddies were Deadheads. If they met some other wearing tie-dye, they knew he was into the Dead too. Now, if you see somebody else wearing Black Label colours, you have a connection.
If Ozzy called you up, would you go back?
Gus G. is the guy now, man. And he's playing his ass off, dude. But if he sprained his wrist in a bizarre whackathon mishap -- and I've had several of those injuries myself -- and Ozzy asked me to fill in for a couple of weeks, I'd say yeah.
Do you have any goals?
I want to break Axl Rose's Chinese Democracy record. It took him what, 14 years? I plan on going away for 20 years. That's because I went away for four years and won a Golden God award. So I figure if I go away for 20 years, I'll win a Nobel Peace Prize. The sad part is, I spend the majority of my nights thinking about this stuff. That's pathetic.