Zakk Wylde doesn’t mince words. At worst, he’s a salty personification of a grassroots New Jerseyite. At best, he’s a Les Paul-shredding metal god that spent a great deal of his career being the righthand man to Ozzy Osbourne while simultaneously exploring successful solo endeavours.
These days, he’s trading in his famous bulls-eye axe and taking his band, Black Label Society, out for a metal rendition of a countrywide campfire sing-a-long. In addition to a wide array of BLS tunes, Wylde will also be performing songs from former projects Pride and Glory, his solo record Book of Shadows and maybe even a little Ozzy.
“It would be like me and you drinkin’, we’d have an 18-hour long drive or whatever, and it’s just like me and you up front drinkin’, listening to The Eagles, Neil Young, [The Allman Brothers Band], Skynyrd, Elton John, Creedence or whatever… just sitting up front and solving the problems of the world,” says Wylde of his wish for the acoustic shows vibe.
Wylde, who is anecdotal and story-oriented in his responses, notes that as much as he’s known for being one of the big names in metal, his appreciation for the mellow stuff is equally strong.
“As much as I love listening to Led Zeppelin doing ‘Black Dog,’ I love ‘em just as much when they’re doing ‘Going to California.’”
The tour is a sort of continuation of Black Label Society’s Unblackened, a live acoustic album released last year. It’s a stark contrast to hear all these songs dialled back, given Wylde’s tendency to rip pentatonic scales at light speed and throw out pinch harmonics like they’re baseballs at batting practice. Book of Shadows will be an equally interesting highlight, considering its similar focus on acoustic material. Both of these outings are decidedly soaked in a Southern-fried flavour, speaking towards Wylde’s personality and love for this unique style of Americana. This is equally represented by the music of Pride and Glory, as that band might as well have had a Confederate flag as a stage banner. As such, when Zakk Wylde performs in Calgary, you can expect a down-home style to the performance.
“It’s almost like a storytellers thing gone wrong, in a Black Label way, then we’ve got the George Carlin thing where I’m telling stories from the book,” says Wylde. The book he’s referring to is 2012’s Bringing Heavy Metal to the Children: A Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination. It’s a collection of hilarious tales told by Wylde from his long, successful and surreal career.
In addition to this Canadian acoustic trek, Wylde is also scheduled to make appearances on the Experience Hendrix and Metal All Stars tours – both are a sort of rag-tag ensemble of big name musicians put together to play Hendrix or, in case of the Metal All Stars tribute this year, songs by metal legends – while also finding a permanent replacement for Nick Catanese, Wylde’s longtime guitar counterpart who left BLS last year. That position is currently being filled by Dario Lorina (formerly of Lizzy Borden).
“Obviously, you’ve got to know how to play your instrument and be a cool dude,” says Wylde in regards to what he looks for in a bandmate.
“You can’t be an asshole,” he says. He concludes after a resounding belly lough, “I’m the lead singer and I’m the only one that can be an asshole.”
Watch Zakk Wylde and company on Tuesday, February 18 at Flames Central.
By Brandon McNeil