very special guest Black Label Society
Quick, name the guitarist whose previous albums have sold more than Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC combined. Hint: It’s not Zakk Wylde.
“Let’s just tell everyone that anyway,” says the guitarist, before launching into a long conversation about other small white lies he’d like stated as fact (including his bench press and a certain anatomy size).
Zakk’s one funny dude, but take the guy seriously: he’s also a phenomenally successful musician and a certified metal deity (see below). For over 20 years he served as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, a collaboration that produced a string of multi-platinum albums, including Osbourne’s biggest selling album No More Tears (Wylde wrote all of the music) and Ozzmosis. He has won nearly every guitar award imaginable, and is a major influence on a new battalion of rock guitarists currently popular today. And hey, Wylde’s even got his own custom guitar lines for Gibson and Epiphone, which includes the signature Gibson Les Paul with a bulls-eye graphic that you may have seen used recently by none other than…Justin Bieber guitarist Dan Kanter*.
That’s an impressive resume right there, whether it includes out-selling Zeppelin and the Stones or not (note: it doesn’t). The back story to that is even nuttier – and the stuff of heavy metal legend. Born and raised in New Jersey, Wylde picked up the guitar at 14 and started playing in a few local bands during and after high school, earning his stripes in a group called Zyris and making ends meet in a series of menial jobs (including gas station attendant). A fortuitous run-in with a rock photographer helped land Wylde an audition with Ozzy Osbourne, who was looking for a new guitarist. Wylde couldn’t believe he got the gig; the 20-year old soon found out he was joining the ranks of Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee as Ozzy’s right hand man.
Several gigantic albums and multiple stadium tours followed. During his off-time, Wylde completed a solo record, an album under the name Pride & Glory, and, in 1998, formed the now legendary Black Label Society (BLS), which went on to earn its own fervent fanbase (known as the Berzerkers).
This, you pretty much know. But the last few years have seen Wylde’s life radically altered. First, doctors discovered blood clots in his leg. “The doc was like, ‘you have, what, a drink a day? Six? 12? A case?’ I’m like, ‘It’s a liquid diet,’” says Wylde, laughing. “I mean, I’d drink beer while lifting weights. That’s Black Label Society style for you right there. But the doc told me if I kept this up, I’d be dead by the time I was 50. So I stopped drinking. No big deal.”
Then, the second bomb dropped. Osbourne, Wylde’s boss and mentor since 1988, announced he was looking for a new guitarist. “I heard that, and to me, hey, the glass was half-full,” he says. “It’s like, thanks for letting me be there for 23 years! I’ll always cherish that. What more could Ozzy do for me at this point? I look at it this way: instead of 24-7, Black Label Society is now my life 25-8,” he says.
On August 10th, 2010 Black Label Society released their eighth studio album, Order Of The Black, which featured two singles, “Parade Of The Dead” and “Crazy Horse” and entered the Billboard 200 at No. 4. The band then released their ninth studio album, The Song Remains Not The Same, in May 2011, which was a compilation album featuring new, acoustic versions of songs originally released on Order Of The Black. The album reached No. 41 on the Billboard 200.
In addition to the 9 studio albums, Black Label Society has released one live album, two compilation albums, one EP, and three video albums. Black Label Society is comprised of Zakk Wylde (lead guitar, lead vocals), Nick Cantanese (rhythm guitar), John DeServio (bass), and Chad Szeliga (drums).
* FYI, Wylde only has admiration for Bieber and his guitarist, Dan Kanter. “Right now, I think a bunch of people see me on stage and think I’m playing a Dan Kanter guitar,” he says, laughing. “All I know is, right after that photo came out of him with that guitar, our Twitter feed went from 20,000 to like 18 million. We’re bringing a lot of young chicks into the dark side.”