What were you doing when you were 19? That’s how old Zakk Wylde was when he was tapped by Ozzy Osbourne to be his lead guitar player, probably one of the hottest seats in rock. For most guitarists, that would be a dream come true and probably the end to any serious ambition in the music business. But for Zakk, it was only the beginning.
Zakk’s roaring guitar helped put Ozzy back on top. And now, with his own Black Label Society (and their fan club of Beserkers), Zakk has become a superstar far beyond what any mortal guitarist could have hoped for after leaving the Ozz. Wylde tours the world with BLS playing sold out arenas. He has his own Epiphone signature Les Paul along with the Zakk Wylde Graveyard Disciple and his best selling Epiphone Zakk Pack Bullseye Flying Veewee and Les Paul Peewee Pakks. Last year’s acoustic album, The Song Remains Not the Same, was a fan favorite as was his holiday EP. And on Thursday, January 19, he’ll get the ultimate Hollywood honor—Guitar World’s first rock and roll roast (“How can they roast me? I'm a good Catholic boy...") featuring Ozzy, William Shatner, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, and host Sharon Osbourne (“Zakk has always called me his Mom, but I think my boy needs a good kicking”). Epiphone caught up with rock’s busiest guitarist after soundcheck
How did the holiday EP Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good come about?
ZW: Well, iTunes asked me if I wanted to do something. I love Christmas songs. So, we did that at the home studio, Black Vatican, right before we went out on the road with Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest. We just knocked that out. That was cool. I had a good time making that. I could definitely see myself knock a whole record out of those.
This wasn't the first time you've done holiday music.
Right, I did the Steve Vai holiday record with a whole bunch of insane guitar players like Brian Setzer and Robin Trower. I did "White Xmas."
ince you were producing what new twist did you want to add?
Well, I always have to "black label-ize it.” If I ever do a cover song, I do my own version of it.
You won the ESPN Baseball Tonight theme song contest in October. How did that come about?
At first, the ESPN guys asked if I could do background music—just must playing riffs so they could have it for game highlights. I said 'no problem.' I always love doing that stuff. Then the guys asked if I'd write something for the Sunday night baseball theme. I did my own interpretation of it. It was easy for me. I love baseball and they really took to it.
Were you a baseball fan as a kid?
Oh yeah. I was a fan of (New York Yankees catcher) Thurman Munson. He was my guy. When I played Little League I was a catcher. I was number 15. And actually, our team was the Yankees in Little League so it was cool.
William Shatner will be at your roast. How was your time in the studio with the Captain?
He was a super cool guy—a legend. When the guys called and asked me if I’d like to do it, I said, ‘yeah, of course!’ Now I can say I played with the ‘prince of daftness’ and I also played with the greatest Startfleet commander of all time. It’s actually mind blowing to be sitting there talking to him.
The crazy thing is, my Dad, who just passed away at the age of 89, would have more in common with William Shatner than Ozzy would. To Shatner, Ozzy is a baby. I mean, Shatner is 80 years old and he’s just tremendous.
Do you have a new album planned for next year?
Well, I know we’re gonna be touring. We’re probably also going to release an acoustic DVD, an un-blackened one. That’s what we’re thinking about. We’ll bring in a pedal steel guy and a four-piece string section and probably some special guests like Slash or Jerry Cantrell or one of my other buddies. I’m looking forward to that as well. And we’re talking about doing some new things with Epiphone coming up pretty soon. Get ready.