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Q&A: Zakk Wylde (November 2006)

The Black Label Society frontman reflects on his current career, his ongoing relationship with Ozzy Osbourne… and beer.

The sight of Zakk Wylde performing at full throttle is one of rock’s great spectacles. Towering at the lip of the stage, blonde hair flowing like a vengeful Norse god, barking profanity into a microphone on a stand fashioned to resemble a human skull, crushing endless cans of lager like paper cups... it’s easy to see why some consider the Black Label Society man to be the last great rock guitarist, and even easier to understand my trepidation as I pick up the phone to him. Like all the great rock stars, Wylde is a mass of contradictions. He’s the beer-swilling barfly who was disciplined enough to spend his adolescence practising scales for up to 12 hours a day. He’s the foul-mouthed neanderthal who listens politely to your questions before offering thoughtful and considered responses. He’s the perennial gun for hire who, after two decades playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne, is arguably becoming better-known for his prowess as a frontman and songwriter. On the eve of the release of Black Label Society’s latest album Shot To Hell, Classic Rock asked if we’ve got him all wrong.

Is it fair to describe you as an old-school rock star?                                              

Well, yeah, I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years with Ozzy, so I guess so. I know what I like and I know what I don’t. I still have my heroes. Like, in the studio where we recorded Shot To Hell we had posters of Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen stuck up there on the walls. The studio looked like some fucking 14-year-old’s bedroom, man. And put it this way: if my playing inspires some kid, like Jimmy Page or Tony Iommi inspired me, that kicks ass.

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