Famous Firsts: Zakk Wylde on destroying houses and getting wasted with Ozzy

Zakk Wylde
Zakk Wylde (Image credit: Getty \/ Adela Loconte)

From playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne to founding Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde is nothing short of a legend. Wannabe shredders everywhere are not only jealous of his fret-fondling skills but his manly mane and beard too – he’s genuinely one of the most metal men you’re ever likely to meet… but how did he begin his journey into metaldom? We talk to Zakk about discovering Black Sabbath, falling in love with a Zeppelin covers band and getting wasted with Ozzy.

What was the first album you ever bought?

“The first hard rock record I ever bought was We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll by Black Sabbath. I was hanging out in the mall with my buddy and my mum said, ‘You two boys go and buy yourselves a record,’ and she gave us some money and sent us off to the record store. Obviously, we both bought double albums so we’d have more tunes to listen to – I got We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll and he got Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, we were a pair of assholes like that. But before I found Sabbath it was all about Elton John. I bought every Elton John record I could get my hands on.”

What was the first single you ever bought?

“I think it was 25 Or 6 To 4 by Chicago. I also remember buying Tom Petty, Don’t Do Me Like That. This was back in the day of 45s. I was always more into buying records though, or LPs as we used to call them back then.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“The first proper concert I ever saw was Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio on the Mob Rules tour. But before that I’d been to see this cover band called the Rat Race Choir at Six Flags Great Adventure, the amusement park in New Jersey. They were showing The Song Remains The Same the movie, but the band played a whole Zeppelin set before the movie too, and I remember being like 15 and seeing that. It was crushing; they were an amazing Zeppelin cover band. There were lots of older kids around and I remember smelling weed everywhere and being completely terrified, but I also thought it was like the coolest thing on the planet. To this day, if I smell weed it takes me right back to Great Adventure and seeing The Song Remains The Same and the Rat Race Choir band.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“My first memorable gig would be George Ketchum’s kitchen. My buddy Rich, who played bass, put his bass cabinet up on the kitchen counter and the first notes of Bark At The Moon blew the window right out of the frame. The damage done to these houses at every one of the parties that we played was ridiculous. The name of the band was classic too, because we were called Stonehenge – and this was before we saw Spinal Tap. After George Ketchum’s kitchen it was the Bobby Bush Demolition Derby, and the great thing about that gig was it was the end of the school year and the girl was moving house, so she invited everyone from high school over. The house was sold and all the furniture was out of the house, there were tons of kegs, and the majority of our high school was there. It was pissing it down with rain too, and everyone was dragging mud into the house. It ended up like that scene out of Weird Science where there are motorbikes riding round the house and all sorts of crazy shit like that. The house was absolutely demolished by the time we finished playing.”

How was your first tour with Ozzy Osbourne?

“It was awesome. That first tour was Geezer [Butler], Randy [Castillo], John Sinclair, myself, and obviously the boss Ozzy Osbourne. It was nothing but non-stop drinking, laughing, playing and doing what we love. I felt like a lucky contest winner hanging out with my heroes. It was beyond mind-blowing. The craziest thing that happened on the whole tour was probably never running out of booze – it’s a miracle we ever got anything done. It was non-stop drinking and crying with laughter every single day. I’m actually surprised no one died of a brain contusion from laughing. It was nothing but good times, man.”

Zakk Wylde’s latest album Book of Shadows II is out now, via Entertainment One Music.

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Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.