Interview: Zakk Wylde on Slash, Ozzy, Axl Rose and Eddie Van Halen

Zakk Wylde
Zall Wylde (Image credit: Miikka Skaffari \/ Getty Images)

It is a little-known fact that when Zakk Wylde does a phone interview he rises to his feet and puts the caller on hands-free, the better to demonstrate the choke holds, knockout punches, devoured pints and plummeting televisions that form the cornerstones of his war stories. It is a widely known fact that Wylde is aptly named. Describing himself as a “little kid who loved Randy Rhoads” when he joined Ozzy’s solo band in 1987, the Black Label Society guitarist has grown into a berserker with the mouth of a Glaswegian docker and the personality of a runaway train. When he spoke about some of stars who have lit up his life, it wasn’t an interview, it was a verbal battering.

This interview originally appeared in Classic Rock 129.

Ozzy Osbourne

The old man is fuckin’ hysterical. I worship the ground he walks on. I was meant to be with him – lions hang out with lions, you know? The comedy never ends. The funniest story from my time with the old man is probably when we threw a fuckin’ TV out the fuckin’ window. It was me, Ozzy and Robert Trujillo, sitting up in a Prague hotel room at three in the morning. We’d just played to about 60,000 people and we’re getting fuckin’ loaded. This was when Ozzy was still drinking, so Pops is fuckin’ shit-faced and we’re all fucked up. We must have spent two grand on beer that night.

So we were shooting the shit about Keith Moon, and how bad-ass he was, throwing TVs out of the window and getting wasted on elephant tranquillisers. And pops says: “Man, I’ve done some crazy shit in Black Sabbath but I’ve never thrown a TV out of the fuckin’ window.” So I say: “Well, you’re about to.” Next thing, Oz is trying to pull the TV out of the unit, but this is, like, a 28-inch TV, and it’s bolted down. Pops can’t do it. So I I just grabbed the thing and ripped it right the fuck out. I pull it up on my shoulders with the cables hanging out, Ozzy opens up the window and looks out – because we’re six storeys up and, God forbid we kill somebody. I’m like, this TV is fuckin’ heavy. So I just fuckin’ launch the thing. When it hit the ground – I kid you not – it was implanted in the concrete.

The curtains are flapping and me and Oz were on the floor, crying with laughter. Then the tour manager comes into the room and tells us: “You motherfuckers could be looking at some jail time out here for this.” But I told him: “Just give ’em 20 grand; we’ll piss that shit out of our dicks in merchandise tomorrow night.”

Ozzy n' Zakk

Ozzy n' Zakk (Image credit: Mick Hutson / Getty Images)

Sharon Osbourne

But ‘Mom’ was pissed about that TV. Ozzy had to pay $44,000 for the hotel suite, because they said it would take them 44 days to fix, and she said, “Zakk ain’t getting out of this one alive either”. It cost me fuckin’ 10 grand for that stupid piece-of-shit TV, even though it probably cost $120. Mom is always fair, but she don’t take no shit from anybody. She’s like, “If you’re cool, I’m cool, but if you fuck with me then it’s game on”.

There was one show in New Jersey, and the whole place had sold out within about 20 minutes. The promoter tells her: “I want $8,000 in promotion.” Cos promoters are all douchebags. They’re the bottom of the food chain. They’ll get away with as much shit as they can. That’s why you gotta keep ’em in line, keep ’em in check and give ’em a fuckin’ good beat-down. So Mom tells this idiot: “Why do you need eight grand? If the show sold out in 20 minutes, why doeight weeks of promotion?” She goes: “No, I ain’t giving you anything.” He’s like: “Listen up, bitch. You better give me that fuckin’ money now.” Ozzy’s just sitting there. So mom head-butts this motherfucker and knocks him the fuck out.

This was before lawsuits were going down and all that shit. You whip out a fucking gun and stick it in someone’s mouth now and there’s gonna be fucking problems. But they never fucked with us again.

Axl Rose

What you see is what you get with Axl. The guy is a legend and a Black Label brother. He’s the shit. I played with Guns N’ Roses [in the mid-90s]. I was in Studio B and they were in Studio A. So I played Axl some of my shit, like 13 Years Of Grief. And he was like, “Zakk, what fuckin’ market are you trying to reach with that?” I told him, “I dunno, the fuckin’ farmer’s market?”

So we ended up hanging and jamming together – me, Axl, Slash, Duff [McKagan], Matt [Sorum] and Dizzy [Reed]. And I was like, “Axl, when are you gonna start singing on this shit, dude? Let’s quit fuckin’ around here!” And that’s when Black Label Society was born, because I had all these riffs lying around, and I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll do it myself.” But it’s not because Axl is hard to work for. It’s because he cares. He had so much passion. And I’d rather have that than a douchebag who doesn’t give a fuck.

What do I think of Chinese Democracy? The wife bought me a copy and it got smashed in my luggage, so I had to fuckin’ buy another one. No, Axl didn’t send me a copy. But he’s a beautiful guy.

Eddie Van Halen

Ed is fucking hysterical. He is the proof that God exists. I’m like his little baby brother, so whenever we get together he just beats the shit out of me all the fuckin’ time. I don’t mean physically. It’s like, I’ll go: [whiny kid brother voice] “Hey Ed…,” and he’ll tell me: “Aah, shut the fuck up.” Okay, never mind. “Hey Ed, you wanna listen to this riff?” And he’ll say: “Ah, get the fuck outta here, Zakk.” Okay, never mind…

But what am I gonna say back to Ed? He’s like my older brother. He’s got seniority on me, so there’s nothing I can say to him. That’s the way it is. When you go back to your home, and you see your mom and your father, it doesn’t matter if you have a bigger house and all that bullshit, your father is always gonna say, “Don’t you put your feet up on the furniture” and “Take the fuckin’ garbage out!”

Zakk Wylde and Eddie Van Halen make a toast at 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott's public memorial service

Zakk Wylde and Eddie Van Halen make a toast at 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott's public memorial service (Image credit: Paul Buck / Getty Images)

Mark Wahlberg

Mark is funny, man. He’s another Black Label brother. When we were doing the Rock Star movie [in 2001] we’d bust each other’s asses and fuck with each other, because he’s from Boston and I love the Yankees. [The thing about playing a rock star] is that with somebody like Bon Scott, that ain’t an act. He’s living that shit, just out of his fuckin’ mind. Nobody can play Bon Scott.

So the funny thing is, Mark’s like: “Zakk, I never got the whole rock’n’roll thing.” He says: “Back in Boston, the guys turned me on to all fuckin’ rap stuff and that’s all I know.” He didn’t know nothing about Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin, the Stones, The Beatles or any of those guys. He’s like, “All I grew up on was all the fuckin’ rap bands, now I gotta be a rock singer? What the fuck have I gotta do?”

So I’d be in the trailer with him, and we’d be watching old videos of Steven Tyler and Rob Halford, and he goes: “Zakk, I can’t do the whole Steven Tyler thing, but the Rob Halford thing – you know, where he just stands there instead of jumping around like a jackass, and belts it out with his foot on the monitor? – I think I’m gonna portray that in the movie.” I told him: “Do whatever the fuck you want, dude.” So the way his character performed was based on Rob Halford.


Slash is a sweetheart. But every time we hang out together we end up getting tanked to bejesus. I remember one time we were hanging at Wembley Arena – we were doing The Gibson Night Of 100 Guitars. We were sat up there at the bar and I go: “Man, this fuckin’ sucks,” because they’d just closed it. Fuckin’ Slash just reaches into his jacket pocket and whips out a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and says: “We still got booze, dude. Don’t worry about it.”

Who can drink more? I don’t think anyone wanted to challenge the two of us idiots – and Dimebag either. You put the three of us together and that was a holy trinity. And you gotta put Kerry King in for that contest too. Any night I’m not in the mood for drinking, I’ll just get Kerry to drink the motherfuckers under the table.

Fred Durst

I don’t hate Fred Durst or Limp Bizkit. What happened was that the record company told me if I sounded more like Limp Bizkit then I’d be successful. And that’s how the war between us started. Because I was like, “You think they’re special? Fuck you! We’re the one and the only Black motherfucking Label Society.” I wanna see that douche sit behind a fucking piano. I want to see him play a fuckin’ guitar. I wanna see him do what the fuck I do. I don’t wish bad on anybody, but that’s how that whole fuckin’ thing came up. But fuck that. Black Label beats the living fuck out of Limp Bizkit anyway, so fuck that shit.

Les Paul

Hanging out with Les Paul is like hanging out with your dad: you’re respectful, and that’s the way it is. When I jammed with him, I actually bowed down to him and he goes: “Son, while you’re down there I got something else you can do.” I’m like, ah, fucking hell. Cos he’s talking about sucking his dick, y’know?

I knew he didn’t know who the fuck I was when we were sitting up on stage. He goes: “Son, where do I know you from?” And I’m just trying to think what to say, because I know that Les Paul doesn’t sit around listening to fuckin’ Ozzy and Black Label records. So I just told him: “I got a Les Paul named after me.” You know, the Zakk Wylde Les Paul with the bull’s-eye? Because that’s the only way he’s gonna know who the fuck I am. And he goes: “That’s funny, I have a Les Paul named after me too.”

Would I be happy to play like that at his age? I ain’t gonna still be doing this shit when I’m 93 years old!

The Black Label Society Quiz

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.