As Ozzy Osbourne's go-to guitarist and leader of Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde has earned his guitar icon status many times over. But in a recent chat with Metal Hammer, he revealed exactly what goes in to writing songs for Black Label Society.
"The Black Label Society soup all starts with a riff, that’s the foundation of the song," he explains. "The guiding lights for me are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Deep Purple. Those riffs dictate the song – look at something like Smoke On The Water, or Paranoid - they're the first thing you hear and they're what drive the song along. Then there's Sunshine Of Your Love – that riff is probably the very first heavy metal riff ever. That’s my mount riffmore."
He goes on to call Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, "the Lennon, McCartney, Bach and Beethoven of riffs." Wylde also spoke some about the differences between writing for Ozzy Osbourne and his other projects. "The framework of what Ozzy does, was all set by Randy Rhoads on those first two albums," he says.
"That’s the template for how an Ozzy car is made, but you can make tweaks on that design to do something different – like what Jake [E. Lee, ex-Ozzy guitarist] did with Bark At The Moon. When I’m working on these things, I know what is gonna end up being an Ozzy thing and what is gonna go somewhere else. But when I did No More Tears there wasn’t a Pride & Glory, or a Black Label Society. So I didn’t have a ‘this idea is for Ozzy, this isn’t’ thing then."
He goes on to explain that Pride & Glory, his 1994 solo project, was approached in a very different way to how he had worked previously. "With Ozzy, everything is built from the ground up - we track drums, guitars and then start overlaying and whatever to get it to the final product," he says. "Pride & Glory was more of a Cream thing, like a power trio where everything was recorded there and then."
Wylde also discussed his experience reuniting with Ozzy Osbourne on the singer's upcoming 13th album. "It was a blast working on that record, hanging out with Andy [Watt] at The Vatican [Recording Studios]," he says.
"Just to be playing on a record with Jeff Beck, Lord Iommi and Eric Clapton – if you’d told me when I was 15 I’d be playing on a record with three of my heroes I would have said forget about it! Oz is singing great too, so hopefully once he’s had this last surgery we can glue him back together and get him out on the road doing what he loves. That’s the game plan right now.”
Asked if the album, expected in September, would contain as many ballads as Ozzy's previous release Ordinary Man, Wylde kept his cards close to the chest. "With every Ozzy record you’re gonna have a few slow numbers in the mix like Goodbye Romance or Tonight," he says dismissively. "This new album is a real combination of that slow stuff and heavy numbers too - there’s a bunch of up-tempo stuff in there.”
For more from our exclusive new Zakk Wylde interview, check back on Metal Hammer socials at 12pm UK time on June 8