Black Label Society goes that extra mile; Zakk Wylde has a laugh

by MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

If you hear what sounds like a pop song being played backwards emanating from Zakk Wylde’s tour bus as it rolls into Connecticut, don’t fret.

The guitarist is just coming up with riffs for his next song.

Wylde said some guitarists take it easy by learning scales and modal scales. Some guitarists come up with riffs after learning how to emulate the favorite players.

But Wylde, who first came to the world’s attention as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist, said he likes to go the extra mile.

He likes to put on his favorite Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber albums. He plays them backwards so he can hear the back-masked Satanic references. And as the notes are played backwards, that feeds him the music he needs for his next riff. Lyrics arise the same way, he said. The Satanic messages inspire the words to go with the riffs.

However, Wylde said, he does make the Satanic lyrical references more PG friendly. After all, he doesn’t want to frighten the fans.

“You can’t put too much Tabasco in the soup,” said Wylde. You want to put just enough for flavor, he said.

And if there isn’t a Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber album available, Wylde said, he’s grab “Right Said Fred and put it on repeat…”

“It’s quite a production,” said Wylde, who was calling from Lincoln, Neb. “A lot of people aren’t willing to take the risk.”

Before mothers and fathers reach for the lighters and burn some CDs, Wylde, of course, was joking. He was having a laugh at a reporter’s expense.

But that’s how Wylde, and his oversized rock and roll personality, rolled through the course of the interview.

Wylde, who plays the Webster Theater with his band Black Label Society this weekend, is on tour behind the band’s new studio album “Grimmest Hits.” The album title sounds like a best-of compilation album, but once you cue it up, you realize it’s not.

The album title, he said, was the result of a conversation with the record company. They said they didn’t hear a hit. Wylde said, it was “looking bleak and grim.”

Thus, the album was called “Grimmest Hits,” he said, because there weren’t any hits and the album looked kind of grim.

Wylde is a busy guy. Besides touring with Black Label Society, he still tours with Ozzy Osbourne (who he calls “The Boss”) as well as his Black Sabbath cover band, Zakk Sabbath.

“It’s a necessity,” said Wylde, still in stand-up comedian mode. “I’m still paying the outstanding bar tab Black Label Society achieved in the early years.”

“I will be selling Girl Scout cookies soon,” said Wylde.

When Black Label Society hits the stage, Wylde said he said the set list will give the fans exactly what they want—”White Christmas,” “Free Bird,” and “Stairway to Heaven” played over the course of three hours. “That’s it.”

“There haven’t been any complaints,” said Wylde. And at the end of the night, he said, “Everybody’s cheering.”

Shifting out of stand-up comedy mode, Wylde also spoke about another live music adventure he is taking part in, Generation Axe. The tour teams him up with guitar heroes Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi.

Wylde said the chance to jam with these stellar guitarists is only part of the fun. He said he loves to hear the music biz war stories from each of the guys.

The music industry, he said, “is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Wylde is a man in musical motion at all times.

Wylde said he’s on the road for 200 gigs a year. He’ll finish the Black Label Society tour and then he’ll head out to tour with “The Boss,” Ozzy, again. He’ll also be back with Zakk Sabbath. Then he’s back with “The Boss.”

Noting how busy he is, Wylde said, “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Yes, he said, when he was 15 years old, learning the guitar, the goal was to play Madison Square Garden. But at 52, he loves the fact that he is doing what he set out to do when he was younger—and that was make music.

And in that regard, he said, “I’m truly blessed.”

Black Label Society performs at The Webster Theater in Hartford on Sunday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m. Corrosion of Conformity opens.

For more information, go to www.WebsterTheater.com or www. BlackLabelSociety.net

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.

Black Label Society comes to The Webster in Hartford on July 29.