Songfacts: Let’s talk about the new release, Unblackened. From what I understand, it’s being issued as a DVD and as a live CD with some extra tracks, right?
Zakk Wylde: Yeah. We got approached to do another DVD [Unblackened] because it’s been a bit since we did the Doom Troopin‘ one. We’ve got new material now, so we can do another DVD with the heavy stuff and the production, but everybody always asks us – you know, the Black Label Berzerker Nation over there – they’re just like, “Are you guys ever going to do like an unplugged or do some of the mellower tunes?”
A lot of the mellow songs never see the light of day. We’ll wheel the piano out and do Dime Song or Spoke in the Wheel or Darkest Days, but we don’t do a half-hour set of the mellow stuff [a CD version of Unblackened includes several acoustic selections not found on the DVD]. We’ll just break out about two songs and then go back to the walls of doom – Marshalls and everything like that. So yeah, it was just a perfect opportunity for us to do the mellower stuff. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, let’s knock this out.”
Songfacts: I recently interviewed Jason Newsted and we were talking about all the great old songs from the soul bands of the ’60s and ’70s, and how we were surprised there aren’t more hard rock bands today that go back and listen to a lot of that great music from the ’60s.
Zakk: We were talking about that the other day with some of the younger bands coming up. Some of them can shred, but as far as any blues licks and the playing, it’s not in the music. But then at the same time, you have to dig that kind of music to want to play it. If you tell someone, “You ought to learn how to play jazz,” they may say, “I can’t stand jazz. I’d rather play metal.”
And as far as history goes, I’ve noticed with a lot of younger kids, they’ll know who Derek Jeter is, but they don’t know who Babe Ruth is. But they’re a huge Yankees fan. It’s like, “Wow, you’re a huge Yankees fan and you don’t know who Babe Ruth is.” It’s like, “I don’t know, should I know who he is? What year did he play? Did he play before Derek Jeter got there?” It’s mind-blowing. Just forget about even asking, “Do you know who Thurman Munson is?” or “Can you name me another Yankee captain?” “No, but Derek Jeter’s the best, man.” It’s like, “Wow, okay. Never mind.”
One kid actually said to me at one of the Ozzfests years ago – he looked 12 or 13 years old – he said, “Zakk, you’re my favorite Ozzy guitar player.” I go, “No, that would be Randy Rhoads.” I said, “This is the house that Rhoads built.” And he just goes, “Who’s Randy Rhoads?” I was just like, “Wow. You know who I am, but you don’t know who Randy Rhoads is?” That’s pretty amazing.
If you’re into Led Zeppelin, you should know that Led Zeppelin listened to Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon. Your favorite blues band should not be Led Zeppelin.
I love guessing the dates on movies, so when the guys are all sitting around and a movie comes on, I’ll put $20 down and whoever gets it gets the 20 bucks. Like The Black Label Price is Right, whoever’s closest to it. Moonraker was on the other day, and that came out in 1979. That was the first Bond movie I ever saw, and I remember telling my buddy’s older brothers that it was great. They’re like, “Oh, Roger Moore, he sucks, man. That ain’t a Bond movie.” Because I had no idea who Sean Connery was. They were like, “Sean Connery’s Bond, dude.”
My first introduction to the Bond series was Roger Moore, but I needed to go back to check out Sean Connery as the original Bond.
Songfacts: Who would you say are some of your favorite songwriters?
Zakk: Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Obviously, I love Led Zeppelin and I love Sabbath. Neil Young, I love.
As far as guys my genre, Chris Cornell is beyond amazing. Father Cantrell – Jerry’s amazing. I love the guys in Stone Temple Pilots. The Guns N’ Roses guys.
Dime. It’s amazing with the Pantera stuff, even with Doug, because I always tell everybody what Dime’s legacy is. Tony Iommi created that whole genre of music, then Dime and the guys took the Sabbath thing and added gasoline. He added nitrous to it and created his own new thing.
We’d go to these festivals and hear these bands that definitely love Pantera, and that’s where they’re coming from – they’re all branches of the Pantera tree. The brute strength and the force and the volume – the actual riffs in the songs, for as heavy as it gets, it was just memorable stuff. It wasn’t all about just screaming and yelling and how fast they could play.
It was the same thing with Black Sabbath. Why are they so much better than all these other bands? It’s because they have great songs. We saw them the other night. I’ve seen Tom Petty, and he’s another amazing songwriter, he and Mike Campbell and all the guys.
Me and Barbara Ann [Zakk’s wife] went down and saw Tom Petty, and by the time he got done playing, I was like, “Wow, he hasn’t played this one, that one, this one, and that one.” I mean, he’s got like a greatest hits jukebox on him.
Sonically, Tom Petty and Black Sabbath are two completely different things, but the thread that ties them both together is great song after great song. Sabbath is just one great insane classic riff after another. Same thing with Tom Petty on these songs we’ve heard a million times.
Songfacts: Something I’m curious to get your feedback on: with those first two Ozzy solo albums [Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman], how much do you think that Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake played a part in the songwriting? They seemed to be a pretty big part of the songwriting with those albums.
Zakk: Yeah. Bob’s always been great with Oz. Just a great pairing like the Elton/Bernie Taupin thing. Bob’s a great lyricist. He worked with us on No Rest For the Wicked, he worked on No More Tears. So yeah, I think Bob’s great.
Songfacts:I’ve always wondered what that original Blizzard of Ozz line-up would have gone on to do if they had stayed together.
Zakk: I think that original line-up was phenomenal. You can’t even argue that. Just listen to the records. They’re timeless, classic albums. Hands down, that line-up was fuckin’ sick. When they were making the record, they didn’t know. Randy didn’t know any of the guys. Randy never met Bob Daisley or Lee Kerslake before. I’d mean, if me and you took four complete strangers, stuck ’em in a room, and then they ended up coming out with two amazing records – what are the chances of that happening?
Songfacts: And I’ve always wondered what the second line-up with Ozzy, Randy and also Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge would have come up with in the recording studio.
Zakk: I think it would have been a completely different thing. How could it not have been? Look at it like the Patriots – Ozzy and Randy, would be [Bill] Belichick and [Tom] Brady, but now we’re going to have different wide receivers, different running backs, different defenses. Obviously, we don’t have to worry about Captain America and Father Belichick, since we know what they’re going to deliver. But the rest of the team around it, without [Wes] Welker there, let’s see what happens now.
Without a doubt, even when I play with Black Label, when we have different guys I play with, everyone always brings their own magic, their own flavor to the soup, hands down.
You listen to Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio in it, and it’s not Black Sabbath. They should have just called it Heaven and Hell right from the beginning. Because you listen to that Heaven and Hell album, that doesn’t sound anything close to Black Sabbath. I mean, that sounds about as much like Black Sabbath as Blizzard of Ozz sounds like Black Sabbath. If you were to play Black Sabbath for me – and I’m a huge Sabbath freako – and then with Father Dio over there, I’d be going, “Oh, cool, what band is this? This is good stuff.” I mean, the songs don’t even sound Black Sabbath-y. I mean, Neon Knights, could you picture Ozzy singing over that song?
Read the entire interview at Songfacts.