When I heard Zakk Wylde was coming to town, I immediately assumed it was by way of Black Label Society. I couldn't wait to see his guitar prowess once again -- including his wonderful dedication to the pinch harmonic -- and his hits from more than two-dozen albums spanning almost 30 years.
But this go-around on stage is a little different. Wylde's current tour is meant to be an intimate gathering of what he calls "the dysfunctional Black Label Society family." The guitar legend released his book, Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker's Guide to World Tour Domination, on April 9 and has embarked on a tour to promote the book, host question-and-answer sessions, and jam out on an acoustic set.
Zakk Wylde is scheduled to perform Sunday, April 28, at Pub Rock in Scottsdale.
And for an axman who was Ozzy Osbourne's lead guitarist for more than 20 years, the guy is pretty stoked about dabbling in the lighter side of rock for a bit. From his Mary Poppins-style "Heeelllllloooo doll!" at the start of our interview to his hearty description of the upcoming set list -- "We'll be doing a bunch of Broadway musical show tunes ...The Sound of Music...you know? I'm a big Judy Garland and Cher guy" -- he was enthusiastic while talking about his new venture.
As it is, there's no doubt the stripped-down versions of his heavy jams will attract quite the crowd.
"As much as I love doing the heavier stuff, it's great to break down any one of those songs, and then do a dark, minor version of it," says Wylde. "I like jamming on the piano and playing the acoustic guitar. It's like with Zeppelin -- as much as I like listening to "Black Dog" I also like listening to "Going to California," too."
The tour is also promoting his book, co-written by New York Times bestselling author Eric Hendrikx. It kicks off with a "True Rocker Test," Wylde's method of determinig whether the reader is a true rocker or a douchebag. He moves on to tell about his journeys on the road with some of the biggest legends in metal like Lars Ulrich, pro wrestler Chris Jericho, Rob Zombie, Slash, Dimebag Darrell, Ozzy Osbourne, Eddie Van Halen, and more.
The original idea came about years ago, when Wylde and his friends were talking about how ridiculous the music industry has become.
"We were just sitting at the bar, laughing our asses off. The book is basically Seinfeld on steroids. At first, it was going to be an instructional thing; guitar lessons, the studios, techniques," says Wylde. "But then I realized I had like two or three different books in one. It's instructional and a memoir. I also knew that the book needed to be set up where you can pick it up and start reading anywhere, and be laughing your ass off almost immediately."
Additionally, Bringing Metal to the Children gives a sort-of "roadmap for success" in the music industry. It offers advice about tour hygiene on the road, pre- and post-show etiquette, tour planning, even how to set up a shooting range on a tour bus.
The industry has changed a lot during Wylde's career, mostly due to the Internet, and he's not scared to touch base on that, either.
"There are positives and negatives. You know, back in the day, if you didn't get signed by the time you were 30, it's kinda like, 'I guess the dream is over and that's life. Whereas nowadays you and your band can keep going, and you can sell your stuff on the Internet and book tours. You can make a living doing what you love."
While Wylde and BLS don't have to worry about that, he also likes the Internet because artists can still make money by way of Internet sales -- that he can find the "obscure guitar guys" he likes on iTunes.
And don't worry -- for those craving the Black Sabbath flavor in full force, they'll be back later this year. Currently Wylde has been compiling riffs for new music, and they just finished their live concert DVD, Unblackened.
"We're mixing and editing Unblackened and talking about touring in late summer or fall when the DVD comes out," says Wylde.
There's also the ever-evolving rumor that Wylde may join the original lineup of Pantera (or at least the post-Terry Glaze days) in Dimebag Darrell's place for a reunion/tribute tour.
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"That's up to Vinnie, Rex, and Phil. If they ever wanted me to honor Dimebag, of course I would do it," Wylde says. "It's not replacing anybody -- you're talking about Dime. It's like Randy Rhoads. You're celebrating his greatness and honoring all things Pantera."
Dimebag and Wylde were seen as two of the most stylistically influential and talented guitarists of their era. Their influence has reached deep into the roots of metal, hard rock, and even country rock.
"We've always just played what we love, and honoring the guys we got it from," says Wylde, humbly. "Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi . . . Dime was a big Ace Frehley guy. It's the whole trickle-down effect. If anyone is inspired by Dime, then they are inspired by all those guys I just mentioned. That's the beautiful thing about music, you know what I mean? It's all kept alive that way."