Hard Rocking Singer-Guitarist Zakk Wylde Explores His Milder Side on 'Book of Shadows II'

Hard working singer-guitarist Zakk Wylde has already had one helluva 2016. The year isn’t half over yet, and he’s toured as part of both the Hendrix Experience Tour and Steve Vai’s Generation Axe Tour.

Now, Wylde comes to town in support of Book of Shadows II, the follow-up to 1996’s Book of Shadows. Speaking via phone from his Los Angeles home, he says fans still respond favorably to guitar heroes (and we consider him to be one), even though we live in a time when electronic dance music and overproduced pop reign supreme.

“Everyone thinks the musician thing is dead and buried and whatever, which isn’t true,” he says. “It’s just not in your face. You don’t see Jon Bon Jovi every two seconds on MTV, but he’s still playing giant stadiums. It’s like anything else. When Elvis and Chuck Berry and everything came in after Sinatra, everyone who loves Sinatra is still going to go every time he comes to their town. My mom and dad would have gone without a doubt. They would have thought that Elvis sucked. When the Beatles and Stones came out, they thought they were even worse. And then, there’s Cream and Hendrix and Sabbath, and they were really upset about the trends. Everyone thinks their music is good and everything else’s music sucks."

Now 49, he says to "the same music I did when I was 13."

"It’s Zeppelin, Sabbath, Bad Company, Elton John, the Eagles, all the same shit we were listening to when we were 15,” he says. 

By the time he was 14 years old, Wylde became serious about learning to play guitar. He eventually landed a gig with the Dark Prince, Ozzy Osbourne. Playing with Osbourne meant following in the footsteps of several great guitarists.

“I was a huge Sabbath fan, and I had a great love for [former Osbourne sidemen] Randy Rhoads and Jake [E. Lee] and everything like that,” he says. “It’s like [former Yankee] Thurman Munson is my guy, and now I’m playing catcher for the Yankees. It’s insane. Sharon [Osbourne] has been like my mother since I was 19 years old. It’s bigger than the music. If Ozzy called me and said, ‘Zakk, we have company coming over, can you clean the dog run and bring some milk and eggs over,’ I’d be like, ‘Yeah, no problem.’

Though Wylde is known for his work with Osbourne, the two Book of Shadows albums show off his bluesy and classic rock side. Book of Shadows II kicks off with "Autumn Changes," a somber tune that sounds like a cross between Alice in Chains and Eric Clapton. The rest of the album sustains the opening number’s serious mood with baritone vocals and bluesy guitar riffs.

"I had a blast making that first Book of Shadows record,” he says. “It was right after [Osbourne’s] Ozzmosis. At this one pub in New York, I would be listening to the Stones and Bad Company and Skynyrd and Elton John and the Band, just ass kicking stuff. We’d be listening to the tunes all night and drinking, and I’d end up crawling back to the hotel, which was right next to the bar, and would pick up my acoustic and start jamming tunes. I was just getting inspired by the stuff I listened to. It was the same with Book of Shadows 2, which came after a 20-year gap. But the constant is my love for that type of music.”

He worked on the album between releases from Black Label Society, the hard rock act he fronts.

“I had a month and two weeks, so I started writing tunes,” he says. “It was whatever I was inspired by. For me, lyrically they have to have some weight and depth to them. You don’t force anything. When you go take a shit and you go piss, you don’t force it. You just go take a shit. You love what you love playing. Zeppelin and Sabbath and all our favorite bands don’t think about what they’re doing. They just do it. They’re not forcing anything.”

The upcoming tour marks the first time Wylde has toured as a headliner in the U.S. and Canada since last year's Unblackened tour. He says the show will feature material from the two albums but not from his other projects.

“It’s cool,” he says of the live show. “When we do Black Label shows, it’s all Black Label stuff, so I have a catalog of that stuff. When we do the Unblackened thing, it covers everything. Now that we have the two Book of Shadows albums, that’s all it is.”

Wylde says he enjoys alternating between heavy metal and the blues rock found on the Book of Shadows albums.

“I love it,” he says. “As much as I love listening to Zeppelin doing “Black Dog,” I love it when they do “Going to California” and the mellow stuff.”

Zakk Wylde, Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, Jared James Nichols, 7 p.m. Friday, July 29, Agora Theatre, 5000 Euclid Ave., 216-881-2221. Tickets: $25 ADV, $20 DOS, agoracleveland.com.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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