“Just the cheesesteaks alone, for that, you must hit Philadelphia… and to run up the Rocky steps, although I’ve never done that myself,” says guitar legend Zakk Wylde during a recent phone interview in which he appeared far more of a jokester than his classic Rock N’ Roll caveman look would imply. Wylde is likely best-known as Ozzy’s lead guitarist and right-hand man on-and-off (but more on than off) since 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked. However, his own Black Label Society has also been kicking out metal jams since 1998… Wylde has played the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection several dozen times over the past three-and-a-half decades, from nights at the Spectrum (and “Center”) with Ozzy, to countless BLS shows at the Factory, and even the occasionally exceptionally intimate set, whether it be solo at the TLA or doing his Zakk Sabbath (which is exactly what it sounds like and even cooler than you could imagine) at Underground Arts.
Although Zakk has spent the majority of his adult life in California, he actually hails from New Jersey and has one especially notable memory of Philthy: “Playing the Spectrum with Ozzy was always great, obviously, but the first concert I ever saw was actually Black Sabbath on the Mob Rules Tour, with Dio, at the Spectrum.” Zakk and friends — at 13 or 14 — took a bus to the city from Jersey (“There was no supervision from our parents.”), which they apparently missed on the way back home and were forced to stay overnight in the city in a particularly Rock N’ Roll manner: “We stayed in this place with an older chick – who knew the brother of one of my friends – in the seediest part of the city. The only thing in the refrigerator was like a half-full Heinz ketchup bottle [laughs].”
Zakk has been in the news recently with the announcement of the reunion of Texas metal legends Pantera that will feature Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown alongside Zakk taking the place of close friend and fallen “brother” Dimebag Darrell and Anthrax’s Charlie Benante filling in for Dimebag’s brother and also gone-too-soon metal hero Vinnie Paul, with tour dates to be announced for next year. “I’ve just been learnin’ the songs at Pantera University, and maybe hoping to get a shoulder massage and a foot rub from the divine one,” Zakk jokes with me.
However, at the moment, Black Label Society and Anthrax are on a double-headlining run themselves, which will have them playing The Fillmore this coming Sunday, August 28th. BLS are touring behind Doom Crew Inc., which dropped last year and Zakk tells me has been getting rave reviews: “Everyone has said, unanimously, they have lost weight listening to the album because they just puke nonstop. They’ve been saying, ‘Thanks for getting my beach body ready, Zakk.’ So, it’s been really positive… not so much for the music, though [laughs].” The album itself is named for those very fans (in addition to the band family/crew), which Zakk tells me he sees as, “This one giant family… A living, breathing thing, like a community, like the Grateful Dead,” before telling me about how fans in the internet community regularly travel overseas to see the band and stay with other fans, or fans in their twenties who will show him pictures of when they were three or four and their parents brought them out to their first Black Label show.
When I ask Zakk what can be expected of Black Label’s set this time around, he jokes, “To do an hour-and-a-half set, we usually just think about doing ‘Freebird’ twice, ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ and ‘Smoke on the Water,’ but we do them all twice… although that’s already two-and-a-half hours.” He does go on to tell me that fans can expect, “A little bit of everything,” from the Black Label catalogue. Their set has also become famous for nightly guitar duels between Zakk and rhythm guitarist Dario Lorina, who’s officially been a member since 2014, where the two play their guitars behind their heads, which Zakk tells me actually started as something you might not expect: “Originally what started the duels is that we used to do cookoffs. Dario does an amazing chicken piccata that I couldn’t touch… But we’d do a dueling cookoff, like any of those cooking shows, and it basically evolved from that.”
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