Are you after a philosophical back and forth on the state of live music, the recent shift in social norms and life in a post pandemic society? Sorry champ, but you’re in the wrong bloody place, because when I, Wall of Sound’s resident boomer fanboy Duane James, sat opposite Zakk Wylde recently (via zoom, it still counts), the conversation went sideways real quick.
Like when I suggested to Zakk that he is an icon, and quite possibly one of the greatest guitarists on the planet, the Black Label Society singer and guitarist replied with:
“I tell the wife all that stuff. But it’s not helping to get any foot massages or shoulder rubs.”
So here we sit, a couple months after the release of Black Label’s 11th studio album Doom Crew Inc. (our review here) to have a candid chat about the new release, why it was named after the BLS road crew, his life in lockdown, touring after 23 months off, meeting Post Malone and a potential Wylde Audio guitar production collaboration with his dear departed friend and fellow guitar icon, Dimebag Darrel Abbott. So put on your viking horns, grab a cup of hot java and strap yourself in for a blessed hellride through the mind of Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist and Black Label Society main man, the Wylde man himself, Zakk Wylde.
The first time I heard the phrase “Doom Crew Incorporated” was 20 years back on the Ozzfest 2002 live compilation CD. There was a live recording of Black Label doing ‘Berserkers’, and at the end, Zakk yelled to the crowd:
“On behalf of Robert Trujillo, Nick Catanese, Craig Nunenmacher, myself, and the fucking DOOM CREW INCORPORATED. To the Massachusetts Chapter of the Black Label Society. Stay fucking strong”
Right there in that statement was everything I needed to know about this band, crew and fanbase that Zakk formed at the back end of the 20th century. You weren’t just a fan, you were part of a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a community. It encapsulated everything that being a metal fan was about. But the hardest workers in the room are the road crew. The first to bleed, last to leave, ride or die road crew.
So I ask Zakk, what can he tell me about the actual Doom Crew that the album is named after?
Full heckle he says:
“Well, we couldn’t come up with any other names for the album. I didn’t have anything. So I just looked at the belt buckle sitting on the console in the studio and I go, let’s just go with Doom Crew Incorporated. You know, and I told the wife after that. I said, see this. This is another gift that I give you, is my genius. So there you go. Anyway, that didn’t get me a foot massage either.”
“Yeah, it’s a little shout out to our beloved Doom Crew Incorporated. Like every band that has a crew, without the crew, the machine doesn’t run. They are the power behind the throne, that’s for sure. Back in the day, during the animal house years, the berserking years, it would be hilarious. Because it wasn’t just the band that was getting into shenanigans. It was everybody. So it was the complete Doom Crew. So it wasn’t me and JD doing something getting silly, or any of the guys who was, like you and Andy going out last night and going to some family orientated shoot and stab, There would always be just absolute comedy and hilarious stories going on all the time. Then we just do the next show the next day. The shows always happened. I mean the comedy leading up to the shows was just, like literally, on the ground, crying, laughing all the time, man. the thing is, we all enjoy each other’s company, and we all will have each other’s back ”
But how did the Doom Crew feel when they found out the album had been named after them?
“They just said, ‘Wow, I guess you you ran out of things to call the album!’
I said ‘yeah, pretty much’ HAHAHA”
Well the Doom Crew is back at work, now that Black Label Society have just returned to the live arena, having just completed their first touring stint in nearly two years. Reflecting on the break Zakk said:
“Yeah, actually the tour ended with the Milwaukee Chapter Berserkers and that was the last show we did at The Rave (March 12, 2020). Then we just figured we’d be home for a month, you know, and then we’ll all be back out rolling again. Next thing you know, we were all on stage again, I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me, I go ‘Bro, this was 23 months ago, that’s 23 months ago that we were on this stage’. So I mean, that was the longest I’ve ever been home. And I can’t remember how long I mean, even since I started with Ozzy, I think that’s the longest I haven’t done a show on stage.”
“I gotta be honest with you, I enjoyed every second of it being home, because everybody was always like, oh man, you must be itching to get back out on the road. I was like, No, I’m enjoying every second of this man. Because I you know, once the grind starts going again, and the machine starts rolling, then it’s back at it. So you might as well just enjoy the time home.”
“So I enjoyed every sec because when I’m home, because we’re always rolling. I mean, if it isn’t with Black Label, I’m either rolling with the boss, I’m rolling with Ozz, then we’re doing Generation Axe, then we’re doing Experience Hendrix then we’re doing Zakk Sabbath, and then I’m home for about 10 days or two weeks, and then I’m back out on the road again. I love what I do. I mean, I really love playing every night. But when we’re home during this two years that we had, though, we did the box set. We did videos for that. Then we recorded the Doom Crew Incorporated record. So it’s not like we’ve been just sitting around doing nothing, you know?”
Absolutely not. Zakk has hardly been called a lazy bloke with his past insane touring schedules and the amount of content he’s produced in the last thirty plus years he’s been pumping out music would put most of his contemporaries to shame. But who’s coming up with the mental ideas for the new clips for ‘Set You Free’ and ‘End Of Days’, they’re absolutely brilliant.
“Well that’s what I tell the wife, I say ‘what do ya think? You must be really impressed.
But no, somebody asked me once, ‘what, do you have somebody write this stuff for you?’ I go, are you joking me? You gotta be kidding me man. I go, we’re just a bunch of idiots. I was just, I got a great idea for this video for ‘End Of Days’. What’s that? Is I’m gonna buy a grizzly bear outfit and a koala outfit, that looks absolutely ridiculous. And then me and JD are just going to fight throughout the whole video. Like what is it going to be any band performance? I go No! No guitars, no bass, no drums, nothing. Just fighting the whole video. He’s like ‘what does that have to do with the song?’ Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
Not to mention drummer Jeff Fabb and guitarist Dario Lorina dressed up like a couple of Post Malone wannabe’s with their cash guns shooting money in the air.
“Actually with Post, he actually came down to one of the gigs. Really actually really nice guy. Really cool. He came down to the show and I’d never heard him, even though he’s sold 60 gazillion records or whatever. He came down to one of the gigs. It was before the Ozzy song and everything. He was backstage. We were up in Canada, I think he grew up in Montreal or something. He was like “Hey Zakk, Post Malone”. I was “Oh, cool. How you doin’ man”. I didn’t even know him, but he was really nice, really good guy.”
But Zakk is renowned throughout the world for his guitar playing but on this album he’s split more of the guitar solo duties with Dario Lorina, who joined Black Label in 2014. What was it that allowed Dario to step up his guitar duties on this album.
“Dario’s awesome. I mean, I like showing him off all the time, and he makes an amazing chicken piccata as well. He uses the capers as opposed to salt. He’s awesome. I mean, Dario plays piano. He sings. He shred’s on guitar. He does dishes, laundry. He does it all. But I mean, when I made the new record, it was with the intention of having, almost like the Allman Brothers where there’s harmony lines, Unison lines, or like Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, where there’s a purpose of having two guitar players. Dario killed it on the record, man, for sure.”
Now if you’ve been following Zakk’s Instagram account at all, you’ll find video’s of him showcasing his Wylde Audio guitars whilst getting flogged by bass player John “JD” DeServio, hanging out with his Morgan (from the Exorcist) doll, while his cardboard cutout of WWE wrestler The Ultimate Warrior looks on as his Evil Knievel toy jumps his Golden Girls action figures. Aside from the creative genius on display, you’ll find a beautiful series of guitars that look insane and sound absolutely incredible.
“Definitely. The gang putting them together, they do an amazing job. A lot of times I’m playing different guitars every night. Brand new guitars. With all my Gibson‘s and all my Epiphones and everything, the quality was always crushing as well. I mean it’s just, ‘oh give me a pick me out a good one’. It’s just like, they’re all good. You know, I am just saying, I’ve never picked one up I was like, wow, this is terrible. The quality for all the Wylde Audio guitars. Every one of them is slamming. I love them, they do an amazing job.”
Now back in the berserker days, there were always stories going around of some of the shenanigans Zakk used to get up to, especially with his dear departed friend and fellow guitar icon Dimebag Darrel of Pantera. One particular incident was the night they got drunk as hell and rang Eddie Van Halen at 3am.
“Oh yeah. You know, your drunk moron phone call friend. I mean, yeah, it’s just like, idiots. I’m sleeping right now. Yeah, totally. Yeah. I’m not sure if Eddie even answered the phone on that one. But it’s a good thing he didn’t? Yeah, I totally just dialled. Your drunk phone call friends. You know what I mean”
But aside from being the greatest of friends, they were both considered two of the finest guitarists on the planet. So with Zakk’s guitar company in mind and his close affinity to Dimebag, I had to ask him, on the back of the potential split between Dean Guitars and the Estate of Dimebag Darrell Abbott, as to whether or not he’d be interested in producing the next line of Dimebag Guitars with his Wylde Audio company.
“I remember when that first came out, whenever I saw that, but I didn’t know, I didn’t know the whole skinny on that. But I mean, it’s just like, Yeah, cuz I mean, Dimes always been associated with them. I mean, actually, he brought them back into business when they were out of business. He brought them back into business just because of his popularity. And him playing that guitar. But uh, no, I you know, if any, if we were to ever do something like that, you know, obviously we talk with with Rita (Haney, executor of Dime’s Estate) and whatever she wanted to do, you know, I mean, so.”
But Dime and Eddie Van Halen aren’t the only icons Zakk is known to hang out with. Since 1988, the Wylde man’s name has been synonymous with the hugest icon in metal, Ozzy Osbourne. With an Ozzy tour recommencing in 2023, how is the Black Sabbath legend going?
“He’s doing everything he has to do to get (well), because if it was up to him we’d still would have been back out on the road. Last show we did was going into 2019. We did New Year’s Eve at the Forum, like an art fest type thing, and it was great. Before he banged himself up. You know, cuz he was just like, oh man we ought to do this every year, after we did that New Year’s Eve show. So like I said, right now the game plan is 2023.”
“I just tell Ozzy, Just make sure you keep doing all your therapy so we can get you back out on the powerlifting platform to get his bench, his squat and his deadlifting numbers back up to Ozzy world class.”
In the tour plans, between Ozzy and Black Label, have you set your sights on coming to Australia & New Zealand in any capacity?
“Of course, that’s the game plan. We just tour as much as we can, anywhere in the world. I mean with the covid restrictions and, we just did the states, nobody got covid and there was no issues there. Everyday we were doing Black Label meet and greets and there’d be over 50 people, everybody hanging out and having a good time. But nobody got sick and it was great. But like you said, the Omnicrom is out there, but I’m hoping that Optimus Prime will defeat the Omnicrom and we will be able to run. I’ve got the mortgage of the house on Optimus Prime. So hopefully we’ll be down there rolling with the Australia and New Zealand Berserkers before you know it.”
Sounds like a plan Zakk. In the meantime suss out the new album Doom Crew Inc. and throw yourself into the BLS back catalogue as well. Arm yourself up for when Black Label Society arrives on our shores, if anything, to give Optimus Prime a fighting chance.
Written by the mind of Duane James @duanejames666
Stream Doom Crew Inc. here
Black Label Society – Doom Crew Inc. tracklisting
1. Set You Free
2. Destroy & Conquer
3. You Made Me Want to Live
4. Forever and a Day
5. End of Days
8. Love Reign Down
9. Gospel of Lies
10. Shelter Me
11. Gather all my Sins
12. Farewell Ballad