A lot of things surrounding Zakk Wylde’s life and his music were different when he and his band, Black Label Society, made their latest studio CD, Order of the Black.
Wylde had recovered from a 2009 bout with serious blood clots, quit drinking (as part of his blood clot treatment regimen) and been dismissed as Ozzy Osbourne’s primary songwriting collaborator and guitarist. Plus, for the first time, Wylde had his own studio in which to record Order of the Black.
For some artists, any one of those sort of events would directly influence a new CD and make it stand out from others in their catalog.
For Wylde and his bandmates, bassist John DeServio, drummer Will Hunt and guitarist Nick Catanese, it was just business as usual.
“We got a stack of tunes and then we focused in on the ones we wanted to do. That was it,” Wylde says in a recent interview. “We went in there [the studio, dubbed ‘The Bunker’] and recorded it just like we did all the other ones. It took us 94 days from beginning to end.”
The matter-of-fact way Wylde characterizes Order of the Black will probably be welcome news to his fans. While some artists thrive on progression and change, Wylde — and Black Label’s fans — seem just fine if the band stays the course and just continues to deliver the kind of meat-and-potatoes mix of metalish rockers (“Crazy Horse” and “Southern Dissolution”) and burly ballads (“Darkest Days” and “Time Waits For No One.”) that has been the Black Label Society signature from day one.
Wylde, in fact, exhibited a pretty casual attitude about all of the events of the past couple of years.
The first of the events was Osbourne’s decision a couple of years ago to find a new guitarist and songwriting partner, a role Wylde had held for nearly 20 years, beginning with Osbourne’s 1988 album, No Rest For The Wicked. Osbourne has said he was worried his music was starting to sound too much like Black Label Society.
“Ozzy doesn’t have to explain himself to me at all,” Wylde says. “It’s just like ‘Zakk, it’s starting to sound like this. I’m going to make a change.’ I’m like ‘All right, Ozz, you’ve got it, buddy. If you need me to go feed the dogs or something, give me a call.’ “Our relationship is bigger than music anyway,” he says. “He’s godfather to my boy and everything.”
Wylde also doesn’t seem fazed by his blood clot scare or the changes in his lifestyle that it necessitated — namely giving up his rather famous love for beer and other alcoholic beverages.
After experiencing pain in his calf for a week or so, Wylde decided to visit an emergency room at a hospital in Eugene, Ore.
“I knew I didn’t break anything,” Wylde says. “I thought, ‘I’ve pulled a ligament or I tore a tendon or something, because I’ve been icing this thing down for over a week. The pain’s not going away. And I’ve been staying off of it. I’ve been elevating my leg. This is ridiculous, man.’ So that’s when I went in there and they checked me out, and they were like, ‘Dude, you have a massive blood clot behind your leg.’” Wylde was started on a regimen of the blood thinner Coudamin, and because alcohol also thins the blood, he was told in no uncertain terms that his drinking days needed to end. Wylde said he had no troubles going alcohol-free.
“I said ‘All right, never mind,’” he says. “Let me put it this way, it’s just like someone was like, ‘Are you with the 12-step program?’ I go, ‘12-step? I’ve got the one-step Black Label program. That’s it. You’re done. Stop.’” Wylde has been, for the most part, clot-free. He had to postpone a couple of shows last fall when he had a recurrence of the clots, but was able to resume the tour shortly afterward.
He also was able to put together a new acoustic Black Label Society CD, The Song Is Not The Same. Released on May 3, it featured primarily unplugged versions of songs from Order of the Black. And now he’s back on tour with Black Label Society, headlining Fuse’s “Uranium Tour.”
Wylde wasn’t sure what the set list would be for this tour, noting that he usually looks for input from fans online to help decide what to play. With his extensive catalog of songs, it is not easy to narrow the list.
“Now that this is the eighth album, I mean it’s eight records to choose material from,” he says. “Yeah, how do the Rolling Stones come up with a set list? If it was up to them, the Stones would be up there for 15 hours.”