Interview: Zakk Wylde & Black Label Society to play Empire Live This Friday

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Heavy blues rockers, Black Label Society, are coming to Empire Live in Albany this Friday, November 5th. I asked the group’s fearless leader, Zakk Wylde, what the audience may expect from Friday’s show. “Hearing loss!” Wylde jested. From the phone conversation I had with Wylde, my immediate impression was that he is down to earth and that his sense of humor is as sharp as his guitar playing. Playing alongside Zakk Wylde in BLS are John DeServio on bass, Jeff Fab on drums, and Dario Lorina on rhythm guitar.

Wylde got his break into the industry when he was recruited as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player and co-songwriter; he first appeared on Ozzy’s No Rest For The Wicked album in 1988 and remained in the Prince of Darkness’s entourage until 1995. He rejoined in 2001 and had a steady run until 2007. As of very recent, it was announced that Wylde will be returning, alongside some iconic names (Toni Iommi, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck) for Ozzy’s new record, according to Loud Wire. 

Despite this incredible resume, Wylde does not take himself too seriously; “what are you going to take away from this Black Label show?” Wylde added, “hearing loss, gonorrhea, herpes, etc. It’s quite the eclectic crowd.” 

Yes, it is apparent that Wylde and Black Label Society like to have fun, but don’t be fooled, Wylde is one of the hardest working musicians in the industry today and is not apologetic for what he says or does. He doesn’t take breaks or holidays – if he’s not on tour he’s in the studio and vice versa. 

So I asked him how he fared during the COVID-19 shutdown. “If I’m not touring with Black Label, I’m touring with the boss, and then it’s Zakk Sabbath (his tribute band to Black Sabbath) then I’m rolling with Generation X, then I also do the ‘Experience Hendrix’. So the longest I’m ever home is about 10 days. People are always like, when are you going on vacation? No, when I’m home that is the vacation. So I cherish every day – I’ll take the dogs for a walk.”

Black Label Society at Upstate Concert Hall
Photo by Jim Gilbert

Without missing a beat, Wylde’s humor then strikes again: “I ask my wife, have you ever slept with a professional dog walker? She’s like, no I haven’t – well, now’s your chance.” 

Wylde and BLS kicked off their ‘Doom Trooping over North America’ tour in the beginning of October with supporting acts Obituary and Prong, in support of their upcoming album, Doom Crew Inc., which comes out on Nov. 26th. 

They released the first single, ‘Set You Free’ in August, and it is a wet dream for any doom metalhead, and of course, as is the case with any classic BLS record, the track is informed by classic heavy blues riffs. The song is driven by two interwoven guitar tracks and feels like a true homage to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin – Wylde’s bread and butter. 

Black Label Society at Upstate Concert Hall
Photo by Jim Gilbert

“For me, it always starts with the riff,” Wylde told me in regards to his approach to songwriting. I asked him if BLS purposefully went more retro with this new single. “You got Cream, Mountain, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple. We are constantly inspired by any of those bands. It always starts with the riff, then the rest of the song just lights out. Even down to extreme forms of metal, even down to Pantera, what separated them from all the other bands in that genre of music, is that they had riffs – it’s riffs and songs.”

Friday’s show kicks off at 7:30 pm at Empire Live at 93N Pearl street in Albany. Tickets are $37.50 in advance and available online. You can purchase them here

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