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Zakk Wylde is a busy man. He’s currently writing and recording for a new solo album,  launching his own music gear company and preparing to tour Australia. As Greg Phillips found out during a quick pre-tour chat, he’s also been working hard on his shtick!

The were lines coming thick and fast. Some oven-ready Zakk Wylde soundbytes I’d already heard, other more spontaneous quips had me in stitches. Either way Zakk was in a fun mood and nothing was going to stop him having a good time, even at my expense. Was he deep in non-stop rehearsals with his band Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society in preparation for the Australian tour? “My main concern is my eye shadow, my lip gloss and if my nail polish matches my fishnets and high heel shoes,” he retorts. “We’d like to unleash the Black Label fall fashion men’s lingerie line … it’s just going to be great family entertainment.” You get the picture!

The album Wylde is working on is his first solo album for 20 years, a follow up to his one and only solo record Book Of Shadows, with the working title of Book Of Shadows: Chapter 2. “We started mixing on it yesterday,” he says. “We put down like four new songs. We’ve been touring then coming in, knock off some more songs, then tour, then knock out more songs. It’s a work in progress. When I’m on the road I’ll be writing lyrics. We’ve ended up with like 42 songs, so there’s a whole bunch of songs we can use later on or whatever. There’s a ton of material there. We’ll knock out as much as we can this week and then we head out and go around the world in about 26 days.”

zakkwyldevertThe project which is taking up more of Zakk’s brainspace however, is his gear company Wylde Audio. After years of being a loyal endorsee for brands such as Gibson, Marshall and Dunlop, Wylde announced to the world late last year that he was cutting ties with those companies and would be producing his own line of gear. Eventually all of the gear produced under his old associations will be phased out, replaced by Wylde Audio versions of his signature guitars, amps and pedals. At NAMM earlier this year, Zakk proudly displayed some prototype Wylde Audio guitars including the Odin, Les Paul style guitar and the Viking V-shaped guitar, both featuring his signature black and white target design body paint. He also unveiled the Master 100 amplifier.
“To me it was just the next logical step,” Zakk says of the move. “The whole thing is that you are a player, then you’re a coach, then you’re a general manger and the next step is team owner. It’s definitely exciting though. It’s like moving out of your parents house and then you have your own place. I love it man. I mean the companies I was with, being able to endorse all of the stuff, they are legendary companies. I started out being able to endorse the stuff that I love and I was afforded the chance to help create with them as well but like I said, this is the next logical step.”

And were those companies taken aback when Zakk informed them of his foray into their line of business? “No everybody is cool because I have great relationships with them,” he says. “It wasn’t anything like that. Everything is good. I’ve got great friends at all of those companies because I have been there so long.”

Wylde will be back at NAMM in January, displaying more gear with distribution worldwide beginning in 2016. His stage rig for the Australian tour will also feature his own Wylde Audio gear. “Yes, we’re testing out the Wylde Audio stuff, ” he says. “The Master 100, we’ll be bringing those out on the road. They’ve been tested and sound swingin’.  Obviously the prototype guitars as well. I’ll be breaking out the Viking V and have the Odin with me as well. each day we are getting closer and closer. It’s super exciting.”

Zakk generally takes an arsenal of around 12 to 14 guitars on the road with him, which includes  a back up set in case one “takes a dump!” While most of it is generally in transit between gigs, he always keeps an acoustic with him in his hotel room. “I always bring a fiddle with me, you know always a guitar … a Chet Atkins classic or something like that. In case I want to run scales and jam.”

After so many years on the road, Zakk rarely feels the need to soundcheck with his band. He tells me that by using in-ear monitors, the sound is exactly the same whether he’s playing to 600,000 people, as he recently did in Poland, or playing in a bathroom stall!
“At the beginning of a tour maybe we’ll do a short check just to make sure everything is right but the rest of the time, I know what you like and it’s going to sound exactly how you want it.”

Whether the band sounds the same every night or not, for most musicians there are times when everything just falls into place and it sounds just that little bit sweeter. I wondered if it was the same for Zakk?
“I guess so,” he concedes. “Certainly some things are different to other things on some nights but I equate it to you or I being on a football or baseball team. It doesn’t matter what stadium we’re in, we have a job to do and that’s that. It doesn’t matter where we are playing or who against, we know what the routine is when we get up there and what we have to do. But sure, there are nights where you’re doing more of an intimate thing in a tight sardine can thing and there’s tons of energy in the building. We just did a gig with the Polish Powah Chapter and there was 600,000 people there. But I asked a musician I know once what’s your favourite place to play and he said …. anywhere where someone shows up!”

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society Australian tour begins on November 25 in Perth. Don’t expect any of the new material Zakk is working on to be played though, he thinks that’s a “kinda weird thing to do,” as nobody knows the songs. So what can we expect Zakk? Dare I ask?
“Apart from breaking out the Black Label lingerie fashion line and making sure I can dance properly in high heels, you know … the Bob Fossey dance routine with grizzly bears and then I wrestle a 42 foot great white shark. I’m really looking forward to this. Wonderful Black Label family entertainment.”

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society Australian tour dates
Wednesday 25th November – Metropolis Fremantle 18+
Friday 27th November – HQ, Adelaide 18+
Saturday 28th November – Roundhouse, Sydney 18+
Sunday 29th November – The Tivoli, Brisbane 18+
Tuesday 1st Dec – 170 Russell, Melbourne 18+

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