Zakk Wylde by Anne Erickson

The Gibson Les Paul is one of the most celebrated guitars of all time, and nobody rocks it like Zakk Wylde. His driving hard-charging stage show, furious soloing and lightning-fast picking earned Wylde legions of fans as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist, and now, he rocks the stage fulltime as the frontman for Black Label Society. Today, is celebrating Wylde by looking back at a few choice quotes from the guitar master.

On what made him want to play guitar, as told to Guitar World:

“I was a huge Black Sabbath and Ozzy fan, and I loved the stuff Tony Iommi and Randy Rhoads were doing on guitar so I decided to start playing. I took lessons from a guy named Leroy Wright. I was, like, 15 at the time, and he was 25, and when I saw him playing it blew me away. When you hear somebody play, it’s exciting, but when I actually saw him play, I thought it was the coolest thing on the planet. I was so intrigued by the whole thing that I just went, ‘That’s what I want to do with my life!’ And to this day I’ve still got the same hard-on. All I’ve got to do is listen to great players and I go, ‘Man, I can get better.’ You can never get tired of that.”

On being thankful for his career in music, as told to the AU Review:

“ … I thank the good Lord every day. I thank him when I wake up and when I go to bed. I thank him in the middle of the day. I’m definitely grateful for everything I have. Hands down. I don’t need a tragedy to happen to realize how blessed I am. I don’t need that. I don’t need to beat up an 80-year-old grandmother and do six years in jail to realize that beating up elderly people and stealing their money is really not a good thing… I’m a soldier of Christ, man. Without a doubt… The bottom line is that He’s with me all the time.”

On how many Les Pauls he signs, as told to

“It’s unreal. I mean, like I said, I'll sign whatever they want—I wouldn't turn away anybody who's come to see me—but yeah, there's a lot of Les Pauls coming at me.

“I’ll roll with that, you know what I mean? The more the merrier, I say. Then I have this guitar that I designed called a ZV—you know, a ‘Zakk V.’ It’s like an SG on the top and a Flying V on the bottom. The guys at Gibson made two prototypes for me, and they came out totally bitchin'. I’ve been using them on the road. Awesome guitars, brother. Here's the thing: The fact that I'm attached to them is cool, and if my fans buy them because of my name, hey, that's an honor. But the honest truth is, they're great guitars in and of themselves. A guy could walk into a music store, pick up a Zakk Wylde guitar, start playing it and go, ‘This is an awesome guitar,’ and he might never have heard of me at all. That's the thing about a Les Paul or Flying V: They're bigger than the artist. Whether they have a bullseye on them or not, they're still the greatest guitars out there.

On Randy Rhodes’ influence on how he approaches the guitar, as told to Legendary Rock Interviews:

“Randy always meant the world to me and he still does. I still have pictures of him up on my wall to this day. It’s awesome seeing the kind of outpouring that still exists for him. I mean, Randy is like Hendrix in that the work he achieved will live forever. I mean, we’ve all heard the stories about how he was considering leaving the rock touring business and going off into the sunset to study and teach classical but that didn’t happen. Sadly, he could have been teaching and teaching into his golden years.  His recordings that he left us are his legacy, his guitar playing speaks for itself. It’s SLAMMING. That’s why people are gathering thirty years later, his playing had that much impact. He will always be an iconic guitar player, always.”

Zakk Wylde by Anne Erickson

On how his guitar playing has evolved over the years, as told to Rock Cellar Magazine:

 As far as technique goes, you’re always practicing and maintaining your technique and trying to do different things.  For me, I learned along the way how solos have to fit the songs.  I’ve learned so much about writing music.  I’ve always said that all the greats write their own shit.  Whether it’s Randy Rhoads playing Over the Mountain or Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption, or Bach or Mozart, they’re the real musicians because they wrote their own music.

Then there’s all the changes in my own albums from the Pride & Glory stuff to Book of Shadows, I can see that’s where I was at, at that point in my life and where I was creatively.  Then with Black Label, I just started doing riffs again.  That’s about it.  And it’s always interesting because the possibilities are endless.  Forever, you can keep coming up with different things, and that’s what’s so awesome about it.

On how long he’s been a Les Paul player and why, as told to

“ … Forever, how much more perfect can you make a Les Paul?? They are beyond perfect. The Les Paul embodied all the greats, everybody who was ever worth a shit played Les Pauls…Randy Rhodes, hell, Les Paul himself. He is the best! Everyone who ever picked up a guitar, every guitar player in the universe owes him a debt. … He is a mad scientist! He is also the sickest guitar player who ever lived! I know, ‘cause I’ve played with him. First time I met him he told me I have heard your name before, I said yeah, I’ve got a Les Paul named after me! He said well damn, I do too! When I played with him I got down on my knees and kissed his hand and told him he is the greatest.”

On whether he’s a nice guitar teacher, as told to Music Radar’s Joe Bosso:

“Without a doubt. When I was teaching guitar back in the day, before I got the gig with Ozzy, I always liked doing it. You'd get the prize student who sinks his teeth into it and actually practices and learns the language. It's cool when somebody takes the time to understand it. Some people grasp it naturally, and for other people it's hard.”

On his practice routine, as told to Guitar Messenger:

“Usually when I just pick up the guitar I’ll just start going through scales, just like everyone else. Everything’s diatonic and then I’ll just go through a batch of pentatonic patterns and then I’ll just start playing. And it’s anything I want – I might start playing some Zeppelin stuff, maybe ‘Spanish Fly’ or whatever… Eruption, solos, just going over a bunch of stuff. If there’s something I want to learn, I’ll just learn it.”

On his Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Vertigo, as told to Guitar World:

"When I first got to LA, I had that cream Les Paul, which is an amazing-sounding fiddle. So I had the blond hair and the cream Les Paul — and it was gonna look like a Randy Rhoads tribute band when I get up there with Ozzy.

Zakk Wylde by Anne Erickson

"So I wanted to get something painted on it. Eddie Van Halen had the stripes and Randy had the polka dots.

"I saw the poster from Vertigo, the Alfred Hitchcock movie, and thought that would be fucking awesome. So I explained it to my buddy Max, who ended up doing Slash's guitar, but when I went down there for the photo shoot, I opened up the case and saw the Bullseye logo… I had drawn it on a piece of paper and everything, but it was too late anyway. So we did the photo shoot, and the rest is history.

“So then I saw the Vertigo logo again just recently, and I said, ‘You know, I'm just gonna get this … thing done.’ It came out cool. So there's the Buzzsaw, the Bullseye and the Vertigo — which is like a Bullseye, but 21st-century-style.”

On what makes Gibson Guitars special, as told to

“It’s the history and the quality of the instrument. It’s an amazing instrument. It’s like a cheeseburger; it doesn’t go out of style, no matter what generation. Whether somebody picked a Les Paul up in ’58, that same guitar still works today. It doesn’t go in and out of fashion. And that’s because it’s a great instrument. It doesn’t matter what violin player is going to pick one of these up and whether it was made 10 years ago or 100 years from now. You pick up a Les Paul, and it’s always going to sound great. When you buy it, it’s an investment, and you’re never going to have to buy another guitar again.”

Photo credit: Anne Erickson.