ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 5, 1996
By Steve Newton
Most hard-rock fans know Zakk Wylde as the young musician who helped rejuvenate metal veteran Ozzy Osbourne’s career by cowriting the hit “No More Tears”, in the process taking the coveted guitarist’s spot previously held by the likes of Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee. Others know him as the rowdy, cursin’ and a-spittin’ front man for southern-rock power trio Pride & Glory.
Not so many know him as the acoustic performer coming to the Town Pump on Thursday (September 12), but Wylde isn’t too concerned about his headbanging followers being waylaid by the less raunchy direction of his new solo album, Book of Shadows.
“The fans that buy the records aren’t stupid,” says Wylde from a Toronto pay phone, “and that’s the bottom line. If I tried to con ’em—like if I got a haircut and made a punk-rock record—they’d be like, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me, what is he doing?’ But if it’s honest, they’ll dig it. I mean, if Ozzy taught me anything, it was always just be yourself. So I just make the records I want to make.”
Book of Shadows reveals a more restrained side of Zakk Wylde, one that examines emotional loss and personal demons. Among the more serious tracks, subject-wise, is “Throwin’ It All Away”, which had its origins in Wylde’s acquaintanceship with Shannon Hoon, the Blind Melon vocalist who overdosed in New Orleans last year.
“It’s told from the point of view of a kid who’s watching a parent OD,” explains Wylde. “I wrote it more or less through the eyes of his daughter, ’cause there’s gonna be so many things he’ll never be able to show her.”
The father of two tots himself, Wylde was inspired by them to write a celebration of children titled “I Thank You Child”, sort of a positive-minded bookend to the tragic “Throwin’ It All Away”. “At times everybody’s life sucks,” he says. “I mean you can get into booze, drugs, or whatever just to get out of it, but pretty much my kids are a good drug to me.”
Wylde’s old boss, Osbourne, has had his own life-threatening bouts with controlled substances, but he cleaned up in time to recruit Wylde and make a comeback with the multiplatinum No More Tears CD of ’91. Wylde left the New Jersey bar scene to hook up with Ozzy while still a teen, and his writing and playing have been integral to everything from 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked to last year’s Ozzmosis. But Wylde was conspicuously absent on Osbourne’s most recent tour.
“Ozzy asked me to do the tour,” he discloses, “but I was jammin’ with Guns N’ Roses at the time, and the record company was like, ‘Well, you have to hand another album in.’ I mean, at 19, all I ever wanted to do was play guitar, and you can’t get a bigger forum for guitar—Ozzy is the pinnacle as far as bein’ a guitar player—but at the end of the day I love doin’ my own thing. There’s just a lot of different hats I want to wear now.”
So what about that Guns N’ Roses connection? Could Wylde be riffing out onstage next to Slash anytime soon?
“Axl called me up when I was doin’ the Ozzy record,” he says, “and it was just, ‘Hey brother, you want to get together and jam?’ I’ve known Slash and Duff and the guys since about ’88, so it was just like a bunch of friends gettin’ together. I played with them for about five months or so, and it was up in the air that maybe I might join the band, but at my age now…
“It’s just like when you move out of your mom and dad’s house, you know what I mean? It’s hard to move into an apartment with a bunch of friends once you’ve had the freedom of livin’ on your own.”