In honor of season 13 of That Metal Show which premieres tonight on VH1 Classic we’re going behind the stacks and finding out what you’re favorite guitarists are playing and what better way to start than with episode 1 guest, legendary Black Label Society guitarist Zakk Wylde. Besides being one of the greats of heavy metal guitar he’s also one of the most down-to-Earth and humble musicians you’ll ever have the pleasure of talking to. Though known for his fearsome looks and manic pinched harmonics he is also a student of bluesy players like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and the legendary Jimmy Page and adds that to his unparalleled arsenal of guitar technique. Let’s find out what Zakk has to say about his favorite gear, his favorite guitar players and which That Metal Show host he’d most like to marry. No, seriously.
What was your first guitar?
Zakk Wylde: My first good guitar was a Gibson Firebrand SG. I got it at Red Bank Muisc which is no longer there.
Who was the first guitarist that made you want to play guitar and are they as big an influence now as they were back then?
It would have to be Black Sabbath but also my guitar teacher, Leroy Wright. I played football and he was the son of our coach. He was about 10 years older than me. I went over to there to see the coach because I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing thorough high school. I played middle linebacker but going into high school everyone was bigger. They were talking about making me play cornerback but I was like “No, if I can’t play linebacker I don’t feel like playing.” Leroy was there and there was a guitar sitting in the room and I was like “Mr. Wright do you play guitar?” and he said “I noodle around and play some country songs but my son Leroy is the one who plays.” Leroy came out, I think it was the first time I ever saw somebody with long hair and he had a Harley (Davidson) hat on and he picked up a Les Paul sunburst and started playing everything on it. Hendrix, then Van Halen, then Ozzy who Randy Rhoads had just started playing and playing Sabbath stuff. For me, just watching his hands was like the coolest thing on the planet and right from there I said “That’s what I want to with my life.”
But after seeing Leroy, obviously Tony Iommi, and Randy Rhoads, I love Randy. All my guitar players that I loved I still love. And Jimmy Page obviously and then Leroy turned me onto a lot of the fusion guys like Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin and then Frank Marino and Robin Trower. I still listen to all those guys becvause they’re all still amazing. I get inspired when I hear them. And I have amazing memories associated with that stuff as well.
What was the first guitar solo you could play all the way through?
I don’t know. AC/DC “Back In Black,” to be able to play that main lick was a huge breakthrough. I’m trying to think, solo-wise, I don’t know. Maybe the solo to the song “Black Sabbath.” If you really listen to Tony Iommi, he’s still totally got chops and he’s playing fast. Listen to Live At Last and that first record, you got to remember, it came out in 1970 and he is shredding all over that thing.