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Wylde blasts the crowd at the Pearl Room in Mokena, Illinois, with his signature
BFG Les Paul and a wall of Marshalls. Photo by Joe Coffey
Now that you’re working as a producer, do you tend to listen differently to some of those classic albums that inspired you as a player?
Without a doubt. A record is about making everything sound amazing—not just the guitar. The fidelity, from the bottom to the top, has to be in place if the whole thing is gonna be slammin’. And the more you do this, you definitely start to see how the pieces of that puzzle come together.
You’ve done some TV work. Is it appealing to record music that isn’t tied to Black Label Society or Ozzy? Certainly cuts like “Chupacabra” on the new album could work as a film score.
Oh yeah, I did some riffs for ESPN—stuff they’d play when they cut to commercials or before a football game. That was fun. It didn’t feel too much like work. Obviously, we’re interested in getting our songs in films. I’d love the challenge of doing that. But man, if someone said they needed me to write music for Britney Spears, I’d be up for that challenge too. I love the idea of doing projects outside the context of what people expect me to do. I wish I could write a song for the Eagles. It’s all music to me. That’s what’s beautiful about it.
Where does your songwriting inspiration come from?
Everywhere. I mean, we’d be driving down to the studio and hear something, and that would kick off a whole new idea. One time we heard “Whole Lotta Love” in the car and that structure—where the riff comes in, then the vocals, then the drums come slamming in—that’s how we ended up doing “New Religion.” If you have writer’s block, you just have to listen. Put on “Heart of Gold” and rip it off—just to get you started again—and then twist it, bend it, and turn it around until it’s your own. That approach can really help get you back on the wagon. You can’t be afraid to listen to really great artists like Neil Young and let them get you back on track.
The songs on the new album have a certain economy and punch—almost like punk songs. Do you consider that one of your songwriting values?
Well, we’re always ready to trim the fat. And certain things just work—and work well— when you say your bit and get outta there. Randy Rhoads taught me a lot about that just through listening to his solos. You have 35 seconds to establish a riff, get a cool scale thing going up, another one going down, and you’re done. Bang. Perfect.
Does that mean you guys tend to jam less in the studio?
I’ll go in and jam away by myself—just me, a Marshall, and an octave pedal so everything sounds fat as hell—and just screw around with riffs. Then I’ll bring in Will [Hunt, Black Label Society drummer] and we’ll track the thing. If it’s working, we’ll get the song together, bring in JD [Black Label Society bassist John DeServio], track some bass, and we’re done. It’s like baking a cake.
Do you like working fast like that?
Yeah. Rehearsing and jamming is for the tour. I don’t like tinkering with a song too much in the studio, once it gets going. You can suck the life out of a thing. These guys know what they’re doing. Black Label is a great bunch of musicians, and when you know what you’re doing, you end up working fast. When we had the Seattle Symphony in to do some things, I swear they did everything we wanted them to do in two passes. And at first you’re amazed. Then you realize they know what the hell they’re doing. If you get caught up in crap like needing 10 days to get a guitar tone, especially if you’re doing things simple—just a guitar and a JCM800—you’re in trouble. What the hell do you need 10 days for? C’mon!
You have a really wide set of influences. Is it ever hard to reconcile that with the expectations of fans that expect a certain sound from Black Label Society?
I’ve never felt trapped by Black Label Society. This is the kind of music I want to play. I mean, if Jimmy Page felt like he wanted to do an acoustic piece, he’d put “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” on there or something. It’s still Zeppelin. I feel the same way about Black Label—whatever we do is gonna be and sound like us.
Wylde in the crypt with a Gibson ZV and a Les Paul. Photo by Clay Patrick McBride
I’ve heard you express admiration for jazz players like Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin. Do you have a favorite Mahavishnu jam?
“Meeting of the Spirits” on The Inner Mounting Flame blows me away. The Shakti stuff is incredible, too. You have to check out McLaughlin on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show on YouTube. Just McLaughlin and an acoustic with the Doc Severinsen band, playing straight bebop all over the place—just killing it!