With a new solo album and a spate of touring under his belt, Wylde is now turning his attention to marking the 20th anniversary of his Black Label Society. Photo by Tim Bugbee
Speaking of pentatonic scales, when you play your hyper-fast pentatonic runs it seems like your right palm is completely off the strings. How do you keep the open strings muted?
I don’t know, but I know what you’re talking about because all of the other strings would be feeding back and shit like that. The claw [laughs and maneuvers hand, trying to figure out how he does it]. Well it’s definitely being muted because, like you said, things would be feeding back.
To me, it’s all preference. And everybody’s technique is different, too. When you look at Yngwie’s technique, he barely moves his picking hand and he’s nailing every one of those notes. You know how flawless he is. He’s smooth as silk. And you look at Steve Morse’s technique, it’s completely different from Yngwie’s, and Van Halen’s is completely different from theirs. That’s the beautiful thing about guitar—everybody’s voice is really different. Just the way they attack it: staccato, legato. Al Di Meola is all staccato. Allan Holdsworth is all legato. If Holdsworth was picking every note, he wouldn’t have that sound.
Do you have any tips for players who want to achieve your lightning speed?
Anyone that plays fast will tell you: the closer you are, and the less movement, the better it’s going to be. And I’m talking about some of the younger guys that play lightning fast. I can play fast but not anywhere near the league of some of those guys—and the pick barely moves.
There are bonus tracks on the deluxe version of the album that feature piano arrangements of guitar-driven songs like “Tears of December.” Did you write these songs on piano first?
Those songs were actually written on guitar. The thing that’s always bothered me about bonus tracks is that everyone’s perception of a bonus track is that they’re half-assed songs that couldn’t make the record. We did the last record and I thought, “These are bona fide songs that should be on the record. They’re not B-side songs.” That’s why we always do cover songs. They’re fun to do and by your favorite bands, but that way you’re also not getting rid of songs that could be on the next album. On the last record, I did “Scars” on the piano all by myself, so I definitely dig doing different versions of these songs. And then you have heavier versions with the band.
Let’s talk gear. How did Wylde Audio come about?
It was the next logical step. It’s a matter of Derek Jeter being a player, then a coach, then a GM, then vice president, and then the next move from there would be team owner. I love being involved in everything. It’s the same with the band. I love being involved in the writing, the producing, the mixing, the artwork—down to the merch. When parents ask for advice for their kids, I’m like, “You don’t want to have a crappy job. Who wants that? If you want to do music for the rest of your life, then make the band your job. Make music your job. Everything you do should involve music in one form or another.”
The beautiful thing about having your own company is that you and me could be sitting here going, “What kind of wood is on this table? This top would make a great guitar.” And we would find out what kind of wood it is, get a batch of it, and do a limited run with this ass-kicking wood. Or if you take an old pedal, like an Echoplex … now, we love the old ones but they don’t make them anymore, and if you look at them the wrong way, they break. But me and you could just rebuild it, add things to it that we think would be great, and make sure that you can drop it off a 10-story building and it ain’t going to break. You can take existing ideas and improve upon them. So you have that outlook on it as well as being able to create something altogether new.
Was there any bad blood with the companies that made your previous signature gear throughout the years?
I couldn’t have asked for anything more from Marshall, Gibson, Epiphone, and Dunlop. Not only did I endorse the companies that all of my heroes used, I was afforded the opportunity to actually create with them. So I’m truly blessed. They’ve been my family since I started with Oz. Nothing’s changed in that regard, and that’s always gonna be where I came from and part of who I am.
Did you use the Wylde Audio guitars on Book of Shadows II?
I used a bunch of the guitars on the new record and, obviously, those are the new amps as well.
On songs like “Tears of December” and “Forgotten Memory,” there’s a mild overdriven sound on your solos. How are you achieving that?
This is a weird thing. When I was using my Marshalls, I’d have the gain all the way up and the master would be cranked. For me to play clean, I would just turn the distortion off and roll my volume down. That’s my clean sound.
Whenever my buddies play through my rig, it’s a lot cleaner than they think it is—even on “Darkest Days” and stuff like that. There’s sustain, at least more sustain than an acoustic guitar, but a lot of my friends are like, “Wow, I thought it would be dirtier than that.” Nah, it’s clean. When you hit a G chord, you can hear all the notes.
Although Wylde Audio has yet to put its amps and effects on the market, the company has three flagship guitar models available: the double-winged battle-axe called the Warhammer, the more-contoured-Les-Paul-shaped Odin (on the left), and the V-profile Viking. Zakk has been playing the instruments in concert, and during a recent Rig Rundown in Nashville, he introduced Premier Guitar to his flotilla of Warhammers and Vikings, including this Warhammer Pelham Blue FR and Viking V Pinstripe FR. Both guitars have EMG 81/85 pickups and Floyd Rose 100 Series locking vibrato arms. Photo by Perry Bean