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Zakk Wylde On The 20th Anniversary Of Black Label Society's Debut LP 'Sonic Brew'

Zakk Wylde

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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Zakk Wylde On The 20th Anniversary Of Black Label Society's Debut LP 'Sonic Brew'

"Any of our favorite bands and records that we love and listen to, whether it's the Eagles doing 'Hotel California;' why redo it; it's a snapshot in time," the metal guitarist tells the Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2019 - 05:45 am

He could be an extra on "Game of Thrones." A guitarist in a Viking metal band. A "Duck Dynasty" associate. Or a biker straight out of "Sons of Anarchy." But singer/guitarist Zakk Wylde is most comfortable playing guitar (and piano) for his own Black Label Society…or gigging with the man who first made him famous—Ozzy Osbourne.

Wylde's bearded, hearty demeanor might first appear threatening. The 6'2" frontman/guitarist was once as prolific a drinker as he is a guitarist (he's sober now), but in reality he's a jokester, and like his music, at turns both tough and tender.

He began playing guitar with Osbourne starting with 1988's No Rest for the Wicked, and in 1994, put out a record with his own band, Pride & Glory. He formed the groove-heavy metallers Black Label Society in 1998 (its current lineup consists of bassist John DeServio; guitarist Dario Lorina and drummer Jeff Fabb) who put out their debut album, Sonic Brew, in 1999. There have been 13 BLS albums since, plus two Wylde solo records in 1996 and 2016, respectively.  Then there's been dozens of guest appearances (from "American Idol" to the Experience Hendrix tour), custom guitars and amps, not to mention his Berserker Hot Sauce and the band Zakk Sabbath, which, as one might surmise, is a Black Sabbath cover band. He's somehow made also time to be a father of four.

We caught up with the New Jersey native as he was hitting the road with his Doom Crew (the BLS band plus friends and family) to talk about the "new and improved, digitally remixed and remastered version" of his group's debut album, called Sonic Brew—the 20th Anniversary Blend 5.99 5.19, and the "magic" surrounding the album.

Let's talk about BLS's Sonic Brew 20th Anniversary Blend. What made you decide to do this freshened-up version?

The whole thing is I don't have the two-inches [master tapes] for the original. I have everything I've ever recorded, right? Solo, Book of Shadows; everything. The only thing I would've done was just clean up the mastering. And give the drums a little more TLC. Obviously it was the 20-year anniversary which, is like wow, I can't believe it. Twenty years is gone.

I was looking at guitar magazines, at an old Guitar Player, the cover had Keith Richards and it said, "14 years in the Rolling Stones." It was a big deal when a rock band was around for 14 years. Like the life expectancy of a rock band back then was eight years. Even though the Beatles were playing for a while, it was really like '62 to '69, then by '70 and it was over. So the Stones, when they just kept going, that was big news. So somebody goes, "what are you going to do to celebrate the 20th anniversary?" We got the birthday cake that said "Happy Birthday Black Label Society," and then says, "32 more to go" to get even up to the Rolling Stones.

Do you know Keith Richards? Have you met him?

No, I've never met him or Mick; I've never met any of the Stones. You know, maybe I've seen them at an award show if anything. If I met Keith, obviously I'd shake his hand and say, "I'm never going to wash my hand." He probably would say, "Who are you and why am I talking to you?"

I doubt that! Back to Sonic Brew. Where do you think those tapes went? Stolen, lost?

No, it was Doug Henning. He did a magic trick on, them, he said, "Watch this. I can make them disappear." They disappeared. And I go, "that's amazing." Doug left the room and we never saw Doug again. The tapes are gone. So it worked. I mean I love Doug Henning. But, what happened? We never got a chance to ask him what happened. What can I say, it's magic.

"Any of our favorite bands and records that we love and listen to, whether it's the Eagles doing Hotel California, why redo it; it's a snapshot in time. The performances are the performances; it is what it is. The vocals; that's what I sounded like 20 years ago. The only thing we wanted to do was sonically improve the fidelity of the record."

I would imagine you hardly ever go back and listen to an album front to back. Tell me how you approached this?

So JD [bassist DeServio] and I are going in, trying to figure out what Jeff [Fabb] had to do. Everything Father Phil [original drummer Phil Ondich] played, Jeff had to double it. What we did with the bass was just fill it out more. I played all the bass on that [original] record. So we just got JD going and put a clean bass on it and JD just doubled everything I did. The record's there; it's just like wallpaper on the background, we just added to what's there.

Understood.

Obviously if you're going in on a tattoo, when you're going to re-do or add to somebody's, the tattoo is there; you can't get rid of it. And I didn't want to re-perform the record, because it's snapshot in time. Everyone's records, no matter what band, like the Sex Pistols, they might feel, "But we can make it so much better. It'll sound better." Yeah, but the performances are there. Any of our favorite bands and records that we love and listen to, whether it's the Eagles doing Hotel California; why redo it; it's a snapshot in time. The performances are the performances; it is what it is. The vocals; that's what I sounded like 20 years ago. The only thing we wanted to do was sonically improve the fidelity of the record.

How do you think over the last 20 years your voice and guitar playing have changed?

Yeah, like if you listen to Robert Plant on this new record compared to Zeppelin II. I don't have regrets. You know, like how certain people have regrets from certain records?  To me no: that was then, and I think everybody goes in trying to do the best thing they can at that time. I don't think anyone goes, "I want to make a crappy record." In sports the goal is always to win the championship. You don't do days of practice and lift to come in second place. Nobody, nobody does. Obviously, you can't compare it to sports, because music is all preference and there really is no best. You could have 10 different Led Zeppelin fans and ask "what's your favorite Zeppelin record?" and we might get two or three to say the same record, but everybody has a favorite because they have memories attached to that record. It brings them right back to a great time in their life.  

I love the dynamics, the difference in the vibe throughout and it made me curious; did you start piano before the guitar?

I mean Elton John, he was my favorite guy. I started on piano [pauses] well, actually it was guitar, then I ended up quitting. But then my parents got us a piano in the house and I started doing more on that to learn more Elton John songs. I pretty much taught myself. It's like a matter of just learning chords and then you just try and figure it out by listening to the records.

In 2014 you did BLS' Catacombs of the Black Vatican, then a solo record, and then BLS' Grimmest Hits and now this. What's next? 

Hah, all our un-hits of the last 20 years. Grimmest Hits; we don't have any hits! They won't get confused with Greatest. Maybe if it's the Bee Gees, you can call it Greatest Hits. Ours, trust me, no one will confuse Grimmest with Greatest. We don't have any!

So, do you have a bucket list?

Oh well, you know we're working on a Black Label man's lingerie line. I’ve been blowing through fishnet stockings. If you don't shave your legs every day, it really wreaks havoc. I just look at it like "the bro," a bra for men; you're missing out on half the market here. I told my wife that this is part of the genius that you married and this is what I bring to the table. I know it's not much, but it's what I got.

What about another book? Because you’re a pretty entertaining guy.

All you have to do is go on tour for a couple weeks and you'll have another book. I mean, the music business in general, there really are no qualifications. You don't need a degree or a license to be in it. Like, "that guy like can't be your manager. He does your lawn!" "But he's a good buddy of mine! How hard could it be? He has no idea about contracts or anything, but he's my friend, and that's the reason why I made him my manager; I know he isn't going screw me." This cast of characters in the biz; you can't make it, up and that's where all the comedy comes from.

You should do standup.

Yeah, and if they go, "Wow, did you sit around coming up with this material?" I'll go, "No, I just live it." It's like Seinfeld and Larry David; nobody has to write any of this. I'll look into it. If I can fit that in between, you know, cleaning the dog run, another tour, another record, changing diapers and all that other stuff. World peace.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

RELATED: How Rosalia Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Pop Star

"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17.