Zakk Wylde is one of many greats to hold down the guitar spot in Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band, but it didn’t come without its challenges. In this edition of Gear Factor, Wylde reveals how he carved out his niche in the history of Ozzy players and delves into some of his favorite guitar riffs that initially inspired him.
When Wylde started with Ozzy, he knew that he was not interested in replicating what other players that were popular at the time were doing. That led him to rule out the styles of influential players Yngwie Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen, but it didn’t stop there.
“No harmonic minor, no tapping and well I won’t do the classical thing either cause that’s Randy’s [Rhoads] thing, and so now I’m with Ozzy so we’ll get rid of that,” recalls Zakk. “Then we’ll get rid of the whammy bar. So it was pretty much get rid of three notes and a string, all the diatonic stuff. So basically what was left? Pentatonic scales and chicken pickin’. And I just love the sound of it anyway.”
Wylde describes his approach during that time as, “It’d be like taking 60 crayons to work with and leaving me with four crayons and see what you can do with four crayons. That’s what I did obviously in the beginning with Ozzy. I forced myself to see what you could come up with.”
Reflecting on his time with Ozzy, he recalls “Miracle Man” as the first riff he wrote for an Osbourne recording, likening the strumming pattern for the song to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady.”
He also shares some of his favorite solos from prior Ozzy Osbourne guitarists Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee before digging into his own playing. Some of the highlights seen in the video below include Zakk taking you through bits of “Set You Free,” “End of Days” and “Gospel of Lies,” all from the new Black Label Society Doom Crew Inc. album, due Nov. 26, as well as bits of “Stillborn” and material dating back to the Pride and Glory album.
Talking about solos, Zakk says, “Usually what I’ll do is I’ll sit down with my homework CD and I just sit down with the backing tracks and just work out a solo. It’s like from the St. Rhoads University of Soloing. It has a beginning, a middle and an end.”
He shares some of his favorite solos, while also singling out the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as two of his favorites from other artists. And he also digs back into his early days, sharing the impact that AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” and Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio” had on his early playing.
Check out Zakk Wylde’s full Gear Factor episode below and be on the lookout for Black Label Society’s Doom Crew Inc. coming Nov. 26. Pre-orders are available here. Plus, as Zakk points out, he’ll be on tour with Ozzy Osbourne in early 2022. Check here for Ozzy dates, plus here for Black Label Society’s shows.