It’s tough to generalize when you’re dealing with superhero guitarists, but if one can consider Yngwie as the classical shredder, Nuno as the melodic song guy, and Tosin as the next-gen wunderkind of Steve Vai’s Generation Axe project, then Zakk Wylde is the guitar spectacular’s heavy-metal heart. His tremendous technique and aggressive approach have tag-teamed to melt more than a few faces throughout his career, but Wylde is also unafraid to explore his softer side, as on the recently released Book of Shadows II. The very busy “berserker” is also kicking off his Wylde Audio line of guitar gear, as well as continuing to lead Black Label Society.
You’re doing this, you just released a solo album, and you’ve started a gear-manufacturing company. That’s a lot on your plate. How are you holding up?
I’m doing good. I’m getting ready to do some steroids, have some liquid eggs, and get back down to the Generation Axe boot camp for the day [laughs]. I think the last rehearsal is wrapping up, so we’re ready to roll.
How did the rehearsals go?
Between all the stories we tell each other, it’s a sh*t pile of laughs. That’s what’s always cool about doing these things—getting together with everybody. It’s a comedy fest.
No worries about fitting in with the other guitarists, then?
Nah. Everyone learns their parts, and it’s just a matter of getting on the same page as far as the sections where we jam with each other. Steve is a freaking mad scientist at putting all the harmonies together for the songs where all five of us are onstage. It definitely sounds slamming. Steve arranged things like a string section—cellos, violas, violins, and so on. He truly loves that stuff. We were talking once, and he said to me, “Zakk, I think I’m a better arranger than I am a guitar player.” I said, “Don’t push that—I think you can play guitar pretty well [laughs].” It was a blast hearing Steve’s arrangements come to life. That was fun.
So no one had to adjust their tone to make Vai’s five-guitar arrangements speak more clearly?
No—you just show up and sound like you. I didn’t have to adjust my tone at all. Anyway, I think whether you plug Keith Richards into a Marshall or a little Supro, when he plays “Start Me Up,” it will sound exactly the same.
Have you decided on what gear you’re bringing on tour with Generation Axe?
Without a doubt, my Wylde Audio amp head and my Wylde Audio guitars.
As none of our readers will likely have a chance to step onstage and play with these guys, can you share a few notes about each guitarist on the tour? Let’s start with the newest generation in Generation Axe—Tosin Abasi.
Tosin is proof that the guitar is alive and well with the younger generation. You can’t hear him and say that there are no guitar heroes in the talent pool today. I mean, music is always changing and mutating and going through changes and stuff like that. Obviously, you had players like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, and the amazing class that came after them with King Edward [Van Halen], Randy Rhoads, Steve Morse, Neal Schon, and so on. The list of these iconic guys is staggering, and they opened the floodgates for what came later—an amazing pool of insane guitar players.
We’ve already discussed Steve, but what about Yngwie and Nuno?
I’ve always loved Yngwie’s playing. Who doesn’t? He was truly a game changer when he came out, and he’s still just as relentless. His playing is just amazing, and it’s always inspiring to hear him play. Nuno is jamming his technique and his funk and it’s awesome. Everyone brings their own flavor to the soup—which is cool.