BLACK LABEL SOCIETY – “Every Day We Start Digging For Bones”

February 13, 2018, 9 months ago

Aaron Small

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BLACK LABEL SOCIETY – “Every Day We Start Digging For Bones”

“It cost me a lot of money because I had to pay off a whole bunch of people for letting me use their songs. I didn’t actually perform on the record either; I had somebody else play on it, they had to sign a disclosure, the whole nine yards. You’ve got to spend money to make money, so it is what it is,” jokes the always comical Zakk Wylde, speaking about the new Black Label Society album, Grimmest Hits.

Zakk’s unique sense of humour is abundantly apparent in the first video from Grimmest Hits, for the song “Room Of Nightmares”, which can be seen below. Talk about comedy unparalleled. “To me, the whole point of that video is… somebody asked me, ‘Who’s idea was that? The concept?’ That isn’t a concept, that was us actually playing an 11-year old’s birthday party, and we just happened to film it. You know the music business isn’t what it used to be. The whole thing is, you get a gig, you take the gig. It’s $100, whether you’re playing an 11-year old’s birthday party, or you’re playing Madison Square Garden. A gig is a gig and you’ve got bills to pay.” All jokes aside, lyrically “Room Of Nightmares” tends to go a bit deeper. In it Zakk sings, “This room of nightmares shall set you free.” Realistically most people, especially children, are terrified of nightmares. But not Zakk. “No, I had my Freddy Krueger doll that I slept with; I knew I was completely protected.”

The title Grimmest Hits seems to imply a Greatest Hits play on words; not so as this album contains 12 brand new, original songs. “Well that came about because the record company was like, ‘Zakk, are there any hits on this record?’ I said, ‘To answer your question, it’s rather bleak and grim.’ In order for it to be a Greatest Hits record, you need that one magical, important ingredient – hit songs. We don’t have any of those, so therefore, it can’t be a greatest hits record,” chuckles Zakk. “That’s why it’s Grimmest Hits. Seriously, when someone listens to it, they go, ‘I don’t hear any hit songs on this record.’ Yeah, I know, Frank. That’s why it’s called Grimmest Hits, ya jackass! Then people say, ‘Oh it all makes sense to me. Now I know why these songs are so lousy’.”

 

The Grimmest Hits artwork, compared to some of the previous BLS album covers, is rather simplistic with a silhouette of the Reaper on a camo green background. “Well, he just feels grim. I mean, look at him. He’s just basically saying… the original album title was, I’m Not Here For You… I’m Just Here For The Delicious Black Label Pie Crust Taste Devastation. That was the original title, but it was a little long, so we went with Grimmest Hits. You know, he really never takes a bad photo. That’s why we rolled with that picture, it’s simple.”

Zakk can write a song anywhere, anytime. That being said, “The Only Words” came together in an undisclosed hotel room. “The actual music, I think I had my acoustic with me. I was just jamming, I might have been recording something for Instagram. I just started noodling on the guitar – in the bathroom, cause there’s good acoustics in there. It just reminds me of everything I digest and listen to; whether it’s The Stones, Van Morrison, The Band, The Eagles, The Allman Brothers – all the mellow stuff. It’s like if me and you made a playlist of ‘Wild Horses’, ‘Melissa’. It’s in that vein. I had the music, but I didn’t have any melodies or anything. That’s usually the way it goes anyways. Once the music’s down, we’ll track it, and after that when it’s already recorded, then I’ll put my singer hat on. It’s like I’m not even a guitar player, I’m the singer in the band. I’m listening to the music while I’m sitting out in the truck, or something like that. With everybody, the music usually dictates the melody, it inspires you to sing. If I was playing a riff, you’d say, ‘Zakk, keep playing that, let me come up with something,’ Usually you just belt something out, but the lyrics are always last. I’ll figure out what I want to sing about and come up with something.”

Grimmest Hits was recorded at Zakk’s home studio, The Black Vatican. “Yes. No need to go anywhere else nowadays. It’s one stop shopping in there.” How long did it take to bang out these 12 songs? “We were on the road with Zakk Sabbath. Between the Immortal Beloved and Father Blasko, it was like, how much time do I have to do the new Black Label album? They were like, ‘You probably have about 20 days.’ Alright, I’ve got 20 days to write a record – not a problem. The whole thing is… if I gave you six months and you had to have washboard abs and be in shape for this movie I got ya, you’d be like, ‘I got six months, I can do this.’ Cause you have a deadline. It’d be like, ‘I’ll start my diet today. I’ll start ramping up the cardio, so in six months I’ll be completely shredded.’ I had 20 days. So, every day me and you go out there and start digging for bones. We know these dinosaur bones are in this two-mile radius. We’ll start here today. If we find something, great. If we don’t find anything, we’ll start tomorrow with some more Odin Force Blend, and start digging over here. We know they’re out there, we just got to keep digging until we get something we like.”

(Photo by: Justin Reich)

Exploring Grimmest Hits further, “The Betrayal” is classic BLS with a fresh shot of adrenaline. “You’ve got Mount Riffmore – which is Lord Iommi, Pope Page, and the sorcerer, Father Blackmore. They’re the Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart of rock riffs,” explains Zakk. “If anything’s in the zip code of those guys as far as inspiration… that’s where it all comes from. If you play this kind of music, you’re obviously inspired by those three guys.” The reach of Tony Iommi extends to “Disbelief” as that song is pure Black Sabbath worship. “Totally, without a doubt it’s an ode to Sabbath.”

“Illusions Of Peace” is another fantastic number. Considering the current state of affairs between Donald Trump and North Korea, the illusion of peace is certainly a significant topic. “Yeah, but it’s been going on forever. With the state of the world right now, because of social media it’s more in your face. During World War II, it was never on TV. So, you seem like you’re far removed from it. Just think about it… if they had the filming of Normandy on TV, if it was actually on the late-night news and you followed it. Camera guys where the boats are pulling up on shore, guys are jumping out and getting their brains blown out. Nothing but gunfire and grenades going off; nobody even knew about that. Vietnam was the first one where it was on TV every day; people actually seeing it in their living rooms.”

“And actually, before World War II, there was World War I. Everybody’s like ‘Oh my God, the President, this and that.’ And they weren’t doing that with President Obama for eight years? As far as life’s insanity, you look back on anything and go, oh wow, this isn’t new. It’s been going on for some time now. The conflict with North Korea, them launching missiles and the whole nine yards. You had the Cuban Missile Crisis when Kennedy was in there. Just take care of what you need to take care of; you’ll be fine. It really is the truth. Me and you can’t handle, can’t control what’s going on. If me and you own a coffee shop, we worry about making sure the donuts are fresh, the coffee kicks ass, and people love coming in here and having a good time. That’s all me and you can control. That’s it man.”

(Photo by: Justin Reich)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first BLS album, Sonic Brew. It initially came out in October ’98 in Japan, later released in North America in May ’99. Any plans for a special re-release, or tour playing the album live in its entirety? “Yes, we’re going to have a birthday cake that says, Happy 20th Birthday Black Label Society. 30 more years to go to catch The Rolling Stones. Good luck!” 20 years is a long time. Looking back, do you get a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of nostalgia; or is it just, this is what I do? “Without a doubt, I’m definitely blessed and grateful. The Black Label family keeps getting bigger all the time. But it’s been 30 years since I started with The Boss (Ozzy Osbourne) that was in ’88. It’s pretty mind-blowing. I remember doing No Rest For The Wicked like it was yesterday. Ozzy and Robert Plant must look back on 1968 when they were doing their thing, going ‘It didn’t seem that long ago,’ when they were doing the first Sabbath and Zeppelin records. My buddy Rich came out and did a show the other night; we were in a band together called Stonehenge. We were playing keg parties, people’s kitchens, their backyards and living rooms; the whole high school thing. We’re looking at 1983 to 1985; I remember those gigs like we did them two days ago.”

Everybody is ecstatic that Zakk is back with Ozzy for his No More Tours 2. “Well, the whole thing is, Ozz was like, ‘Zakk, take everything you’ve made with me, everything you’ve made with Black Label and in between, put the mortgage of the house and all your earnings on Conor McGregor to win this Mayweather fight (in August 2017).’ I was like, are you sure? He says, ‘I have inside information. I’ve taken every penny I’ve made with Black Sabbath and all my solo records, everything I’ve ever made, I’m putting on Conor. Well, I did that, and he did that, now we live down in a van by the river. So, by the time we get done doing this tour, if Ozzy has any more advice for putting money down on maybe frog wrestling or thumb wrestling, I might have to question his information.”

The No More Tours 2 announcement elated fans around the world, yet they’re still clamouring to know, are you and Ozzy writing any new music together? “We’re just doing the shows now, but if Ozz is like, ‘Hey Zakk, you got any riffs?’ Just like back in the old days – yeah, here you go. Whatever Ozz wants to do, we’ll do it. It’s up to him if he wants to do another record or something. It’s always a blast doing ‘em, we always have a good time. Right now, it’s just show mode.”


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