Black Label Society is currently enjoying the success of their eighth studio album, Order of the Black, which debuted at number four on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart: the band’s highest chart label to date.
Last week, the band began their Black Label Bezerkus tour with 2Cents, Children of Bodom and Clutch.
Longtime Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde formed Black Label Society back in 1998 and over the years the band has seen a number of lineup changes with people leaving and returning to the fold throughout.
On Thursday, the band was in Omaha, Nebraska preparing for another stop on the Black Label Bezerkus tour.
During opener 2Cents’ sound check, drummer Will Hunt sat down for a phone interview before he had to take the stage.
Q: This version of the tour began on September 22, correct?
A: Right, exactly.
Q: How is it going so far?
A: Really good. The bands are all really cool. They’re all different enough to kind of make it interesting but still kind of fall under the genre of being underground hard rock bands.
Q: It’s a very different lineup.
A: Very different. I would definitely agree with that.
Q: I saw somewhere where Zakk described the tour as a tour of “insanity, drunkenness and dysfunction”.
A: Absolutely. The bands on this tour kind of run the spectrum. You’ve got 2Cents who are just a modern really heavy rock thing/borderline metal band. Clutch is just a f**king great rock band. And then you’ve got Children of Bodom that are just straight up metal.
Q: Are you getting a chance to see everyone’s set?
A: You know I get out and watch every band every night. Sometimes I can’t watch the whole thing but I watch a lot of it for sure.
Q: The idea for this tour kind of grew out of all of the touring Zakk Wylde and the band have done on Ozzy’s Ozzfest but this is a bit different isn’t it?
A: This is more like a kind of regular tour headlining run because there’s only a total of four bands and you take on less because you don’t have ten bands. You don’t have multiple stages and most of these shows are indoors. It’s been a little less shall we say, chaotic, which I think is cool because each band is able to do things like the first band 2Cents is doing with a sound check right now. That is something that is unheard of on package tours. It kind of makes it to where everyone is getting on their A-game because everybody can prep for it.
Q: You’ve been playing new music off of Order of the Black. How is that going?
A: It’s going killer. Everybody loves the record. I mean I guess it would be one thing if the record was met with what the hell is this but the general consensus is that this is Black Label Society’s Back In Black. It’s just a really good record and the songs transcend well live. They’re high energy, up tempo tracks and people really dig it.
Q: Is there a particular song that you enjoy playing live?
A: I love playing “Crazy Horse”, “Parade of the Dead”, “Godspeed Hellbound”. All of those are awesome. “Overlord” is a amazing song. Drumming-wise it’s pretty simple so I get a chance to kind of lift my head up and look at the crowd for a minute.
Q: During the recording of Order of the Black you were in the studio with Zakk and bassist John DeServio. How was that experience?
A: It was amazing. It was a hell of a opportunity to be able to do that. When I started doing the record I had actually flown out to L.A. to finish some drum tracks on Tommy Lee’s Methods of Mayhem album and I was in the car getting ready to drive up to Zakk’s house and my buddy called me to ask what I was up to. I said I just left Tommy’s and I’m getting ready to head up to Zakk’s house to lay down some tracks and he goes wait a minute do you even realize what you just said? It is kind of crazy man to go from one hero to another hero’s house to record with him so yeah it’s the kind of stuff you can’t really dream of.
Q: Zakk has his own studio now. Was it different recording there?
A: It was a really cool thing. It’s like a lot of time you’re in a studio and with labels and budgets and that kind of thing you’re really pressed for time. What you try to do is work all that stuff in pre-production beforehand before you go in to the big studios so you’re not spending all the money. The beauty of being able to do a record like this one is that you’re constantly in a state of pre-production because you’re like not in a hurry. I was able to like a couple of weeks later after listening to things and going I wish I could redo that and do this a little bit differently realize that the obvious answer is what are you waiting on? There’s the drums right there! It’s unheard of. I didn’t even think about that. It was just a really cool open and musically healthy atmosphere to be able to create and record a record in.
Q: How did you hook up with Zakk?
A: His other guitarist Nick Catanese is friends with my daughter’s godmother so I’ve known Nick for damn near 10 or 11 years and we’ve remained really good friends. He’s always such a really cool dude and we keep in touch with each other. I had just happened to call him randomly about something completely unrelated to Black Label Society and he said I guess you’re calling because you heard Craig left and I said I didn’t know about him leaving. He asked what I was doing and I said I’m just kind of hanging out between this next Evanescence record. Once that happened he started making phone calls and Zakk was like I remember Will because I was with Static-X last year. We had played on the Pedal to the Metal tour so he said I remember that guy and sh*t let’s bring him in and see what happens. We hit it off really well and musically we see eye to eye so it was a pretty natural fit.
Q: In the past Zakk has talked about the fact that he sees BLS as a open band where people naturally come and go. You are still planning on going back to Evanescence?
A: Well that’s the plan. I really enjoy being here with these guys and it’s a really cool vibe. I like playing this music and I’ve learned in this business you’ve just got to take it day by day. I don’t really try to look too far in front of me. I love being in Evanescence too. She’s [vocalist Amy Lee] taking awhile to make this record and I think that’s a good thing. It’s an important record for her . She wants it to be right and she’s in a position where if the label wants to hurry her along or the fans are saying it’s taking too long she is able to block that out and focus on making the best record she can make. I admire her for that. In the meantime, I’m enjoying being able to do some other stuff.
Q: You have so much going on how do you juggle all of it?
A: Like I said, I just take it day by day because the way this was set out with BLS was that I was just going to do the record. The time line for Evanescence was that we were supposed to be on tour right now so really the touring thing didn’t come into play until I said I’ll be available to tour for a little while if you guys want and they went yeah let’s do that and it ended up working out well. When you put it on paper in front of you it’s like how the hell do you juggle all of this but there’s so much downtime between things sometimes. I don’t really know for me I find myself to be really and truly blessed to be working at all in this economy that we’re all faced with and I’m able to do something that I love to do and I’m employed and it’s beyond me you know.
Q: It’s also a lot of different types of bands so you kind of get that mix.
A: Yeah I don’t get bored with everything that’s for sure! It’s like I kind of get to spread my wings a little bit. A lot of people look at me and are like that guy is a metal drummer but really I’m not. I’m a rock and roll drummer, a electronic drummer. I play anything that makes people’s asses shake. That’s what I’m into.
Q: What makes this album different for BLS?
A: Well like I said it depends on who you ask. Everyone’s got their own opinions. There’s been a lot of press about how this is BLS’s best record and Zakk is sober so that has something to do with it. However, if you ask Zakk he’ll say well I was never bombed when I was making the other records. That’s just one theory I guess and of course I’m bringing a totally different flavor into some of tunes and the style. When I came in to do the record I mentioned to Zakk that one of the things that I missed about his playing is that back with Ozzy drummer Randy Castillo used to put these kind of up tempo funky beats to what he was playing and it was a really good marriage. It still made you want to move but it was still really heavy and I wanted to bring that back a little bit and Zakk was all for it. I think you can really hear me injecting that style on “Parade of the Dead” or on “Godspeed Hellbound” or “Crazy Horse”. It’s kind of trying to bring back that Randy Castillo style of playing which I thought was a really good marriage between Zakk’s riff writing and drum rhythms.
Q: With the ballads on the album there is a good mix and balance from front to back.
A: Yeah it’s a cool thing. I think that’s something that kind of sets BLS apart a little bit because Zakk is still able to go down that road kind of in a way that Zeppelin used to. To come at you hard with something like “Dazed and Confused” or “Whole Lotta Love” but then turn right around and do something like “Going to California” and it’s still believable because it’s them doing what they do and they’re just good at doing a lot of different things. I think some bands try to do that and it’s unbelievable but Zakk sings that stuff and it is really believable. He owns it and he’s able to do stuff like that.
Q: You were talking about “Parade of the Dead”. Why was that the first single released?
A: I don’t know. I think that everybody kind of back when we recorded it saw it as something different. I saw it as “Miracle Man 2010” and I think that’s the reason people naturally sort of gravitated to it because it sounded like Zakk back to his roots as far as the riff writing he was doing. I think that might have had something to do with why that came out first.
Q: Do you know what the next single will be?
A: I believe a song called “Overlord”. We just did a video for that. It’s gonna blow everybody’s minds! I don’t want to give it away.
Q: This tour lasts through November but is there anything else going on for the band?
A: We finish this tour in Las Vegas on November 22 and then we’re taking the rest of the year off. We’re gonna do a little more recording sometime in the next remainder of the year. I think there’s gonna be a re-release of this album with some bonus tracks. Again things change in this business so this is the latest up to date information that I have. Come next February we’re gonna hit Europe hard for about 6 to 8 weeks and then hit Australia, the Pacific Rim, Japan, China and then we’re gonna head back to Europe for the Spring and early Summer festivals. Then we’ll head back to the States for another run through the Summer.
Q: You were on the Ozzfest tour this Summer. How did that go?
A: It was killer. I mean anytime you get a chance to be on that bill, particularly just headlining the second stage, is a really prestigious thing. It’s good to be a part of something like that where he has such a huge crowd that’ really into that type of music. I think it was cool this year because a lot of the recent Ozzfests have been just really super, super heavy, which I think is a great thing but this Ozzfest lineup to me was a really diversified bill. It was kind of cool and refreshing. It brought a lot of different kinds of people out. I like the diversity this time.
Q: Did you see differences in the fans that came out?
A: Absolutely. Everybody comes out and has got their favorite one or two bands that they really dig but the whole point from a band standpoint is to introduce yourself to a lot of people who aren’t giving you the time of day. Your hope is that when people come to see you they walk away going man I didn’t know about that band and you build your fan base that way.
Q: You’ve been able to work with so many different people but is there anyone you really want to work with in the future?
A: Oh man. This is going to sound really weird but I actually would love to be able to play for somebody like Lady Gaga or Madonna or just something really left of what I’m doing now. I like that kind of music too and I would love to do something like that just to do it. Like a Maroon 5 or anything like that. As far as like heavy bands go I don’t know what to say. I’ve worked with the best now like Zakk and Tommy and I’ve played in Motley Crue. I mean I don’t know. So there’s other things but I would have to sit down and really think about it.
Q: Do you find it hard to adjust when you’re going from one style to another?
A: Yeah I guess I never set out to make a career of being the hired kind of go to guy. I just kind of fell into it naturally and I don’t know I had a producer guy tell me he’s never seen someone able to walk into a situation and literally overnight almost be like a band member where everybody’s so comfortable with me that we’re having conversations like we’ve been in a band together for five years. I try to come into things with a real open mind. I try to come into things like I know I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. These guys were already going and and this is what they do. I’m just here to try to make it as good as it can be.
Q: Is there anybody in particular that influenced you?
A: I’ve had the real privilege of working for Tommy for a long time and still work with him and he and I are still really good friends. He was a big inspiration because he’s such a big personality and he’s a huge star but the way that he is is that he’s just a real dude. He has like no attitude, no ego and is just a really great citizen and thankful for the things that he’s got and works his ass off. As a person and a musician that influenced me because he has a great work ethic and a great personality.
Q: I’ve heard that a number of times now and I think it’s interesting because he’s always portrayed with this opposite persona.
A: Yeah I mean I think that sometimes unfortunately he gets the backlash from the media from being so in the spotlight. You know how it goes: people in the spotlight have people who hate you and just want to see you fall. You know if there’s anybody that I can think of that doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment it would definitely be him because he’s pretty much face value. I’ve never seen him stopped in public and asked for a autograph and I don’t care if it’s in the middle of nowhere at four o’clock in the morning in the 24 hour Walmart that we’re making a little bus stop in, he stops every time and takes every picture and is completely courteous and kind to everyone. It’s just that he’s a great dude.
Q: Growing up was there anyone that first made you want to get into drumming?
A: I got into it because I saw KISS on the Jerry Lee Lewis telethon and I mean when you’re four and you see fire and comic book characters flying through the air and blood you’re just like god I’ve gotta do that! From a really young age for me I knew that that was what I wanted to do. That was huge and as I kind of got into it I started listening to Led Zeppelin and obviously KISS and Motley Crue. The Police were big. As a kid I always loved music.
Q: Was there ever anything else that you could have seen yourself doing?
A: Nah. Music was pretty much it for me. I always knew that was what I wanted to do. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good at anything else. I did good in school and all that but all I thought about all day and all night was music and girls of course!
Q: Is there any current music that you are into right now?
A: I’ve always been a huge fan of Clutch that’s for sure. The interesting thing is that this tour’s opening band 2Cents is one of the most entertaining bands that I’ve seen in probably ten years. So when people come out to the shows they should definitely try to come out early because I’m not just blowing smoke, they’re something to check out! I listen to anything that’s new in pop, in metal to electronic music and back. I’m just constantly thirsting for something new. I still listen to the old classics and things like that but I’m always looking for something really cool and new to crank up in the car or put on my headphones when I’m jogging or whatever.
Q: Any good fan stories from this tour?
A: Well I was talking to our bass player J.D. about it today but I’ve never seen a fan base that’s this rabid or this crazy or this into it as like this band’s fans. The only thing that I could ever compare it to would be like KISS or Slipknot with how rabid the fans are. They wear the colors out and it’s amazing. That in itself is kind of like I’m in awe of it. It’s like I can’t help but kind of laugh like are you seeing this? It’s unbelievable! It’s a really powerful thing.
Q: For those new fans you are trying to reach who haven’t heard BLS’s music how would you describe it?
A: It’s funny because Zakk and I were talking about this today because a lot of people go we’re a metal band but really we’re not. It’s a hard rock band and that’s going back to that thing where we play songs like “Godspeed Hellbound” and then there’s a song like “Time Waits for No One”, a ballad, and it’s like being in a rock band you’re able to do that kind of stuff. I think that’s true that “Godspeed Hellbound” is a metal song but “Overlord” and “Southern Dissolution” are rock songs so I think you can just classify the band as just a really good hard rock band.
After the phone interview, Black Label Society had to cancel the Omaha show and the following evenings show in Clive, Iowa after Zakk Wylde had to be taken to the hospital with a blood clotting condition in his legs.
Last year, Wylde was first diagnosed with the condition and had to take some time off.
Wylde was expected to return to the tour this evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Black Label Bezerkus tour will be making two Michigan stops: in Grand Rapids at the DeltaPlex on Friday, November 5 and in Detroit at the Fillmore on Sunday, November 7