Not long after chewing on the bat's head he famously compared to "a Crunchie wrapped in chamois leather" Ozzy Osbourne discovered teenage guitar prodigy and eventual right hand man Zakk Wylde who has performed intermittently with the ex-Sabbs singer on his post-Randy Rhoads solo career since the mid-80s.
These days Wylde may look like a marauding metal viking but at heart he's just a sweet dog-loving family man who still enjoys "jammin' with the boss". Truepunk caught up with a raspy-voiced guitar god from his Californian ranch on the eve of a tour supporting Ozzy's first studio album in six years, Black Rain.
Hi Zakk, I believe you rarely stop .. are you a workaholic?
"Yeah slightly! Somebody's gotta pay for the beer tab first off, ha! But I love doin' it, you know. Aside from all the music stuff I've got a bunch of movie things that I'm probably going to be doing, HBO stuff and Showtime stuff - they want me to do all these different things. It's brilliant, the more work the better. When I'm sitting around I feel like I should be doing something. I can't just sit around, I have to do something, like lifting weights or practising guitar or feeding the dogs and cleanin' up Rottweiler shit. And maybe just hanging out with the wife and kids watching Seinfeld. That's pretty much a day in the life of Zakk Wylde!"
You're a regular family man then - with seven dogs!
"Yeah, we got Rottweilers and we got German Shepherds and foxes and bulldogs. The German Shepherds and Rottweilers sometimes go at it and my wife's like 'what the hell happened to you?', you know, I've got bite marks all over me. So there I am driving the dogs down to the goddamn vet again! But I love 'em, we've got ten acres out here in southern California so they get to run around all over the place. "
You're quoted as saying you still listen to music with 14-year-old's ears. That must keep you young?
"Yeah, you have to man because then it just turns into a job. You gotta do it like when you were 14, when you were just practising al the time - just for the love of it! Forget about the money, you know the money's nice so you can get nice things, like there's a Les Paul or a Marshall you can actually buy it whereas back in the day you'd have to wait five months mowing lawns and working at the gas station to save up. But the guys I know who just just did it for the money, they're not even playing music anymore! I started with Ozzy when I was 19 and now I'm 41 and we're still whooping ass and getting bigger and bigger. I'm still jammin' with the boss!"
Speaking of gas stations I believe Ozzy discovered you working at one in New Jersey!
"Exactly! Ha! Yeah, this guy Dave Feldman saw me playing at a club and he said 'Zakk, ever think about auditioning for Ozzie?' and I'm thinking 'so do you know the guys in Led Zeppelin too?'. I think there might have been eight people in this club, including the janitor and the bar tender and the soundman. This guy said he couldn't promise me anything but he could definitely get a tape to Ozzy. And I thought what the hell have I got to lose, I'm working at a gas station! And so here we are now."
So tell us how you and Ozzy go about writing a track together - how does it work?
"Well I'll write all the riffs and the music and everything like that and Ozzy will go 'man, that one is really cool but that one I'm not so sure about'. So you write a whole bunch of them and eventually you're going to get twelve good ones."
What a heavenly job!
"I don't know about the secret to life but I think you gotta just find what you love and just do it to death - just drive it into the ground. Give it everything you've got and if you're fortunate enough to make a living doing what you do then great. You don't have to be Joe Trillionaire or anything like that. So long as you put food on the table for your wife and kids then you've made it because you can still make the music you love. Just because you're not selling 60 million records doesn't mean you're not a success."
You sound like a proud man, are you proud of your new Black Label Society album Shot to Hell?
"Without a doubt! I love the production on it. If people say what's your favourite record? I say Led Zeppelin IV probably sold the most, you know, with Stairway To Heaven on it and it and it was probably the best-produced Led Zeppelin record. But if we were doing a road trip and someone said 'Zakk I haven't heard Presence in a while, put that one on'. You know, it's the least selling one but I still think it's a great record. I think they're all great it just depends on what mood you're in. It's like beer, they're all slammin' but sometimes I want something different, like a Guinness."
People may not realise it but you're also a huge sports fan .. what came first for you, rock n' roll or sports?
"Baseball and football and music all at the same time. But then when I started taking guitar lessons and my friends would be swimming in the pool and hanging out, I'd be sitting up my room. If you want to be good at anything you've got to practise your nuts off huh? That's it."