Interview: Zakk Wylde on Gibson's new Zakk Wylde Vertigo Les Paul
"The Vertigo is coming out, at long last!" crows Zakk Wyle. The guitar superstar is excited, to say the least, that the Gibson Les Paul bearing the Vertigo motif - modeled after the graphics from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller - is finally seeing the light of day in 2012.
The model is significant in guitar circles because it's in keeping with what Wylde imagined more than 20 years ago when he first joined Ozzy Osbourne's band. "I was just this kid from New Jersey," Wylde says. "The Vertigo was something I had in my head."
It was the late '80s, and Wylde was set to shoot one of his first guitar magazine covers. The multi-media world was still pre-Internet. "People couldn't click on Facebook or Twitter," says Wylde. "Being on a magazine was a really big deal. People were seeing me for the very first time.
"I had this amazing Les Paul, but I felt like I needed to do something to establish some sort of identity. Yeah, I had the long hair and all that, but what about the guitar? You had Eddie with the stripes all over his guitars, and Randy had the polka dots, so I thought, All right, what am I about? I have to do something."
While watching the SciFi channel, Wylde was struck by a commercial for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, so he asked a friend of his if he could copy the graphics and logo on his cream-colored Les Paul. "Max was down on Sunset Boulevard, and painted guitars – he had just done some stuff for Slash," says Wylde. "I told him about the Vertigo logo, and I kind of sketched out on a piece of paper what I wanted, and he said, 'Sure, no problem.'"
Wylde on stage with one of the first production models of his Gibson Vertigo Les Pauls.
On the day of the photo shoot, however, Wylde was stunned when he visited Max's studio. "He pulled out the guitar and it's got this giant bullseye on it," he says. "I was like, 'Dude, what the fuck is this?' He goes, 'Isn't that what you wanted?' So we went back and forth, and I'm saying, 'No, I wanted more of a swirling kind of image. This is a bullseye.' But it was too late. I had to do the photo shoot."
Within days, however, Wylde fell in love with the bullseye design. "It actually suited the whole situation," he says. "I was Ozzy's new guitar player, and so now people would have something to aim at when they threw things at the stage!"
Over the years, there have been Gibson and Epiphone versions of the Zakk Wylde Bullseye Les Paul, along with another variation, the Buzzsaw. But the model that started it all, the Vertigo, has waited in the wings... until now.
"I don't know why it took so long," says Wylde. "All I know is that the Vertigo is an awesome fiddle, man. The thing looks killer and plays great."
Among the models specs are a mahogany body, maple LP custom binding on top and back and a '50s maple neck in natural satin, topped with a maple, acrylic block inlays and white binding fingerboard. It has EMG-85/EMG-81 pickups, chrome hardware with Grover kidney keys, multi-ply binding and a split-diamond-inlays headstock.
"Anybody who wants a killer Gibson Les Paul can't go wrong with this," says Wylde, who insists that an Epiphone version is in the cards. "Let's face it, not everybody has $1,500 for a guitar, so with an Epiphone, you can still get a slammin' fiddle at an affordable price. Either way, you're good."