Zakk Wylde: my top 5 not-so-guilty pleasures of all time
As one of the globe's reigning kings of shred guitar, Black Label Society's Zakk Wylde surely must spend his days and nights listening to fellow six-string gods. Turns out, he doesn't. “I don’t listen to a lot of heavy guitar stuff," he says. "There's a time and place for that, but when I'm home or in the car, I like to hear other things."
Wydle is a big fan of Sirius Radio's The Breakfast Club, which features, as the name suggests, a playlist that harkens back to the mid-'80s, when the teenpics of John Hughes bounced to a New Wave/synth pop beat. "They play things like The Plimsouls and Echo & The Bunnymen on that station," says Wylde. "That kind of music has nothing to do with what I do – there's no rippin' solos. I like to get away from my thing sometimes."
As a young teenager, Wylde fell under the spell of rock guitar ("Randy Rhoads, Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen – I loved all of them"), but before then his tastes were more informed by Top 40 radio – and his parents. "When I was a kid, I liked whatever was on AM radio," he says. "All that mellow '70s stuff was awesome. Simon & Garfunkel doing Bridge Over Troubled Water – how great was that? And there was music on TV. My parents watched Donny & Marie, Sonny & Cher. I saw all of that. It was fine with me."
He chuckles and comes out with a true one-hit wonder: "Remember Player? They had that song [sings] 'Baby come back...' Great tune. There was a bunch of songs like that. You heard them for months, and they stick in your head."
On the following pages, Wylde runs down his not-so-guilty pleasures, five albums devoid of anything remotely shredtastic. "You have to keep an open mind about music," Wylde says. "There's too much good stuff being done. Sometimes it can even rub off on you."
Neil Young - Harvest Moon (1992)
“Gorgeous songs. It's soothing, mellow music, perfect for when you’re driving and you want to take things nice and easy. Neil doesn’t always make chill-out music – the Crazy Horse stuff has some crazy guitar – but when he does, the combination of his voice and the melodies, he’s the best.
“From Hank To Hendrix is probably my favorite cut on the record. The lyrics are unbelievable. Neil can put you in such a nice, deep frame of mind. Anybody who wants to unwind should give this album a listen. I put the headphones on and mellow out to it.”
The Psychedelic Furs - Greatest Hits (2001)
“They’re a great band. A lot of their music reminds me of my childhood. They were on MTV and all of those Breakfast Club-type movies – for a while, you heard the Psych Furs everywhere.
“Richard Butler has a very David Bowie-esque quality to his voice, but he’s not copying at all – he’s doing his own thing. The band is cool, too. With these guys, it's not about being a virtuoso. Some bands you go to see for the guitar player; other bands you go see for the whole experience and the songs.
“Love My Way is killer, but they have a bunch of good songs. Greatest hits records are cool for bands like this because you get all the hits on one CD.”
Sarah McLachlan - Mirrorball (1999)
“I saw her live not too long ago at the Hollywood Bowl, and she was killer. Her voice is insane. She creates a whole mood. I could listen to her sing at the piano all night.
“I love all of her studio records, but this live record is really great. It’s all of her best songs, and she’s knocking herself out with the performances. And not for nothing, but she doesn’t have a chump band with her, either. The drummer’s killer, the guitar player does cool stuff – good players, man. I mean, they’ve got to be on the ball if they're going to roll with her, 'cause she's totally awesome."
Elton John - Songs From The West Coast (2001)
“Elton John's the man. He’s got so many classics that it’s hard to know which one to pick. I mean, how can you decide between Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and some of the other records? But I'm into his newer stuff, too, like this record.
“It’s Elton making a return to his classic style. The way the songs are written and some of the production reminds me of things like Tiny Dancer. He’s working with Bernie Taupin again, so the material is strong – This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore is amazing.
"Elton John is like Paul McCartney to me: they just keep getting better with age, like a good wine. You can’t say that about everybody.”
Echo & The Bunnymen - Killing Moon: The Best Of Echo & The Bunnymen (2007)
“Bring On The Dancing Horses is a cool tune. It's another greatest hits record, which could be cheating, but I like getting all good stuff. Echo & The Bunnymen are like the Psychedelic Furs and some of those other Breakfast Club bands from my childhood. They did some really cool things.
“Echo & The Bunnymen have a great sense of humor. They dress up in costumes and take the piss out of themselves – what’s not to like about that? I saw them on Letterman, and they were beyond hysterical. The guy’s voice is unique, but in a good way. If you don’t know the band, give them a listen.”