2019 Year-End Charts

Zakk Wylde Unveils His Own Line of Audio Gear at NAMM

Black Label Society frontman plans to expand products to "anything-you-can-think-of audio."

In 1984, a rapidly rising Madonna memorably told Dick Clark on American Bandstand that her goal was to "rule the world." Despite Black Label Society guitarist-vocalist Zakk Wylde operating in a very disparate musical genre than the pop icon, he harbors similar ambitions.

"Every day, before my feet hit the floor, I got a Black Label Shit To-Do list of galaxy domination," he declares to Billboard on Jan. 14, as his tour bus cruises toward Hartford, Conn. Wylde's en route to "another glorious Black Label mass night with our almighty Black Label family" -- in human terms, a gig at Webster Theater.

Time will tell if Wylde will GIFD -- the acronym for "get it f--ing done" that he and his BLS brethren have adopted as a motto. But he will cross a major task off that list later today (Jan. 24) at the annual NAMM convention in Anaheim, Calif. Wylde will be demonstrating prototypes from his new Wylde Audio line of products, which features guitars, amplifiers and foot pedals that he custom designed. Sneak-peek photos of the equipment that were tweeted on the @WyldeAudio feed shows that at least one of the axes will incorporate the black bull's-eye design he is famed for; others show snippets of guitars in slate blue and deep cherry, as well as what appears to be a white amplifier called the Wylde Audio Master 100.

Products are expected to be priced with fan affordability in mind (costing $1,000 or less), and will potentially be ready by midyear. Although Wylde didn't mention specific names, he confirmed that distribution is in place. "The people that I'm working with are people I've really respected through the years, as far as that end goes," he says.

Wylde jokes that he first got the idea to create his own audio line when he "saw the massive tab we've had left over since the early Animal House years of Black Label and I was like, 'How are we ever going to pay this off?'" In truth, he sees it as a natural progression from creating signature equipment with other companies. Wylde compares the endeavor to fulfilling a dream of playing for the New York Yankees, then moving on to own a baseball franchise. Of course, the "team" Wylde once played for was metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, which he considers "the highest accolade as far as I'm concerned, as being a rock guitar player … As far as playing guitar and writing music with the boss, there is nothing more."

Wylde was previously sponsored by such companies as Gibson, Marshall, Dunlop and Electro-Voice, which are brands he has been using since he was 15 years old. "It's beyond an honor to have a signature anything," he says, but he confirms that his endorsements with those companies have now ended."I still have great relationships with those companies, just like with Ozzy and [Osbourne's wife/manager] Sharon. I still love them, and you still talk to your folks, and you still hook up with them on the holidays."

When it comes to building and maintaining a successful merch business, lightning has already struck once for Wylde. He modeled such BLS items as T-shirts, vests and patches after motorcycle gear, and fans now take pride in wearing the colors and identifying themselves as members of various BLS "chapters." Asked what lessons he learned with developing the BLS brand that he applied to Wylde Audio, he says that it's the same as when he used to knock on doors when he was a teen and ask if he could mow people's lawns so he could earn money for guitar gear. "You have your next-door neighbors and then you go to the next-door neighbors, and then you have two people, then you have three people, then you have four people, then you have five. It's no different than that."

In the future, Wylde plans on expanding Wylde Audio to include "everything down to studio plug-ins with ProTools. Headphones. Anything you can think of audio: cable, strings; we'll be involved in that." (And maybe a few things you didn't: "Marital aids, you know. Toys for the wife," he says with a laugh.) In a pay-it-forward-move, he envisions working with other artists to help them create their own signature pieces just like he was able to, and he's willing to work with any musician who's interested. "

"Anybody can eat at our restaurant," he says warmly. "Whoever wants one of our steaks, come on in."


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.