Zakk Wylde has long been one of Gibson and Marshall’s most popular artists. The very idea of Zakk leaving either for another company at this stage seems utterly unbelievable. But that’s what’s happened: it’s just that Zakk hasn’t taken his considerable endorsement weight to other guitar and amp brands. He’s created his own instead. Wylde Audio will make guitars, amps, effects and all sorts of accessories. I caught up with Zakk to find out what’s what.
At what point did you decide it was time to become a guitar company?
At the time when my Marshall, Gibson, Dunlop, EV family said to me, “Zakky… it’s time for you and your wife of 28 years and your four children to move out of the house. Get the fuck out and get a job.” [Laughs] Nah, I mean, to me it’s just a natural evolution. I couldn’t have asked to be more truly blessed. Marshall, Gibson, EV, Dunlop, everyone I’ve endorsed are like family to me and I’ve been with them forever, ever since I was with Ozzy. I’ve been treated amazingly, like royalty, by everybody. But to make an analogy it’s like you’re a player for a team and then you become the head coach of the team when you retire, then you become the GM and then the next logical step is to be team owners.
So tell me about some of these designs. They pass the ‘silhouette test,’ where you can look at the outline and know exactly what you’re looking at.
Aww yeah. I design ’em all so the whole thing is making tweaks on my Paul or whatever. Just tweaking things, redesigning them, down to the headstocks and the shapes and everything. As for the amps, as far as the colours go, we’re gonna do all different types of colours, pinstripes and all that other stuff. But as far as the sound quality on the heads, obviously being with Gibson and Marshall the quality of the guitars and amps can’t be terrible. You notice that even on the Epiphone lower end models the quality was phenomenal for an $800 guitar. So basically it’s just taking that and bringing it to my company.
Tell me about the amp range.
We’re going to have combos too. Obviously you’re going to have practice amps, you’re going to have the Wylde Audio Master 100 and then you’re going to have the Master 50, Master 25, Master 15, y’know, whatever. Lower wattage amps and stuff like that. It says Wylde Audio so that means it’s not gonna just be guitars and amps. It’s going to be pedals, it’s going to be everything down to cables, headphones, outboard gear, Pro Tools stuff, apps, EQs, microphones… anything that me and you go “Wow, y’know what? We can make something better than that.” Then we’ll do it! That’s what I’m saying: the sky isn’t the limit: there is no limit. Me and you can just be sitting around one day listening to something or seeing something and just go “Dude, we can make something better than that.” Or “Man, it’d be great if somebody could design this,” y’know? Instead of, like, talking about it and trying to get somebody to do it, we can do it because we have our own company.”
With the companies you’ve been with you’ve designed a lot of unique gear over the years but there’s gotta be a point where they go “…we can’t do that one.”
Yeah, which is understandable. And if I wanna do a different line of guitars, I wanna make it like this, like that, like this, like that, they’re like “We can’t,” and it’s only understandable, y’know what I mean? Gibson and I did, obviously with my Les Pauls and Flying V, then the ZV, and then we were doing the Moderne cos I said I wanted to put a Moderne on top of a Moderne, y’know what I mean? And that thing came out great. It had a Floyd Rose on it and the whole nine yards, y’know what I mean? The maple top on it and stuff…
But you can’t really go to Gibson and say “Hey, make me a Tele,” whereas now you can make your own version of whatever the hell you want.
Tweak a Tele or whatever! Make our own version of whatever it is. I’m truly blessed. Like I said, being with Marshall, I’m honoured being with Marshall and Gibson and Dunlop and EV, but being able to have my own company and call the shots is great.
So what are the guitar model names?
This is the Odin, obviously with the Odin horn over here. So you’ve got the Odin, the Viking V, the Warhammer… these are just the ones that the guys and Blasko were able to make before NAMM, y’know what I’m sayin’? There’s a batch of other different body designs I have ready to go.
At what point do we see you with these on stage?
Once we go into production and start making ’em, I’ll just start retiring the Marshalls and retiring all my Gibsons. I’m not getting rid of them because they’re part of who I am and I’m proud of that.
Is there a timetable for when we can expect to see them in stores?
What would you say, Blasko?
[Blasko] Well we’ll be doing direct-to-consumer, so we’ll be selling online, and we hope to be able to start to roll out pre-orders some time around August.
As affordable as we can get it. For example, one of these heads? Under $1,000. You can get an ass-kicking Master 100 top, y’know what I’m saying? The goal is to make it as affordable as possible.