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Guitar Center Hollywood Survives Master Class with Zakk Wylde

Guitar Center Hollywood Survives Master Class with Zakk Wylde

With hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of vintage guitars serving as his backdrop, Zakk Wylde is seated on the cozy stage of the Vintage Room at Guitar Center’s Hollywood, California, location. The guitar he’s wielding, though, is far from old—it’s one of his brand-new signature-series Wylde Audio solidbodies (the Odin model). And he’s absolutely shredding on it. With no less than four 4x12 cabinets behind him, the sound is ferocious and immense.

The cabs, however, are just there for looks. None of them is actually plugged in.

In actuality, the powerful sound filling the room is coming from the tiny, boot-high Marshall practice amp at Wylde’s feet (which is miked up and running through the room’s modest P.A. system). As is the case with any true titan of guitar, Wylde doesn’t need heavy sonic weaponry to deliver heavy tones. He gets his power and ferocity from one place and one place only—his fingers.

“How’s everybody doing?” the always unpredictable guitar hero asks the small crowd in attendance after he finally stops playing. Wylde is keeping things fun and informal—very informal.

“I have a surprise for you,” jokes Wylde. “After we do this and maybe a jam a little bit, we’re all going out for an anal bleaching appointment on me. Bleaching is part of the music business as well.”

That, of course, is not the sort of topic the roguish guitarist is actually here to address. Today, Wylde is holding his first official guitar master class, and, even by Hollywood standards, it’s an exclusive affair. Aside from Guitar Center Artist Relations manager Jake Cheung (who is also the event’s emcee); Michael Cirovolo (President of Schecter Guitar Research, the company that distributes Wylde’s new guitars); Rob “Blasko” Nicholson (Wylde’s personal manager), a few camera operators and staffers, and this journalist, there are only five attendees present—the five people Wylde has chosen to attend.

The lucky quintet—Warleyson Jose, Daniel Mahanger, Emily Hastings, Adrian Carey, and Dana Bradshaw—were among the thousands of entrants who submitted renditions of Wylde’s new single, “Sleeping Dogs,” in hopes of a scoring a free trip to California to hang with Mr. Wylde for special this master class. Clearly, Wylde felt their performances were the most kick-ass of the bunch. Now, they’re face to face with one of their heroes, watching him blaze up and down the neck as he fills the air with white-hot blues/metal fusillades.

“Years ago, I made a list of things everyone else was doing, and consciously stopped doing those things,” says Wylde when the topic of how he forged his style comes up. “I thought, ‘No more whammy bar. And I’ll get rid of the tapping, so I don’t sound like Ed or Randy. No harmonic minor stuff or diminished runs. No sweep picking, and no arpeggios.’ I did that to separate myself from everyone else. Basically, the only thing left was pentatonic scales. And when I saw my first Albert Lee video, the hybrid-picking country plucking stuff he was doing sounded so amazing, I started incorporating it into my playing as well.”

Several questions about building a brand in the social media age arise. For instance, how much personal cash should a young musician sink into launching his/her band?

“If you’re thinking of opening a Hooters restaurant or investing in your band, well, the restaurant might be the best bet,” Wylde cautions. “The good part, though, is that as soon as you start really building your band, other people will likely step in to help, because it’s already got some legs.”

While the five attendees will surely cherish the day they got to watch their hero demonstrate his famous Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society solos mere feet from their faces—and will also surely treasure the Wylde Audio Odin model guitar and Dunlop, EMG, Monster Cable, and MXR gear they were each awarded—it is likely that it will be Wylde’s optimistic life coaching they will remember most.

“Back in the day,” Wylde tells them, “if you didn’t get a record deal by the time you were 30 years old, it was almost like, ‘The dream is over. I guess I gotta quit music and get a crummy job.’ Nowadays, though, that’s not the case. If you love music and you want to do it, you can make a living doing it, because you have access to social media, which Zeppelin and Sabbath never had. Back then, you only had that level of reach if you were on a major label. Young bands today are often really good at social media. For instance, check out the Black Veil Brides. They’re a perfect example of how you can build things yourself, do things on your own terms, and play the music you want to play.”

Though the group-bleaching appointment Wylde has promised never actually transpires, the afternoon is still a success, and Wylde is happy.

“I love showing people solos that I’ve done, and I’m always happy to show people scales and stuff,” says Wylde after the event. “But my whole thing is, ‘What if I was able to sit down with Frank Marino or John McLaughlin or Al Di Meola or any of my other heroes when I was coming up and just ask them questions about what they do?’ I would have loved that. So, my favorite part of today was just hanging with everybody, talking with them.”

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