An Interview With Nick Catanese of Black Label Society

An Interview With Nick Catanese of Black Label Society

This tour has such a diverse lineup with Clutch, Children of Bodom, and 2 Cents, how do you feel it affects the crowd turnout overall?

I think it’s been good. I mean, there’s people that love heavy stuff like [Children of] Bodom and 2 Cents and Clutch is so groove-oriented and we’re like just (laughs) we’re kind of like a fruit medley from everything (laughs).

We kind of got heavy stuff, we’ve got a piano, and we– I remember the first show that we played, we’re sitting there, me and Zakk, and the guy’s were watching Bodom, and we’re like, “we have a piano…” (laughs) These guys are so heavy! You know, it’s like, I hope these people– I mean, we are headlining, but the Bodom fans are there and you got to win everybody over and everybody gets their shot, and it’s been cool. I mean, I haven’t seen anywhere where the Clutch fans disrespect Bodom

The only thing that happened, (laughs) this is funny actually, this guy got thrown out, obviously… One of our fans, me, and Will [Hunt], and I think JD [John DeServio] was back there, this was in Boise or something like that, and 2 Cents comes out to that My Dick song, it’s like the rap song (laughs), and they always say it’s “Two minutes to dick time” or whatever.

So, this rap song comes on and we’re standing back and this guy goes, “What the hell is going on? I don’t want this rap shit!” Blah, blah, blah. We’re like, “I play in Black Label [Society] and we said it’s ok.” [The guy goes,] “Ok…” And he walked away and then Clutch comes on to like this (inaudible) thing and he came back and tried ripping the cords out of the sound board!

So, needless to say, he got tossed. But like, people just do what they do, and everybody’s having a great time, and there’s a thought process to it too, is 2 Cents comes out to that rap song, and when they kick into how heavy it is, it’s like, “Oh wow!” It’s impact.

It’s been a long tour, I mean we’ve got, after tonight, we’ve got four more, and I’ve been gone since September 11th, I haven’t been home! (laughs) I played in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t get to go home. That’d be like a tease. You walk in, you see your TV, your couch, and now I’ve got to go back in the bus again… It’s been almost three months now and I just want to do the simple stuff.

 

Has it been difficult for some of the bands to “win over” or connect with the crowd because of the diversity?

No, like every night I watch 2 Cents and Adam [O’Rourke], the singer, just– he owns it. Like, there’s singers that have “it” and singers that don’t, and he has that. He doesn’t care what he says, like at the end of the night, he goes “We’re selling CDs and t-shirts..” and he goes, “If you can’t afford ten bucks, your kid’s gonna be born with aids!” He goes, (laughs) “Just because you didn’t spend the extra ten bucks!” I’m like, “What?! You really just said that?!” But I mean, it makes everybody crack up because he’s got balls. I mean, to sit there and say, “If you don’t buy our CD, your kid’s gonna have aids.”

Thank God we were in Nebraska whenever we cancelled the Nebraska and Iowa show because Zakk had the clots again, they saved us. I mean, those three bands stepped up and it was big. I really tried to do as much as I could to thank them because we did sound check and everything and we’re like, “Zakk’s in the hospital.” “Oh, not again…” That’s my brother, you know?! I’ve been with him for fourteen years and it’s like, it was a big crowd too.

Clutch played for almost an hour and forty-five minutes, just jammed and jammed. And then, I get this call on the radio saying, “Do you guys want to come up and make the announcement that you’re not playing.” I’m like, “Is this a trick question or something?!” But, it’s good that we did to show some respect because we went up and JD, our bass player, he laid out this speech that rivaled Martin Luther King, he was just like, “Family!!!” And the crowd was like– we had a couple of idiots that were like, “blah, blah, blah.” I’m like, “Dude, it’s not like he’s in some gutter somewhere. There’s something wrong.”

You know, it’s like once he got straightened up and continued and he’s obviously fine. But each band, there’s 2 Cents, kills it; then you get a Clutch chant before they come on, and then a [Children of] Bodom chant, and then it’s like, that’s cool, man. You know, we treat everybody as family, I mean we don’t say, “You can’t use this…” It’s like, use whatever the hell you want to use!

I mean, like my thing, bands that dim people over on stage with lights or fog, it’s like, you’re not confident with your band. If you think you’ve got to cut off somebody else to make you look better– and we were all there, even with 2 Cents, we give them after show food and all of that stuff. And the food we don’t eat, we take to them; you’ve got to eat. You know what I mean? We gave them like 16 racks of ribs and just to know like– “Oh my God, I thought we were going to go hungry!” And we’re like, “No man, this is a family.”

Bands just need to start being that way. We’re lucky. Someone said the other day, “Man, that’s really cool, you get paid to play guitar.” “…No. NO. I would play for free. I get paid for the other 17 hours of my day where you don’t know if you’re going to do laundry, if you’re going to bus with ten guys, you’re not sleeping… It’s like, once that hour and a half comes in, it makes sense. You know what I mean? Like, right now, I feel playing is the last thing I want to do right now, but the minute the house lights go out– your switch is on. Then afterwards, you’re delirious because you’re so damn tired, but then you got so much adrenaline going, and it’s like, “WOW! That’s Crazy!”

But no, it’s been a really, really, really, really good tour. And just having four more [shows] to go, it’s kind of bitter-sweet. I’m ready to go home, but I don’t want to not see the guys.

Since the tour is almost over, what has been the most favorite experience?

So far, umm… Well, (laughs), I tried dressing D-Rock [Dan Racadio] up from 2 Cents(laughs) with the most ridiculous stuff I can possibly find… And… He’ll just wear it. No matter what I get him and as stupid as I think it’s going to be, he’ll wear it and pull it off. I’ve bought him a cat mask, a bowtie, and a tail, and a shirt that said “boys drive me batty” and he wore it! (laughs) I’m like, “Ok…” So then, the next time, I bought– what else did I buy him… Oh! I bought him a gorilla mask, just like a beanie pull-over thing– [he] wore that. Then, it was me and the drummer [Willis Mathiasen] of 2 Cents with us at this aquarium and a little kitty mask, beads with crawfish on them, and he wore those!

Every day is something goofy or something ridiculous happens. It’s just the stories like, I’ll tell a story and people are just looking at me, and I’m like, “Trust me, I’m not that imaginative to make that up. It happens.” (laughs) But every show’s been cool and Canada was actually the best part, I mean not the best part, but the crowds were– we played hockey arenas and it just was two-three-four thousand people there because it was the first time we’ve played Regina, Saskatchewan. We were like, “Dude, what are we doing here?!” And then the show starts and “OH! That’s why we’re here!” There were a ton of people.

But, it’s been great. I’m just ready for a couple months, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and I guess February we go to Europe. So, it’s going to start up, and I’m not even going to think about that right now!

 

Order of the Black was released a couple months ago, would you say that because it reached #4 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, that it has put a sense of pressure on the band, or maybe a sense of relief?

It’s the first one ever to crack the Top 10 and it’s like, it’s cool because it’s kind of like a rebirth of the band. I joined Zakk in ’96 and we did the Book of Shadows Tour together and then Black Label [Society] was formed in ’98 and then went through (laughs) the various member changes, and all of that stuff, and him and I’ve been there.

But every album came out and kicked ass, but just never broke and it’s just like with him not drinking anymore and I’m 2 years sober, and we’ve got Will [Hunt] playing drums with us– it almost felt like, “This is cool and makes sense.” And at the same time, it’s almost like you’re given a gift of– “Lets make this really kick and do everything right.” I mean, when you’re messed up, you’re making bad business deals, ideas, and thoughts, but things are just going so good now.

I mean, we laugh so much on stage now, it’s ridiculous! People are like, “What are you laughing about?” We’re like, “You won’t get it if I told you.” (laughs) We’ve been together for so long, like I know more about Zakk than probably some of my family. I mean, 14 years and you’re stuck in a bus, like the first couple of years we were in a van together, and Zakk went from being my idol to my best friend and my brother.

It’s like, I get to play guitar for Zakk! I guess I’m doing my job, but I’ve been here long enough! (laughs) It’s not like, “Dude, you got to go, you’re not keeping your weight around.” He can do it himself, trust me! I mean, he’s been the only guitar player in every other band. It’s cool, people that want to do this and strive to tour, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. You know what I mean? You’ve met so many people, I’m sure you’ve heard the same thing.

Back when I was younger, I never understood what they meant about the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll thing, how it all comes into one ball until you’re thrown in it, and then you got to try to deal with it, and it’s like, you can’t sleep because you can’t do this, you’ve got so much adrenaline going, it’s like, “How do I sleep?” You go to your doctor, they give you this. And then the next thing you know, that don’t work and you’re looking for something else. You learn how to deal with it, not just natural, you have to.

It’s even like, if you read Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries, it’s like nothing good comes out of it. It’s either, you’re going to be broke, or you’re going to be dead. And it’s like, problems are always going to be here. But finding ten-twelve guys that we’ve had with this band and know each other so well, and we’ve had almost the same team for a while– I mean, JD’s [John DeServio] been friends with Zakk since he was 14, before [Zakk joined] Ozzy. So he’s known him all his life. Me and Zakk— 14 years; Will’s the new guy, but he’s played drums for Motley Crue. And that’s kind of like a cool parallel because he’s played drums for Tommy Lee and I play guitar for Zakk.

So, we know the pressures of how intense it’s got to be to sit there and say, “Ok, well you’ve got to do this part, the solo, just do it.” There’s a reason why you’re Zakk Wylde and it’s Tommy Lee; you’re icons and you’re amazing. But we’ve got to pull our weight and do it and now, it’s just like we’re having a blast. It’s fun, but like I said, I’m tired and I’m beat up and ready to go. But once I’m home for a week, I’m going to be like, “Can we go back?! I’m ready to go back!!” (laughs)

 

What do you believe has been the most rewarding thing that has come out of Order of the Black?

Umm… Just seeing it at #4, just actually seeing the name, you know? Because we’ve never seen that before and it’s always been metal charts or whatever, but being in the mainstream thing– it was like Eminem, someone else, and then us. I’m like, “People are probably going: ‘Who?!?! Who?!?! My God…'” (laughs) But I think that and just, for me personally, just seeing the band grow has been amazing.

Every meet & greet we’ve had too– I’ve never seen so many band tattoos, like people with skulls, the whole patch set, Zakk, or there’s people that’s got my logo now. This girl just got it on her back. I’m like, “Oh my God…” Then there are our signatures.

This one guy in Canada has the whole entire back patch set tattooed on his back, and he lifted his shirt (laughs) he’s like, “Guys, look at this!” And I looked at Zakk and go, “Man, that’s really cool, but we changed the name of the band…” He went WHITE! I’m like, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding!!” I mean, this guy probably just sat there for hours getting this thing done and I go, “We changed the name of the band.” Zakk’s like, “That’s a dick move.” (laughs) It was funny, I mean, everyone was laughing at it. It was bad!

 

How do you feel Black Label Society has paved the way for new and upcoming bands?

Umm… I don’t know if we’ve paved the way… I think kids hearing Zakk playing– music went through a whole thing of no solos, no guitar solos, and that became the “in” thing, the no guitar solos. And what’s funny is it could be Zakk and Alexi [Laiho], and people who are still just shredding, but the rock band game and the guitar hero and stuff– I was so against– not against it, but I was seeing that kids were playing 12 hours a day. I’m like, “if you played 12 hours a day on a real guitar, you’d be amazing.”

The good thing about it is that it’s brought rock back. Like before, you’d see kids with their pants hanging off and all that stuff. (laughs) But now, you go to the mall, and there’s Guns ‘n Roses t-shirts, there’s Led Zeppelin t-shirts, MetallicaIron MaidenRamones; kids playing punk now, that’s really cool. You know, rap; great for whoever wants to hear it, and some of it’s really good, but it became so– you know the grunge thing came out, and then [guitar] solos just seemed to go.

Now it’s like, there are kids coming to the show that are like– I’ll sit there and watch the kids, watching when he’s [Zakksoloing and stuff, and they’re like “…” And I’m like, “Dude, I know!” Then, some songs we’ll double solos and have both of us. It’s like, “This is what you can do if you just practice!”

When I was growing up, that’s all I did. I mean, I really haven’t had a real job, ever… At 15, I started a band at home, and my dad managed us, and we played up and down the east coast, from when I was 17 to 23… And in high school, it sucked because I’d drive to this place called Johnstown, PA, which is two hours away from my house, play a show, do three sets, get done at 2 in the morning, pack the van, drive two hours home, get in at 4[AM], wake up at 6:30 or 7:00[AM] to go to school, and I actually…

This is a great story…(laughs) I had study hall first period, then I had photography second [period], and I went into second period, and all my teachers were so good, they knew I played and everything, the principal, and I went into take my little picture into the dark room, and I’m like, “What if I were to take a powernap and just try to get myself together here…” So, I sat down on the floor and I thought I just nodded off… [I] Woke up and my picture was gone… I’m like, “Hmm…?” I don’t know I’m in the dark room, I don’t recognize anybody in this class, (laughs) I’m like, “…..” And the teacher goes, “What are you still doing here?” I go, “What period is this?” He goes, “Fifth.” I’m like, “How didn’t anybody kick me when I was in the dark room?!” I was right in the way of film being developed! So, he wrote me a note and said I was doing extra curricular activities…

That’s what you had to do. I mean, I didn’t go to my prom, I didn’t go because we were playing; sacrifices. It’s rewarding, but it’s hard. You know? I mean, leaving home and everything; like little things, like getting in my car and going to Walmart; cant do it. You know? I got to wait for a runner, get a cab, or like tomorrow, we’re off to Salt Lake City; I don’t know what’s around there. You’re just strapped up in your room. That’s–whatever, but like, it’s the little things that people take for granted.

[People are] like, “Man, you know, I’d love to come out on the road!” It’s like you– a buddy of ours came out a couple tours ago; couldn’t WAIT to get off the bus after three days! Just tripped out, [he said] “I don’t know how you guys live like this!!” It’s like we were constantly in the way, but it’s normal for us.

I’m a real private person, I was even telling JD [John DeServio], I said, “This was the most we’ve done.” We’ve done three, four tours in a row and haven’t had a day off, and I need my space because being an only child, (laughs) I need my space! You know what I mean? It’s just like, I got to get my head right, I just need to talk to nobody, just leave me alone, and I’ll see you tomorrow at the show.

But, there are people that have lots of brothers and sisters, and don’t mind it at all. But I’m 39-years-old, I’m not going to change, it’s just the way it is. So that’s just been kind of the little nagging thing, but if that’s it, who cares? You know what I mean? As long as I get to play.

 

How do you let yourself connect through the music to the crowd when you’re on stage?

Umm… That’s actually a good question because (laughs) I was thinking to the guys today, I said with how tired we are now, the crowd helps us… If the crowd’s not into it, it’s hard, and the set is really long, and it’s like– Zakk’s stuck on the mic, so me and JD got to be the entertainer guys.

I try to interact with as many people as I can; I’ll see somebody ten rows back and try to– if they’re wearing a cool shirt or something, I’ll [mimics pointing and waving]. The more people that you try to do that with, by the end of the night, they feel like your buddies, you know what I mean? So you’re trying to make this whole thing… But right off the bat, if the crowd is intense, the show’s off the hook, because it doesn’t matter how banged up or tired you are. If the crowd’s looking at you like, “Dude, just stop. I want to go home, my ears are bleeding.” Then, it’s kind of tough.

But we always try, we throw [guitar] picks and everything, try to get people in it. If there’s like a little kid or something, [I’ll] give the security guy to give him a pick and try to– like, I try to do things the way that I wish when I went to a show, it’d happen. Like, when I went to see KISS, man, [I was] like, “Did Gene [Simmons] point at me?! Or was it the girl?” …It was probably the girl. But at that second, I thought Gene Simmons pointed at me, and that was like, “Holy Hell!! He saw me!” I’ll never forget that.

I’m not Gene Simmons by a stretch of the imagination, but people are like, “Wow, he actually said what’s up.” Or if they motion to me a certain way, I’ll do it back to them, so they know it’s to them, and not to the guy [next to them]. We try to make it a whole vortex of energy. (laughs) They’ve [the fans] got to keep us up, man! We’re not 18 anymore, man! Obviously we’re not the [Rolling] Stones, but the crowd helps, it really does. Fans don’t understand what that means…

Like, if I looked down and there was somebody– I’ve seen it before; somebody on the railing– not that they’re bored, but they’re being crushed. They’re just [like], “I’m so hot and tired from four bands of just continuing pummeling…” How could you not [be hot and tired]?! I tell people that all the time, I don’t know how you do this. Like, I don’t like people that much– not that I don’t like people, but like claustrophobic; if I can’t stretch my elbows out, I’m miserable. (laughs) You know what I mean?

I don’t go to bars when I’m home, nothing… If I can’t stretch out, kick out, just relax, I’ll go watch from the back. Me and Zakk argue about it all the time, like if we went to see Van Halen or whoever, we’d stand in the back and watch the show and watch Eddie [Van Halen] play. People up front, people crowd surfing, hitting your head, I’m like, “Oh my God! How do they get up?!” (laughs) Like, I’ve seen this one guy, literally get launched [into the crowd], and he fell, and it was right after they got another guy out, and there was nobody there, and he just came over, and landed on the metal bar. He got up like, “I don’t want to go to school to day, mom…” He walked off seeing birdies. (laughs) But he went in [the crowd], got back up, and I’m like, “Didn’t you just learn you shouldn’t do that, maybe? …Go get a drink or something.”

But the crowds are crazy– thank God! Stay that way because we need it! The weirdest thing I’ve ever seen was this guy, a buddy of ours named Mike, we call him Papa Wheelie, he’s in a wheel chair, hasn’t walked all his life, and the first time we met him, we were playing in LA [Los Angeles] and all I saw was this wheelchair (pauses) lifted… And he came across the crowd in a wheelchair! I’m like, “…..” And the whole band is like, “Are you seeing this?!” And he’s headbanging all the way… I’m like, “If somebody dropped that chair….” …That was the way we met, I’m like, “I’ve got to party with this guy!” (laughs) You crowd surf in a wheel chair, your pretty damn dedicated. He ended up being one of my best friends. It’s all just going back to the intensity of the crowd.

 

I’m sure you get told every day that Black Label Society’s music has helped them in some sort of way, whether it be dark, hard, etc times. How has Black Label Society helped you through hard times or challenging times?

Umm… (pauses) Well, not because of the band, but through [being in] the band, I’ve been through the worst time and then to where I am now, it just makes you stronger. The cool thing about it too, is that even with the people I had problems and brought me stuff [problems], they’re happy [now], you know what I mean? You feel the love from everybody.

As far as with me, I dig hearing stories of how we help people. There was a guy in Charlotte or Myrtle Beach [North Carolina], this guy brought me–and it kind of brought me to tears, it was the most insane plaque. He had got back a week that day from Pakistan, and he brought me a flag, and he brought me this plaque, that said– it was typed out for me, “Thanks to Nick Catanese, through Strength, Determination, Merciless, Forever… The Black Label [Society] motto, got us through this…” And I’m holding this going, “What did I do?! These guys are over there, they don’t know if they’re coming home… [They’re] sleeping in dirt and all of this other stuff…” I said to him, “What can I do?” He goes, “No, you’ve done enough. You bought us home.” I’m like, “No, you got yourself home.” But, we helped somehow…

There was another guy that was telling me that he has us playing in this ear and his squad playing in the other ear, and they’re going into battle. And I’m like, “We could be the last thing they hear.” That’s the thing that really just blows me away. Even for me, there are tunes that make you happy whenever you want it and if you’re mad, you listen to this, and if you’re upset, you listen to that; that’s the power of it.

Even like, we play In This River every night, it’s Dimebag’s [song], and it’s still– we have a video now, which is even better, because we had two big pictures of Dime that came out when we played it. But, a video… It’s like, “Man…” It still rough, you know? I mean, he [Dimebag Darrell] helped me out a lot with– like, I had a deal with Washburn Guitars, had my own signature guitar. Dime really helped a lot. Now I’m with Paul Reed Smith Guitars, but Dime helped. That dude– it still doesn’t make sense to me, it doesn’t. I mean, the most beautiful person on the planet.

But, the stories I hear from people, the soldiers, or even somebody; their parent passed away or something, and that’s probably the worst thing ever, and we helped them get through that. I mean, you never get sick of hearing it because we play the songs, but to somebody, that song is everything to them. You’re looking at them going, “Wow…” Like, I’ve seen grown men in the front row cry during In This River watching the Dimebag video. That’s heavy. I’m watching it and I can’t even– I’m like “Whoa, dude.” It’s intense!! People don’t really get it– true music-lovers get it. Like, I know a good song and I’m sure the first time you hear a song, if it gives you chills; sold.

 

Pantera – Cemetery Gates…

Yeah, or anytime [you hear] Walk! The intro of Walk, it’s like, I’ve got goose bumps and I don’t even hear it. I can just hear it in my head. That’s my gauge of music. If it raises your fur, it’s on! Other songs, it’s like, “Ehh… It’s good… Or is it?” You know?

 

How do you feel you’ve grown as a person with Black Label Society over the past 14 years?

Umm… Probably… Confidence wise, because I was really a recluse. I’ve always had friends in high school and stuff, but I wasn’t confident. I remember the first time I flew to Japan with Zakk in ’97 or ’96, my mom and my dad were there and I walked off the plane and my mom goes, “You look different.” There was a different swagger, there was a different– not a cocky thing, just, “I’m seeing the world!” You get cultured, there are people that don’t leave their town let alone that get to go to Osaka, Japan, or Tokyo, or Fujioka, or Yokohama. You see the way different people live, it makes you really respect what you have. Little things, like people say, “Little things mean more than big things.”

We played Phoenix, AZ, it was like two Ozzfest’s ago, it was like 116 degrees; ridiculous. We headlined the B stage, so it was peak heat; we were playing in Hell basically! I was waiting for Satan to shoot up and everything. (laughs) Of course we had to wear the black leather vests… But as we were walking to the stage, there was this girl, probably 16-17 years old, [she] obviously had a heatstroke or whatever, and I walk over, and she looked at me and started crying.
I went, “What’s wrong?”
She’s like, “I came here to see you guys and now I’m laying here with this IV and stuff.”
I go, “Can you walk?”
She’s like, “Yeah…”
And then her dad came over, and I said, “Are you her dad?”
He’s like, “Yeah.”
I go, “Come on…”
I walked them up, put them at side stage so she could watch. So, her having the heat stroke was the best thing that happened (laughs) because she wasn’t at the front, and she was now hanging, watching, drinking waters; Zakk went over and hugged her and stuff. The doctor was like, “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”

It comes back to my whole theory of “What would I want to happen to me.” If I was in that spot and I was approached by a person in a band I dug, what would they do? You know what I mean? Or what would really make me walk away going, “That was the coolest thing ever.” You know, it takes five minutes.

It was Brian Johnson from AC/DC said that he met Chuck Berry and this was also in the back of my mind, this was Brian Johnson of AC/DC, not just anybody. [He] walks up to Chuck Berry, and he’s like, “Mr. Berry, I’m Brian Johnson, the singer of AC/DC, could I get your autograph?” He [Chuck Berry] goes, “I only sign my name once a day and I already did.” Brian Johnson goes, “From that moment on, I would NEVER do that to a fan.”

You sign your name on your credit card bill when you pay for things– what do you mean you only sign your name once a day? If it weren’t for the fans, there would be no band.

That’s the thing that people– I don’t understand egos and all of that crap– and the term rockstar, I hate it. I’m a guitar player. That’s it. I’m a guitar player that got lucky because there are dudes that shred me that I see on YouTube and I’m like, “Why isn’t he in a band?” You’ve got to be just thankful that you’re even in a position because it could end tomorrow.

How do you want your legacy to be? This guy that’s like, “No, I’m not signing, no…” Or you could be like Dimebag [Darrell], who’s the most beloved guy ever. And Zakk— Zakk would sign all day long and talk to people. Like, our meet and greets; if you bring up sports or [New York] Yankees or something, he’ll sit there and talk to you like he’s known you for years. That’s the way he is.

Seeing and meeting George Lynch was always a huge influence and now he’s one of my friends; these people that were my idols, man, I’ve got them in my phone!! Like, Ted Nugent… TED NUGENT gave me his phone number! I’m like, “WHAT?!?!?!” ….I can’t believe Ted Nugent just gave me his telephone number! And then he played [a show in] Pittsburgh, I’m on the couch, [thinking] “Ted’s in town…” I was like, “Hey man, if you need anything as far as running anywhere for dinner or something–” I get this text back, “Hey man! Come down and see the most hottest rock band on the planet!” I’m like, “……Ted Nugent just sent me a text!!!!!!” And I still have it, I saved it, I’m such a nerd; I still have the Ted Nugent text. (laughs) I’m sitting there– I’m still such a fan!

My first two albums ever were my KISS Alive one and Ted Nugent Weekend Warriors. Those were my first two albums. And here’s the guy sending me (laughs) text messages while I’m sitting on the couch like, “Ted freaking Nugent, man!!!” The coolest thing other than that was the day I met Paul Stanley [KISS]. It was weird because I was at NAMM, the NAMM Show [NAMM.org], Paul was with Washburn [guitars] and I was with Washburn, at the time, and I met him, and his son, Evan, was with him… And what I didn’t know was– Paul comes up like, “Hey Nick!” I’m like, “…..He knew my name?!?!?!”

I’m like, Dude, I had a KISS lunchbox in kindergarten and Paul Stanley just came up and said hey. I go, “I’ve been a fan all my life, my mom painted my face almost every day when I was 6 or 7 years old!!” He goes– his son Evan is a big Black Label [Society] fan, so his son’s looking at me like [imitates awe-struck stare]. And I’m going, there’s this circle full admiration going on (laughs) and it was just really cool. But, we just sat there and talked and that was the first time I met him.

Then, the second time, he was signing and I walked up behind him and he’s like “Hey man!! How you doing?” I’m like, [whispers excitedly] “Paul Stanley knows me!!!!!!” I just left like, “PAUL STANLEY KNOWS ME!!!” That’s all I needed to see. But it was funny because I actually got this back in return; I said to Paul and I wasn’t thinking because obviously I was just like [awe-struck]… I said, “Paul, I had a KISS lunchbox in kindergarten.” I dated him bad. (laughs)

So, that night, Avenged Sevenfold, it was right when they came out, and Zacky [Vengeance] came up and me and a couple of guys went to– they were having this party for and he said to me, “Black Label [Society] was one of the first reasons I started playing guitar…” (laughs) I went, “Now I know how Paul felt.” I was like, I needed my walker to leave– oh shit… You know? (laughs)

Ok, well, I got touch�. (laughs) But, you don’t know what to say! The first things that come out of your mouth, like, that was dumb. (laughs) It’s like the Twix commercials, “Need a moment?” I’m like, “YEAH. I need to get that two seconds back of my life! (laughs) I just told Paul Stanley I had a KISS lunch box in kindergarten!” (laughs) I mean, it’s just ridiculous!!! I meant it though; I meant to tell him how much I loved him.

Even like, Order of the Black came out on vinyl, in which I love, and to me, when you bought an album, it was an event. I remember, I bought KISS Alive II and I opened it up, and I was, “Oh my God, fire, and Gene [Simmons] and a dragon!!” Now… You’ve got iTunes. I mean, thank God; I love it, but the magic of it [buying a vinyl album] isn’t there and you’ve got a little digital thing that says the names of the songs. I mean, KISS [vinyl albums] you’ve got tattoos, and pop guns, and pictures. I’m like, “This is an event!!!” Now, it’s like “…” That’s why now, I’m kind of happy to see vinyls coming back. KISS on vinyl, Van Halen on vinyl, just sounds so good.

It’s the way of technology, you can’t fight it. You can’t fight what’s going to happen. Even with the thing with Lars [Ulrich/Metallica drummer] and Napster, he wasn’t bagging on it saying– it’s basically if you walked up to our merch stand and you reached over and grabbed a hoodie, you took it. Black and white, you stole the hoodie. Like, the music you were getting wasn’t even out yet, and he’s like “How is this getting leaked?” Yeah, they’re billionaires, millionaires, whatever, but it’s the principal. I mean, still, just help out. It’s like, really, 99 cents is going to kill you for a tune. (laughs)

People took it as he was being an idiot, cocky, and stuff. It’s like, no. Being in a band, this is the way you eat. That’s it. If you have millions or if you’re collecting unemployment, it doesn’t matter. It’s still– you can’t walk into Walmart and take shampoo and leave, you get arrested, you know?! (laughs) Yes, there are pros and cons to everything.

The internet’s made bands have a chance. I mean, I’ll hear and I’ll check out a band, and I’ll tweet and say, “Check this out…” To help them. It helps in a way, but then at the same time– I remember going and buying albums and it was like Christmas. You’d get it, ripping it open to see what the band looked like, and hoped you liked it, and was like, “Oh God, I hope they didn’t do something stupid!”

It’s just been a cool ride. I mean, fourteen years of it, it’s going to be hopefully more. But, it’s just cool hearing and even getting back to the fans with what they hear about it too, like getting ‘one’ with the band. It’s tricky, I mean, Craig [Nunenmacher] was with us for eight years and then Will [Hunt] comes in and kills it, I mean, his drumming on this album, I’m just like, “Dude…” It’s like we tied a rocket ship to the back of the band now. (laughs) Lets go! And he, even live tonight, he puts on a show. It’s not like he’s just back there just playing, I mean he’s– I said [to him], “I don’t want to be reincarnated into one of your drumheads or even like a symbol stand!” (laughs) Because he just kicks the shit out of the drums. I’m like, “This is awesome!”

 

What kind of impact do you want to leave with the legacy of Black Label Society?

Umm… I don’t know… I think that would be, that would probably be self written, you know what I mean? It’s just the way the people perceive it because there’s a lot of people that perceive it in different ways. The way Eddie Van Halen made an impact on me or somebody, it’s like hopefully we inspire people to play, practice.

We get a lot of questions, and people even ask us, “Is that really you on Twitter?” It’s like, “Yes! And Zakk too.” I mean, he’ll [Zakk] answer everybody. How cool is that?

I wish that when I was growing up, I could “tweet” Eddie Van Halen and he’d write back. You know what I mean? (laughs) It’d be like, “Holy shit!!” I just think that people associate with us more as like Zakk always said, we don’t have fans, we have fams, you know as family. Any place you go, someone sees somebody with a Black Label shirt, and you instantly just start talking.

It’s weird. Like, I went to see Metallica last year [2009], last December, I’m sitting there, I went to see Robert [Trujillo/Metallica bassist]. I’m standing there with him and it was Lamb of God and Metallica, and before Lamb of God went on, I’m looking, I’m like, “Robert, are we playing tonight?” He goes, “No, dude. This is a very reoccurring thing. There’s so much Black Label merch.” Like, even outside of– people go see Godsmack, there’s Black Label stuff, and the way Zakk has it done with the black and white, you’ll see it from a mile away.

I mean, there’s no hesitation to say, “That’s Black Label Society.” It’s not one of those band names that you look at the shirt and look and decipher the hieroglyphics of what the name is. It’s undeniable! It’s just that and what he’s [Zakk] thought of this whole time, has come true. I mean the guy’s imagination is just crazy.

Even like now, we have the different patches; we went from the biker thing to now the Order, which I like better because I don’t want to piss off anybody, (laughs) because you know to bikers, that’s serious to them, and rightfully so. It is and they literally bleed for those things and we never-ever showed any disrespect to people like that. But we just don’t want people to get hurt.

We always say to people who get the vest, don’t ride your motorcycle with that on. Don’t. Because, even if they [bikers] don’t see that it doesn’t say “MC Motorcycle Club” on it, it’s still a 3-piece patch set, which I don’t want anyone getting hurt over a band. Zakk’s even like, we got these new Order patches, it’s still Black Label, but it’s not the other patches. These will always be around (laughs), but it’s there now, so just be careful!! (laughs) Don’t ride your motorcycle with them.

 

What is going on with Speed X?

It’s pretty much on hold right now, I mean I’ve been gone for almost three months, and then when I get home, I’m not going to want to do anything. (laughs) But Mike Stone [guitarist], he’s working, busy doing different things. Mike [Froedge], our drummer, still has a studio, and he’s playing in a couple different bands.

You know, with this economy, it’s so hard, I mean Zakk wanted us [Speed X] to come out and open the show, which is a great opportunity, but it just cost so much that I couldn’t do that. I mean, I pretty much funded the CD pressings and everything, and I just can’t [tour]. I got to make money. What’s cool is that even if nothing happens with it, I still got a CD of stuff, and I got to play. It was cool, but if no record companies ever pick it up, it’s not like I’m going to hang myself, you know what I mean? (laughs) I did it, it’s recorded, it’s cool, it’s done, people dig it; everybody that heard it, dig it.

That would be neat if we got to open or even tour for a little bit, but what’s kind of weird is that I’m so used to this [being in Black Label Society], that like, the first show we played together was so bizarre for me, because it was like, I looked [on stage], it wasn’t Zakk, it wasn’t JD, it wasn’t Will. I’m like, “Oh…This is different.” (laughs)

You know, you do something and not taking this for granted, but you don’t realize what a machine this is [Black Label Society] until you– I know what Zakk’s thinking. Like, last night he had a problem with his guitar, we covered it, it’s not like we had to think about it; I know what he’s going to do, I’m always watching him out of the corner of my eye to make sure– it’s just the way we are. There’s that tight knit; I mean, we love each other. I mean, it’s like he introduces the band and I’ve never seen bands on stage that hug, like legitimately, at the end of the show, hug. It’s like, “Dude, we did it! Another one down!” We have no problem, I mean, we’re brothers. Even during the show, we’ll stand there and come over and nudge somebody and laugh; you’ve got to have fun. You’ve got to have fun and again, just be thankful for what you’re doing.

People have no jobs and here we are playing an hour and a half of music for people and making a living from it. It’s amazing. Everybody there is having a great time. And it’s hard, I mean, you see some of the crowds, they’re thin, because people can’t afford it. It’s like, “Do we eat this week, or do we get to see Black Label [Society]? I need food!” And rightfully so, but it will work out, it always does. But, the people that are there have a blast and that’s all that matters to us.

 

Would you say that because you have two signature series guitars out, that in general, it has solidified your name in metal?

I don’t know. I mean, to me, it was just one of those things when I was young, to see your name on a guitar is mind blowing. When I got on with Washburn, they made me great guitars, but then with Paul Reed Smith, that’s– that’s like the upper echelon of [Carlos] Santana and Ted Nugent. You go and talk to Paul [Reed Smith] and I’m like, “This is just so bizarre… They’re going to make me a guitar with my name on it.” And I walk into Guitar Center and there it is. It’s so weird, I still don’t think of myself as whoever will perceive me as– I’m just that guy that you meet in the parking lot or whatever. (laughs)

It’s just a proud moment when you open that case, you’re like, “Wow.” And then, the cool thing is, when people bring it; I think it was last night, or the night before, when JD has a signature bass [guitar] out with Schecter, and this guy comes up, and is like, “Dude, can you sign my guitar?” And I’m waiting to see who it’s made by, and it was JD’s bass! That’s so cool, that was kick ass! JD just walked by, and I go, “You’ve got to see this!” And JD goes, “No way!! You bought my bass!!” (laughs) it makes you feel good!

No matter what, this is Zakk, but people now see it as a band. When I first joined them [Black Label Society], I knew what I was getting into. I mean, you’re a guitar player behind Zakk Wylde, you know what I mean? (laughs) I mean, c’mon! This is the most ridiculous player in the world and I’m playing [with him].

I’ve learned so much, he’s [Zakk] taught me so much. The coolest thing he says every night and he’ll do it tonight, he’ll go, like in Black Label, he’s Keith [Richards/Rolling Stones] and I’m Ronnie [Wood/Rolling Stones]. The first time he said that, I was like, “WOW…” Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, that’s the way it is in Black Label, it’s like Keith and Ronnie, and I was like, “WOW.” If I could go back to the fifteen-year-old me and say, “Dude, when you’re 39-years-old, he’s going to say this, and you’re going to be in this band for fourteen years. “Yeah, whatever, give me what you’re on. I want to see this shit!!” (laughs)

It’s amazing to me. Even doing interviews, I mean, I think that’s why I talk so much, it’s just– it’s cool to me that people even want to do it. I mean, it’s Zakk(laughs) He’s the guy now! No matter what magazine, it’s him. You’ve got to throw down as hard as he does.

But yeah, getting back to the guitars, I mean, it was– for Dimebag helping me with Washburn, and then being approached by Paul Reed Smith was ridiculous! (laughs) And the one thing that I wanted to do too, was make the guitar affordable, because the Washburns, the imports people could get, but that was the one thing I said to Paul was, “I want the guitar that I play every night, I want that kid to be able to get that one.”

I play the SE’s every night, the imports, so a $600-700 guitar that smokes my other ones! Like, when I first signed with them, they sent me ten guitars for the tour, and they sent me mine, and Zakk was like, “Wow! That thing sounds amazing!!” And it’s an import!!! (laughs) This is amazing!

So, people can afford it and enjoy it. Even John 5 [William Lowery/Rob Zombie Guitarist], his Fender Tele signature [guitar] is actually an import. He uses his live too. So, it’s cool to be able to play the same thing that the person you admire plays.

Back when Eddie Van Halen made his Frankenstrat, it was maybe $125 bucks. He put a body that was kind of worn out that he saw in this one guitar company and then put a neck on it, and then he just decided to stripe it. And the next thing you know, that’s now like the most iconic guitar ever! (laughs) It’s like, that $125 guitar is now worth– they came out with the Reed, the signature model for, I think it was $10,000 or something to buy that guitar. I’m like, if I had the ten grand, I know I’d buy it because he [Eddie Van Halen] was the reason I started playing.

To be in that category of people that have a guitar that’s named after them is– it’s an honor. It really is. It’s like, “Wow. It’s mine… It’s my guitar!” (laughs) Yeah, it’s cool.

 

How do you feel the Paul Reed Smith guitar compares to the Washburn one?

Well, I mean, it’s different. Like, I think with the Washburn deal, I was so new to the whole thing of– like, I kind of overdid it a little bit. I made the neck too thick because I wanted to make it more mine, not really thinking of the comfort ability of playing later, and I made it really heavy. So, this time I was like, “Ok, think of your back, think of when you go home… (laughs) Just be a little bit more not over excessive on the weight and everything!”

And them [Paul Reed Smith] as a company too, I always say like, they just build elegant weapons. They look so gorgeous and they sound so sick. I actually went with Paul to three clinics, it was just he and I, and this one guy is like, “Well, I come into a store and there’s a $4000 price tag on this one. Why should I buy the one that’s $400?” And (laughs) Paul took the $400 one, played it. And he took the $4000 one and played it, and he goes [to the guy], “Did you hear a difference?” He’s [the guy] like, “No.” [Paul]: “There you go.” All it is, is just the– obviously the wood is different for the $4000 one, but like 95% of your tone is in your hands. You know what I mean?

I could pick up a whatever cheap guitar and it’s still going to sound like me; good or bad, it’s going to sound like you. Fans e-mail me going, “I bought your guitar and I bought a Marshall and I bought the same petals, the amps, and I don’t sound like you.” I’m like, “You won’t. Unless you take my brain, which you might not want. (laughs) But, good or bad, regardless of whatever, you’re going to sound like you.” And that’s the cool thing about guitar playing, if Zakk plugged in Eddie Van Halen’s Reed, he’s still going to sound like Zakk. If Ted Nugent plugged into my Reed, he’s going to sound like Ted.

No matter what, it’s all in your hands, and Paul was just trying to show that like, “I just took a $400-$500 import and made it sound like a $4000 Howard Leese signature series Paul Reed Smith.” I mean, a price tag, yeah you’re paying for the craftsmanship, maybe the inlays, the more obscure thing, than just mother of pearl or whatever. But, your guitar plays the way you play it. I mean, mind you, you put and pick up like a $200 balsawood piece and think it’s going to sound amazing, it’s not. But with Paul Reed Smith, you’re not going to ever get something that’s crap. I’ve actually seen Paul with the limited edition guitars and stuff, he plays them before they leave the shop. He plays them.

Yeah, you might be paying a little bit more, but you know that it’s not going to suck. You’re not going to pick this thing up and go, “Man, this is… I just wasted money on this thing.”

I mean, just different companies; Washburn was great to me, they went– this economy, they laid off a bunch of people, and the company, I don’t know what happened to them, but then, thank God I got picked up by Paul Reed Smith; it was like a life saver! (laughs)

 

Do you think you’ll do another signature model again?

Yeah. I mean, this one’s new, but we’re already thinking of a different idea behind it.

 

Yeah, I was going to ask you… What would you do different for the next one?

Well, I did mess up on– (laughs) I wanted a black guitar with red binding and the dots on the neck are black, okay. (laughs) First show that I play [with the new Paul Reed Smith guitar], the lights come on, and I can’t see anything because I don’t have fret markers either! So, (laughs) I’m like, “Man… This sucks.” (laughs)

I don’t know where I’m at, I just got my guitar, and I wanted to play it, then I just hand it to someone and was like, “Give me another guitar…” (laughs) So, I had to put a silver sharpie just to see the dots because the light goes– it makes the red and the black, it’s like purple and the whole thing just disappears. So, that will be the first thing, to put white dots on top (laughs) because I messed up and put black.”

Umm… I don’t know. Like, the remarks I’ve been hearing, people like the guitar, but it’s just– it’s got my logo on it, I mean, it’s my guitar, but just give the people maybe an option, because maybe they want to play that guitar, but they don’t– and rightfully so if you don’t want the logo on it. Maybe if it was more subtle, make it more like if you had to turn it a certain way, you could see it or something because I understand, yeah you like the guitar, just not the logo. That’s fine. Just make it– (laughs) if they want to buy it, you can. If you don’t, I could still buy new shoes at the end of the day. (laughs) At least I get a cut of it.

I’m still thinking, there’s a couple of ideas I want to run. It’s just– they’re selling ok, but hopefully, and obviously try learn by your mistakes too, which is a big one. (laughs) Oh my God, this one’s got to be the good one!! But it was crazy, Zakk was reading this one guitar player and it came to the instrument reviews, and it was like, “Dude! That’s my guitar!” And it was good, it was a good review. The only con they said was the logo. Which, I mean, it’s a signature series, Dime [Dimebag Darrell] had his with the lightning bolt, Zakk has his with the bulls eye, Eddie [Van Halen] has the stripes; that is why it’s a signature series.

 

 

Those are all of my questions. Would you like to say anything else?

(laughs) I think I talked everybody out! You’re going to be like, “How do I edit this?!” It’s like one big hour long ramble! (laughs)

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