Zakk Wylde Says No Metal Musician or Media Would Be Here Without Tony Iommi, Names Jazz Guitarist Metal Musicians Should Check Out

Longtime Ozzy Osbourne guitarist and the fill-in for Dimebag Darrell in the current incarnation of Pantera, Zakk Wylde, recently sat down with Revolver magazine to share what he believes are the 11 greatest guitarists of all time. Among them was, obviously, Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi.

But according to Zakk, Iommi is more than just one of the best guitar players. Instead, he’s the reason why he, all the other metal musicians, and even the magazine interviewing him are doing what they’re doing today. Adding Iommi to the list, Zakk explained (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“We gotta have Lord Iommi in there. I mean, obviously, he’s the creator of it all. So he’s the Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart of riffs. [laughs]”

Zakk also added:

“We all wouldn’t be here right now… Like, this magazine exists because of this guy. Like, everybody has jobs at the magazine, I can make a living play music… All of us that are working in this field of music, this guy has actually employed all of us.”

“I mean, that’s how massive his impact is.”

Heaven and Hell - Die Young (Wacken Festival 2009) HD

The list, however, featured more than just the usual list of rock and metal guys. Zakk’s tastes go beyond that and he also mentioned some jazz guys. Among them was Allan Holdsworth with Zakk explaining:

“Another great guy to listen to would be Allan Holdsworth. You know, guys in Meshuggah like Allan Holdsworth. And they’d be the first ones to say ‘Yeah, Holdsworth is the man.’ I mean, King Edward [Eddie Van Halen], that was his guy as well.”

“The ‘I.O.U.’ record… I’m just saying for somebody who’s like ‘I’ve never heard of him,’ check that out. That record, you can just hear out. And that will lead you to all the other records.”

Allan Holdsworth - The Things You See (When You Haven't Got Your Gun)

“It’s just so unique and just unusual. It’s very dissonant, but at the same time, very ear-pleasing and just eerie and mysterious. Just very unique, it really is. Scales and his note choices — it’s just pretty amazing.”

“I don’t think you’ll ever speak with one guitarist who isn’t blown away by Allan Holdsworth.”

Another important jazz guitar name to appear on the list was John McLaughlin. Although McLaughlin is known for his solo work, his various projects over the years, as well as his work with Miles Davis, Zakk reflected on Mahavishnu Orchestra. This band, in Zakk’s opinion, should find its way into your playlists. He explained:

“I guess John McLaughlin as well, from Mahavishnu Orchestra. If you ask a lot of guitar players, they listened to Mahavishnu Orchestra and stuff like that. That was like from ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72…”

“All musicians in that band are just mind-blowing. A lot of metal guys listen to fusion just because… Eventually, you find yourself there because you’re always trying to improve on the instrument. So you’re listening to better and better and better and better musicians. Which always leads you to all these guys I’m talking about.”

“The first album, ‘The Inner Mounting Flame’… If somebody’s like ‘I’ve never heard of John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra’ — that was the first album that they did. It’s just really eerie, very dissonant, dark, but just like uplifting at the same time. Just really, really insane writing. And just performances, obviously, from the guys.”

“And live albums, their live recordings, are ridiculous. It’s just everybody going insane.”

Mahavishnu Orchestra 8-23-1972

As of this moment, Zakk is taking some time off after wrapping up his tour with Black Label Society. After that, he’s back on the road with Pantera and it’s pretty much going to be a super-busy year for him. Apart from Pantera’s headlining shows, they’ll also be out there opening for Metallica. You can check out all the dates at this location.

In another relatively recent interview, Zakk looked back on how he’s approaching Pantera material all while managing to let his own style shine through. He explained:

“It’s inevitable I will end up sounding like me. If Dime was playing with Ozz and doing my stuff, it would sound like Dime playing the solo to ‘No More Tears‘ or ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home.‘ It would be Dime’s vibrato, Dime’s tone.“

Pantera Knotfest Chile - Cowboys from hell

“It would sound like him playing my stuff. Even if he did it note-for-note, it would sound like him because that’s his sound, you know what I mean?

“So yeah, we’re having a blast out there playing these songs. I’m just honored I get a chance to pay tribute to the brothers. It’s a pretty special thing that’s happening right now. I can’t say I have a favorite song or solo, though.“

“Just like when I’m playing with Ozz, I enjoy the whole thing. I love all of it and any of it, from the first note we play to the last note we play. It’s *all* awesome.”

During that same interview, Wylde also looked back on one of the most important guitar amplifiers of all time, Marshall’s legendary JCM800. He offered:

“The beautiful thing about JCM800s is that it’s such a simple circuit. There’s a good amount of overdrive, even more if you put a pedal in front.“

“If you want to clean it up, just turn the pedal off and roll the volume on your guitar down. It’s all good. There is no right or wrong way to do it. All it comes down to is whatever works best to get the tone you enjoy!”

Zakk Wylde rips amazing guitar solo over Andy James track, EMGtv

Later on in the interview, he also added:

“Every amp after the 800 is a derivative, to some extent. Those Marshall amps are like the wheel. The same goes for Les Pauls and Strats. Everything that came after is a variation or tweak on that, like a pair of Levi’s and a Fruit of the Loom t-shirt. The original is always simple and works for everyone!”

Photo: MorganaPhotolive (Black Label Society (26643606944)), Guy Evans (Tony Iommi HomeofMetal Fox 0659), Буньков Денис (John McLaughlin in the Mir Gitary festival (retouched 1))

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.