"Don't worry about what other bands are doing or what anybody else is doing."
Zakk Wylde discussed what he sees as the proper approach to learning the guitar, explaining to Nikki Sixx (transcribed by UG):
"People ask me, 'Hey Zakk, do you have an advice for my son or daughter, they're going to MI?' or whatever.
"I go, 'Whatever it is you love, that moves you' - if some kid is like, 'Oh I love early Metallica, I love Dimebag,' I'll go, 'That's what's your band should sound like. You should be able to open for them. Those are the bands that move you yet you're doing this kind of music.'
"It's like if we said to Rich Robinson [The Black Crowes], 'Hey it sounds like Humble Pie, Stones...' Rich would go, 'Yeah, that's what I'm on a steady diet of and that's like that.'
"The Stones, back in the early days - 'Wow, you guys must be into blues bands and stuff like that,' Keith would have said, 'Yeah, I like Chuck Berry.'
"All the bands that we love, whether it's Zeppelin and Sabbath, Aerosmith... They weren't worried what's going on on the charts, not worried about what's 'in' and what's not.
"If that's the case, you're always a day late and a dollar short anyways. When Bon Jovi was the hugest thing management would have been telling Guns N' Roses, 'You guys need to be more like Bon Jovi.'
"And they're already doing their thing and it's like, 'We're never gonna make it unless we start doing Bon Jovi kind of stuff.' Then all of the sudden Guns do their thing and the next thing you know you have Soundgarden and Alice [in Chains] and all these guys.
"And then when the grunge thing is huge they're telling all the Green Day guys, 'You need to be more like the grunge guys.' There's always this movement going on for a while before it ever hits anyways. So if you're catching up when it's already big...
"Don't worry about what other bands are doing or what anybody else is doing. You might check and hear, 'Wow, that's cool.' Whatever it is that you like is what you should be doing."
"The learning thing never ends. Ever. When I first started with the boss [Ozzy], I was playing classical guitar at the time because of Randy [Rhoads] and stuff like that.
"Then when I got the gig with the bos,s it's already bad that I have a Les Paul and blonde hair. I'm not doing a classical thing, that's what Randy's whole thing was.
"So I remember seeing a country video with Albert Lee playing and just the sound of flat pickers - and now you have chicken picking and everything - the sound of it and the whole technique looked so interesting.
"And I just bought the tape and started copying the licks. If it's something that moves you and you wanna learn it, you can learn it.
"Me and some of my other buddies, we were talking about blues, like Jared James Nichols and Tyler Bryant - they're young guys and they love blues which is awesome because they're younger cats. It's in them, they consume it and it's in their DNA.
"But the whole thing is - you can introduce music to a kid and if he doesn't like it you can't force someone to like it. 'Here's a Hendrix thing or a Stevie Ray Vaughan thing' and he'll go, 'But i like the Sex Pistols and I like The Clash.'
"I remember Johnny Winter said, 'I completely respect classical musicians and classical guitar players, they're phenomenal. But the only thing that moves me is blues.'
"He's like 'Why am I gonna spend 8 hours, 12 hours a day learning classical guitar if it doesn't do anything to me?' He said, 'I can understand incorporating it or learning new but I'd rather learn jazz or something similar.'"
Asked on what his first riffs were, Zakk replied:
"Obviously, when you're learning the first ones would have to be... *plays 'Iron Man' riff on the 6th string* Because you can play it with one finger. [Laughs] Or... *plays 'Smoke on the Water' on the 6th string* There would just be your favorite bands and riffs and songs like that.
"But as far as breakthroughs go I remember my guitar teacher showing me 'Back in Black.' I could play the chords but a lick - that was like a major breakthrough when I learned that."