Zakk goes to jail… for a gig (part 2)


New member
HI THERE Poparazziacs,

As promised, here’s more from Zakk Wylde’s time in Singapore and his trip to Changi Prison.

1.30pm. After doing the Prime Time Morning interview and a lunch. We meet Zakk and climb into the van to head to Changi Prison. I’m wondering if the prison gig will belovelike Johnny Cash’s gig at Folsom Prison.loveAlong the way, I quiz him about his rather eventful 2009. (See the full interview in the next post).

1.55pm. We get to Changi Prison. We’re told to stay in the van as they have to get the equipment – two guitars, one amp, one pedalboard, one transformer – cleared by the prison guards first.

2.05pm. “Sorry Zakk, we have to take all the beer and water out of the van. They don’t allow anyone to bring liquids inside the prison.” At this point Zakk quickly takes two beers and downs them. I don’t actually see the point, seeing as they’re non-alcoholic beer. But it’s a hot day, he’s thirsty, who can blame him?

2.10pm. “Sorry Chris, you have to go to the Prison Link Centre.” I meet up with the rest of the journos already gathered there. We’re told we have to check in EVERYTHING – mobile phones, wallets, keys, squishy toys, everything. But what about my camera? Oh, that’s okay. What about my recorder? Oh, that’s okay. Okay, then. We have to wait while all the equipment is cleared before we’re allowed to go in.

2.30pm. Still waiting. How long does it take to check two guitars, one amp, one pedalboard and one transformer?

2.35pm. At least, I think so. Funny. Nobody in our group seems to be wearing any watches.

Somewhere between 2.45pm and 3pm. We’re finally given the okay to board the bus to take us in. We head to Cluster A, the nice name for a group of five “institutions”, A1 to A5, all chock-a-block with inmates (the nice name for prisoners).

It seems to take forever getting through all the scanners, body checks, double locked doors, et al. But we’re finally at the performance theatre, a place where there’s a fully functional stage, complete with musical instruments like a drumset, two electric guitars, two keyboards, a percussion set, one bass, one acoustic guitar, and some 40 inmates already seated there waiting for their guitar hero…

Just as we sit down, the announcement is made. “Please welcome, Zakk Wylde!” Applause from the 40 or so inmates there.

He does a long improv that included snippets of Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption, whom Zakk said was one of his heroes. (But heck, he could have played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and it still would have sounded awesome, I guess.)

Then it’s time for questions from the inmates.

Can you please share with us what made you the man you are today – one of the greatest guitar masters?

As far as music goes, playing with Ozzy. I started with him when I was 19, I’m 42 now. And obviously the music – it’s like sex, nobody doesn’t like music. I started when I was about 8, I just wanted to do normal things that kids do, and I be practising on the guitar. But I lasted about one summer, then I quit playing music. But when I was 14, I started to pick it up again. And I saw this guy, he had long hair, was drinking beer and playing guitar. And I thought, I want to be like him. I was playing in crappy bars in New Jersey and this guy saw me and said, “Hey did you ever think about playing for Ozzy?” He knew this guy called Mark Weiss, and he gave a tape of me to Ozzy’s wife Sharon. They flew me out to Los Angeles for an audition, I ended up crapping in my pants. But got the gig. Ozzy said, “Zakk, do me favour, play with your heart, but change your underwear – and don’t crap in your pants.” That’s how I got into it. It’s still the same thing now. So, drinking beer and playing guitar, that’s how I became the man I am today.

Just now you played Eruption. What other artiste do you have as influences?

Obviously Eddie Van Halen, you got to give it up for Eddie. Randy Rhoads was huge on me, still is. Obviously Jimi Hendrix. Frank Marino, Robin Trower, all the guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page… as I got more technical on guitar, I listened to Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, a flamenco guitar who’s just insane. I learned something from somebody, except from Mark.

You have taken me to dreamland, and I wish to play guitar like you. Can you tell me how to do it?

Lots of beer! Just kidding! It’s the same thing: A lot of practice. Always get started. Somebody better than you – you can learn from them, the basics anyway. Then it’s just a matter of practising over and over again. Just like bangin’ the old lady – over and over again. That’s what it’s all about: It’s just practice. The main thing is: Find somebody you know who can really play.

Zakk, thank you for coming to our little world here. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you and appreciate it. It’s pleasure having you here. On the outside, I don’t think I would get the chance to meet you in person, but in here, I get to see you live.

Is he going to ask a question? asks another inmate. Apparently not.

Everyday, I put in two hours of practice and I still suck. How many hours do you play a day?

I still jam everyday. It’s not the same as when I first started playing. That was 10, 12 hours a day. As soon I got home from school, loveI’d start practising, come down for a crap and a piss, then go back up to jam again. I’d fall asleep in school the next day. I’d take my guitar magazine and stick them into my books. Obviously being on the road, when I’m on the tour bus, I’ll take a guitar and practice while watching sports or something. If you really want to do it, you’ll find some way to do it, just like anything else.

Why did you choose to use Gibsons?

I think Fender makes great guitars and Jackson too, but I’ve always wanted a Les Paul ever since seeing pictures of Jimmy Page and Randy Rhoads. That was the goal when I was a kid. They sound great, they look cool. You can’t beat that. But this guitar right here that they made for me, the Epiphone Graveyard Disciple plays like a killer too.

Then the inmates get Zakk to play another tune. It’s a haunting song that leaves all the inmates with a look of pure admiration and joy on their faces. When he finishes, the cheers and applause say it all. He agrees to take pictures with the group, and they file out. But not before we get one of them, 39-year-old Malmsteen (not his real name) to talk to us:

Of course I enjoyed his performance. When they told me he was coming about two weeks ago, my jaw dropped. Because I wouldn’t be able to see him outside, but here in prison, I not only get to see him, but also get to shake his hand and take a photograph with him.

Most of them are guitar fans. We enjoyed it very much. We really appreciate him coming here and inspiring us with the music. Music is an international language that all people can excel in.

Here, I’m learning classical guitar here from Alex Abishgenaden. I used to play guitar when I was outside. If I have the opportunity to do something with music when I get out, why not? I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 12. I’m now in the Peforming Arts Training Centre, PATC, maybe if I’m good enough, I can transfer to the Peforming Arts Centre (PAC), they are permanently based here.

More shows like this? Yes, of course, why not? Any artiste can come, jazz or classical. But I’d like to see another rock guitarist – Mr Yngwie Malmsteen.

Then it’s time to go shoot some scenes of Zakk and the prison surroundings. But first, we’re once again subjected to checks, etc, before we can leave the building.

Once outside, we start shooting Zakk at the prison wall. Only about two hundred metres of the original Changi Prison wall still exist, the rest have already been torn down. We don’t take too long because it’s hot. “Did somebody turn the furnace up?” asks Mark Ferguson, Zakk’s tour manager. No, Mark, haha! It’s always oven hot in Singapore! What a kidder! Still, we beat a hasty retreat to the aircon cooled van.


Tour manager Mark Ferguson (left) and Zakk outside the old Changi Prison entrance

Then it’s time to change our passes and leave. But not before the prison official reminds us, “Hey, can you not publish the pictures with the inmates’ face and the guards’ faces in them? It’s for security reasons,” he says. To confirm, he scans through the pictures and marks those for deletion. And we’re off back to the hotel. On the way back, FHM quizzes him for their story. I zone out until I hear, “I’d like to be featured with a whole bunch of Barbie dolls on the cover. And I’d be like making out. And I could be like Ken, except that I want to have genitalia.”

Right. Thanks, Zakk. As Vinny Jones said in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, it’s been emotional.


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