Subject – Black Label Society – Shot To Hell – a 2006 release on Roadrunner Records, with cover photography by Neil Zlozower
A band formed in 1999 by (at the time) former Ozzy Osbourne lead axeslinger and heavy metal guitar god Zakk Wylde, Black Label Society was, initially, a 2-man operation (including drummer Phil Ondich), with ZW playing all the other instruments. After a tour, another album and then a Second Stage slot on the Ozzfest tour in 2000, Wylde rejoined Ozzy’s band and has played in two bands ever since (sometimes, playing with both bands on the same day at Ozzfest).
Since that time, BLS has released new CDs and DVDs nearly every year that showcase Wylde’s songwriting abilities and musicianship, including the platinum-selling DVD Boozed, Broozed and Broken Boned, ultimately moving from Spitfire Records to metal powerhouse Roadrunner Records, who released 2006’s Shot To Hell, which featured a cover photograph that was either hilarious or sacrilegious, depending on your upbringing. Zakk’s long-time friend and member of the ZW inner circle Neil Zlozower was his co-conspirator responsible for the shot.
Beginning his career as a glorified fan, photographer Neil Zlozower (aka “Zloz”) spent as much time as possible in Hollywood record shops and concerts – bringing with him a Honeywell Pentax camera that he and his father bought in an East L.A. pawn shop and using phony backstage passes (“they didn’t have the big, fat bouncers then, so you could just buy cheap seats and walk to the front and sit there all night and shoot photos just for fun.”) – Zloz began his career as a photographer selling these photos at a record shop across from his high school, splitting the $1 he charged with the shop (he got 60%) and selling 60 photos his first month.
Since then, Zloz has gone on to become one of the most sought-after photographers in the business. He began working with Black Label Society lead guitarist Zakk Wylde when he first joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band in the late 1980’s and has photographed him ever since. He says that he’s honestly never met anyone in his life quite like Zakk, and so when he was approached to shoot the soon-to-be-controversial cover for BLS’s 2006 release Shot To Hell, he knew that he’d be in for quite a ride, as he details for us today in our latest “Cover Story”…
In the words of the photographer, Neil Zlozower (interviewed August 2007) –
“I first worked closely with Zakk alone when I was working on a photo shoot for Guitar World magazine in 1990 and had him over to my studio in Hollywood. Although he looks like he’s a die-hard bar-brawler dude, he is actually the nicest person in the world. Everybody loves Zakk – he’s the most honest guy there is – no lies or other B.S. (However, he does not seem to have any concept of time – he’ll just pick up the phone and call his friends whenever he feels like talking to you.)
One day, Zakk came to me with an idea for the cover of his new album Shot To Hell – something about nuns playing pool with the BLS logo-skull on the 8-ball – and we discussed it over some oysters and beer. Five or six months later, his wife Barbara called me and said that they wanted to go ahead with it. Now, since I’m the ‘executioner’ – the one that needs to take a client’s idea and make it happen – I wanted to better understand what he was looking for.
Zakk suggested that we get a bunch of really old women and dress them up in nun’s habits and have them play pool. I told him that I didn’t think that really old people would be able to handle a pool cue the right way, so we should get some 50-60-year-olds and a good make-up artist and do it that way.
The label had no say in the matter – they don’t know what looks good – and so we asked Zakk’s right-hand man ‘RA’ (Rob Arvizu), who also happens to be an artist and photographer, to be one of the judges as to whether we pulled it off or not. The next job was to find the right people for the cover shot.
We held a ‘cattle call’ for actors at my studio in Hollywood and about 20 older ladies and gentlemen showed up. We handed them a pool cue and asked them to make a bunch of different faces while I took photos of them. From this group, we selected the people we’d use and then Zakk and RA went to find the location we’d shoot at.
About a month later, we scheduled a full-day shoot at a bar off of the 14 Freeway in Santa Clarita (CA) called ‘The Rendezvous’ – this was a favorite place of Zakk/RA’s near where they both lived. We got there early to set the place up and then get the actors made up – which took a long time, from morning until about 3pm, and then we spent the rest of the day/night shooting (pictures and pool).
Besides the pool-playing final shot, we set up a lot of different scenes – nuns with shotguns, nuns drinking and carousing with guys made up as The Devil, nuns with really bad teeth smoking cigars, and drinking/smoking nuns playing cards. We took a lot of these images and used some of them in the fold-out booklet in the CD package. It was a very long day, but I think that we ended up with just the right shot for the cover.
You know, I’d been shooting Ozzy’s performances live in concert for magazines since Black Sabbath, so after Zakk joined Ozzy’s band in 1988, little did I know that eight years later, I’d have such a friend in him that I decided to name my own son Zak (only one ‘k’)!”
About the photographer, Neil Zlozower –
A fixture in the rock n’ roll photography business for more than 37 years, photographer Neil Zlozower has watched more than his fair share of rising stars from behind the camera.
Spending “quality time” with the likes of Whitesnake, Poison, Dokken, Motley Crue, Ratt, Gangstar, Extreme and Van Halen – as they made their way to the top of the charts – “Zloz” got to know the behind-the-music business of rock long before VH1. He is now one of rock’s most prolific photographers, with his work appearing in countless magazines and on the album covers of major artists including Alice Cooper, Slipknot, Nickelback, Eric Burdon, Steve Vai, Paul Stanley, and many others.
As part of Van Halen’s entourage, Zloz toured America with the band, becoming their primary photographer. He was their friend who had the intimate access to the band that no one else had. Whether on the stage of a football stadium, poolside at a Holiday Inn or at Diamond Dave’s dad’s house, Neil and his camera were there, and in everyone’s face..
Obviously, being a rock n’ roll photographer keeps him busy, but being “Zloz” is a full-time job. He shoots who he digs, so working with Zloz is not just working with a pro, it’s an official rock n’ roll endorsement. In his own way, he’s become as much of a Hollywood legend as the bands he’s worked with.
New Book Info – Internationally renowned independent publisher Chronicle Books, based in San Francisco, is pleased to announce the November 26, 2007 release of Van Halen: A Visual History.
Van Halen has sold 56 million records in the U.S. and 75 million worldwide. All eleven of their albums have broken the Billboard top 20, and four have hit number one. The band was among the top best-selling artists of all time and in 2007 Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band recently announced they were reuniting with the group’s original singer David Lee Roth for their first tour together in 20 years. To coincide with the tour, Chronicle Books is publishing the very first photo retrospective of the band, as seen through the lens of photographer Neil Zlozower.
From 1978 to 1984, rock photographer Neil Zlozower was the “fifth member of Van Halen”, touring, partying with, and capturing images of the band during the David Lee Roth era, a time when the band was at the height of its powers. His photos capture the all-out, spandexed, high-kicking, high energy, blazing glory and backstage antics of the band as they became legends, and helped solidify their image as the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll party band. This visual history collects more than 250 live, session, candid, and backstage photos from Zlozower’s behind-the-scenes perspective, along with testimony from the rock pantheon paying homage to the band, including members of Led Zeppelin, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, KISS, Mötley Crüe, Slipknot, and many more. The book also includes an exclusive peek inside the band with a foreword by legendary frontman David Lee Roth.
Van Halen: A Visual History – Available 11/26/07 – Hardcover * $35 * 232 pp * 260 color images * ISBN 0-8118-6304-9 * November
To pre-order an AUTOGRAPHED copy of the book, please visit – http://www.zloz.com/vhbook.htm
For more information about this and other Chronicle Books, visit www.chroniclebooks.com.
To see more of Zloz’s work, please visit his website at http://www.zloz.com
About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.
Every Friday and syndicated the following week on The Rock and Roll Report, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.
We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.