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BLS "Evil Twin" Nick Catanese Drops In Before Hitting the Road

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Friday, June 2, 2006 @ 4:00 PM

"It's all in the hands, heart

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Pittsburgh's pride and glory, Nick Catanese is one of the most respected guitarists in metal today. With a guitar style that is reminiscent of his boss Zakk Wylde, and late guitar hero Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Catanese plays with a passion and fury, adding a very special heavy ambiance to the skull crushing guitar riffs that have become Black Label Society's trademark.

As Black Label Society gets ready to embark on summer concert tour, I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Nick on the upcoming BLS Tour, the new album “Shot to Hell”, guitar techniques, and what Zakk Wylde has taught him as a musician.

KNAC.COM:: When we last spoke in January, you just finished a long year of touring wtih Black Label Society. Now you're getting ready to hit the road again for the summer.

CATANESE: I can't wait, finally being on the B stage where all the fans who want to be there can jam with us, instead of being in the fucking lawn, I'm pumped.

KNAC.COM:: One good thing about headlining the second stage will be that Black Label Society will get to perform a longer set. Will the set list include songs from from early BLS and range to Mafia?

CATANESE: It's going to be a wide range; we will surprise people by some songs we whip out.

KNAC.COM:: Are you looking forward to your homecoming gig in Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Pavilion on July 18 and performing in front of all of your family and friends?

CATANESE: Yes and no, it is bittersweet you know ? You get to see your Mom and Dad and friends, sleep in your own bed for a night then back in the bus bunk you go. So I kind of do and I don’t, but Pittsburgh never fails to kick ass for me.

KNAC.COM:: If anyone has ever seen Black Label Society perform in concert, they know that the energy level is full speed ahead no slowing down. You are such an active performer onstage. How do you keep your energy level up, during a performance? Do you lift weights, or work out a lot ?

CATANESE: I do cardio. I have been on a heavy weight training program for this year, getting older is a bitch. You got to keep that stamina up, so I can do what I do and that's have fun with the fans.

KNAC.COM:: Is it hard to wind down after such an extensive workout onstage?

CATANESE: Totally, you got to chill. I am kind of like the hotel hermit. I don't go to clubs and shit afterwards. I gotta relax, watch a movie, answer emails, and just get my mind back.

KNAC.COM:: Let's talk about your style of guitar playing. How do you match the different guitar tones between you and Zakk? Is it hard to match the pinch harmonics?

CATANESE: Zakk and I have been matched together I think. When I was 16, I used to learn every Zakk lick and song until I nailed it, and that's how I got those harmonics. Now it paid off. We have a blast jamming together. I wouldn't have it any other way...he's Keith and I'm Ronnie.

KNAC.COM:: One of the most interesting aspects about "Mafia" was all the different guitar styles and whammy bar effects. How did you approach the crafting of the different guitar styles and make the riffs sound so full, when doubling with Zakk in concert?

CATANESE: When we are in rehearsals we go through all the parts and decide what sounds the best, and for him to be singing and playing I'll do a lot off the effects, like the slide part in "Forever Down”, or the effect in "World of Trouble”, it's all just trial and error.

KNAC.COM:: What was it like appearing in the June Issue of the Guitar Player Magazine?

CATANESE: Surreal. To be part of an article with Zakk is something I never thought would happen, and I am just stunned by it. All the adds and stuff from Washburn and EMG and Tone Pros...I am shocked every time I see myself; it's always weird.

KNAC.COM:: What do you think makes a great guitar player? Is it more important to have speed, technique, or the ability just to develop a style that is unique and full of passion?

CATANESE: You got to have heart. That's your power right there, and you have to love to play. Yes, passion for the guitar. Speed and all of that isn't important. You can listen to "Comfortably Numb" and David Gilmore can raise your fur and he isn't playing fast, it's all heart and balls. Stevie Ray: same deal. That fucker could say more in one note then we all could in 100. But speed and all of that is fun, it's cool to test yourself and people dig it and to have the ability to do both is good.

KNAC.COM:: After the tour wraps up in August, BLS was scheduled to head out on the European Tour? Did the that tour get postponed to 2007?

CATANESE: Yes. We are doing Australia and New Zealand, then coming back to the States for more shows I think, nothing is for sure yet.

KNAC.COM:: Do you know if the new BLS DVD, "The European Invasion - Doom Troopin" will be released on June 27?

CATANESE: That's all up to the upper power; I just get it when I get it.

KNAC.COM:: How is the European Metal scene? I hear the metal festivals are amazing.

CATANESE: They are huge, tons of people, sitting all day. It's amazing. Every band, they just go off and have a fucking riot.

KNAC.COM:: What was it like filming the "Boozed, Broozed and, Broken Boned " DVD? Were their any special overdubs?

CATANESE: There were no overdubs, what you hear is what were in the video truck, some mess ups but hey that's what makes it a live DVD, nobody is perfect. But we really were shocked at how cool it came out. They did a great job filming and taping it.

KNAC.COM:: Nick, Congratulations on the recent signing of Black Label Society to Roadrunner Records. Tell me about the new BLS album,” Shot To Hell." Will it follow in the heavy "Mafia" vein or will be have traces of early BLS roots?

CATANESE: "Shot to Hell" is a mixture of both, "Mafia" and "Book of Shadows" great heavy stuff and wicked melodic songs with so much heart. Zakk just blows my mind with his creativity. He is a song machine. People will dig it.

KNAC.COM:: Now the release date for "Shot to Hell” was slated for July 3, but I heard it bot pushed to September. Is that correct?

CATANESE: I think so, there is some great stuff going on and trust me it's going be worth the wait.

KNAC.COM:: What has been your favorite Black Label Society Tour so far?

CATANESE: Every one of them is special in its own way, we bond more and more as a unit. It's one big unstoppable force. That will continue for a long time.

KNAC.COM:: This year Zakk will be performing double duty playing guitar BLS and wtih Ozzy. That's going to be fun.

CATANESE: I always love watching Zakk play with Ozzy; it takes me back to when I was watching him and he was 19 and I was16. He just shines, when he is jamming those tunes, and nailing every Randy lick. Zakk is the king, I’m most proud to be in the whole mix.

KNAC.COM:: Last year you got to see a lot of Black Sabbath. Are you a big Tony Iommi fan? What is your favorite Black Sabbath song?

CATANESE: My God, I couldn't be a guitar player without loving Tony. Without him we wouldn't exist. He wrote the heaviest songs ever. My favorite is "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or "Into the Void”.

KNAC.COM:: Do you remember the first time you met Ozzy?

CATANESE: Oh yeah, that's a memory that doesn't go away. I came on our bus from catering, and I opened the curtain and there was Ozzy and Zakk talking about the "Down To Earth" CD. Zakk introduced me and Ozzy stood up looked me in the eye and shook my hand and said “I’m Ozzy and it's great to meet you." I'm like, here is a guy that took the time to stand up and shake my hand, every rock star should take his role and be more human to their fans. If Ozzy doesn't have an ego, NOBODY should.

KNAC.COM:: What have you learned from performing with Zakk?

CATANESE: He has been my “Jedi "master I have learned so much from him. Like Zakk says “If you surround yourself with greatness, you will be great." I am far from great but let me tell ya, I have come a long way since '96. Love ya boss

KNAC.COM:: After you auditioned for Zakk in 1996 for the "Book of Shadows" Tour, do you remember the first thing he said to you and do you remember your audition song?

CATANESE: There really wasn't an audition. He flew to Pittsburgh, and we jammed in his hotel, I think the first song was “Found What You Were Looking For" or "Sold My Soul". But I was freaking! So nervous. But he made you feel like you have known him for years. And here we are almost 10 years later.

KNAC.COM:: How often do you practice to maintain your stellar guitar technique?

CATANESE: Well thanks for calling it stellar, but I just play when I get the urge, which is everyday, but sometimes for 10 minutes, some days an hour or more, just play when the right mood hits ya.

KNAC.COM:: Early BLS had a real injection of southern rock. How has BLS evolved musically since the early days of "Book of Shadows?

CATANESE: Well since '96 BLS has evolved a lot, and the southern style has gone a little less. It's more straight ahead rock but a great song is a great song no matter what.

KNAC.COM:: Your Signature Washburn ET guitar has a really bright sound that is skull crushing. What special features were you looking for when you designed the guitar?

CATANESE: I wanted to build a guitar that had the feel of a Les Paul but it was more ballsy. I didn't know if that could be done but Washburn did a great job. Every person that picks it up loves it (thank God), it plays like a Paul, it weighs like 12 to 13 pounds it's just a weapon.

KNAC.COM:: What special gear do you use onstage?

CATANESE: Nothing special, me and Zakk use the same gear, it's all in the hands and heart and balls. No effect can match those 3.

KNAC.COM:: When you first picked up the guitar, was their anyone in particular, a guitar hero, that you learned every single note to every single song?

CATANESE: Eddie Van Halen changed my life when I heard "Eruption", but a lot of players influenced me: Zakk, Randy, Keith Richards, John Sykes, Tony Iommi, Dimebag, the list goes on.

KNAC.COM:: Any bands that you enjoy listening to today?

CATANESE: New stuff: Rebel Meets Rebel hasn't left my cd player yet. I listen to a lot of shit from Damageplan to Jerry Reed, Johnny Cash, Kiss, VH, tons of stuff.

KNAC.COM:: Nick, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this very special interview for KNAC.COM. Is their anything else that you would like to say to the BLS Chapters across the country?

CATANESE: I can't wait to see all of you Berserkers this summer come at us full force 'cause we are coming at you with everything we got!! SDMF, GETCHA PULL.

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