With Vocalist Chad Gray and Drummer Vinnie Paul
Interview By Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
Photography by Michelle Murphy
When it comes to rock n roll hotels, the Sanctum in Soho is right up there, and as such it’s roof terrace bar seems like a natural place to meet two of metal’s brothers-in-arms Chad Gray (Mudvayne) and Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Damageplan). Such introduction’s are clearly unnecessary, but today talk is of heavy metal supergroup Hellyeah and the new album Band of Brothers, which by all accounts is ‘the record that people expected of us from the start’. As we talk the album, touring, the end of the world, and seriously expensive drinks, with these two it can only be the real deal..
First of all Vinnie congratulations on your award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods!
Vinnie Paul (VP) – Thank you very much – you know I’d say it was a surprise to me you know? There’s so many great drummers in this genre and it’s a true honour, I really appreciate it. That was awesome. Also I was very honoured to give the Dimebag Darrell Shredder award to Devin Townsend who really deserved it, that was awesome.
That’s kind of quite a nice platform, or plaudit to have now you’re going forward with the new album – how are you feeling about the finished article?
VP – Fuckin’ love it!
Chad Gray (CG) – We’re all over it.
VP – I think it’s without a doubt the best Hellyeah record we’ve made, we’ve had an opportunity to grow as a band and grow as people, and I think we’ve learnt a lot from all the experiences that we’ve had together. You know with the first two records they were really experimental in a way for us to step away from what we’d done with our other bands and really branch out and do some stuff musically that we hadn’t done – you know there’s no way we could have done a song like ‘Alcohaulin’ Ass’ in Pantera or Mudvayne. A lot of the songs that we did, we covered some almost country in that, some southern rock, some blues, some straight up rock, and there was some metal mixed in there, but it was really an opportunity for us to deviate from that, you know?
With this record we just decided that’s out of our system, that was fine, but let’s get back to our fucking roots and let’s make a fucking metal record – let’s bring all the elements that we put into each one of our individual bands and put them into Hellyeah and see what happens! It’s probably the record that people expected of us from the start, but we really needed to get the other things out of our system to get to this point.
CG – I was all wound up in having to split time doing Hellyeah, then Mudvayne, Hellyeah, Mudvayne, and it’s now that’s on hiatus and I put all my eggs in the Hellyeah basket, and you know feel like liberated, almost unchained you know? I wanted to make a record with my favourite drummer and have him bring to the table what I know he’s capable of doing, and bring that sound back – like Vinnie said individually bring to the table what you created before – I want it all! I want the drum sound, the player, and he fucking nailed it!
Hellyeah’s always been a bit more light-hearted kind of stuff, there’s metal moments kind of peppered through the records and stuff like that, but for me like Mudvayne is kind of like deeper lyrically and emotionally than Hellyeah, and I felt like I wanted to bring that to the table to Hellyeah too. You know dissonant darker harmonies and heavier lyrics, and you know – without that aggression and that attitude like what we are, we’re metalheads, we have been forever, and because of what we’re into we’re the underdog. We’re automatically the fucking underdog because of what we like and don’t fucking mess with the underdog – you know what I mean? Because if you put our back against the wall we’re going to come out swinging! That’s the aggression and the attitude that we wanted with the new Hellyeah record, it’s like you know, it’s time!
When they announced in 2006 that Vinnie Paul from Pantera, and Chad Gray from Mudvayne, and Greg Tribbett from Mudvayne, and Tom Maxwell from Nothingface, and Bob Zilla from Damageplan were putting a band together – this is the record that everybody was probably waiting to hear. But because of keeping Mudvayne separate from Hellyeah, you know what I mean – I don’t want them to both sound the same – so we were like just fuck it let’s do stuff that we’ve never done before. I’ve never written songs about fucking strippers, and alcohaulin’ ass and shit like that, so fuck it let’s have fun with it, and not worry about it. When we started we just wanted to be the biggest garage band in our garage, we didn’t care, we wanted to get back to music. Vinnie had his own trials and shit obviously in his past bands and stuff, and I was going through the same kind of thing – you start to lose focus and lose touch with why you even play music. It’s not about this, it’s about this, fucking heart, and a brotherhood you know?
So in terms of how things have moved on compared to your other albums, it’s almost a melting point of all those past projects and influences coming together in one album now?
CG – Yep
VP – Awesome one
As you mentioned the brotherhood, what’s the thinking behind the album title Band Of Brothers?
CG – It started like I said, obviously we’re a band of brothers, three records, we’re metalheads, we’re underdogs – yes we always look to ourselves as underdogs – I like that attitude. I like feeling like that, I like it when people look at me that way, it drives you. I think that we embrace each other, we trust each other, we love each other and stuff, and love playing music together, and it’s us against the world – that’s our attitude.
Would it be fair to say that that sort of feeling extends to your fans as well – that sort of we’re all in it together, band of brothers thing?
VP – They are part of the band of brothers.
CG – Yeah it’s not about the five of us, it’s about anybody that’s in front of us that wants to share the fucking energy. Music isn’t just music, it’s fucking therapy – I need it! If I didn’t have music in my life and I couldn’t be aggressive in that, I’d probably be in fucking prison, because this thing *indicates head* is a fucking mess half the time! *laughs*
It’s through life experience and memory you stack bricks up inside yourself, you have different bags of bricks inside of you – music let’s me fucking set down bags of bricks and walk away from them, get it off my chest and exercise the demons. People need that. Everybody, generally people that are into metal, it’s something we all share, we stack bricks up inside ourselves so being who we are, I feel like we help people relieve tension, angst and anger.
VP – It helps us you know.
CG – It definitely helps us, but we love that energy, that oneness of an audience and us. We come out on stage everyone goes yeaahhhhh – you just lit a fire under my ass! You know what I mean here we go, count it off Vin, and we’re moving. At the end of that song, yeaaahhhhh – you know what you just threw another fucking log on the fire. End of another song – yeahhhhhh – you just threw gas on the fire. *laughs* It’s that energy circumvents between an audience and a band, and I hate the band/fan reference – anybody that’s in front of me I’m touching on some level, therefore we are family. I’m not above you, and he’s not above you, the only thing that separates our head and our heart is three feet of fucking stage. We’re the same people man – we’re just two guys with a cool ass job! *laughs*
VP – It don’t suck! *laughs*
CG – It’s kind of sad, and awesome at the same time, but I’m the same fucking person I’ve been since I was fucking 18 years old.
VP – I don’t think there’s any reason to be sad – I’m a 17 year old kid for life! *laughs* Been married to my music from day one, and I think all of us have the same kind of mentality and energy. I think the only thing that we gained from growing older is just being wiser, and that’s really about it you know.
And then having some of those experiences to write about?
CG – Absolutely!
To stoke that fire – which is what the new album is going to do – hopefully light a big-ass fire!
VP – We think so!
CG – Everybody seems to be really receptive of what they’ve heard and it’s exciting, it’s really exciting. I think there’s been an anticipation, people kind of waiting like when is that record that the guy from Mudvayne and the guy from Pantera – when is that record coming. So here you go!
In bringing your other influences in though, are you completely losing that party vibe, or are we still going to be able to have fun with the album?
CG – There’s a song on the record called Drink, Drank, Drunk – it’s a party song, but it’s heavy. It’s a heavier song, but the lyrics to the chorus are ‘Let’s get fucked up till we fall down, everybody get drink, drank, drunk right now’ – you know what I mean that’s Hellyeah!
This is your first release with the new label, Eleven Seven, how has that dynamic changed?
VP – It’s changed a lot you know it’s awesome. The first record was on Sony and they did a pretty decent job with it in the US, and Australia – we nearly got a gold record, which in this day and age is near impossible – we did 450,000 units or something in the US. But they fucking didn’t do anything for it over here! There were two people who worked in the Sony office, we came over and played Download, neither one of them showed up to even see us, and they basically just said that all they’re interested in is doing rap and fucking country music, they’d pretty much given up on rock n roll at that label. Fortunately for us it was a sort lived deal and we were done with that.
Our second record we did with another label that we felt like were going to be passionate about it, but there was some management problems and they didn’t really do much with it either, so we had a great tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Stonesour we really laid some awesome groundwork, people came to the shows and they got their early and they loved the band, but they couldn’t buy our records because it wasn’t in the stores. So they might have had a memory of us for a minute, but this time you know Eleven Seven, and also our manager Alan, really believes in the band and are passionate about it and into it, so we feel really confident and comfortable with what’s going on and really do think that this record will get some attention over here, especially with you guys – we’ve done so much press and you guys are so important to what goes on over here and we plan on coming back and playing this fall. We haven’t got anything set in stone, there are several things in the works, but we’re definitely going to come over here and tour and we definitely think the kind of music we make can be very successful and strong in Europe.
CG – It’s awesome too if we touch on the Eleven Seven thing or whatever, to go to a guy and be like ‘we’re writing a heavy record’, and have him go ‘ok, I think you should’ – it’s like ‘wow, really? Ok’.
VP – They’re always asking where’s the hits.
CG – It’s relentless with fucking ‘you got anything to go to radio? I don’t know maybe you guys need to go back in and write some more’ – fuck that shit! We don’t do that man, we write from here *indicates heart*, we write what we want to write and when it starts it starts, when it ends it ends, when we’re done we’re done , that’s it – don’t tell me to go fucking back in there!
People are used to things in metal that come from the heart, there’s too much manufactured stuff out there and people pulling puppet strings, so they know when something’s not authentic and they’re not going to buy into it!
CG – Nobody wants to follow a liar – if you’re honest that’s the first step to actually touching people. Wearing your heart on your sleeve and writing what you feel, and writing it strategically open-ended enough to where people can take it and make it applicable to their own life. I’m not on a soap-box, don’t want to preach to people and tell them this is what I mean, and this is how you gotta feel when you listen to this – just maybe sparking something in your brain and making you think about something, and maybe helping you get through it, or over it, or making you feel powerful, making you feel strong, and this record – the theme of it is never get complacent, fuck complacency, complacence kills creativity.
It’s about taking your life back, if you’re in a spot in your life that you don’t want to be in, man up and make a change, take control of your existence, you only live once, and that’s kind of the theme behind the record. If I can’t believe, if I can’t put my faith in you, see you, take it easy, I know other people, it’s all good.
I’m quite excited to hear about the plans to hopefully come over here to the UK, obviously you’ve got the US tour coming up, so we’d really like to see you come further afield.
VP – It’s going to happen for sure, no doubt about that, it’s just getting the right package and right opportunities, and they’re starting to line-up.
CG – Even if nothing happens with anybody else, then hell or high water we’re coming over here, even if we have to come over and play headlining to 200 people, fucking whatever, we don’t care we’ll do it.
We’ll hold you to that! In terms of the US tour, is the new album going to get quite a good airing?
VP – Oh yeah, you know we want the music to be presented properly, we don’t want it to be on somebody’s ‘check this out the new Hellyeah song I just videotaped it last night’ and they turn it on and it goes chkrrrrrrrrr, we don’t want it to do that so we haven’t played the new songs live except the only track that was released to MetalRadio which was ‘War and Me’, and that fucking song slamming live, and people have just been going fucking crazy over it. So we’re going to start working them in, and after July 17th we’re going to bring a lot of them to the table but we want them to get the real impact of what the songs are all about rather than getting the shitty fucking cellphone version that goes around right out of the set you know?
That is one of the problems today with so many people putting stuff straight on Youtube!
CG – It’s funny when you’re like running around on stage and going for it, and I look down and there’s someone going *mimes holding a cameraphone* and I’m like you’re here! You’re fucking here right now, so what are you going to take a shitty recording of us so you can go home and watch it tomorrow? *laughs* Who fucking cares when you’re here right now!
VP – The audio is crystal clear, and the bass is so loud it’s shaking your balls…
CG – What’s your problem?
VP – Are you dead? So whatever you know! *laughs*
CG – *laughs* embrace the moment for God’s sake, what you need a fucking keepsake? Let it go dude, enjoy what’s going on but you see them all over the fucking venue.
VP – There’s a cellphone app that looks like a lighter and they hold them up – that’s a good one.
CG – Light your cellphone lighters *laughs*
VP – That’s a good one, cellphone lighter. *laughs*
CG – I think you actually flick the screen and it flicks the wheel and lights the Zippo.
Maybe not quite as good as the actual thing…
VP – Yeah, yeah you know, but it’s – the cool thing is they don’t let a lot of smoking in most venues anymore so that’s even better *laughs*
True! So aside from the new album, has anything else been going on in the Hellyeah camp?
VP – The record is obviously the most important thing and we shot some videos for the record, with an amazing producer and director. We’re dying to see the second one, because it’s got all kind of crazy treatment shit going on with it.
CG – Have you seen Juular, Devin Townsend? David Brodsky – he did that, he did our videos. I saw fucking Juular, and I’m like who is this kid, I want this kid. It took him three months of post to make that, he did a lot of work on that thing, he’s a great guy.
VP – Cool guy.
CG – It’s going to be interesting to see what happens you know. ‘Band Of Brothers’ was kind of a more straight performance video, this is like green-screened and more in the idea of like Juular you know – it’s going to be cool, a lot of post production and stuff so it’s going to be interesting for me when we read the treatments it’s like I don’t know man, I don’t know what to fucking expect.
VP – We just have to wait and see.
It’s quite cool that even you don’t know quite what it’s going to come out like yet, let alone anyone else!
CG – We know the broad spectrum idea, but it’s like is this going to translate, especially with that song as it’s such a fucking party anthem.
VP – Also in the Hellyeah world, we completed the record around January and we’ve been on tour since February already. We’ve been to Australia, we’ve been to Jakarta, which none of us have ever been to and it was awesome, we’ve been to Japan, and we already did one stint through the Us with a band called Clutch, it was an awesome tour, and we just got a small break and we’re over here doing all this press and we got to go to Download on Sunday which was awesome, but at the same time a little bit sad because we wanted to be playing.
We’ve played it many times, he played it a couple of times with Mudvayne, we did it twice with Hellyeah, I did it three times with Pantera and once with Damageplan so we have a lot of history with Download, and it was even Donington before that, so looking forward to doing that next year as we didn’t do it this year. Great to see all our friends and all the bands, and to get the press run really started off right, and then to go to the Golden Gods thing was a true honour, just a fucking blast, and then we’ve just been spreading the word about what Hellyeah’s about and go back and do this tour with Volbeat, we plan on being on tour for the next year and a half, two years, however far this record takes us and then we’ll see what happens after that.
So in those two years not making too many other plans or anything on the horizon?
VP – Well the world’s supposed to come to the end, December or whatever it is
CG – Winter solstice.
VP – So might as well enjoy it whilst we can! *kisses fingers* Mother Earth goodbye!
CG – What’s going to happen is, we’re going to fucking put this record out and it’s going to sell like fucking ten million copies and we’re going to make a shit-tonne of money and then the world’s gonna fucking end! *laughs*
VP – *laughs* God that would suck!
CG – Really? Really?
VP – I can tell you right now, if I was a betting man I’d bet every fucking thing in this world that I had that the world ain’t going to end in December, or whatever it is, and if it does I’m going down with everybody else! * laughs*
CG – *laughs* You’re not going to owe anybody anything if you don’t win!
VP – That’s a bet that you can’t lose!
CG – All you can really do is win! *laughs* I like this!
Nobody’s going to be paying out on that!
CG – What do the Mayans know?! I want you to keep in mind as well this touring stint he told you about – you’d think we would go from Dallas to Australia to Jakarta, Indonesia to Japan to Dallas. We went Dallas to Australia, Australia back to Dallas, we’re home for five/six days, Dallas to Jakarta, Indonesia
VP – Flew over Australia on the way.
CG – To Hong Kong, to Japan, back to Hong Kong, back to Dallas – we’re like on like Asian based airlines, they’re not built for dudes like me! They’re built for dudes who are like 5’5”, you know what I’m saying?
VP – Hey you wanna be a rockstar? It’s a lot harder than you thought it was going to be!
So you had a lot of time to kill on the planes then?
CG – Oh yeahhhh!
VP – That’s about all you can do apart from drink and pass out!
Well really then, just because I want to make you say it, what’s the one thing in the world guaranteed to make you say ‘Hellyeah’?!
CG – Wanna go to the tit bar? *laughs*
VP – Or do you want to get drunk? *laughs* Either of those ones, or do you wanna fucking jam? Those are probably three top things right there, everything else just gets a maybe… *laughs* But HELLYEAH! I want to go to the tit bar, let’s go!
CG – Hellyeah I want to get drunk… I don’t know about today though!
VP – Oh it’s on! *laughs* It can’t be the real deal unless it’s on!
CG – It’s the real deal! This guy was interviewing us the other day and saying ‘you guys have quite a reputation for drinking and partying and stuff like that’ – and I’m like ‘well…’ I started to answer it kind of proper like ‘well…’ and fucking Vinnie just pipes in ‘it’s the real deal, trust me!’ *laughs*
VP –*laughs* Ain’t no fucking around, it’s the real deal! This ain’t no PC party going over here!
CG – It’s fucking for real dude, last night I’m like you know what ‘fuck this’, I went to my room after we did all our interviews yesterday and laid down on my bed, and I’m like man this feels so fucking good I think maybe I’m just going to order some room service or something, and just fucking chill and watch TV and take the night off…. *mimes knocking* open the door, and it’s like ‘are you going to come down here with us? It’s pretty cool, there’s people down here’ – it was the owner of the hotel’s birthday last night so we had a big birthday party.
I walk downstairs, Vinnie’s drinking a fucking glass of red wine, and I’m like ‘ok looks kind of good’. Drinks one glass of red wine, *laughs* then over to the bar kept doing fucking shots, another glass of red wine, came up here and fucking blew our brains out, it was insane! *laughs*
I was out here by myself at six o’clock in the morning, drinking a big-ass fucking beer, I’m like ‘I’ve got to be up at ten, what the fuck is wrong with me dude? You might have a problem! *laughs*
VP – This hotel too is partially owned by Iron Maiden and Rob Smallwood, and it’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed! The rooms are fucking killer, this bar is open 24 hours up here, and they had that birthday party for the partner last night, this place was fucking packed with people, it was crazy man!
So anytime you need a place to stay when you’re in London town, Soho, right here!
CG – This is sick dude! Fucking badass. And if you feel like spending 250 quid on a shot of booze, that shit right there…
VP – Louis XIII
CG – It’s like £90 for a single or it’s like £250 for a double!
Wow that’s expensive!
CG – It’s the real deal, trust me *laughs*
VP – He almost talked me into buying shots of that the other day, but for the price of that one round of shots we could drink all fucking night in here! *laughs*