Interview with Vinnie Paul (Hellyeah, Pantera)

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Vinnie Paul (Hellyeah, Pantera)

17th August 2014

@ London Underworld

Interviewer: Steve Allen
Photographer: Michelle Murphy

Shortly before taking to the stage on the last night of a victorious U.K run of shows legendary Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul sat down with us here at Metal-Rules to chat about their latest album Blood For Blood, the band and what lies ahead.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

Metal Rules (MR)So Vinnie, the new album Blood for Blood came out on June 10th to much critical acclaim, but what’s your personal opinion on the album?
Vinnie Paul (VP) – I think without a doubt it’s the best album we’ve ever made. It’s something we’re very proud of, very passionate about. It’s the best songs we’ve ever written as a band, it’s the best produced record we’ve ever had. It’s done really well (like you said) we’ve gotten great reviews from the media which sometimes can be hit or miss. It’s nice to have them diggin’ what we’re doing and it’s definitely transferring to the fans and the new songs have been going down great live.

MR – Do you have a favourite song off the album or do you take it as a whole package?
VP – It’s hard to have a favourite. Each song is like a kid. So you got 10 kids and you try not to show any favouritism towards any of them. But for me Black December is personal and I really love that song, it’s deep but I still love all the rest of them. Say When is my favourite drumming I’ve ever done since Far Beyond Driven. I love the way the record flows, it’s a true rollercoaster ride.

MR – There was some line-up changes between writing, recording and touring has that effected the album in anyway?
VP – I think it helped us to make a better record. We finished the Gigantic Tour last year with Megadeth and Black Label and then really wanted to get in the studio and pick up, sorry keep the momentum going from the last record (Band of Brothers) but it just really became obvious to us that Bob and Greg weren’t focused like we were. Both those guys had some serious personal issues that were distracting to the band so letting them go was the best thing that could have happened for the band. It really enabled Tom to step up to the plate and show off his guitar talents and skills plus it brought the three of us that much closer and we wrote the best record we ever did. It’s called taking a bad situation and making the best of it.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

MR – So how are the new guys getting on with everything?
VP – Aw great man, the band has never sounded better. Having Kyle on bass he’s just a fuckin’ machine, he plays his ass off he’s got great stage presence, he’s just a fuckin’ great dude. We all get along so good. What I really love about what we’re doing with the band right now is that it really feels like we’re a band again and it’s a lot of fun. Christian Brady on guitar, not only is he a great guitar player and can complement what Tom’s doing but he’s a killer singer too and it really helps adding the harmonies and stuff to what Chad is doing and we’ve never really had that in the band before so that’s a great added addition. I’m just really happy about it, man.

MR You mentioned earlier just how well produced the album is. You had Kevin Churko produce this one for you. You yourself produced the first two Hellyeah records have you never fancied getting back to producing or do you just enjoy the relative freedom of writing and playing now?
VP – I’ve produced or at least co-produced every record I’ve ever been a part of, right the way back to the Pantera stuff and was nice to just mainly be the drummer. Although I pre-produced everything before it went to Kevin. So most of the music stayed the same, but Kevin dragged the very best out of Chad. Really out of Tom too and out of myself. You know, he’s just an awesome producer. He makes the record that you want to make. He doesn’t make the record that the record company wants or that he wants to make. He really understood the vision of the band and brought the best out of us.

MR – Can you talk us through writing the album? Is there a set process or does it change dependant on what you’re doing?
VP – We started writing the music at my house, where we recorded the last couple of Hellyeah records and demoed out all of the music and then we went out to Las Vegas. They’re music beds when we get there, not really songs. But then Chad starts writing the lyrics to them and the melodies and that’s when they become songs. So it’s kind of a process but it’s always been the same really.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

MR – So you try and keep it organic as opposed to sitting and regimenting everything?
VP – Yeah, you don’t want to set a regimen. That’s why I like working at the house, because you can work at your own pace and if you’re not feeling it that day you’re not wasting money on a studio or something. You don’t feel forced to work, but we did work really hard on this and we put those 12 music beds together pretty quick. Like I said we got off the road in September and we were in the studio with Kevin in October making the record.

MR – You really don’t hang about do you?
VP – Nope, we got right to it, man.

MR – You headlined the S.O.P.H.I.E stage at Bloodstock last weekend and you’ve followed that up with a run of club dates. What’s the highlight of this run been for you personally?
VP – I love all of the UK, we’ve still got a ways to go over in Europe as far as them really understanding Hellyeah. But our fans over here have been fucking die hard. Every one of these club gigs has been sold out and Bloodstock was incredible man. We were scratching our heads going “How’d we get this headline slot on the second stage??” It almost felt awkward you know. But we walked in there and it was the biggest crowd of the day for that stage and they were chanting “HELLYEAH!!” before we went on and they were chanting “HELLYEAH!!” when we got done. The energy was just incredible. I’ve played at just about every festival I can think of in Europe except that one and I loved it. The thing I really loved about it is that it really focuses on metal you know. There isn’t that diversity you get at other festivals. It’s really a metal festival and it’s all about the community and all the people are there to kick fucking ass and have a good time. It’s a really great festival.

MR – When you play live how much do the crowd drive you on? Do enjoy a more responsive crowd?
VP – I love it man, it feels like the old days back when Pantera started out. We’re really building it from the ground up. And even though we have 4 records out, like I said its taken people some time to catch on. But now with this new record, the line-up that we have, plus the shows I feel like it’s about to catch on fire man. It’s been great.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

MR – Do you prefer big festival shows like Bloodstock or a club show like this tonight?
VP – I love ‘em both, man. They’re both so special; I mean it’s hard to beat this intimate setting where you feel like you can just see everyone in the crowd. You can feel them; you can hear them singing the words back at you. You know you really get that circle of energy going back and forth to each other. It really drives us on you know. The more we go harder, the more they go harder. And the big festivals, there’s nothing like playing Download, you hear that roar of 80-100,000 people that fuckin’ just sends goose bumps down your spine. To know that you’re touching that many people at one time with your music and your performance. So yeah, they’re both great.

MR – What spurs you to keep playing music these days?
VP – I love music man. I love being on the road you know. I’m not married, I don’t have any kids or none of that stuff so my whole life I’ve been dedicated to what I do. My family has always been the band and the road crew. When I go home, I got great friends at home too, but I almost feel like I’m away from my family. A lot of people don’t like being on the road, they’re not made for it, they can’t handle it, but I love it. It’s all I’ve ever done and I plan on doing it until the day I can’t. I just turned 50 this year which doesn’t faze me one fucking bit. I’m still the big 17 year old kid I always was back then. I’ve never felt better health wise; I’m playing fuckin’ better than I ever have so you know I don’t see anything slowing me down anytime soon man.

MR – Well that’s definitely good to hear. Hellyeah will always be compared to the bands you’ve played in previously going back as far as Pantera, how do you deal with that?

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

VP – It’s not hard for me to deal with because I’m not in those bands anymore, I’m in Hellyeah. You know it’s the same thing as Jimmy Page or Robert Plant, they’re always gonna be known as the guys from Led Zepplin. It doesn’t matter what they do outside of that. You know, it’s a good legacy to have but people do have to realise that that was then and this is now. A lot of people get hung up on living in the past and I’m not doing that. I’m living for today and for tomorrow. What I did back then was amazing, it was great and I’m hoping to achieve that again with this. It’s a much different day and age, it’s more difficult and harder but I’m willing to do it. A lot of people being from a band like I was wouldn’t come play a place like this they’d say “Fuck that! I’m not gonna do that. I’ve been there and done it.” But I love it. It’s a challenge, its fun.

MR – How would you describe Hellyeah as a band today? And has anything changed since the start?
VP – Well the reason why we started the band was to get back into music for the reason we started in the first place – the love of music. When you’re in a band like Mudvayne or Pantera they turn into a business after a while and the fun goes away from it because it’s a lot of fuckin’ work. I try telling people all the time – try being married to one person for any length of time much less four or five other guys in the band you know that’s what it’s like. You really have to learn give and take and how things work. But Hellyeah, right now with the new guys in the band, it feels like why we started again – the people love making the music. The other two guys in the band were bad business people, they didn’t take care of things and they had issues that really started weighing us down and bringing us down. But we’re done with that, we’re over that and it feels great again man. Kyle has so much energy on stage Chris has so much energy and it really compliments what the three of us (the core of us) put together from the start.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

MR – So it’s almost like back to day one again, there’s a rediscovered hunger and drive there?
VP – Yeah man, you know I don’t think I ever lost the hunger and drive. It just feels like instead of me or Tom or Chad pushing this thing along all five of us are which is the way it should be. Everyone is pulling for the same things and same goals. There’s so much respect for each other in this thing, I mean I can’t think of an argument that we’ve had since we’ve been together which is amazing. With the other version of the band the arguments and shit went down all the time you know it was stupid.

MR – So what can we expect from Hellyeah for the rest of the year and also moving into 2015?
VP – For the rest of the year? This is gonna be a busy year for us. We leave here tomorrow and we play a show Friday night in Kansas City which is a big festival in the United States. Then we have 2 weeks off then we go out on the best tour I think we’ve ever been a part of, it’s Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, Hellyeah and Nothing More. It’s already sold out across the United States. Arenas too which is great. And that’s a very long tour, two months solid which goes all the way to the end of October. And then we’re doing a headline run up in Canada in November. Then I think we got some shows in the US, radio shows by December. Then next year we’re definitely looking at coming back over here in the spring or early summer. Gonna hit the big festivals and do some more of these kind of things hopefully it’ll keep building up into some larger places and we’ll really really be building this thing. So got a whole other year, year and a half of touring ahead of us, then back to Vegas to make the next record.

Vinnie Paul
Vinnie Paul

MR – Well thanks for taking the time to talk to us today Vinnie, it’s very much appreciated thank you and have a good show.
VP – My pleasure, man, enjoy the show tonight.