Chad Gray & Vinnie Paul speak to Heavy Music Artwork
Hellyeah are currently cruising the States on the Gigantour with Megadeth, Black Label Society, Newsted and Device. With the release of their incredible third album ‘Band of Brothers’ they are making a clear statement to the Metal world. They are a band that was once looked upon as been a super group made up of members of Pantera, Damage Plan and Mudvayne. But now they have started to develop their own identity and the evidence is clear to see in their new, heavier album and their powerful live performances. I was lucky enough to catch up with Chad Grey and Vinnie Paul the day after their mind-blowing gig at Download.
HMA: So how do you think it went at Download?
Vinnie: I thought it went amazing. After playing it…that was the sixth time. I always remember all of the other times but it just seemed like there was something that weren’t right you know there was always a sound problem or the monitors or something. It just felt like with this one everything went smooth, no technical issues. We went on early at noon, but I think we woke the crowd up and they gave us everything back that we gave them, and it was a hell of a fucking day.
HMA: And the weather?
Vinnie: The weather was great. It was sunny, it was actually sunny which was weird for us. Normally it’s like raining or some shit. You have got to give it up for the people that go up there, you know stay for 3 days through the cold and the wet and the rain and the sun, all of the elements you know? There is a lot of great music, but there is a lot of will there from the fans that have to be able to sit through all that.
HMA: Your Band of Brothers album, what is the central theme?
Chad: I think obviously the song Band of Brothers came into the title. I can’t remember, we had like maybe 2 or 3 different working titles before we actually landed on Band of Brothers. Because I don’t think I had written that song back then. Then we were like why don’t we go this route or whatever? When I wrote it, it always kind of feels like we are the underdog you know since Hellyeah has been together. Vinnie has come from great shit, I have done some good stuff, Tom has done good stuff, Bob has been a part of Damageplan and Mudvayne and stuff. In Hellyeah it always seemed like we’re the Underdog. I kind of wanted to write that song based on you have to fear the Underdog. You back something up in a corner you have got to know they are going to fight. It seems like everything we have done, even still up to this point, has been a real struggle and a real fight, it’s like we have always got each other to count on and get through it. That whole ‘I have got your back and you have got mine’ kind of thing and there is obviously a military theme in that. It is not necessarily military as much as militant, an army. You know an army can be the five of us, an army can be you know soldiers, an army can be the metal community. It kind of started as the five of us being the underdogs and really turned into the whole metal community and how dependent we are on each other as players, how dependent we are on our fans, and how dependent our fans are on us. Because we are music fans as well, and music has got us through a lot of hard times in our life, and music have done a lot of good things for us. So we always have that to lean on. That’s a real central theme – stop being the underdog and fucking take your life back. Stand up and don’t be afraid to fight because you know with that fighting will come perseverance because you will come out from under the bullshit. It can’t last forever. The pain can’t last forever. The bullshit and struggle can’t last forever. There is always a glory day but that is still something that we continue to fight for every day, do you know what I mean?
HMA: You say music has got you through tough times, what are the bands that you guys really love?
Chad: We are about a half – we are a little bit apart. Vinnie’s teen years were a little bit before mine or whatever, but we are into a lot of the same shit.
Vinnie: A lot of the same stuff, but then again I have bought some stuff to him and vice versa.
Oh absolutely. It’s no secret that I grew up on a healthy dose of Van Halen, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, all those bands really meant the world to me and got me through everything. Still to this day, I prefer that kind of music most of the time because it is real. It was recorded analogue, it wasn’t recorded digital. You had to sing every verse and chorus, you had to play every drum lick, you had to do all that. Even the Pantera stuff, you guys your early stuff you had to be able to play. Nowadays that’s over man. You could be the lousiest fucking person in the world, and have somebody ProTools you something together and throw it on YouTube and have ten million hits together and be the next fucking child star!
HMA: Have you actually seen the latest reincarnation of Van Halen with Wolfy on bass?
Vinnie: I didn’t get to go see them on tour but I have seen videos – I loved the new record. I thought the record was amazing.
Chad: The record was great.
Vinnie: The record really bought me back to 1978, the whole vibe, the whole feel. I hope they continue with it. I would like to see it with Michael (Anthony) back in the band you know but I understand with the family thing with Wolfy and Eddie and the whole nine yards.
HMA: I bought tickets to go to their Memphis gig and they cancelled it but I went to Memphis anyway….
Vinnie: That’s about right; I don’t know how that happens. When you get to that level I couldn’t cancel anything, you couldn’t talk me into…I mean I don’t cancel at this level but at that level – there is no way I am letting 20,000 people down you know that’s – they are there to see you man…
Chad: 20,000 people and a pile of fucking money.
That’s a pretty big payday.
HMA: Linked to the album artwork, who actually does the artwork for your albums? Let’s talk about the latest album.
Chad: It just depends; we all kind of put in ideas and stuff like that.
Vinnie: With the Band of Brothers thing, it was really crazy because we were coming up against the deadline, we was on tour down in Australia. We had come up with the title but we hadn’t really come up with the concept or anything. We just – I don’t remember which one of us had the idea but we just said ‘hey let’s try this hands thing’. We all put our hands around each other. Our Personal Assistant stood right over the top of us and took a couple of photographs and we sent it to the label and next thing you know they ended up using it. The whole thing comes together and it’s like ‘wow this is exactly what the record is all about’. Us being one, you know the whole thing. Whether it is the metal community or us, whatever. It really worked out cool.
HMA: Really worked to the Band of Brothers theme?
Vinnie: Oh yes. They are the best things that happen, the things that are just kind of accidents. They don’t take too much thought, they are just there, they are meant to be.
HMA: Also with writing music in my experience, sometimes little mistakes become the thing that you love about the song.
Chad: Yes absolutely. That’s what I fucking hate….we don’t do it, we don’t demo and then go back and re-record. There has been times like in Mudvayne where we would demo a whole record and then go back and properly record the record or whatever. We don’t do that it that way, but I remember things that I would do on Mudvayne demos and shit like that, and I could not get the note to sound the same no matter what I did. It was just one of those things, something was in my throat or fucking whatever and it was just the way the air was, the humidity or whatever it was. I could never re-duplicate it, I could never duplicate it. The way that we record, we just fucking hit the space bar and go. We do a lot of shit that is real-time, real stuff you know what I mean?
HMA: In a way that is a bit Van Halen-ish…
Vinnie: Yes totally it is very spontaneous. You capture those dangerous moments when you don’t know what you are going to do and you just go for it.
HMA: How do you feel your sound has moved on since your debut album, since you first started?
Chad: I think the first album was such an experiment. I didn’t know him. I mean fuck I was famous for Pantera and Damageplan but I didn’t really know him. I met him for one night…and he was hammered… you know like for 2 minutes, the next thing you know I am on an airplane going to his house to write a record. So we didn’t really know each other at all. It was weird because all of the tours that Pantera did and Damageplan and stuff like that and I was in Mudvayne and we never really crossed paths. It was so odd for the music industry especially in America you know or festivals even, to just not run across people. We didn’t know that much about each other but when we got back to the fun of playing music so we just kind of went in, and wrote that whole fucking first record in no time. I mean we would go down for ten days then go home for two weeks, and then we would come back down for seven days then go home for two weeks, then come back down for whatever. We figured it out; we wrote the coordinates to master the entire record in 30 days total time over the course of maybe 2 or 3 months. So it was really fast. So the whole time they were down there writing, I would be in another room with my computer just fucking writing. I became pretty close to them. The next record I think we didn’t really know what we wanted to do. We just started writing again and it kind of turned into more of a rock vibe or whatever. I basically quit Mudvayne and this became all I was doing. I never really aspired to be a rock singer, I am a metal singer and that is what I wanted to be and I’m like fuck it…..this is Vinnie Paul! I think this new record really came back – I love Stampede don’t get me wrong, I love it I am very proud of it. It was just a different vibe to what I was used to. This new record is almost like our first record.
HMA: It’s a bit heavier?
Chad: Oh it’s fucking way heavier yes. There are moments, I mean there are heavy moments peppered through all the first couple of records… but this one has got a real aggressive attitude. I think that the you know like we were talking about the theme I think that whole taking your life back and just fucking fight fight fight kind of comes through in it. I think that we have got a pretty good solid handle on what we are doing from now on, based on what we did on this last record. I think to answer the question, how our music has progressed, I think we have progressed, we have more of an understanding of who we are as people. We understand Hellyeah more than we did on the first record. We understand Hellyeah more than we did on the second record. Even now, with the new record being out of here, we understand Hellyeah even more now than we did when we released the last record.
HMA: Maybe in the beginning it was a bit more of a – for want of a better word, more of an experimental super group or something. A super group you know, great players from different bands. Whereas now, maybe it feels more like a proper band.
Vinnie: Yes absolutely. We are really focused now. We just bought all our elements that we had in previous bands into this. Previously we stayed away from all of that. We wanted to really step outside the box and do something that he couldn’t do in Mudvayne, and I couldn’t do in Pantera, stuff like that you know…alcohol enhanced…you know some stuff that just would not fly. It was a lot of fun to do that but to really get focus and get back to what we do best, which is our metal roots, that is what happened with Band of Brothers and we are going to continue that on the next record.
Chad: Our biggest aspiration I think when we started was to be the biggest band in the garage. Well we succeeded admirably. We were the biggest band in our garage!
Just like every record, you have got to knock over boundaries, you have got to knock over hurdles, you have got to break through barriers. Where we are at now, we want to fucking kick all the shit out of the way and like whatever the next level is, god knows what the next level is – we want to get there. We don’t even know what the hell it is but we want to get there.
HMA: Well, with songs like ‘Drink Drank Drunk’ you can’t go wrong. I’ve been rocking to that all day. I’m a school teacher, in my classroom and playing it to the kids…but they all like their rap music and they just didn’t know what I was on about.
Chad: You could probably get away with doing that over here, in America you would be fired in a second for a teacher playing that shit to children.
HMA: What attracted you guys to a career in music?
Vinnie: Jesus to start with, well for me, once again Kiss. You know they fucking opened my eyes to music. When I was younger, I was really into sports, that’s what I started with. Once I started in a school band I discovered Kiss, then Van Halen then Ted Nugent. Then all of a sudden everything that was about sports started going out of the door because I got tired of my hands getting crushed playing football and this and that and the other. Then I was like ‘dude I can’t play my drums now because this is not working for me’ so I really just at this point I just really at this point said I want to play fucking music. I don’t want to do anything else. It just happened, just woke up one day and said I am tired of all of this other shit, I just want to make music.
HMA: And yourself?
Chad: I just like the life. I had a pretty hard upbringing, and music was one thing I could always lean on or whatever. I was very fortunate to have a really cool mum on the level that actually we are not that far apart. She had me when she was 17 years old so she was still being a kid do you know what I mean? So I was always around fucking Deep Purple and Bob Seger and fucking I was always… I was raised around really cool music like Black Sabbath and shit like that. I had kinship with it. My Granma and Grandpa both played. Grandma played piano and Grandpa played the fiddle and mandelin – they had a couple of barn dances, I was always around music all the time. Ever since my mum was young she played it all the time, my grandparents were just into it with their friends and stuff so they played it all the time. They actually played it, my mum just put records on, but my grandparents actually played it. I just had a really vast knowledge of music at a young age. I knew I loved it. Like I said it was tough times, for a kid it was something I always leaned on. Then I fucking got Motley Crue Too Fast To Love record, I actually stole from a fucking record store and this little fucking mono like one speaker little hand-held tape deck and I put that fucker in there and I kept it between my mattresses and I just sat in my room and listened to that thing over and over till it wore the fuck out. The way that I looked was different than the other kids, I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a sporto, I wasn’t a prep I was a metal head. I had long hair and I was an outcast. I just kind of looked that way. I don’t know how I fucking fell into actually starting to do what I did but I just knew I loved doing it. It’s hard, I was horrible horrible, I just kept practicing.
HMA: Did you find it difficult at times to work with members of the band or do you feel that it has always been this Band of Brothers?
Vinnie: It’s like anything, it’s give and take. Everybody has to learn to give and take. Easiest way I can explain it, is most people can’t stay married to one person for much period of the time. Try being married to five people. Everybody has to learn the give and take rule and if you don’t, that is usually what causes bands to end up dying. So it is a little bit of everything. I would say we get along 95% of the time and the other 5% of the time is bitching and moaning and arguing and this and that goes on. But that’s the way it is with everything.
Chad: You just have to walk away knowing that it is just going to be under the bridge and you will say your apologies and whatever and you will go on. The one awesome thing about this band or whatever, the first fucking time – like I said I didn’t know him, and know what he has done in the past and stuff, amazing things that he has done, you would think this guy has got the biggest fucking ego in the world. So I didn’t know what to expect when we went in. We started writing the first record, it was awesomeness. It was unspoken but everybody fucking checked their ego at the door – everybody was vulnerable to one another. Through that vulnerability becomes trust and honesty and that is what kind of the backbone of this band is built out of. That is kind of the launch pad it is trust and honesty because we went in and nobody was afraid to throw a riff out. When they did, it wasn’t just immediately shot down we would work it. We would work it to the point where we didn’t feel it was going anywhere. We would just chuck it and get rid of it and how hard is it to write another one? Not that fucking hard, write another one, and we would just go from there. But the ideas, I was always open to his ideas, he was open to mine. I mean we asked questions. What do you think about this? Do you like that? I wanted his input, and he wanted my input. Greg and Tom the same way, we all wanted each other’s input. We asked questions and through that it was like getting to know somebody from not knowing them to fucking being brothers almost instantly. You are standing back looking and thinking ‘wow I didn’t know what to expect from this person holy shit this is fucking awesome, this is the real deal, this is a real thing’ – nobody knew what it was going to be. We didn’t know whether it was going to be a side project, we didn’t know if it was just going to be five guys jamming in a garage. We didn’t know what it was going to be. After we wrote the first song we were like fuck we are going with this, it was almost instant.
HMA: You are on tour now, how many more dates have you got and where will you be playing?
Vinnie: We have got two more weeks here in Europe which is really exciting. We haven’t been able to tour here for this record yet. So far we have done everything from a 500-seat club to 80,000 people or whatever it was yesterday at Download. We do some dates with Korn, we have got some more festivals coming up Alpha, Graspop, a couple of others ones, that big forest one in Germany. Then we have severak co-headline things with PoD along the way too plus we have got a few more shows on our own then we go straight to the United States – no break, nobody goes home or anything. We start on a 2 month tour called the Gigantour with MegaDeath, Black Label, Device, Newsted’s new band and us. It’s going to be awesome all of the US and Canada. Start writing some more songs in September and hopefully be in the studio in October working on our fourth record.
HMA: That was going to be my next question. I actually saw Newsted on Thursday last week here in London, they are a great band.
Vinnie: I loved it man, I saw them in Vegas right before we came out here and they were just killers. I have known the dude for such a long time. I know he has been through some tough times and it was really great to see him just with his new re-invigoured attitude and just really into the music again. It was good to see him doing his thing.
HMA: A great front man….
Vinnie: Yes surprising, he is a powerful singer too he carries the load.
HMA: Look guys it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.
Vinnie: Hey man keep turning those school kids onto the rock n roll music. It’s a shame that they start off with that rap stuff and never get a chance to understand what music is really all about.
HMA: I showed them a picture of you and they are like ‘he looks mean’.
Vinnie: Oh man. It’s alright to look mean as long as you are nice.
Chad: You have got to have some kind of attitude, some kind of edge.
Interview by Andrew Louis – Copyright 2013 © Heavy Music Artwork.