Hellyeah marks the return of Vinnie Paul—a legend who needs absolutely no introduction, but in case you’re not a rock fan and don’t know him, he was the drummer for one of the most influential metal bands of all time, Pantera. After his brother and longtime musical partner Dimebag Darrell was tragically gunned down in front of his eyes during one of their late 2004 gigs in their post-Pantera project, Damageplan, Paul stepped away from his kit and temporarily hung up his sticks, choosing instead to start his own record label. But when he was presented with the prospect of drumming for a project featuring Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett, as well as Nothingface bassist Jerry Montano and Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, the noted skinsman felt the itch to play again, and he scratched it. Indeed, Hellyeah, who are releasing their eponymous debut through Epic, is a special project, because it’s the first time Paul is playing without his beloved brother.
Hellyeah—the song, the album and the band—is a fun, loose project. The album is full of rowdy rockers and moody, acoustic numbers, making it an album of many unexpected moods and styles. I spoke to Mr. Paul and Mr. Maxwell on the eve of the album’s release, about what Hellyeah means to them!
You’re playing with a totally new group of guys. How does it feel for you? Amazing?
Vinnie Paul: I love it, man. It was a big challenge for me. I always played with Dime, for my entire life, and this was a big stepping stone for me. We had two guitar players bringing a new feel to the band. We got off on giving the music that old school feel, like [Judas] Priest and [Iron] Maiden and with the guitarists interacting. The energy and passion was there. It was great.
I bet that Dimebag is smiling down on you and is happy that you’re making music again.
Without a doubt. Once we get started, I felt like we had his thumbs up and his stamp of approval. It was almost like he was there with us. That’s the greatest tribute that I can pay him, to keep kicking ass and keep moving on and making music.
Totally. When you mourn a loved one, you know deep down inside that even though they are gone, they want you to keep going with your life and keep living life to the fullest. Hellyeah has a more lighthearted feel than anything you’ve ever done. The lyrics are fun and rowdy, and it sounds like you guys had smiles on your faces the entire time.
You totally got it, girl. It’s all about a good time, a positive vibe and a good attitude. When Chad came up with the name, we knew it worked, because the band is about attitude, about rock-n-roll and being the real deal. We were not wrapped up in being the world’s best metal band. We just want to have good grooves, catchy songs, memorable hooks and we’ve accomplished that.
How are Pantera, Mudvayne and Nothingface fans reacting?
Everything I see has been totally positive. Our MySpace page has 60,000 friends already, and they all seem to love it, and we have over millions of plays on the three songs on the page, and we’ll find out in a few weeks after the album is out what people truly think.
Congratulations on nabbing a slot on the Family Values summer tour!
Oh yeah! We’re looking forward to it. This band is the kind that needs to play to the masses and to get this kind of exposure, and we needed to be on a tour to give us that opportunity.
Family Values is your first major tour. Have you played out live together yet?
We have never played together other than in the studio, and I know it’s going to be ripping. Everyone comes from bands with kick ass live reputations, and you can feel the energy and power in the studio and it comes across on record. We plan on doing two to three weeks of club dates to get us going. We hope to be out there for the rest of the year.
Hellyeah are being touted as a metal supergroup and a metal side project. What’s the true status of the band’s existence?
We will ride Hellyeah as long as we can, and we can dictate what it does and how long it goes. We hope it goes to the end of the year and then some. We can then go back to our other respective bands, and then in two years, we can do Hellyeah, part 2.