One of my favorite drummers of all-time has always been none other than Vinnie Paul, whom we all remember as the power foot behind Pantera, Damageplan, and his current band, Hellyeah. Most of all, we remember Vinnie Paul as the older brother of late guitar hero, Dimebag Darrell, who is still heavily missed around the world by many metal heads alike. After Dime’s untimely death and an 18 month absence from a business that he was unsure he would return to, Vinnie Paul would join the supergroup Hellyeah, which also features singer Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett from Mudvayne, guitarist Tom Maxwell from Nothingface, and bassist Bob Zilla, who was also in Damageplan. In 2006, Vinnie created his own record company, Big Vin Records, which pretty much runs itself these days, and he’s still very much the entrepreneur that he’s always been with his strip clubs and bus companies that he owns.
Hellyeah is about to unleash their third CD, Band Of Brothers, which, to me, sounds like their heaviest work to date. I’ve listened to the whole CD about 556 times now, and it hasn’t even been released yet, but it is awesome and I think that this time, metal fans will really enjoy this record even more than the first two records, Hellyeah and Stampede! You’ll have to wait until June 5 to find out what I’m talking about. Hellyeah is currently on the road with Clutch and will be hitting our shores on April 14 at the House Of Blues in Atlantic City and on April 15 at The Paramount Theater in Long Island, where you might be able to hear some of the new CD. I was more than privileged to have an opportunity to chat with the metal legend and here’s how it went down.
Band Of Brothers is such an appropriate title for this CD…..
I think without a doubt, given all the things we’ve kind of been through; starting off with the underdog role and being on a label that basically had given up on rock ‘n’ roll music, and once we started in the studio and really got going, it was really the music that brought us all together and we just felt that it was the proper title for the record, man.
I’ve been listening to Band Of Brothers all night in preparation of this interview with you, and there’s not one flaw on it! It’s way heavier than Hellyeah and Stampede! Was that a direction you were trying to take this record in?
Well, the first two records were very diverse and very broad. Obviously, all of us come from familiar heavy metal bands, and we really wanted to branch out and make Hellyeah more diverse and we covered southern rock, we covered some bluesy sides, rock ‘n’ roll side of things, and we still had metal in there too. But once we got that out of our system, with this record, we decided to get back to our roots, and get back to what we’re the best at, and really melt what we did with Pantera, Mudvayne, Nothingface, and Damageplan all together, and to see what kind of level we can take it to, and I think that we made a really strong badass heavy record.
I felt that a few of the songs had a very strong Pantera presence, were any of these leftover from those days or is this just all new stuff?
Nah, every bit of it is brand new. The only thing, to me, that is reminiscent of Pantera is, of course, my trademark drum sound, and the way I play. Everything has to have a power groove! All guitar riffs and basslines, and all that, came from the other guys. I guess we just said that we should go on in, let’s just kick some ass, and see what happens. Let’s get back to what we do best, and that’s what happened.
I was just going to say that your trademark drum sound and Chad Gray’s voice make Hellyeah sound like the spawn of Pantera and Mudvayne…..
Yeah, well, it’s probably what people expected from the first CD, and as artists, we really want to step out and be able to do songs like “Better Man” and “You Wouldn’t Know.” It’s just more diverse stuff for us, and once again, once we got focused, we just got in on the heavy stuff, and that’s all we want to make, man.
Now, who’s the Def Leppard fan in the band?
Man, all of us are! But the truth of the matter is that it was about the song. “High And Dry” is all about what Hellyeah has been about from the start! That’s drinking, Saturday nights ‘high and dry’! Let’s fuckin’ party, man! Have a good time doing what we’re doing! It was just one of those things that got tossed around a time or two. It would come on Sirius/XM or something, and we’d be all up in the front drinking, and we’d say, “We gotta cover that song sometime!” Next thing you know, we ended up laying it down, and it’s definitely different from the original, but popular enough for people to know the song. I don’t think it’s actually included on the record in the United States. It’s like a bonus track for Japan, so if they sent you that, you got the bonus track, man!
Was producer Jeremy Parker, who’s known for his work with many hard rock acts, handpicked by you Hellyeah to produce Band Of Brothers?
We definitely picked him! Chad and Greg have worked with him before. At first, we originally had Sterling Winfield scheduled to work with us again, and then he got offered to do some band in Australia, and it really just conflicted with our time schedule, and so they brought Jeremy in! Man, he just fit like a glove! He worked really great with us, he’s an awesome dude, and I really think that we were able to take this record to another level with him being a part of it.
Vinnie, I can’t tell you enough how great this record sounds between the groove and your signature drum sound, everything is there! Fans of all of your previous bands will love Band Of Brothers……
Awesome, man! I’ll tell you what; that’s great to hear, and I hope that the people who loved Hellyeah in the past continue to love it, and the people who were kind of like, ‘”Eh, I don’t know about this!” I hope they finally get it because with all three of these records, we’re gonna have one hell of a live show. I know that for sure! We’re looking forward to doing this run with Clutch. It’s gonna be just awesome and then there’s a really, really killer summer tour that were going on but I can’t tell you about it just yet because it hasn’t been properly announced, but I’m so excited about this leg of it after the Clutch thing!
Funny because I was just about to say to you that the Hellyeah and Clutch show is like the metal version of the KISS and Mötley Crüe tour, but now you’re telling me that there’s something even bigger than that coming our way? How can you keep me in suspense like this?
Well, that’s definitely an awesome tour, and that’s a pretty good comparison, the KISS and Mötley Crüe thing. I just saw Mötley out here in Vegas a couple times, and their show was bigger and better than it’s ever been! And I’m sure KISS is going to take it to another level too! So it’s gonna be a hell of a summer! There’s going to be a lot of great shows out there!
On a quick Pantera note, I recently heard on Sirius that this year is the 20th anniversary of Vulgar Display Of Power and to commemorate it, you’ll be releasing a 20-year-old unreleased track called “Piss,” which you’re trying to make a music video for by soliciting for video footage from fans. Can you tell us more?
Well, basically the 20th anniversary is a very special date. It doesn’t even feel like it’s been 20 years. Time flies, and those songs are timeless and they’ll be around long after all of us. It’s just a special thing to have, and of course, any time you do the special editions or whatever they’re called, you want to include everything that you can that’s special from that era or that time that wasn’t included with the original. It just so happens that this was the only completed Pantera track that we’d ever finished that didn’t make it on the record.
We always believed in quality and not quantity. Back then, a lot of the bands would write and record 30 or 40 songs hoping to have 10 good ones and you don’t end up with 10 good ones, and some of your good ideas end up in some of the shitty songs. So we really focused on writing the 10 or 11 best songs that we can write and made sure that they were everything they could be. For some reason, I still don’t know why because after listening to it, I feel like it’s as good as everything else on the record. We just felt like it didn’t fit and we left it off. It was never mixed or anything, so when the 20th anniversary thing came up, we were talking to management about things we can include, and I went, “You know, I think we got one song that we never mixed but we did finish.” They did some digging around in the tapes and stuff, and I told them that I think it was called “Piss,” and sure enough, it turned up! They sent it down here to Dallas. Me and Sterling mixed it, and it turned out great, man! It’s a really cool track, and it’s everything that we did in Pantera at the time. It really is fuckin’ killer, and it could’ve been on Vulgar Display! It’s kind of amazing that 20 years later, and especially with my brother no longer with us, people will be able to hear something new and fresh from Pantera.
Is Big Vin Records still up and running because I deal with a lot of unsigned bands and your label comes up a lot in conversation?
It’s up and running but I’m kind of not doing anything with it right now because I’m so involved with what’s going on in Hellyeah, but feel free to send me stuff! It’s on my website where you can send it, and hopefully next year when I get some time after two years of touring with Hellyeah, I might discover something. So, even if I don’t sign them to my label—if I like it, I might be able to pass onto the right people that can do something with it.
What’s Vinnie Paul listening to today?
What am I listening to today? It’s the same thing I’ve been listening since February 14 or whatever—the god damn new Van Halen CD, and I love it! I can’t get enough of it and I’m crazy about it! I’m the biggest Van Halen fan in the world and I know a lot of people can’t get over that “Tattoo” song, but if you really listen to it, it’s classic, and it fits somewhere between Fair Warning and Diver Down, and I just love it, man! I’ll wear it out, and it makes me feel like I’m in high school again. It’s got the same kind of just “Van Halen” vibe—the energy, the fun, and Eddie and Alex playing is just off the fucking chain on this record! I love it, man!
One final question before I let you go. What’s the one thing about Vinnie Paul Abbott that no one knows and would be shocked to learn about?
Jesus! That’s a funny question because I’m a pretty public person. I mean, the person that the fans meet is the same person that I am on and off stage. A lot of people morph into this big different image and when they’re off stage, they go home and sit around with their kids, and their wives, and it’s a whole different lifestyle for them. It’s just not that way with me. I live life to the fullest. I like to have the best times in the world. I’m not married, and I don’t have any kids. Everything about my life is being married to the music, and maybe they know that, and maybe they don’t know that, but most people that know me, know I like to cook, they know I like to play golf, I like to go fishing, I like to gamble, I love listening to music, I love going to shows, I’m an entrepreneur, I love going to my strip bars and my sports bars that I have, and stuff like that. I don’t know if there’s anything that people will be shocked to find out about me other than the fact that I love Van Halen!
Catch Hellyeah with Clutch live at the House Of Blues in Atlantic City on April 14 and at The Paramount Theater in Long Island on April 15. For more info on Hellyeah and their upcoming CD, Band Of Brothers, log onto facebook.com/hellyeahband.