Interview with Hellyeah: Say It Loud

How did you all hook up? Can you give us the Reader’s Digest version, since you are probably sick of telling this story to journalists!

It started with Mudvayne and Nothingface touring together and talking about doing a band. They got serious about it and needed a drummer. I’ve known Jerry since he was in The Deadlights, and of course, Nothingface had toured with Pantera. Jerry was calling me, saying, ‘You gotta be a drummer for us! We need a heavy hitter.’ In May of last year, I released Rebel Meets Rebel, but I wasn’t ready to get back into playing music. I told ’em, ‘Hey find someone else!’

But obviously, persistence pays off, because he kept calling, and I thought, ‘You know what? Let’s do it. It sounds interesting.’ I loved everyone’s attitude and they were all so gung-ho, with their heads in place. They all came to Texas, we wrote seven songs off the bat, and the freight train called Hellyeah was born.

Like a metal fairytale!

I knew I’d be back playing music but wasn’t going to force it, and it had to just fall into my lap. It was very natural.

After losing your brother and bandmate, it makes sense that you had to ease your way back into it.

It’s meant to be this way. I wasn’t out chasing it. I had offers from other people to go and play and it didn’t feel right. I hate to use the word magic, but with Hellyeah, that’s what it was. It felt like the right time. I am excited to play songs live and get on the road. It’s a well-rounded record, everything from extreme rock to the softer side of rock, and people are going to find a good mix of rock songs on the album.

Would you call Hellyeah a side project?

It’s a real band. That’s how we wanted it to start. We had a long conversation about it, about how it should co-exist with everyone’s previous commitments, and we’re excited about having this avenue to express to ourselves outside of our other projects.

What else is going on in the world of Vinnie Paul?

I got my record company, Big Vin Records, going full blast, and I got my strip club in Dallas. I’ve got my hands full and I am staying busy. This is my number one priority right now, and when I get more time I will get serious about signing bands to my label. I am looking for stuff that is diverse and that sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t have to be metal. I want to put my name behind something special. I know it’s out there, and it’ll find me.

I also got to chat with chatty guitarist (and personal longtime friend of mine) Maxwell, to get his unique take on Hellyeah.

Give us the Reader’s Digest version of how you and Chad planted the initial seeds of Hellyeah.

Tom Maxwell: When I was touring for Violence with Nothingface in 2002. It was Nothingface, Disturbed and Mudvayne. Me and Chad were always talking about doing a project when we met a year earlier. When we toured together again, that’s when we decided to put something together. We were on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and we said when we get off the road we gotta do this. Fast forward a year, Nothingface was doing Skeletons and they were doing The End Of All Things To Come. Eventually, me, Chad and Jerry did a song in the studio. The chemistry was real between the three of us. Fast forward again a few years, and Mudvayne was on tour, and I went to see them in Baltimore and Chad pulled me aside and said Tribbett was interested in it, too. And that was interesting for me, because I have never played with another guitarist. Stylistically, we’re both busy guitarists, with that old school thing going on. We were already friends and I liked his playing and knew that’d be an easy transition. As for a drummer, Jerry kept asking Vinnie, and Vinnie kept denying Jerry, and eventually, he wore him down, and he invited us down, and seven songs later, Hellyeah was born.

For you, what’s it like to play with Vinnie Paul?

It’s fucking bad ass. And surreal. Pantera shaped everyone and still does. They were a big influence on Nothingface. Never did I think I’d jam with the guy, because touring with him was a dream to begin with. Going into the environment, meeting him in Texas, going to Dime’s house, seeing his essence everywhere still. It was freaky at first, but at the same time it was warm and welcoming and emotionally liberating. It was a welcome change for me.

Given that you all have other commitments, how are you approaching Hellyeah and your other band? Inquiring minds want to know!

Nothingface is definitely going to do something. It’s a matter of when, not if. We wrote about 50 songs, but at the same time, it’s been sidestepped because of Hellyeah. It’s hard to determine what will happen. If Hellyeah takes off and does well, it’ll dictate what it does on its own. It’s been a pretty easy balance. I wrote the Nothingface record before I went into the studio with Hellyeah, so I’m not feeling pressured.

Musically, the members of Hellyeah appear to be having fun. It’s a little looser than any of your other projects, but also has that groove and a mellower side. Was that the approach? To just have fun?

You’ve known me a long time and you know my style. I don’t ever pigeonhole myself. I am all about brutality and all about healing the wound, too. This music isn’t pigeonholed into anything. We have kick ass musicians and a guy who can sing and isn’t afraid to pull back the reins and get a little emotional and lighter.

So why not utilize that and be completely honest? We don’t have to be all heavy all of the time. That approach is contrived and it pigeonholes you automatically. A track like ‘Waging War,’ which is like, go murder everything, and ‘Thank You,’ which is really emotional and pays homage to all the people who’ve helped you in life along the way—it’s a good balance.

Any final words about Hellyeah?

Nah. The music is going to speak for itself. The only way you can truly capture the essence of this band is to see it live. The record says it all and captures the moment, but to experience it fully, come see us live. The record is live-oriented. It’s raw and was not recorded as a million tracks. That’s where it will be at—on stage.

Hellyeah is available in stores now. The band will be appearing on the Family Values tour this summer. For more information, visit