An Interview with Vinnie Paul from Hellyeah: Transcendent Groove

Sangre Por Sangre (Blood For Blood) is the current release from the groove metal supergroup Hellyeah. The ensemble’s fourth full-length will have listeners knee-deep in the vibes of Southern-inspired guitars with aggressive accents. Lyrically and musically, the material on the album has become more refined, but has not lost its authentic and wild flavor. The band comprises of known musicians within the genre including Chad Gray of Mudvayne on vocals, guitarist Tom Maxwell of Nothingface, Bloodsimple bassist Kyle Sanders, and the legendary Vinnie Paul on the drum kit.

Grounded originally in Dallas, TX, the guys of Hellyeah are on the road not only in support of their album, but opening for Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat. Hellyeah continue to make waves with their sound and gain a larger following while remaining a subtle, yet influential outfit.

The guys continue to perform live despite the struggles bands face in the contemporary industry and are currently hitting the road nationwide. In the middle of the cross-country journey, Hellyeah drummer and metal pioneer Vinnie Paul took the time to fill me in on what is really going on. The seasoned, down-to-earth artist provided a few things to think on metal music-wise. Here is what he had to say:

You have just begun a fall tour alongside Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat. How did this pairing come together?

Yeah, we have a headlining show in Boise, Idaho, on Sunday, and tonight will be the first night of the big tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat. It’s completely sold out, so it’s going to be a hell of a show, great way to kick off the tour. We’ve been friends with all of these guys for a long time, all the way back to the Family Values tour, which was the first tour Hellyeah ever did. We got to know the Five Finger guys back then and the Volbeat guys, I’ve been a fan of them forever. They actually took us on a tour two years ago all across North America and Canada, which is great. When they were putting this tour together, they were awesome enough to ask us and we said, “Hell yeah, we got to do it, man.”

This tour’s New Jersey stop is going to be at the Prudential Center in Newark. How do you convey your energy and make this a great show to the crowd in arenas this size?

The intimate club shows are always awesome because you can really feel everybody in the room, but there is nothing like hearing the roar of 10, 15, or 20 thousand people all together. They are there to hear you play your music. We get a short period of time up there on stage, we give it everything we’ve got. We’re the support band; we’re there to warm the crowd up and get them ready to rock.

What is the story behind Sangre Por Sangre, the latest record’s title?

There is not really a significance behind Sangre Por Sangre. Sometimes it’s cool to be able to say something like “blood for blood” in a different language. It really reaches a lot of different people, it sounds cool, it has a ring to it. The whole mentality behind the record is just coming from that underdog role. We’ve always felt like we’ve been an underdog and we have to prove ourselves over and over again to keep moving on to the next level. We feel like we really did it with this record.

If that is what the lyrical content is primarily about, what are some sonic changes that you guys have made on this album?

Well, it’s the most focused record we’ve ever made. We kind of got all of the good-time and party stuff out of our system, so with the first couple of records there was a bit of experimentation, some Southern rock, maybe almost some kind of country mixed in, mixing some blues with metal, really getting back to our metal roots. We really took it much further with this record. Musically, it’s more focused. I think it’s the best record we’ve ever made. I think it’s the Hellyeah sound that we’ve been looking for from the start. I’m really excited about how it turned out.

Growing up, what kind of music did you listen to or were most influenced by?

When I was a little, little kid, my dad was a country musician, so my mom always had that kind of stuff on around the house. Then all of a sudden, MTV came out with videos by KISS and Van Halen and all of that, and my life changed and I just really fell in love with metal and hard rock music.

Are there any contemporary drummers that inspire you today?

Ah, well, the people that made me want to play drums are always at the top of my list. KISS, you know, and Peter Criss were just larger than life. As simple of a drummer as he was, his drumming was always memorable. That’s the thing I always liked about it, you could always air-drum to it. I fell in love with Tommy Aldridge, who played with Black Oak Arkansas, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, everybody. Alex Van Halen was there; he played with more energy live than anybody I’ve ever listened to. The guy that made all of us want to play drums. John [Bonham], he set the tone and really gave us all something to build off of. Those are my major influences.

Have you been impressed by any more up-and-coming drummers within the genre?

Well, I mean, drumming has evolved quite a bit. To me, a lot of the drumming that goes on today is over-the-top, it’s too much. It’s almost like playing drums for drummers and not playing drums for the song. To me, it’s really too much sometimes, man, but you know, dudes like Joey Jordison is amazing, Roy Mayorga, a lot of those guys are killer drummers and they still understand the groove factor. Like I said, I really prefer my old school drummers compared to what goes on with a lot of new guys today.

If you had to describe your own style, how would you?

I’ve always called it “groove metal”; you know, everything has to have a groove. It doesn’t matter if it’s fast or slow, metal-speed, it has to have a groove. The drums are a very important element to this kind of music because they’re the backbone. It has to have a backbone and then there are those places where you need to shine, you do your thing and you really bring your drums to the front. You can’t do a song that’s all drums from start to finish and then put in guitars and put screaming vocals on top and really have it come across. I really base everything around a groove, a power groove.

What are you listening to right now?

Absolutely nothing, man. I like to stick to my classic stuff that I love. I listen to really everything that’s out there except maybe hip-hop; I’m just not into that. Any other kind of music I can really dig and get into. There are not any particular records out there right now that I’m like, “Wow, that’s my favorite record.”

What I hear, I hear. Music’s always been such a part of my life; so much a part of playing it and doing it. A lot of people think metalheads when we get off-stage like, “I bet you go to bed listening to ‘Raining Blood,’ I swear.” Nah, that’s the last thing I want to hear. So, it’s just kind of what’s out there.

What advice would you give to fledgling musicians today, especially those within genres similar to yours?

You really just have to be dedicated to it. You really have to want it and you have to be prepared to sacrifice just about everything because it takes that. It was hard enough back in the day to get somewhere. Nowadays, the way things have changed, it’s almost impossible for these bands to get the opportunity to do anything. Very few of them are going to get lucky enough to get that opportunity, so you got to really be prepared if it does come along and be ready for the ride, you know?


Hellyeah are set to perform at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ on Oct. 3. Their latest album, Sangre Por Sangre (Blood For Blood), is available now through Eleven Seven Music. For more information, go to