Hellyeah’s newest album Blood for Blood, is coming up on it’s 1 year anniversary, and drummer Vinnie Paul took some time during their current headline tour to talk with us. He explains how the band formed, overcoming the negativity from others, and stepping back from the producing limelight to let another person take the reigns for the first time in what seems like forever. Vinnie also touches on the bands they are currently touring with, his upcoming cookbook, and even hints at a major US Festival this summer (which we now know will probably be Mayhem).
Hellyeah, formed as a supergroup over a period of time. How did it come about?
It was really something that was kind of an accident after the horrific event that happened to my brother. I never knew if I would play music again or not but, I told myself if I did it would have to fall in my lap and it would have to be something that was really natural. Like I said, it would have to be almost an accident. And when Tom and Chad were touring together on Tattoo the Earth in like 2001 they were talking about putting together a band outside of what they currently did in Mudvayne and Nothingface. The time came around when they finally have that one little opportunity and they started putting the band together. They needed a drummer and my name came to mind and they started calling me. I kept telling them over and over I don’t know if I’m ready for this yet. They were very persistent, kept calling and one night they got me when I was drinking a bottle of red wine, listening to some KISS, cleaning the house. I said you know what, I’ll never really know if I can do this again or not if I don’t give it a try. We set up a meeting and they came down about a week later to Texas and we hit it off great. The next day we were in the studio writing songs together.
How did the name Hellyeah come to be the one that stuck?
We were about 5 songs into writing the record and we came up with several, several names and none of them were any good. We couldn’t find anything that we really liked. There was an amp box outside of the studio where we were recording, which was at Dime’s studio in Texas. Sad to say the kind of name you come up with whatever it is, “Flying Saucer”, whatever, just put it on this box. A couple of days went by and Chad had walked by it, and somebody had written Hellyeah on the box. He called us all into the studio and said “I got it man, let’s call the band Hellyeah.” We all kind of looked at each other confused at first and then we all went “Hellyeah” man, that sounds fucking awesome. The meaning behind Hellyeah is just the most affirmative way of saying yes to something. It’s like “do you want to go to the tit bar tonight?” You don’t go “ahh well maybe,” you go “hell yeah I want to go.” It means I really want to do this. We really live by that. That’s what hell yeah is all about.
The 4th and newest album, Blood For Blood, came out in June of last year, how has reception been to date?
It’s been pretty critically acclaimed. All the naysayers we’ve had with the previous records have really jumped on board and really embraced the record. The first couple of records were very experimental for us. We really wanted to do something outside of what we’ve done in our previous bands. We wanted to really touch on stuff such as southern rock, almost country, and some bluesy moments and metal and just straight up rock and roll and we did that. I think we kind of really confused some people, given our backgrounds, with the first couple of records. So with Band of Brothers, we really wanted to get back to our metal roots and it really felt like we did that. With this record, it was just a further extension with much better production and much better song writing all the way around. We really put everything we had into it and we felt like that this had to be a career breaking record for us, so to speak. I think we made the best record possible.
Recording Blood For Blood found you working with Kevin Churko, who is known for his work on 5FDP, as well as Ozzy Osbourne. What was the reasoning for bringing in an “outsider” rather than producing the album yourself as done with the previous three?
We just felt like it was time for a change. We’ve done three records the same way and sometimes it is good to have an outsider, somebody to come in that has a different view and can really get the best out of you. For me after being a producer/co-producer on just about every record I’ve ever been a part of I really just wanted to step back and just really focus on the drums and see what would happen if we had another person that was really, really good with vocals and really, really good with melodies, which Kevin is amazing with. We did the demos and all of the music pretty much stayed the same. We did all that stuff at my house so they were kind of pre-produced by me. Then we started talking about different guys to produce the record and I was like I met this cat Kevin Churko in Vegas who has a studio 2 miles from my house. He used to work with Mutt Lange, who produced some of the greatest record in the world, ACDC, Def Leppard, Shania Twain. It was just a no brainer to work with Kevin. Once we got to the studio he really understood what we were all about and what we were going for with the record. He got the best out of us. It was really great working with him.
Was it difficult to step back from the producing limelight, and just be part of the band, so to speak?
Nah man. Like I said after being a part of everything being in there from being the producer, the engineer, the mastering guy, the edit guy, all of that. 18-20 hrs a day in the studio it was nice to go in play my ass off for two hours and then be able to go and go on down to the Las Vegas strip and do some gambling or do a party somewhere and come back at 2 in the morning and really hear how the songs were shaping up and how they were coming together and be able to put my 2 cents in as an outsider. It was fun and worked really great.
Having lost two members prior to entering the studio for Blood for Blood, how did this affect the recording process?
I just think it made the band healthy. Those two particular individuals were just a cancer to us at the time. They were really weighing the band down and they were bringing anything to the table. We had to make a change and I think the change made us stronger and better. The three of us myself, Tom, and Chad did the entire record by ourselves and once the record was done, it was time to put the live band together. We really wanted people that had personalities that really fit the band. We knew that they were awesome entertainers and great players as well. The first guy that came to mind was Kyle Sanders who played in Bloodsimple and MonstrO. They had actually toured with us several times. When we called him up he was like where do I go, I’m ready. It was just a no brainer. We wanted somebody who could really compliment Chad’s live singing and Tom’s guitar playing. Our friend Chris Brady played around town in Vegas forever. It was just a perfect match bringing him on board. The band has never ever sounded better. It sounds absolutely awesome. We were able to re-produce the songs that we want. There’s no tapes, no links, no nothing like that going on live. It’s just a great live band. Everybody’s attitude and the vibe that they have has just been great. It really made us a much better and much stronger band.
In an interview with another band produced by Kevin, it was stated that he knew how to make them the best versions of themselves. Being in bands for so long, and having the following that you guys do, do you think that holds true with Hellyeah?
I think he helped us definitely paint the picture that we wanted. We came in with a really great idea of the songs. We had 12 musically songs written and he just took what we had and really helped us focus and I think that was a really plus for Chad. He is really good with working with singers and melodies and that kind of stuff. It definitely did make us a better band for sure.
Your drumming has evolved over the past records, and we find you doing new things. You’ve stated before that no one wants to hear the same drumming. Being a drummer, do you find it difficult to break from the normal patterns and create new material?
It’s not difficult when you’re working closely with the guitar. To me, heavy metal has always been an interaction between a guitar and the drums and they almost have to work like a machine together. They just have to pump along together. If you come up with a drum idea and you got a guitar player that you are working with that can really focus on what you are doing and can come up with the syncopated patterns or rhythms that fit with what you did, than it’s not so difficult to come up with. And vice versa; sometimes the guitar player will come up with a pretty cool broken up riff, and you can come up with something new and different on the drums.
Going into a show, whether it be a venue here like Machine Shop, or an arena for thousands. What do you do to get ready?
I got riffs I do every night. I start one hour out. I get my stage clothes on. I like to have 3 shots of vodka before I get on stage. I put on some old school metal whether it’s Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motorhead or any of that. I just start warming up. I just get more and more focused. Chad has his ritual before he comes out. A vocal warm up that he does isolated away from us that really helps him get prepared. We all meet about 5 minutes before we go on the deck and high five each other before we go out and dominate.
Knowing that a lot of people look up to you, as an influence, growing up, who were your influences, and have you added new ones as time goes on?
I haven’t really added any new ones. The Van Halen brothers were instrumental in me and Dime doing everything we did. We really looked up to them and they were a huge influence. The four bands that really made me want to play music: KISS was the first one ever, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath. We got to tour with all of them except Van Halen. I finally got to meet those guys. That was a great time in my life too. Those were the main things. Drum wise I love John Bonham’s playing. To this day you can hear new stuff all the time. Neil Peart, his playing doesn’t really reflect in mine but I was always a big fan of his drumming and his abilities. Those are the main people I really model myself after.
You’re currently on a headline tour, and bringing along three new up and coming bands Devour the Day, Like a Storm, and Archer. What can you tell us about them from your point of view?
It’s always good to have fresh new blood out. They are different bands from us. They weren’t as edgy as I thought they were going to be. They have songs that people have heard on the radio and they have songs that people can relate to. The Archer guys are awesome. Cali kids. The guitar player is an absolute monster. He is awesome. We wish them the very best of luck. Like a Storm are a riot to be around. They came all the way from New Zealand to be a part of this and I think it has been a really great tour for them. A lot of people have really embraced them. Devour the Day is a couple of the guys that used to be in Egypt Central and they have a new thing going. They’ve got some really, really powerful songs and people really enjoy them live. We really enjoyed being out with them. We have four more shows to go. We will see the Like a Storm guys again on the next leg and in April and May. We are looking forward to it.
Whenever you do something, it always states drummer for Pantera and now Hellyeah, knowing your past, and what you’ve been through, do you ever look at a headline and wished it stayed present?
Yea, I wished it stayed Hellyeah all the time because that is the current state of things. But, the truth of the matter is that is how we made our names. It will always be part of our badge. It’s like saying Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin even though he’s doing his solo thing. It always gets tagged with that because people know that. It’s part of the supergroup thing and all that comes along with it and we understand it. We have been forging our way further and further away from those previous names all the time. There will come a point where it will just be Hellyeah. That’s what we’re looking for. Forever it was Dave Grohl from Nirvana. Finally he broke the barrier with Foo Fighters. People understand different times, different places. This is now, that was then.
You come out after the show, and the bus is gone! There’s an ipod on the ground with one album one to listen to while you walk to the next city. What do you pick?
Van Halen 1. All day and all night. That’s an easy question.
Anything to shamelessly plug?
My cookbook, Drumming Up An Appetite with Vinnie Paul. It should be out by the end of the year. It’s something that I have a true passion for, just like playing music. I put a whole lot of cool recipes in there that I have come up with over the years. A lot of things I learned from my mom back in the day. There’s a lot of tongue in cheek humor in there, it’s a lot of fun. Other than that… the future of Hellyeah right now, like I said, we have another leg of the tour coming up I believe it starts April 17 starting in El Paso Texas and goes all the way until nearly the end of May. That will be a lot of radio shows. We are doing about a dozen shows with Godsmack on that tour and then there’s about a dozen headline tours mixed in there. Then we go to Europe for May/June and do all the festivals over there. Download, Graspop, Wacken, and all that good stuff. Then, we come back for one of the BIGGEST tours of the summer! I wish I could tell you what it is, but it hasn’t been announced just yet. But there’s a lot of opportunity to catch Hellyeah live. I can’t wait to get back into the studio for record number 5 with Kevin Cherko at the end of the year.