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Hell Of A Life

According to an old nursery rhyme, little boys are made of hammers and nails, and puppy dog tails. When little boys turn into real men this formula looks more like booze, babes and hot rides, sometimes with little variation. Hellyeah comprise that what real men are made of and an attitude that will crush your skull to dust. Chances are, you have heard that this band has resurrected on the drum throne the legendary Vinnie Paul Abbott of Pantera / Damageplan fame as well as brought together some members of Mudvayne (Chad Gray vocals; Greg Tribbett guitar), Nothingface (Tom Maxwell guitar) and Vinnies partner in Damageplan (Bob Zilla bass). By now they have released two face-melting albums (Hellyeah and Stampede) and drank about one million beers. Hellyeah have been rattling around the world for most of 2010 bringing the audiences one hell of a time. We caught up with Chad and Vinnie Paul in Oslo, Norway, where the band played together with Stone Sour, and they told us what its like starting over with a new band after you have already been on the crest of the wave.
You have been touring non-stop for quite a while now. What is it like being on tour with Hellyeah?

Chad: Its blurry.

Vinnie: Yeah, blurry. A lot of press, a lot of drinking, never get to soundcheck. I mean, we would like to have one, but being a support band, usually things are not ready in time for us to do that. But we like to do a lot of things. This is the most Ive ever gotten out to see in Europe when Ive ever been on tour. Every day I get out and walk somewhere. Just about every tour I did with Pantera I never saw anything. It was just stay on the bus go to the hotel go to the gig, that was it. The other day in Milan I walked around the whole damn square, its really cool just to get that experience. Weve done a lot of this support stuff in the States. We were on tour with Avenged Sevenfold and Stone Sour which is called Uproar. We were done at 5.30 in the afternoon every day. So we started drinking at 4 (laughter) Thats not really a rocknroll life style when youre done doing your job at 5.30 in the afternoon. Weve got a singing to do, we are done at 7. So there is a lot of looning about that goes on from bar to bar, from place to place, to this to that.

Chad: The worst part about tours like Uproar is those sheds that are just in the middle of fucking nowhere, theres literally nothing to do. We headline the 2nd stage, we play, like he said, at 5.30. So we start drinking about an hour before we go on and I am getting up at 3. I am only sober literally like a fucking hour a day for the whole summer, its amazing. Thats how we usually are out here [in Europe] too, but its been awesome.

How would you describe Hellyeah to people who have never heard the band? Give me some kind of a teaser.

Vinnie: Its a fucking Friday night, its a full on freight train. Its all about working class people that bust their fucking asses, living in the real world, not the shit you see on MTV (laughs). And you know, you bust your ass and you cant wait to get to Friday night, forget about your problems, drink, have a good time and just enjoy yourself. Thats the basic vibe that we put out, thats kinda it in a nutshell.

Chad: I think Hellyeah as a band, its more of an attitude, its kind of a lifestyle

You speak about the working class people, but I would assume you havent been a part of the working class for quite a while

Vinnie: I wouldnt say that. When you have to do what we do every day

Okay, but thats not a 9 to 5 kind of job

Vinnie: No, its a 24-hour a day job. You cant take this face off, anywhere you go people will expect something from you. They want an autograph, they want to say hi, they want to shake hands its part of it, you dont get a day off. If I get sick, there is nobody else whos gonna get there to play the drums.

But then you can cancel the show.

Vinnie: No you cant just cancel the show.

Chad: Youve got to understand that everything is tied down to a budget. If you take one show out of that budget, youre fucking everything up. And weve got to play. You know, Im not gonna say that I am laying bricks

Vinnie: But back in the day you were.

Chad: Yeah, I have done that.

Vinnie: I worked in McDonalds back in the day. You start off somewhere.

Chad: Ive worked in construction, Ive worked at factories and hes [Vinnie] done it. There are great elements to what we do [now], theres party, the drinking and shit like that. But when I leave home Im gone, I go to work. When I grab my suitcase and go out of the door Im going to work. Ive got to work for months sometimes before I can go home to my wife, my dogs, sleep in my own bed. Trust me, weve got 6 more days now [till the end of the tour]. Weve been out since April and been going really fucking hard since July.

Whats the first thing you are going to do when you get home?

Chad: Sit down. (laughter)

Youre sitting down right now.

Chad: Its a whole different sit down.

Vinnie: Ill probably go straight to shop for Thanksgiving, cause we get home the day before probably one of the biggest holidays in the United States there is. And there are always a lot of people coming over, so theres
a lot of work to be done when I get home. Now, with that being said, it is a job that we love and were lucky. A lot of people go to work and they hate doing their job. This is a job that you love, the music - thats why youre there in the first place - and you find out you can pay your bills sometimes and then you do it. To me its like being a professional athlete of some sort. Its something you love to do, but its not easy. And very few people are lucky enough to get to live their dream and do that kind of thing. So we appreciate it.

How does each of you contribute to writing music in Hellyeah? I know Chad writes lyrics, right?

Vinnie: He is an amazing lyricist and really great coming up with melodies and stuff and Greg works with him quite a bit on some of that. And for me, Ive always wanted to be more than a drummer. I cant sing for shit, so I dont try (laughs). I leave that up to him [Chad]. But I do find myself involved in the producing process, help arrange the music, sometimes Ill come in and work with Chad on some stuff. We all trust each other from the start, we all work together. So I guess everybody truly puts everything they have into the band musically. When I watch Greg and Tom sit down and start riffing, its the two of them. Somebodys gonna change something along the way and they work it together. Anyways, it all comes together as Hellyeah in the end.

Chad: Mudvayne was coming up on a break when we first started this thing. And I told Greg that I would really like for you to do this with me. Because I knew we were going to take a break, we had to take a fucking break. Weve been working non-stop for years. And I was like You can either go home and sit down on your ass and watch TV or we can go do something else. Kind of explore the different sides of ourselves. This was before Vinnie actually came in. He [Greg] thought about it and was like yeah ok, cool. And then we got Vince. We went to Dallas and we all got together and I didnt even know him [Vinnie]. Then we went to dinner, got drunk and got up the next day and went in the studio. And we wrote a song that night, we wrote 7 songs in the first 7 days. Its weird, because its like: Damageplan one guitar-player band, Nothingface one guitar-player band, Mudvayne one guitar-player band. I was blown away by 3 different guys from one guitar-player bands [who] can get together and work together amazingly. And we just went like boom! song, next day - boom! song, next day - boom! song. We had no idea what the hell we were even doing. We just started writing music and it became what it is. Its a very honest band. Were not trying to be like anybody. If anything, in the future we probably try not to be like people who are trying to be like us.

Chad, whats the difference for you between fronting Hellyeah and fronting Mudvayne?

Chad: Its like night and day. Mudvayne is pretty calculated and theres always deep theme that runs through the fabric of the entire record as a whole. So you have to get the ideas around and then kind of adhere to something. In Hellyeah we just write about whatever, it doesnt matter what it is. Its been really liberating for me to do this, all Ive known for so long was Mudvayne. So to be able to just write whatever I want to write about, write whatever kind of songs I want to write. We dont stick to one theme and I think thats been really awesome. You know, Damageplan, Nothingface, Mudvayne they have to write these kinds of songs. You cant really go too far out of that box before everyone will go What the fuck are you doing? Hellyeah started that way, so now we can just go wherever. We can write any kind of fucking song. We wrote a country song Alcohaulin Ass is about as country as it gets, and then we can write a rock song like Pole Rider about strippers. Ive never written a song like that. I never had a reason to, but they started playing the song and thats what came into my head. Its kind of a part of this bands lifestyle: just partying and barbequing, drinking, we do a lot of this shit.

What would you say Stampede is about?

Chad: Its like the dictionary definition of it, its a herd of wild animals, its unstoppable. Its not about one thing, its the most diverse record Ive ever written. There are songs like Stampede, there are songs like Better Man or Stand Or Walk Away and then there are songs like Pole Rider. So ma
ny different vibes all the way through the record every song is different from the previous one. Its just how we write. Its really hard to put in a box like what is Stampede. Fuck, I dont know.

Are you planning to sustain this kind of badass cowboy style on the upcoming albums?

Chad: Tom and I have been wearing fucking cowboy hats since like 2000, since weve met we both used to wear cowboy hats. Its not like were out roping cows or mending fences. People look at us and go like whats up with the cowboys thing? Were not trying to look like cowboys, were trying to look like fucking outlaws. It has a Southern vibe to it, of course, but the way we look at it, its more about being real people. You know, like thats how people really look. We just walk on stage in what we wear.

Both of you have been in the music industry for quite a while. What would you say was the most valuable lesson that you have learned along the way?

Vinnie: Probably the most valuable lesson anybody should learn is never piss on the people on your way to the top, cause youre gonna have to see them on your way down, some day. Thats a very valuable lesson. And another lesson is to try to learn to be some sort of business-minded. You know, its called the music business. Weve all gone into it, cause we love the music and a lot of people end up with nothing at the end of the day, after theyve done all of this great music, cause they never learned any of the business side. So to be able to pick up on some of that is helpful for sure. Dont just say well Ill just let my accountant handle that. Still to this day, I pay my own fucking bills, they come to my house, they dont go to some dude in L.A. and he does it. I wanna look through them, I want to make sure theres no bullshit.

Chad: The first thing he said about not pissing on people on your way up Ive always been the kind of person who has really kept my feet on the ground. I know that he has been that kind of person too. I think thats why the respect level that we have for each other was so high right from the get go. Its cause when we met each other there was no bullshit, there was no ego. It was like wow, this is fucking amazing, cause its really hard to find it in this business. Hellyeah has been very humble. Mudvayne saw a [certain] level of success: we have 3 records out in the States. We make money when we go out in States, we sold almost 6 million records worldwide and thats a big deal. Hellyeah is like starting over in this new world that we live in with downloading and so on. Its been really humble; its been fucking awesome too. Its really taking me back to be able to live a life and make a climb for 10 years and then turn around and come back and start all over again. It just makes you really appreciate all of your work, where you kind of end up. Its been really awesome for me. I never saw the level of success he saw. Its a testament to the headspace of Hellyeah and what we are. I dont know many people that could do what were doing right now, how we are living our lives right now. Trust me, this has been the biggest nicest dressing room we have seen on this whole tour. All the props in the world to Stone Sour, theyve taken such a good care of us, being really respectful and doing the best that they can.

Vinnie, I have read some speculations online regarding the possibility of you ever re-creating Pantera without Dime. I dont know what triggered these speculations, but what do you have to say to these people?

Vinnie: Its ridiculous. Dime was such a huge part of it; it would be just completely asinine to even consider that. I think its pretty disrespectful from people to even suggest it. He left an amazing legacy and its gonna be left untouched, its beautiful, its pristine and I wanna leave it that way. I am really proud of what I do with this band [Hellyeah]. Of course the history of Pantera speaks for itself. I want him to always be known as the dude, you know. Period. Forever.

Yeah, but the comments I have read were actually criticizing you as if you have ever said that this was possible.

Vinnie: No no, I have never said this was possible. Not me. Mightve been some other clowns that used to be in that band, but not me. (laughs)

You are quite accomplished musicians today. Is the
re anything that you still strive for musically, or it is more like just chilling and playing what you like?

Vinnie: With the economy like this, with the music business like it is and everything else, of course we are striving to be successful. If we get to some level of that, then thats going to be a dream to me. My dream when we put this band together was to have just a gold record from Hellyeah. Were so close to it in the States, its almost there. Gold records these days are like having a double-platinum record, really it is. Its an amazing accomplishment. So for that and to just, you know, be able to stay healthy, enjoy what we do and keep writing great songs. Our chemistry is incredible, everybody works together, its a respect thing, you know. You never have to worry about anybody stepping on somebody elses toes; we all fit together pretty well.

There are many young bands these days who act kind of arrogant, thinking that they basically make history in a way, even though for real they just make noise. And then there are you guys who have actually made history, but you are really down to earth. So what helps you keep your feet on the ground?

Chad: Its probably that statement that Vince made. Thats the greatest thing I have ever learned and I learned that from Ozzy from this Decline Of Western Civilization Part II [documentary], where he says that. Dont fuck with people on your way up, cause youll meet them on your way down. I remember watching that whole documentary and I was like thats it! I was probably 17 when I saw it, way before I have ever done anything, but I always kept that in my head for some reason. Its all gonna go away, it all ends. Here today, gone tomorrow. If you got the attitude like Im the fucking shit for the here today, what happens when youre gone tomorrow? Youre gonna look like a fucking fool, when youre working at the record store or flipping fries. Hang on to your integrity as a person. Its just a fucking job. We love our job, but its a job.

What is it about music that you love so much, what gives you goosebumps?

Vince: Its just creating it and performing it, you know. Theres not a bigger rise in this world than hear the crowd [roar] when the lights go down. If you cant get up for that, you cant get up for anything. Thats what its all about performing. You look out there and whether its 500 people or Donington 100000 people or Monsters of Rock half a million people, youre making these people happy and theyre into it.

Chad: For me it starts [when] we start writing something, putting something together. I listen to a song and Ill listen to it over and over. A lot of times youre kinda holding on, youre trying to figure it out so you know where to go with it. The more I listen to the song as a singer and a writer, the more I familiarize myself with it, the more I tend to just unconsciously let go off the song. Then its just in my head, and all of a sudden here comes the melody, here come the lyrics, everything just starts coming in. And I love that feeling when I start writing and everything is just pouring out, I am so fucking excited, I cant wait to get behind the mike. So you got that one moment. Then you get the moment of getting behind the mike and actually hearing it. And then you get on stage and theres this fucking energy, like what Vince was talking about. Well get on stage tonight and there are all these people, theyve never seen us here [in Oslo]. And if everything is really cool and everybodys being really open-minded and everybody really wants to give it a shot, theres this energy exchange that happens. Were giving them something and then they go Waaaah!! and they give it back. And then we go Oh yeah! and we give it harder and then they give it harder. And the next thing you know everybody is fucking partying and fist-pumping and drinking We fucking bring it pretty hard and I think thats what people receive from us. They see that we are very passionate about what we do. Its a real fucking thing, you can almost touch it. The big thing with us is honesty, were not out to fool anybody. We just want to share our music and if you like it take it, if you dont okay.

If you could go down in history as the first band that did... what?

Chad: drank one billion beers. I think we are close. (laughter)

Vinnie: And thats just the four of them, because I drink vodka. I drink a lot of vodka. And Ive been drinking Finlandia all the time I was here.

Chad: Yeah well one thing. I think just to leave any kind of mark, whether its not with record sales or this or that, but actually leave a mark with what weve done, that would be amazing, I mean worldwide mark.

Interview: Tanja Caciur
5 2011
the End

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