Back in 2007 when Vinnie Paul and Chad Gray announced their new band Hellyeah, fans weren't sure what to expect of group made from members of Mudvayne, Pantera, Damageplan, and Nothingface. No doubt it was going to be heavy, but would it gear towards visual theatrics and sonic experimentation like Mudvayne? Dabble in Southern metal like Pantera, whose fans were still reeling after the death of guitarist Darrell "Dimebag" Abbott just a few years earlier?
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But now, after three albums, Hellyeah has established itself as a melodic force, fusing dirty grooves with sludgey metal, with each album easily surpassing the last. While their debut CD Hellyeah wasn't exactly what fans wanted to hear--the members turned away from the sounds they were comfortable with on purpose--their latest effort Band of Brothers seems to make everyone happy. It's a straight up barrage of grinding, machine gun-rifffing, jack-hammer doublebass, and gutteral vocals
Hellyeah is not only playing on Uproar/Desert Uprising at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion this weekend, but is also kicking off a tour with Lamb of God at the end of October.
Up On The Sun talked with drummer Vinnie Paul about the evolution of Hellyeah's records, the legend of Pantera, and opening a strip club in Phoenix.
Up On The Sun: How are you doing today?
Vinnie Paul: I'm all good. Coming off a big Cowboys win last night and I am excited! [Cheers and whistles.]
Congratulations on all the success you guys have had with the new album, Band of Brothers. It's much heavier than Hellyeah and Stampede. I feel like this new one still maintains that charm of friends getting together to have a good time, but is just heavy as hell. What's the story behind that?
You know, the first two records were a great way for us to do something outside of the box -- different from what we've done with our previous bands. Once we got that out of our system, we wanted to get back to our roots and really bring the elements from our previous bands into what we do with Hellyeah, so obviously that made a much more focused, different record. We recorded it at my house, just like the other records, and it was a great working situation. We all lived together, wrote the songs together, drank together, barbecued together. It just made a cohesive band and it really hints behind the title. We really felt like a solid band this time around, and I think we've really excited our fanbase with what we've done and we feel good about it.
How was it recording with producer Jeremy Parker on Band of Brothers? Was anything he brought to the table a major influence in the direction of the album?
No man, he's just a really amazing engineer. He's probably the best engineer I've ever worked with. He has his stuff together, knows exactly what he's doing, and sometimes before you even finish your sentence he'll be like, "Is that what you're talking about?" He's spot on and one of those kind of producers that we appreciate as artists, because he really doesn't step in and try to write the songs for us, or change the musical direction or style. He's just there to help us get the picture that we're looking for.
I saw your last show here in Phoenix, and am stoked you're on Desert Uprising as well. Is there a band on that bill you're excited to watch?
I'm just excited to be on it period, you know. I wish we could be on the entire tour with those bands, but to be able to be a part of the show in Phoenix is really exciting for us. Phoenix is one of the best rock and roll towns in the entire United States of America and it's always a blast to play there. It's gonna be a great time to kick back, see a bunch of familiar faces and kick some ass. Hellyeah also just was booked on Lamb of God's rescheduled tour, which also kicks off in Phoenix on Tuesday, October 30 [Hellyeah joins the tour later]. What are your thoughts on the Randy Blythe situation?
Ah, I just think it's just a really bad situation all around, man, for everyone involved. You know obviously, everyone feels for the person who passed, but after examining what I've been able to, I don't see how anyone could hold Randy responsible for what happened. I think it's a bad situation, and it's really put his band and his families and everyone a part of it in a bad position. I just wish the very best for him and am glad he's back home. I am looking forward to playing the shows with him.
I feel like there may be a fear in the industry that if he goes back and is actually convicted of something it will be crazy.
Yeah, that's the thing that sucks about it. It's a different country, their laws are different and they handle everything different, man. They pretty much have him convicted of being guilty already and now he has to prove his innocence, whereas in this country you're innocent until proven guilty. Everything about it feels wrong.
It's a tough situation, that's for sure. Back to the band -- if someone had never heard Hellyeah, what album would you give them first that you think would rightfully represent the group? This new one?
Oh, definitely. You know, with Band of Brothers, like I said, I feel like we really have come together as a complete band with this album. You know, when most bands come out they don't really hit their stride until their third or fourth record, and that's when they get really familiar with each other how they operate and what their songs are about. I would definitely recommend Band of Brothers, but I am very proud of the two other records.
Same question, but for Pantera.
Well for me, I think the one that we really established ourselves as a band and the album people most associate with Pantera is Vulgar Display of Power, you know?
And once again, that was our second major label record and our third record with Phil, so you can see where that's where we hit our stride, when we were coming into it and growing. Once you get to that point you really know what you're all about and you really deliver.
Do you have a different album that's a favorite for personal reasons?
Well, the most challenging record out of all of them was definitely Far Beyond Driven, you know? Pushing the limits of heavy metal basically, and that record truly...the title said it all. It definitely pushed everyone's abilities--the players, the songwriters, everyone--in order to complete the album. Far Beyond Driven is my personal favorite for sure. "I'm Broken"? Too good! So I saw you recently went deep-sea fishing; was that over Dimebag's birthday? Do you have any sort of tradition you do on that day?
Yeah, you know, I really like to get away I don't really like to participate in the Ride for Dime and all the hoopla that comes with. Because it is mentally draining on me and I really like to get away. Me and Greg [Tribbett, Hellyeah's guitarist] went to Cozumel on a deep-sea fishing trip and it was a great time for me to really remember him, think about him, and communicate with him in my own way and to just relax, you know? It was awesome and I had a great time down there. I'm looking forward to going back to Mexico in October. I'm a regular at Sammy Hagar's birthday celebration every year down there on the 13th, and we jam and it's always a great time.
So, you've said that some your biggest influences are Peter Criss of KISS, John Bonham, Alex Van Halen, and Neil Peart. If you could play on stage with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
Well, you know, the thrill factor for me, to play with the biggest rock star on the face of the Earth, it would be Mick Jagger, man! To say I got to play with the lead singer of the Rolling Stones? It would be a huge thing to go on my resume and something I'd be really proud of.
Are there any newer bands that you have been impressed with in the past five years or so, or any drummers that have stood out to you?
You know, one guy that never ceases to impress is Joey Jordison [Slipknot, Murderdolls]. I really enjoy Joey Jordison. He is so creative and has great skills.
With the excitement surrounding the released Pantera track "Piss"--and I know you've probably been asked this question way more than you care--but do you think there would ever be a reconciliation between you and Phil [Anselmo, Pantera's former singer and current singer of Down] to do some shows, possibly using Zakk Wylde [Black Label Society] as a guitarist?
Honestly, I think the Pantera legend is better left untouched. Dime is such a huge part of Pantera and its legend. I don't want to tarnish it. I love playing in Hellyeah. Pantera had great memories for me man, but some things are better left in memory.
On an ending note, I gotta tell you, last time I was in Dallas I made it my mission to hit up The Clubhouse, and I haven't been able to go back to my favorite strip club in Phoenix since. Can you open one here?
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We have been looking into that. I love the Phoenix area so much; you know I live in the desert, too. I've been living in Vegas for quite awhile. We've seriously been looking into one day opening a Clubhouse in Phoenix.
Hellyeah is scheduled to perform Saturday, September 29, at Uproar/Desert Uprising at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion.