HELLYEAH is arguably one of the best super-groups in metal. It has to be written in capital letters because you will definitely end up shouting it. The band’s lineup is equally impressive, with vocalist Chad Gray (MUDVAYNE), guitarist Greg Tribbett (MUDVAYNE), guitarist Tom Maxwell (NOTHINGFACE), bassist Bob Zilla (DAMAGEPLAN), and drummer Vinnie Paul (PANTERA, DAMAGEPLAN). HELLYEAH brings you some of the finest southern metal, with a glass of whiskey and a cowboy hat.
The guys played around with the idea of forming the band in conjunction with the Tattoo Earth Tour in 2001, but their plan was put on hold until the summer of 2006, when they finally managed to come together and record their first self-titled album, HELLYEAH. On July 13th, 2010 the band released a new record called “Stampede,” leaving a firm cowboy boot print on the sandy landscape of the modern heavy music.
Chad Gray kindly answered our questions about the new release, the music and the essence of HELLYEAH.
How did you come up with the name HELLYEAH?
Well we were usually drunk or on the way to getting drunk when we were working on the first record, and seeing that one of the side effects of drinking heavily is memory loss we thought we needed to come up with a plan. I’m not going to say it was brilliant, but it was effective. We had an amp cabinet box that we put outside the studio and we taped a sharpie on a string to it. We used to always hang out outside smoking, drinking, barbecuing, whatever so we though since this is where we spent most of our time, this is where our makeshift tablet should go. So whenever we would come up with a name we would write it on the box. Then the next day when we would come back in, we would review the box to see if in our drunken stupor there were any moments of brilliance. Man, let me tell you, there were some dumb-ass names on there. I wonder if we still have the box. We have to, seeing that Vince keeps everything. So anyway, we came in one day towards the end and there was “HELLYEAH!” written right on the top. It was in my handwriting, so we only assume I came up with it. I just stood there looking at it and it grew on me.
It’s something that we say a thousand times a day, so it just fit. It crosses all genders, genres, and races. Everyone says it! At first not everybody liked it, but Greg and I loved it so we pushed it until we broke the rest. Didn’t take long. It’s really fucking hard to come up with a name anymore with the internet. When you’re trying to come up with names, it feels like everyone owns every fucking name ever thought of. I guess in our case we just got lucky.
What made you decide to create a band together?
I think we all just needed a break from what we were doing so we just started this thing that ended up being HELLYEAH! We set out to be the biggest garage band in our garage, and since we succeeded in that, we just figured that we’d share it with the world. And it has been a fucking blast!
Can you describe the music-making process?
The whole process for us was really inspiring. Everyone wanted it to be great so badly and to me it was coming out just like I knew I wanted it too. That was strange, because when we started we didn’t know what we wanted. It was an experiment. It just worked out. There was a ton of magic in that room [Dime’s garage]. “Alcohaulin’ Ass” was written in 20 minutes when Sterling (Winfield, co-producer) was on a beer run and it was just Greg and I fucking around. Things like that were happening all the time and we never questioned it when it did. I think those moments created the momentum in the studio for sure.
How do you handle creative disagreements?
Hey, we’re humans, so we all have an opinion, but the thing I love about this band is the mutual respect we have for each other. When you have that, you don’t explode on each other. When we’re writing, if we hit a snag we just work [out] the problem. We figure it out together and then it’s behind us and we go until a new one arises. We just keep doing this until were done with it. I think little disagreements add to the energy of a record.
How has the music evolved since you first started playing together?
I feel like this record is just a natural progression from the last one. Every record should have its own energy and space. And I feel the same way about the songs on the record. The evolution has been natural. We just go for it. We don’t second guess or over-think things.
Can you describe the music for us? Is it one specific genre or are there many elements from other genres mixed into one?
You’re going to hear the influence from all of our bands because those bands were made up of us. We don’t worry about genres or what’s happening in the music world right now and try to mirror that. Music is art, so if it comes from us we don’t question it. Collectively our influences are very broad, so a little of where we come from and beyond trickles into our music and we embrace that. Everyone has been influenced by something, but ours would never be current. We like what comes from us just fine.
You just released a new record on July 13th. Tell me about it; the album cover, title, lyrics, and so on.
If you look up “stampede” in the dictionary, it literally means a group or herd of animals or people that can’t be stopped. The cover just fit with the idea of the title. The lyrics are broad. It’s a very diverse record musically, so I made it the same lyrically. There are heavy songs, songs with almost a pop element, songs that are very deep emotionally, and everything in between. We’re proud of the way that everything turned out.
How is this album any different from the first one you released? Are there any major changes? Has it been easier or more difficult to create a new album? It was recorded at Vinnie Paul’s house right?
Yeah this album was recorded at Vinnie’s, literally inside of his house. The last one was recorded out in Dimebag’s studio, which isn’t too far away, but doing this at Vinnie’s allowed us to just wake up and get going. We never really had to leave. The biggest difference between the last record and this one is the fact that we actually knew each other’s vibe a lot more. The first one was really just an experiment. We were feeling each other out and didn’t know what was going to come out really. We knew each other’s talents, but didn’t know how we’d mesh. This time we knew we would and were excited to get back into it.
Can you tell me about the song “Thank You”?
“Thank You” is something that I just felt like needed to be said. With the loss of my grandmother who was like a mother to me, Dimebag, and different friends that we’ve lost over the years, I felt like I owed it to them. Everyone can relate to this song. Loss is a horrible feeling; it’s very empty. But if you look at what people really are and we focus on the right things, you can realize that everyone is made up of memories. When I started looking at it like that, I remembered all the great things those people gave me or did for me emotionally. Those special people make you who and what you are and their actions build your character. For that, I felt the need to give thanks and memorialize them forever. Not just for me, Vince, Tom, Greg, or Bob, but for everyone that has experienced that loss. I can only hope that people have realized that and allowed that song to maybe look at their own loss in a more positive light.
Is it hard handling two music projects at once?
Doing two at once definitely keeps me busy but it’s not that difficult. When I’m doing Mudvayne, I’m doing Mudvayne. When I’m doing HELLYEAH, I’m doing HELLYEAH. Right now I’m doing HELLYEAH, so that’s where my concentration is at. We’re committed to touring two years on this record and all over the world. We want this band to be huge and a great international success, so we’re all really focused on it.
What’s the meaning of your music?
It’s all about making every night Friday night. People go through enough shit in their day-to-day lives that we just want them to be able to have a release and a good time. When it comes down to it, if you keep yourself happy, you keep your life happy. We want people to come out to a show or put on the album and forget their troubles. Have a beer, sing along, and just have a hell of a time with us.
Where do you see yourself 1 year from now/10 years from now?
Touring worldwide! That’s the plan and we’ve been adamant about that to all of the people that we work with. We want to be a worldwide band. Not just here and there… every-fucking-where!
Can you recall the best embarrassing/awkward moment at a show?
I’d say one of the most awkward, not really embarrassing, moments at a show was when we played Download Festival in the UK while touring on the first record. We came out to play “Alchohaulin’ Ass” and one of the techs messed up the tuning on Greg’s guitar somehow. It was actually tuned in three different tunings and he caught it after we had already started. It definitely took some adjustments but we were actually able to work it out and it sounded amazing. What bands have to realize, is that things like that are always going to happen, but I’m excited that we have guys who can work it out so those moments don’t become embarrassing.
What’s the best part about this life?
Playing! Drinking! And hanging out with our fans! Our fans are our friends. We’re like one big giant family. People that you don’t know can be so fucking cool, it’s surprising to me. It’s really all about respecting each other mutually. We encourage people just to chill out, lose all the star-struck bullshit, and just hang. We’re all just blood and bone, man, and we all have a job to do. People are talented in different areas and I respect that. Some jobs are just more glamorized than others, but no matter what, at the end of the day we all make the world go round. And we all depend on each other to get through it.
Are there any special venues/countries you like playing at the most?
Well, for this record, we’ve already spent a few weeks in Europe, which was amazing. We were in Australia just last week. We can’t wait to get back. I’m really looking forward to getting down to Brazil, Argentina, and the rest of South America since I’ve never been and I know they have a great appreciation for metal. Anywhere that we can go, we’re excited to play!
What are the future plans for the band? Touring?
Like I said, we’re committed to this band and looking forward to touring 2 full years on it. We’re headed out on the Uproar Tour in a couple of weeks with AVENGED SEVENFOLD, DISTURBED, STONE SOUR, and more, which is going to be huge. Then it’s over to Japan, back to Europe, back to Australia, and hopefully down to South America in the spring. We’re ready to work hard and go everywhere. HELLYEAH!
Interview by Linda Nur Chbib