Interview: Hellyeah – Recharged supergroup make album we’ve all hoped for

Posted by Morgan Ywain Evans on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 8:56 PM (PST)


“When making this record fell in my lap and I had to write these riffs, I didn’t look at it as a negative. On the other side of it, trying to keep the band together… things were fucking toxic. We almost didn’t make it through. If we kept things the same we would have dissolved. If we broke free of it we had a shot at doing what we needed to do… Our last record was Band Of Brothers and it couldn’t have been further from the fuckin’ truth” – Tom Maxwell

If you thought Hellyeah were cool but they never quite reached the heights of their members former bands, rest easy. The leaner and meaner Hellyeah of 2014 is pretty much the band most of us always wanted them to be. Greg Tribbett and Bobzilla had some good contributions and no offense to those dudes. They surely pleased fans of the Damage Plan and Mudvayne days, but this new version of the group is sooo much more on fire. I can safely say that Blood For Blood, the pending new record from the group, is by far their best album and certain to be the best “mainstream” hard rock release of the year (even if it doesn’t feature a cover of “Revenge on Society”, haha). Anyway, This is what you would hope to hear from members of Pantera, Mudvayne and Nothingface…aggressive riffs, Vinnie Paul hitting the drums so hard the world shakes and Chad Gray at his absolute best whether handling eerie, heart sick melody or rapid fire screams and morbid yet hope-infused banter. While a semblance of the group’s party vibe remains, the lyrics are a lot darker and more real on Blood For Blood. Cleaning house really did the band favors and I am done bitching that Chad should just go back to Mudvayne. The more minimal sound and serious, angry themes here work fucking wonders as Tom Maxwell’s sick ass groove metal riffs and Vinnie Paul’s blatantly more excited drumming audibly shine loud and clear. The band sound excited and ready to fire on all cylinders. Hell yeah!

Look…have any of you ever thought about the fact that Tom must be a pretty fucking cool guy if Vinnie feels comfortable with him as his main guitar honcho after what happened to Dimebag? Anybody out there as big a fan of Nothingface’s Violence as I am? Well, this Hellyeah record is where it all comes together and hopefully marks the start of a great new era for the band. Tom talks to us about new member Kyle Sanders (Bloodsimple, Monstro),Vinnie Paul playing heavier than he has in years, Chad digging really deep vocally, touring with Avenged Sevenfold and much more. Blood For Blood is a celebration of all things metal.Come June y’all better crank this bitch up to 11!

Tom was under the weather at the time of the interview but he manned up. Thanks, dude! For our exclusive interview with Tom click HERE.


Tom Maxwell: Where are you, near Syracuse?

Actually, sort of near Poughkeepsie, NY. I saw you perform there at the Mid Hudson Civic Center with Pantera years ago when you were in Nothingface. Thank God.

Oh yeah? Wow.

I got whiplash at that show. I hope you feel better before the Avenged Sevenfold tour.

It’ll happen, man. It sucks feeling this way. I’ve got two weeks. I should be fine.

Is Kyle Sanders all boned up on the new material and everything? Is he ready to go as the new guy in the band?

Oh yeah, man. He’s super, super excited. Rehearsing every day. Waking up in the middle of the night dreaming about it. He’s bringin’ it, man. It’s one of the benefits of already having a friendship with Kyle. There’s mutual respect of the musicianship, work ethic and professionalism. When we decided to part ways with Greg and Bob both, we didn’t want to go through an audition process. We wanted to get somebody that was already family. Kyle’s younger brother used to tech for us awhile ago and his other brother is the bass player of Mastodon. He comes from a very musical family, so…

Kyle is great live. I never saw Bloodsimple but my band Antidote 8 opened for Monstro once. They were awesome. Is he still doing that project as well?

That’s one of the things he closed down in order to do this. This touring cycle is a long one. We’re betting the farm on this record. We worked our asses off to deliver something special. We’re looking at 18-20 months of touring.

Holy shit. Well, this stuff will be so killer live. Everything really came together on this one. Far and away your best record with this band.

I really appreciate you saying that. It was a hard album to make. Not the writing. That kind of fell in my lap with all the turmoil we were dealing with with Greg. Before it was me and him sitting down with Vinnie and trading riffs. Developing stuff. That’s fine for what it was. I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus, but this was the record I wanted to make from the very beginning. When it was just me and Chad’s idea to make a band. When we were getting together and writing songs. THIS is that album that I’ve been waiting to do. Obviously you’ve known me from Nothingface and that’s the type of music that I play. I like the balance of ultra heavy and somber songs. We’re not throwing a ballad on the record for the sake of doing it. “Heavy” comes in a lot of forms. When making this record fell in my lap and I had to write these riffs, I didn’t look at it as a negative. On the other side of it, trying to keep the band together…things were fucking toxic. We almost didn’t make it through. If we kept things the same we would have dissolved. If we broke free of it we had a shot at doing what we needed to do. It was tough, especially for Chad, obviously. He and Greg had seventeen years together. But he did it. He came through and he’ll even say this is his greatest body of work that he’s ever done. We went in as a three piece, just me, Chad and Vinnie. We made this fuckin’ album and I’m so proud of it.


You have stuff like “Hush” and “Moths…” with nice alt rock touches but it reminds me a bit of cool Mudvayne songs that would get melodic and weird, but it sets you up for the really heavy stuff that reminds me of Nothingface. And your riffs on here lock up so well with Vinnie. Syncopatedmadness. You also brought out Chad’s crazy side. I always liken him to an auctioneer who can get faster and faster and faster!

(laughing) Yeah. You know what, man? Thank you. There is a chemistry between the three of us. It’s showcased on this album. Too many cooks in the kitchen doesn’t make a great meal all the time. We really harnessed it. That’s one of the things I love about Chad’s voice. When he sings, he doesn’t sound like anybody else. Great lyricist. Songs like “Hush”, which I wrote with our producer Kevin in the studio right on the spot. He asked what I wanted to do that day and I was working on the verse riff for that. These lonely, desperate chords. We tried a tribal drum thing and it blossomed. I was very fearful to bring that song in to those guys. If you take away the great lyrics of “Hell is where I was born. Hell is where I was raised”, it has almost a pop element to it. I thought ,”I don’t know if I should show it to Vinnie or Shania Twain!”

Don’t freak out anybody who hasn’t heard it yet. It’s a bad ass song.

That song means a lot to me. It is me missing home and my song. A little depressed. But I had hope there. Hence the chorus. Always knowing I’m going home eventually. Then Chad came back with his lyrics. I didn’t know whether to high five or hug him. The lyrics are so emotional. Talks about growing up with an abusive step parent that beat the fuck out of him. Coming from a broken home as well as, probably, a million kids out there…I related to it. It really worked for me.

Sometimes he has poetic or weirder lyrics but Chad also is very good at making relatable lyrics.

I didn’t pay attention really to Chad’s lyrics until later in life. When we first met we were just two guys. “This dude’s rad. He has a great voice and a hell of a presence.” I started later to pay attention to what he was doing. In Mudvayne everything was metaphors and weird hidden messages. The early Hellyeah records were cut and dry. Lyrics about drinkin’ and getting fucked up. It was great for what it was, but I was waiting years to get in the studio with just him and me…and obviously Vinnie. Just do our thing. Writing the same kind of music I made my whole life. if you go back and listen to old Nothingface, you can tell the same person wrote the same songs. We feel re-ignited. If you listen to the whole album, did you hear Vinnie on that song “Say When”?


It’s insane. His drumming is like Cowboys From Hell crazy on that one!

That song was written around that drumbeat! Y’know, fuckin’ AR-15 goin’ off in my face! I literally just sat down. I started off as a drummer so can lock in on drums and polyrythms anally tight. The second half breaks down into a heavy half time groove written on the spot in the studio. This album is organic and honest. The way you’d breathe and exhale air. I wasn’t thinking about shit, just playing music I enjoy playing. The band might get a little aggravated with me for saying this but I always felt the past couple records…the first album I loved. All of us getting together for the first time. The first time you fuck your girlfriend is cool (laughing). Last couple records there are moments I’m proud of and moments I felt like I sold myself out a bit. Like we were writing songs we thought certain types of people would love. That’s not the way I’m wired. On this one I had the opportunity to do my own thing finally and get Chad and Vinnie alone. Do my fuckin thing. I’m very lucky I am able to write songs that come from the heart and I have my favorite singer singing on them AND my favorite drummer…who just happens to be fuckin’ Vinnie Paul! I’m a very fortunate man.

Was it distracting being in Vegas?

No. Vinnie has a house out there. He is the party God. No one I have met in my entire life can go as hard as that man can go. I like his house in Vegas better than the one in Dallas. His house in Dallas is set up like a fuckin’ nightclub. There’s always music playing in any of his places but Vegas is more of a home feel. I was able to have some peace of mind there and really work. And Kevin Churko (Ozzy,In This Moment) was somebody I could write music with who inspires me to write songs. The day after we finished this record we thought it would suck not to see each other for awhile. I don’t want to work with any other producer and I think Chad and Vinnie feel the same way. Chad cut a lot of marionette strings he was attached to for years and really fuckin’ blossomed on this album.

Are you excited for the tour with Avenged? You guys should be headlining.

They’re a great band. It’s all good, man. I’d rather tour with a band that has their own thing going. It’s always cool to be with bands with a different thing going on. It makes the night more dynamic. They are totally fuckin’ cool guys. I’ve never…we’ve got so many friends in bands and there’s a few that have seriously healthy egos, but for the most part we’re all on the same team here. If you’re cool you’re cool. They are a band who are definitely down motherfuckers. We have a song actually called “DMF” which is about that. I don’t know if anyone else uses that terminology but that’s something I used to say. “He’s a down motherfucker”. The people in our inner circle or the metal scene who are cool.

“Soul Killer” is so high energy and then has a crazy awesome guitar solo part.

“Soul Killer” and “Black December” were riffs I wrote ten years or more ago.


“Black December” is pretty much my favorite Hellyeah song off of any album. I heard that the other night and it kicked my ass. Great riff and lyrics. (Note: The song talks about December almost being cursed as it the holiday season but also the time of year Dimebag died, among other depressing

Really? Funny story about that song. i wrote it years ago and recorded it with Tommy and Jerry from Nothingface. The original demos. It never was released. I was taking inventory of songs after Nothingface disbanded. My wife found the disc and was like “Track number 7. Bring this one back to
life.” It was sitting on a cd doing nothing. That riff. “Soul Killer” too. That same disc. I revamped them and made them Hellyeah tunes.

“Black December” is big and inspired but sad at the same time. Like you are gonna get through it no matter what. Great way to end the album.

I always liked records that come out and punch you in the face and that gets better and better. This record there are no “fast forward” songs. It wasn’t easy. We were dealing with the drama with Greg. Not to get into specifics but it got to the point where he had a series of things happen to him that put him in a downward spiral. His head wasn’t there. There was a lot of in-fighting. It got to a point where it was a liability but to a personal extent. I didn’t want to not like him. I want him to be happy. Fuckin’ be alive and healthy. I don’t think we could have continued. We all thought that. And Bob, I like Bob. There was disconnect. He was hired and I think he lost his passion because he was never made a full member. I can understand that. It just became stale. We had to trim off what wasn’t working. Nobody wants to see their favorite band lose members but sometimes it is a necessary evil and happens that way. Chad is the voice of the band and it couldn’t work without him. But this was our baby. Vinnie came in adn turned the heat up, but everyone else was a fuckin’ invited guest. We fought through the fire to get to where we are right now and we’re healthier than we’ve ever been.It’s kind of fucked up. Our last record was Band Of Brothers and it couldn’t have been further from the fuckin’ truth. Not saying we hated each other. We got along but it was a series of events.

Now you have a new lease on life and you can tell the core is really strong.

You think from all that turmoil we made a crap record or can you hear the strength?

I told Jamie (PR person for the band) that I thought this was the best record I’d heard from any of you since your “classic” bands. I don’t have to make that up to blow smoke up your asses either. I mean, I write articles and interview bands constantly so…not to sound like a dick, but I don’t need to lie if I don’t like something. This shit kicked my ass. Congrats, man.

You know what, dude? As a fan of music…we all know when a band is being honest and when they are faking it. If this all were to end tomorrow, I would be happy I made this record.

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