Drummer Vinnie Paul may be linked forever with Pantera, but he’s carving himself a nice piece of the action with Hellyeah, together with Chad Gray from Mudvayne and former Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell. The band is about to release a new record called “Blood For Blood” which very well may be their finest release to date. Reason enough for ThisIsNotAScene to caught up with Mr Paul to probe his mind on Hellyeah’s latest ventures..
“Blood For Blood” is the most focused and concise Hellyeah album to date. How did it come out that way?
We really wanted to make the record of our career. We just came off the Gigantour with Black Label Society and a couple of other bands and when the touring cycle for “Band Of Brothers” was completed we really wanted to write a new record and get in the studio and capitalise on the momentum we’ve created because of all the touring. Working with Kevin Churko was another reason why the new record sounds so fresh and focussed. He really knew how to get the best out of us.
The new album is also much darker lyric-wise. The whole party atmosphere of the previous albums are all but gone. How come?
As a band we wanted to make a dark, lean and focused heavy metal record. We got all the partying and booze songs out of our system on the previous record. I think we really found our sound on “Blood For Blood” and we’ve matured as a band as well. Tom (guitarist), Chad (singer) and I were all on the same page as what we wanted to achieve with the new record. Unfortunately Greg and Bob weren’t as focused as we were and they were dealing with some massive personal issues as well. That’s why we had to let them go from the band.
You guys worked with Kevin Churko. What did he bring to the table as a producer?
Kevin really knew how to get the best out of us and it was really refreshing for me to be just “the drummer” for a change. Five years ago I bought a house in Las Vegas and that’s also the city where Kevin works from. So every now and again we’ve bumped into each other and we were discussing working together at some point. I’m big fan of his work with Ozzy Osbourne and all the other productions he has down and he’s a big fan of the things I’ve done. So when we got to the point in the band that we wanted to work with an outside producer it was a no brainer to work with him. He also got along great with Chad, which really smooth the ride when it came down to record the vocals.
How was it for you to step back and just be the “drummer” this time around?
I did had a lot of input from the production sides of things, especially during the pre-production process. However, it was a welcome change of pace just to be in the studio for two hours instead of the regular 16 to 18 hours. I could just focus on my drumming, return home and come back the next day with some fresh ears. Sometimes you can get too close to your own music and to work with an outside guy was the fresh breath we needed.
Hellyeah is the consummate touring band. How does this shaped the band as it now stands today?
Obviously there are some new faces within the band. With Greg and Bob leaving the band we had to get some new people in. Tom, Chad and I are very tight together and when we got the point to get become a live band we didn’t want to hold endless auditions. We had Kyle Sanders coming in, a guy we all knew from Bloodsimple. He really wanted to become a member, so we didn’t really had to ask him. We also have this new awesome guitar player now and his name is Christian Brady. Hellyeah has never sounded better as a live band and it feels good to be whole again.
Greg Tribbett and Bob Zilla left the band earlier on. How did this change the creative and writing dynamic within Hellyeah?
Chad, Tom and I always handled the majority of the writing within Hellyeah. Greg mostly watched what we’re doing and he contributed very little. Bob didn’t do much at all, besides being there for the live shows. Just having three persons involved with putting the new record together really made things easier as well. Sometimes you just have too many chefs in the kitchen and that can really frustrate the overall process you know.
You also did this Metalhead to Head thing with Joe Satriani for Fuse TV. How did you became involved and how do you look back on the whole experience?
I was in New York city doing a lot of promo work which our label and management organised and at some point they asked whether I wanted do this Metalhead To Head thing. I wasn’t really familiar with the show and its concept. Usually they put two guitarists or two bassists together and let them talk about their experiences. This time around they wanted to do something different to they put with me in the show with Joe Satriani, who’s arguably one of the best player on the planet. I’m a drummer and I wasn’t entirely up to speed with a lot of his work, so I didn’t had a lot of things to ask him. Joe really knew his stuff on Pantera and all the other things I’ve done. It was interesting, but it would have been a whole other ballgame if they would put me in the same show with Alex or Eddie Van Halen. I’m the biggest Van Halen fan on the planet.
Finally, You were also involved with the special 20th anniversary release of Far Beyond Driven. How did that go and what kind of emotions went through you when you revisited the material? Any special anecdotes?
I’m not the kind of person who lives in the past, I rather concentrate on the present and the future.I haven’t listened to any Pantera records in ages. However, the record company was going to put the special anniversary record whether we would get involved or not, so I chose to be involved. I’m really proud of the remastering I’ve done and it was fun to watch all those old pictures again. The live cuts from our Donington performance really brought back some great memories. The conditions were terrible at the time, it was raining and cold, so we thought this would be our worst performance in our career, but it turned into one of our most memorable gigs. Once we started to play the crowd really warmed up to us and they went bezerk.