“It’s like fuckin’ militant, it’s like going in to battle, there’s only five of you facing the world, there’s only one way you’re going to win that war. That’s the fight, that’s the first wave, the second wave is you’re gonna have each other’s backs no matter what you know what I mean?”
Hellyeah is a band we’ve featured a few times here at May The Rock Be With You, and we are always willing to speak with the guys and get up to speed on all things Hellyeah. Now with a new album ‘Band of Brothers’ (can you believe it’s been two years since Stampede?) and an attitude to go with this slab of metal, this album sounding amazing and is going to be taken notice of. I mean, read below to get what we mean.
At a venue ready for a show and dodging traffic while talking to me, we once again had the chance to catch up with front man Chad Gray from Hellyeah to talk about their new album ‘Band of Brothers’, how they got the sound they wanted on it, Chad gives us a great insight into the track ‘WM3’ and also just how much he loved singing a Def Leppard cover…
Congratulations on Australian release day! How pumped are you to get this record out to people?
Thank you man, oh fuckin’ I can’t wait. I honestly believe that this is probably the record that people have been waiting for us to put out, since they heard that the members were getting together, but unfortunately for us it was never really possible because of the other band and keeping things separate, you know what I mean? I didn’t want to play in both bands the same way, so Hellyeah was more of a ‘hey let’s get back to songs and music and do shit that we wouldn’t normally do in our other heavier bands’ you know what I mean? So, with Mudvayne being on hiatus and stuff indefinitely and doing back to back Hellyeah records, it occurred to me that I need that for my life, I’m a metal head, I need… I’ve got a killer job because I have a job where I can fuckin’ get up there and rage and fuckin’ release demons every single day. I need that balance in my life, I was really ready for this record and I wanted to write a heavy, a solely heavy record, my own style and Vinnie’s own style and let us let Hellyeah stand on its own ten legs.
The album seems to have taken on the best parts of all your past groups, which were of course there previously but it seems that you’ve found your strides now and it’s a monster, was there a realisation of when that actually happened?
I think that what we did was, we just, we just fuckin’ quit being afraid of who we are. This is the first time that we actually went ‘Fuck it’ we’re gonna be ourselves, I’m gonna be Chad Gray, I’m not gonna be Chad from Mudvayne, but I’m gonna be Chad Gray, and that was the Chad from Mudvayne, on a level, writing songs like ‘Alcohaulin’ Ass’, ‘Pole Rider’ and ‘Hell of a Time’, that shit was fun because I’ve never done it before so I didn’t know if I could do it. Now I know I can do it, but I like darker imagery, I like deeper darker lyrics, I like more helpless songs and shit like that, that’s what I dig, that’s what I always did with Mudvayne is play heavy music, Vinnie’s drum tone has gotten more open over the years, more focused, versus Pantera where it was just fuckin’ in your face and up the middle and the kick beaters just hit you in the head. We said, I want you to play like you play but I want that sound too, be Vinnie Paul, be the dude that fuckin’ everybody fell in love with, you know what I mean?
We don’t have to hide from that, I want to be Chad Gray that people fell in love with, I want Greg Tribbett to be Greg Tribbett, let’s just get out of this exterior metal shit and get back to honest and just really, really, really play music and I think by us doing that, I think that’s given Hellyeah that was kind of like a sidecar to all the other bands, or keeping us tethered to something else, we’ve kind of cut the cord because we’ve all come and brought our styles and sounds to the table, it allowed Hellyeah to be its own thing. It made the people hush with the ‘When’s Mudvayne coming back?’, ‘When’s Pantera gonna do a reunion?’ blah blah blah blah, ‘When’s Nothing face ever coming back out?’, ‘Is Damage Plan ever going to do anything again?’ I mean these are fuckin’ questions we hear every day… There’s a little bit of all those bands in what we’ve done and you can hear it throughout the record and it’s cool, we’re not plagiarising anything, it’s the honest thing we’ve ever done, we are the dudes from those bands, we’re not stealing anything, we’re just bringing what we’ve done to the table under the umbrella that it’s Hellyeah.
I’m not going to ask about reunions don’t worry…
Ha ha ha thank you, I appreciate it.
So, the name speaks for itself, but what was the decision behind calling the album ‘Band of Brothers’?
I think it started with the song, I wrote the song first and the more we started thinking about it, the more we just felt like we were… we’d seen a lot of success in our other bands and the way that we feel in Hellyeah is that we all kinda feel like underdogs, you know what I mean? And you’ve gotta be careful when you bag an underdog in to a corner you know what I mean, because they come out fuckin’ fighting and I think that was kind of our attitude with this record that we had this underdog kind of vibe to us because we felt feisty, we felt fuckin’ we were salty about shit, we just wanted to refocus our anger and fuckin’ frustrations and fuckin’ helplessness and bring it to the table and do it together and that really is what we are, we are fuckin’ bros. I’d lay down in traffic for those guys and they’d do the same for me, you know what I mean?
It’s like fuckin’ militant, it’s like going in to battle, there’s only five of you facing the world, there’s only one way you’re going to win that war. That’s the fight, that’s the first wave, the second wave is you’re gonna have each other’s backs no matter what you know what I mean? I think that’s just the vibe to it, and the more I’ve even thought about it and we kind of agreed on that as the name of the record, the more that I really thought about it and standing on stage and looking out and playing songs for the kids with their fists in the air and fuckin’ whatever, I think that Band Of Brothers is more about the metal community than it is, almost even the five of us are a band of brother in itself but really we’re just five dudes in a much larger band of brothers and that band of brothers is the metal fuckin’ community. We all fight and go to the grave for something that we believe in very, very strongly which is music and it’s heavy and it’s relevant to our society that we create for ourselves.
Tell us about the decision to cover of all things, a Def Leppard song, being ‘High and Dry’ on the album and how that came about?
Ain’t my idea ha ha ha. That wasn’t my idea, they did it and showed it to me and aaid “You gotta sing on this” and I was like “Really? OK…” I always wanted to do something else but whatever. I’m just the singer dude, I’m just the guy up the front, the guy that loses his voice every night, who the fuck am I? Ha ha ha. They love Def Leppard, and thank God they didn’t say “Hey let’s cover Pour Some Sugar On Me” because I would’ve been like “Fuck You!” that wouldn’t have happened you know what I mean ha ha, at least they did a cool song off a cool record, I’ll give them that.
A song like ‘WM Free’ about the West Memphis Three, a topic that so many are passionate about, why was it important for you to write a song about it?
They were released when we were doing it, around the time that we were making the record and you know, they way that I wrote that song I took a really different approach to writing that song and I’d never done that before, the way I wrote that song I wrote it from the first person, I wrote it from my point of view, because as much as the song is a tribute to their freedom, I mean finally, thank God, figure it out, eighteen fuckin’ years, really? I mean come on, it’s almost disgusting, and it’s beyond disgusting actually. I lived in a small town when I was young, early high school, middle school, those ages in there and stuff, because we’re the same age, Damien Echols and me are the same age, I think he might be a year younger than me, and I think that I wrote that song from my point of view, of remembering (sings lyrics) “So I listened to Metallica, so I listened to Slayer” you know, doesn’t make me a killer, you know, it’s part of them and it’s part of me because I was the same way. I listened to fuckin’ heavy music, I wore black, had long hair and I did NOT fit in to a town of five hundred people, trust me, a little farm down, people would drive by me and a couple of friends of mine and they would just scowl at us or if we were walking down the street they’d move to the other side, they’d cross the street so they wouldn’t have to walk by us. I don’t know if it was out of disgust or fear that they would cross the street ha ha but who cares, we were young kids and we were intrigued by dark things you know.
I just know that if something, such a tragedy would’ve happened in the town that I lived in, if three eight year old cub scouts ended up dead in my town, I’d guarantee that I’d have the cops knocking at my door. I guarantee that all the fingers would be pointed at us and I guarantee you that the motherfucker that did it would be some freako, but accepted person in the community in the town I lived in, that motherfucker would’ve got off scott free. People probably would’ve invented alibis for that person you know what I mean? Just to make us go away. So I kinda wrote from a first person view, almost like it was West Memphis Four and I was the fourth one, I wrote it like I was one of them because I could relate, I could absolutely relate to that in my life, so I thought it gave the song some life, some realism, a lot of what they didn’t go through wasn’t real enough but I wanted to write it from a place I was very familiar with so it was make more sense to me, so the song would have value within myself because you can look at someone else and say ‘wow that;s really fucked up’ but do you really hold that emotion? Do you really hold the emotion and what they went through? No… you can sympathise with it and all that shit, but you can’t really hold it, and I like to write songs that hurt me, I like to write from an angry, helpless, fucked up place, it makes it more real to me. It was more real to me than to just write a song about them, to make myself one of them because like I said, I understood, I was familiar.
You’ve made the trek to Australia a few times now; can we expect to see you back again soon?
Oh dude, to be honest with you, I can’t get there fast enough, probably one of my favourite countries outside of America. If I didn’t have to live here, I’d live there. I mean hands down, I love it, think it’s awesome, the people are amazing, just the people on the street, the fans are amazing when they’re in front of you, they go off, they always make for a good time and I love the vibe of the people, it’s laid back, it’s chilled and it God Damn beautiful. The country is so beautiful, all parts of it, I’ve been from the East coast to the West coast and pretty much seen a whole lot of it, I’ve never really done the whole outback thing which I would love to do, but usually we’re down there working, not hunting or catching crocs. I hope that we’re coming back, hope we’ll come back soon. Not sure if we’ll be able to get on Soundwave next year but we’d love to come back down.
Well when you come back we’ll grab a beer again. Good luck with the record.
Fuck yeah man, I’m always up for beer. Thank you man, take care.
Band members: Vinnie Paul – Drums, Chad Gray – Vocals, Greg Tribbett – Guitar, Tom Maxwell – Guitar, Bob Zilla – Bass
Latest release: Band Of Brothers – (July 13 (Australia), Sony Music Australia, July 17 (USA), Eleven Seven Music)
Check out our past interviews with Hellyeah below: