Vinnie Paul is best known as the drummer of one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of all time in Pantera. After their break up he went on to form Damageplan, a band with brother and also former Pantera member Dimebag Darrell. But when tragedy struck in 2004 when Dime was taken from us (I won’t go into it here but look it up if you need to), it could’ve easily spelled the end of Vinnie’s career. But in 2006 Vinnie was ready to pound the skins once again and so he joined up with Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, guitarist’s Greg Tribett & Tom Maxwell and bassist Jerry Montano to form a band called Hellyeah!
After an album, tour, DVD, more alcohol consumed than probably humanly possible and a new bass player in Bob Zilla formerly of Damageplan, Hellyeah are now just about to release their second album ‘Stampede’. The band love what they do, they get out there and play live music for their fans and enjoy every second of it. On the eve of it’s release and their Australian tour we had the honour of speaking to this Metal icon who tells us all about the album, the legacy of Dime and just why it isn’t 1994 anymore.
Pour a black tooth grin and check out what Vinnie had to say…..
‘Stampede’ is the new album and it’s as heavy as I’ve heard in a long time! After an album and tour as a new band previously was it easier to come back in and make a second record after working together for that period?
I think definitely, you know the first record almost felt like an experiment to us, we had just got together, we really didn’t know each other, but luckily we had a great chemistry and we were able to really write some songs that we felt were special songs and going into this second record we just had so much more confidence going into it just because we’ve toured together for a year and we really knew each other better we know what we wanted out of Hellyeah and I think it really came through in the music.
How did the songs come about for this awesome slab of rock?
You know we’re pretty simple, we record everything as we write and that way it captures all the natural raw live feel that you had, the dangerousness that’s goin’ on and we get in a room and it either starts with a guitar riff or a drum part or something, we just start jamming and then we start listening to things and putting it together and of course Chad will write the lyrics and come in and lay his part down to it and we’re all kinda producers in our own right so we’re all really put an ear to it and we all really work great off each other so we give a lot of feedback we give things a lot of listens and we think we get what we’re looking for out of it.
You also took the producer chair again on ‘Stampede’ was that always the plan?
Oh yeah, you know, I feel like me as a producer enables me to be more than just the drummer, it helps me become part of the song writing it helps me arrange the songs, it helps me sculpture and contour the sound and really be a part of the record you know. Instead of just coming in and knocking out the drum tracks in two weeks and leaving, I wanna be a part of it from start to finish.
You hit the road prior to the record dropping what was the thought process behind doing that instead of waiting for the album to be released?
We were just chomping at the bit to get back on the road you know, we knew there were some great opportunities to play some Summer time festivals in Europe, the same thing here in the United States and there were so many great bands out touring, we just thought it’d be a good way to get the fans reaclimated to the band and just let them know we’ve got a new record coming.
And you just played Download?
Oh yeah, that was awesome man. The last record that we did, the first one actually, our record company never even released the record in Europe so for us to go over and play Sonisphere, Rock AM, Rock Park, all those big festivals was really a thrill for us and then of course The Download show, the British fans always treat us fantastic and really that was the only place that people really knew us and we played Download before and that was the only European show we did and that was awesome man. It was the only sunny day, it’s usually rainy and kinda crummy, it was a beautiful day and fans were really into it and it was a great time.
Your last album was released on the major label of Sony, this time around you have teamed up with our fellow Aussie brothers “Riot Entertainment” for the Australian and New Zealand release of ‘Stampede’…..what was it that attracted you to Riot?
We needed a label that was really into the band you know? The band did so good in the United states last time around and we did pretty good in Australia but we really want to focus on making this band a total international band, we want to be able to tour Australia, we want to be able to go to New Zealand, we want to be able to go to Japan you know, South East Asia, all over the world so we were able to get Sony to release us for International releases so we signed with Spinefarm for the rest of the world and we felt like the strongest label to get us to go with in Australia was Riot just because they really, really wanted the band and that’s what we wanted, someone that was hungry.
Now you’re heading back to Australia next month for some shows and as I’ve learned Texans and Australians can drink a lot. Are you prepping your liver for the trip over?
Always man, my liver never gets a break, I drink a lot of water in between my drinking but that’s one thing I’ve just always loved about Australia it reminded me of just one big Texas man, the people are so friendly, they like to drink, they like to party, they like to BBQ and they like to have a good time like we do so that’s one of the most attractive things about coming down there, its awesome.
Seriously though, what are some of your fondest memories of Australia?
Well the craziest thing I remember was when we played the Sydney arena and after the show was over there was this big 25 – 30 ft fence out the back where all the cars pull in and the busses and everything and I remember walking out the back door and the fans didn’t want to leave, they were stacked all the way to the top of this fence, I thought this fence was going to fall over swaying back and forth and they were just chanting ‘Pantera… Pantera…’ it was insane, I’ll never forget it man I mean I never felt more loved in my life.
What can we expect at these shows?
Well you know we’re not a band that brings any kind of theatrics or anything like that, it’s all about the band, the fans and the music, you know and we just transfer that energy back and forth to each other and that’s what makes it real.
The video for “Hell of a Time” looks like you had a pardon the pun, hell of a time making it! For people unfamiliar with ‘Hellyeah’, would you agree that this song and video is a perfect introduction to what ‘Hellyeah’ is all about?
Absolutely you know, it’s a back to having fun that’s what we wanted to do with this band, we didn’t want it to get wrapped up in being trying to be the heaviest band in the world or the most intense band in the world or anything, we looked around and there’s so many bands and music out there that’s dark and gloomy and the world’s coming to and end and my life sucks and we decided you know what? What happened to fun? What happened to having a good time? So we put that back in to the music and I think it really comes through in that video, you know that song is basically about your average kinda person that has to go out and bust their fuckin’ ass and they’re working 5 days a week and they cant wait for fuckin’ Friday night so they can say Fuck this shit lets go drink, let’s go have a good time let’s not worry about the boss telling me what to do, I wanna go have a good time and with Hellyeah, every night is Friday night, we want people, I don’t care if its Sunday, Monday, Tuesday we want people to feel like it’s Friday night when they’re out.
When you’re here in Sydney it’s a Thursday night so let’s do that!
Let’s do it man!
I’m married to a Texan so on a trip over there last year we went and visited Dime’s grave to pay our respects and there we noticed so many others had done the same, leaving gifts and messages, a real testament to the Legacy of Dimebag would you like to share some thoughts on the legacy that he’s left?
I’ll just say he was a one of a kind person, of course my best friend in the world, my brother and uh, I just thank God every day that he left us with the amazing memories that he did and the amazing music that he left us, and the beautiful thing is the fans have not forgotten him, they still cherish him and his legacy just grows bigger and bigger daily. I just wanted to say thanks for everybody for showing us the love they always have.
What did you think about Nickelback’s song ‘Side of a Bullet’ as their tribute?
Yeah you know Dime and Chad got a long great, I’ve been great friends with Chad and all the guys in Nickelback for a long time and that was a really very special tribute and once again I’d just like to thank them for doing that.
You have been in the business now for the best part of three decades, as far as music is concerned, what are your thoughts on where metal is at in 2010?
Well, you know after doing the Summertime run here in the States and playing over in Europe I think it’s still pretty damn strong, I was really impressed with the fans and the reaction we got everywhere we went and I feel like the one thing that nobody can take away from musicians ever is their live performance, you can rip their music off the internet or discs or you can watch DVD’s but there’s nothing like being at a live concert and that’s the most beautiful thing in this world and the strongest thing we all have going for us forever.
You have your own label in ‘Big Vin records’ how is that going and are there any new projects on the horizon for it?
Well right now I’ve put it on hold because I’m so dedicated to what I’m doing with Hellyeah but the last thing I put on the label was a band called ‘Seventh Void’ it was Johnny and Kenny from Type-O-Negative’s band and it was a really really great record and hopefully we’re gonna re release it internationally this Summer and it should be available there in Australia so hopefully the fans down there will get to check it out because it’s a really cool record.
Now those guys lost Peter Steele earlier this year so it must be tough on them…
It’s been very, very hard on them and all of us were close to Pete and my favourite Pantera tour that we ever did was 1994 ‘Far Beyond Driven’ with Type-O-Negative, we did like 6 months together, we were just like brothers, so it was just amazing. It really was a sad day when Pete passed.
The one thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of your fans are so loyal to the Pantera era but can’t or wont to latch on to Damage Plan or Hellyeah. I don’t understand it at all, as time moves on, can you maybe throw something out there to give them a kick and realize that it’s not 1994 anymore?
Well, you know, I can appreciate the fact that they love Pantera, I mean Pantera was a very special entity, but you know, all great things come to an end at some point and for me to carry on in my life I had to carry on doing what I wanted to do. The same thing with me and Dime with Pantera, you know, the other guys did not want to be a part of it anymore, they did what they could to destroy it, so we wanted to play music so we put together a band called Damageplan, we didn’t want to make it Pantera part 2, you know the fans wanted it Pantera part 2 but as a musician, as being an artist you want to do something different, so I feel like all three of the bands that I’ve been in have all been pretty different from each other although there’s gonna be some similarities and comparisons but you know its for me, playing in Hellyeah is a total release because I love it, I enjoy everything about it and if the fans want to come along for the ride, great, if they don’t, we’re gonna keep kicking and they can keep listening to their 1994 Pantera records you know.
Now with the release of ‘Stampede’ I noticed you’re doing a couple of special editions including one in a skull?
Yeah, it’s so difficult to get people to even want to have a hard copy of a record anymore you know so you want to put together some special things to really give them a reason to have it and the skull was just something that we came up with, we thought that would be a special collectors edition for the die hard kind of fans and the one with the lenticular cover where the images change as you move it, I don’t think its ever been done before but it’s a really cool thing, its hard to describe so when you get it, take a look at it and check it out.
And why call it Stampede?
Well if you look up the dictionary with the term Stampede it basically means it’s a heard of wild animals that cant be stopped on any level you know and that’s how we feel about ourselves when we get on stage. We just wanna get up and kick as much ass as possible and so we felt like we were bringing a Stampede.
Hellyeah is obviously going to be an ongoing project, but when you’ve got people like Chad with Mudvayne is it hard to do something when you really feel like you want to?
Nah man, that was one of the things that really lured me to this band in the first place as I knew there would be some breaks between the records and the opportunity for me to do some other things like putting the Seventh Void record out and stuff like that and after being in Pantera and Damageplan for as long as I was there was never any breaks so it was just like make a record, tour. Make a record, tour. Make a record, tour. So it was a cool thing and plus we all have so much respect for each other that we cant wait to get back together and work together you know when we started working on this record back in May I just remember how pumped up and excited and how fresh everybody felt. And when you play in a band and you’ve been with the same 4 guys or 5 guys or whatever it is for such a long period of time you know it almost gets to be like your wife, and sometimes you love them you just don’t really want to be around them you know? So it’s refreshing to do it this way.
And we’ve actually got the release of the album this Friday and its set for the 12th July everywhere else, so thanks for letting us get it early.
Its awesome man, it just came out today in Europe as they got it early and you guys get it early and our good ol’ American friends here have gotta wait another two weeks, its kinda cool because you guys will be able to spread the word and let everyone know what you think about it.
I just wanted to ask one thing about the ‘Behind the music’ for Pantera that was done. Did you ever see that and were you happy with the way it turned out?
You know, it’s very difficult for me to watch, I never have watched it all the way through as I’m not interested in seeing the end. I thought that a lot of it was pretty spectacular and at one point in time we were probably the biggest heavy metal band in the world and an unstoppable force and we were a brotherhood and unfortunately drugs and egos and things got in the way and really fucked it all up you know.
That’s it man, just wanted to say thanks and can’t wait for the shows next month.
We’re really; really excited about coming Down Under and playing and hopefully you’ll make it out to the show man.
Band members: Vinnie Paul – Drums, Chad Gray – Vocals, Greg Tribbett – Guitar, Tom Maxwell – Guitar, Bob Zilla – Bass.
Latest release: Stampede (2011, Riot! Entertainment). New album coming 2012.