Vinnie Paul, Hellyeah interview

Vinnie Paul

Planetmosh: Your new album “Blood for blood” comes out on the 9th June.  When did you start writing the album?

Vinnie Paul: I started writing it back in October shortly after we got off the Gigantour.  Did all the pre-production and 90% of the music at my place in Texas, and before that we had talked about wanting to work with an outside producer instead of us doing everything ourselves as we had on the previous ones.  I have a house in Las Vegas and have gotten to know Kevin Churko really well – he has a studio that’s literally two miles from my place in Vegas so that’s super convenient, and we had a good personal relationship so I brought the idea to the other guys in the band and they liked the idea, so once we finished the demos and stuff we went straight to Vegas and started recording around the middle of October I think.

How did you find working with a producer after being used to doing it yourselves?

For one, I was looking forward to not being the engineer, the producer, the mastering guy, all that.  I’ve been such a big part of all the other ones and I really wanted to change just to being the drummer and focus on the drums…and be a producer but from the outside.  It was really refreshing, it was great to be able to go to the studio for two hours, play the fuck out of the drums, then leave and go do something else, rather than living there for 14 or 16 hours a day and being a part of every process that there is.  I think Kevin really earned everybody’s trust right from the start, everybody enjoyed working with him and I think he got the best out of all of us.

What’s the song writing process in the band – do you all write together or are there one or two main writers?

Well this whole record was written by myself, Topcat and Chad, just the three of us.  The other two members had some ongoing personal issues that were really becoming a distraction to the band, so we had decided we were going to have to let them go for us to move forward, so we did the whole record between the three of us.
Me and Tom wrote all the music at my place in Texas – we’d just go in and jam, that’s the way we’d always done it before.  He’d come in with a riff, I’d have a drum idea and we’d sit down, bang it out as a demo, doing our best to make it the best song we could, and then when we went to Vegas we took the demos to Kevin and Kevin told me personally that these were the best demos he’d heard in his life.  Most band’s come in with two or three things half assed written and hoping he’d write everything for them.  So we had a really great place to start, and then Chad got on board, really got comfortable with Kevin and they worked really great together, and you could see them become songs.  Before that they were just jam sessions, just music, but once the lyrics and melodies are put to them then you really see where they’re going as songs.

I really do feel this is the most focussed record we’ve ever made, it has a direction, everything feels right, everything flows and everything comes from the same vein.  The first two Hellyeah records were really a great opportunity for us to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do in Pantera, or Mudvayne or Nothingface, really broad based.  it went all the way from Blues and Country to Metal with a lot of rock in the middle of all that.  With the last record, “Band of brothers” we really got back to being a metal band, doing what all of us do best, which is metal, getting back to our roots, and I think we really accomplished that with the last record and it was a stepping stone for us getting to this record.  Being our fourth record I think we’ve really found our sound, we know what we want to do.

Listening to the album, one of the tracks that stood out to me was “Say when”.  The starting part is just so fast and heavy.

That’s a drum one.  Like I said, the first couple of Hellyeah records were a little more subdued, a little less drumming, more rock, and as we got further along back into the metal thing, I really wanted to bring something to the table that I hadn’t done, and that was a new drum lick I came up with.  It was a great idea to have that thing to be speed metal, balls out, and then drop into that heavy groove, and as a drummer I haven’t done anything that extreme since “Far beyond driven”, so it was cool to be able to do that.  Overall on this record I think the drumming fits the songs, and that’s the most important thing for me.  It’s got groove and it’s also got some really exciting stuff.

You’ve got a tour of the US and Canada coming up for around 6 weeks before the album release.  Who are you touring with?

The bulk of the tour is with Avenged Sevenfold, and it’s a great opportunity for us to play to big crowds.  It’s all Arenas which is going to be amazing, and they love us, we love them, we’ve been friends for ever, and it’s going to be a kick ass tour man.  Then the shows we do without them are what they call radio shows, which are what you guys have over here – festivals, and we’ll be playing with everyone from Kid Rock, to Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, you know everybody who’s out touring in the states at that time.  It’s going to be a great way to start the record, so we’ve got our best record yet, the best touring opportunity yet, then we come over here in August and do some festivals in mainland Europe and we’re definitely going to do a full-on tour in the UK, whether it’s by ourselves or with a more established band, and we’ll be back several times before the end of 2015.  Hopefully Donington next year.

You’ve mentioned festivals, at the moment there’s only one festival announced which is Wacken.  Are there more to be announce then?

Yeah.  They haven’t been announced yet, but I know there are seven or eight.

That must be quite frustrating, knowing you’re going to be playing some of these big festivals but not being able to tell people straight away.

Yeah – the politics of rock and roll.  We just have to keep quiet and wait for them to announce things.

Do you get frustrated when you announce a big tour with lots of dates and straight away see loads of comments from people complaining that you aren’t playing their town?

Oh yeah. I actually put a post up on our page the other day.  All the Avenged Sevenfold dates are up, and here they come “How come you’re not playing here?”, “what about here?”, and I said “We’re planning to get to every one of your cities over the next two years and if we don’t get to you directly, we’re going to be close, so if you don’t get to see us on this run, you’ll see us on the next run, we’ll make it”.  That’s our goal, to really try and make it everywhere.

I think some fans do have unrealistic expectations – they think you can play gigs 365 days a year and not have time to rest or do anything else.

Yeah like you’re a machine.  They also don’t understand that we don’t book the dates.  We have a booking agency, and if we’re on tour with Avenged Sevenfold then we go where they want – it’s not our tour.  People want us to come to their city tomorrow, but that’s a good thing you know – it mean’s they really want to see you.

Revolver magazine recently changed the name of their Best Guitarist award to the “Dimebag Darrel award”.  How do you feel about that?

Vinnie Paul:  I think it’s a great honour.  Anytime my brother’s name comes up especially in the metal and hard rock scene, it’s good, it helps keep his legacy alive and his memory fresh.  It’a hell of an award to win.  As I was told by Revolver Dime was everything heavy metal guitar playing an being a personality was, so for someone to win this award is special.

Do you ever feel there’s a lot of pressure on you, having been in Pantera and having a huge legacy to live up to?

The only pressure I’ve ever felt is not to let my brother down, and not to let myself down.  There are people that love Hellyeah and there are people that hate Hellyeah, like with any band and it’s not a big deal.  I’ve done my best as a person to carry on and make myself happy because I know that’s what he’d want me to do. He’s part of what I do, I’ve felt like he’s with us from day one when we put Hellyeah together, so that’s the only pressure, the pressure to carry on and to do it right.

Over the years you’ve played with or toured with a lot of bands.  Which was the craziest band to tour with?

Man they’ve all mellowed out so much since back then.  We did Ozfest one year and Marilyn Manson was part of it, and they were probably the most extreme band we’d ever been out with.  They’re everything you think they are and then some.  It was fun to be out with them.  They probably couldn’t keep up with us now but back then they were probably one of the only bands who could keep up with us drinking and partying and still get up on stage and get the job done.

Which drummers really inspired you to play the drums?

I’m a huge Alex Van Halen fan, me and my brother grew up on a healthy dose of Eddie and Alex Van Halen.  Alex is pretty under-rated because the focus was always on Eddie, but Alex is an awesome drummer.  The greatest drummer ever, John Bonham, was a huge influence on me, and the drummer who first made me want to play double kick was Tommy Aldridge – the first time I heard “Boom boom (out go the lights) by Pat Travers band, he was doing stuff with his feet that I’d never heard people do with their hands, and that’s what made me want to play double kick drums.  Someone I don’t emulate in style but whose drumming I love, is Neil Peart, so those are my top drummers, and even Peter Criss – as simple as he was, he was part of KISS, and I was a huge KISS fan.

KISS have of course announced they won’t be playing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction – it’s a shame when issues between people overshadow the music.

It’s a bummer but it might be the right thing for them to do, because for them to bring Peter and Ace back just for that and to leave the other guys out who have been part of the legacy over the last 10 or 15 years would be a huge disrespect to them, so maybe it’s better for them to all just go there, high-five and just be happy that they’re in it.

When you’re not on tour, or recording what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to do a lot of things.  I like to go fishing, I like to play golf, I own a house in Las Vegas so I do a lot of entertainment things, I love to go and see shows, go and see other bands, and I love to gamble and drink.  Those are the main things I like to do.  I love sporting events, especially hockey and football.

Have you been to the KISS mini-golf in Vegas?

Yes I’ve been to it several times – it’s fun.

What was the last album you bought and was it Vinyl, CD or download?

Vinnie Paul: The last album I bought was the new Boston record – and it was not good.  I was happily walking through the record store and I saw it, and thought “I didn’t know they had a new record out”, so went over and bought it to check it out. It’s not good.

I still buy CD’s.  I occasionally do the itunes thing, but I’m still traditional.  When we’re in the studio, every night I’d ask Kevin to burn me a CD of what we’d done, and Kevin was like “Nobody burns CDs any more, I can send you an mp3 and you can listen to it on your phone”, but I wanted a CD so I can pop it in my car and listen to it.  He’d always giggle at me for it and say it’s old-school.

Thank you very much for your time

About Ant May

I spend half my life at gigs or festivals and the other half writing the reviews and editing photos, and somehow find time for a full time job too. Who needs sleep - I've got coffee.