Hellyeah: Alive and Well
Words: Brendan Crabb
Latest release: Stampede (Riot!)
Band site: www.hellyeahband.com
Festival site: www.soundwavefestival.com
Heavy metallers Hellyeah will make their return to Australia in February/March as part of the mammoth Soundwave Festival. Featuring an all-star lineup of ex-Pantera/ Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul, Mudvayne’s Chad Gray and Greg Tribbett, Damageplan’s Bob Zilla and Nothingface’s Tom Maxwell, the band is currently putting the finishing touches on album number three. Guitarist Tom Maxwell spoke to Loud about the creation of their new material, Soundwave, which Australian hard rock band he’s currently enjoying and more.
Q: Tom, how are you doing?
A: Good man, I’m just hanging out at my house, just writing some music and relaxing a little bit. I just kinda write in general; I just like to keep a catalogue of music. I work with some friends at home sometimes, but I’m just kinda fooling around, recording riffs and stuff.
Q: I believe the new Hellyeah album is close to completion as well.
A: Yeah, it’s recorded, Chad has a few little things he needs to finish, just some little stuff, and then we go into mix mode I think this weekend, or next week, they start mixing out in Vegas. So yeah, it’s almost done man, we’re really excited.
Q: How does it compare to previous albums?
A: I think it’s much bigger-sounding. We worked with a different engineer and I think we’ve definitely captured a much bigger, brighter, cleaner sound than the previous records. I think songwriting wise, for the first two records, we were just kinda going for it, just having fun and just playing really hard. I think we really dug into our roots on this album; we evolved our songwriting.
Q: What is the band’s songwriting process like – do you all work together on the songs, present ideas individually, split into groups, etc?
A: It’s mainly, what happens is that myself and our guitar player Greg and Vinnie all sit in a room together, just the three of us and kind of pound out all these songs and arrange everything. We just demo it real quick and then get back into it once we have a song solidified. For the main part, musically it’s just me, Greg and Vinnie and Chad comes in afterwards and does his vocal parts. The lyrics are pretty much Chad’s deal, he writes all the lyrics and comes up with all the content as far as the ideas for the song, whatever he’s writing about. That’s his thing and he’s really good at it (laughs). I’m not very good at writing lyrics anyway, I just like writing music. But it’s kind of his thing.
Q: Does he talk to you much about lyric writing or the concepts he’s exploring?
A: We just let him do his thing; he’ll have ideas that he’ll bounce off of us. If an album title or something like that comes to one of us we’ll say something to him, but for the most part he just writes it and comes to us, maybe tell us what it’s about or he’ll just go in there and sing it and then we just hear it for the first time. That’s kinda how it works, he takes the reins vocally and we just let him go.
Q: Can you reveal any more details regarding the new record, such as the album title, song titles or a release date?
A: Well, we haven’t solidified an album title yet. We’ve got a few that we’re kinda juggling around. We have a couple (song) titles; ‘War in Me’ is one, ‘Drink, Drank, Drunk’ is another one. ‘Call It Like I See It’ is another one. But I’m not sure, I think Chad’s going to rearrange or rename some titles, some may just be working titles and aren’t solidified yet.
Q: Stampede was released less than two years ago, so the turnaround in writing and recording this album was shorter than the gap between that album and your debut. What was the motivation for getting back into the studio so quickly?
A: Well, I don’t know what the whole Mudvayne situation is. It comes up in conversations every once in a while, but I don’t know what their intention is in the future. I know for now, they’re pretty much on indefinite hiatus until they circle back around, or even if they decide to do that down the road, I don’t know. But we came off the last cycle still hungry; we were going through a transition, we were leaving the label we were on at the time, plus (making) a transition to new management. So we really wanted to keep the window open and not step away from it and just wait it out. We really wanted to take the summer and focus in on the next Hellyeah record while the engines were still warm and we were still in that mind-frame of just going out there and kickin’ ass.
It took a lot longer for this record, for us to make it. Before we would do things in little increments, and we kinda did that with this record, but we just kept going back and back and back, and some songs just needed tweaking and stuff like that. But we didn’t want to wait; we didn’t want to put everything on hold. Those guys didn’t have a commitment to go back to; after the first Hellyeah record, Chad and Greg still had commitments they had to do with Mudvayne. There wasn’t even a question whether they could or not, they had to, so that was pretty much the big contributing factor why it took a year-and-a-half to two years between the first and second record. This one, we came off the road and nobody had any commitments, and we were still really hungry to get new music out there. We were talking about it at the end of the last cycle, how we really wanted to get a lot darker and heavier with this next record and I think it excited us to do that. The first few records have plenty of elements of heaviness, but we really wanted to bring power into this next record and we jumped at the chance. We took probably about a month off and then went to Texas and just started pounding it out.
Q: Is the band likely to road-test any new songs while in Australia?
A: I really want to. It’s going to have to be a conversation that we have as a band with our management. If I do I doubt it’ll be like a single, you know what I mean? It’ll probably be one of the deeper tracks that we know that aren’t going to be on the radio or anything like that (laughs). I really want to, there’s definitely one or two tracks on there that I can see us doing without really jumping the gun before the next record comes out. But I think it would be nice to go out there and play some new stuff, just to get it out there and see the reaction.
Q: There’s also the consideration that if you do play an unreleased song live, it’ll be on YouTube within about five minutes of playing it.
A: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s gonna do that; it’s definitely the consideration. People will just record it on their phone and boom, it’s on Facebook and everything else. So yeah, it’s something that we’re going to have to talk about, but if the song choice is right, if we pick the right song that we know isn’t going to do any kind of harm or jump the gun like I said for the record, I don’t see any harm in doing that, I’d love to do it. We’ve been down there twice and I’m not just saying this ‘cause I’m talking to you and we’re coming down there, but Australia really is one of our favourite, if not our favourite place, our favourite country to play. The people kick ass, the fans are incredible; the shows that we’ve played were just stellar and it’s really cool to see that there’s just such a rabid fan base out there for heavy music and coming down there is really cool, man. It’s like a big Texas, as Vinnie likes to say. It’s just a constant party going on and there’s something to do and everybody’s enthusiastic, ready to go out and play, and just have a good time.
Q: Who are you looking forward to seeing at Soundwave?
A: We know a lot of the bands that are playing and it’s going to be cool just to see all these guys and hang out or just watch ‘em play. I’m really stoked to see Manson play; I haven’t seen him in a long time. Bizkit will be cool too; we played a show with them a year or two ago down in Florida. I know they catch a lot of shit for being more of a rap/rock kind of band and there’s a lot of haters out there. But they’re great live - just stellar. Wes (Borland) is just an incredible guitar player; he’s got amazing presence on-stage, really psyched to see them. Slipknot obviously, it’ll be cool to see; none of us got to see any of the shows they did in Europe, so this will be the first time we’ve seen them since Paul (Gray), so that’s going to be pretty heavy.
Q: On a more personal note, 2012 is here – what were some of your favourite releases of 2011?
A: Oh, man. Mastodon’s record was kick ass – have you heard that one?
Q: I have indeed, great record.
A: Yeah, that’s a really good record. I haven’t really checked out a lot of new records. I mean, the Machine Head record was really good, I loved that, and the Mastodon’s record great. Other than that, I’ve been kinda out of the loop; I’ve been so busy and preoccupied with this new Hellyeah record that I haven’t really had a chance to go out and study. There’s a band from Australia that I really dig called Karnivool. Are you fans of those guys, you seen them, you friends?
Q: They’re very popular here.
A: Yeah, yeah, I really enjoy them, man. I heard a couple of their tracks recently; up until then I’d never heard of them and one of the radio stations here in America was playing ‘em. I went out and got their record and I thought it was just great, brilliant. Good songwriting, great singer. Are they playing on the Soundwave?
Q: They aren’t actually.
A: Oh, bummer (laughs), that would have been cool, I would have loved to watch them. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to tour with them.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Just want to say to everybody in Australia, all the fans down there that we’re excited to get down there and play for everybody, and we’re real thankful that we’re on this Soundwave Festival. We’re just going to bring it, deliver the goods and kick some ass.
Hellyeah will be performing at Soundwave 2012 on the following dates-
25/2: Brisbane Showgrounds, Brisbane QLD (SOLD OUT)
26/2: Sydney Showground, Sydney NSW (SOLD OUT)
2/3: Melbourne Showground, Melbourne VIC (SOLD OUT)
3/3: Bonython Park, Adelaide SA
5/3: Claremont Showgrounds, Perth WA
You can also catch them with Black Label Society, Black Tide and Holy Grail on the following dates-
28/2: The Forum, Melbourne- Over 18s only- Tickets available from Ticketmaster
1/3- The Metro, Sydney- Licensed All Ages- Tickets available from Ticketek