Ricky chats with HELLYEAH
Originally termed a supergroup, heavy rockers Hellyeah are building their way up to ‘monster group’ stature. Having released three albums including ‘Band of Brothers’, the Texans are preparing for their first-ever Australian headline tour.
Vocalist Chad Gray, renowned for his musical efforts fronting Mudvayne, says that he’s never done a tour like this with Hellyeah in Australia. “Vinnie (Paul, drummer) told me he used to do that with Pantera obviously, but it’s been a while for all of us so we’re super ecstatic.”
Of course Hellyeah have tasted a sliver of reception from Australian fans, having played Soundwave in 2012 alongside gold standard metalers Slipknot, System of a Down, Lamb of God and more. “[Soundwave] is just one big highlight from the time the wheels hit the ground ‘til the time you leave” the singer admits excitably. “I mean festival shows are great but [music] festivals have their limitations as a metal band.”
Gray sets the scene for comparison – “ultimately your goal at the end of the day is to get up there, kick-ass and try to gain some new fans along the way” – he diplomatically describes. “Though at an open-air festival, the intimacy gets a little lost, looking out at a sea of people as opposed to playing in a sweatbox club that is hot and stinky; that’s the epitome and pinnacle of metal (he laughs).”
Initially, Hellyeah were playing to a sea of Pantera, Damageplan, Mudvayne and Nothingface shirts in their crowds, but the frontman explains that the ‘supergroup’ mentality is hastily changing. “Hellyeah is becoming a bit of gospel, I obviously talk about it a lot” the vocalist admits – “I preach about it a lot and although I want people to remember where we came from, I think people are gravitating towards our present successes.
“Metal music and aggressive music has always kept my feet on the ground, reminded me that I’m flawed and that I’m human, and I think that our fans really resonate with that.”
Until recently, fans have struggled to accept Gray’s separation from Mudvayne whilst pursuing musical creativity with Hellyeah. “When it started, we were misunderstood, people couldn’t really wrap their heads around it because of where we came from, where Vinnie came from, and we don’t want to have that stigma when we get up on stage.”
Gray explains that the true meaning of a supergroup would be unpalatable and impractical due to egos in the business. “If you took the five biggest stars in music and put them together in a room, they probably couldn’t write a song; you’ve got to be able to check your ego at the door.” It was initially challenging for him to even separate Paul’s identity when recording. “He’s from one of my favourite fuckin’ bands ever, but I don’t look at him like that in the moment, I look at him just like a dude that’s going to play drums for me on a track.”
Though the band were able to produce music together under the pressure of global expectation, it still took them a few albums to get their groove. “I don’t think we really hit the mark for those first two records, that first one was such an experiment and the second one we avoided our instincts” the frontman claims reflectively.
“For the third record [‘Blood for Blood’] I realized that I’m not a rock singer. Now that I know I can do it, I checked that off my bucket list, but I want to continue being a metal singer and getting back the screams, the yells and the belts.”
Gray reckons that Paul has also found his organic blend of recording music and playing live shows. “Vinnie sits back there and just lays it down, he’s got this natural bounce that you just can’t teach people, he just hears music and plays to a certain tempo, it bounces and it moves you” – an anecdote to the drummer’s legendary status.
With the ever-growing success of Hellyeah, fans will always continue to ask about Mudvayne and when the band will return from their hiatus. “I think they will always ask, I don’t think that’ll ever go away, but the thing is, this is what I’m doing now, I believe in living in the moment so that is just what I’m going to do.”