Hellyeah 2019

An interview with Chad Gray
by Tommy Rage
August 2019

Chad Gray of Hellyeah - photo by Facebook

Chad Gray of Hellyeah
photo by Facebook

Perhaps the best triumph over tragedy is knowing that you are carrying on despite losing a true legend. Beginning with the death of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell in 2004 and most recently his brother and former band-mate Vinnie Paul in 2018; metal fans everywhere hung their heads knowing that not one, but two brothers of metal had passed in such a short time. Together Dimebag and Vinnie helped create the cornerstone of metal with their debut Pantera album Cowboys From Hell. Disbanding Pantera in 2003 the two brothers formed Damageplan prior to Dimebag’s tragic death in 2004. Spending almost two years away from music, Vinnie was contacted by former Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, who shares how much of an influence Vinnie was to him growing up. “Vinnie was more than just the drummer of Hellyeah for 12 or 13 years, he was my childhood hero. I was a huge Pantera fan when I was like 18 years old. Then I got to play in a fucking band with him years later which was just unbelievable! Vinnie was a lot more than just a drummer, a brother or a friend, he was a hero. They were such a huge band in the 90’s. They were such a huge part of the heavy metal movement. Those guys sold double platinum records in the 90’s when grunge was all the rage. We all grew up listening to their music together and Vinnie taught us how to carry the torch for someone who has passed. We felt that Dime’ was still with us, and Vinnie taught us how to do that. We feel like they are BOTH still with us, together. We feel like Dime’ was our 6th member and that they are both still as a part of this band now, as they ever were.” 

Hellyeah recorded and toured for several years before finding mainstream success with their 2014 release Blood for Blood which peaked on Billboard’s US Hard Rock Album Charts at number one with hits “Moth”, “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)”, and “Cross to Bier (Cradle of Bones)”. To fans surprise, a cover of Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore” featured guitar parts from late Pantera axman Dimebag Darrell on the band’s Unden!able album in 2016.

2018 saw Hellyeah lay the ground work for their sixth studio album Welcome Home just a few months prior to Vinnies passing. With Tom Maxwell (rhythm/lead guitar), Christian Brady (lead/ rhythm guitar), and Kyle Sanders (bass) all back together, Chad Gray talks about how they came together both during and after Vinnie’s passing in order to release Welcome Home. “Everything Vinnie recorded for the record was done before he passed. When all his songs were done, it was such a blessing. It shows his dedication and his hard work to his craft. He worked really hard. Unfortunately for me, I’m a singer [laughter], so it took me a little longer to put it together after he passed. I had to go back and do a few songs with our producer Kevin Churko. Thank God for Kevin, I just went for it. I didn’t want to deviate from the way I write. No fucking way. Vinnie loved every song he heard for the record, and he absolute crushed them. I know that he would have been blasting them in his truck in Vegas like he always did, every song!” 

The intense energy behind all eleven songs on Welcome Home are not just tribute songs to a fallen drummer and band mate. By mixing the in-your-face cries of metal with moving tales of loss and sorrow, the group knew they had to share Welcome Home with Hellyeah fans as a live show. Gray shares what it was like to play the new album out on the road for the first time. “We had played a ‘Celebration Of Life’ show in Vegas [May 11th, 2019]. We just felt that it was just so fucking rad and it was emotional, but it wasn’t painful. We got through it and we were all talking after the show and we were like, ‘hey we wish we were getting on a bus and rolln’ tomorrow somewhere else and doing it again.’ But, it was just one show. So we all went home and we sat around and we thought that we really needed to put this thing together and take it to the people.” Asked about finding the right drummer to sit in for Vinnie Paul, Gray didn’t hesitate when speaking highly of Stone Sour’s Roy Mayorga. “Roy and Vinnie were super fucking close, but Roy is always super busy [laughter]. We didn’t have anyone else in mind and he was so appreciative to be approached by us to fill in for the Vegas show. We always said that no one is going to sit behind those drums that didn’t love Vinnie or that Vinnie didn’t love. That was the prerequisite right there. We knew that Roy loved Vinnie and vice-versa. So, about 45 days up to the Vegas show, Roy was playing for six hours a day, learning every single song, listening to the way Vinnie played and the way he attacked the drums. Roy is so focused and so driven!”

This past June, Hellyeah fans heard the first single from the new album, scheduled to be released later in September. The first single “333” along with the hit title track “Welcome Home” have a bit of a story behind them. Shares Gray, “There’s an unknown story about that song. ‘Welcome Home’ was written in December. Vinnie probably heard that song a million times. It feels very much like it was inspired by Vinnie when he passed, but it was the first song we wrote on this record and Vinnie had heard that song many times. There was actually a re-write I was going to do for the release, but he loved that version so that’s the one on the album. He also heard “I’m the One”, and “God”. The song “Boy” I wrote and just finished the night he passed. I just finished it, and 15 minutes later I got the call. It was brutal. I remember the next day sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up, and speaking out loud at him, ‘I love you, and it would be so easy for me to take the cowards way out. To fucking open my hand up and walk away from this right now. But I can’t do that. You are my friend, my brother, my hero.’”

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Hellyeah 2019
CD: Welcome Home Record Label: Eleven Seven Music
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