There are several elephants in the room when talking to Vinnie, Pantera reunions being the biggest, questions that have been asked before, so it refreshing then that sitting down today Vinnie opens up about some of the other side of his life as well as music, his personal drumming philosophy, managing his businesses and the Dallas Cowboys, also having time to be pitched an idea for a TV show.
What did you want to get from the album?
I just think it was just a really, really big progression for us y’know? Obviously it took the first three records to get to this point, but we really felt like it was important for us to make a career changing record.
That big “A career changing record”?
Yeah, yeah a record that would really put Hellyeah on the map, put an end to what people remember us being part of in our previous bands, and move forward. We had the party records with the first two records, the first two records were very, very experimental for us, we wanted to do something that we couldn’t do in our previous bands, with Pantera, Mudvayne or Nothingface, songs like Alcohaulin’ Ass or Hell Of A Time, that kind of stuff would never fly.
We all had another side of us that we wanted to get out which was a little a little southern rock, a little country, a little rock n roll, a little bit more bluesy and then there was some metal mixed in there, and that’s what really over here in the UK and Europe confused people, they just did not understand the diversity in the music.
It went down great in the US and Canada, and Australia and places like that, but people over here were like “I don’t know what the fuck it is” and with Band of Brothers our third record we really got that out of our system and we said “Hey, let’s get back to our heavy metal roots and do what we are really good at, and comes natural to us; so we made that record, and then this record to me is just a further progression of Band of Brothers except it’s the best songs we’ve ever written, the best producing record we’ve ever had, and just a record we really feel like is just the ultimate Hellyeah sound.
One of the biggest things was that you brought in a producer (Kevin Churko); previously you had done that yourself. Was that part of plan that if it was going to be a career changing record you needed to up your game on every level, to bring someone in who says “Maybe that doesn’t work, try this?”
It was a combination of things, we’d done it the same way for the three previous records, and you know we really felt it was time for a change, to really bring in someone with an outside ear to really push us to another level, and to give us a different sounding board to bounce our ideas off of, but Kevin totally understood our vision, what we were looking for, and the beautiful thing about working with Kevin is that he makes the record that you want to make, he doesn’t want to make the record he wants to make.
He’s worked with some big names, ‘Mutt’ Lange.
Yeah, he worked with Mutt forever, he did Shania Twain records, and he did Ozzy’s last couple of records that were pretty successful.
That’s a pedigree right there.
He’s got an amazing track record he’s a great musician and he’s really good listener and all the guys really learned to trust him really quick and you know at the same time we went into the record and we realised we had some issues in the band, with a couple of the guys that really weren’t following what our vision was, and we had to part ways with them for us to move on. So it was a big challenge and a trying time all the way around for us, but it definitely paid off for us in the end, and we are really happy where we are right now.
What was interesting is that you previously produced, and then another guy comes in to do production with you, did you just completely let him have the reigns?
I co-produced all the Pantera records with Terry Date, my names been producer and co-producer on just about everything I’ve ever done, and I just felt it was time to say “You know what? I want to play drums man” I pre-produced all the music at my house before we went to Kevin, and Kevin told me they were the best demo’s he’d ever heard in his life, I mean he was blown away by the music we had brought to him.
Where they completely finished?
Yeah, the music, no vocals, me and Tom had written all the music and recorded them, and he was like “Man I’m not used to this, I’m used to bands bringing me two half-assed written songs, and want me to help write the rest of the music” and so he was really blown away, and he’s a drummer too, so we hit it off great, I met him like five years ago in Vegas. I bought a house out there, and his studio he’s just put out’s there and we’d run into each other in certain places, and he had a ton of admiration for me, and I felt the same about him, knowing all the things he had done; so we started talking and once we had written the material, the band itself, we had all decided we should bring someone else into produce, a lot of names had floated around, I was like “Man, Kevin Churko’s a no-brainer, this is the guy” my house is two miles from his studio.
How did this accidentally happen? It just fell in our lap, Tom & Chad agreed and we went to Vegas, and once they met Kevin and literally a day into it everybody just felt really comfortable with him, they really trusted him. That’s the most important thing about working with a producer in a studio, being able to trust people because basically you’re in there naked, they get to hear your quality and your failures, and there part of it, you have to trust them, to be able to give it everything you’ve got.
To say “Was that good enough?” and for them to say “No it wasn’t”
Yeah, and to say “No, do it again”
You’re a big fan of Say When, could that have maybe not happened if he wasn’t there?
I think as far as a drummer I would have pushed it to the limit, that’s a hard song to play.
But if you’re not going in to let it all hang out; then you shouldn’t be going in.
Yeah, but I went in and I remember the first take. Kevin, they way he has his video monitors they are behind you so all he can see is the back of you and a control room, and I can only hear him in the headphones, and we’d been off the road for a little bit so the stamina’s not quite there and all that. I played through the song the first time and he goes “Vinnie” and I’m just like “Dude” I’m bent over huffing for air, I mean I went for it, nailed it, and he goes “Do you wanna do it again?” and I say “Nope” and he goes “I hear you breathing, you breathing hard?” and I’m like “Yeah” and he goes “I want you to do it again” and I’m like “Really dude?” and he goes “I need you to do it again” and I say “Are you fucking serious?, can I hear that again?” he goes “No dude, just do it again” so we ended up doing it about three times and he’s really good at taking sections of this and putting them together So I don’t know how much of what he used, that’s all I did three times.
You worked for it.
Yeah man, playing it live is fun, it’s challenging, I really dig it, it’s probably the most challenging drumming thing I’ve done since Pantera, its really cool that the Hellyeah stuff has been a little less demanding for that kind of stuff, but for this record and with Band of Brothers we really wanted to bring that back into the sound of the band, so I’ve been going for it for quite a bit.
You’ve talked about challenging yourself, and in order to move forward to change as well, how do you challenge yourself as a drummer and a band? Trying ideas for the sake of trying new ideas?
That’s kind of what Kevin did, he brought a few more ideas, I’ve produced for a long time, I hear things in my head, I know how I want them to go, but there were some places where he would go “I really like that drum lick, but let’s try something different, see if its better, or if it’s not better” whereas if I do something and I’m producing on my own I’m like “That’s the drum lick, I like it”.
My philosophy on drumming has always been, to play enough to keep other drummers interested in what you’re doing, and be excited about it, but not play so much as in it goes over the average listeners head, it just turns into noise at some point, and there so many bands that forget that, especially drummers, that are all over the place, they are just drumming the whole song and if it doesn’t add to the song, it almost takes away from it, it’s just too busy. There’s too much.
There are places where a drummer should shine, and the rest of the places you’re just the backbone, you’ve got to lay it down and be that solid foundation for the music and that’s my philosophy.
How did the other guys react to being challenged, like Chad, did he take a different approach too?
I think him and Tom both really stepped up to the plate.
Lyrically Black December stands out.
Ironically that was the last song on the record, that we did, it was during December, and obviously that’s the month my brother was taken for us, John Lennon, Pearl Harbour, so many fucking tragic things happened during that month, a girlfriend I was dating her best friend got killed in a car wreck right when we started writing the song, and I was sitting around talking to Chad and I was like “Man, this is supposed to be the happiest month of the year, you got Christmas, you got new year, there’s so much that people are celebrating, but sometimes it’s over-hyped, it’s a difficult time for a lot of people who can’t provide for their families” and he took that to heart, and started writing the song, when he showed me the lyrics, I was just like “Wow dude, you fucking nailed that” and that’s going to hit home to a lot of people man.
It is interesting that it’s at the end, as it’s a maturity in lyrics, previous songs have been really positive vibes, about enjoying yourself, enjoying life, this was kind of dark. Is that something that’s going to carry on?
Oh yeah. I think Blood for Blood is a total maturity of Hellyeah, like I said the first couple of records were getting back to doing music for the reason we started music in the first place: to have a good time, once you’ve been in a band like Pantera, Mudvayne for a long time, it almost turns into a business, you forget the reason why you did it is because you love playing music, and I’m sure that happens with every band, just because there’s so much involved in it, mainly fucking money, and who’s getting what, and how this goes.
When we put Hellyeah together it was fun, I was only doing it because I wanted to play music again, I miss being part of the music, I miss being part of the musical family, having a band and road crew and all that, and obviously I miss my brother, and it was great for me to be able to get back into it, and we’ve really done our best to maintain that philosophy with Hellyeah since it started, let’s always make this fun, let’s make it the best we can, and then, we’ll take care of business as it goes along.
It’s interesting you mention business there, one of the things I didn’t know about yourself is that you’re a pretty prolific businessman, you own stuff and invest. You hear most rock stars and famous people have trouble with their money, but you bought your own tour bus outright, you own some strip clubs…I’ve never met someone who owns strip clubs, what’s the deal? Is it “Great, it’s free tits?” then it’s like a nightmare, because this girl didn’t show? I imagine you’re not that hands on?
I don’t get hands on no, but for the longest period of time I spent a lot of time in strip clubs, when I was on tour, when we would get done playing I would take my entourage and we’d go down the strip bar and have a good time, it’s a great place to go to where you’re not surrounded by people that are always fans, signing autographs, taking pictures, there’s beautiful girls there, there’s good rock n roll music there’s drinks and I figured I’d spent enough money in them the only way I was going to get any of it back was to own my own.
So I got involved in the ownership thing, I’ve always been a down to earth business guy, that was the beautiful thing about me and my brother as we worked together is that I could be the business guy, and he could be the party all night rock n roll all day guy, and he would be the life of the party and I would be able to make sure we were all getting paid and things were getting done right, I like being able to own things, to not have to depend on music to support myself, music hadn’t supported me since 2000, I mean it really hasn’t, I just do it because I love doing it.
Is that something you learned over time, being exposed to the business or something you picked up for your old man?
My dad, he was a really business orientated person, I picked a lot of that up from him, like you said I own four strip bars, a sports bar, I own a music complex now, three of my own tour buses, I can’t even remember everything.
I wondering why someone hasn’t pitched to you this idea: You know how you have John Taffer who does that Bar rescue? Why haven’t we had Vinnie Paul Strip club rescue?
Strip Club rescue!
Were you go into the strip clubs of world and you say “You know that pole isn’t long enough, that jukebox isn’t any good”
I’m not that big a fan of reality TV, so much of it’s not reality. That’s a pretty good idea, Vinnie Paul’s strip clubs. It’s not a bad idea I’ve been approached about some reality stuff.
Yeah, I’m not really into it, being out on the road, playing in a band you don’t have much privacy as it is, once you step into that world, you really don’t have any anymore, they follow you round with a camera, this is enough for me, I get enough exposure on TV and here and there.
I just envisioned you going into a strip club and you going “This strip fucking sucks, shut it down!”
Oh there’s many times that I’ve walked into a club and been like “No wonder there’s nobody in here”
So now we’ve got the record and touring as well, and we’ve talked about challenging yourself, what are the next things for the band. Is your dream to headline say, Download festival?
Whose dream wouldn’t be to do that? Never even headlined Download with Pantera!
Isn’t that amazing?
Yeah, but I’ve played there, nine times, so the next time I’ll be there it ten, and that’s quite a few times.
Just got to keep working up the bill.
Obviously if you have any kind of drive you want to be successful, and I just want to see this band achieve the maximum amount of success that we can. It’s a different day and age, you can’t sell, a million records anymore it’s gone, so you have to try and accomplish on another level, were doing really good in the U.S and Canada we’ve been really starting to work hard on breaking the band in Europe and this record really connected; we played Bloodstock last night, we headlined the second stage, we had the biggest crowd of the night, and they chanted “Hellyeah” between every song, it really felt like…it was shocking.
For me yeah, I didn’t expect that, we had been over in Europe, we did Wacken, couple of other big festivals over there, the reaction was good, but it wasn’t like that.
Because you still say you feel like the underdogs?
That’s right, a lot of things that you would think would work for us, have worked against us, because it’s hard for people to get past our past.
Like and albatross you carry?
Yeah, Everybody keeps thinking that this is a side project, and were going to go back to those bands, and I think finally it’s getting to the point where, its sinking into people and they understand that it is a real band that it this is what there all about and they are starting to come on board with us.
One more serious question I’ve got to ask…
How do think the Dallas Cowboys will get on this season?
That wasn’t the question I thought you were going to ask!
I’m a raiders fan.
Honestly I’m always optimistic, if you cut me open I bleed silver and blue, but after watching the preseason game, in San Diego last night, I don’t think even 8-8 is possible, I think we’re probably going to go 5-11, but they sometimes seem to surprise me man, you know, we go the 49’ers opening day, and in all honestly we should get our ass handed to us, but it’s at home, opening day, all the starters will be in, we will see what happens, that’s what is the beautiful thing about the NFL, on any given Sunday…
On any given Sunday. Thanks Vinnie.
Hellyeah are currently on tour with their new album ‘Blood for Blood’ out now via Eleven Seven music.