When the legendary metal drummer Vinnie Paul passed away in June 2018, the future of his latest band Hellyeah was up in the air.
Instead of calling it quits, the remaining members of Hellyeah decided to carry on in Vinnie’s memory and released Welcome Home, the last recordings of Vinnie on drums.
The touring band consists of Chad Gray (vocals), Tom Maxwell (guitars), Christian Brady (guitars), Kyle Sanders (bass) and new drummer Roy Mayorga (of Stone Sour).
The band will perform one gig in Southwestern Ontario at London Concert Theatre on Nov. 20.
We spoke with Christian to catch up on the Hellyeah world without its legendary drummer by their side.
How has the band been making out without Vinnie on drums? I’m sure you feel his spirit every time you guys play.
We think about Vinnie every day. Vinnie was such a huge part of everything that was Hellyeah and his energy and spirit is always with us. Him being here with us, it’s just he’s missed every day, and even more than just the band as well. He was our brother. He was out here in Vegas so much. This actually became more of his first home than Dallas. He and I were always together. We hung a lot, even if it was just lunch or, texting or talking every day. We’d go see shows together and we were just always hanging out.
So, he’s just really missed. I think as a band, we’ve definitely bonded tighter amidst everything that’s happened and I think the chance to be able to get out and play again and carry on his legacy has been amazing. It’s really important to us to do that. We’re grateful that Roy has been able to help us with that as well. He knew Vinnie very well. So, he’s been a big part of us getting through that too. We’ve been able to all hang on the road and tell stories and laugh and talk about Vinnie and memories, and that’s been great.
I think overall, time passes and you heal and you get in a different place mentally with it. It’s always there and then you’ll always feel that loss and that hurt. But things like that, being able to hang out together and tell stories and exchange memories and laugh and just remember Vinnie for how amazing he was and what an incredible person and talent and friend and band mate and everything that he was, he’ll always be with us.
How much of Vinnie’s spirit is on Welcome Home?
Vinnie is all over it. All the drums are him. He finished all of his drum tracks before he passed and helped arrange almost everything. He was such a big part of that in the studio. A lot of people maybe don’t know that side or how involved he was, but he was heavily involved in the writing, arranging, and production process as well. So, he had a big hand in a lot of that early on, our arrangements of the tunes and putting everything together, all his drum parts. So, yeah. He’s all over the record.
I know Roy was initially brought on just for the Celebration concert, but it was announced as the new drummer the following week. Was Celebration a test to see if he was right?
You can’t ever replace someone like Vinnie Paul and Roy’s not trying to do that and we’re not trying to do that. Roy is our brother and friend and an amazing talented guy. Roy has another band. Luckily for us, they’re on hiatus right now because of Slipknot being out doing their thing. So, he’s available right now. The first show went so well that it only made sense for us to continue on with him playing with us. It just fit on a lot of levels. It fit spiritually, it fit musically. All of it connected.
Like I said, there’s that connection with Vinnie as well. He toured with Vinnie back in the day with Soulfly and Stone Sour toured with Hellyeah just a bunch. So, they knew each other well. There’s a lot of love and respect there. It’s very important to Roy to honor Vinnie the right way too. He’s not looking to gain anything from this other than to pay tribute to a legend. You know what I mean? So, it’s been great having him. We would love to have him play with us until he can’t play with us anymore.
Has the dynamics of the band changed since Roy came on board?
The energy’s always has been there in this band because it’s a high energy band. When you got a guy like Vinnie behind you driving it, I can’t even describe it. It’s immeasurable. Sure, the energy has changed. Vinnie’s not there anymore. He’s always with us, he’s always there, but he’s not physically there hitting the drums behind us anymore. Roy’s is a different player, but he’s also a great player. Like I said, I think it’s really important to Roy to honor Vinnie and what he did and brought to the band.
Pantera vibe has always been around Hellyeah because of Vinnie and even Dimebag’s appearance on I Don’t Care Anymore. But I always wondered were you ever a Pantera fan?
I was a huge Pantera fan. I heard Pantera for the first time when I was 16 and it blew my mind. I think the first song I ever heard was This Love off of Vulgar Display of Power. Just a little punk ass teenager, just playing guitar for a few years, and then my buddy turned me on to them and it just blew my mind. I went out and bought both records, Vulgar and Cowboys. Yeah. I was a huge Pantera fan. I saw them live a bunch of times when I was younger.
So getting this gig before I was in the band, I was great friends with Vinnie. We were really close. So, it was kind of a trip. But when I got the gig and started playing with Vinnie, the 16 year old kid in me was definitely freaking out. Yeah, it was such an incredible thing.
What lies ahead for Hellyeah?
That’s really hard for me to say at this point, April. We’re definitely going to continue to tour this record. That has to be done. The record’s put out and we got to support it. I think there’s a demand for it. The fans have been incredible. Our metal family, as we call them. They’ve been so supportive and just awesome throughout all of this. As long as they want to come see us play, we want to come play for them and support this record. As far as anything past that, I think that remains to be seen. I think we need to see where everything’s at when we get done with this cycle and where everybody’s head’s and where everybody’s hearts are at.
I feel great about where we’re at right now and what we’re doing. Personally, I would love to continue forward. I think that only further cements Vinnie’s legacy even more and honors him and what he helped create in Hellyeah. He was such a big part of creating this and getting it to where it’s at. I know he would not want to see that just end. As far as I’m concerned, I would love to be able to continue on. I think it’s something that we’re going to have to feel out and answer down the road when we get to that point.
There are the five musicians in Hellyeah. Each of you have your very own creative levels. Have you guys tried writing and recording anything recently?
No, not since the record, not yet. All of us always come up with ideas on our own. Tom does. I do. We just put them somewhere, maybe in our phone or just throw them down real quick and have them for later. You know what I mean? But together, no, we haven’t tried to write anything else yet.
One thing that I think makes Hellyeah an exciting band is your and Tom’s guitar. The dueling guitars thing is like Iron Maiden that they made famous. Does it require a bit more practice and partnership to make a dual guitar sound work properly?
It’s funny. You would think that, but we obviously do some rehearsals before we go on tour. But Tom and I really clicked together as guitar players. It really fit well right off the bat. So, there was just a natural chemistry there that we both felt when we got in a room together and started playing and then got on tour and played together more and more and then got in the studio. It works. So, I think that what we each do complements each other.
It also helps that we’re really close. Tom and I are really close friends and there’s a lot of love there and respect and friendship, brotherhood, all of that. So, I think that helps too. That helps with the connection and all of that, live and in the studio and just in any which way. So, yeah. Honestly, it was such a natural, immediate thing with he and I. But it didn’t take a lot of effort, honestly.
Out of the four albums that were recorded prior to you joining the band, is there one that you would have loved to have been involved in recording?
That’s a good question. I’ve never been asked that. Yeah. I would have loved to have been involved in Blood for Blood. Tom and I joined the band right after that was finished. They had already recorded that. So, I didn’t play on that record, and neither did Kyle. So, I would say if I had a chance to be a part of any record in the past that I didn’t get to be a part of, it would be Blood for Blood.
I have always love it when our fellow Canadian, Kevin Churko, is involved in great projects. So, how much, or how much of a part of Hellyeah would you say Kevin is?
Kevin is a huge part of what we do. He’s kind of like the sixth member of the band when it comes to writing and recording. He’s such a talent and he’s really great about bringing out the best in what you do and throwing out ideas when they’re needed and letting ideas develop on their own from us when that’s needed.
Just his whole production, sound, and his whole approach, it’s really become a huge part of our sound and what we do. So, yeah. Absolutely. Kevin’s a huge part of what we do. I personally love working with Kevin. I think he’s just an amazing talent and an amazing guy. Just a great guy and really, really wonderful to work with.
Growing up in Vegas and living in Vegas, did that make you a bit of a showman?
I’ve definitely played in Vegas for years. I’ve done cover bands, I’ve done things, I’ve grown up basically on stage playing. So, sure. It’s definitely helped. Definitely. It definitely helps with how I perform and play and all of that.
I have a question about your previous band, Überschall. – this was a band, had previous members of Blue Man Group and even Blue Men themselves. Were you ever involved in the Blue Man Group?
God. Nobody’s brought that up. That’s good.
I was. I did Blue Man Group for a year. I wasn’t one of the blue men. I was in the band. I played guitar in the band in the show at the Monte Carlo about before it became Park MGM. So, yeah, I was in the show for a year and I’d already known all those guys for quite a while and jammed with those guys for quite a while. Yeah. Überschall, I actually was in Überschall before I ever did Blue Man, but that was a really fun project. It’s still going. They still do it, but it just has different people in and out now.
That was all instrumental improve and it was always, it wasn’t about just jamming and playing solos and hey, look at me. It was about creating a piece and textures and building something into a musical journey, if you want. You know what I mean? So, it was really fun. It was really experimental and really a cool project.