Interview: Chad Gray of HELLYEAH
Tue, 13 Jul 2010 11:51:25
How many modern bands still sound like they're having a good time?
Think about it for a moment; there are very few acts that don't mind cutting loose on an album or on stage. Where did the danger go? Where did the fun go? When did rock 'n' roll become so goddamn stern and sober?
It's like the genre is just waiting for Heath Ledger to pop up in full Joker gear screaming, "Why so serious?"
Luckily, HELLYEAH's latest effort, STAMPEDE, is the balls-to-the-wall, no-frills rock album that the world so desperately needs right now. Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell's riffs swing from all-out destruction during "The Debt that All Men Pay" to bombastically booty-shakin' on "Pole Rider"—the best song about strippers, ever…
Vinnie Paul's drums sound far beyond heavy during the pummeling "Cold as a Stone," while he lays down arena-ready grooves for "Hell of a Time" as Bobzilla's bass rumbles and roars. Over these intoxicatingly infectious grooves, vocalist Chad Gray croons out powerful choruses and vivid verses that'll make you think but also work for when you drink.
With Stampede hitting stores today, Chad Gray sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about getting personal lyrically, bringing swagger back to metal and UPROAR this summer…
Do you feel like Stampede is one of your most personal records?
To me, all of my lyrics are very personal. Obviously, I open up a little more in HELLYEAH than I do in Mudvayne. Even in Mudvayne, I've definitely worn my life on my sleeve. If you went back and read lyrics from as early as L.D. 50 and onward, you could kind of follow my life story. I think the biggest example of that on Stampede would be "Better Man." That's pretty fucking blatant about my early life. It certainly wasn't necessarily intentional, but I think you have to be honest with people.
Your writing has always combined that honesty with an artful literary sensibility. It's almost like a book.
Yeah, it's kind of a story.
Has the HELLYEAH sound been perfected on Stampede?
I think so! I always thought that Mudvayne was really fucking personal. However, I feel like this is the most personal record I've ever written. Let's cut to the chase here. With HELLYEAH, there's an opening that there isn't in Mudvayne. It's the sexual aspect of writing or whatever you want to call it [Laughs]. "Pole Rider" is a song about strippers. I'm not going to write that song in Mudvayne. With that song being included on Stampede, it's like, "Okay, this is probably the most fucking far out I've ever been." I've never done anything like that! But writing the song came pretty natural. It was cool for me to explore that road. I love the song, and it's actually my wife's favorite on the record [Laughs].
The album has a bit of a Stone Temple Pilots swagger to it.
There's some groove, man! There's definitely a danger vibe to it. What you said rings true in my head—I think that this is what the HELLYEAH sound has developed into up to this point. The first record was like an experiment. We wanted to see if we could write together. When that happened, after all of the breaks and stuff like that, we really figured out what we wanted to do. We had a better understanding of what we were doing because we knew each other better as people. We had a year of touring and being around each other under our belts. Making the first album, I didn't really know Vinnie at all. I was a fan, and most of the people that I know are Pantera fans. I don't really know anybody that wasn't [Laughs]. For me, that first record was a little intimidating. I didn't know him outside of what he did in Pantera, and that was all great things. I think there were some nerves going into it. He said it before too. He had nerves going into it as well because he had never done anything without his brother, and he didn't know us. That first experimental record was a great record. It gave us some of the swagger that you're talking about that we're developing now. One thing I love about this band is I don't hear anybody else doing this.
What's the story behind "Order the Sun?"
We'd just put the CD of the music on while we were hanging out and drinking. It was like 3am, and it was just Greg and I. That song was on, and I looked over at Greg and I started singing that chorus lyric. He was like, "Dude, you've got to write that shit down!" The lyrics were laying on the bar the next day [Laughs]. I started putting it together, but the chorus actually changed. It's got that blues stoner rock vibe to it. I'm not really educated in writing like that although I love it a bunch [Laughs]. We kept working with it, and Vinnie was doing vocal production that night. He's got really good ideas, and he's a great producer. I sang the whole chorus through and added those little descending lines to get more of a vibe of the song. Vinnie was like, "I love that! Let's work with that." I completely re-sang it, and it landed like it is. I love the heavy edge of the song. It's probably the most political song on the album lyrically. We're not a political band, but it's about how fucking politicians think they can do anything like order the sun to fall from the sky. They can make it happen and everybody's supposed to fucking bow down to them. I dig that song. The verse lyrics tell the story too—"Send the poor to the war and send the rich up to their suite." You can almost envision that happening. There's a parade of young kids going off to fight for these people who don't really give a fuck. You get that mental image in your head.
If you were to compare Stampede to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
[Laughs] Shit man, I don't know! I think everything is real meat-and-potatoes on it. That's what I love about this band. There's not a lot of individual flashiness to it. Everybody plays for the song. If I get a chance to hold out a long scream over something or the guys get to throw a lick in, we all do it, but we're still playing for the song. We're only doing things that are going to complement the song. You've got to have those parts that the kids are air-drumming or singing along to. That's what I love about playing in this band. It's pretty straight-forward, slamming rock. I think every song has got its own picture, and that's the way I was trained to write. Writing for Mudvayne, there has always been that conceptual aspect, even though it's not The Wall. On a Mudvayne record, there's always something that starts at the beginning and ends at the conclusion and runs through the whole middle. Even if it's one small thing, we hang onto it, but every song is written as its own global thing and the whole record makes that solar system. Being self-trained, by no intention of writing that way, that's how I write everything now. I have a topic with HELLYEAH; I just don't have that theme running through it all. Every song is almost a different movie.
Are you looking forward to UPROAR?
UPROAR is a fucking fantastic bill. I dig everybody that I know on it. I've got a lot of history with them. Halestorm's awesome, and they're great people. Lzzy can sing her ass off! She's really good, and she plays an Explorer. That's pretty badass! We did shows in Europe with Stone Sour, and both bands fit really well together.
Have you heard Stampede yet?