For The Record: An Interview with Hellyeah’s Chad Grey

Hellyeah, the heavy metal super group that was formed from the ashes of Mudvayne, Nothingface and Damageplan, have been a whirlwind of recording and touring since 2006. What did you expect to get when you take vocalist Chad Grey, add in drums by the legendary Vinnie Paul, and bring in some serious crunch with Tom Maxwell, then round out the tempest of sound with Kyle Sanders and Christian Brady? You get one heavy as hell band ready to throw down some thunderous metal.

Hellyeah lays down some serious heaviness with the release of their newest album “Blood for Blood” Where unlike they’re previous albums which focused on some more prevalent rock elements, they return to their heaviest roots with this release.

Myself, being a fan of Chad Grey’s former band, and let’s be honest who doesn’t like Pantera? When I was approached with the opportunity to interview Chad Grey, it goes without saying, I was excited to interview him. We talked candidly about what drives him and his music and we hit upon the writing of their newest single “Hush” which dives into the horrors of domestic abuse and how Hellyeah got involved with NOMORE.org.

One thing I can say about Chad is that he is a very up front and straight shooting person not only about his life but also about his music. I was very humbled and honored to have the opportunity to interview someone I have listened to since his early bands. Enjoy.

Hellyeah kicks off their tour on April 24 supporting Godsmack and Papa Roach, making a stop at the Oncenter War Memorial on what is sure to be one hell of a Cinco de Mayo party on May 5.

BESAW: Syracuse Skull Collector here and I’m on the line with Chad Grey of Hellyeah. Hey Chad how’s it going?

CHAD: Great man, how you doing?

BESAW: Alright, so tell me what’s new with Hellyeah and what’s going on with you guys?

CHAD: We started a new tour 4 days ago and rocking it out man. We played Texas last night, Tucson, El Paso, Houston, Austin. It’s been some radio shows with multiple bands, the kind of the level of the bands you know what I mean. Seeing how people are going to receive you.

BESAW: Nice. You guys recently released the single “Hush”, in my opinion it is a very powerful and gut wrenching song which addresses the horrors of domestic violence. Tell me a little bit on the inspiration for writing it and how you guys became involved with NOMORE.ORG.

CHAD: The inspiration is life, most of my music, all of my music is usually from some part of my past, or something and you want to take that creative outlet and exercise the little demons. I grew up in that world it’s all I knew. I think that when I was in that time of my life, you feel like you live in this bubble that you create, this bubble of isolation that you create for yourself and it’s not necessarily comfortable but it kind of beats what’s going on the other side of the wall. So, it’s kind of a lonely place and you do feel alone, and that’s kind of the mantra of the song just putting it out there, people do feel that way. Which I know that people do because I did. This reminds them that they are not alone and I think it helps them seek out and because maybe the abuser, there can’t be an intervention for that person usually in that situation, it’s happening within the family so there while there’s this violence and abuse going on there is also a lot of love. So people kind of swallow a lot. To protect that, to protect the family.  Maybe not really the way they want to do it but just to speak out, to be able have some level of intervention or maybe make that person realize what they’re doing is wrong even make them take a step back and it might actually help it, it might wrinkle it a little bit at the beginning but I think overall it will help it by speaking out.  No More, our publicist felt the power of the song and ran it by them and because they’re advocates of it and that’s what they want to do is raise awareness of stuff like that. Somebody over there heard it and read the lyrics and started inquiring more and more about it and wanted to couple with us and obviously in cooperation and not competition to help raise awareness. I didn’t know what NO MORE was; I’m a big football fan so I didn’t know what NO MORE was until the NFL thing with the all-white backdrop with the Chris Carters and the other NFL players doing that commercial bit and everything that happened in that. And that’s one that is good for NO MORE for being able to do that and it’s a huge fan base but at the same time not every heavy metal kid is a NFL fan so I think they saw an opportunity to double their outreach to different markets. In the heavy metal community and I think there’s a lot that, that goes on in this community, I think there’s a lot of that goes on in the hip hop community, I think a lot of that goes on in a lot of stuff and I think that music is really a great way for them to be able to target those certain genres of people. It’s been really exciting to be able to be a part of doing this with them. I believe in the raising of awareness as much as anybody else. I don’t really consider our followers fans. I look at all the people who stand in front of us who are sharing that moment of music when we play as family. It’s a heavy metal community in that area and music really did save my life and it was the one thing that I had with me in that isolated space that I lived in. That I can attach myself to and it really helped me get through a lot of really hard times and it’s something that we can all share.

CHRIS: Absolutely. Music is definitely a mystical force, in many different ways as I have come to understand it, it heals, it excites, and it’s a force unto its own.

CHAD: Its emoting man, and that’s what I love about metal. It’s so anthemic, it’s so aggressive, and on the other side it can be so helpless and it can be so emotional. That’s my take on metal personally. If I hear this beautiful guitar part or something that’s being written and it’s got melody all over it , well my first though because I’m in a metal band is I got to go all “WAAAAH YEAH” and scream all over it. (laughs) There’s something in that part that is touching me. So I want to embrace it and Tom knows that riff and that’s just my knee jerk reaction, just know you pray for quiet. And that’s how it started, hell is where I was born and hell is where I was raised. It takes that kind of almost if you took the vocals off of that, it’s kind of a more poppier sound but the vocals and the lyrics are what really gives it cheese and I think that’s the beauty of the band. Everybody works together in order to get to the pinnacle of the composition. And really give it air and let it breathe and let it be its own thing, be its own entity. Sometimes it comes together perfectly like this and sometimes it doesn’t. (laughs) You just gotta keep reworking them till you get to where you want them. That’s the beauty of being an artist; we use our instruments, our voices as our paintbrushes.

CHRIS: You guys have been performing for the last 10 years plus, been all over the world, what drives and inspires you guys to keep touring and doing music. What’s the inspiration behind that drive?

CHAD:  It’s just part of me man, it really is, it’s who I am.  Me and Vinnie were just talking the other day about when I started singing. I had the is little bass amp or whatever and it had two inputs on it and I would run it out of a stereo and plug one into one input and I had this little BS radio shack microphone that had a quarter-inch jack on it and I would plug that into and just run the music through that and sing with it. That’s how I kind of learned how to sing metal. Which is what we were just talking about..

CHRIS: That’s really cool.

CHAD:  Vinny started on buckets and pots and pans and stuff. That’s basically my point is that long before I was ever in a band or thought of being in a band, it’s something I wanted to be.  And I was willing to do whatever I had to do in order to satisfy my need at that time and that’s all I have and that’s what I used. It just grows and grows and here we are. It’s obviously something that is very deep seeded inside of me. God knows nobody is in it for the business anymore (laughs) it’s not like I got a Ferrari in the garage in my mansion over here, nor do I want that. I don’t really care about that.

CHRIS: A friend of mine, a local musician, once put it “I got into music not to make a dime and I have succeeded admirably” (laughs)

CHAD: Exactly! There’s kids looking at you asking “What’s it like, What’s it like” , I don’t know but if you want to do this you’d probably not helping anything. You just got to support and represent. It does do so much and it is so cathartic and it would be a shame to see music go away. But at the end of the day it is a job. You’re sitting at a table which somebody built that table and they didn’t build it for the fun of it.

CHRIS: Absolutely. Your music whether its Mudvayne or Hellyeah has inspired younger generations of musicians, who are the musicians and music that inspired you?

CHAD: Oh man, first real clear-cut understanding is that I grew up around music and was fortunate to have a young mother, my mom had me when she was really young and she was kind of still being a kid when I was a little kid, so it was the Bob Seeger and the Aerosmith’s and Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath. Stuff like that was always around. I enjoyed music but, man I got at some point in one of those dark times of my life, a friend of mine gave me the Motley Crue “Too Fast for Love” cassette,  and I was like somebody flipped the switch in me, like holy shit I understand this. You know what I mean, this is where I belong, so it was like full metal being for that time and then it was from that to Metallica’s of the world and Megadeth, the big 4. Then from there I got into a lot heavier stuff like Deicide, Obituary and Emperor and stuff like that, black metal and kinda pulled back into that whole Seattle scene. I was a big Pantera fan and I don’t anyone that’s wasn’t a Pantera fan and I don’t want to know anyone who wasn’t a Pantera fan to honest with you. I was a Pantera fan, through that whole kind of Seattle movement and from that big 4 the band I really gravitated towards was Alice in Chains cause the darkness of the vocals , the performance of the vocals. It was just so really separate from the other ones like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Sound Garden; I really think that Alice in Chains stood on their own. I was really into that and that really helped me become a better singer listening to that. All that kind of stuff is just kind of the usual suspects of that time. It was great, I do see younger bands now that I tour with and play shows with and those bands are like dude I have been a fan for 15 years of Mudvayne and me and what I have done.   The Suicide Silence guys are really good friends and they were inspired by what I did and the early days of Mudvayne. It’s cool to see how your inspiration kind of helps develop music because obviously Suicide Silence liked Mudvayne, but it still something really great. I fucking love that band.

CHRIS: Wrapping up here anything you want to say to fans or any final thoughts?

CHAD: Come to the shows man, come and give Hellyeah a chance. We started as more of a rock band because I was doing the Mudvayne thing, both of them simultaneously doing them together and really had to separate myself from that but the more the line that’s been let out of Mudvayne. I really just wanted to get back to being a metal singer and I think that Hellyeah has really kind of landed where we always were meant to be. I think “Blood for Blood” is the record people have been really waiting for from us. So if you have written us off in the past or whatever, give us a shot. I’m back to being me and Vinnie is back to being Vinnie Paul and Tom’s back to being Tom. We’re not behind the facade that we got to keep separate from other things anymore. We wrote what we believe is a great record and I think that we really touched people, and I think that if you’ve shut your eyes to Hellyeah that you should open them again and give us another shot.