PlanetMosh recently conducted an interview with former PANTERA and current HELLYEAH drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
PlanetMosh: [HELLYEAH‘s] new album, “Blood For Blood”, comes out on June 9. When did you start writing the album?
Vinnie Paul: I started writing it back in October shortly after we got off the Gigantour. Did all the pre-production and 90% of the music at my place in Texas, and before that we had talked about wanting to work with an outside producer instead of us doing everything ourselves as we had on the previous ones. I have a house in Las Vegas and have gotten to know [producer] Kevin Churko really well. He has a studio that’s literally two miles from my place in Vegas, so that’s super convenient, and we had a good personal relationship, so I brought the idea to the other guys in the band and they liked the idea, so once we finished the demos and stuff, we went straight to Vegas and started recording around the middle of October, I think.
PlanetMosh: How did you find working with a producer after being used to doing it yourselves?
Vinnie Paul: For one, I was looking forward to not being the engineer, the producer, the mastering guy, all that. I’ve been such a big part of all the other ones and I really wanted to change just to being the drummer and focus on the drums… and be a producer, but from the outside. It was really refreshing. It was great to be able to go to the studio for two hours, play the fuck out of the drums, then leave and go do something else, rather than living there for 14 or 16 hours a day and being a part of every process that there is. I think Kevin really earned everybody’s trust right from the start, everybody enjoyed working with him and I think he got the best out of all of us.
PlanetMosh: What’s the songwriting process in the band? Do you all write together or are there one or two main writers?
Vinnie Paul: Well, this whole record was written by myself, [guitarist Tom Maxwell] and [singer] Chad [Gray], just the three of us. The other two members had some ongoing personal issues that were really becoming a distraction to the band, so we had decided we were going to have to let them go for us to move forward, so we did the whole record between the three of us. Me and Tom wrote all the music at my place in Texas — we’d just go in and jam, that’s the way we’d always done it before. He’d come in with a riff, I’d have a drum idea and we’d sit down, bang it out as a demo, doing our best to make it the best song we could, and then when we went to Vegas we took the demos to Kevin and Kevin told me personally that these were the best demos he’d heard in his life. Most bands come in with two or three things half-assed written and hoping he’d write everything for them. So we had a really great place to start, and then Chad got on board, really got comfortable with Kevin, and they worked really great together, and you could see them become songs. Before that they were just jam sessions, just music, but once the lyrics and melodies are put to them, then you really see where they’re going as songs. I really do feel this is the most focused record we’ve ever made. It has a direction, everything feels right, everything flows and everything comes from the same vein. The first two HELLYEAH records were really a great opportunity for us to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do in PANTERA, or MUDVAYNE or NOTHINGFACE, really broad-based. it went all the way from blues and country to metal with a lot of rock in the middle of all that. With the last record, “Band Of Brothers”, we really got back to being a metal band, doing what all of us do best, which is metal, getting back to our roots, and I think we really accomplished that with the last record and it was a stepping stone for us getting to this record. Being our fourth record, I think we’ve really found our sound, we know what we want to do.
PlanetMosh: Do you ever feel there’s a lot of pressure on you, having been in PANTERA and having a huge legacy to live up to?
Vinnie Paul: The only pressure I’ve ever felt is not to let my brother [late PANTERA guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott] down, and not to let myself down. There are people that love HELLYEAH and there are people that hate HELLYEAH, like with any band, and it’s not a big deal. I’ve done my best as a person to carry on and make myself happy, because I know that’s what he’d want me to do. He’s part of what I do. I’ve felt like he’s with us from day one when we put HELLYEAH together, so that’s the only pressure, the pressure to carry on and to do it right.
Read the entire interview at PlanetMosh.