Band Of Brothers, Hellyeah’s third album, is a much heavier record than their first two outings: the self-titled debut and Stampede, the follow-up. On the new one guitarists Tom Maxwell and Greg Tribbett bring the bad with a barrage of guitar riffs on songs like "War In Me" and "Bigger God." Where the first two records had subtleties, Band of Brothers has none—or almost none. Mudvayne guitarist Greg Tribbett picks up an acoustic on "Between You and Nowhere" but there is little let up from the violent assault of the guitars, Chad Grey’s incendiary vocals and Vinnie Paul’s monstrous drum attack.
On a beautiful afternoon in West Hollywood, Tribbett and Maxwell gathered on the rooftop of the Le Parc Hotel to talk about Band of Brothers and working with Vinnie Paul. Sipping bottled water and looking out at the Hollywood Hills, the pair presented a rather intimidating couple as they sat there amongst the well-heeled patrons taking a dip in the heated rooftop pool. Tats, beards, beefy biceps, long hair and nose rings suggested that these two gentlemen sipping bottled water weren’t exactly investment bankers. But when they got into the groove of the conversation, they presented themselves as good-natured and self-effacing guitar players just out to have a relaxing afternoon.
It was particularly touching to hear Tom and Greg talk about working with Vinnie Paul. There’s a genial chemistry between the two of them and though Tom does most of the talking, Greg is always in the background nodding his head and making positive comments. They both spoke about Vinnie as if they were beginner guitar players who suddenly found themselves in a band with the best drummer in town. And when they talked about Dimebag, you could hear the reverence and respect in their voices. See if you can pick up on any of that here.
UG: What kind of a band did you want Hellyeah to be?
Tom Maxwell: We really didn’t know. It was just kind of like a thing where we all talked about it before Vinnie was in the picture. It was just kind of like a sabbatical away from all of our other stuff and it just turned into what it is. There was really no expectations. We were all like, “You know? If something comes out of it, cool. If not at least we’ve got some new friends and a reason to go to Texas.”
Greg Tribbett: I think it was more I kind of wanted to go into a different vein.
You were looking for something different than Mudvayne?
Tribbett: Yeah, I definitely wanted to because Mudvayne is a fuckin’ thought process with all the odd time and shit and all that stuff. With this band it’s more groove, 4/4 and it’s rock and roll and I think that’s what the last two records has been about.
Maxwell: Focusing on hooks and stuff.
Tribbett: Just having fun.
You were dubbed as a supergroup the moment you got together. Did that mean anything to you?
Tribbett: The first time it happened they labeled us a supergroup immediately as soon as they found out the band was together.
Maxwell: It was, “Chad Grey from Mudvayne and Vinnie Paul from Pantera put together the ultimate supergroup.” It is what it is. Whatever. We are fuckin’ super [laughs.]
Tribbett: It is a supergroup and I do understand that. Whatever. I run with it.
Can you talk a little bit about how Hellyeah came together?
Maxwell: Me and Chad originally
Tribbett: I wasn’t even involved in it until I asked to be [laughs.]
Maxwell: We all met at the…
Tribbett: Nine-Thirty Club.
Maxwell: No, no, no.
Tribbett: Where was that when you came up remember?
Maxwell: That was when you guys were playing with Korn at the Baltimore Arena; the Marinara Arena [goofing on the name 1st Mariner Arena.]
Tribbett: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Maxwell: But we all met like way back in 2001 or somewhere around there on the Tattoo the Earth Tour. It was one of the first metal traveling tours of the country. Ozzfest was already going but this was before Mayhem and Uproar and all those other traveling festivals.
That’s when you first met each other?
Maxwell: We all met. They were up and coming and my band was on it [Nothingface] and me and Chad just kind of clicked and became good friends. We always teased with the idea of recording together but just that though. Just write some songs.
When did you actually first get together to work on music?
Maxwell: Fast forward three or four years and we all kept in contact and all that. Chad calls me up and says, “We’re gonna be in town. Why don’t you come on out and we can talk about this?” ‘Cause we had already gotten together once. Chad flew into Baltimore and we tracked a song called “Waging War,” which became the first song and one of the songs on the first album.
“Waging War” was the first song that came together?
Maxwell: Right. And it had staying power to the point where it kept us really interested. You know what I mean? ‘Cause it’s such a powerful tune.
You could feel a spark?
Maxwell: There was something there and it had that staying power and such ferocity. It was, “Well what if we wrote nine or ten more songs like that? Or just nine or ten more songs?” That’s when Chad said Greg was into it so I went down there and the three of us just kind of pow-wowed after the gig and talked about it and they were serious and I was serious and who was gonna play drums? There were a few names that went out there and there were a few drummers that we talked about.
Vinnie Paul’s name came up?
Maxwell: We knew Vinnie obviously wasn’t doing anything and it was kind of a far shot but what was the worst he could say? It was no, you know what I mean?
Tribbett: Which he did many times.
Maxwell: Which he did. Our original bass player Jerry Montano had more of a connection with him than any of us so it was him that kept pressuring him and getting him on the phone. Like Vince likes to say, “He caught him on a good night” when he was partying and sitting in the limo and I guess he had that tickle.
You were finally able to get together with Vinnie for the first time?
Maxwell: He invited us down and we hung out for that first day and we went into Chasin’ Jason’s studio at Dime’s house, which was really emotional for him and we didn’t find that out until later. You really don’t think about it of how emotional it must have been for Vince to go to his brother’s house for the first time to jam with other people.
That was the first time Vinnie had been back to Dime’s house?
Tribbett: The very first time.
Maxwell: He’s never played outside of that box before; he’s always played with his brother. You know what I mean? So he was pretty sick to his stomach but we wrote “Nausea” the first day.
Tribbett: That pretty much broke it open.
Maxwell: It kinda broke it open, man. And that’s kinda the history of it.
How did you feel that first time playing with Vinnie Paul?
Tribbett: I won’t lie—I was nervous as fuck too.
Maxwell: We all were.
Tribbett: I was like, “Cool. I’m gonna jam with Vinnie Paul right now. This fuckin’ rules.”
Maxwell: Then it was more nerve wracking after we had the record finished and he goes to me and Greg, “OK guys time to play solos” [Greg and Tom laugh.]
Tribbett: Oh yeah, that’s right—solos.
Maxwell: You want me to play solos to the brother of one of the greatest guitar players that ever walked the face of the earth. OK.
Tribbett: I think I said straight to him, “I’m not stepping in Dime’s shoes. I’m gonna be me and do my fuckin’ thing, man. That’s it.”
Were you truly nervous playing solos in front of Vinnie?
Maxwell: That was fucking nerve wracking, dude. That was like the first real sweat I ever felt.
You’re both remarkable guitar players but you’re not…
Maxwell: …Shredding kind of acrobatic guys. We’re more interested in songs. You know what I mean? In the context of writing hooks and riffs. I mean I can do that stuff but…
Tribbett: …We’re closet shredders.
Maxwell: We’re closet shredders. Exactly. To me I don’t find enjoyment out of doing acrobats. I’m a more blues kind of guy even though some of the solos I play are on top of heavy stuff, I gotta find that groove and then adapt and feel what I’m doing. In my other band there was no room for that because it was just constant polyrhythms [taps table] and just weird shit. I just ignored it.
Is that sense of groove and feel why you were so attracted to Dime’s playing?
"You really don’t think about it of how emotional it must have been for Vince to go to his brother’s house for the first time to jam with other people."
Maxwell: God yeah. I mean there’s not many guitar players that can do what that guy did. It wasn’t like he tried to be—he just was.
Tribbett: Nobody sounds like him.
Maxwell: Nobody sounds like him. He’s one of the very few in the world. There’s no more real rock god guitar players except for maybe Zakk.
Maxwell: Slash for sure and you got Steve Vai but he’s on a different level; he’s a more prog and instrumentalist kind of dude. Dime was one of the last of his kind.
Randy Rhoads was someone you listened to, Greg?
Tribbett: Yeah absolutely.
Maxwell: When you’re growing up and hear “Crazy Train” and the Blizzard of Ozz record and that guitar, you don’t hear a classical guitar player playing those types of things up until that point. Then there was Eddie Van Halen playing a big part and Jimmy Page always since I was a kid. That’s really where I draw a lot of my stuff.
Where did the songwriting influences come from?
Maxwell: Songwriting-wise it was always Beatles type of stuff; simple stuff but make it heavy.
You and Chad knew you wanted a second guitarist in Hellyeah?
Maxwell: We didn’t think about it but when he brought Greg’s name up and said he wants to be a part of it, I knew immediately that it would be fuckin’ powerful. Because we’re both rhythm fuckin’ insane guitar players times two so it would just be insanity comin’ at ya. Him doing one thing and me doing something else underneath of him and vice versa. You know what I mean? And it complements because we kind of write a lot alike and we feed off of each other real easy. There’s no pretension or any of that shit in this band.
Tribbett: No egos.
Maxwell: No egos.
Tribbett: It was an easy fit when we first started.
Those first sessions for the Hellyeah album felt pretty natural?
Maxwell: Yeah, that was the easy part. The hard part was just getting over the initial reaction and thought that, “Fuck! I’m playing with Vinnie Paul right now.”
Were you seriously that mindful of playing with Vinnie?
Maxwell: Yeah absolutely.
Tribbett: Absolutely. Who wouldn’t be that way? We were all huge Pantera fans and all of a sudden we’re playing with Vinnie the drummer and it was, “Wow, this is fuckin’ amazing.”
Maxwell: He influenced all of us. I always like to say and this is true, I never would have thought that my old band would ever tour with Pantera and that happened. But never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d actually be in a band with one of the fuckin’ guys in Pantera. That’s just unheard of.
When you were in Nothinface and touring with Pantera did you have a chance to talk with Vinnie at all?
Maxwell: Yeah, we did; we didn’t hang that much. He was doing his thing. I spent more time with Dime but we got to know each other enough to feel comfortable.
When you first played with Vinnie was he as great as you thought he’d be?
Maxwell: Absolutely. I think it took a couple days for us to get into our groove but we started writing right away and his insight and his ears are incredible. He would go in there and he’d hear things that we’re not hearing. Whether it’s sound or whether it’s just arrangement parts. Look him and his brother wrote all those great songs and some of the most defining music in metal history. So he definitely brought that aspect into it and still does.
What was cool about the first album is that you went from a bluesy ballad like “Alcohaulin’ Ass” to something really heavy like “You Wouldn’t Know.”
Maxwell: Those songs came out of Greg. Like “Alcohaulin’ Ass” was him and Chad and they wrote it in like 12 minutes just fuckin’ around.
Tribbett: We were actually trackin’ vocals on “Watt” I think it was and we took a break. I picked up an acoustic and said, “Dude, let’s just write like a fuckin’ country song.” I started playing this riff and he started writing down lyrics and he’s singing the chorus, “Alcohaulin’ ass” and I’m like, “Dude, let’s go for it right now.” And we wrote it when Sterling our engineer was on a beer run. So it literally took 12 minutes to the liquor store and back for us to write that song.
Maxwell: And the funny thing is, man, is like that song was an acoustic song front to back and then Vince came in and said, “Let’s build it; let’s make it heavier.” Then we started bringing in slide guitars and all that shit.
What about a song like “Thank You”?
Maxwell: That just came and was a real subtle little moment. There was never any thought of like, “I’ve been working on this song for the past couple days and it’s all off the cuff” kind of a thing. It’s kinda how we still write.
None of the songs you were bringing to Hellyeah would have worked in Mudvayne?
Tribbett: Yeah, they definitely would not have worked with Mudvayne. Mudvayne is a whole different animal. It’s like putting on a different hat; it really is. So it’s a completely different mental state for me. I don’t even think about that.
“You Wouldn’t Know” was the first single off the Hellyeah album and it was a pretty brutal track. Was that the first footprint you wanted to leave with fans?
Maxwell: Who knows? With that I remember just toying around with that riff in the chorus and then Greg came in and lengthened it because it was different at first. I was playing it and then we extended it and then the song kind of grew. He came in with something for the verse and then it just blended perfectly. It was just one of those things. I knew once the vocals were on it that it was gonna be a good fuckin’ single. ‘Cause you know what? At the end of the day music is just music
Tribbett: Yeah, I think it is actually our first rock song. That’s what it felt like to me. That song feels like a rock song to me.
Maxwell: It’s just got that going down the highway at 75 miles per hour driving thing.
Vinnie Paul co-produced the Hellyeah album?
Maxwell: He mainly took the reins of the whole thing. Sterling Winfield had a lot of input on stuff but he was more of like our engineer and getting our tones and making sure our performances were good. Where Vince really got behind there and really kind of fuckin’ decorated the tree and put everything in its place. And we all had our own little thoughts and additions to it but he kinda took the reins on it and showed us how he does things.
Talking about guitar tones did you basically bring in what you’d been using previously? Or did you want to experiment with different sounds and stuff?
Maxwell: I just shipped the same amp setup I’ve been playing all my life and a Les Paul; the same guitar I’ve been playing. On this new record I actually went back to the first guitar I ever owned my uncle gave me when I was like eight years old. It was a ’68 Goldtop and I still have it and it outplays any guitar I’ve ever played. It’s the first time I’ve recorded with it in like fuckin’ 13 years. It was just sitting in my closet and I felt guilty ‘cause I played it at home. We recorded this whole record on Gibsons and Marshalls, man.
Tribbett: I have Gibsons yeah, but now I’m a Washburn guy; I play all the Washburn Vs and stuff now.
How do you record guitars?
Maxwell: It’s kind of chaotic.
Tribbett: There’s nothing as unconventional as being in the studio.
Maxwell: Imagine you’ve never been swimming before and somebody throws you in a pool.
Tribbett: We’re all on headphones and we’ve got TV monitors so we can see Sterling up in this room and we have a TV monitor back by Vinnie so can see Sterling and what’s going on. Us three are all on headphone boxes when we sit down and write and stuff.
Are the performances live?
Tribbett: When we record we just redo whatever we need to redo and otherwise it’s off the cuff. Everything goes to recording when we’re ready.
Maxwell: I would say that 90 percent of the drums you hear on the record are the drums that he’s laying as we’re writing it. Then he’ll go back and tighten things up and add fills here and cymbal crashes there and redo little tiny things. Then our basic scratch tracks are there but we write and record as we go. Vince’s whole process and thought for that is not to get demoitis and to keep that rawness there. Because nothing is gonna be as primal as when you first put it out and you keep redoing it and redoing it. “Alright we did pre-production and this is the third time we’re recording this song.” It kinda loses that initial orgasm that you had when you first did it.
Tribbett: It loses the energy.
Maxwell: Like Greg said we’ve got our little monitors and we communicate but Vince will do his thing and slice and dice his drum parts as he likes to say. Then me and Greg will go in, he’ll go in and I’ll go in the next day or vice versa and do solos and overdubs later.
Tribbett: Hungover as fuck.
Maxwell: Hungover as shit [both laugh.]
You guys don’t drink.
Maxwell: It ain’t easy.
Tribbett: I’ve never done it.
Maxwell: It ain’t easy. I used to think we were drinkers back in the day but Jesus Christ.
Tribbett: I’ve become an absolute professional.
Maxwell: We have a reputation. I remember Greg came to me one day and he’s like, “Man, you’ve got a fuckin’ reputation out there.” I’m like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “People are fuckin’ afraid to hang out with us.”
Tribbett: We got that all the way through the Family Values Tour. People would not come over and hang out with us. We’d party every day and grill out and drinkin’.
Maxwell: Until it was bus call and then some.
Tribbett: Yeah, at 2:00 a.m. and then it continued on the bus. It was just like this is a nonstop fuckin’ trainwreck.
Maxwell: And then you wake up and do it again.
Tribbett: Like Vinnie says, “It’s an inspiration to get up with a hangover and do it all over.”
Maxwell: It’s true, man. A couple shots and goddamn I feel better already [laughs.]
By the time you record the Stampede record have you settled into who Heallyeah are as a band?
Maxwell: We felt more comfortable but we were still kind of experimenting and trying different things.
Tribbett: I think Stampede is just a continuation of the first record. I think we were still in that headspace and not in the headspace we are on this new record. A totally different headspace.
The Band of Brothers album is where it all came together musically?
"You can hear all the influences from all the bands and Vinnie's crushing it on the drums."
Maxwell: We were fuckin’ focused coming into this record. We came off the tour of the last cycle and I remember having a conversation with Greg just saying, “This next fuckin’ record let’s just get fuckin’ balls out and bring what we are as individuals. Who you are and who I am, who Chad is, who Vinnie is and who Bob is [Zilla; bass] and bring it in and be that. No more experimenting. Let’s just do what we fuckin’ do without thinking. Just go.” And that’s what we did and you hear it.
Tribbett: You can hear all the influences from all the bands and Vinnie’s crushing it on the drums.
Maxwell: I read a review and the guy said Vinnie hasn’t sounded this fierce since Great Southern or Far Beyond. He broke out his old fucking sounds and his tones. He said, “You wanna hear fuckin’ Vinnie Paul? You’re gonna get it. Here it is.” Totally rad.
Bob Zilla replaced Jerry Montano on bass on the Stampede album. Did this change the sound at all?
Maxwell: No, because it’s pretty much me and Greg writing all the riffs. That’s our formula and we stick to it. Not that we don’t respect anybody else’s input or anything like that but we’re not into fixing what isn’t broke.
Did the rhythm section feel any different with Bob and Vinnie back there?
Tribbett: Yeah, he’s a better bass player.
Maxwell: He’s a better player, yeah.
Tribbett: One of the reasons is he plays with Vinnie in Damageplan so he knows how to hook up with Vinnie as well.
Maxwell: And he can sing too so he brings that element live.
Tribbett: He sings the harmonies and stuff when we play live.
Maxwell: I’m not dissing Montano; it’s nothing like that.
Tribbett: No, no, no. He’s an all around musician.
Maxwell: Exactly. So the transition wasn’t hard at all for us. It’s really just a matter of locking in to what we’re doing.
Is there a process you go through to actually lock in on your guitar parts when you’re recording?
Tribbett: I will definitely be warming up in the dressing room when we start this tour this week.
Maxwell: We definitely have our little rituals and stuff that we do. There’s a lot of stretching involved and our guitar tech comes in and massages our hands to get the blood flowing. Believe it or not, for a lot of my warm-ups I’ll take a pair of Vinnie’s drum sticks and start beating on his drumpads to get my fingers and wrists loosened up.
Tribbett: Gughg gugh gugh gugh gugh [Greg mimics upending a bottle into his mouth.]
Maxwell: That’s the truth, Ruth.
Were there any tracks on Band of Brothers that were hard to nail down?
Maxwell: There’s some fuckin’ riffs on this new record like “War In Me.” That polyrhythm and in the beginning? That’s actually easy; it’s just a bounce but it’s the riff in the verse and we’re like, “Really?”
Tribbett: We’re like, “We’re playing it at this speed? Oh, OK.”
Maxwell: One of the things I always do too with that song in particular and these guys have heard me playing it and they’re like, “Dude, you’re like playing it three times the fuckin’ speed it is on the record.” And there’s a reason for that. You practice it faster and going slower you’re gonna already be there. It’s like, “This thing ain’t so bad after all.”
Tribbett: And once you get on the road and you’ve been touring for two or three weeks, it’s nothing, man.
Maxwell: You’re just on auto-pilot mode at that point.
The solo on “War In Me …?
Maxwell: That’s Greg.
Tribbett: Thanks, man.
I’m sorry for not knowing which of you two played the solo.
Maxwell: No, not at all. We sound a lot alike.
There are also some little harmony lines in the song. How do you record harmony parts?
Maxwell: That’s gonna be me; I’m gonna be coming in on it [live.]
But you do your own harmonies?
Tribbett: Yeah, because it wouldn’t be as tight. Just like he does some stuff that I don’t even do on the record. I have him do it because it’s his style of playing.
Maxwell: Rhythm tracks too. Sometimes it’s best to have one guitar player play it just because it makes it that much more fuckin’ tight. I mean most of it is just me and him. Then you have a couple tracks in the background with a baritone we’ll throw in there to get that electric piano/guitar sound for the thickness.
Tribbett: There’s a baritone on every song.
Maxwell: Oh absolutely. We were like, “We another fuckin’ sound on this record and it’s not gonna come from the guitar. We need a baritone.” So we got one of Mike Mushok’s from Staind’s custom signature baritones from PRS and killed it. It’s fun. You know making records is fun. You do whatever the fuck you want; you just gotta make sure you translate it live. If we were never gonna tour ever then let’s do some Beatles shit.
“Between You and Nowhere” was the acoustic side of the band.
Tribbett: That was Max; he wrote the whole song actually.
Maxwell: Greg came in and did the solos on it and a lot of the decorating guitar parts. I just kinda had an idea for that song. I was feeling pretty fuckin’ homesick and that’s what that song is musically—it’s a lonely fuckin’ song. I was talkin’ to Chad about it and I was like, “Man, I just feel like I’m between home and nowhere. I’m just somewhere.” I was really fuckin’ depressed and I was comin’ off a bad fuckin’ addiction to painkillers for a while. So I was coming off of it and it was all coming out. He wrote this song about his turmoil that he’s been going through and I just went in and laid the acoustic tracks down and some of the backing electric guitar parts. Then Greg came in and tracked everything else and it turned into this beautiful emotional piece. I didn’t even know if it was gonna make the record. I initially went up there and recorded the whole thing to a click track on acoustic just to get it out of my head. It’s like going to a therapist and screaming and crying for a minute and then you’re over it. “OK, let’s go fuckin’ party.”
You had touched on Jimmy Page earlier—did you think about how Zeppelin mixed acoustics and electrics when you were recording “Between You and Nowhere”?
Maxwell: Yeah, fantastic. “What would Jimmy Page do?” One of the things we haven’t done yet, which I really wanna do maybe on the next record or whatever is some open tuning songs like “Friends” kinda shit. Just some really off the wall stuff with more percussion behind it. You know what I mean? Experiment with it but it’s more like getting Chad into that mind frame as well because he’s such a fuckin’ metal to the max dude.
It’s funny that he’d be averse to trying something like an open tuning because his clean voice would lend itself perfectly to that.
Maxwell: He’s got a radio voice; radio loves that tone of his fuckin’ voice. Like I said it’s just a matter of getting his head there too. Greg’s heavily influenced by Zeppelin too. A lot of times we come offstage and put “Down By the Seaside” on just to bring us down.
Does Chad tend to record all the clean vocals in one pass and then go back and do the growls?
Tribbett: There’s two ways he can sing: he warms up for his singing voice and then he warms up for a heavy voice. So it’s not the same thing. He does it live of course and I don’t know how the fuck he does it live. Yeah, it’s two different processes for him when he records because he likes to really warm up for his singing voice and until he gets there he doesn’t want to sing. But his screaming voice, his heavy voice, is a lot easier to warm up.
Tribbett: He’ll just go in there and start yelling for fuckin’ five minutes and his voice is there.
Maxwell: He’s kind of a greak of nature to be honest with you.
Tribbett: Yeah, it’s weird.
Maxwell: I’ve never played with a singer who sings that hard and screams that much and doesn’t blow his fuckin’ voice out and can do it every night. And he actually knows when he needs to take care of it and when he can go off and handle long nights and have a good time. There’s mornings trust me when he wakes up and he’s like, “Rahh rah rah rah” [Greg imitates a very low drunken growl] but he never cancels a show. A lot of times when you hear about a cancellation and they say the singer is sick, his voice is fuckin’ shot and he’s never had that. It’s crazy.
“Call It” was a great song with that amazing drum roll Vinnie played through it.
Maxwell: That was cool, man. I remember the first time he did that I was like, “Fuck man, this is cool.” That’s another song that was just born. He came in one day and he was just like duka duka duka duka duka duka [imitates intense drum roll] and we kinda all started going off the cuff. That fuckin’ chorus riff to me when I heard that I was like, “This is like old S.O.D. hardcore punk metal shit.” I loved it.
Tribbett: [Greg is singing the riff in the background.]
Jeremy Parker did the Mudvayne album—what made you want to work with him again on the Band of Brothers record?
Tribbett: He has a great ear and he’s a great engineer on ProTools—the fastest motherfucker I’ve ever seen work on ProTools.
Maxwell: Yeah, and I’m impatient as a motherfucker.
Tribbett: But he was just getting shit done like that [snaps fingers several times] and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring him in was because of that. Just because we could move right along with him. His skills on ProTools alone helped this record.
Maxwell: The way he miked everything and I think what was important was the tones he got raw just going to fuckin’ tape or to the digital universe. The initial tones it wasn’t like a struggle after the fact. “Well we can fix that in mixing.” It sounded fuckin’ great. When he initially did the raw tracks for this record they were already blowing away the tracks away from the first previous records, man. Killin’ it.
Tribbett: You could tell right away.
Maxwell: The finished product is just insane. I’ve never had a record where the guitars are so fuckin’ upfront and so crisp and so dynamic all at the same time.
Tribbett: This is our best-sounding record for sure.
Maxwell: For sure, man. There’s no doubt about it.
Tribbett: It’s our best production and everything and it sounds fuckin’ badass.
You’re playing through your rig and have dialed in a great sound. When that sound goes on the record is it exactly what you’ve been hearing?
Maxwell: It’s usually better. I like to have my guitar sound sound exactly the way I’m hearing it out of this fuckin’ Marshall right now. That chonk chonk chonk. You know what I mean? All that clarity and it’s there
Tribbett: Yeah, me too. When you put it down the riff really comes out. Because you know how you can play through an amp but then you put it on tape or whatever and it’s the riff. We’re playing it as good as we can play it and the riff comes out now even with all the other music going on. With this mix it’s the loudest fuckin’ tones we’ve ever had on record.
Maxwell: I think it’s the loudest guitars I’ve ever recorded. Period.
Tribbett: And you can hear every riff.
Maxwell: It kinda reminds me of some of those old Pantera records.
Tribbett: That’s for sure.
Maxwell: It’s so crisp and clear and you can hear every fuckin’ note. Even the ones that are being muffed.
Tribbett: Muted and stuff.
Maxwell: Just muted out and it’s clear and awesome.
How would you describe each other’s guitar tones?
Maxwell: His tone is very, very fat and pretty fuckin’ balanced all the way. When he hits a chord, you just don’t hear the bottom parts of it but you hear the ringing in the top end. There are six strings to a fuckin’ guitar and I like to hear six strings. His sound is definitely a little bit more edgier than mine and a little bit more metal.
Maxwell: And there’s nothing wrong with that and that’s what I like about it because there are two distinct sounds that are blended right. It’s a good marriage.
Tribbett: I’d say Tom’s sound is like a ballsy midrage tone. Even when he hits his famous Tom Maxwell chord [both laugh] you can hear it’s a rock and roll chord coming out of his amp but when you chug it it sounds mean as fuck too. And putting our two tones together match excellent.
Were you both big fans of two-guitar bands?
"There’s nothing as unconventional as being in the studio."
Maxwell: Judas Priest; Metallica. Especially when I was younger growing up, I listened to the crazy ass harmonies in Iron Maiden and what they were doing. It was a band where one guitar player would be doing something and then another guy would be doing something else underneath of it and the same with Priest. They were really inspirational and it actually opened a lot more doors. Because when you’re in a single-guitar band like he was and I was you can apply that. Instead of just playing one track the same and letting everybody else do their stuff, you can layer and do all kinds of other shit. And just hopefully pull it off live because that’s always been my stick. Like, “It’s cool if we can do it and put it on a record but let’s make sure we can pull it off live.” And with two guitar players absolutely we can.
Is there any kind of friendly competition between the two of you?
Maxwell: I’ve never felt anything like that
Maxwell: I mean there’s times when they’re fucking with me onstage. Like on “You Wouldn’t Know” we do an intro and I can look over and usually I’ll do this intro and it’ll last like a minute or two. But they know I’m like standing there and I’m kinda teetering back and forth, they’ll let it go another five fuckin’ minutes and I’m just standing out there like, “Really?”
Tribbett: It depends on how far down he is on the bottle. Me and Chad will sneak off behind my thing behind my rig and we’re back there smokin’ a cigarette or having a beer.
Maxwell: Or laughing at me.
Tribbett: It’s like, “Ahh, let him go a bit longer.”
Maxwell: I decided if they do it again I’m gonna keep a fuckin’ stool and just gonna sit down.
Tribbett: Just sit down and start rockin’ on acoustic.
Maxwell: And start playing something else. Fuck it.
Were you able to get all your excesses out on Band of Brothers?
Maxwell: Me personally I got everything I wanted out of this record. It’s all there for me. I listen to it and I don’t have any dead spots in the way I feel. Like, “This song shoulda, coulda had this or should not have that.” It all came out and I’m fuckin’ beyond proud of this record. Part of the cool thing about it is at the end of the day the insecurities of when we were first finished doing it are gone. I’m like, “Man, is this fuckin’ song good enough? Is this record good enough?” There’s always that hunger to know you did a good job. Then after we hear the mix and the master and the reaction from people, it’s kinda like a sigh of, “Yeah man, I fuckin’ did it. We fuckin’ did it.”
You still have those insecurities about the music you make?
Maxwell: Definitely; sure.
Tribbett: We like to get feedback from our inner circle upfront.
Maxwell: That’s the main thing—the inner circle
Tribbett: “Check this out. Give me your honest opinion. What do you think? Just fuckin’ check this song out.” We’ve done that every record. It’s funny because most of the responses we’ve been getting off of “War In Me” from the fans that have listened to it now since it’s out on iTunes or whatever, a lot of them are saying, “This is the Hellyeah I’ve been waiting for. This is the Hellyeah that should have been the first record. This is what Hellyeah is.” And we’re like, “Hey, we had fun on the first two records. We know what the fuck we’re doing.”
Tribbett: We needed to get all that out of us though to get to where we are now.”
It’s easy to understand why fans want to hear Hellyeah doing songs like “War In Me.” But the musicality of the band comes out in the less obvious songs like “Thank You” and “Better Man.”
Maxwell: Sure, the deeper tracks. You really have to separate yourself from that though. If you let it get to you reading comments on those sites, I’ve seen people just crash under it before and just take it so personally. And get involved and start writing back. I mean it’s just like, “Dude, c’mon. It’s the fuckin’ Internet, dude. Who cares?” You think Led Zeppelin gave a fuck about what anybody thought when they were putting out those deeper tracks? It’s not all about “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway to Heaven” and “Black Dog” and all that.
Tribbett: There’s better songs.
The critics shredded Zeppelin from the beginning.
Maxwell: Killed ‘em. Rolling Stone, man, fuckin’ tore them a new asshole.
You’ll now go out and tour the record?
Tribbett: Yeah, we’re gonna milk it ‘til we’re done, man.
Maxwell: I’ll be two years older by the time this thing dies.
Tribbett: Hopefully I’ll be two years younger [laughs.]
Without trying to sound maudlin or corny do you think Dime is looking down and digging Band of Brothers?
Maxwell: All the time. The funny thing is his big number is 333 and we see it everywhere we go. We were in Tokyo taking the bullet train and the train number was 333. Vinnie took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook.
Maxwell: Vinnie said something really fuckin’ deep. He said, “My brother would have loved this band and he’s with this band.” He feels it. Listen he might be gone but the essence of his life is running through the very veins of Vinnie still to this day and so is his spirit. And Vince brings that and in a way he kind of took the reins from a lot of things that Dime was and just continued on with it. Like Dime and like Vinnie said and I can apply it to Vince, Vince gets off on making people happy and making sure everybody is having a good time and loving it. So yeah, I definitely feel that his spirit and all that lives through with us. And with anybody that was a real true fan of Pantera and Dime—they know what I’m talkin’ about. Every time you put on that record, he’s alive.
Interview by Steven Rosen
Ultimate-Guitar.Com © 2012