For hard rock supergroup Hellyeah
bringing back the fun and good times into rock and roll is their mission statement. And with such an illustrious pedigree within its ranks - Vinnie Paul
and Bob Villa
(Pantera, Damageplan), Chad Gray
, Greg Tribbett
(Mudvayne) and Tom Maxwell
(Nothingface), and the success of the band's self-titled debut, Hellyeah are right on track to reaching their goal.
Recently Hellyeah guitarist Tom Maxwell
took some time out while on tour to talk to Joe Matera
. In the following interview Maxwell
discusses Hellyeah's current tour, his other band Nothingface, his new relationship with Dean guitars and that now infamous incident with former Hellyeah band mate Jerry Montana.
In the wake of the success of the album and the ensuing tour, are you looking at Hellyeah as something that will be more long term in scope?
Yes. At the very beginning of the band before we got together, it was like more of a project kind of mentality. But once we had recorded the record, we knew there was something special there. And it became more than just a project, it became a band. And then once we got out and started touring we started seeing the results of the record and the reaction from the fans and so we knew we definitely had something special going on. It has definitely taken a major role in all of our lives now.
Have you commenced the writing process for the next album yet?
No. We're just going to do the next record much the same way as we did this record. We are not going to have anything prepared, we're going to just go into the studio cold turkey and write and record the record on the fly, which is exactly how we did the first record. For the first record the first eight days we were in the studio we wrote seven songs and all of them on the fly. And all of those songs ended up on the record. There will be no pretensions or premeditated idea of what we're going to be doing. We're just going to do it.
The whole Hellyeah thing evolved from your initial sessions for the next Nothingface album?
Yeah I was working on another Nothingface record for over a year but I had an idea of doing what was to become Hellyeah for a long, long time. When Chad [Gray] and I first met it was back in 2000 on a tour we had done together with Nothingface and Mudvayne. At the time, we talked about putting together a band that was going to be this full-on extreme band. And years later when we had the time to do it, it evolved into what it is now. The whole thing wasn't that we had this idea it would be specifically this kind of record, it was just the way things eventually unfolded. I think that with the style and energy that both Gregg and Vinnie Paul brought in, it really turned us into the band that we now are. This honest and straight up rock/metal meets southern rock kind of band. And it is something that we're all very happy about and content with.
How do you now feel about that whole incident that went down between you and Jerry Montana and of which, led to Jerry's dismissal from the band?
|"At the very beginning of the band, it was like more of a project kind of mentality."|
I think it was meant to happen. It went the course the way it was suppose to go. After we initially all got together there were some personality conflicts and when it comes down to it, a band is a marriage. And it's the same like a football team. If one person or ingredient isn't giving to the program, you then need to move onto something else. You have to cut that part of the team out. You're only as a strong as the weakest link. Every link has to be equal, has to be strong and has to be ready to go. I believe he's better off where he is and we're better off where we are. It was a tough thing to do at the time but because since then we've fast forwarded, it shows that it was definitely the right decision to make. So are happy to be where we are.
Having Bob Zilla from Vinnie's previous band Damageplan come onboard to replace Montana has obviously been very beneficial?
When Bob came in, his mentality and personality and ability was more than what we could ever have expected. It was a perfect blend. Now we're a much stronger and more solid unit than what it was or what it could have been before with Jerry.
How does it feel to be playing with such a hugely respected and influential figure as Vinnie Paul?
It is awesome especially, as all of us in Nothingface were very much so, influenced by Pantera, a band which has influenced all of us. Just being able to get on tour with Pantera was always a dream for us and when we did that it was awesome. But I could never have thought that one day I'd be playing in a band with him. When I'm onstage and we're looking back at each other and then seeing Vinnie up there with us, it is just a trip. It is definitely eye opening and enlightening and is a true honor to be playing with somebody who has contributed so much to the music that we play already. And to be able to play in a band with him and to have him contribute his art to what we do is also incredible. I don't think there is a word to describe how kick ass that is.
What's it like being out on the road with Hellyeah?
It's a very much a party like atmosphere. The one cool thing about Hellyeah is that we really wanted to bring good time rock and roll back to music. We're in a scene right now where everybody is so serious. Everybody seems to have some kind of position to hold or some kind of statement to make. For almost a decade now the whole scene has been very stagnant. It's been nothing but nu-metal, rap-metal, the hardcore scene, the screamers and all that crap. But we just want to have a good time and live a full blown rock and roll lifestyle. We want party really hard, we want to hang out and we want to drink really hard and it is what it is. Every day there is something going on whether that would be a backstage party or going to everyday strip clubs.
What has been the most insane moment you've experienced on tour?
|"I could never have thought that one day I'd be playing in a band with Vinnie Paul."|
It would have to be flying to Australia during an 18 hour trip. And to deal with that long trip all of us drank every bottle of wine and liqueur that was on that flight. I thought for sure they were going to kick us off or have us arrested by the time we got to New Zealand. We consumed so much alcohol on that trip that it took about three days for us to just recover from it!
Let's move on to your gear. You recently switched from Gibson to Dean guitars?
Yeah I recently did an exclusive deal with Dean guitars. Before that, I was a Gibson guitar player for ever and have always said that I'd rather buy a Gibson than be given something for free that may not be nearly as half as good. But then I checked out the Dean Soltero and found that the action was so amazing and the playability was great and easy. And they did some special things for me too like putting in Seymour Duncan JBs and having the back of the neck completely shaved down to raw wood. The guitar is nothing but amazing and it plays great and sounds great. And I'm also working with Marshall. I've been playing through Kerry King Signature Heads which are pretty much old JCM800 2203 models. But the only difference is they've got a noise gain and overdrive built into the heads. One flick of the switch and you can go from the classic 2203 sound, that classic AC/DC crunch to an overdrive sound which sounds so vicious. Between both of those companies, Dean and Marshall, there is not much more I could ask for.
So you picked up the Dean after the recording for the record was done?
Yes, on the record I actually used a Les Paul Deluxe that was fitted with DiMarzio pickups and my trusty old Marshall JCM800 2203.
What about effect pedals, what do you use?
I use a Dunlop Wah pedal, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay and a Boss Super Chorus and that is it. I'm very plain and don't use a lot. And I don't any kind of processed effects or anything like that. It is basically a simple setup.
Playing with Greg Tribbett in Hellyeah and you having been the sole guitarist in Nothingface, how has this facet affected your overall guitar approach?
It is great because you finally have a right and left side guitar sound and the cool thing about Greg and me, is our styles are very similar. Yet at the same time I'm more of a riff and rhythmic kind of guy than Greg is. Playing that sort of stuff really blends in beautifully and really compliments each others style really well. With both of us coming from single guitar player bands, we have found it has been a real easy and smooth process. And writing with him is equally as easy too.
In your evolution as a musician what qualities has being in Hellyeah brought to your playing?
|"A band is a marriage. And it's the same like a football team."|
I think it has become a lot more relaxed. The one thing that has changed being in this band for me as a guitar player is that nothing is busy. With Nothingface everything is very busy and it is very heavy and there is a lot going on. But with Hellyeah I've calmed down. We all have though. Even for Greg, Mudvayne is very busy and has a lot going on too. So for both my self and Greg, it has enabled us to just sit back a little bit and just play hooks and grooves and not be so frantic and maniacal all the time. So what I have definitely got from all of this is a little bit more relaxation.
Will we see another Nothingface record eventually surface?
Yes, there will be another Nothingface record. We still have a lot of unfinished music we have to do because I've been so busy I haven't had time to go home. I've been on the road with Hellyeah since April without any kind of time off. And then when I have had time off, I've gone home just to spend some time with my family. The other guys are also doing a bunch of different stuff too, but there isn't any sort of break for those guys as well. I do think though that we really needed this time off away from the band so that when I do get back home next year from touring Hellyeah, we're going to get together back into the studio and just write everything fresh. I'm now in a totally different head space that I was two years ago. So people will definitely see another Nothingface release. It is not a matter of if it is just a matter of when.
Interview by Joe Matera