For any dedicated fan of Mudvayne
, it might have come as a surprise that guitarist Greg Tribbett
and singer Chad Gray
undertook a very different musical path with Hellyeah
back in 2006. Trading in mathematical metal for a raw, Southern rock vibe, Hellyeah
has carved out a distinct niche in the music scene.
The supergroup, which is rounded out by Damageplan/Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul
, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell
, and Damageplan bassist Bob Zilla
, is now set to release its sophomore release Stampede
on July 17. Much like the self-titled debut, the songwriting process was a shockingly speedy one, with a good deal of the core ideas being penned within only a few weeks' time.
For songs like "Alcohaulin' Ass
," "You Wouldn't Know
," and now the new single "Cowboy Way
has taken an extremely straightforward approach to playing. Relying on a few solid Marshall heads and his custom Washburn WV66GT not to mention his trusty wah Tribbett
tries to keep things "basic
" when it comes to the trademark Hellyeah
sound. The guitarist spoke with Ultimate-Guitar
recently to discuss the latest record, his approach to the guitar, and when he'll be switching gears back to Mudvayne
UG: I understand that the songs developed rather quickly for the latest album, with several ideas being written within the first few weeks together. Was the result fairly similar for the first record?
I think it was easier this time around because we knew each other. We had toured together. We know each other as players, so it was easier. Here's to put it in perspective. For the first record we wrote seven songs in eight days when we first got together, which was amazing. Coming together for this record, it just made it easier by knowing how each other plays.
How easy it to transition from the Mudvayne mindset to Hellyeah? Those are quite distinctive bands.
It's just like a flick of a switch, basically. I can put my head into the mindset of Mudvayne, which is more chaotic, mathematical metal kind of stuff. Hellyeah is more straightforward. It's just a matter of putting my head in that space.
Do you come up with the bulk of the initial ideas for Hellyeah? Let's use the example Cowboy Way. How did that particular song develop?
It's funny that you mention that one because that riff came about from just warming up and testing the amp! I was playing a riff and they were like, Hey man, that's a cool riff. We should jam that out. An hour later we had Cowboy Way.
Had that type of instance occurred before, where it was that spontaneous?
Oh, never. That's the first time it's happened. I was like, Yeah, man! Let's jam it!
For most of the other material, do jam sessions play a big part in the songwriting process?
It's more or less that me and Tom will bring in riffs. We'll just start from that way. We might have a verse riff, might have a chorus riff. Then we'll match it with the song and we'll put it together from there. To give you an example, we'll all come in and start jamming, but then me and Tom and Vinnie will usually put the songs together.
How would you compare your playing style to Tom's? Is there one individual who might be more rhythm-oriented than the other?
"Coming together for this record, it just made it easier by knowing how each other plays."
I think we got pretty lucky, actually. I think me and Tom play a lot alike. I think Tom is more of a bluesy lead player and I'm more of a metal lead player. I think that's the only thing that separates us. As far as rhythm, we pretty much play the same. I was really surprised about it. We'll still get together and mesh it out.
I've read that Randy Rhoads was a huge influence on your playing. Was he the guitarist that initially inspired you to pick up the instrument in the first place, or was there another key figure?
I think it was a combination of him and Jimmy Page. I think you can tell that's where all my chord work comes from, the Jimmy Page side. I think all the riffing comes straight up from Randy Rhoads.
Were you self-taught or did you take any lessons?
I was self-taught, actually. I took about six lessons and then just said, Fuck that. I just went and sat in my bedroom and played for hours.
Did you figure that lesson plans provided something that you could grasp just as easily on your own time?
I just thought that I was taking lessons to learn songs. I wasn't learning anything. I was just learning how to maybe do bar chords. I figure I could do that myself. Instead of doing a half-hour lesson, I could just sit at home and practice for hours. I could figure this out on my own.
Let's talk a little about what we're hearing on the new record Stampede. Did you try out any new guitars or effects that might have differed from the self-titled debut?
Not really. It was pretty much straightforward. I used my Washburn custom guitars. I used a Marshall head, a Krank head, and a Randall head. I used a couple different Randall cabinets. It was pretty straightforward, really. I used a wah on a lot of it.
For your Washburn WV66GTcustom, what are the specifications that you sought out in order to make it your perfect guitar.
Basically I do love playing Vs. Besides the neck and all that stuff, it was very simple tweaks. I wanted the 81 EMG pickups.
There are plenty of musicians who are always seeking out new effects or trying out the latest equipment. Do you take the stance that if you have to think too long about obtaining the right sound, something might get lost in the honesty of it all?
For me, I like it more raw. I understand if you want to put a delay on a solo or a chorus on a channel, but I think that's the norm. But some of those sounds are more for Pink Floyd. I love Pink Floyd, but I just don't go that route. It's really just for the individual who is playing.
Thinking back to the last record, I did want to ask how the song Alcohaulin' Ass was written. I always imagined you guys sitting around with acoustics and possibly a few bottles, and that song just flowed out.
There was some drinking involved! I think that actually happened when it was me, Sterling our producer on the last record and Chad were sitting around. I forgot what song we were trying vocals on, but we were taking a break. I was sitting there and the idea came up to play an acoustic song, just for the hell of it. So Chad said, Okay, give me a riff. I wrote that riff, he started writing lyrics, and within five minutes we had the song.
Hellyeah seems like they write songs consistently in record time. Can you recall any tracks that might have posed a challenge?
I think every song is a challenge to make. For me to sit down and play a song like that with Chad, that's something that just flowed out. There are definitely a lot of songs that are challenges, vocally and for the guitar. Chad is very careful with how he writes his lyrics and his melodies.
Do you consider yourself perfectionists when you're actually in the studio?
We pretty much don't demo anything. We kind of write and record, which is kind of cool and interesting. The only thing is that it might take time to do solos, doubling up guitars and all that stuff. But basically it's take one that we use! We're a bare-bones type of band.
For aspiring professional musicians, what advice would you offer? Would you suggest logical steps like using the Internet as a marketing tool or perhaps the tried-and-true method of touring?
You definitely have to record your own material. You've got to get out and play, develop a name for yourself. I think the Internet is a great tool for promotions, and you can get a lot of songs out there. Playing is a bigger tool and that will be the biggest help.
Could you ever see Hellyeah participating in viral videos as a way to market the band?
"I think every song is a challenge to make."
Sure. Whatever works basically! Anything that works and gets your name out there is a useful to any band. Any avenue.
In terms of playing, what were some techniques or methods that you found useful when you first picked up the guitar?
Practice makes perfect. I think that's definitely it. Something that helped was doing warm-up exercises that I would do for hours and hours and hours to develop my speed and my coordination in my left hand. That was the biggest thing for me. I would just do it hours and hours.
When did you first start playing?
I was 15.
Did you ever utilize instructional videos as part of the learning process?
Not really. I didn't really get into the VHS tapes or that stuff. It was literally me sitting down with an old Gorilla amp and listening to the radio. I would just try and learn stuff off the radio right as it was playing. I think that's how I developed my ear, learning stuff off of the radio.
You've got quite a few tour dates approaching this summer. Is your touring setup somewhat similar to the equipment you used in the studio?
It's pretty basic. I have two Marshall stacks, vintage Bogner amps, a wah pedal, a Tube Screamer, and a Boss noise compressor. It's pretty basic.
Do you have any memorable stories from the road?
I don't know. For Hellyeah, every night is Friday night. We're always barbecuing and partying and stuff. We did some radio shows, and there were big barbecues. We were hanging with the guys from Godsmack, Rob Zombie, Papa Roach. It's not really that I can pick out one story. I think it's just a party every night!
Will the rest of the year be dedicated to Hellyeah's touring schedule and then transition back into Mudvayne mode?
I think the plan is to be playing with Hellyeah for the next two years. We didn't get much time with the first record. I think we only toured seven months out of it. This time we're looking to go a full two years. We're definitely booked until August of 2011, I know. So we're definitely busy!
Interview by Amy Kelly