Interview by Liz Wize, November 9, 2007
Hellyeah is a heavy metal supergroup formed on the ashes of several other disbanded metal heavy hitters. Guitarist Greg Tribbett and vocalist Chad Gray are both members of the band Mudvayne. Tom Maxwell (guitar) is the former guitarist and founder of Nothingface. Both Bob Kakaha (bass) and the legendary drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott were members of Damageplan, the band Abbott formed with his late brother, Dimebag Darrell, after the two departed from Pantera. Kakaha is a replacement bassist. The original bassist, Jerry Montano, who recorded the self-titled debut album parted ways with the bands after an altercation with former Nothingface band mate Maxwell.
The band’s debut, Hellyeah entered the Billboard 200 at #9. Hellyeah has been touring in support of Hellyeah since May 2007. After the success of their singles, “You Wouldn’t Know” and “Alcohaulin’ Ass”, the bands triumph over preconceived supergroup notions has become apparent. On November 13th, 2007, Hellyeah released an exclusive DVD, “Below the Belt.”
I sat down and talked with Tom Maxwell about the future of Hellyeah and what’s happening with his previous band, Nothingface. We also discussed the past, present and potential future of the record industry, how nothing seems the same as it used to be. Maxwell states that fans can expect a fresh album from Hellyeah sometime in 2009.
Liz Wize: You guys have been touring a ton in support of your album Hellyeah . Are you now touring in support of you DVD, “Below the Belt” which comes out November 13th (2007)?
Tom Maxwell: I think it’s just that the records selling so now we’re hitting an actual headlining tour doing our own stuff. The DVD is just an added bonus, a little something for the shopping season.
Liz: As I said, you’ve been touring a lot for Hellyeah . When can we expect to see a second Hellyeah album? Are you heading in to record any time soon?
Tom: Eventually, I mean this album’s just been dictating itself. The label doesn’t want us to come off the road. We thought we’d just do a summer/fall tour and then this tour goes into December and we’ll head out for another headliner in January. There’s a lot of stuff brewing. We’ll wrap it up in the spring and then maybe a year later we’ll do another record. We’ll probably write another record in 2009.
Liz: When you say the record company doesn’t want you to stop touring, why is that? Do you like or dislike that?
Tom: Well it’s a good thing because it means the record’s doing good. When a record’s not doing anything it’s just kind of there and gone, there’s no momentum. Everything is money driven. I would rather it be doing well and we be busy and in demand than just doing what people thought it would- like some supergroup crap. This is a full-fledged band.
Liz: What’s the current state of Nothingface? Has Hellyeah become your primary focus?
Tom: Yeah. Nothingface has been around for so long and we went through a lot of ups and downs. There comes a point- like right now- when Nothingface is the furthest thing from my mind. Hellyeah started years ago when Chad and I first met each other; it had a totally different name, we just threw names out there. So Hellyeah is essentially our band it’s not something we just threw together because it was a good idea, this was going to happen regardless of who was in it. It just so happened that we got lucky and got Vinnie in the band and Greg wanted to come in, then we scored Zilla. It was kind of freaky but now our hearts and souls are into this. I think we’ve proven a lot. Our record’s doing great in a market that’s doing really bad.
Liz: True. I was going to ask you about that. You were in Nothingface and that started in 1995 or so and that’s when people were still buying CDs. And here you are in the industry now in Hellyeah So how do you see this whole death of the CD’ thing?
Tom: Well the industry is killing the industry. I mean the Internet is a great thing but it’s also bad for certain kind of commerce. Now you have to really, really come up with clever ways to move your product. It’s not going to be the same ever again. So what do you do? You’ve got to take the Internet by the horns and do iTunes and all that stuff. It’s kind of a drag because I still like buying CDs, I like buying the huge 12″ Lps, and I’ve always liked the grandness of it.
Liz: It also seems too that there is an over saturation of bands right now. With Myspace and everything, it seems like everyone’s in a band.
Tom: There’s nothing special there. Everyone’s a bunch of plagiarists out there. It’s a shame. There’s always a few diamonds in the rough you know but they’re far and few between so you really have to dig.
Liz: It seems too that there just aren’t anymore superstar rockstars. You know, like Vinnie. You see him and think “Damn that’s Vinnie Paul”. Anymore it seems like they’re just
Tom: Just some other dude in a band. Yeah. I think there’s a lot to be said about the death of rockstars’ which sucks because I grew up with rockstars everywhere- Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Kiss, Judas Priest. I think when grunge movement came in the 90s it just kind of deflated that whole image. There were a few bands that came out like Pantera, where it was just a rebirth of having fun again. Then Manson and Korn had it’s own full blown thing and pioneered a completely different genre. That’s what has to happen nowadays, whether it’s one band or a groups of bands that come out and explode to make everything that everyone else is listening to seem really fucking uncool. And it’s got to be honest.
Liz: You’ve alluded to this already but do you feel that Hellyeah has had more success than Nothingface; and in a relatively short time?
Tom: Oh fuck yeah! I mean in seven months we’ve sold over a quarter million records. Nothingface was just so different. In Nothingface we never really set out for that. We were a very sort of underground metaphoric nightmare, especially with our singer, Matt [Holt]. He’s not a singer who writes anthems, he’s very eccentric and spread out. He’ll have some songs that people could relate to and the next song he’d write about a serial killer that murder’s his girlfriend. And that doesn’t really draw the attention of the masses.
Liz: Do you think that success is in part due to Vinnie Paul and the band being sort of a supergroup’?
Tom: Maybe in the beginning but I think now it’s like a lot of people are hearing the songs and then they’re checking the band out on the radio. You Wouldn’t Know and Alcoholin’ Ass have been top five single songs. That exposure got a lot of people into us. Some people don’t even know where all the members come from; they just see us as this brand new band. It definitely helped in the beginning, generating hype about us. That’s good because you need that in today’s climate of music. You have to come out thinking big. That was our philosophy. The first thing we did was write a good record. Then the second thing we did was sell it to the management and the label big. Smells big, looks big, is big.
Liz: Did Vinnie’s presence in the band help sell Hellyeah to Epic?
Tom: I mean that’s by default. We’re the band that brought him back out. After what happened to Dime he wasn’t doing anything, he had no intention of doing anything. He just wanted to run his business and label and put out some records. He’s had offers and played here and there. There’s a lot pf press that was just going to go to him and want to know “What’s the deal?” To that extent, Chad and Greg helped too, I mean Mudvayne has a lot of loyal fans out there.
Liz: Will Hellyeah be on hold while Mudvayne records their new album? What will you be doing?
Tom: I’m just going to go home and adopt animals and fish, just chill out, hang out with my friends. Maybe write some with Vinnie and Zilla just to collect ideas and stuff.
Liz: So Nothingface is done then?
Tom: It’s just a matter of communication. For me the ideal situation for a new Nothingface record would be to have all the original members back, with Matt [Holt], Chris [Houck], and Bill [Gaal]. I mean Tommy [Sickles] is a drummer but there was a certain chemistry and a certain magic that existed between the original four that made it what it was. Because Hellyeah is my own band too, I’m getting all those needs and satisfaction taken care of. For me to go back into Nothingface, it’d have to be really, really exciting for me to do it. Those guys would have to really make it happen and show me this is something worthwhile to be doing. Right now I’m fine- I’m happy. I can go home right now and spend the next year and a half just relaxing and being involved in other shit.
Liz: Some thought that Bob Zilla would just be filling in on bass for tours. Has Bob Zilla become a permanent member of the band now?
Tom: Yeah, Bob’s in it. He wasn’t just a hired hand or anything. Obviously with this record it was already done and he came in for the tour. But now he’s full fledged. He’s a great guy and he’s got amazing talent. He fits.
Liz: Are you still using the same rig and sound from Nothingface or have you switched it up since Hellyeah is so different?
Tom: It pretty much is. I’m still playing the Les Pauls and Marshalls I’ve always used. Now everything’s just new with a little tweaking. I have a certain sound that I’m always going after.
Liz: What have you guys been doing on the bus/between shows to keep busy?- Besides drinking of course.
Tom: Well we sleep a lot. Yesterday we got into town and a couple crew guys and I went and did laundry, had some breakfast, went to the mall, slept until about 8 then we all met up for dinner and went and had a few drinks. We just hang out. There are times that you just need to be alone and smoke some cigarettes and watch TV.