Hellyeahâ€™s Chad Gray gave an exclusive interview discussing the new album Blood for Blood and the new overall image of Hellyeah.
The band just finishing up a national tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, and Nothing More, Chad Gray From Hellyeah has come a long way artistically in the Metal industry fronting Mudvayne for nearly 15 years, the start of Hellyeah, and more recently finding a sound defining Hellyeah. Their recent release, Blood for Blood, is a noticeably new sound. Itâ€™s rough, dark, raw, and harsh, but also holds on to the familiar Hellyeah sound.
â€œWe have settled into a sound, for me personally, the sound isnâ€™t different, itâ€™s me getting back to myself,â€ Gray said. â€œHellyeah was put together as an experiment, and what a lot of people donâ€™t understand is music is a business. When you become a professional and a national touring act it becomes a business. The business side just starts fucking clawing its way into creativity, art, and passion,â€ Gray said.
The success of Mudvayne grew and became a full-time job for all the members. â€œWe had to make sure people werenâ€™t stealing from us, and we were dealing with litigation. The thing is I never wanted anything more than what I deserve, if I work I want to get paid,â€ Gray said.
Gray points to the wall next to us and says, â€œfor example, whoever built this wall, didnâ€™t do it for fun, they did it because they were paid on Friday, I love to work, I love my job, but mortgages, rent, and bills donâ€™t pay themselves. You have to protect yourself, there isnâ€™t a 401K in this industry.â€
â€œI had to find the fun in music again, so we put Hellyeah together, and it was kind of tongue and cheek. It was a rock band in the fucking garage, we actually wrote the first album in a garage in Dallas, also itâ€™s where some of our favorite records were made, like Reinventing The Steel, was done out in that garage behind [Dimebagâ€™s] house,â€ Gray said.
Hellyeah wanted to make music that wouldnâ€™t be heard in previous bands. â€œWe wanted a new sound something that wouldnâ€™t fly in Mudvayne, Pantera, Damageplan, and Nothingface,â€ Gray continued. â€œBut then there was a point where I was like, I play in a band with one of my favorite fucking drummers in the world. I play in a band with my favorite guitar players. The assemblage of the band was based on what everyone had done individually outside the collective.â€
â€œIt took me three records for that to sink in, the second record was â€˜hell of a timeâ€™ and â€˜Alcohaulinâ€™ Assâ€™, which was fun, but I hit a point where I was like, â€˜I never aspired to be a rock singer, Iâ€™m a metal singer, Iâ€™m a metal kid to the heart, and I believe in metal,â€™ I wanted to get back to [metal] and I wanted to do it with these guys,â€ Gray said.
However, with anything art related, itâ€™s hard to make a quick transition without getting the opposition. â€œIf you try to turn a train too quick on the tracks, itâ€™s going to come off the rails. We had to make that move from the second record to now, and it was a slower turn. We had an unspoken understanding to write a heavy metal record,â€ Gray said. That heavy metal record became Band of Brothers.
â€œBand of Brothers, for me, was like looking through a camera and having the shot framed. Itâ€™s not quite in focus, everything is a little bit blurry, but itâ€™s framed and you know what you want to see, so you have to fuck with it and play with it, and it takes time,â€ Gray said. â€œOnce you have a clear understanding of where to go, you can grab that lens and tweak it just a bit, and everything becomes sharp and vibrant, everything is the way you like it.â€
A lot of the process for Gray while writing was finding his identity in Hellyeah. â€œI realized on Blood for Blood, before going into to it, I was known as Chad Gray from Mudvayne that sang in Hellyeah,â€ Gray said. â€œPeople have to put things where they understand things, they need to compartmentalize things, they have to put shit in a box, they have to put it somewhere, and wherever it belongs they have to possess it, thatâ€™s humanity. So I understand, people will never take [Hellyeah] seriously, unless I shake loose the Mudvayne name.â€
With Blood for Blood, Hellyeah finally got an identity. But in order for Hellyeah to establish the identity, the members had to step back and reflect. â€œAt some point we all had to throw away the hats we were wearing and get back to who we are creatively. Iâ€™ll always be the guy that made original music for Mudvayne and where I started out. But if I go into [Hellyeah] and act like a different person, Iâ€™ll always be known as the Mudvayne singer, because Iâ€™m not fully being me,â€ Gray said.
Like every band there are line-up changes. Tribbettâ€™s departure from Hellyeah wasnâ€™t easy for the Gray. Hhaving worked with him in both Mudvayne and Hellyeah, he says, â€œIt was emotional when Greg Tribbett left the band, we had worked together for 18 years, with him leaving, I wasnâ€™t sure how I was going to face this record, it was tough to get in the room and start writing.â€
As the writing process began, he was in a certain place emotionally. Gray explained, â€œI started with ‘Moth’ and writing it was really organic, everything was just coming to me. When I was done tracking the song, Kevin our producer turned to me as we were listening back and said, â€˜I have two things I want to tell you, one thatâ€™s a fucking great track, two, you just raised the bar really fucking high making ‘Moth’ the first song to track. Everything that you write from here on has to be better than this.â€™â€
â€œI was in the moment, and I really took what he said to heart. I tracked the next song ‘Blood for Blood’ and it was equally as good. As long as you have the mindset to out-do the next song, youâ€™re going to win. Track after track, I kept saying, â€˜fuck this is awesome, fuck this is awesome,â€™ and we ended up with what youâ€™re hearing. Thatâ€™s why I feel like Hellyeah has found an identity, because Hellyeah has worked so fucking hard to give it that identity.â€
The best records are from the artists that allow themselves to be vulnerable, those artists that lay down the tracks according to what they feel and not what the label wants. Hellyeah has locked into a sound that will only take them up and draw in larger crowds.