Interview: Vinnie Paul Talks Hellyeah, Pantera & More

Thanks to Sony Music Australia and Metropolis Touring, we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Vinnie Paul from metal supergroup, Hellyeah. In this interview, the drumming legend and co-founder of Pantera and Damageplan opens up about touring, the latest album, the rumours about a potential Pantera reunion and his forthcoming cookbook, among other things.

SR. Hi Vinnie, this is Bec from the Spotlight Report. Thanks for your time today.

VP. I’m happy to be here.

SR. First up, we know you’re in the middle of touring at the moment. Which city has brought the best energy, so far?

vinnie-paul-manson-concertVP. Oh, man, this entire tour cycle for the Blood for Blood record has been the best thing that’s ever happened for Hellyeah, you know? It’s just been awesome. It started with Avenged Sevenfold all over North America and Canada. We did a major tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat, and we’ve been to Europe a few times We’ve just completed a bunch of dates over there with Judas Priest and KISS. And on Friday, we played the big Download Festival to 80,000-something people and really got a great reception that day. Then we’ve got a little 10-day break before we start back here in the United States on the Mayhem tour with Slayer. Things are going great, and we’re coming down to see you guys, man. We’re really excited about that.

SR. We can’t wait. How’s Tom’s foot healing? Will he be ready in time for Mayhem?

VP. He’s gonna be alright, you know. The first week or so of Mayhem, he’s going to have a big boot on his foot, but he’s gonna live, and we’re glad that he’s gonna be rejoining us. Brady did a great job covering all the guitar parts for him over in Europe, but we’re definitely looking forward to getting Tom back on board with us.

SR. Mayhem kicks off on June 26th. Do you like playing festivals? How does the energy differ between them and your own headlining shows?

VP. Oh man, I like playing any shows. If you don’t get excited for 50,000 people or 5,000 people, or 500 people, you shouldn’t be doing this. I like ‘em all; but festivals usually have a great vibe, especially if they’re with bands that you like, such as Slayer or King Diamond and you happen to be friends with them. It just makes the time pass that much more and you appreciate the opportunity as a fan, going to watch some of your favourite bands, too, and getting to play with them. It’s pretty special.

And then, when you do headlining shows, you know, it’s hard to beat those because you know the people are there to see you, you know? They’re really there to live in the moment with your music. So, they’re all very special, but they are very different from each other. But, as I said, if you don’t get excited about playing, period, you shouldn’t be doing it.

“… I like drummers that are really solid. I mean, even a guy like Phil Rudd, as simple as he is, he lays the foundation for ACDC…”

SR. I know you’re a KISS fan from way back. What was it like playing with them again, recently?

VP. Oh man, we just did four shows with them over in Europe. I think they’re just as good as ever, man. And it was great seeing Gene and Paul, and I also know Eric and Tommy very well. They’re still special, you know? They’re the first band that made me want to play music, especially their heavier style of music. KISS Alive was the very first record I ever bought, you know.

SR. Oh, KISS Unmasked was mine.

VP. The drum solo on God of Thunder I can still remember to this day. As simple as it was, it was something that just drove me to wanting to play drums. So, Peter’s (Criss) always been one of my favourite drummers. You know, I air drummed to all his stuff. ‘Cause KISS is awesome, man.

SR. I love the story about how, as a kid, you came home from school with a tuba, and your dad, Jerry, told you to ditch it and get into drums. Once you did get into drumming, what was it about it that you loved so much?

VP. Ah, you know (laughs). My Dad kinda changed the course of heavy metal history. (Laughs). I was hellbent for leather to play the tuba and it kinda broke my heart that he put me on the drums, you know? The very next day, I ended up in the school band. It just felt very natural. Sometimes, parents can really steer you in the right direction and help you with better decisions in your life.

SR. Have you ever had a secret wish to get yourself a tuba since then?

VP. No, no. My Dad was 100% right. I’ve never met any tuba players who were millionaires. That was the main thing. He said, ‘Son, you will never make a penny playing that instrument. I’m gonna put you on drums and you’re gonna appreciate it. It was a very special thing for him to do that for me.

“…To me, there will never be another Pantera without Dimebag Darrell…”

SR. Turned out to be good advice, alright. How did you feel about your dad’s autobiography, Over My Left Shoulder? Have you ever felt any compulsion to write one yourself? You must have a lot of stories.

Over My Left ShoulderVP. Ah, you know. I have a philosophy that’s very deep within me, and that’s if you live in the past, you have no future. And right now, there’s so much good stuff going on with what I do with Hellyeah and where my life is that I really don’t have time to sit down and reflect and write a story about my life, or about what happened in Pantera. I’m beyond all that. I’ve continued to move forward and I really look forward to what tomorrow brings, you know? And I’m not going to sit around and wallow in that kind of stuff. More power to people if that’s what they want to do and that’s where their mind is. But, for me, it’s all about moving forward. I see my dad all the time and I love him, but I’ve never read the book, man, because I really don’t feel like reliving those years, you know? Right now, I’m in today, and I’m into what’s going to go on tomorrow. That was then, this is now, you know?

SR. Yeah, a good philosophy. Speaking of current projects, Kevin Churko was at the helm of production duties for Blood on Blood, and I’ve read that you were relieved to take a break and be left to drumming duties. Was it hard, though, to take a back seat, and how do you differ, as producers?

VP. Oh, man. I felt like it was time for us to bring somebody else in and get a different perspective about what was going on. I’ve produced, or co-produced, every record I’ve ever been a part of, you know? And I did, in a sense, when we first started writing music for this record. I helped arrange and put everything together, like I’d always done before. The music was pretty much all written when we gave it to Kevin. He definitely understood the vision and the sound and where we wanted to go with this record. He’s a really great listener and a great producer. He’s a great engineer and an awesome drummer, too, you know? So, when you sit behind the drums, you never felt like slacking. I always wanted to try to impress him that would make him not only excited, as a producer, but also as a drummer. I really enjoyed it and we’re going to start working on our fifth record in October. So, there’ll be a new Hellyeah record to look forward to in 2016.

SR. Fantastic. So, he’s going to produce that one, too?

VP. Yep, absolutely.

SR. I know you’ve said that one reason for choosing him as producer is that he’s good at working on vocals, in particular. Did you find that he brought out Chad’s best on this album?

hellyeahbloodforbloodcoverVP. Oh yeah. I think he got the very best out of Chad, man. I love Chad as a singer, and I’ve always enjoyed working with him, but I never felt that I could push the right buttons. I don’t know enough about melodies to really get him to that next level, you know? And with Kevin, man, they worked so well together. Chad had a lot of great ideas and Kevin had a lot of great ideas. You put those two together and they just really seem to gel and work really well together. So, that was a big plus and I was really happy with the results.

The first song that we did with Kevin was Moth; and, the first time I heard the vocals and the lyrics, man, it brought a tear to my eye. I was just, like, ‘Wow!’ I knew Chad had it in him, you know. I just didn’t know where to go, or how to get it all the way out of him. He really brought it to the plate, man. So, we were really thrilled with what happened.

SR. Moth’s a great song, too. Which are your own favourite tracks from Blood for Blood and can you describe your song-writing process for us?

VP. Ah, well, as a drummer, Say When is the most technically challenging drumming I’ve done since Far Beyond Driven with Pantera. It’s hard to come up with those parts, you know? There are certain parts that you only come up with once a record, or once every two records, where you come across something that nobody’s ever done, or you’ve never heard anything quite like. So, I came across that and me and Tom sat down in a room; and once I’d come up with the drum thing and he came up with his stuff, it was a very intense track and turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.

Then, Moth’s a song with a very different time signature. It’s got a 6/8 time signature and we’ve never really ventured into that. And, once Tom played me some of the guitar stuff, I was blown away, you know? It was the first track that Chad was really lured to. He went right to it and wrote a really amazing song. Lyrically, it’s basically about making mistakes in life and not making them a second time – learning from them and moving on. It’s a really great message. Those are two of my favourite tracks on the record.

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SR. I often read about your interest in embracing change and evolution, musically. When you do that, does it feel like risk-taking, or do you just do it, naturally, to keep things fresh for yourself?

VP. Ah, I think it’s about keeping fresh, man. I don’t think that there’s another band out there that has that sound, you know. What’s happened with us since we got the new guys in the band is that we’ve turned into a band of brothers, so to speak. It really feels great and I’m really excited to see what happens on the next record, having Tom and Brady be a part of that as well, you know?

SR. We talked to Rex Brown and Zakk Wylde who’ve both said that they’d consider a Pantera reunion. Zakk said he’d see it as an honour, to pay tribute to (Dimebag) Darrell. Would you ever change your mind about a reunion?

VP. Well, it goes back to my philosophy: you live in the past, you’ve got no future. That was then and this is now. To me, there will never be another Pantera without Dimebag Darrell. I do not want to tarnish his legacy in any form or fashion. What he did was amazing and I want it to always stand. I don’t want anything to ever get in the way of that. For me, I’m more interested in moving forward and doing something else, you know? That was a great past, but also a dark past. We were able to leave a mark with Pantera and what we did, but everybody just needs to move on, man. That’s really what needs to happen, and I guess some of those people can’t. So, there you go.

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SR. Speaking of moving on, can you tell us about your forthcoming cookbook, Drumming up an Appetite with Vinnie Paul? What are you specialties?

VP. Oh! (Laughs). Drumming up an Appetite with Vinnie Paul, man! Yeah! Cooking something that you’re really gonna have a passion for, you know? It’s like when you go to play drums, you put a smile on people’s faces. When you go to the kitchen and make something really off-the-wall or really great and you serve it to people and see the joy they get out of it, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from that. And that’s what I’m talking about – the passion that goes with the cooking, you know?

One of the first things that I love in the cookbook, one of my specialties, was actually inspired by my first trip to Australia: my cream-stuffed jalapeños. You take a jalapeño pepper and you stuff it with cream cheese and you sprinkle some bacon bits on it and hit it with some shredded cheese. Then you grill it up on the grill until the jalapeño’s nice and roasted on the bottom and the cheese has melted and everything. And then, an Australian thing is you take it and top it with some barbecue sauce.

SR. Oh, nice!

VP. In Texas, we’d probably put some hot sauce on it; but, since it was the first time I was in Australia, they had some barbecue sauce. People just scratch their head and go, ‘Really? What a great idea.’ And once you bite into it and taste the heat from the jalapeño and the creaminess from the cheese, the nice bacon flavouring and then the awesome, sweet flavour of the barbecue sauce, man – it just makes your mouth water. It’s a beautiful thing. So, that’s ono of my favourite things in the cookbook.

SR. I’m definitely getting a copy. It comes out at the end of the year, right?

VP. I’m hoping to have it done by then, man. I mean, we’ve been so busy and there’s so much going on, but I’ve been trying to get it done for two years now and I’ve really been trying to put my head into it. Following this Mayhem tour, I’m gonna try to buckle down and get it done so we can get it out in time for Christmas this year.

SR. Good stuff. I like the barbecue sauce twist, too. I have to ask you, though, as a fan of hot sauce, what is your favourite of all time?

VP. Oh, man! Favourite hot sauce of all time… There are so many different kinds of hot sauce. Some of ‘em are home-made… But if we’re talking about a hot sauce out of a bottle, I am a fan of Tabasco. I think they make a lot of different good flavours. My favourite is the green jalapeño Tabasco. They also make a chipotle.

SR. Oh, I love that one.

VP. Yeah, that’s really good. But the traditional one? You know, it’s around the world – you can get it anywhere, and that’s good. But, like I said, I like those other two much better.

SR. Is it true that pickle juice is your hangover remedy?

VP. It is, man! I love that people know about this. There was a football game down in Texas stadium one day. The heat was about 130 degrees one time when the Dallas Cowboys had to play the Philadelphia Eagles; and, the Eagles beat the Cowboys 41 to 7.

SR. What? Wow!

VP. The Cowboys were getting dehydrated and cramps and all this. One of the Eagles players said that the key was that they were drinking pickle juice on the sideline and it was rehydrating them. So, I decided to give it a try and, once I started drinking that stuff… I love pickles to start with, you know? But something about the vinegar and everything that’s in it immediately goes into your muscles and it really will stop any kind of dehydration or cramping. It’s on our rider, man! I drink pickle juice every night and I’m doing great.

SR. You’re kidding? You should market your own brand: Vinnie Paul’s Hangover Cure.

VP. Well, actually, a couple of sports companies have actually made a Gatorade-type drink which is pickle juice. I might get an endorsement from one of them.

SR. (Laughs). Okay, back to music. If you could go back in time and play a live show with any band or artist, who would you choose?

VP. Well, I guess if I could do a rock show with whoever I wanted, I would play a rock show with the classic line-up of Van Halen, man. I would be David Lee Roth.

SR. (Laughs).

VP. I would’ve loved to play with the Van Halen brothers. That would’ve been a dream come true. Anything off the first two albums would be incredible, or hell, we could all of Women and Children First, too. That’s exactly what I would do.

SR. What qualities define a great drummer?

VP. Man, you gotta be solid and lay the foundation for the other people. You’ve gotta be the base that the house is built on, you know? I like drummers that are really solid. I mean, even a guy like Phil Rudd, as simple as he is, he lays the foundation for ACDC, you know? That kind of stuff is really important. Some drummers get too wrapped up in playing drums and forget about the song aspect until it turns into a drum solo, almost. There’s too much goin’ on. I’m not a big fan of that. I’m really a fan of brick solid drumming. And when you get those moments that shine, you take them and go for it.

SR. Much is made of these Top Drummers of All-Time lists, and you see the usual suspects: Bonham, Moon, Rich, etc. Whenever I’ve spoken to drummers, personally, I’ve been surprised by how many actually count Ringo Starr in their top 5, just because he so effectively kept that solid, effective backbeat, without being showy.

VP. Oh yeah! Ringo did a lot of stuff that nobody else ever would do, you know? He did a lot of cool tom stuff, and I always felt like his drum parts fit the songs. They’re the parts that you can remember. They’re the parts that you can air drum to. They were very, very instrumental in making The Beatles’ songs what they were.

SR. Well, you arrive on our shores in August. What can Aussie fans expect from these shows and what are the set lists looking like, at this stage?

VP. Oh, you’re gonna get the very best Hellyeah you’ve ever seen. You’re gonna get nothing but energy, from start to finish – a big dose of Blood for Blood, as well as a lot of material from the previous records. We’re not a band who brings a laser-light show or anything like that. We’re all about the band, the fans, and the circle of energy that we create between each other. It starts with us: we give it to the fans, and then they give it to us – and we just keep going back and forth until we’re completely worn out. And an hour and 20 minutes later, we’re all done and ready to go to the bar and have some drinks and talk about it all.

SR. I’ve heard that the mosh pits are going off on this tour. Do you ever get concerned about the crowd, or do they take care of themselves?

VP. You know, it’s not near as wild as it used to be, with the invention of law suits and things like that. There are so many people who are liable that it really has changed a lot of the energy that the fans were able to put out. They still continue to do it sometimes. We can’t incite them to do it or anything, but it’s definitely to watch and feel the energy from the crowd. It’s still there; it’s just not quite as prevalent as it used to be.

SR. Hellyeah aside, you’ve got strip clubs, sports bars, tour buses, and a music complex. Do you ever get any downtime? And, if you do, what do you like to do to relax?

VP. That’s pretty much why I bought my house in Las Vegas – just to get away from everything from time to time. I love to come out here, man. I’m a very entertainment-oriented person. I love to do something every night, you know? I don’t sit at home, watch TV, and take it easy, you know? I love to go out. I love to go see bands and comedians. I love to see entertainment. I like to go gamble here, I like to go drinking there. There’s a lot of great things to do here, so that’s kind of what I do in my downtime. I just really enjoy Las Vegas.
SR. Who’s your favourite comedian?

VP. My favourite comedian is Carrot Top. I think he’s the best entertainer in Las Vegas. Oh, he’s incredible. I’ve been to his shows 326 times and it never gets old.

SR. Whoa!

VP. Yeah, he’s amazing. He’s a great friend of mine as well. He’s funny, man. That’s all I can say.

SR. I’m sure you have many, but could you share a funny, or odd, fan request or tour story with us?

VP. Well, the craziest thing that’s ever happened to me – I’ll never forget it – a guy runs up to me and he says, ‘Hey, man. Will you sign my leg?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And I go to bend down to sign his leg, and he pulls his jeans up and takes his leg off and hands it to me. It’s a prosthetic leg. I completely freaked out. I was shocked, and he handed it to me and it had the Pantera Far Beyond Driven album cover painted on it. It smelled horrible. I wrote my name on it and handed it to the guy. And he popped it back on and went, ‘Yeah! I’ve got Vinnie Pauls’ autograph on it!’ and I never saw the guy again. It was crazy.

SR. That is something. Well, do you have a message to send out to your Aussie fans, ahead of your upcoming tour?

VP. Oh, I’d definitely like to say thanks for all the love and support you’ve always given me and all the bands I’ve been a part of. I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve been to Australia and I guarantee I won’t be disappointed this time, man. I’m looking so forward to coming down. Everybody in the band is so pumped up. We’re just happy that we have this opportunity and we look forward to seeing you guys in August.

SR. We can’t wait to see you. Thanks so much for your time, Vinnie. It’s been great talking to you and good luck with the rest of the tour!

VP. Awesome! Looking forward to seeing you. Great interview. We’ll be down there in about two months!

SR. Hellyeah!

VP. Hellyeah!


Thurs, Aug 20: The Studio, Auckland NZ

Fri, Aug 21: Bar Bodega, Wellington NZ

Sat, Aug 22: Bedford, Christchurch NZ

Tues, Aug 25: The Gov, Adelaide SA

Thurs, Aug 27: The Metro, Sydney NSW

Fri, Aug 28: Eatons Hill, Brisbane QLD

Sat, Aug 29: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC

Mon, Aug 31: The Capitol Hotel, Perth WA

Tickets are only $59 + booking fee and available from
On Sale, Wednesday, May 27 @ 9.00am

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Blood For Blood is out now via Eleven Seven Music / Sony Music Australia & iTunes