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Gimme a ‘Hellyeah!’ with guitarist Tom Maxwell

HELLYEAH/NOTHINGFACE
GUITARIST TOM MAXWELL

June 10, 2007

Supergroup” is one of the most overused terms in music today. But, really, doesn’t that describe any band that features in its ranks legendary Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul? Throw in vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett of Mudvayne, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell and ex-Damageplan bassist Bob Zilla (who replaced Nothingface bassist Jerry Montano prior to the start of the band’s first tour), and Hellyeah truly has an all-star lineup. Greg Maki of Live-Metal.net recently spoke to Maxwell about the tour, the band’s upcoming stint on the 2007 edition of Family Values (featuring Korn and Evanescence), the Hellyeah album, the next Nothingface record and more.

Live-Metal.net: What was it like to play the first-ever Hellyeah show in your hometown of Baltimore?

Tom Maxwell: Like losing my virginity. [laughs] It was really, really fucking cool, man. It was a great crowd ‘cause my hometown came and fuckin’ represented. It was fuckin’ awesome. It was like Christmas morning. It was really, really good, and the rest of the band came up to me after the show and they were like, “Damn, dude. Fuckin’ Baltimore fuckin’ brought it.” I’m like, “Fuckin’ right.” [laughs] So it was great, man. I couldn’t have been happier.

Were you nervous before that show?

No, not really. I knew we were just gonna slam and kick ass. If I was nervous about anything it was my touring legs. I haven’t really been out on the road in a while, so it’s just a matter of getting those first three or four shows under your belt and then you start getting the live feel back. We’re just so tight right now, we’re unstoppable. We’re so confident and everything in all the songs, and it’s pretty much just how to perform them live. It’s big difference between sitting in a studio recording and standing up and standing still at practice, rehearsing it. But we really didn’t have that much time. We only had four or five days of rehearsal because we had to fuckin’ audition bass players.

How is it working out with Bob Zilla in the band?

Good, man. He’s awesome. Great guy, great energy, great vibe, nicest fuckin’ dude. He brings it, man. It’s going great. He fits like a glove. It’s awesome.

When you’re on stage, do you have moments where you look back at the drums and just kind of think to yourself, “Wow, I’m playing in a band with Vinnie Paul”?

Fuck yeah, dude. I go up to the fuckin’ drum riser, throw a foot up there and just fuckin’ look at him and he’s fuckin’ look back and he’s smiling. He couldn’t be any fuckin’ happier. That guy has made such a triumphant fuckin’ catalyst move to go back and do that. He’s really fuckin’ happy. Even back home when we were doing the Baltimore show, all my friends and shit were looking and the fucker was just smiling from fuckin’ ear to ear the whole fuckin’ time. What’s so cool about it is that we’re the fuckin’ dudes that brought him out. It could’ve been anybody. It could’ve been any other guitar player. [laughs] But me and Greg scored it. [laughs] So it’s fuckin’ badass, bro. That’s the only was I can describe. It’s awesome.

When you guys were first getting together, did you have any other drummers in mind at first?

Not really. Nothingface’s drummer, Tommy, had pretty much demoed the first version of “Waging War” with me and Chad . But that was just out of convenience ‘cause he was around. When we talked about it, when Chad and Greg came into town last year when they were ending the Mudvayne tour, we sat around for about a minute, had a couple people in mind, but Vince was like what I wanted from the get-go. When Jerry was, obviously in the band at the time, he had kept contact with him, so I was just like, “Call him. The worst he can say is no.” And he did at first, but I don’t think he was ready to make a commitment. And Jerry just kept pushing it and pushing it, and he said, “Come on down. Let’s do it.” It was crazy, but other than that, we really didn’t mess around with anybody. It couldn’t have worked out this way, it wouldn’t have worked out this way with any other drummer. He was that crucial, crucial link.

Was there any adjustment period for you to get used to playing with another guitarist?

Not really. In Nothingface, I’ve always been like fuckin’ alpha dog guitar player in that band, just on my own and mainly because of the stuff that I do in Nothingface is so busy and guttural and so much down-picking that I would literally have to have somebody clone myself to be able to pull it off the way that I need to pull it off. But with this, it was just a totally different approach. Me and Greg have been friends for a long time. I totally respect him and his style, and his writing is amazing. We meet each other halfway on anything. It was so easy because I’d come up with a riff, he’d come back with a riff or he’d come up with a riff and I’d come back to him with a riff, boom boom boom. It worked out just so great.

What came first: the song “Hellyeah” or the name of the band?

I think the name of the band. Yeah, the name of the band came. I think Chad was just kinda messing around with lyrics and he said, “I wanna fuckin’ have a fuckin’ anthem song based on the fuckin’ name.” Nobody’s done that in a while. A lot of classic bands used to do that shit all the time. We struggled with the name for a little while. We just couldn’t find one that fit. We saw it written on the side of an empty cabinet box and there it was, plain as day.

One of the things that I think makes the album so good is that you’ve got an anthem like “Hellyeah” and some other heavy songs, and then just a few songs later you’ve got something like “Alcohaulin’ Ass.”

Yeah.

Was there any hesitation in doing something that was so different from anything you guys had done before?

Nope, because honestly we didn’t give a fuck. This was our record. We weren’t doing it for people, for fans, for record labels—it was ours. This is what we wanted to do. And we all have those roots. We’re all older and we’ve been around. I grew up listening to bands like fuckin’ Skynyrd, The Beatles and Zeppelin, and so did the other guys. I think it was just something that came around with Greg just being like, “Man, I wanna write a fuckin’ country kind of song, dude. Let’s do it.” And him and Chad wrote that song in 10 minutes. I fuckin’ love it, man. I love it. It’s awesome.

It’s probably my favorite song on the album. Are you guys going to release it as a single?

We’re trying to figure it out right now. Right now, “You Wouldn’t Know” is just kicking ass. We’re in the top five in the charts with the single and it’s just staying. It’s not moving anywhere. So we’re gonna let it just keep going and when the time comes, maybe by Family Values, we’ll have another single ready to go.

Speaking of Family Values, why did you decide on that tour for the summer?

I think it’s a no-brainer, especially for us. We’re not afraid to play in front of a pop kind of audience, like the type of audience that Evanescence is gonna bring or the Korn kids. The Korn kids are the same kids that come to the Hellyeah shows, pretty much. It’s not that big of a difference. But I think it’s a safer tour for us only for the fact that we’re gonna be hitting a broader audience and not being pigeonholed into—I mean, nothing against Ozzfest, I loved going out on that tour, it was great. But it’s a metal tour, exclusively, and we don’t wanna be just a fuckin’ metal band. We want to take a piece of the big picture, have a peripheral fanbase, not just what’s right in front of you kinda shit.

What was it like to record the album at Dimebag’s house?

The first couple days was kind of intimidating in a way—Not intimidating. That’s the wrong word. I guess just surreal, man, because I’m walking around his house and Rita’s showing me all the shit that he collected over the years and his guitars all over the place, little notes that he would write. It was really tough in a way because this was one of my idols and I’m in his world. That was his fuckin’ world, his life. And then going down into the studio behind the house where the last few Pantera records were written, the Damageplan record was written, the Rebel Meets Rebel record was written and recorded, and it’s all over the place, man. It’s just unreal. There was such a great, great fuckin’ vibe and energy there. It was almost like it was supposed to happen. We all kind of got comfortable really fast.

Was being there one of the things that maybe inspired you to include some solos on the album?

Nope. That was actually fuckin’ Vinnie’s idea, man. Me and Greg would just be warming up, just blowing off scales and stuff, and I’m not a big solo guy. Especially with metal, I just don’t think it’s appropriate, for me personally. I’m more of a blues player. I like playing laid back, lazy, kind of drugged out solos. And Greg’s a shredder, too. But Vinnie had heard us play and he’s just like, “Dudes, you guys are fuckin’ throwing some shit down tonight.” And I was like, “Uh, alright.” [laughs] And the same with Greg, and we were like, “Fuck it. Let’s do it.”

So you’ve got Family Values coming up this summer. How long do you plan to keep going on this album?

There’s no deadline. We all have other things we have to do. Obviously, Mudvayne has another record coming out, there’s another Nothingface record coming out. But this is what we’re doing right now and this is what we’re completely focused on, and we’re gonna take it as long as it allows us to. The success of this record over the summer is gonna dictate how long we stay out on the road and how much we push it. We don’t wanna overexpose it. We don’t wanna overstay our welcome because we would rather pop out and leave right at the fuckin’ peak of it so that people want more so the next time it comes around there’s gonna be a massive thirst for it.

So I guess that means there’s no set timetable for the new Nothingface album.

No. It’s gonna happen probably springtime, the first quarter of next year probably. We’re finishing up the songs. Matt’s going into the studio next week to finish up three or four new tracks. At that point, we’re gonna have our whole catalog ready to go and then we’ll sit down with it and we’ll pretty much handpick the songs that we wanna take to the label and record. And then we’ll go in and re-record it all for real, and then kill it, get it out there.

How would you describe the new material that you’ve written for Nothingface?

I’d say that, if anything, it’s like a record that would’ve came, like if [An Audio Guide to Everyday] Atrocity—like Atrocity 2. There’s a lot of brutal shit in there, but at the same time there’s a lot of stuff that we’re not experimenting with, we’re just kind of really opening up. Matt, especially, is opening up his emotions for the first time, whereas before he was very metaphorical. There’s a lot of stuff on this record where he’s talking about his own personal demons, like straight up front and out in the open. It’s just like, “Whoa.” It’s a nightmare, dude. It’s gonna be fuckin’ badass.

Well, I won’t take too much more of your time here. Is anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for fuckin’ hanging with me for a couple minutes and talking to me. Next time we come through, I hope you come out and see the show, and we’ll fuckin’ throw down a couple shots.

Absolutely. Congratulations on the success so far and I hope it keeps up for you.

Thank you very much, Greg.