HellYeah already has name recognition, a self-titled hit album, radio play and a solid tour schedule. Not bad for a group that has yet to perform a live show, although that will be rectified very shortly. The masses will get the first look at what it's like when members of Pantera/Damage Plan, Nothingface and Mudvayne meet onstage on May 20 in Baltimore. The concert launches a tour that's already gone international, counting dates in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Success is never guaranteed, but HellYeah had advantages by nature of its lineup. When you throw drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott together with Greg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell (guitars), Chad Gray (vocals) and Jerry Montano (who played bass on the album but is no longer in the band), your chances are better than average. Blistering talked with Maxwell on the eve of HellYeah's Fire It Up tour about how the band and its debut album came together.
Blistering: HellYeah had a great first week on the Billboard chart.
Tom Maxwell: Yeah.
Blistering: How is the album doing?
Maxwell: Itís doing really good. I think weíre up to about, well, I donít know what last week was, but I think weíre up to about 70,000 in the first couple of weeks. So, itís pretty good.
Blistering: Not bad for a metal album in 2007?
Maxwell: Not bad for a band thatís brand-new and never played a single show. [laughs] You know what I mean?
Blistering: Oh, totally. What has it been like to work with this pretty eclectic mix of guys?
Maxwell: Itís been really, really smooth and cool. I mean, with all the members and what everybodyís been through and the accomplishments and stuff, like with Vinnie and Mudvayne, and everybody had no ego whatsoever.
Itís like, weíre all kind of familiar with each other indirectly. I was with Jerry, and he knew Vinnie. He didnít know Chad and Greg, but me and Greg and Chad were good friends for years and the same with Jerry as well. So it just goes all the way back to 2002, we were touring together and becoming friends. Weíve been friends for a long time, and itís been really, really smooth and really easy. We all canít wait to get to Dallas [the week of May 1] and start rehearsals.
Blistering: You and Chad had been talking about this for about five years.
Blistering: What was the catalyst to finally make it happen and just do it?
Maxwell: We finally were home and off at the same time.
Maxwell: Mudvayne were off and [had] nothing going like touring, and we were preparing for another album. Just writing in mind. Demo-ing songs for our next record, and Chad was like, "Yeah, weíre finished with this tour. You know, letís talk about this tomorrow when we come through." And Greg was interested in coming into the mix, and I was really into that idea.
You know, I thought about having a second guitar player, but I donít know . . . why it took so long to dawn on me; just you know, didnít know if Greg would be interested or not. And he just came out of the blue and said he wanted to be a part of it and, you know, it was just awesome. So itís been a long time. We started talking about this back when we first met back in 2001 [on] Tattoo the Earth. Remember that tour?
Blistering: I do remember that tour.
Maxwell: Yeah, like Slipknot and Slayer and Mudvayne, Sevendust, hed(pe) and Nothingface. And him and I became friends back then, just hit it off and, you know, have been best friends ever since, pretty much. And then it wasnít until the following year in New Orleans when we just really, really, really said, "We need to step this up." Before the deal weíd been talking about it for years. We said ďLetís get together and see if the chemistry works.Ē
So he flew in to Baltimore and we went into the Nothingface home studio that we had, and we wrote "Waging War" in two days. I just went down there, and we tracked it in one day. And then the next day he came in and did vocals, and it just kicked ass, you know. And I think . . . that that song made it real, the chemistry between us two. Our music together, what he does vocally and what I do musically, it definitely works. So it was just really good.
So, everythingís fast forward in a year and everybodyís schedule . . . last year came around and Mudvayne decided to take pretty much the whole summer and fall of 2006 completely off, which afforded us the time to really pursue and put this thing together.
Blistering: Jerry Montano left the band a couple of weeks ago. Howís Bob Zilla fitting in?
Maxwell: Well, thereís been no replacement at all confirmed yet. I mean, I know thereís a lot of rumors circling around and things like that . . . and thereís a couple people that weíre going to be auditioning next week, but the rumors that we have a replacement, thatís pretty much Internet talk. Everybody just assumed that that was the case, and even though Bob Zilla was invited, you know, and is coming down to jam with us, it is not solid or confirmed.
Blistering: OK, fair enough. How involved were you with different members of the band? What was the involvement in the writing? Who brought what to the table?
Maxwell: Itís pretty much me and Greg wrote everything musically. And Vinnie was there to steer us in the direction he felt and help arrange and things like that. You know, Chad and everybody kind of had their two cents to put in for arrangements to try this, try that kind of thing. But ultimately it was just pretty much me and Greg, you know, going back and forth. He would write a riff, I would write a chorus and he would write a verse . . . So itís just a perfect blend of every song.