Putting together a band with members already famous for their previous work sets the stage for high expectations that often fall short or turn into one-off novelty acts. When Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, and Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul connected under the Hellyeah banner, most people got exactly what they expected in terms of sound and style. The problem with that turned out to be, even the band had not yet found its own voice as they experimented with complementing the styles of their past into something new. It took Hellyeah four albums and a line-up change to discover the band’s true sound, which can be heard on the group’s new record, Blood for Blood. The album has set the course for Hellyeah, and the fans and critics are responding with positive accord.
Each Independence Day for the last eight years has signaled the beginning week of Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and this year is no different. On July 1, Day 5 of the tour, I sat down with Tom Maxwell to chat about his recent injury, his thoughts on Blood for Blood; the newest members of the band, Christian Brady (guitar) and Kyle Sanders (bass), and writing for the next record. Tomcat also talked about why he is glad 2015 mark’s Hellyeah’s first appearance on a Mayhem Festival tour.
“I’m kind of happy about it, cause it’s this record and it wasn’t like a record that… Like, the last two albums I didn’t think really represented the band the way it should have. I think we were way off track, to be honest. I think Blood for Blood is literally kind of like our first album almost, cause it’s what me and Chad initially envisioned this band being from the very beginning. We didn’t wanna be some f**king hillbilly-anthem, party-rock band, and it kind of turned into that, with the second record especially. But, you know, there was a lot of alcohol involved and sh*t like that. Sometimes it takes your career to find the right pieces that work. And once we parted ways with Bob and Greg the responsibility of writing fell on my shoulders. And I was, like, ‘Okay. I don’t have anybody to f**k up my game now. I’m gonna do what I wanna f**king do and what the band should have been from the very beginning.’ And Blood for Blood came out of it, man.”
Maxwell recently had to sit out a few dates on the final stretch of the band’s European tour after shattering his ankle. He underwent surgery in Germany while the band carried on, and Tom admits it was not a comforting feeling.
“It was terrifying. The band had to go and leave to do the next show and they forgot to drop off my personals. I didn’t have my bag. I didn’t have my phone. I didn’t have my passport. I didn’t have my money. I didn’t have nothing—zero. And they were eight hours away. It was a sobering experience to say the least.”
Maxwell also talked about not being able to be with the band to finish the European tour and his faith in new guitarist Christian Brady who had to handle the load while he was sidelined.
“I felt guilty about not being able to do it, but I had full confidence in Christian. That’s why I get him in the band, cause he’s just a f**king brilliant guitar player, and he pulled it off man. I knew he could do it and he did it. He kicked ass and the band kept going even though I wasn’t there. But it was good that I wasn’t though. I think I needed to go home and figure out some sh*t and get healed up. Plus it got me a couple weeks ahead of schedule when it came to writing.”
Hellyeah recently recorded acoustic versions of three tracks off Blood for Blood, including the title track and “Moth”, which Maxwell thinks will be packaged in some manner with the next album. After the band finishes up Mayhem Festival and some dates in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, he expects the band to reconvene to put together their fifth studio album. Tom offered that he already has an iPhone full of song ideas and riffs and that he is excited to see how Christian and Kyle will add to the songwriting and creation of the next record.
Hellyeah’s Day 5 Mayhem performance leaned heavily on tracks from the new record, Blood for Blood, including “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)”, “Say When”, “Moth”, and “Demons in the Dirt”. Tom Maxwell, still wearing a leg brace from his recent surgery, performed the set from a drum stool. Kyle Sanders spit blood in Chad Gray’s for “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)” , and the band fed off the frenetic energy of the crowd. In all, it was a memorable performance.