At first, Vinnie Paul Abbott wasn't at all interested in making music again.
Not even two years had passed since the onstage assassination of his brother — and Pantera/Damageplan confederate — "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting"), and really, much of his spare time was being spent running his label, Big Vin Records (see "Vinnie Paul Ready To Release Dimebag's Rebel Music"). Committing himself to a new band was just something he couldn't bring himself to do. But that didn't stop Nothingface bassist Jerry Montano from trying.
"Since May of last year, I started getting phone calls from Jerry, who I've known for a long time, just saying that they planned on putting something together and they needed a heavy hitter — they needed me," the drummer explained. "And I was like, 'Man, I'm so busy with my record company, and I don't know if I'm really ready to do this again' and all that. And after about seven or eight calls, he finally caught me one night when I was in the right frame of mind. I had been drinkin' and listening to some music, and I said, 'You know what? Let's give this thing a shot.' The next day, I talked to everybody in the band, and everyone was so super cool and had the same mindset."
Abbott invited the rest of the group that would inevitably become Hellyeah — Montano, Nothingface's Tom Maxwell and Mudvayne's Chad Gray and Gregg Tribbett — down to his Texas abode, and within eight days, the band had written seven complete songs. The guys jammed inside the same studio where Abbott had worked with Dime on the final few Pantera LPs, Damageplan's debut offering and the Rebel Meets Rebel album.
"It was just magic, man," Abbott recalled. "It was like it was meant to be. I think, just given everything I've been through, it's something that, if it hadn't fallen into my lap, I may not have ever been a part of again. It just sorta came to me."
And truth be told, Abbott's impressed with the final results: Hellyeah's self-titled debut, which drops April 10.
"I honestly think it's the best record I've been a part of since [Pantera's 1992 classic] Vulgar Display of Power," he said. "The thing that makes me feel that way about it is, when we made Vulgar, it was just magic. It happened. Everybody's mindset was in the right place. After that record, we never had that same vibe. We still made amazing records, but there were all these forces pulling us in different directions. So when we made [the Hellyeah] record, I had that same kind of feeling. It was just too easy. Everybody was into it. And I feel these songs are that strong, and I think everybody brought something special to the table.
"It's just a special record," he added, "and I really believe we're gonna be f---ing kick-ass live. We haven't done any live shows yet, but I know that everybody comes from a band that's been known as a kick-ass live band. So I know the five of us together are going to make some hellacious noise."
The upcoming album took the band about a collective month — spread out over several months — to write and record. When it hits shelves, it will boast a dozen brutal tracks, including "You Wouldn't Know," "GodDamn," "Rotten to the Core" and "Alcohaulin' Ass," which Abbott said is "a good song about drinking and something that all guys kind of tend to like, and that's ass."
Abbott thinks some fans will be surprised by Hellyeah's tracks, and he said the entire LP is a "very song-oriented record." To him, "it's music with an attitude. It's like a familiar groove but with a new sound. I really don't think it sounds anything like the bands that any of us are from. I think it has its own sound, its own identity, and it's special in that aspect."
While its members consider Hellyeah a bona fide band, its formation will not impact either Mudvayne — who are working on the follow-up to 2005's Lost and Found — or Nothingface's future. "The way that all of us talk about approaching this thing is being able to be in two bands and have 'em both function — kind of like Stone Sour and Slipknot," Abbott said. "This is a real band; it's no side project."
Hopping on the Hellyeah boat has been instrumental in helping Abbott heal and come to terms with his brother's death. It's also returned him to one of his first loves: making music.
"I didn't know if it was ever gonna be in the cards for me to do again," Abbott said. "It's a big step, and it's only been two years, but to me, it feels like a whole 'nother lifetime. And I just have to say, I give credit to these guys for making me feel comfortable and enjoying doing what we did and making it fun again. It's been a blast. So, I am glad I went ahead and did it. I knew I loved it, and I knew I missed it. I knew I wanted to get back to it, but it was just a matter of learning how to do it without Dime. It brings me back to what I love, and it's a new life, but it's something I'm going to embrace, and I'm going to go at it just as f---ing hard as I did with anything else.
"I'll never be the same, but I've kinda learned that this is my life now, and this is the way it is, and I've got to do the very best I can or Dime's gonna kick my ass one way or another sooner or later," he continued. "I've done my best to carry the torch, because he always used to say, 'You have to keep on keeping on.' So I am doing what I think he wants me to do and what I've got to do to stay sane."
Abbott said Hellyeah will tour extensively this year but that they're still mapping things out. Playing this summer's Ozzfest would make perfect sense for Hellyeah, considering all the bandmembers have taken the festival's stage before. And if Sharon Osbourne extended an offer, the band would gladly take her up on it, Abbott said.
"We will definitely be on tour all summer, and we're definitely looking forward to it," he said. "Ozzfest would be awesome. That's all I can say about that. I'm a veteran of Ozzfest. Everybody knows it's the premier summer tour, so if we were offered to be a part of that, that would just be super, man."