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Interview: Chad Gray of HELLYEAH

Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

While on tour in Europe with Korn, metal juggernaut Hellyeah made a stop in Vienna, Austria, and Antihero Magazine’s Ivana Kováčová had the opportunity to chat with vocalist Chad Gray about the tour and what it means to be a part of the worldwide metal community.

Chad Gray
Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

ANTIHERO: You are currently on tour with Korn. It’s not your first time with these guys, and Heaven Shall Burn is also here. How are you enjoying the shows so far? Any craziness to share with fans?

Chad Gray: It’s been awesome. There’s really no craziness. I mean this is our luxury, right here, this bus. We have no hotel rooms. It’s been a rather dirty tour (laughs). But it’s been fucking really cool. I love festivals, I love the festival attitude. It’s 48 hours of just getting fucked up, it’s a really cool vibe, there’s a lot of bands. I see lot of my friends’ bands and stuff, and catch up with old friends. But I’m just blown away by the size, the magnitude of the turn outs. This is that scaled down. It’s still a lot of people, but it’s a little more personal to the bands.

ANTIHERO: Because the fans are here for you.

Chad Gray: Yeah. Well, they are here for Korn, but we fit really well with Korn. Our responses have been amazing. It’s been really good, we couldn’t be happier about the response. We’ve come to Europe before. We’ve nearly played the whole goddamn thing as a four-piece once because Tom fucked his foot up –  we’ve just had bad luck. So, we needed this, we needed this run, kind of for redemption. Because I believe in order to be a world-wide band you have to play worldwide.

ANTIHERO: Yes, of course.

Chad Gray: You know, when you release records in Austria, then you better go to fucking Austria and play. If you’re going to release records in Germany, you better go to Germany and play. If you’re going to release the record in Kenya fucking Africa, you better be ready to go to Kenya Africa and play! Because your albums are one thing but to build that connection, that intimacy with what I like to call just my family, my musical family, a heavy metal family. For them and for us to feed off each other the way that we do. Because they need it as bad as I do. And they help me as much as I help them. I fucking need it, you know? And I think that’s beautiful thing about heavy metal.

ANTIHERO: So, I suppose that’s what you enjoy the most about touring, right? Any other aspects that you especially enjoy while being on road?

Chad Gray: Playing. That’s my favorite, that’s what I’m here for. The other 23 hours of day just get in the way.

ANTIHERO: So, to compare, what do you like most, the recording or the playing live part?

Chad Gray: Recording’s always like this, “Create!” It’s a lot of pressure recording. The hardest part of recording is starting. Getting the groove and the first couple of songs can set the tone for the whole record, for the whole album. So it’s cool. I like it. But it’s a lot of pressure. This, it’s still pressure. And you still get nervous, but I still love it. I get fucking antsy and shit before I go on stage. This is like part two after you’ve written a recorded what you’ve done, now you get to go out and perform. And you get to give it to the people. You know you give it to your fans. You get to give it to the metal community.

Chad Gray
Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

ANTIHERO: So, is there anything you are not so fond of during touring? I mean, apart from spending the whole time in a bus.

Chad Gray: (laughs) It’s pretty much what’s been kind of shitty about this tour, because it seems like we’re always away from town, stuff like city centers. We’ve been parking outside of town or whatever. And we’re still on a bus, so like if we want to go to the city centre we all have to take cabs or whatever. Which we have been doing. Europe is so full of culture. It’s so beautiful and so old.

ANTIHERO: Especially compared to US.

Chad Gray: Yeah, it’s what four-five hundred years old? It’s just the history and the culture is fucking beautiful and the architecture, my god I mean, it’s unprecedented, it’s really great.

ANTIHERO: Are you a big history fan?

Chad Gray: I’m not. I know people that are really crazy into it. And it’s something actually I’ve been wanting to get into it for a while. I had a friend that knew a teacher in college. And I was like can you give me one of his history textbooks? To just go through. And I read, history books, people’s history, American history and shit like that. I’m not a big history buff. I love the architecture.

ANTIHERO: So, if you get some free time and you are not actually exploring the city, what are the things you are usually doing?

Chad Gray: I read a lot.

ANTIHERO: What kind of books? What genre?

Chad Gray: It’s all sorts. I’ll go through different authors. It’s what generally like everybody does, you go through like a King phase, and then you go like through Gaiman…

ANTIHERO: Oh, I love Neil Gaiman.

Chad Gray: Yeah, he’s fucking unbelievable, right?

Chad Gray
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: Yeah, I can’t wait for American Gods to start airing.

Chad Gray: Yeah. It is it the underworld [Neverwhere] and the Graveyard book and all that shit so, that kind of stuff. Right now, I’m reading a book it’s called Under the Banner of Heaven, and it was basically written by the guy that did Into the Wild, it’s a true story. Well, this Under the Banner of Heaven is a true story, too. It’s about Mormon fundamentalists and shit. And the whole Mormon community, the LDS – the Latter-day Saints and that shit. And like the fundamental Mormons are like, “you sold our religion” now. Like they feel like he sold them out. So, it’s like a whole fucking weird world, man. There’s a murder of a girl and her one year old baby. And her husband, it was his two older brothers that killed his wife and child. It’s a true story. So, it’s going through that whole process. And it’s fucking insane. It’s a crazy book. But yeah, I do read true stories, I read fiction, non-fiction, whatever. I just find some time and read. I have a lot of time to read. You know and I write. I’m constantly working on lyrics and constantly working on themes and concepts and ideas for songs, and maybe a concept for a whole record that I’ll start breaking down into little hidden esoteric fucking underline meanings. I don’t like to write about things that are like this is what it is. I think it’s important that people listen to music and are able to make the cause for themselves.

ANTIHERO: So, not much partying or anything like that happening?

Chad Gray: I’m not drinking on the road anymore. I quit partying.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, I get it can get pretty hard in this environment. Especially when you’re staying sober.

Chad Gray: It’s okay at the beginning. It’s the end that’s like, “aaaah!” Like, “okay, I’m going to bed.” But I just came to the terms with myself like that. I wanted to give, be the best that I can when I’m playing. So, I do all of the things that I do just to play. To give you, all the fucking kids that are standing in front of me, the best show possible. And it’s hard to do when you’re drinking. You’re dehydrated, you’re fucking hungover. I just feel better. I feel more confident in my voice and I feel better about myself. I look better. I lost weight, it’s good good good. The only bad is no drinking.

ANTIHERO: That can suck at times but seems it truly works for you.

Chad Gray: Yeah, yeah. And I love it.

ANTIHERO: So, what is your favorite song to play live?

Chad Gray: I like “Demons.” “Demons” is always fun, “Demons” starts riots and it’s awesome. I like the more aggressive stuff. “X” is fucking blast, that’s when we come out and lot of these people don’t even know us. They’ve never seen us. I mean they know about us but they don’t know kind of where Hellyeah has kind of grown.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, it just started as a supergroup and it evolved from there somehow.

Chad Gray: Yeah, we started just a bunch of guys that just wanted to get in a room and fucking play music for the fucking fun of it again. Because business gets in the way. This is an industry and it’s a business. And the artists sometimes get consumed by the business people that work for you. And it just gets so frustrating. That’s what happened in my last band, I started losing excite. This is what I’m supposed to do and I always knew this is what I am supposed to do. And then we put this together. And we just got in a room and started fucking playing and bashed it out. Then we did another record and we did the third record, and I was kind of like, I just wanna be me, I’m tired of hiding from myself. And I want you to be Vinnie Paul, you know? And I want you to be Tom. I want everybody to be everybody. And I want everybody to bring what they are as an individual, even if it’s a reflection of what you were in your past band. It doesn’t matter. I learned how to sing playing in Mudvayne. So, if people are going to draw a direct line between what I sing now to when I sang in Mudvayne, I’m not singing like Chad from Mudvayne, I’m just singing like Chad. I just happened to be in Mudvayne.

Chad Gray
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: So, do people still tend to compare you to your other past bands?

Chad Gray: Yeah. I’m telling you what, the good news is that the more we go and the more we’ve done the more we have really embraced the idea of be who you are individually and bring it to the collective. That wall that used to be between Hellyeah and the other bands is brick by brick starting to fall off. And even when fans are, a lot of people, like fuck this I don’t want to listen to it because it’s taking Chad away from Mudvayne. It’s taking Vinnie away from Pantera. That was never the case. This is something very fucking real. I put my heart into it, every song has some level of meaning, of concept and it all comes from very real emotions and very real stories. I just like to try to write them open so people can make them apply to their own life. So you can come close to the song. If I’m like, “this is what it’s about,” and you’re like, “I don’t get that, I don’t understand that.” If I can open it up and kind of leave the knot untied and write it open, then you are able to come close to it. Make it part of your life. So, that’s what I do. It’s all very fucking real.

ANTIHERO: So, is there any song that you’re tired of playing again and again and again? And you just keep it there for the fans’ sake? Or do you tend to change up your set a lot?

Chad Gray: Not really. Most of the stuff we play is new shit. And some of the older stuff like old stuff, you’re just over it because it’s old, I mean it’s like, “I fucking wrote that song ten years ago.” I just had conversation with Jonathan [Davis] about “Blind” and he’s like, “man, I’ve been singing this fucking song for so long,” and I’m like, “if you didn’t play this song people would lose their fucking minds! You know what I mean? This is a good song.” And he’s like, “I know, I know, I know.” You know? It’s like the first thing I’ve ever heard from you. And I like it. I’ve been a fan of these guys [Korn] since 95, way before I was singing and doing it professionally. I saw them play in fucking a theatre opening for Marilyn Manson and fucking Danzig, and they had no space. It was the five of them lined up across the front of the stage, the drums were in the middle, Jonathan and Munky were on one side, Head and Fieldy were on the other side. And they just came in and I’ve been a fan of the band for about like four or five months. So, I knew about them. So many people did not, like you fucking know Korn? It’s one of these kind of things when you know a band and nobody else does. It’s like, how do you not know about this band? I remember so many people after Life Is Peachy is out, “I like fucking Korn.” Who? And I’m like, Korn! How can you fucking not know about this band? They have two records out and they are fucking awesome! And they came in and played, and they just fucking blew it up. I mean destroyed it. It was awesome. And I have been a fan ever since. And me and Jonathan go way back. Mudvayne supported these guys a couple different times.

ANTIHERO: That must have been amazing for you when you have been fan of the band for so long, to get to be close with them and play with them, tour the world.

Chad Gray: What’s more important to me, because I’m a fan, I love their music. But the really cool part is being friends. And we are friends, we have a lot of respect for one another. We’ve been friends for a long time. So, there’s a lot of mutual admiration. I love what he does and he loves what I do. The band, it loves us and the Korn crew loves us, we love the band and crew and it’s a fucking win-win all the way around. Heaven Shall Burn guys have been great, it’s fucking really really cool man.

Chad Gray
Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

ANTIHERO: Over the years you toured with many great bands, what band did you enjoy touring with the most? And if you could pick any artist, dead or alive to tour with, who would it be?

Chad Gray: Aaaah fuck man, as you said I’ve pretty much toured with everybody. I’ve done many shows with Slipknot, I’ve done many shows with Metallica, I’ve done many shows with Rammstein. And I’ve done many shows with this band and that band. I’ve done a lot of shows with Korn, I mean I’ve done a lot of shit. I toured with Ozzy. I toured on Ozzfest. I toured with him on this Merry Mayhem thing. And Rob Zombie, I mean I’ve pretty much toured with everybody so just bring it man. I don’t care let’s just all bring it together and fucking fuck shit up. Let people really release, because that’s what metal does. You get together in a room, it’s kind of a safe house, you feel good, you know you’re surrounded by family and because you all need just one thing, right? To bring people together, one common denominator, one thing, and what brings us together tonight? It’s music.

ANTIHERO: And music does that really well.

Chad Gray: It does it really well and life is like inhaling, right? You just get to a point you can’t inhale and you feel like you are about to fucking drown. It’s the opposite of holding your breath, you know what it’s like. You can’t take anymore and then you go to a metal show and it’s like, aaaaaah…. Everything just goes away. And then you walk out and you start inhaling again. You know what I mean?

ANTIHERO: You’re waiting for your next fix.

Chad Gray: You’re waiting for your next exhale which is the next metal show whenever it comes. So, that’s how I look at metal. It’s like a release for relief. Because we all need a relief. And we all need a break from life. I say a lot in America. And there’s a communication barrier, like I wish I could speak every language but I can’t.

ANTIHERO: Today, with English being so widespread, it’s great. Also, with the internet and the possibilities today. You can basically talk with people on the other side of the world.

Chad Gray: Of course. The world’s smaller, man. It’s gotten a lot smaller. You’re with family here. You know what I mean? If you get knocked down in a pit, the chances are the guy who knocked you down is going to be the one to help you up. That’s fucking respect. That’s a level of respect that you don’t see in a lot of other cultures. Heavy metal is a culture, it really is. It’s a community. And it’s worldwide. And I see that respect for one another every show I play. Whether it’s here, or fucking Munich, or fucking London, or Sydney Australia, or Tokyo Japan or Chicago Illinois. I look out over these kids and I see them respecting one another so much. It’s fucking great thing to be a part of. And I know that I’m part of bringing people together. But I release as much as they do. Like I said, I need them as much as they need me. I really do. And I fucking love our fans. I don’t like the word fan, it’s fanatic and it sounds weird to me. This is my family. And I and it’s very vast and it’s huge and it’s worldwide.

Chad Gray
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: Is there a place you’ve never played before that you would actually like to visit?

Chad Gray: We’ve never played Russia. Which I would fucking love to play. We never played Alaska, that would be fucking awesome to go up there. Because when you think about all the inhaling they do, because I mean the shows very seldom go there, to that part, it’s almost another world up there. So, I’d love to play Alaska. Fucking South Africa, I would love to go there, you know the Cape Town. That would be amazing, I mean we have fans out there. And it’s fucking expensive to get there, really expensive. Like you know, it’s just flights, not me buying plane tickets, we’re buying plane tickets for all dudes, you got to get your gear there.

ANTIHERO: Maybe one day.

Chad Gray: It’s going to happen. I’m on a mission to create a worldwide presence. This is one of the steps today and we will be back. It’s up to us metal fans to make noise to fucking keep supporting metal because it’s so fucking important. Metal saved my life I don’t know how many times. When I was down in the dumps and had no one and nothing, I had music, I always had metal music. And therefor I feel like I owe it my life. So, I do my part. I still buy albums, still to this day. I still buy fucking Slayer records, I still buy Metallica records, I still buy fucking Gojira records, I still buy fucking Slipknot records, I still buy fucking Lamb of God records. I still support heavy metal.

ANTIHERO: Do you think it gets harder with the time, because like not all the people are willing to support the music anymore.

Chad Gray: Well, here’s what people have to realize. If you don’t support it, it will go away. And imagine your life without metal. Imagine your life without music.

ANTIHERO: I cannot imagine that.

Chad Gray: It would be miserable. You would never be able to exhale again. And if you’re looking at it that way, you better fucking keep buying tickets to shows, that’s a good way to support artists. Fucking buy the shit. I’m not opposed to technology. I love it, it’s great. But don’t abuse it. Just because you can, it doesn’t make it right. Support the music that supports you. I believe it supports a lot of people. And I think that those people need to realize that I’m not barking at anybody, I’m not pissed, I’m merely stating. And if you don’t support it, then it will go away.

ANTIHERO: Especially with buying records, it seems harder and harder nowadays. With your last album, you made it available to pre-order on PledgeMusic, and I noticed a lot of bands seem to do things like that nowadays. Why did you decide to do this way?

Chad Gray: I have no idea. Again, that’s the business side of it.

ANTIHERO: So, I take it you’re not that much into the business side of things.

Chad Gray: I am, I mean I am as much as I choose to be, kind of. I’m an artist, man, I like to fucking write music and I like to play it for my fucking family. And I like to fucking help people get and stay right. That’s what I do. That’s what I like, that’s my work. That’s my life, you know? I got to keep these fuckers in line you know. I’m just not going to turn my back and just assume they are doing the right thing. Because ultimately everything that happens falls on the band. Even when we have nothing to do with it. You know? But I’m going to be the one who gets blamed for it. It’s fucked up, you know? And it means you have to keep your eyes on it. It means you have to keep your eyes on the people because sometimes they don’t act in your best interest.

ANTIHERO: With the last album, you did really extensive touring before it and had really little time before you started writing and recording. How was it?

Chad Gray: It was fucking brutal. It was hard.

Chad Gray
Photo: Thomas Woroniak

ANTIHERO: Why did you choose to do it that way?

Chad Gray: I mean, we just got to stay on the top of that. We did the Blood for Blood and we got a lot of acclaim and we did some touring and shit like that, and when it was time we were like, “well, we can fucking sit on our hands or we can get to fucking work.” The way that I look at life is when you’re sleeping, you’re fucking dead. It’s like we just sat at home for two months. I like being home, I love being with my girl, I love it. But that was too long for me. Like I said, I need it as much as these kids. I need to be on stage. And I don’t like sitting for two months. And now we’re going back home, I’m going to sit for another month and a half. So, we’re just going to keep pushing along. I mean, yeah, the pressure, it was tough. But I think we work really good under pressure. I think we’re kind of the people who don’t fold, we focus. And I think it turned out great. The record really turned out well. But I still believe that our best music is to come. We’re getting more and more and more of a handle on what it is that we do, you know? Every record, every song, everything. I think the best music is yet to come.

ANTIHERO: I’ve been amazed by the last record and even it’s so amazing that you included Dimebag’s guitar parts on the “I Don’t Care Anymore” track. And you even said yourself that it was one of the most magical moments for you. That must have been amazing for you guys and for Vinnie and everything.

Chad Gray: It was. He was one of my ultimate heavy metal heroes. Outside of what he did musically, that was fucking incredible. The way that he carried himself. A lot of humility, he was humble, very approachable. He lived to put a smile on people’s faces. He was a fucking great role model. He really is. And you look at people like that and you see how you should carry yourself. In my ten years in music and stuff like that, I don’t believe in this social totem. Where there are different levels of people and stuff like that. I believe that we are all the same, you know. I have a talent, you have a talent. Somebody else has a talent. All of our talents are completely different, but maybe this guy over here builds fucking houses. Maybe this guy over here is a fucking semi-truck driver and trucks goods to your grocery store so you can eat. I mean everybody has a role in life. And we all work together in some way to make the world go around. And that’s what I believe. Cool, I’m singer in the band. But I don’t believe I’m above anybody. I am that metal kid that’s in the moshpit. I am that metal kid standing there watching the band. I am still that kid.

ANTIHERO: Do you go often to concerts?

Chad Gray: Sometimes.

Chad Gray
Photo: NIWY KOVÁČOVÁ

ANTIHERO: What was the last show that you saw?

Chad Gray: What was the last show that I saw? Oh my god. Suicidal [Tendencies]? I think Suicidal in Phoenix. But it’s not just going to shows, like Korn will play and I’ll fucking go out and just sneak out, and just stand in the crowd. I want to hear what it sounds like. You can stand on the side stage and I do, I’ll stand on the side stage because I want to show the boys props and that I have their back and stuff like that. But I’ll sneak out and fucking be a fan. Like, “Are you ready?!”, and then jumping, going crazy. It’s fun. Back in the day touring with Slipknot, I would stand there watching in front, like in the crowd. And they were fucking playing and I just said, fuck this and I just jumped into moshpit, and I was fucking moshing with everybody and shit. And people realize who I was and almost kind of started protecting me and I was like fuck this shit! I don’t want to be protected. And I jumped up and I crowdsurfed over the top of the crowd. They carried me forward on the barricade. I just remember going over the front of the barricade and I remember fucking Clown looking at me just shaking his head with his mask on. And I get carried over and dropped to the security guys. I say it a lot, I’m a heavy metal kid. I think that heavy metal is a bit of a time capsule. It’s like if I hear Slayer Reign in Blood, oh shit! I’m taken back all the way to ’86. When I bought that record. Like fucking holy shit, I’m like a seventeen-year-old kid again.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, we’ve all been there.

Chad Gray: We all do! We go back and you know I put on a fucking Pantera Vulgar Display of Power, I go back to that age, if I put on Korn Blind, you will go back to that age. It’s beautiful thing. It almost marks chapters in your life. And you can always go back there. That philosophy is that you are always really a true heavy metal kid. Because that’s where it started. And that’s where you go back to.

ANTIHERO: What are your plans for the future? You have a few more dates in the UK after this, and then some in the US. What then?

Chad Gray: Tour, tour, tour, tour, tour, tour, tour. Hopefully. I mean, that’s our plan. I want to go back to South America, I want to come back over here. I want to go to Australia. I want to go back to Japan. I mean, I want to play. I want to go around the world and give all these kids a fucking exhale.


About Niwy Kováčová

Slovakia – Photographer/Writer

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