Hellyeah’s Tom Maxwell Talks ‘Blood for Blood’ Album, ‘Moth’ + Upcoming Tour
It's been one helluva year for Hellyeah, who overhauled their lineup and delivered one of the best received albums of their career. Loudwire recently had a chance to chat with guitarist Tom Maxwell about the band's big 2014 and he also opened up about their plans for their upcoming 2015 headlining tour with Devour the Day and Like a Storm. Check out the chat below.
This past year, you've opened for the likes of Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch, but how excited are you to get out and play some headlining shows for this album?
Ah man, I’m just relieved. Opening for those bands and getting support is great and it really exposes us to a lot of new faces and a lot of people, but 35 minutes just isn’t enough. After 30 minutes, I am just getting started. So I think we are all really amped to get to go out there and play for 90 minutes or whatever. It's going to be a great thing and we are really going to dig deep into our catalog, especially with our new album. We are going to play the hell out of it.
You have some time before the trek launches in February. Have you started plotting out the stage show and the setlist?
It’s pretty much going to be close to what we did with the last run with Five Finger. We had really cool scrims and backdrop over it and a lot of our symbols and stuff. It’s going to be pretty cut and dried. I mean certain sort of places doesn’t allow you to have an a lot for a big production. Some of the venues we're playing are in the 2,000-3,000 capacity, so we are going to really delve into visually looking a lot of red, which kind of follows the theme of the record. But mainly we are going to focus on the new record as far a songs are concerned.
We really are going to be playing a majority of the new album out there. Some we can’t because a couple are potentially singles down the road, so we are going to kind of stay away from those. Like 'Say When' and 'Soul Killer' and 'DMF' and a lot of stuff. So we are going to do a lot from the last two records and a few from the first one mainly. It will be jam packed with lots of stuff.
You mentioned playing more of the new record. With a headlining set is there a favorite song to play live? Or maybe one you haven't played yet that you're looking forward to getting out there and sharing?
Well we're definitely looking forward to playing 'Hush' on the road, or even 'Black December' or something like that. I mean I love heavy stuff and it's where I come from. But the more subtle songs like 'Moth' and 'Hush' and 'Black December' are just as important to me and very personal. We did this record and those songs just kind of came honestly through me. Like as far as music is concerned, it was just a lot of reflection of my personal emotions and musically 'Hush' was a very important song for me to write and I can’t wait to eventually do that.
Currently I love playing all of them man, I love the energy of 'Blood for Blood' and I love playing 'A Cross to Bier.' They're a lot of fun to play. 'Demons' is one of my all time favorites and 'Moth' is one of my all time favorites. I was worried how we were going to pull that song off live because there is a lot of slick production on the album. But we managed to do it. You know, we're doing everything. There is a few things that can’t show up, especially the section of the E-Bow part on the guitar. I’m doing it, but there is a lot of harmonizing going on, so I do it the best I can.
It comes across very well, but vocally it is amazing between Chad and our new guitar player Christian who is a great singer as well. Between him and we have my guitar tech, Marcus, he plays an important role in our live set too. He does a lot of backup stuff on the side of the stage. A lot of screaming and he has a great singing voice. So between the three of them we can work out the harmonies from all of the sounds just like the record. It’s really cool.
You're are taking out Devour the Day and Like a Storm. Both bands emerging over the past year. Can you talk about the bands?
With Like a Storm, I pretty much just found out about those guys. I heard them on the radio, it sounds really good. They're from New Zealand. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing their live show and meeting and becoming friends with those dudes. Devour the Day I've met before, we played a show with them up in Bangor, Maine, for the Rise Up Festival. I really like them live, man. They are 10 times heavier live than they are on the record. They put on really high energy show, their songs are killer live. I think they're going to make ... they're bringing a lot to the table as far as excitement and energy. The three of us on this tour, it's a great pairing. It'll be a good night for everybody.
One of the big things for this band is the lineup change in the past year. You've had the chance to get a number shows under your belt with the new guys. Can you talk about the relationship and what the new guys have brought to your live lineup?
When we parted ways with Greg and Bob, at the time there was a lot of drama there and the only thing we wanted to focus on was the record and writing it. All three of us made the album, which is myself, Vinnie and Chad with our producer Kevin. Kevin played bass and did a lot of little secret stuff as well. We hadn't really focused in on what we were going to do. I had an idea, I knew who I wanted to get. I wanted Kyle right from the get go and we kind of secured him after we sent him a few demos of the new stuff. He had some stuff he had to work out but he immediately jumped in.
Then, while we were out in Vegas during our off time we'd go out at night and check out friends of ours play. This one band with Franky Perez plays out there, lives out there, and there was this guitar player Christian. I just fell in love with his playing, just a great great guitar player. Singing his ass off, super nice guy and just dedicated to his craft and that was really important to me. Play good, but someone who was dedicated to his art. When we finally brought them all together to rehearse it just felt so natural, man. It was kind of weird in a way. Some bands get it wrong here, this isn't this easy. But the transition was seamless, man.
As far as live, Kyle is just a beast of a performer on stage. Not only does he play great, but he's a show himself. He's lanky and tall and that hair, he's all over the stage. I don't have to do nothing, it's awesome. I can just stand there and play and those two will just command the stage, it's great. Christian is just awesome live, great performer. Great player, sings great. Just stepped up our game quite a bit. Even people who have been around the camp for a long time have said that. It's just a different band. It's so different. I think we're just 10 times better than we ever were live.
'Blood for Blood' is such a key album for you guys. Having some time and separation from it, what are your thoughts on how the album has been embraced by not only yourself but the fans as well?
We needed to make this record. I was desperate to make this record. I got so sick and tired. I was never into the other albums. Chad and the others might disagree but I think we missed our mark completely on the second record. It's not what I set out to do. When me and Chad formed this band, we never were going to write songs like 'Hell of a Time' or any of that Southern stuff. I don't have any connection to that kind of stuff. I don't know anything about it. It just felt dishonest for me. When this record came and all of a sudden we're down two members and the responsibility of writing at least the score of the album came on my lap, I was kind of silently rejoicing. F--kin' finally! I can do this and do it the way I've wanted and saw in my vision for this band from the get go.
This record came out of it. I'm only one part of it, Vinnie brought in monster f--king drumming like he hasn't played in years. Chad just let himself go completely honest. He wrote about himself and his life and his emotions, not metaphors and scenarios. It just came out to be this f--king honest record that I've been dying to make from the very beginning. It took 7 years. The fans are loving it! I see it every day. 'Thank you guys for making this record.'
This song is my life story, as far as referring to 'Moth.' We're getting a lot of new fans there are a lot of new faces. When we're onstage man, you can feel the hum and energy from the crowd that we all haven't felt for a long time. It's just a resurgence, we've turned a corner. We turned so many changes. Not only in personnel but in business, as well. We stepped up our game all the way around. We're in it to win it and the first thing was to make a record that was completely honest from first to last song. The fact that people are just embracing it, even some of the haters man. There were people that were s--tting all over this band. They're like, 'Well, I completely changed my mind about you guys. This is an amazing record and I love it, I'm a fan now.' Granted, you have some guys that are just going to hate you no matter what. They just can't let go of the past or whatever it may be.
This record is just, it's a catalyst for us and it's working. My favorite part about it is just the honesty it came from it, there's no premeditated effort to do it. We just let it come to us, just as easy as breathing. We just inhaled and exhaled. That's how this record was made, just awesome. Can't be any happier with the way it turned out, and the response it's getting. We knew 'Moth' was an important song but we never thought we had to write a radio song. Then they released 'Blood for Blood' first and it did well. It made top 20, but 'Moth' is just burning a slow burn. Entered in at No. 24 and now it's in the Top 10 with increasing trending every week, there's new stations coming on board. There's more increases every week so people are loving it. My favorite thing about that is how honest it was. It wasn't a song that we wrote saying, here's our single guys! Here's a cool song. I'm happy.
I know 'Moth' has been a personal track for you. What's it been like for you to see that from a glimmer of an idea to it becoming one of the band's biggest songs?
Christ, I remember writing the riff to 'Moth' in my living room, just sitting around watching my kid play. It was just, influenced by that whimsical energy. It's playful. Then it just keeps building and building from that. Then you hear a song like 'Hush.' I remember writing the riff to that song, and it's kind of a desperate, darker place because I knew I was going home so that was coming out. Every song I listen to, it captures that it's a victory for me.
'Moth' is still doing well but thoughts on looking ahead? What might be a next single from the record?
It's hard to tell, there are a couple of options. Everyone is really leaning on 'Hush' to be the next one because it's definitely a big bullet. That song wasn't even written going into the studio. I showed up one day to go track some guitars and Kevin is like, 'What do you want to do?' I didn't know. I didn't feel like doing any kind of soloing, I didn't feel like tracking anything else. Let's just write a song together and two days later that song came out. I was really nervous playing for those guys because there's elements to it that are not normal for us. The chorus is kind of this upbeat thing and still there's darkness in the verses and Chad really had to go to a different level when he put his vocals on it. 'Moth' is going to go for a while, every week it's increasing so we're just going to let it go and let it go for as long as we can and come back and swing even harder.
You had a chance to go out with FFDP this fall and I know talking to Zoltan [Bathory] before that tour he was talking about how key Hellyeah was with support for them earlier in their career. Now it comes full circle last fall. Talk about that relationship and how fun it was to be a part of that trek.
Both bands kind of started at the same time and we both kind of met. I've known Ivan for a long time, since 2001 or 2002. We toured together, he was back in Motograter and I was in Nothingface. It was one of the Ozzfests, I cant remember which one. It was one of the last big ones. We've been friends steady every since. We all started around the same year and we all started touring together on the Family Values tour and we were both bands, we're support bands for other bands like Korn. Those guys took a great direction, they found their niche with their audience and really bloomed from it. We were very happy, I love the fact that they have found the success that they did. They did it the right way and were hard working and they didn't waste any time.
The fact that they were willing to take us out on this tour, especially with the new record just shows the gentlemen that they are. Like, hey these are our friends and they have a new record. They exposed us to their different audience. Mind you, our past few records kind of missed that mark. It really pigeonholed us to a certain style and certain audience that weren't useful. It was just that Southern hillbilly anthem bulls--t that I hated so much. With this record, we're finally bringing it back [to where we want]. It's opened so many doors for us and we've had this past year of touring because of this record. This record has helped us get these great tours. It's really opened a lot of doors for us. Next year is going to be even more busy, a lot of great opportunities coming. It all comes from that record.
But to go back yeah man, it was great touring with those guys. We're all friends. We've all grown up a little bit, but we're still kids at heart. We still hang out, we have a great time. It was a real easy tour, even with Volbeat, too. They kind of served as a bridge for those dudes because we're friends with those guys, as well. It was great, man. You need that man, with all the negativity that's out there, it's great to go out on tour where we all get along. The crew gets along, we all hang out. It's just fun every night.
I saw your picks for your Top 10 favorite albums of the year. Royal Blood's self-titled disc I think was the top choice.
That wasn't in any particular order. But yeah, I love Royal Blood man. It's a cross between Jack White, Muse, QOTSA meets Black Keys. I love a lot of different styles of music, not just metal. I like tons of different stuff. They really spoke to me and the fact I found out they were just two dudes it blew me away.
Our thanks to Hellyeah's Tom Maxwell for the interview. You can pick up Hellyeah's 'Blood for Blood' album at Amazon and iTunes. And look for them on the road in 2015 with Devour the Day and Like a Storm at these locations.
Watch Hellyeah's Chad Gray and Tom Maxwell Play 'Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?'
Watch Hellyeah's 'Moth' Video