VINNIE F*CKING PAUL: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
After the horrific murder of his brother, no one would have faulted Pantera/Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul for dropping off the face of the Earth. But instead, the man chose to soldier on, starting his own record company, Big Vin Records, and resuming his drumming duties for boozy groove metallers Hellyeah. The former has signed Type O Negative side project Seventh Void and released the successful Dimebag Darrell tribute DVD Dimevision; the latter’s toured the globe in support of their debut album, with plans to record and tour again in the near future. A relentlessly positive guy who sounds a little like the metal version of King of the Hill’s Boomhauer, Vinnie seems content with the past and satisfied with the present (upon hearing that I was conducting the interview from Massachusetts after I shut my tape recorder off, he gave his thoughts on the Boston Bruins’ then-upcoming playoff game with Montreal Canadiens and stated that his dream Superbowl would be between the Cowboys and the Patriots, if it were possible). In his inteview with MetalSucks, he gives his thoughts on the upcoming 20th anniversary of Cowboys from Hell, running a record label, and the future of Hellyeah.
Busy day so I imagine.
Got a lot of things going on. So, how’s life going?
Things are going really good, man. It’s been a little bit since I took a break from Hellyeah. Obviously right now the focus is putting Seventh Void out on my label. I’m in love with this band. I love the music, and I love the record. I think it’s going to be the record of the year, and then come around May 20th we start recording the new Hellyeah record. I’m going to be busy, busy, busy for the rest of the year.
Sounds like it, and the year isn’t even halfway over and you got all that lined up. I talked to Johnny Kelly of Seventh Void last week [Interview coming soon. – Ed.], and he spoke about Big Vin and had nothing but nice things to say about it. What’s the kind of criteria for a band that you sign to Big Vin Records? What makes you want to sign a band?
It’s got to be something that is totally unique, totally original, something that the guys in the band are really committed to. It has to stick out like a sore thumb, you know? That’s the thing about Seventh Void’s music, they don’t sound like the other bands that you hear on the radio right now. They have an old school feel but with a new sound.
Yeah. That sort of thing is important. What part do you think that the old school plays in the bands that you sign to Big Vin?
The main thing that I always like in the Led Zepplins and the Sabbaths and everything is I like the grooves to them. A lot of these new bands that are out today, they forget about that element. It’s probably the most important element of music – that and a good hook. It doesn’t matter how heavy the music is, you got to have that catch phrase or that line that people will remember and just to groove with. It’s so important. Those bands back in the day, that’s what it was all about: great songs and great grooves and everything. I think that’s kind of gotten lost in the mix a little.
It’s not as sort of straight up as it used to be in that respect.
What’s your opinion on the music climate that’s going on right now, especially being a record label owner just as much as being a musician at this point?
I think it’s very difficult for all of us in the music business, whether you’re an artist or a record company, because of the piracy problem that’s going on. When people talk about the economy suffering, shit, look what’s happened to the music business. Platinum records used to be a goal for people. Now you’re praying to get to 100,000 units for the record. It’s that far off from what it used to be. It’s very difficult, and I don’t know if it’s the fact that the fans are so used to getting their music for free that they don’t keep up with bands like they used to, or what it is. I’m sure that’s a huge part of it, but I remember back in the day when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get the new Kiss or Ted Nugent or whatever and hold the album and look at the cover inside and out, play the record, go to the concerts. I think that’s kind of a has-been thing. It doesn’t really happen like that anymore. With these kids, somebody tells them that something happened and then they got to go see it live. They can always go to that thing called the internet and download one or two songs and the band never sees a penny. It’s difficult.
Do you think that that is making music as a whole suffer? Not even financially, just music itself.
You have to look at it as a career. You have to be serious about playing music and that’s got to be something that you only want to do. At the same time, if you cannot financially support yourself while you’re doing it, at some point in time, you’re going to lose interest in it. It would be like being a basketball player or a football player, you love doing it, but if you’re not getting paid at the end of the day, you can’t really do it anymore.
Yeah, that kind of puts a kink in things.
It does. It fucks everything up.
Speaking of playing music, what can you tell us about the new Hellyeah record?
I think it’s going to be an extension of the last one. That was the good thing about that record, we never pigeonholed ourselves into that one certain corner or sound. It’s very diverse, very open. From us touring together and playing live and really see the fan reactions, we definitely molded into a real band. It really solidified everything being able to be on tour. Everyone is so super excited about getting back together and doing this thing again. Everyone is really focused. We nearly got a gold record last year. We sold over 400,000 units, and like I said earlier, that’s really tough to do in this day and age. We’re going to try to push it all the way to the next level this time around. Expect more of the same, a little more intense and a little more fun.
Do you think that with all of you guys having important big things going on outside of the band – you running Big Vin Records, and the other guys doing Mudvayne and Nothingface – is it tough to keep Hellyeah together?
No. It’s easy, man. This time that we’ve had apart from each other has made us even closer because we want to do this thing again so bad. We don’t really have an opportunity to get sick of each other [laughs]. It’s been a really cool situation. We went into it from day one deciding that it was not going to be a side project. We wanted it to be a real band and something that we all plan until the end of the day. At the same time we all realize that we have other commitments and so it was going to have to find its time and place with everybody’s schedule. So far we’ve been able to make all of it work, and like I said, come May 15 I’m ready to get my ass back in the studio, man.
I’m taking it that you’re pretty psyched for that?
Oh man, I’m basically had a year off while Chad and Greg have been touring with Mudvayne. Tom has had a year off as well. Even though we’ve had all these things that have kept us very busy, it’s not like being on the road.
You probably miss it after awhile I assume.
Oh yeah man. The way that I kind of replace being on tour is that I bought myself a house out in Vegas, so I spend a lot of time between Dallas and Vegas. Whenever I feel like I need to get on the road, I go to Vegas because there’s something to do every fucking night, whether it’s gambling, strip bars, concerts or shows. It’s a happening town, man.
It sounds fun. Next year Cowboys From Hell will be 20 years old. How do you feel about that?
Well it will definitely put it in the quote/unquote “classic rock” category. It’s amazing to look back at it. Usually fifteen years is what they deem classic. It was a milestone, and it was definitely a stepping point for us as a band. At the time when the Seattle sound was kind of ruling, we came along and created some chaos. I think we’re going to do a special remastered version of it that includes some demos and maybe a song or two that nobody ever heard. We’re definitely going to take advantage of the occasion and really try to do something special for the fans.
That’s awesome. How do you think the record holds up? If there is anyone who knows that record inside and out it’s the people that made it. Do you think it still holds up after twenty years?
Oh yeah, without a doubt. I think Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display of Power both are records that people put on in the studio when they’re making their own record. They definitely stand up to the test of time. The songs are timeless, the power, the energy and the aggression that we had at that time were just pretty much unmatched, and I think, to this day as far as something being extremely heavy but still maintaining a bit of a melody. I think we accomplished that pretty well back then.
You can kind of hear a lot of metal bands changed their approach after that. How do you feel about Pantera’s legacy in metal after all that?
I think we were the biggest underground band ever. When I say “underground,” I mean that we weren’t on the radio, we weren’t on MTV, we didn’t get the luxuries and the things that Metallica was able to do. As far as that goes, I think we definitely left our mark and have one hell of a legacy, and it’s something that a lot of bands definitely modeled themselves after.
How do you feel about those bands that modeled themselves after you guys?
Well, like they say, “imitation is the highest form of praise.” There is only one real deal, and everyone knows that. It’s nice to be able to say that I can detect a little bit of Pantera in a band or a little bit of this in it. We had our roots. We were heavily rooted in Van Halen, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and that shit. I’m sure that you can hear that in Pantera at times too.
I was listening to Pantera – I’ve been listening since I was fourteen – and was listening to Van Halen, and I noticed that you and Alex Van Halen are kind of similar stylistically, where in Pantera you had Phil and your brother who were two very charismatic guys who were out front. In Van Halen you had David Lee Roth and Eddie, and they were very charismatic and out front. Alex was doing a lot of stuff underneath that that kind of got lost in the fray but was still really good.
And don’t forget Jimmie Plant and Robert Page. That’s where the Van Halens got it from, and it just came down onto us, and from us it’s gone on to some other band. It’s a chain. It’s a great format for a band – one lead singer, one guitar player, one bass player, one drummer. Everybody has an opportunity to play freely. You don’t have to worry about someone playing a minor chord over a major chord or anything like that. Everyone really has the freedom to cut loose and tear that shit up.
Also released on Big Vin Records was Dimevision Volume 1, which went gold in Canada.
Platinum in Canada, gold in the United States and is about to be platinum [in the U.S.].
That’s awesome. When is Dimevision Volume 2 coming out?
It’s actually being worked on right now as we speak. It’s a process. Basically Dime’s girlfriend, Rita, and Bobby Tongs, who was Dime’s personal assistant, go through all of the tapes. Dime was the guy who put all the Pantera videos together. It’s his trademark, and they really try to capture the essence of what he would have wanted done. They’re working on it and hopefully will have it done by the end of the year either by the first quarter or late this year.
That sounds good. You worked on a book with your dad called He Came to Rock about him as well.
Yeah, it was definitely inspired by my dad. He really wanted to find a way to kind of put his personal touch on Dime’s legacy, and he felt like a book was the right way to do it. It’s a very honest book that is a real look at Dime – not just as a guitar player from Pantera, but the person from day one. It’s a beautiful tribute to him. I know for a fact that anyone that has ever seen it has really loved it and appreciated it. It’s just one more thing that makes Dime larger than life, and his legacy will live on forever.
What do you think his legacy is at this point?
Not only was he an amazing guitar player, but he knew how to entertain people. He put a smile on people’s faces. That’s what got him off. It didn’t matter if it was him giving you a guitar pick, giving you a guitar lesson or a shot of whiskey, hanging out, partying on the bus or whatever, if it put a smile on your face it made him happy. I think that’s what really motivated him, and I think that’s what people remember about him the most.
Who do you like for drummers out there right now? Who do you consider contemporaries?
I love Joey Jordison from Slipknot. He’s an amazing player. There are really a lot of good ones out there: Chris Adler of Lamb of God is a motherfucker on the drums. Groove-wise, [I like] Scott Brannon, I still listen to John Bonham and Alex Van Halen. I’ve got to love Rush. Neil Pert is a motherfucker. Those are the kind of people I dig on drums.
Do you have a certain philosophy or approach to drumming?
Yeah. I’ve always wanted to approach the drums as a part of the song. A lot of the drummers get way too wrapped up in just playing drums for other drummers, and that’s too much and overkill. I always say play enough drums to keep drummers interested but don’t play so much that it goes over the top of the average listener. There are ways of doing that. There are things called “hooks” with the guitars, well you can do hooks with the drums. A lot of people don’t get that. There are parts where they repeat themselves and people can air drum to them and move to them. Of course I really try to keep the groove element in everything that I do. That’s my rule of thumb when I’m playing drums.
That sounds good. In the interest in full disclosure, you’ve been playing music for longer than I’ve been alive.
And I’m almost 30.
How do you feel about what you’ve been doing in music so far?
It’s a beautiful thing. Music’s been my entire life. It’s all I really know. I’ve never done anything else, and nothing else has really interested me. I’m a huge sports fan, hockey and football are my two favorite sports, but I can’t picture myself doing that. I love going to the games, supporting them, writing songs for them, but music is my life. After the horrible event that happened to my brother, everybody thought that I would just quit and be done with it. My dad was like “Why do you want to keep doing this?” Why do the Rolling Stones keep doing it? It’s not because they need money or anything, it’s because they love making music and playing. That’s the beautiful thing about music, you can be timeless and the longer you are part of it, that makes you that much more legendary and much more respected by everyone that is out there.
Do you feel lucky that you have been able to play music for a living as long as you have?
It’s like asking a NASCAR driver if he feels lucky about fucking riding in the Indy 5000 or whatever. It’s a dream to be able to do it and make a living at it and do it for such a long period of time. So of course, very lucky.
Why did you guys wanna interview me if you think metal sucks?
[laughs] You and every other person I interview asks me that. Believe you me, we do not think it sucks.
I know, I just had to throw my little dig in there. I enjoyed it. It was a good interview.