HELLYEAH’s CHAD GRAY: ‘I Choose To Believe That VINNIE PAUL Is With Us Every Night’

HELLYEAH singer Chad Gray spoke to KISW‘s “Metal Shop” about the band’s decision to continue touring after playing its first concert with STONE SOUR drummer Roy Mayorga, who stepped in as the replacement for the late Vinnie Paul Abbott.

“We did the one show [in May] — that’s all we talked about doing after Vinnie passed — we did the one show in [Las] Vegas, and I swear to God, man, probably within the first two measures of the first song, it felt like the world had been lifted off me,” Chad recalled. “Because I felt like Vinnie was there, I felt like Dime [Vinnie Paul‘s brother, late PANTERA guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott] was there.

“I was looking out in the eyes of all those people,” he continued. “We had all been mourning for so long, and I think that that was almost like a switch for us to shut off the mourning switch and turn on the celebration switch. It was a very cathartic and therapeutic moment for me personally. And we got done, and as soon as we walked offstage, I [said to the other guys], ‘Did you see everybody? Did you see how together we were? Did you see how much that brought everybody together? We have to keep this going. We have to keep doing the good work for Vin and Dime and everybody and take this around the country so people can experience what we just experienced.’ Because I don’t think you can fully know about the mourning and grieving process until you do get in that room with those people, until you do experience that music. And experience in the name of Vinnie — what he would want. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment. So we just took it around. And every night is a new night. And we’ve had a lot of fun with it. You can see it in people’s faces. I can feel it.”

According to Gray, the spirit of his former bandmate is with HELLYEAH every time the band performs.

“I choose to believe that Vinnie is with us every night,” he said. “I choose to believe that Dime is with us every night, that Jeff Hanneman [SLAYER] is with us every night, that Chester Bennington [LINKIN PARK] is with us every night, that Chris Cornell [SOUNDGARDEN] is with us every night, that Layne Staley [ALICE IN CHAINS] is with us every night, that Kurt Cobain[NIRVANA] is with us every night, that Jimi Hendrixand Lemmy [MOTÖRHEAD] and Ronnie James [Dio] — the list goes on and on.

Vinnie was the muse, the inspiration for this to happen, but then, every night, I’ve just kind of turned it into more about being much larger than certainly anyone in the building and much larger than even Vinnie and much larger than Dime. And those people are God-sized — they were huge, enormous personalities.”

Mayorga‘s addition to HELLYEAH was made official in early May. At the time, the band said Roy was the perfect guy to take Vinnie Paul‘s place. “These men had so much love and mutual respect for each other, this makes our transition so much easier,” HELLYEAH said in a statement.

Mayorga previously played with HELLYEAH bassist Kyle Sanders in MEDICATION, the early 2000s outfit which also featured guitarist Logan Mader (MACHINE HEAD) and singer Whitfield Crane (UGLY KID JOE).

Vinnie Paul died in June 2018 of dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, as well as severe coronary artery disease. His death was the result of chronic weakening of the heart muscle — basically meaning his heart couldn’t pump blood as well as a healthy heart.

Not long before his death, Vinnie laid down the drum tracks for HELLYEAH’s sixth album, “Welcome Home”, which was released in September.


Today Marks First Anniversary Of VINNIE PAUL’s Death

Today (Saturday, June 22) marks the first anniversary of the passing of PANTERA and HELLYEAH drummer Vincent Paul Abbott, a.k.a. Vinnie Paul, who died at the age of 54 in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas. The official cause of death was dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart, as well as severe coronary artery disease.

Vinnie was buried on June 30, 2018, next to his brother, PANTERA guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, and their mother, Carolyn, at Moore Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arlington, Texas. He was laid to rest in a custom “Kiss Kasket” provided by KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley as a gift to Vinnie‘s family. According to The Pulse Of Radio, attendees included original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, DISTURBED‘s David Draiman, NICKELBACK‘s Chad Kroeger, ANTHRAX‘s Charlie Benante, FOZZY‘s Chris Jerichoand ROUGH CUTT‘s Paul Shortino.

Born on March 11, 1964 in Abilene, Texas to Carolyn and her then-husband, country singer and songwriter Jerry Abbott, Vinnie and his brother, guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, founded PANTERA in 1981 along with bassist Rex Brown. After three moderately hard-rocking independent albums, the band recruited singer Philip Anselmo and evolved into a much heavier-sounding act. Their 1990 major label debut, “Cowboys From Hell”, made them pioneers of a new kind of sound that combined thrash metal riffing with grinding groove-laden rhythms and an almost industrial precision.

PANTERA became one of the most influential metal bands of the ’90s, churning out classic albums like “Vulgar Display Of Power” and “Far Beyond Driven”, the latter of which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. When the band broke up in the early 2000s due to tensions between the Abbotts and Anselmo, the brothers started a new band called DAMAGEPLAN.

But that came to an end on December 8, 2004, when Darrell Abbott was shot dead onstage at the age of 38 by a deranged gunman as the band performed at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Vinnie never spoke with Anselmo again after his brother’s death, reportedly feeling that some things Anselmo said about Darrell in the press may have set the killer off.

Two years after his brother’s death, Vinnie returned to music with the group HELLYEAH, which also featured members of MUDVAYNE and NOTHINGFACE. Vinnierecorded a total of six albums with the band over the past decade, including the upcoming “Welcome Home”, for which he laid down his drum tracks before his death.

In the days following Vinnie‘s death, the heavy metal community paid tribute to the PANTERA and DAMAGEPLAN co-founder.

“Can’t believe it. R.I.P to our brother Vinnie Paul,” ANTHRAX tweeted, while Paul Stanley of KISS — whose former member Peter Criss was one of Vinnie‘s biggest influences — wrote: “So sad to hear of the death of Vinnie Paul. Loved when PANTERA did shows with us and in later years Vinnie was always front and center at all KISS shows. RIP and condolences to his family.”

BLACK SABBATH bassist Geezer Butler reminisced about his time touring with Abbott, calling him a “true original.” “Shocked and saddened to hear of Vinnie Paul‘s passing,” Butler wrote on Twitter. “Had some good laughs when we toured with PANTERA. Gone too soon.”

“Rest in peace, Vinnie,” KISS bassist Gene Simmonswrote on Twitter. “Our prayers and good wishes go to his family, friends and fans.”

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