US “supergroup” Hellyeah return to our shores this August for a headline tour. With a shattered ankle, but a high spirit, guitarist Tom Maxwell recently took the time to tell us why current record ‘Blood For Blood’ is the best Hellyeah album yet, as well as what fans can expect when they come down under in the coming months.
How’s your day been, Tom?
Everything’s good. Im just at home healing from my injury and getting ready to go back out on the road in about two weeks. So yeah, everything’s good apart from having a shattered ankle.
It was in Germany. We were in Munich on the first day of the European tour and I was catching a ride back to my tour bus from the stadium on the back of a golf cart. The driver swerved kinda quickly, enough to throw me off balance. The momentum pushed me off the back of the golf kart and I landed and shattered my ankle on both sides. I had to be rushed to the hospital to get some surgery and put some metal in my foot and leg. Now I’m back home and resting up and healing up.
Is that one of the craziest tour events?
That the most insane thing, the most dramatic thing, the most terrifying thing to happen to me. I go from being totally fine to in a hospital bed, having to get surgery, waking up the next day to nobody that I knew. The band had to go to the next city. They had a show. I woke up in a complete fucking state of anxiety in a foreign country. It was pretty nuts man.
With touring, has it changed since you started out?
I think so. You notice changes every time you go out. Over years, for us, we kind of went through this crazy whirlwind of changes. Especially our new record, it opened up a lot of doors that were shut for us, and when those doors opened there was a new flood of fans. It used to be a gritty audience in the past four years. Now though, since the release of the new record, it’s been all over the map. We’ve been getting a lot of young kids to adolescents to late 20’s. It’s a wide demographic and it’s killer. I think we are doing something right and this album has seen us really find ourselves and our footing.
Why do you think the album has had that effect?
It’s the most honest record we have ever done. The last couple of albums in particular just kind of missed a mark. The ingredients that was in those albums just weren’t working. What I mean by that is that we needed to part ways with Greg, we needed to part ways with Bob, our former guitar and bass players. That was the catalyst for us, we knew we had to change. Honestly, I’m not that raging party metal maniac. Everybody likes to have a good time, but we have a couple of songs that pigeon hole the band. A lot of people didn’t take the band seriously in more recent years, but when we released Blood for Blood, people took a step back and went, “Wow, what the fuck man. Things are getting fucking serious now.” I couldn’t be happier.
Has playing to different audiences affected your live show at all?
We play pretty much everything new. We kind of took the attitude that Blood For Blood for us is our first record. It took all these years and previous albums to get to this point where we feel that this is what everybody, including ourselves, is what this wanted from us. Just complete fucking honesty and transparency. It wasn’t calculated at all. It’s big and deep, and we are being real songwriters. Trying to write songs that people need in their lives, as opposed to writing songs that people need. Does that make sense?
Yeah, and I guess releasing ‘Hush’ to raise awareness for domestic violence helped with that?
Well, yeah, I think it’s very good timing that it all came together at one time. When we wrote that song, it was a very personal song, but it was ours. It just so happens that it was released as a single at a time when domestic violence was completely polarised to the max. It’s nothing new, it’s been going since the beginning of recorded history. I have to give credit to our publicity team for spearheading the campaign, but it’s deeply personal, and it definitely speaks to a lot of people and gives them a voice. Chad wrote it about his childhood and opened himself up and he’s really good at writing how he feels in songs, which is amazing to a lot of people.
What did that song mean to you personally?
Musically it’s a complete representation of how I was feeling at that time. I was away from home, I was over working with the record every single day, just going and grinding it out. I went into the studio and just didn’t feel like doing anything with the other stuff. I wanted to write something new. That song was written without any of the other band members being there. Our producer Kevin and I wrote the song and put it together and built it. When we played the music to the guys it really touched them. That’s a personal victory for me, because with the song I sort of put a mirror up in front of myself. It means everything, like all the song. But that song in particular, I don’t write the lyrics, but it’s a reflection of how I was feeling.
How is Blood for Blood holding up to the back catalogue?
I think it’s standing up better than any other of our albums. The single sales are fucking great. The popularity of the band is more than it’s ever been in a lot of ways. But it’s harder to sell music than it was like 10 years ago. Look at it like this, last year alone there were 1200 more outlets to buy records. This year there is 1200 outlets less. The supply is not there. iTunes is the right way to go if you are not going to buy a hard copy. But there are so many big cities that I go to and you don’t find record stores! People just aren’t buying it!
Whats your opinion on online streaming?
Against it man. I’m not into the streaming shit. You’re paying Spotify for premium. You’re not paying us fucking shit. We get like .001 percent on a penny. Fuck that! I’d rather the only way people hear the fucking band is if they purchase the record. We are at a point where nothing anyone can say is going to make any fucking difference. It’s out of our hands. There are only so many ingenious things you can do to beat the system. Like a band like Rammstein for example, they are self managed, they can fucking go and play anywhere. They don’t go through ticket master or any of that shit. When you do a concert, you have to buy their ticket through their fucking website. That’s awesome. And nowadays, being a musician in a band, you’re not going to make money from selling records. You’ll be touring and publishing, merch, licensing, and that’s what we have to do to capitalise on what we do for a living.
You guys are coming back to Australia in August. Why the gap since 2012?
I think just opportunity and the right time. Also, the right people to bring us down there. There are a lot of politics involved in touring. You really have to find the right people who get on board with what you do. I’m ok with the fact that we haven’t been down there. Now that we have become the band we are, we have this new record behind us and people are really hearing and seeing us for the first time, this record is a new rebirth. I think it’s ok. The gap of time is worth it when we get down there. It’s going to be frenzied; the shows are going to be fucking insane.
Will the setlist be new stuff?
Yeah, we are playing the whole new album minus like two or three songs. That’s been our goal, to play the whole new record and weed out the older stuff. By the time we do another record, we probably won’t be playing any super old stuff other than the staples. The set we are doing in Australia is primarily everything off the new album, and some choice cuts from some older material.
Any plans for a new record in the next year?
As it stands, because of the availability to go back to the studio with Kevin, we’ve set our goal for the end of this year to officially get started on a new record. After Australia we’ll come home for a bit, then jump right into pre-production and writing, then off to Las Vegas to record. I’m anticipating it to come out in the first or second quater of next year. But we want to get it out. I’m really excited to come to Australia though. We’ve always considered it our home away from home.
Catch Hellyeah on tour this August: