Hellyeah almost sounds like a new band on its fourth album, “Blood for Blood,” released last summer. The good-time, party songs are gone. The Southern rock overtones are MIA, as well. Finally, the band sounds like what many hoped for from a melding of members of Pantera, Mudvayne and Nothingface. Following the exit of two band members, vocalist Chad Gray, guitarist Tom Maxwell and drummer Vinnie Paul wrote and recorded the album in Las Vegas with producer Kevin Churko. There, they also met Christian Brady, who joined the band on guitar after the completion of recording. (Bassist Kyle Sanders also joined around this time.) When Hellyeah’s recent headlining tour came to Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, Brady sat down with Live Metal’s Greg Maki to discuss what led to him joining the band, his musical background and more.
LIVE METAL: You joined the band about a year ago, so to start off, how did that come about?
CHRISTIAN BRADY: Well, I’ve known Vinnie going on five years now. He has a house out in Vegas, and I met him through a mutual friend, as I said, about five years ago. I was playing with an artist at the time named Franky Perez, who, incidentally, is singing with Apocalyptica now. We had a band for quite a while, and he would come see us play all the time, and we just became really good friends. Then, when they came down and did the record—which I guess would be two Octobers ago now; not this past one but the one before, 2013—in Vegas, I got to know Tom pretty well, and we just kind of hit it off.
They parted ways with their other two members at the time and did the record, the three of them. I was kind of around while that was going on, just hearing tidbits of what was being recorded, and I thought it was amazing. Tom would come out with Vinnie and see me play, as well, and when it came time to choose another guitar player, Tom actually contacted me about it. I was very flattered to get the call. Absolutely. What else are you gonna say? Hell yeah, I’m gonna do it!
I had just come back from the U.K. and Europe doing a quick stint over there, and joined, had three days, went to Texas, started rehearsing, and then we went out with Avenged Sevenfold. It was pretty quick, but it was amazing. They’ve welcomed me in open arms, really took me in as part of the family, which this whole unit is really like that. It’s a tight unit. The crew’s small. We all look out for each other, and we really take care of each other. They really welcomed me in with open arms, and I’m grateful for it.
Did you have to audition at all?
No, I really didn’t. There wasn’t an audition. I don’t think they even really spoke with anyone else. Like I said, Tom had come to see me play a lot while they were doing the record, and I guess that was kind of my audition. I guess he just felt that he and I would click as guitarists, which is a hard thing sometimes. You want to find that guy that kind of thinks maybe the way you do, plays in a similar fashion but different enough to where you’ll have your own identities, but you’ll work well together. I think we do. I think we really have a cool connection that way. Plus we just get along great. So it’s just all of that.
When you joined the band—maybe it was just my interpretation—it seemed like at first, you were sort of like a touring member.
I think the reason they put that out there was because it was just, let’s see how everybody feels with each other. I think the intention from the beginning was to find the right person to be long term, but you never know. So he was like, “Why don’t you come out, learn the stuff. We’ll do this tour, see how you feel about it, and we’ll see how we feel, and go from there.” It clicked pretty instantaneously. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, so I’m just glad that they asked me to be a part of it.
“Hazing” might be too strong a word, but was there ever any breaking in of the new guy?
Oh, sure. Bands always mess with each other anyway, so obviously, there was some of that stuff going on with the new guy and all that stuff. But we all give it right back to each other, and I think that’s what forms your bonds. So yeah, of course there was a little bit of that, but it’s all good-natured and fun, and I love it. If they didn’t do that, I’d be worried. I’d be like, “Uh, they really don’t like me.” (laughs)
You joined the band at an interesting time. To me, it seemed like a rebirth for the band, sort of becoming the band a lot of people thought they might be all along. What has been your impression of that?
I think it’s kind of the thing that they always wanted to be all along, too. I just think that when they first started Hellyeah—because I’ve always loved what they did—but I think when they started Hellyeah, they wanted to do something different than what they were doing—what Chad did in Mudvayne, what Vinnie did in Pantera and Tom in Nothingface. I think they just wanted another outlet to try whatever. “Hey, let’s write this kind of song. Let’s do this kind of thing. Let’s see what happens.”
I think, as it went forward, they started getting back to where they were and what they love—not that they didn’t love what they did. This album seems really focused to me. Like I said, I heard it when it was in its different incarnations. I heard it without vocals on it, and I was like, I can’t wait to hear what Chad puts to this. The progression of what they did was awesome. Every song I heard completed, I was just blown away. I was like, this record’s phenomenal.
When Tom asked me, I really had no idea. We were just hanging out, having a great time and whatever—just kind of buddies—and all of a sudden, I got the call, and I was like, “Absolutely,” ‘cause this record is so good. I’m a fan of it before I was a part of it. I didn’t write on it, I didn’t record on it, so it’s not coming from an egotistical place. I love the record. I think the response has been great that way, too. I think people see that. I think they see that everybody brought a lot to the table on this one. It’s a blast to get to play it with them every night, and I’m looking forward to hopefully being a part of the next one.
What are your favorite songs to play live?
I love “Demons in the Dirt.” That’s great. “Say When” is sick. Vinnie’s just—he starts the intro and I almost find myself in awe, just looking over at him playing. He’s playing like he did 20 years ago. He’s just killing on this record. Those two are great. To be honest with you, everything on the new record is really fun to play. “Moth” is great because it’s different, but the audience seems to really be familiar with it. You see everybody singing the words, but then we play “Demons in the Dirt” and I see people singing every word, and there’s a lot of words in that song. (laughs) The whole new record’s amazing. There’s some great stuff off the last record I love playing, too. “War in Me” is great.
Are there any songs you haven’t gotten a chance to play live yet that you want to play?
“Hush.” That’s gonna be the next single. I think that’s going to be challenging to play live, but I think it’s going to be really cool, as well. I’m looking forward to playing that one live, for sure.
What is your background? You said you’re from Vegas.
Yeah. I’ve played in different bands for years. I got my first guitar when I was 10. I’ve been playing seriously since 13, 14. I wanted to play basketball when I was 10. I wanted to play everything when I was 10, not practice. But about 13, I started playing seriously, and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 17. Played in a band called Magna-Fi for a while. They were on Ozzfest at one point. That was right before I joined them, actually. There were brothers in that band, and the one brother left. I took his place, and we did another record after that.
Then, like I said, Franky Perez, we had a band that was called Franky Perez and the Truth. It was rock, but it wasn’t heavy per se. It was more kind of bluesy rock stuff. I’m a fan of so many different styles of music, but I grew up with all of this—metal is definitely in my blood.
I was the metal kid in high school with the jeans and the rock shirts and the boots and the long hair, hung out at 7-Eleven at lunchtime and people were like, “Look at that guy over there.” That was my group. (laughs) I was that kid. I think I saw Pantera for the first time when I was 16. That would’ve been on the “Vulgar Display of Power” tour. That was amazing.
I’ve always had that background, and I’ve always loved rock. It’s always rock no matter what. The record with Franky was really fun. Like I said, that’s where I met up with these guys.
Who were some of your favorite bands when you were getting into playing?
Van Halen, of course. Eddie’s amazing. I saw them when I was 14, and that was probably the moment that I realized I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I don’t necessarily think I play like him, but he was that kind of inspiration. You go see him and you see what they do, and you’re like, this is it, I want to do this for the rest of my life. Randy Rhoads, Ozzy and Zakk (Wylde), too, of course. But Randy was really, really great. I even got into guys like Stevie Ray Vaughn, who was just so tasteful and soulful when he played. A wide, wide gamut of players, but definitely those guys and anything with a lot of feel. I love fast players—like Eddie was so great at being able to do that but also play a couple of notes that just made the hairs stand up. I love players like that. I love guitar players that can get that emotion out of you whether they’re playing 20 notes or two notes.
What’s the music scene like in Vegas?
Vegas is tough. There is a scene. There’s really only one major rock club there; it’s Vamp’d. You probably know that from the TV show “Counting Cars.” Danny Koker is the owner of that club, so it’s kind of gotten some notoriety as of late from that show. The rock ‘n’ roll scene, it’s there, but Vegas also has all the nightclubs and DJs and ultra lounges and the casinos. So it’s a tough city sometimes for live music. There’s obviously tons of cover bands all over the place, casinos, shows—all that stuff.
There’s a scene there, but you’ve gotta look for it. There is a lot of good local music there, for sure. There’s a lot of original bands. Unfortunately, there’s not as many places to play anymore. But then again, I haven’t been kind of in that scene for a while, as far as looking for the up-and-coming local places. I still love to go out when I’m there and see it, but there’s probably a ton of places I’m not aware of now. But I definitely try to go out and support while I’m home. If I hear people playing, I’ll go out. I love to be out seeing bands and stuff if you can find them, if you can find the clubs.
There’s about a week left on this tour. What’s after that for Hellyeah?
I think we are off for about a month, and then middle of April, we’re going back out for another U.S. run. It’s gonna be mixed headline shows and shows with Godsmack. And then after that, I believe we head to Europe and the U.K. We’re gonna do Download. That’s where we’re at, at the moment. I’m sure we’ll be touring for the rest of the year before we even think about a new record.
This album definitely deserves that push.
Yeah. All of us, we’re all grateful about the response to the record. The fans’ reaction has been awesome. And, also, their reaction to me and Kyle being in the band has been really amazing. I’m grateful for that. That’s always a tough thing coming in filling somebody’s shoes, especially when they’ve been in the band since the beginning. Seven years, that’s a long time. They develop their fans, and people love every different member of the band, and when a portion of that gets taken away—a link in the fence, so to say—it’s always iffy coming in. You hope that people react to it favorably. They have. They’ve been awesome. Really, really awesome. So definitely grateful for that and thank the fans for that.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Just that we’re still out, we’re touring this year. If you haven’t caught the band, come out and see it. We’re looking forward to playing a bunch more this year, getting out and kicking more ass, man.