Before Playing Its First Dallas Show Since Vinnie Paul Abbott’s Death, Hellyeah’s Kyle Sanders Tells Us How The Band Hopes To Honor The Metal Icon’s Legacy.

It’s still hard to accept that we live in a world without Vinnie Paul.

As the co-founder of Pantera, Damageplan and Hellyeah, the man born Vincent Paul Abbott left us way too early in 2018 at age 54. As someone who helped put Arlington on the map for metal, he’ll always be thought of as a legend — especially around North Texas.

Prior to his death, Hellyeah had already begun on Welcome Home, the band’s sixth album, which is now due for a September 27 release. Now, as the band — featuring Chad Gray on lead vocals, Tom Maxwell on guitar, Christian Brady on guitar, and Kyle Sanders on bass — tours in advance of the record, it is beginning to envision a life without Abbott being it its fold.

Most notably, the band’s done this by hiring Roy Mayorga to fill Abbott’s considerable shoes behind the kit. Mayorga is not some random drummer who walked off the street and fell into a popular metal band; he has an extensive background in hard rock and metal, having played for Soulfly and Stone Sour, among others.

Still, no one can ever truly replace a larger-than-life icon like Abbott. With the band preparing to return to Abbott’s old stomping grounds for a Dallas gig at the House of Blues on Saturday, August 17, Hellyeah bassist Sanders essentially acknowledged as much to us while we caught up over the phone to discuss what it’s been like trying to carry on after Abbott’s death, how Abbott’s personality informed nearly everything Hellyeah did and one particularly unique thing he used to do to spice up the band’s tours.

How much of Welcome Home was done before Vinnie passed away?
To be honest with you, if Vinnie’s parts weren’t 100 percent finished, I don’t know if we would have been able to finish this record. When everything went down, we had 90 percent of the bare bones of the music — like, the drums, most of the bass tracks and all of the basic guitar tracks. Basically everything but the guitar solos, bells and whistles, and effects. The majority of the lyrics had not been finished, but all of Vinnie’s stuff was complete.

This goes for any band and any genre, but you want to respect something that was a work in progress. And you want to know the difference between what is presentable, and what should not be presentable.
Right. If [Vinnie’s] parts weren’t finished, I don’t know what we would have done. It’s not like we could have gotten someone else to finish the record. I kinda go back and forth and wonder what would have happened, and we’re all super thankful that at least all his drums were done. He heard all the songs — as far as how the songs went — and he gave his stamp of approval on all his parts.

Is it a mixed blessing doing press about a new record that you’re excited about, but one that also deals with the death of one of the most important people in the heavy music industry?
Yeah. Honestly, I’ve never had the feelings that I’ve had towards this. Most of the time, we do a record and you’re all amped up. You’re ready for a full tour cycle, and to travel the world. It was a rough decision for us to even decide to do a tour. Half of me says that there’s no way we could carry on without Vinnie, and then the other half is we 100 percent have to carry on for Vinnie — because that’s what he would want.

I once interviewed one of the guys from 3 Doors Down, and he mentioned how he met Vinnie and Dimebag at a Dallas Stars game — then, years later, he met Vinnie again, and Vinnie remembered him. Given Vinnie’s pedigree in metal, hard rock and metal purists might think Vinnie would pay no mind to someone from a mainstream rock band — but that wasn’t Vinnie, was it? And that story says so much about who Vinnie was — to me, anyway. Would you agree?
Man, it totally sums him up. All walks of life, all different people — musicians, all different careers and occupations that people have — when you ran into him and you met him, you just don’t hear any of those horror stories that you hear about so many bigger rock stars. A lot of people say don’t meet your heroes — you’ll be disappointed or they’ll be a complete ass to you. All of the stories [about Vinnie] are just like the one you just told. Everybody he came into contact with, he was just a cool, true brother and friend — a person who loved all walks of life.

Knowing that Vinnie loved to cook and planned to release a cookbook, were there any recipes that he gave you and the guys in the band?
Absolutely. That was one of the highlights of going on tour. Of course, the shows are great — but also planning out the different spots where we could barbecue and cook out for the staff. All kinds of things were going on, [but] every time we did that one staple: peanut butter and jelly stuffed with jalapenos on the grill. Right when you hear it, you’re either really interested or you’re turned off — until you actually taste one and you’re just blown away by how amazing it is. That’s definitely the one thing that I’ve taken. Every time that I cook out — because I cook out a lot at home — that’s one staple I bring out every time. I keep spreading the love that is that recipe, which was Vinnie’s.

Hellyeah plays House of Blues on Saturday, August 17. Head here for tickets and more information.

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