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 Hendrix and 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.