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HELLYEAH’s Vinnie Paul on the Night He and His Late Brother Met Van Halen

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2012 is going to be a crazy year for Vinnie Paul. Not only will the former Pantera and Damageplan drummer will be releasing a new album with HELLYEAH (his current band that also features Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett and bassist Bob Zilla) in June, he’ll also spend most of the year out on tour in support of it. Noisecreep spoke with Paul right before HELLYEAH flew down to Australia for their current appearances at the Soundwave festival: “We’re all excited to be heading to Australia because, besides doing that Shiprocked thing, HELLYEAH hasn’t done any shows since around this time last year. Soundwave is also such a huge event and even during my days in Pantera, we never played any festivals down in Australia,” Paul, 47, tells Noisecreep. HELLYEAH will embark on a tour of the States starting on April 10 in Norfolk, Va.

A veteran musician, Paul has been touring since the mid-’80s when Pantera was still a struggling band in the Texas metal scene. Noisecreep asked him if he still enjoys watching the newer acts when he’s out with HELLYEAH: “Oh, definitely. Look, my whole life is built around music. I love new music, and I still keep up with the bands I grew up on.

“My favorite new record is ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ from Van Halen. I feel like I’m in high school again when I pop it on [laughs]. It just has that energy and vibe of their classic records. But going back to your original question, yes, I’ll be definitely watching as many bands as I can when we’re at the Soundwave festival. That’s part of the fun of those kinds of shows.”

The parallels between Pantera and Van Halen are hard to miss. Both bands were founded by a set of brothers, each playing either drums or guitars (Vinnie and the late Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott in Pantera, Alex and Eddie Van Halen in Van Halen), and both families had a musician father supporting their efforts along the way.

Watch HELLYEAH’s ‘Cowboy Way’ Video

“We actually got to meet Van Halen right before the horrible events that lead to my brother’s death.” Darrell was shot and killed while on stage during a Damageplan performance on Dec. 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He was 38-years-old.

Paul tells Noisecreep the fateful night he first met Eddie Van Halen: “So one night my manager calls me and tells me that Eddie is at The Clubhouse [Paul's strip club in Dallas, Texas] and that he wants to meet me. I couldn’t believe it, man! So I dropped what I was doing and went straight to the club.

“I meet Eddie and we start talking about music right away. After about 5 minutes into the conversation, he says to me, “Man, I feel like I’ve known you for a lifetime. We have so much in common!” I couldn’t believe it. Later that night, I put Eddie on the phone with my brother and they spoke for over 90 minutes.

“Van Halen were playing a show in Dallas the next day, but Pantera had a show in Boston already booked, so we couldn’t make it. Anyway, we got back from doing that and Eddie calls and tells me that they’re playing a show in Lubbock and if we wanted to come and fly out to the city, he would send a limo to the airport to pick us up. So we do it and get to see Van Halen do a sound check from the stage. Me and my brother were like kids in a candy store. I remember being on the plane, on the way back home from the Van Halen show, and my brother saying to me, “Man, if this plane crashed, and I died tonight, I would be OK with it because we got to meet Van Halen,”" laughs Paul.

During Pantera’s early years, the Abbott brothers cut their teeth playing Van Halen covers. “We also played songs from Metallica, Def Leppard, Slayer, Motörhead, Exodus – you name it. I think that’s one of the reasons Pantera got so good.”

One of the Van Halen songs Paul used to play along with was 1984′s ‘Hot for Teacher.’ The track famously starts off with a wild drum intro that sounds like the roar of a motorcycle engine. “Yeah, I played it, like every other drummer did who was around back then. But we all played it wrong [laughs]. You actually need an electronic drum kit to do it the right way. The intro part has a little jazz roll in it that has a really cool feel. But I remember playing that song in Pantera’s club days and it was always so much fun.”

Watch Van Halen’s ‘Hot for Teacher’ Video

Paul hopes that HELLYEAH and Van Halen can launch a tour together in the near future: “We were supposed to play with them last fall, down in Australia, but the tour got cancelled because they weren’t quite ready yet. But we’re always ready for them if they’ll have us. If Eddie, Alex, Dave or Wolfie are reading this right now – “HELLYEAH is ready!”

HELLYEAH’s third album, ‘Band of Brothers,’ will be out on June 5 via Eleven Seven Music.

HELLYEAH, Clutch tour dates:

4/10: Norfolk, VA @ The Norva (Clutch only)
4/11: Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon Club (Clutch only)
4/12: Albany, NY @ Northern Lights Ground (Clutch only)
4/13: Providence, RI @ Lupos
4/14: Atlantic City, NJ @ House of Blues
4/15: Long Island, NY @ Paramount Theater
4/17: Stroudsburg, PA @ Sherman Theater
4/18: Rochester, NY @ Water Street Music Hall
4/20: Traverse City, MI @ Ground Zero
4/21: Ft. Wayne, IN @ Pierre’s
4/22: Toledo, OH @ Headliner’s
4/23: Dayton, OH @ McGuffy’s House of Rock (Clutch only)
4/24: Madison, WI @ Orpheum Theater
4/25: Des Moines, IA @ Val Air Ballroom
4/28: Lincoln, NE @ Box Awesome’s Bourbon Lounge
4/29: Boulder, CO @ Boulder Theater
5/1: Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theater
5/2: Wichita, KS @ Cotillion
5/3: Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom (Clutch only)
5/4: Sauget, IL @ Pops
5/5: Chattanooga, TN @ Track 29
5/6: Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theater (Clutch only)
5/6: Atlanta, GA @ WLKS Project Cinco Party (HELLYEAH only)
5/8: Libertyville, IL @ Austins
5/10: Rock Island, IL @ Rock Island Brewery (Clutch only)
5/11: Joilet, IL @ Mojoes
5/12: Detroit, MI @ St Andrews Hall (Clutch only)
5/13: Flint, MI @ Machine Shop (Clutch only)
5/19: Hartford, CT @ WCCC Big Gig (HELLYEAH only)
5/27: Pryor, OK @ Rocklahoma (HELLYEAH only)

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