10 Questions with ... Chad Gray
March 24, 2015
1) First of all, even though the album Blood For Blood has been out for awhile, congrats on a great record. It obviously has less of a southern influence with your drummer Vinnie Paul calling it a "metal record that also has melody." Do you agree?
I absolutely agree with Vinnie. I'm a metal head and love heavy riffs and pounding drums, but I also love melody. I think you can do both. It's kind of getting back to who "I" am and where I come from. Some of my biggest influences have been singers that really sing and create melody. I think that metal covers the full gamete of the human emotional experience. No one is pissed all the time. Melody lends itself to aggressiveness and also helplessness, and the emotions that helplessness create spark aggressive behavior.
Vocals are really a two-part process. A) The musical part what the melody line creates and B) the content and story that the lyrics create. I love to be able to embrace what the song is telling me it wants to be. I'm not going to scream over a more brooding musical part the same as I wouldn't do some elaborate "singing" part over something that is just absolutely crushing musically. As a band, you have to play and write to the compositions strengths, whatever those may be.
2) I've also heard you quoted as saying, "The more you listen to the album, the more it'll open up for you." What do you mean by that?
When I was young, music was all I had so I would marry myself to records. Obviously I loved my favorite band's records at first listen, but when you really delve into what the artist is saying, it just becomes more deep and close to you. I purposely write songs kind of open-ended so listeners can draw a line between what I'm saying lyrically and make it applicable to their lives. I've heard some really amazing personal descriptions cited back to me from fans; it's so interesting the way they interpret them. It might not be nail-on-the-head what I'm talking about, but it's usually in the ballpark and I love their take on it. It still may apply but it's like looking at the same sculpture but describing it as if you're looking at it from a different angle. I guess the moral for me is it was a very emotional and deep record for me to write and if you pay attention to it, you'll be able to make it fit in your world. Music is cathartic and it's gotten me through some of the toughest times in my life. And it's because I built that connection.
3) While the title track of the album was released first, your last single, "Moth," was a Top-10 Active Rock song. What can you tell us about that song?
I try to be very abstract in my descriptions for the listener. I don't want to spell it out; it ruins the experience. Moth is simply put paying attention to life ... yours and the ones around you. You can learn a lot about life from living in the moment. Use your past experience and memory to create a better decision for now. We are all animals at our core and because of that, we can make poor decisions based on instinct. "Moth to a flame" ... why do they do it? Instinct. It's their attraction and lure even though they're basically made of kindling. Again lyrically it's open-ended and you can create whatever you want it to be.
4) Now let's talk about the new single, "Hush." In reading the lyrics, it's emotional and powerful at the same time. What was the inspiration for this song?
Life. I wear my life on my sleeve. To build a true relationship, you have to establish trust ... and something that inspires trust is vulnerability. I'm being venerable by putting it out there, which is a little scary. You never know how people will treat the vulnerable. They can kill it or embrace it. I don't think vulnerability is a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. I want to help people who feel like they're alone in that mental or physically-abusive state. I just felt like I lived in a bubble of isolation, but the bubble of isolation -- as lonely and helpless as it was -- was still safer than what was outside of it. The bubble can be a closet, bedroom, the whole house or ... your mind. That was the inspiration for it anyway. Being an artist you have a platform to help people. And the metal community is boundless as far as world territory. It's a worldwide army of people rocking Slayer, Metallica, Lamb Of God and Mastodon, etc. shirts! We fly our many flags and we fly them proudly. It's a great community to be a part of. I guess I just wanna use the raising of my voice to help people know that they're not alone in their bubble, so they'll be inspired to raise theirs.
There can be family values that are involved in this and maybe they don't wanna rock the boat to destroy what is important to them. Family is very important to people especially when there are children involved, but you have to do what's right for you and your kids. Sometimes the raising of your voice will involve others who care and it becomes more of an intervention situation. Maybe it takes that to make the "abuser" realize how wrong it is. Raise your voice and stop allowing it. Physical wounds heal, but the mental toll that abuse creates can last a lifetime.
5) With the release of "Hush," I understand you and the band are partnering with the No More organization to help end domestic violence and sexual assault. What are some of the things you guys are working on to bring attention to these issues?
First off, I want to thank NO MORE for gravitating to this song. I think they did because it's real and they know that. And second, the last thing I would ever do is exploit NO MORE for my or Hellyeah's gain. This is not for profit and all about awareness to the core of me. I don't know about a partnership per se, but I like the sound of that! And again I am honored to be a part. All I know is that we are fighting the same battle on one level or another -- to bring people forth that are trapped in these situations. I wrote this song long before I knew about NO MORE, but again I am happy to be a part of supporting this cause on any level. I put a lot out there but I'm here to tell you I feel safer with them in my corner. And I'm sure they can do the same for people living with it now. It's an exciting time.
6) I also understand you are making yourself available to radio for PSAs and interviews on this issue. What would be your main message to convey on this subject?
STOP! No matter which side you're on! Stop beating your wife or significant other and if you're being beaten, stop allowing it! Speak out and tell people! Raise your voice and involve others for intervention or to find a way out. No one deserves to live in that world and the children who are around it definitely don't deserve it! They more often than not are the ones who have no choice. You are their support, so you have to show them the strong moral values of right and wrong and support yourself. If kids grow up in that, world then what signal are you sending them? That it's okay to beat on people? It's not. SO STOP!
7) You guys just finished up the first leg of your "Blood For Blood" tour earlier this month and are going back out again next month. How has the tour been going and who will be out on the road with you for the next leg of the tour?
The tour was AMAZING! Metal kids (no matter how old you are you're always a metal kid to me) need metal and we're happy to bring it to them. There are a few things in the hopper right now so I'm hoping to hear soon what's coming up after the Godsmack, Papa Roach dates. We're always just ready to play, so that's what we're ready to do.
8) What's your take on Rock radio today? Do you have any favorite on-air radio moments you can share with us?
Good question. I'm into the Foo Fighters track. I just love that it has a thread of theme with the sonic highway show. I haven't seen them all, but the ones I have seen are amazing. Dave is such a big music fan and it's inspiring for me to see as a true fan of music. He's got enough cash that he could just roll over and walk away, but he stands with it, which shows me that all the passion you get in what he does is fucking real. And you have to respect and admire that. That Sound City documentary was amazing as well. It feels like they have "something to say" in their music.
And sometimes it feels like a lot of bands have nothing to say -- not all, but definitely some over the years. No one specific. You can't write songs for the radio. I think you write them for yourself first. All of your art and music should come from you. If you do it for the wrong reasons, you're missing the point. Over the years I've heard things that you can tell were written for radio. I just love to put it out there. If you do and you wear your life on your sleeve, you've already won. You feel almost liberated. If people get something out of it, well, that's just a bonus. I guess this will be my short answer. I don't really listen to radio. When I'm off at home I listen to my local station when I'm cruising around bit. But most of the time, I just jam to my staple bands. I can't really listen to the radio on a bus. As for on-air radio moments? There's really none that are jumping out at me.
9) Who are some of the new artists who inspire you? Are there any "guilty pleasure" songs we might be surprised to find on your playlist?
Ha ha ... gonna put my back against the wall eh? Well, music that's inspired me is just that, so I have nothing on my playlist that I wouldn't be willing to share. Lots of Slayer, Slipknot, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Metallica, Alice in Chains ... all the usual suspects but I'm telling you one of my favorite records is Duran Duran's greatest hits. The whole thing is just one huge hit after another. Michael Jackson's greatest hits, the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, Eminem, N.W.A. And everything in between. You never know what you're going to be in the mood for so it's good to have the sure things on hand. And I bought and paid for them all. I really support music! I have a lot of old music too, like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmit, and Black Sabbath.
10) Finally, when you're not writing or playing music, and are looking to get away from the biz, what do you like to do for fun and relaxation? Do you have any cool hobbies you can share with us?
I try to eat healthy, do photography (I just dabble in it) paint, golf, hike, chill, whatever. I'm not home much and when I am, I just like to hang with my girl and enjoy my short time off. Home is important to me but it's also a little more private, so that's all I'm gonna give ya.
Bonus Questions with Virginia Witt the Director of NO MORE
1) How did you guys come up with the NO MORE concept and mission?
The concept for the NO MORE symbol was born from convening some of the leading marketing and creative minds in the country, along with experts and advocates who have been working in domestic violence and sexual assault for years. The idea for the blue circle came from the concept of zero domestic violence and sexual assault. This simple end goal became the mission and tag line for the final iteration of the NO MORE symbol, which is, "Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault." We tested NO MORE with diverse audiences of men and women who agreed that our message and mission are direct, understandable and something anyone could get behind. From day one, it's important to us that NO MORE be a public awareness campaign that all people -- men, women, and young people of all backgrounds -- could be a part of.
2) What are some of your affiliated charities? Tell me about a couple.
NO MORE was created with the support of almost every major domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization in the U.S., whose representatives currently serve on our Steering Committee or panel of advisors. We share a common mission, to bring these hidden and stigmatized issues into the light, and generate more support for survivors and the organizations who serve them every day. Men Can Stop Rape is one of the unique organizations that is championing NO MORE. They work directly with boys from middle school to college age, to promote the concept of healthy masculinity, to break down cultural norms that perpetuate violence and to cultivate young men who value good character and strength without violence. Another organization behind NO MORE is 1in6, a group that is committed to serving the 1 in 6 men who experience childhood sexual assault.
3) Are you surprised that the hard rock world is getting behind your cause in the form of HELLYEAH?
We created NO MORE to be a symbol and public awareness campaign that people from all walks of life could support and rally behind, so we are thrilled to see that happening, and to have the support of the musicians of HELLYEAH. Many people stereotype domestic violence and sexual assault as women's issues. But in reality, these issues impact all of us. We all know someone who has been affected and we all have a role to play in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. It's so important that more people, especially men, begin to speak openly about these issues, and to take an active role in saying that they are not acceptable. We're so grateful that HELLYEAH has answered that call and is encouraging more young men and women and all their fans to do the same, and say NO MORE.
4) Have you heard the song "Hush"? What did you think of its message and its sound?
"Hush" is a very honest song, and the lyrics illustrate a depth of pain that anyone who has experienced abuse could identify with. These issues are still extremely hidden. Abuse thrives in silence and the shame and stigma that surrounds these crimes keeps many survivors trapped and unable to come forward. It's extremely brave of Chad to share his experience in this song, and we are proud of him for having the courage. It's our hope that his boldness will empower other survivors to come forward and share their stories. Anyone who would like to have their voice heard today, in support of NO MORE and the millions of men, women and children who experience domestic violence or sexual assault, can do so in the NO MORE Gallery. It's a section of our website where more than 5,000 others have already shared their stories and said, "NO MORE" to domestic violence and sexual assault.