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INTERVIEW: KYLE SANDERS of HELLYEAH – June 2015

| 24 June 2015 | Reply

HELLYEAH just returned from Europe, where they finished their leg with a performance on the hallowed stage of Download.  Winding down from that short tour and now reving back up to hit the summer stages here in the States on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, we caught up with HELLYEAH bassist Kyle Sanders a couple days before the tour is scheduled to start and we were able to talk about his role in the band, his love of hot sauce, and much more…

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Todd: Kyle, how are you?

Kyle: What’s up? Hey, what’s up Todd? I’m doing good man.

Todd: Good, good. First of all, I really appreciate you taking time out for us today. We know you’re busy ramping up for the big tour.

Kyle: Yeah, exactly, man.

Todd: Let’s kick off with that. How big is this for not only HELLYEAH, but for you personally? You guys are a main stage performer on the latest incarnation of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.

Kyle: Yeah, it’s awesome. We’re playing second on the main stage. There are only 4 bands. Seems like there might’ve been more in the previous years, 4 or 5. But year, 4 bands on the bill, and we’re second, right before King Diamond. We are pretty damn excited about all this.

Todd: It’s awesome. You know, besides the band, how’s this for you? I mean, what’s this like for you to be able to say “Yup. Main stage, finally hitting it.”

Kyle: It’s great. You know, I’ve been doing this a long time and playing and just trying to get better and get better, and just keep being successful in a way that we can keep on keep playing, and doing things that you want to do and play with the people you want to play with. Overall it’s just self-satisfying to know that we’ve been kicking ass on this whole record cycle. We’ve been out for a year and a half alone on just this one. A lot of times that isn’t the case these days. You’ll go out for a few months and then the label will be like “All right, get back in there. Let’s do another one.” But we’ve been fortunate enough to get to the third single on this record. Now, we’ve just had a lot of really good tours. We just got home from Europe just a few days ago. Then, going right back out on this Mayhem tour on the main stage. Things are happening the way they’re supposed to happen, I think. I couldn’t be happier, to be honest with you.

Todd: Awesome. You mentioned you’ve been doing this awhile. You’ve got your own lineage as far as rock and roll goes. What’s it like for you personally? How different is your role and your playing in HELLYEAH compared to the stuff you’ve done previously? Skrew and Blood Temple, things like that.

Kyle: It doesn’t feel like a lot different to me. It feels right and it’s with the people that I want to be playing with. It doesn’t feel forced or uncomfortable in any way. I’ve known all these guys for a long time and toured with them and other bands of mine going out with them. It’s kind of just a natural way of falling into it. I mean, one difference was coming into a band that had three records out previous to it, so that’s a lot of material to be… I’m already familiar with it, knowing the songs, but physically knowing how to play every song. At first it seemed a little stressful when all this first happened, but then I just didn’t let myself get overwhelmed with it. We had a little bit of time before we were starting to tour. I just took it a day at a time. Started plugging away and chipping away at each song. Just getting through the catalog and really focusing on the new record. As far as anything else goes like work ethic, and that is exact same for me. I don’t just play bass and then sit around the rest of the day. I’m constantly busy or doing something or trying to figure out better ways to get better shows. Just different avenues to keep taking the band up and up and up and up. That’s exactly where the band is headed right now. I always keep my mind busy and trying to think of ways to make everything better.

Todd: Cool. You mentioned you guys just came back from Europe. You ended that note with a show at Download. How’d that whole experience go over?

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Kyle: Yeah, the tour was kind of based around that. We did a lot of stuff in Germany and then did other European shows, but ending it at Download couldn’t have been a better way to end that whole run. It was main stage on there, and I think we played second on that stage too. It was earlier in the day, but it’s also Download festival. Overall, I think there are 90,000 people at that festival. We played at 2:00 in the afternoon on the first day of the festival, so wasn’t really sure… there’d be people there but wasn’t sure how many, or what it would be like, or what kind of energy they’d have. There were probably 30,000 that time of day. They were just screaming, just going nuts. They were hungry for the music, so it was a killer way to end that run and be able to hang out the rest of the day and catch a lot of the other bands. We didn’t fly out until the next morning. It was a good feeling to do that show. It was a great show and to be able to relax and hang out the rest of the day and kind of semi unwind before we got our short break at home, and get right back at it again.

Todd: Again, getting right back out there. I mean, you guys are only a couple days out. Tour starts this Friday.

Kyle: Yeah.

Todd: When you heard the band would be on the [Rockstar Energy Drink] Mayhem Festival, and the different bands listed, were there any bands listed, especially Slayer or Kind Diamond, anybody that the little kid in you said “It’s about time I share the stage with this band.”

Kyle: Basically, I’ve never been on a show or done a tour or even a festival or anything with King Diamond before, so that’s going to be brand new and fresh for me. It’s like, damn I never thought I’d see that day. I’ve done shows with Slayer. I’ve done some off dates and I’ve done several festivals with them, so it’s always super exciting just to see that their name’s on the bill, but the fact that I’m going to be able to see them. We play right before King Diamond and then being able to watch both those bands every day for the next 5 weeks, it definitely brings out the kid fan in you again. Let’s hurry up and get our set over with so we can go watch them.

Todd: That said, when was the last time you were star struck Kyle?

Kyle: Man, that’s a good question. You take things for granted. We were at Download the other day and I was just walking around and Steve Harris was just sitting there on the corner talking to someone, from Iron Maiden. He was one of the reasons why I started playing bass. I had to stop for a second. They weren’t playing, he was just hanging out. He was hanging out near the Judas Priest backstage area or something. That whole scenario right there was pretty awesome. I’m just walking by looking for the dressing room. I stopped in my tracks. I’m like “Damn. That’s Steve Harris talking to Rob Halford 10 feet away from me.” It’s things like that that really make you stop and appreciate what you’re doing. You get in a routine of things, used to seeing the same people every day. Sometimes might take it for granted for what you’re doing. You definitely just got to step outside of the bubble for a minute and appreciate exactly what you have going on. To be able to run into people like that, the reason that inspired you to play music in the first place. That’s pretty special.

Todd: That’s kind of cool to hear, because you guys get so many kids who are coming up to you saying “You’re the reason I’m picking up a bass.”

Kyle: It makes you appreciate that too, because you hear that a lot. And then, I’d hate to see people that blow that off or don’t really take it to heart, because you do hear that a lot when you’re out doing signings or meet and greets. People only have one minute to talk to you. Sometimes they are overbearing and they just blurt everything out and get really abrasive about it. Then you’ve got to realize, they only have that tiny window of time to tell you you’re the reason why they’re playing bass. You’re the reason why they’re signing. You saved their live with your lyrics and stuff like that. You really can’t take that kind of stuff for granted. As long as you’re constantly removing yourself from situation and can look inside and appreciate that. That will definitely keep you going. That’s what I think will make you successful.

Todd: That’s great. With HELLYEAH, I mean you’re coming in replacing a prior bass player; you bring, to me, a heavier handed sounding bass, which gives everything a little more thump. A little more aggression to it. How much permission or room did the guys give you to run with when they brought you in and said “Okay, this is your gig now.” To maybe change the arrangements or put your own stamp on the stuff?

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Kyle: 100%. They basically said these are the songs and this and that, but do it your way. They like my style. They like my technique of playing. They like my aggression and everything. They’re like “Just do what you do. Here are the songs.” Obviously I’m not rewriting the songs and the parts, but I’ve taken them. It’s really changed a lot playing live, because you’re sitting there listening to the record, learning the parts. That’s great, but you’re just learning the parts. Then, once you can get out onstage, and we’ve done so much touring now. They’ve given me total freedom to do what I wanted to do with them. I’ve really grown into the songs, and even changed the way they’re… sometimes the way they’re played. I don’t really realize that until I go back and listen to the record version now. It’s like, “Oh, I didn’t even think about that part anymore. I just do it my own kind of way.” Whatever feels natural to me. Like I said, I’ve toured with these guys for so long, they just knew my style of playing so they said “Yes. These are the songs. Do what you do with them.”

Todd: Cool. I’ve been lucky enough to see the band with you in the lineup back on the Five Finger Death Punch Tour you guys did last year. It was killer to watch a bass player who wasn’t relegated to his role of standing back by the cabinet. You’re all over the place. It’s kind of cool and refreshing to see, because so many of the bass players and the rhythm section in general are just relegated to the background.

Kyle: Right. Bottom line, the bass player and the drummer are the foundation of everything. Without that, you’ve got nothing. I mean, I get it. I’ve seen all kinds of players. I’ve seen some, they won’t go out of a 2 square foot radius. Whatever. If that’s your style, then that’s it. I’m a pretty mellow laid back guy anyway 23-1/2 hours of the day. I have that little moment in time to just let everything out and be as aggressive. Let any issues, emotions, or anger, whatever you have out of you. That’s my platform. Without that, I don’t know what I’d do. That’s the reason I can do that and go insane for 45 minutes or an hour or whatever the set time may be. Then, kind of be a normal dude for the rest of the day.

Todd: Again, you’ve done this for a while; this isn’t your first rodeo.

Kyle: Yeah.

Todd: With everything going on in the music and the metal world, did you think way back during your days of Blood Simple or your days with Skrew that you’d still be doing this on this level?

Kyle: You know, I did because I was determined to do that, but it’s so disheartening and it’s so miserable when a band ends and then you’re sitting there alone. You’re like “What am I going to do? Am I going to actually start over again? Or am I just going to find a band and just go be a hired gun or something?” Which I’ve never been before. That just doesn’t feel right; just to go jump into a band just to play. That’s not satisfying. There’s nothing rewarding about that at all. Yes, it’s great that you’re playing, but if you’re miserable the rest of the day and don’t want to be around the people you want to be with, it’s just awful. I’d rather be home than be out in that situation. That’s why I ended up just starting new bands. Which, as hard as it is, it seems like the more time that goes on, the harder and harder it is to be a new band. That’s what I’ve set my life goal to be, is just constantly be playing and be happy doing it. I never thought that it wasn’t going to work for me, but there was definitely some times where I was just miserable and couldn’t believe that somebody let me down and the band ended. Now I’m starting from square one again. It kind of builds. It’ll make you or break you for sure.

Todd: That said, coming into this thing with HELLYEAH, and becoming a band member, not the gun for hire as you said it, looking at the catalog, what’s the one song that you love playing? And what’s the song that you wish you guys would work into the set?

Kyle: I did the very first tour, on HELLYEAH’s first tour on the first record I did. I love playing songs off that first record. It’s just like it was the first introduction to HELLYEAH. It was my first, one of the first tours, but we did the first HELLYEAH tour and I did a couple more. It’s really cool to play those songs. To play “You Wouldn’t Know” and to play “HELLYEAH.”. We actually are trying to start bringing some of those songs back into the set. Other than that, I’m so in love with the new record. We’re playing as much as possible. We’re playing probably 70% of that on our headline shows. As far as the song that I want to work into the set, I don’t know. “Black December” off the first, off this last record, it’s going to be a task to get that one and pull it off live. There’s so many different parts in there, but if we could make it to that song, that’d be pretty cool with me.

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Todd: If it weren’t for a bass, what would you be doing today, Kyle?

Kyle: Man, I sometimes think that I would be… it would be in music. Something. I’ve also been on the other side and I’ve done tour managing, done stuff like that. Nothing really satisfies me as much as playing live on stage. If that wasn’t even an option, then I would damn sure just be a recluse somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Just living off the land, and completely off the grid. I don’t know. I’d probably be like Bigfoot.

Todd: You already have the hair, and getting the beard for it.

Kyle: Yeah, exactly, so not a far stretch.

Todd: Well, tell us about El Sigo hot sauce.

Kyle: Oh man. That’s another thing that I’m cramming into these couple days at home. That’s what I do a lot when I’m at home is just cook food. A lot stuff. I got a big ass garden in my backyard. There are plenty of things in there, but there are a whole slew of all different kinds of peppers. Always been into it, so every time I taste something that I like I’m like “I should try and make this.” Doesn’t matter what kind of food or dish or whatever it is. Just started getting into hot sauces and perfected my recipe. Now I’m growing half of it. The goal is to be able to grow everything. If I could say everything came from my garden, and everything is completely fresh organic and this and that. I started doing it and making big bottles of it. Friends were coming over saying “This is awesome.” “Thanks, but you’re just saying that because it’s me.” But then I would give some people bottles, not telling them where it came from and they genuinely liked it. It’s like “All right. Maybe I’ll just start selling it.” I’d bring it out on the road and either give it away or sell it at merch table or something. I set up a little store online. It’s been a cool little side project for me that I haven’t taken 100% seriously on coming up with a business model and really going for it. I could see it headed that direction when I have a little more time to focus on it and be able to dedicate more time to it. But every time I’m home, I just go nuts and make a couple cases and then bring them out on tour with me, and start spreading the word with it.

Todd: Cool. Hopefully I’ll be able to run across some at a merch tent or something.

Kyle: Yeah, exactly. I have it out with me. Find me on this run. Hit me up. I’ll snag you a bottle.

Todd: I will definitely hit you up on that. I know you’re a busy man, so I’ve got one more for you before I let you go Kyle. With everything that you’ve done, and again, the storied past. The storied tours. You’ve played the big stages; you’ve played the small stages. With everything you’ve done in the music world, what are the one or two things that you’re most proud of and want to be remembered for?

Kyle: I think really it’s about how my whole family is involved. My brother plays music. My youngest brother, he works in music. He techs for him, he techs for me. He techs for all kind of bands. My parents are full, 1000% behind each and every one of us. I think just the fact that this band is so family oriented too. Everyone is, we live and fight and play like brothers. I think just keeping that whole vibe going. That whole way of thinking is the key to success. If other people could live that way and just see the way that operates, and how it just works. If you’re genuinely happy with what you’re doing and with yourself, and you appreciate your fans. You appreciate everybody that’s helped you along the way. Never forgetting that. If that could just spread out to the next generation, or the next up and coming or bass player, or any musician period. Just kind of take that and run with it, then I would be completely satisfied with that.

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Todd: Very cool. Again, we’re looking forward to the Detroit date on July 11th. We wish you well kicking this tour off in 3 days on Friday. Can’t wait to see HELLYEAH kicking ass on that main stage.

Kyle: Cool man. Can’t wait to see you too brother. Appreciate the talk.

Todd: All right brother. We’ll talk to you soon.

Kyle: You too, thanks.

 

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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