Testament (en)

"I think that us, the whole band, coming right back to the picture again, performing live and playing some of the old songs kind of boosted our confidence. We feel more like a whole unit, back together again. It is like we are finishing stuff that we all started together."
Check out this chat that SOM had over the phone with Chuck Billy, lead singer of Testament, about their latest album, plans for 2013 and much more!!!!

interview Testament2013 is starting and you guys will start this year touring in North America. Any overall expectations for this tour?
This is actually the first tour that we’ve done with Overkill in 25 years. Our very first American tour was with Overkill back in 1987. So, it is kind of cool that both bands are still out doing their thing.

We are also excited just to be able to get out and play to the audience “The Dark Roots of Earth” as a headliner. Last year we did 3 tours in America with Anthrax, co-headlining, but you don’t get to play your full show as a co-headliner. This will be the first American headlining tour that we will play some new music, some songs that we haven’t played in the last tour, in the last year. We are excited to play these songs in our shows. We have a really good show setup for this coming tour.

We are starting 2013. Testament had a pretty busy year in 2012. Will you take the same approach for 2013 (tour, tour, tour and more tour)?
Yeah. In 2013 we will have a lot going on. Right now we are booked up pretty solid, right up towards July. There’s not much breaks. Between the tours I think we only have a few days off. [After the American tour] we fly to Europe and then Japan and China.

Last year you toured mostly in North America and Europe. Any plans to go to different territories throughout 2013?
Yeah, we haven’t announced [it] yet but we are going to Thailand, China and Japan to headline Thrash Domination with Destruction and Death Angel. Hopefully we will get to Australia this year. We just did India in December and that was kind of neat, it would be nice to go back and do something like that again. We have some offers to go to Israel and stuff. There is some cool stuff out there that we haven’t done before.

Last year was also the release of “Dark Roots of Earth”. It was a really well rated album, as well as “The Formation of Damnation”. What do you attribute this success to?
Eric [Peterson] is the main song writer and I think he has done a great job stepping up with the music. But I think that us, the whole band, coming right back to the picture again, performing live and playing some of the old songs kind of boosted our confidence. We feel more like a whole unit, back together again. It is like we are finishing stuff that we all started together. It is just a little more confidence in your playing, performance… in what you do.

And I also think that it is from the fact that it is more the style of when we wrote songs with those guys [in the past]. Because when Alex [Skolnick] was gone the albums we wrote (Low, Demonic, etc), a lot of those songs were based on more rhythms and not necessarily for a lead guitar player. Now, having Alex back in the group, I think we consciously kind of have that: “Ok, here is the lead section; here is the set-up for dual guitars…”. I think that that writing process came back and I think that’s why those two records stand out the style a little bit more. A lot of people have told us: “It kind of reminds me of the old stuff”. I think that’s probably why: because of the way we wrote those records.

In your personal opinion, are these two records equally successful?
I think so… I think “Dark Roots of Earth” was a little more successful. It is a different record as far as the way we mixed it. I think every band always try to do it: you always try to make your records sound better and better, productions better. I think that’s any band’s goal to try to do. So, I think on this record we kind of went into it… i
interview Testamentt is more of an open mind. Erik and I were there for he mixing, with Andy [Sneap, producer of the album], throwing a bunch of ideas at him. I think this time we had more confidence in Andy (he knows what we want, what we are looking for) and I think he nailed it.

We are a lot more confident in performance, a lot more confident on the song writing. This year we went with a more “drier” approach on the vocals (but the record sounds sonically a lot better, because we did that)… so you know, I think a little confidence plays into all of it.

Talking about your vocals, you have used more of your “cleaner” type of vocals on these last few albums. Why? And also, do you plan to use more “growling” vocals in the future?
It all depends on the songs. On songs of “The Gathering” album we did, I mixed both voices pretty comfortably and I really enjoyed that record, it’s probably one of my favorites. On this one [last album] it is definitely more of a “melodic” vocal but that’s the way the songs were written. Whenever we write a “darker” song I always try to sing more with the “death” voice and these songs weren’t that dark. So, I don’t know, I just kind of jumped in and did what I did. I’m happy with what I did. I don’t miss the “death” part of it, you know?

Do you have any personal preference, when it comes to singing, between these two different vocal styles?
I don’t know if it is a preference but I think, as far as performance, it is definitely more of a challenge to have more melody and hit the notes for the “live” thing. The “death” stuff just goes really easy for me and live it is really easy just to do that. I’ve noticed that when we perform live and I’m not having a strong night, vocally (when my voice is just a little tired), I tend to just go to the death style because I can just do that pretty consistently. For me, I don’t know, it is just more of a challenge to do melodic, you know?

Last year you released your 10th full length album. Now, in 2013 will be the year of your 30th Anniversary! Any plans for celebration?
We haven’t thought about a celebration but it is definitely a mark for us… we never thought it would be these many years (laugh), you know?

I just think we have to keep the momentum going and I think we got to just keep writing more music quickly (not having such a big gap between the records). So, it would be nice to be able to pop out another record pretty quick.

We talked about doing some special stuff [for the Anniversary]. A few years ago we did “The Legacy” and “The New Order” back to back live. So, I don’t know… we had such a good response that maybe it would be neat to go to some major cities with special shows, just playing “The Dark Roots [of Earth]” and “The Formation [of Damnation]”, both of them back to back, you know? That would be fun to do because we are proud of those two records a lot.

Throughout these 30 years the band went through a lot of changes. You, personally, have also been through challenges, for example when you battled cancer. How has that changed you as a person and as a musician?
Humm… when I got sick I didn’t think that I was going to be playing music anymore. I was really more focused on getting better and being with my family and friends and never really knowing what the outcome was going to be.

At that point, when I was sick, we were going through a lot of different [band] member changes all the time (drummers, bass players, guitar players). So, it was really a good feeling once I got back and w
interview Testamente put the original band back together.

Like I said, I didn’t think I was going to play music anymore and to actually come back and have the original guys back was a really good feeling and it really made me open my eyes a little bit and say: “You know, whatever I kind of took for granted all this years of playing music, I should really pay attention to the opportunities I have: to travel the world…”. I was fortunate to have my wife travel with me and experience the world. It made me look at touring a little bit differently.

When we used to tour before it was always used to party, hangover, you are always at the show all day. It changed for me! When I got back on the road I was bringing some friends that had never been to Europe or never toured with me before to kind of experience what I experienced, my wife was with me… It was more like we were on a sightseeing tour, you know? Going around all the cities, seeing the towns locally and just go back to the show to play for an hour or two.

So, it has been a change for me and I have been having a lot of fun just going on tours experiencing things.

And the music, this past record, we really wrote it for us, you know? We really tried to not worry about what the critics are going to think about doing a ballad or slowing down a little bit or doing something like that. It is always in the back of your mind what are people going to say and when we did this record we really didn’t think that. We just said: “you know what, let’s just do what feels good”. And we just did it.

Did you always dream about being a musician? Since you were a child?
I was into sports. I always thought I would be a professional athlete. That was kind of my goal. You know, things happen for a reason. In my senior year in high school, I got kicked out of school and had to finish school at a continuation school. And at that time I was still playing guitar and I loved playing music and everything. So, I think at that point I kind of made my choice: “My sports career is kind of done because I got kicked out of school so, I’m going to focus on being a musician”. And that’s kind of how I’ve made my choice at that point of my live, at my senior year of high school, that I wanted to be a musician.

Testament, as I mentioned before, is completing 30 years! There are many bands that have been in the scene for a long time. Are there any new wave thrash metal bands that are emerging (Havok, Warbringer) now that you see lasting in the scene for a long period of time?
Sure. I mean, I think that heavy metal fans are always very… their fans will stick with them and that’s the key.

We started in the 80’s and the 90’s kind of took a turn for music, for bands, for heavy metal. So, the bands that survived it and kept doing what they believed in, they are the ones that came out at the other side when heavy metal got “healthy” again and it has been healthy for the last 10 or 15 years.

So, I think those bands just kind of need to stick with it and believe in what they do. And whenever “the new thing” comes, they will have success. I think that we are a better band now than when we started just because when you introduce anything in your life, the more you do it the better you are at it. So, yeah, if they continue to believe on what they do they will definitely experience a long career, as long as they are happy doing it, I think that’s what it takes.

Any messages to the SOM readers?
Yeah. I hope this year, especially with “The Dark Roots [of Earth]” record that we get to tour more. So, you know… hopefully that happens!

Interview done by Deesse_de_la_nuit


0 Like

ZazPanzer - 19 January 2013: Thanks.
Bark_at_The_Moon - 28 January 2013: It's a very interesting interview.
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