The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world






Formed in 1983 TESTAMENT is one of the biggest names in THRASH METAL. Still going strong 30 years later and seemingly constantly on tour, with a new album out and a new DVD on the way it's great times for TESTAMENT fans. Andrew caught up with vocalist Chuck Billy to find out the latest...







Andrew: Hi how are you?


Chuck: I'm doing good! How are you?


Andrew: Very well thanks. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, it's much appreciated, also given the fact that I'm a huge Testament fan as well so thanks for the interview.


Chuck: No problem, you got it.


Andrew: Let's get straight into the main interest here which is your upcoming live DVD/CD release "The Dark Roots Of Thrash". First off tell us a bit about this live release and why you decided to release it.


Chuck: Well it was kind of a last minute thing. We did a headlining tour with Overkill and Flotsam & Jetsam and a band from Australia called 4Arm. We had a good set and a good thing as our headlining tour and it was a good tour so we decided we wanted to capture it and I think what made the final decision was that the last dvd we did was "Live In London" in 2005 and that's right when we had the original band reunion. A lot of those songs on the DVD was the songs that only the original guys recorded so for years most of the stuff we were playing was just the classic songs. And since then we have done "Formation Of Damnation" and "The Dark Roots Of Earth" and put in songs more from "The Gathering" into the show and more current stuff. So we thought this is what represents Testament now, which is playing more of the current music so we thought it would be more appropriate to put a new release out there with this lineup playing more of the current stuff.


Andrew: Yeah one of the things I have noticed is more of the newer stuff at your live shows. How was it re-learning or playing the newer stuff since you last played them?


Chuck: It wasn't too tough because I mean, they are great songs. I think it was just a matter of finally just talking the guys into it like, hey the fans want to hear some of this new stuff that we've been writing, we are really proud of this stuff like "The Gathering". We had already played enough classics so it was like, I know you guys have been back in the band again but we've been playing these songs for 20 plus years so we wanna play some more of the current stuff. So it just took a little bit of discussing and finally once the guys started playing them and rehearsing them they were like 'wow these are great songs!' and we said 'See, we know!' It was cool and it came real natural and I'm kinda glad because it kind of let them feel where me and Eric (Peterson, guitarist) were at with "The Gathering" because of "Formation" and then "Dark Roots", those records are just up there with the calibre of the "The Gathering".




Andrew: The DVD also has the video clip for "Native Blood" which obviously delves into your heritage. How proud are you of this video?


Chuck: Very actually because I kinda came up with the whole concept of the video and I just had the idea of shooting it on our property up on the reservation and it turned into more than just a video shoot. In the end we got the community and the tribe and everybody involved from the fire department, the police department and then just all the neighbours. Everybody came out and came down to this video shoot to watch and we brought the Pomo dancers down from up north and they were dancing and when they get together to dance, it's like a ceremony almost. It was just really great, it really kinda brought the small community together and I got to meet family members and cousins that I hadn't met before, come down to visit so it turned out to be much more than a video shoot. It was really more of a meaningful thing for me personally.


Andrew: So more like a family reunion kind of thing then.


Chuck: Oh totally. But after all was said and done, the video came out awesome. He (Mike Sloat, director) captured the storyline perfectly and it's a really powerfu video.


Andrew: Is this something that you had been wanting to do for sometime?


Chuck: Not necessarily. For years I think I never really got into a lot of artistic things with Native American but after I beat cancer in 2002 it's a big part of my life, what got me through spiritually and mentally getting to beating cancer. And so it was time to start writing about that and once we wrote the song "Native Blood" it was kind of the one stand out track of the record and it meant a lot to me and I just got the vision of the concept of the song for the video and I pitched it to everybody and everybody really dug it and we just went for it. It turned out great, exactly the way I envisioned the story to be told.






Andrew: Yeah it's a great video. I just wanted to ask about the last 2 albums that you have done, "The Dark Roots Of Earth" and "The Formation Of Damnation" it has a nice blend of the old and the new styles, especially vocally which in my opinion has been your best work to date. Has the combination of all this been a natural change or has it been a conscious decision by the band to blend the two together?


Chuck: I think once we hit "The Gathering" record, we found a really good blend of early style of writing songs but vocally just keeping a little bit more melody and stuff like "Practice What You Preach" or stuff like "Souls Of Black" where it's heavy but it has melody to it. I think we found a good blend with "The Gathering" because it still sounded like modern music but with elements of that old thrash style of vocal singing with melody. I think we just wanted to carry on it because it felt good and felt right. With "Formation" we kind took that same mould and I think even more so. I think I fined tuned it a little more singing on "The Dark Roots Of Earth" record.


Andrew: You're voice still sounds fantastic after all these years. Do you do a certain thing to maintain or train your voice at all?


Chuck: Before performances I do. But before I got the band I went to college and took private lessons up to instructors for years and when I left those I had a warm up ritual that I do before every performance. I kinda still do it to this day after 20 plus years and I think it's more of a mental thing at this point but I do it anyhow because once I finish it I'm ready. Of course as you get older with age you kinda take care of yourself a little bit more and you drink a little less and don't smoke as much and you're not fighting a hangover like you were in you're younger days haha!


Andrew: The other big news of course, at least for us fans down in Australia is that you guys are coming here next year for Soundwave festival which I'm personally very excited about.


Chuck: Yes finally!






Andrew: How did this initially come about?


Chuck: Well we've been trying to get on that for a long time and just never had the opportunity and this year we finally got invited for it. I think we've only been coming to Australia for maybe the last 5 or 6 years playing some of the smaller clubs and having great times but we really wanted to kinda expand to get our music played out in front of more people. And the Soundwave was that opportunity and what's the other one there called?


Andrew: Oh the Big Day Out?


Chuck: Big Day out, is that what it is? Yeah because that was the first one we heard about and we heard about the Soundwave and everybody that we know, Slayer to everybody who we know has played Soundwave has just said how great it was. So we were jealous and we always wanted to get there and do it and now we finally get to come out there. We are looking forward to that so much, it's gonna be great!


Andrew: Yeah it's good to hear that you guys are coming for that. Are you doing any side shows at all or just the festival dates?


Chuck: Yeah we got the festivals for Soundwave and then I think 2 or 3 sideshows.


Andrew: Ah ok great! Setlists for the shows, are you going to be continuing with the more newer stuff or how are you doing the sets for these shows?


Chuck: Since it's our first time playing to a bigger audience, we will probably just have to really mix it up from the classics to the new. Because we have never played stuff like "Over The Wall" or "Into The Pit" or "New World Order" or any of that early stuff yet for Australian fans. For a bigger fanbase I think it's gonna be tough, we don't know how long our shows are gonna be, hopefully we'll get an hour or more then we can play a lot which would be nice.


Andrew: Obviously you have a lot of songs to choose from, how difficult is it for you guys to pick a setlist these days?


Chuck: It get's really difficult because we always try to change the set but once we get out there and start touring or even rehearsing, it changes back to the comfortable ones! Because we're like, damn the other songs are better and we kinda always go back to our strengths. I don't know if it's just being lazy or what haha but we always go back to those songs that stand out to us.






Andrew: Do you find the crowds lean more towards the older stuff or newer stuff or they kinda like both sides equally?


Chuck: It's a little equally divided. I think when we play the early classics, it's more thrashy and it gets them fired up a little more. There's definitely a bigger pit and stronger pit with the early thrashy classics but you gotta mix up the show a little bit and play songs like "Dark Roots" or "Souls Of Black", something thats a bit more of a mid-pace, that's not necessarily a song that people are going nuts in the pit with. It all depends, if we got a short set we hit them hard and just keep it blistering but if we got a long show, we really kinda make it a little more dynamic.


Andrew: OK cool. Just a couple more questions for you. If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any classic album in history, what would that be?


Chuck: That would definitely have to be the black album by Metallica.


Andrew: Ah ok any reason for that one?


Chuck: I think that was definitely a great record for them and the songwriting and the sound, it was just massive when it first came out like "Enter Sandman" was just massive. It would be just interesting to see the producers take on how to bring it to that level. And James (Hetfield) writing songs like that because I'm sure a lot of that stuff was worked out in the studio.


Andrew: And that album was also recorded in analog which was amazing for that time.


Chuck: Yeah definitely and we actually went to that same studio when we recorded "The Ritual" I think.


Andrew: Yeah that album had a nice sound to it, almost similar to the black album.


Chuck: Yeah we went into the studio right after they were done because there were big changes that went into to mixing them.


Andrew: And one last question, this is a personal one for everyone. But for you, what is the meaning of life?


Chuck: Definitely family and friends and getting to enjoy that because you never know when you may lose somebody and not have somebody in your life so it's always important to keep in touch and keep in good graces with your family and friends.


Andrew: Sounds good! It's been a pleasure talking to you and thanks again for taking the time to talk to us.


Chuck: Thanks so much man.


Andrew: We are looking forward to seeing you at Soundwave and your upcoming DVD which will be released pretty soon so thanks for everything.


Chuck: All good and I appreciate talking to you and hopefully we will see you next year at Soundwave.


Andrew: Yeah definitely. Take care!


Chuck: Cool, cheers man!







Chuck Billy spoke to Andrew Schizodeluxe 24 September 2013





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