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

Chuck Billy as Interviewed by Metal Billy

12th July 2010

 

 

It’s just past the witching hour in West Oz as I nervously punched the secret codes into the phone to make contact with the Legend himself Chuck Billy, front man for Testament – one of the original Bay Area Thrash Bands ( along with Exodus and Metallica to name just a few ) that began way back in the early 80’s. ( Metal Billy had an awesome mullet back then .. memories of hairier days past )

 

Like most bands that have been around for 20+ years Testament have had their highs and lows, comings and goings of personnel etc but for the past 4-5 years or so the band has stabilized the line-up, produced a critically acclaimed album in “The Formation of Damnation” and roamed the world far and wide belting out their signature Old School Thrash to the enjoyment of a new generation of kids who are starting to realize that melody, guitar solos and fucking heaviness can be combined with brutal effect.

 

So after getting an answering machine and being somewhat deflated by this, the phone suddenly burst into life and I nearly crapped myself. And on the end of the line was Mr Chuck Billy – it is 9.15 AM in the morning in the US.

 

Testament, Chuck Billy centre

 

 

MB : Thanks for giving The Rockpit some of your time Chuck . So you’re coming to Australia in August for 3 shows ( 6th, 7th and 8th of August – I am flying over for the Melbourne show on August 6th ). What else is happening in the world of Testament?

 

CB: Well we’re rehearsing for the upcoming American Carnage Tour ( with Megadeth & Slayer ), dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, fine tuning all the gear and getting ready to head out next weekend.

 

( The American Carnage Tour began in Canada July 23rd – 30 and resumes 11th August until 4th September )

 

MB : Cool - I’m sure Testament will add something to the awesome show we saw Slayer & Megadeth put on in Oz last year.

 

By the way Happy Birthday for the 23rd June ( he turned 48 ).. me and a Rockpit colleague celebrate our Birthdays around the same time so we are all men in our 40’s enjoying our Metal ..

 

CB: Alright, hahaha

 

MB : And when are we likely to see some new material from Testament .. any plans to record in the near future ?

 

CB : Yeah we have been working on some new stuff but hit a few hurdles with the Carnage Tour being postponed and then we went out with Megadeth, so we hadn’t been writing as fast as we would have liked. But we’re still working on it and when we go out on this Carnage run we are actually going to write on the road and hopefully by the end of this year we will be in the studio recording, so that’s the goal.

 

MB : Excellent .. looking forward to that, it will be a hard act to follow up after the Formation Of Damnation which put the band right back on top of your game in my opinion… you won’t be playing a new song or 2 at the Australian shows ?

 

CB : No we don’t tend to do that. We don’t test or preview new songs, we just like to sit on them until they’re done and ready to go.

 

MB : Fair enough – get them polished up and recorded before unleashing them live ..

 

CB : Yeah that’s right .

 

MB : I see that Testament are booked to play on the 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise ship next year ( 24th Jan – 28th Jan 2011 .. 40 Bands and 2000 Fans on a 5 day cruise ) .. is that going to be fun or does the prospect of having 2000 rabid Fans you can’t escape from give you nightmares ?

 

CB : Well I don’t really know .. it sounds fun but we’ll see what happens. You know the way I look at it it’s almost like a vacation – a Cruise plus some Work, and get to jam a bit and hang out with some cool people which ain’t gonna be so bad – you know not like some bad festival , only 2000 people . I think it’s gonna be alright .

 

MB : Sounds like a blast to me .. you play your two shows and then get to kick around the rest of the time and watch a few bands while your out there ..

 

On the subject of shows , what would be your dream concert to either watch as a festival gig or participate in, can be old or new bands , living or dead ?

 

CB : Oh that would be Testament, Metallica and Exodus

 

MB : Really? Well both Exodus and Metallica are touring Australia later in the year after Testament so we get to see that hat-trick of acts but unfortunately not on the same Bill.

 

CB : Nice one

 

MB : We have been blessed with a lot of great old and new metal acts coming to Australia in the past few years .. can I get your thoughts on the resurgence of thrash metal and the new crop of bands that have adopted the thrash style and are making it their own ?

 

CB : Well I think it’s really healthy .. you know we’ve been around for 25 years and when we started out there were only a handful of bands doing the thrash style. Where as now there are hundreds of bands around the world playing this style of music, which is healthy and good for everybody.

 

MB : Exactly .. I started listening to thrash when I was 17 buying imported vinyl albums and the like, and it’s great to see that the music has stayed strong and is even coming back into vogue in the metal scene.

 

CB : Yeah there are a lot of great thrash bands that kinda you know, had to hang it up and there comes a time for everyone, but metal has always had the never-say-die fan mentality – and it’s funny it gets passed down through generations. You see fathers that have been coming to Testament shows for 25 years bringing along their teenage sons now and it’s kinda cool to see that.

 

MB : Totally agree - I go to metal gigs with my Niece and Nephew all the time .. good for a ride home when I’m drunk too...

 

CB : Hell yeah and they get to experience the sort of things you grew up with too.

 

 

MB : Tell me, when you go to a gig nowadays do you still get down in the Pit or do you stand back and let the young ones go berserk ?

 

CB : No I don’t go in the Pit , not any more at all. Let them go nuts, you know.

 

MB : It’s called Self Preservation and wisdom gained from days gone by ..

 

CB : Yeah knowing my luck I’ll get my knees broken or some shit .. ha ha

 

MB : Yeah that happened to me at Lamb of God a few years ago – I nearly got my shoulder busted so I
stay out of the madness nowadays ..

 

CB : Oh man !

 

MB : So are there any special treatments or exercises you do to keep your voice in trim ? After 100’s and 100's of shows there must be a bit of wear and tear on the throat ?

 

CB : Yeah there is .. but you know like anything you need to exercise it. And I don’t drink anymore so that helps a lot. And I still do a ritualistic warm up for about an hour before a show or any practice, so whenever I am gonna sing I warm up for an hour.

 

MB : So an hour of warm up for an hour of show – equal time .

 

CB : Yeah that’s right

 

MB : And talking of the younger Generation do you have children of your own ?

 

CB : Yeah I do - well my son he’s 23 now and has a band of his own ha ha..

 

MB : Way to go – and is it a metal band or has he gone totally opposite and doing some sort of New Romantic revival ?

 

CB : Well he was born and raised on metal but he listens to more Rap music these days .

 

MB : That’s kids for you ..and now a very important question that The Rockpit asks of all it’s interviewees. Do you have the answer to the Meaning of Life ?

 

CB : Yeah I do ha ha ! It’s just being happy you know .. just enjoying what you do. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to see life in a different way, just living every day you see it differently and you just gotta handle it day by day. You know me and my wife were just talking the other day saying like wow remember last summer when we were on tour with Ronnie Dio doing the Sabbath ( Heaven & Hell ) / Motorhead / Judas Priest Tour, you know and here we are a year later and Ronnie’s not here with us, and wow it makes you think that it can happen just like that .. you’re here one day and gone the next like that old saying goes. So we make a choice to take things day by day because next week could be different for everyone you know.

 

MB : Live for the moment and don’t make too many long term plans eh .. so do you have any special story or memory of Ronnie James Dio you could share with us ?

 

CB : Yeah well I remember going on tour back in 1992 with Black Sabbath in Europe for about 5 weeks and it was a cold winter tour and I remember every day after the show we would go and hang out with Ronnie, have a few beers and just hang out and talk for about an hour after every show. And you know I was fortunate to have spent that 5 weeks of my life with probably one of the greatest people on the planet, and that’s what I will always take with me – all those talks that we had on that tour.

 

MB : The many tributes after his passing all said he was one of the nicest people around and had time for every body regardless of his status as a Superstar and Legend of Metal and we will all miss this wonderful guy.

 

CB : Yes that’s for sure

 

MB : Well Chuck we better wrap it up – we really appreciate your time today and I am looking forward to seeing the Melbourne show on the 6th – I hope to try and catch up with you over there.
You can look us up at www.therockpit.net - my moniker is Metal Billy – no relation to yourself of course.

 

CB : For sure ha ha .. what is the name in reference to ?

 

MB : It’s a long story from when I got drunk and made an idiot of myself when I was 15 and the name Billy just stuck ever since..

 

CB : Right on ! Ha ha – see you over in Melbourne

 

MB : Thanks Chuck bye for now

 

CB : Bye bye take care ..

 

So there we have it – a nice chat with Mr Chuck Billy of Testament with the answer to the meaning of life thrown in for good measure !

 

The Rockpit would like to thank Kelli Wright of KWPR for arranging the interview with Chuck.

 

Stay tuned for the review of the show (with Aussie metallers Dreadnaught supporting ).

 

Metal Billy