Testament Interview

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, April 16, 2010

Testament is easily one of the most well known and respected thrash bands out there alongside groups like Metallica and Megadeth. Their last album The Formation of Damnation was met with quite a bit of acclaim from critics and fans, and the band has been touring off that record for quite some time now. I had the chance to catch up with vocalist Chuck Billy when Testament supported Megadeth on their Rust in Peace Anniversary Tour and we discussed the group’s inclusion in video games, their tour schedule and more. (My questions are in bold, Chuck’s responses are in normal typeface)

So, how did you get a heavy metal interview?

I write about a lot of metal and have been listening to the genre for a long time now.

Have you heard any of our songs in any games?

Yes, I believe you have some material in Brutal Legend.

Yeah, and we are also in the game MX vs. ATV Reflex.

How do you guys set something like that up?

In some cases the game companies come to us. Sometimes an old school fan works for one of the companies or is a games writer or something.

Do you ever get directly involved in the process or do they just tell you that they are using one of your songs?

They tell us it’s happening because it comes after the fact it’s the song they want. We were doing it for Iron Man, the movie game. The guy wanted us to do a song for the game; he’s a fan as well so he wanted us to write a song. We were like “What kind of Testament song do they want? We’ll use that as the skeleton and write a song for you.”

Do any of the band members play video games?

Well everyone has kids, and of course you play games with kids so yeah.

You guys are featured in Rock Band 2. What is your opinion on those types of games, do you think they really help to introduce people to the music?

Rock Band definitely introduces the younger generation which is really cool. I’ve got nieces and nephews that are four or five years old that are playing “Souls of Black.” Its like, how are kids that young playing “Souls of Black” or “Ride the Lightning” or something? It kind of trips you out, because how does a kid that young comprehend this kind of stuff at such a young age? It makes you think, with these young kids being introduced to these kinds of bands now what kind of music they might create in the future, it might be some kind of new style. As thrash is featured on these games, chances are we might have a lot more thrash bands in the years to come because of it. When we were younger, we were thinking what kind of games do we have to influence us musically? There wasn’t really anything out there.

Could you have imagined back then that it would be like it is now?

Not at all, because back then a record was actually a record, it wasn’t on a CD or anything. Now we’ve gone from vinyl to CDs to DVDs and once the Internet and digital world came into play everyone started thinking of different ways to get the music out there and generate income from it.

Tonight you are playing The Legacy in its entirety. How does it feel to go back to those songs, are there some of them you haven’t played in quite some time?

It feels really good. We did three shows in Holland, London and Japan last year where we did The Legacy and The New Order back to back and we had more fun with it than we thought we would. It was like, wow this is pretty cool and just rehearsing them was fun because it brought back a lot of old memories and old conversations as well as what we were thinking when we were writing the songs. So it was cool going back to do that. But performing them now when compared to how they sound on the album is much different, because we’ve tuned down the guitars since 86 which helps with my voice so it makes those songs feel even more powerful now. It definitely is a big change from what people heard on the record, even in the vocals because I was much younger and had a higher pitched voice.

So is your set list tonight only going to consist of The Legacy or are you going to have time to throw in a couple of other songs as well?

We will probably throw one extra song in because we have 45-50 minutes which will give us an extra five minutes so we’ll probably throw in “Into the Pit” or something.

Something to get the crowd going?

Yeah. We don’t know, we’ve been practicing that and “Souls of Black” as well as “Disciples of the Watch.”

I saw on your website that The Formation of Damnation was re-released in a Deluxe Tour Edition. What is in that?

We had the chance to go out to Alcatraz with MTV. They did a program called 52 Bands/52 Weeks where a new band was featured each week and we got to do one. When they came out there had the opportunity to be there all day and night and we performed in the mess hall at night when no one was there and it was really cool. The overlook of the city was badass. We recorded on ProTools and video recorded it so we decided to release it because it was a very bold experience. We did “Over the Wall”, “Souls of Black”, some other old tunes. I thought it came out pretty cool so it was something else to include and then the DVD also has the new music video for “More Than Meets the Eye.”

So that’s out now right, people can buy that tonight?

Yes, and it’s just something extra to give out and it provides an extra push for the album.

Speaking of that, it has been almost a year and a half since The Formation of Damnation came out. Are you guys working on a follow up yet?

We’re working on it right now. I hope to get it done by the end of the year, I can’t promise that but that’s the plan.

Are you trying to have regular album release cycles again?

We’d like to, but we are taking it one day at a time and we are not pressuring everyone to commit 100% all year. Alex for example has other things going on so we’ll just see. We know we’re going to do this upcoming record, we know we are probably going to tour for a year and a half to two years off of that record once it’s out, so we will just see what happens from there.

Is there any future for Dublin Death Patrol or was that more of a one album project?

It’s not a one album project, actually we just signed a record deal with Mascot Records who are based in Holland and the guys have twelve new songs ready to go. So when I get back from this tour I’ll be working on both the new Testament and the new Dublin Death Patrol.

Is that harder to coordinate since there are a lot of different people involved in DDP that are also in other bands?

Yeah, everyone is pretty much only available on weekends but they have been working hard and getting all of the music written. If we spend a good weekend, we will get a lot done.

How are you able to keep up with this hectic tour schedule? You’re going from this to like American Carnage.

American Carnage isn’t until the end of July/early August..

But you’re also doing some of the summer festivals in Europe?

There’s only like four shows between now and American Carnage. The schedule this year is actually kind of easy because we’re going to be home after this tour writing and then we’ll fly for one show, come home and write more, fly out for three shows and then write again over the course of three months. We have a lot of time home and then at the end of July we’ll start American Carnage.

Is there anywhere you can think of that you haven’t toured yet but would like to, or somewhere you haven’t been in a long time but would like to go back to?

I’d like to go to Egypt and see the pyramids, that’d be pretty trippy. India would be interesting, we almost got there last year.

Are there any bands you would like to tour with again?

I wouldn’t mind having Metallica take us on the road, that would be pretty cool.

Do you support a lot of the younger thrash bands that were influenced by you and do you like touring with them?

I love it. I get inspired by some of those bands because that is the kind of music I enjoy.

Do you have any tips for bands that are just starting off or new vocalists?

Find your style and stick with it, believe in it. Perfect what you have, that’s all you can do. Keep the rights to your own music, that’s the best thing you can do.

I think it’s great that you guys are able to keep touring this much because I talked to Joey Vera from Armored Saint yesterday and he was saying they don’t necessarily have the money to do countrywide tours.

It’s tough. Part of it is just the times, but the key to these days is to have a good touring package. It all depends though, some people might come through and try to play too big of a place or come through and play a small place and pack it. The club does well, they sell their booze and everyone is happy and some of those gigs turn out pretty well.

For more information on Testament visit their website at http://www.testamentlegions.com/.

Leave a Reply