Testament: Thrash Will Reign!

We Didn't Know How Long It Was Going To Last

Chuck Billy; the name has weight, the name has significance - combine this weight and significance with a band whose career has spanned and succeeded over the decades and you have something to write home about. Testament have continued to astound fans the world over and have; in my opinion, continued to keep thrash relavent and well admired where other highly significant bands of the genre have become stagnant and stale. It is because of the likes of Testament that thrash will reign forever. Metal As Fuck had the privilege of chatting with frontman Chuck Billy recently, in relation to the bands legacy; their determination to get on that dang Soundwave lineup and the album that is leaving cultures liberated.     

The band has been on tour with Dark Roots of Earth for several months now, how do we feel about touring these days? “Oh yeah, I think even more now, we’re touring more now than ever. During the early 2000’s we slowed down, just because I think that the music climate wasn’t as healthy, once we had the reunion and the release of Formation (of Damnation) we’ve have been kicking it into high gear”.

Speaking of Dark Roots of Earth, the band’s latest release, it has become more apparent that Testament have this knack at becoming heavier and heavier each year “Yeah I think we made that conscious choice once the band broke up; and it was our last record with Atlantic Records, we sort of shifted gears and we were maybe a little pissed off [Laughs] and decided to write something heavier, something that wasn’t in line with the mainstream or being played on the radio – and we've kind of kept it up ever since”.

What is it about Dark Roots of Earth that appeals to you personally? “I think it’s definitely a record where we’ve taken more risks and chances, the sound of the record is the best sounding album we’ve had; sonically, the songs on the record have a lot of diversity and dynamics, it’s definitely the probably first record that we haven’t been concerned about critics; I guess that’s why we haven’t had a ballad in like eighteen years and this record I think was the first one where we’ve had some slower songs. It does cross your mind what people will think, but we went with it, it felt good, we went with it, and we didn’t hear one negative thing about it”.

The Testament records, past and present, still maintain a lot of integrity, was the album more personal for you to write? “I think they all are, but I mean writing a song like Native Blood was more personal for me, just because I am native American, I never exposed it in my song writing until this year, because when I beat cancer, I really went back to my native heritage and took those beliefs and that mentally, spiritually and everything I did was in that route so I wrote Native Blood and we made the video, which was nominated at the Native American Film Festival and actually won, all these weird little occurrences have popped up because of who I am – we had our first display at the Hard Rock Café in Albuquerque, we had a display at the  Smithsonian Museum for Native Americans it was called Up Where We Belong and yeah just all these little occurrences of my native heritage have been popping up because it is a big part of my life and what it’s done for me”

The clip spoke volumes and reached a lot of people, you mentioned that it wasn’t necessarily for any type of people in particular, just a statement of downtrodden races in general. Did you have any challenges whilst writing the song? Any issues or personal confrontations? “Just the story line and what it stood for, for all indigenous peoples, on their own being ignored, I spoke to a lot of people around the world, a lot of cultures could relate to it. It was really cool that, that song; the way I wrote it could be used as a contrast in their own societies and cultures”. Native Blood has become very anthemic for a lot of people around the world and of course the Testament fans; how do you feel about the music of Testament and its presence on the world at this stage of your career? “I think it’s come a long way, I think that The Gathering for me was the turning point for the band, as far as the way it hit me, I really enjoy it, it focused on that hook in the melody instead of just going for power, we’re going to stick with it”. If it aint broke….   

The career of Testament, it’s all been summed up in the Dark Roots of Thrash, the DVD, out next month I believe – how was that experience, putting all that together? “It was great, it really does play into where we are today, because when we did Live in London in 2005 with the original lineup the guys really wanted to capture it all because we didn’t know how long it was going to last after the reunion you know.  We definitely wanted to document it and we’ve been together for seven years since then, we’ve come a long way – we wanted to make a statement and to show people where Testament is at today, that we’re not writing music like old men, in a dirty old band - I think our music still sounds fresh and current. The DVD will be great as I’ve always thought Testament were a better live band than a studio band so the live record sounds really powerful, it’s definitely going to represent who and where we are today”.

I concur with your statement about being more powerful on stage than in the studio – as I had the pleasure of catching a show on your last tour, 2010 I believe, my partner is a fanatical Testament fan so we went along, I was absolutely blown away so the second you were announced on the Soundwave lineup I was like SOLD! “Yeah we’ve been trying to get on that lineup for quite a while! [Laughs] The first time we were in Australia all we heard of was the Big Day Out but everyone was like no, you want to get on the Soundwave lineup, and it’s more metal”.

Chatting to Eric (Peterson) last year he did mention that there were talks of getting on the 2012 lineup, however all that aside, you are finally confirmed! “Yeah we’ve been trying for quite a while [Laughs] and we’ve been jealous you know because all of our friends have played it and we see whose playing and everybody has done it except for us”. [Laughs] They have come to their senses obviously, what other tour plans are in place whilst in town? “We are doing two sidewaves also; it’s going to be great!”.