Peter Atkinson of KNAC.COM recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:KNAC.COM: How was the first show with [drummer] Nick [Barker, ex-DIMMU BORGIR, CRADLE OF FILTH]? Billy: It went great. Sold-out show. A lot of energy. It was good, man. It was our first show since September or October, but it was killer, it sounded really good. It had a lot of energy, that's what I really took away from that show. And the stuff him (Barker) and Eric are writing is pretty extreme (laughs). KNAC.COM: How did you come by him? Billy: We've known Nick for quite a while. It's funny, we went out to dinner with the record company people and Nick was there and he was telling us how he was a TESTAMENT fan, he'd grown up playing the songs and if we ever needed a drummer to give him a call. And, of course, we thought it was just in good fun because we were drinking and having a good time. And when we came through where he was last year, we talked to Nick and said, "Hey, why don't you learn 'Over the Wall' and you can come onstage and jam with us." So he came down and played "Over the Wall" and it sounded great. And at that point it was like, "Man, that song sounded really good, it be interesting to see how the other ones sounded with him," so that was when we decided Nick would be the drummer we worked on the new album with. And we're excited about incorporating his style of playing with us, and vice versa. KNAC.COM: Was the idea to keep working with Louie [Clemente] and/or John [Tempesta] and they just couldn't or wouldn't do it? Billy: Yeah, of course we wanted Louie to be here, but he has his furniture business and he has some health issues, so he wasn't able to be here. He has some arthritis issues, and if not he'd be right here with us. He did a great job with what he did with us last year, but I think playing again just kinda caught up with him. But we got to do it with the five guys, the "classic lineup" (laughs), for a while and that was cool. It was a lot of fun. We'll have him come out and play a song or two when we're in the area, but doing a whole set is just too much for him, so doing a tour is definitely out of the question. And John Tempesta, he plays in THE CULT now, they hired him for a year or two years, so he has no time. We keep him tuned up for better, easier gigs (laughs). KNAC.COM: When do you hope to get into the studio to record the new album? Billy: The plan is to, hopefully, get in there in April. Nick's gonna be here up through there working with Eric. We've got probably four really great songs pretty much in the can and with a few months of writing we'll hopefully have it ready to go. Alex [Skolnick] has been out here working with the guys too, so the ball has started rolling. And as soon as they give me the music, I'll be listening to it in my car all the time until the words and melodies appear. KNAC.COM: You mentioned what Nick and Eric had been working on was pretty extreme... Billy: Yeah, one song they played me is really brutal, it is beyond like even "The Gathering" stuff, like "D.N.R.", it was really, really crushing, tight, heavy. It had everything, I loved it. If we can write 10 more songs like that, then we're going to have a fucking great record. So it's there, it's just a matter of bringing it out and getting it down on tape. We're due, and hopefully we'll have a good record out this year. KNAC.COM: Do you have a label right now, or are you doing this on your own to shop around? Billy: We'll, it's a bit complicated. We're still with Spitfire, but they've been sold to another company so we don't really know where we're at. So we're just forging on and writing the record and getting it ready. Someone's gonna come along and it's gonna happen. KNAC.COM: But that's not stopping them from putting out that new greatest hits album ("The Spitfire Collection", due Feb. 13). Billy: Yeah, that's weak. When Spitfire got sold, the company that bought it decided they needed to put out a "best of TESTAMENT" album, and it's all the same shit that we have on the two other "best of" albums, not to mention that album of songs we re-recorded. And these companies put them out without us letting us know or having any say into what goes into them or how they are packaged, but in the contract they have the right to do that, so what can you do? They just grab the songs and put ‘em out, which I think kinda sucks. KNAC.COM: Given all that the band has been through with the record company turmoil, the lineup changes, your illness, etc., was there a time when you thought "let's just put TESTAMENT to rest and move on?" Billy: Well when you're sick and you're looking at yourself bald in the mirror, yeah, it makes you wonder. I had to take these steroids as part of the treatment and gained a lot weight, really ballooned up. It was pretty rough. And during that whole process of a year, year and a half, I really didn't think of the band, talk about music, sing or any of that, really. We shut the studio down and put it all in storage and stopped. I just had to deal with what I had to do to get better. But once I was free and clear, and the doctor said I was back in good health, at that point it was like "OK, let's think about playing music." But me being native American (he's Pomo Indian) and always having my long hair, performing with short hair was a whole different thing for me (laughs), I would be banging my head and nothing was moving. It was weird. So that whole thing was the only hard thing about starting up. But after that it just felt great, and then Alex came back in the picture and everyone else in the band, so it was just timing I guess. And even though we've been through some rough patches, Eric and I were able to keep TESTAMENT going and maintain the spirit of what the band has always been about. I think as long as we have that, TESTAMENT will be around. Read the entire interview at KNAC.COM.
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