The Rock Pit recently conducted an interview with vocalist Chuck Billy of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Rock Pit: Let's get straight into the main interest here which is your upcoming live DVD/CD release, "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 AND 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 "The 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.
The Rock Pit: 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".
The Rock Pit: 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.
The Rock Pit: 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 standout 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.
Read the entire interview at The Rock Pit.