Jeffrey Easton of Metal Exiles recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Metal Exiles: So who is in the band now? Is it the complete original line up?
Chuck: Alex [Skolnick, guitar], of course, is in along with Eric [Peterson, guitar] and Greg [Christian, bass].
Metal Exiles: Louie [Clemente, drums] will not be touring with you guys anymore?
Chuck: Louie cannot play like he used to as he is dealing with arthritis. I am sure he could do the gigs but if he had an issue then we would be stuck without a drummer so we have Nick Barker [ex-CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR] in his place.
Metal Exiles: How is the mostly reformed TESTAMENT lineup gelling?
Chuck: It has been amazing. Nick has been out here with Eric for a few months working on new material and, of course, Alex has some new songs so musically we are doing great. We always have to top the last record and "The Gathering" was an amazing record so we have to top that one.
Metal Exiles: In my world there is the pre-"The Ritual" TESTAMENT and "The Gathering"-era TESTAMENT. Which one are you leaning towards for this next record?
Chuck: It is "The Gathering" all the way. I am using all of the voices, the sounds, styles and dynamics. The old stuff did not have what we have now.
Metal Exiles: What was missing from the old stuff?
Chuck: For me it was production because the early stuff still stands the test of time musically. "Over The Wall" and "Practice What You Preach" are classics. Now we are doing records for a tenth of what we used to spend and they sound much better than they did then. With ProTools we can do our records at home if we wanted to.
Metal Exiles: You had cancer of course, is it completely gone now?
Chuck: Yes it is, they completely cut that out.
Metal Exiles: What rose out of that as far as inspiration?
Chuck: If anything it has actually distanced me from music. I take life differently and music has ceased to be my number one priority in life.
Metal Exiles: What has become your first priority?
Chuck: My family and friends have taken priority in my life. The music thing is more like a bonus for me. I get the part if the world that I want with my family along with the music part, travel the world and only sing on stage for an hour and a half. I get to bring my family and friends with me and take them around the world. We try to go to places we have not been before, like with Australia. I do not want to live on the road anymore; I did that for over 15 years and I am done with it. It is a tough business and it is all about timing now and the timing is right for this band again.
Metal Exiles: What do you think about TESTAMENT's relevance right now?
Chuck: I think that it is very big. With the HAUNTEDs, TRIVIUMs, SOILWORKs, IN FLAMES etc. They have all told us that they were huge TESTAMENT fans and now I listen and like their music and I am into what is current. I am learning what these bands are doing and applying what I like that is coming back to me.
Metal Exiles: With your comments about the health thing and how the music is secondary, is that why TESTAMENT has not had a big profile in the 2000s?
Chuck: It has been an issue with the record label and I have not been in a rush. There has been a drummer issue as well and also the band is spread out across the U.S. Everybody has to plan to come out and rehearse; it is not like the old days. I think that it is really healthy now that everybody is more focused now considering what we have gone through. I think it is healthier now because we are focused. We are not kids thinking we are going to get bigger and bigger, sell more records and be a big star. What we ended up was longevity and everybody is grounded. I think it is healthier this way in the long run.
Metal Exiles: What was the highest that you sold while you were signed to Atlantic?
Chuck: It is hard to say because SoundScan was not around for the first three records.
Metal Exiles: I know it was out for "The Ritual".
Chuck: It was out for "The Ritual" and I think it was out for "Souls of Black". "The Ritual" was 485,000 in the States then and who knows, it could be gold by now but Atlantic is not rushing up to us with gold records. I am sure it is still selling because kids are buying it at in stores and I see it still on the shelves. I can picture Atlantic coming up to us and telling us that they have had these gold records for awhile sitting in closets. "You want them?"
Read the entire interview at www.metalexiles.com.