TESTAMENT Frontman: 'We're Going To Bring Back Lead Guitar Again'

Ryan Ogle of Crusher magazine recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy. An excerpt from the chat follows:

Crusher: So what are some of the newer bands you're into these days?

Chuck: I really like the thrash stuff still; I'm into bands like THE HAUNTED and SOILWORK. Those two really stand out in my head. Then there are a lot of the newer guys like LAMB OF GOD, TRIVIUM, SHADOWS FALL; I like what they do. It's funny because, when they were starting out their careers, they were giving us props, talking about being TESTAMENT fans and being influenced by us. To me, I enjoy what they, so-called learned from us, because what they're playing today, I listen to that and learn from that. It's come full circle; I've taken what I've inspired them to do on their records and in turn, they inspire me. It's this big circle of metal that we've lent to each other.

Crusher: So what's going on with TESTAMENT?

Chuck: We're doing demos of the new material right now. We have about eight songs right now and we're kind of on a break. Nick Barker [drums, ex-CRADLE OF FILTH], we sent him home to England so he could see his family and stuff. When he comes back in a few weeks, we start right back into it again; finish the demos and write five new songs. We're working hard to finish the record. It's going to be out by March of next year. Right now we're in negotiations because we got released from our contract from Spitfire. So, we're in the middle of negotiating with a few labels. Hopefully, we come to agreements with Nuclear Blast. [Note: since this interview was conducted, TESTAMENT has signed with Nuclear Blast.]

Crusher: What's it like working with Alex [Skolnick] again?

Chuck: It's really amazing; it's definitely different from the way it used to be. When he was younger, all he knew was metal. That's where he started and he wanted to branch out and learn more. That's when he went to school and got his degree in music; he's got his jazz band and he gets a whole variety of music now. I think it's more comfortable to him because it's not all about TESTAMENT. He's a musician, he'll go out and gig and play anything to make some money. That's what he does for a living. When TESTAMENT comes into the picture — when we first got back with Alex, he was all booked up and we couldn't play that many shows. His schedule was booked, and he wasn't going to cancel his schedule for us. This year, 2007, we got his calendar back in December of '06, that's why we can play a lot more shows with Alex right now. That's the way it'll probably be next year, we just gotta get ahead of his calendar and book accordingly.

Crusher: So tell me about the new material.

Chuck: I would say it's a continuation of "The Gathering", which is really kind of surprising. Alex has a couple of songs that he brought to the table, and they have some smashing double bass. It's just crushing! We were all like, "Whoa, Alex, this stuff is thrashing!" To me, that sent a message saying that he understands where we're at, what we've done, what we've accomplished since he's been gone and I think he respects it. He's coming in right where we left off with "The Gathering". With "The Gathering", "Demonic" and those records; we didn't really create lead guitar sections. This year, since Alex is back, we're going to bring back lead guitar again.

Crusher: Those albums had more of a death metal vibe than say the "Practice What You Preach"-era albums did. What took you down that road?

Chuck: Well, the drums I think are what did it. We had Gene Hoglan playing drums on "Demonic". The songs that Eric wrote, I come up with my parts and my lyrics from what I feel and those songs made me feel really brutal; kind of over the top death metal because of Gene's double bass. The songs just pushed me that way. It changes per record too. When we did "The Gathering", the songs didn't push me to death metal; it made me use more of a variety of voices. I think I used three different voices on that record. To me, I actually feel more comfortable with that and enjoy listening to that better.

Read the entire interview at www.crushermagazine.com.

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