Mark Morton of Examiner.com recently conducted an interview with vocalist Chuck Billy of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Examiner.com: I know in interviews you did over the summer, you mentioned that you were planning to enter the studio in October for five months to work on and complete the new album. Does this tour with MEGADETH and SLAYER put a speed-bump into those plans, or do you see it as a good thing?
Chuck: Well, it's a good thing, for sure. But when we said we were going to take five months off, that tour wasn't even announced yet anyway. And of course, when you get offered a tour like that (which doesn't come around very often), we had to accept it, because we couldn't pass it up. But we're still working on the album, too. On one of the buses, we're setting up a recording studio. So, the whole time we're on the road, we'll be writing and getting ideas down on tape. Since we're the opener, we're going to have a lot of time on our hands, so we might as well write a record out there!
Examiner.com: Do you have any reservations about opening for your peers, as that is what they essentially are?
Chuck: No, not at all. You don't get to tour with some of your favorite bands very often, so when you get that opportunity, you definitely have to seize it and take advantage to the fullest. What better platform is there for a metal band than to play with two of the biggest metal bands around? And I think, for that time of year, there's really not a lot going on, so it is perfect timing to do it. It's not competing with the summer tours, and it really stands on its own, you know?
Examiner.com: Are you going to stick with a basic presentation set list, or are you planning to shake things up. In the past, TESTAMENT has been known for throwing a couple curve balls into the set along the tour trail.
Chuck: Oh, we'll be prepared. We're planning to have 20 songs ready to go, so at any time we can swap out a song here and there along the tour. Like, if we're going to play two shows very close to each other that will have identical fans, we'll switch two or three songs to keep it interesting.
Examiner.com: Metal, more than any genre, is known for its diehard fanbases and consisting of bands that can endure anything and ultimately thrive. I think this tour is a grand testimony to that sentiment. What are your feelings on the cyclical nature of the scene?
Chuck: Metal fans are definitely the most loyal people. They live through their hearts; they speak their minds, and they really back up their favorite bands. And I think they can really see through bands. Over time, there were bands that would try to do the pop thing, and fans get really pissed off at that, because they want you to stay true to what they love. For us, we've pretty much stuck straight with what we've done since the beginning. And our fans always tell us that they're really happy that we've stuck to our guns and stuck to our style of music. We've been around so long, we could very easily try to make a buck and do what is popular, but I know the fans would shoot it down, no matter how good it would be. The fans wouldn't like it, because we'd be straying away from who we are.
Examiner.com: And you were one of the very few old school thrash metal bands to successfully incorporate the "death growl" into your music. Do you think that aspect contributed to the band's survival?
Chuck: I don't know. That's something we've had since the first album, but I only ever did it live; we had never done it on a record. It was originally a way to express that live feeling. And over time, I started incorporating it into the vocals. At the same time, there were a lot of death metal bands out there beginning to make names for themselves, and the email response I got to the performances was pretty good. Some of our longtime fans hated it and couldn't stand it, but some of our younger, newer fans said things like, "I'm glad to you put that in there. Could you do more of it? We love it!" And since you can't please one group, you have to try to please them both, and that's when I decided that I would do both — sing and growl, and try to make them work together. And it's actually worked well for me.
Examiner.com: Why do you think that the thrash sound has become so beloved among metal fans, young and old?
Chuck: It's the honesty of the music. It's a young style of music, and you're always going to have a teenager who is rebellious, looking for something that is a little different and not on everyday radio that everyone at school is listening to. I know, when I was growing up and at school, I was into things that people didn't even know about. It felt good playing a record and going, "What, you've never heard of THE PLASMATICS or THE MENTORS?" It felt really cool to know about bands that nobody else knew. And I think that is what keeps it cool in the younger people's eyes.
Read the entire interview from Examiner.com.