Thrash Up Yo Ass, Muthafucka
CoC chats with Testament
by: Drew Snow
After three long years of uncertain waiting by their fans, Testament have finally released their new album, _Demonic_, on Mayhem/Fierce Records. Diehard fans of the older material may be a bit miffed at the band's new direction towards the heavier side of things, and especially with vocalist Chuck Billy's deep vocal assault. Don't say you didn't see it coming, however, with their previous release, _Low_. Although aesthetically similar to _Low_, _Demonic_ is a different beast entirely. With its heavy, chugging riffs and a distinct lack of leads and solos, backed by the always pummeling Gene Hoglan drumwork, _Demonic_ speaks for the fact that not -all- classic 80s thrash bands have "wimped out." Guitarist Eric Peterson takes the time to speak about the band's history, their progression, line-up problems, and many other things.

CoC: Many of your songs, past and present, have had a fairly strong anti-government/anti-establishment flavor to them, such as "Malpractice" railing against the medical profession. What's your feeling on that subject?

Eric: Well, we never really tried to preach anything. There were certain things that we would see here that would interest us, you know? Like the "Malpractice" thing was from an Alex [Skolnick] point of view. All that stuff came from Alex, like "Seven Days in May", which was about Tienanmmen Square. There was "Greenhouse Effect"; I mean they were all things that we cared about, too, but they were brought to attention by him. And then Greg, of course, with "P.C.". About as political as Chuck or myself would get would be like "Hatred's Rise", you know? <laughs>

CoC: Why did you guys have so many drummers in the past couple of years? I mean, you had Jon Dette, Gene Hoglan, Jon Tempesta, Paul Bostaph, Chris Kontos...

Eric: What's our reason for that? Well, it's just really cool, it's a lot of fun, you know. <laughs> No, you know, circumstances. Shit comes up, it wasn't our intention for Jon Tempesta to go and join White Zombie, it wasn't like "Hey, why don't you join White Zombie!" For Paul Bostaph, he basically was in the band, and helping us out a tremendous amount, because Louie [Clemente, the drummer for the first five albums] had left the band right at the beginning of a tour, and we were going to cancel the tour, but a lot of people were going to be upset, so we went ahead and carried on with Paul Bostaph. He had actually just gotten in Slayer... and so we called Kerry and Tom up and they were like "We're writing right now, we don't need Paul around for a little bit, we're going to get some ideas together." So he was able to do that. We actually ended up recording something with him on it, which is cool because it's like a little time-piece you know. But he was never actually a member, he was just helping Testament out as a friend. Let's see, after that we got Tempesta, who we wanted to be in the band full-time. After that, there was Jon Dette, and there were just certain elements, it's been awhile now, I don't quite remember, I think there was a cat-fight between Chuck [Billy, vocalist] and Jon, something stupid. And then the opportunity came up for Jon Dette to be in Slayer, so he took that route. Chris Kontos was just sort of like a rebound thing for him and for us. He got kicked out of Machine Head, we didn't have a drummer. We had a great time, jammed together... he's a great drummer, it just wasn't meant to be; different personalities, whatever. Gene Hoglan worked out really good. I feel like I'm naming off all my old girlfriends here, this is really funny. <laughs> Yeah, Gene fit the job really good, but he was committed to Strapping Young Lad, but he had some free time so he came in and did a great job for the record. So now, right after Gene, Jon Dette had just been released from Slayer, and it was just good timing on that end. And he was like our first pick out of 25 or 30 drummers we auditioned after Tempesta left. It's good to have him back.

CoC: What was the deal with the three year wait between _Low_ and _Demonic_? There were rumors last year that the whole band had broken up. Was there any truth to that?

Eric: Yeah, there was a point. I think it was with the members Kontos and [James] Murphy, [Greg] Christian, Billy, and myself, it just got to the point where it just wasn't a band and things weren't gelling. There were certain problems happening, and we just hung it up. Then me and Chuck put it together, we wanted to get it right this time, and not get those players, get people we could hang with. You know, not that we can't hang with James or Chris, they're cool people. Just that this lineup we had put together, everyone was on the same page with what we wanted to hit. And that worked out really good. So here we are, with _Demonic_, and I think as far as where we want to be careers, I think _Demonic_ is pretty much our forte. It's like someone pointed out to me, "Where do you want to take this? Do you want to get real big?" I think we're as big as we want to be. I mean, it's the music is what it is. If this record went platinum, or if it didn't sell shit, the fact still remains that it's still _Demonic_, and it's still where we're at in our music, you know what I mean? It's like, we can't be any richer, because we're doing exactly what we believe and what we want. And I think that goes with anything in life: If you're happy doing what you really like then you're a very rich man.

CoC: Of all the albums you've released, which one are you least satisfied with?

Eric: Well, you know they all have their times. Of course, after each record you do, you go "this is my best record." And I truly believe that, that _Demonic_ for me is one of my best records. There was one record that after we were done with it I thought, "hmm... maybe this isn't my best record," which was _Souls of Black_ [my personal favorite, go figure -- Drew], which was because it was put together so quick. But I listen to it now, and its got a certain sound and a time piece, and it's cool, I like it. Then, like _The Ritual_, too, I listen to that record and I think it's cool, but I think "When we formed Testament and what we're about, this isn't what Testament is about right here." It was the industry talking to us, and management saying "You gotta do this to survive, you gotta be like this." I think right now, with _Demonic_ and _Low_, it's almost like the new Testament, like what we're about now in the 90s.

CoC: Do you think the departure of Alex Skolnick (guitarist for the first five albums) had a good influence on you as far as songwriting, because since his departure, you've now released your two heaviest albums ever.

Eric: Yeah, definitely. I think Alex believed in what he believed in, and I believed in what I believed in, and in the end of it, we weren't believing in the same thing. But now that he's gone, and he helped pave the way for us, and us for him, I'm definitely happy where we're at. I can't complain, I played everything on the record, which was really cool for me.

CoC: When you guys started the band over ten years ago, did you think you'd ever be releasing stuff as heavy as _Demonic_ now in 1997?

Eric: Most bands get lighter, or maybe more progressive, or simpler. You know, in our genre, I'm watching bands that either fucking wimped out, and they're not really themselves, or they've gotten progressive, but they really didn't get harder, or more true to what they were in the beginning. I think we're the only band in this genre, besides Exodus, that have really stayed true. There's bands that led this genre, no, there's -a- band who led this genre who, just, to me, is bullshit now. I felt proud that we took it to the extreme measure that we did, and people can cry that it's too heavy, but if somebody wants to hear a true to the truest artform of metal, then _Demonic_ is for them.

CoC: On all of the previous four albums, there was always the one slow ballad-type song, but there isn't one on _Demonic_. Is that just because it wouldn't fit it, or was there a reason behind putting one on each of the others?

Eric: We never really planned any of them. The only one that was really planned was "The Ballad" (_Practice What You Preach_). We used to always jam on slow jams, and we kind of went "We need to put a ballad on our record." But after that, "The Legacy", on the next record, that was the first song I ever wrote, for the band Legacy, when we were called that. And the first two songs we wrote were "The Legacy" and "Curse of the Legions of Death", so that shows you right there that we were a little bit of both. Because back then, we were listening to Sisters of Mercy and Venom. We were listening to two totally different kinds of music. But this time around, you know, I just didn't feel like plucking anything clean like that.

CoC: Do you personally enjoy touring? You guys always seem to tour a -lot- for each release.

Eric: Yeah, definitely... especially when you have something that you like, and you like the guys in the band, it's really cool. _Low_, we really didn't tour that much on, because of Atlantic (their former and unco-operative record label) and stuff, the bullshit that went down with that. But now, we've got a pretty extensive tour lined up for the States, and Europe, and overseas and stuff, so there's definitely a fair amount of touring for this record. And we have ideas now for another record, which, I don't think it's going to take us three years to put out another record again.

CoC: Does your daughter like Testament? Or does she even know about the band?

Eric: Oh, totally. She's almost four now, but if I put on my music, she scrunches up her face, and puts her lips together and just kind of goes "Yeah!" It's pretty cute. You know, she'll say "Papa's music." And then she'll go "Where's Chuck? Where's Chuck, papa? That's Chuck?" It's pretty funny.

CoC: How would you compare the handling of the band on Atlantic to Mayhem/Fierce? I mean, Atlantic's got to be pretty impersonal, right?

Eric: There were definitely people who were impersonal, but there were also a lot of people there who were great. Whenever we talk about Atlantic, or slag them, you know, most of it came from the upper, top people who would approve stuff. But I have to say that the people actually at Atlantic, the actual staff, there were some really good people there. Whenever the main objectives come up, they were overrulled, coming from up at the top, looking at sales figures and not looking at what we're about, what we need to take it farther. All they want to know is, is it sticking, or is it not sticking. If it's not sticking, move on to one that's sticking. Oh look, that's sticking, go over there and work that. What, they're not sticking? Fuck them. And you know, they had like ninety releases that year, and we had _Low_, and Mayhem/Fierce had two.

CoC: Which bands do you like and listen to right now?

Eric: I'm listening to a whole different spectrum of music. Right now, I've been listening to Meshuggah's _Destroy Erase Improve_. I like Entombed's record a lot, the new one. I like the new Paradise Lost; they've really calmed down a lot, but it's a good record. I still love listening to _Arise_ (Sepultura); I don't see Sepultura going on without Max, I just think it's ridiculous.

CoC: But they were just going downhill with _Roots_, don't you think?

Eric: Yeah, there's another band who's kind of getting lost with who they are and what they're about. Even though it was heavy, it just... I mean, I can understand when you're a band and you've been together that long, and you've been touring a lot, you end up changing. You start getting into all sorts of trends. They started, to me, going into kind of a Korn vein. You know, the weird guitar, kind of like the beat, the low end. And I was just going "Well, that's cool." There's a lot of bands doing that. But if I want to hear that, I'll put on Korn.

CoC: Do you see yourself going in the same vein for the next album?

Eric: What I'm noticing now is that in our set that we're putting together live, if we're going to be playing every night, six nights a week, it's going to be hard for Chuck to sing like that, all the time. So I think the new stuff will be a bit mixed up, like "Dog Faced Gods" or "Together as One", not so much just straightforward heavy vocals. Which is cool because, like, "Demonic Refusal", I love that, but there are people like the old fans who prefer "Dog Faced Gods", where it's mixed up. But everyone's got an opinion, and we did what sounds good. Basically, I can't tell you how we're going to plan out the next record, how it's going to fill out. Chuck may end up singing [clean] on the whole thing, I don't know. I doubt it, though. We're totally into what we're doing right now.

(article submitted 12/8/1997)


CHATS
7/7/1999 A Bromley Testament: A Testament to Longevity
ALBUMS
8/13/2012 A El Naby 7.5 Testament - Dark Roots of Earth
4/27/2008 J Smit 9 Testament - The Formation of Damnation
4/12/2002 A McKay 8 Testament - First Strike Still Deadly
6/15/1999 A Bromley 9 Testament - The Gathering
1/1/1998 D Schinzel 6.5 Testament - Signs of Chaos: The Best of Testament
7/14/1997 D Schinzel 7 Testament - Demonic
GIGS
9/14/1997 S Hoeltzel Testament / Stuck Mojo / Strapping Young Lad Demonic Pigwalk
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