The Raffo Review 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 Raffo Review: What can we expect from the new album [“Dark Roots Of Earth”]?
Chuck: I would say it’s got a little bit of everything we’ve done in our history, but I would say, vocally I’m tending to kind of go back to the “Practice What You Preach” style. I’ve done a lot more melodies on this record as well. Of course there’s some thrash and power vocals, as TESTAMENT would do, but I think this record’s got a little bit of an old-school feel to it, for me at least. The songs, of course, aren’t old-school thrash, but there are still elements of that old thrash. We’ve got some more modern elements on the record as well, with the blast beats, and just some good ol’, groovy, heavy stuff. It’s got a little bit of everything, really, and now that it’s done, I think it’s a really well-rounded record.
The Raffo Review: Would you say the new record is a combination of old-school TESTAMENT and modern TESTAMENT?
Chuck: Well, yeah, the production on early TESTAMENT records absolutely sucked and I never thought they sounded good. Now, 25 years later, we’re doing our own records and mixing them and stuff. When you listen to that old stuff, it’s just, “Ugh.” I would say, with our writing style, and where we are as a band and friends, it’s definitely like the old school. When I got sick back in 2001 [Billy was diagnosed with rare form of germ-cell seminoma, a type of cancer that required the singer undergo extensive treatment, including radiation therapy], I didn’t think I was ever going to be back performing with TESTAMENT. That illness kind of got all the original guys back together. It was a special thing for me because I felt as though, one, I’m getting a second chance to perform with TESTAMENT, and two, the original lineup was back together. We never really had bad feelings towards each other when the band split up, and we never really talked about getting back together; it sort of all just happened. Maybe the illness made it happen, but here we are now and we’re not really thinking about it, we’re just doing what we love to do and we all feel kind of blessed to be able to finish something that we started together.
The Raffo Review: Is it still exciting after all these years to release new material?
Chuck: Yeah, for sure! Especially over the last couple of years, because I was sick and we hadn’t put out a record since ’99 or something, until we did “The Formation Of Damnation” in 2008. Now we have the guys back together, we’re feeling good and we’re not going to take huge gaps between records anymore. We’re going to probably work hard and tour for two years or so and try to put out another record when we can. We’re all definitely excited, though, because as everybody probably notices, TESTAMENT never really does the same record twice. It’s exciting for us as well, because who knows what we’re going to come up with? It’s like an open book where we can just take a look at where we are with our lives and just see what comes up.
The Raffo Review: Close to 30 years later, TESTAMENT doesn’t look to be slowing down. What do you think the secret to the bands longevity has been?
Chuck: Well, for us it’s a different situation I guess. We’ve had so many different drummers, guitarists and bass players. [laughs] We really did get to a point where we were just tired of having to teach new members the songs. It was really getting tiring. But I don’t know; our situation is different. We’ve been back together since 2005, so it’s only been seven years, but goddamn, those seven years went by pretty fast. I’ve been trippin’ on it! I think the most important thing is that you’ve all gotta be friends and just enjoy what you’re doing.
Read the entire interview from The Raffo Review.