TESTAMENT Guitarist Says He ‘Was Expecting To Be Publicly Flogged’ By Jazz Community

Dave Reffett of GuitarWorld.com recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT/ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO guitarist Alex Skolnick. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

GuitarWorld.com: Who were your musical heroes growing up, and what has it been like to meet and/or play with several of them?

Alex: It started with KISS, and later Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen. I was a little disappointed when I finally got to meet KISS because I had gotten into them during the “Alive” period. When I finally met them, they had songs like “Crazy Nights”, stuff I wasn’t really crazy about. I also was a fan of groups like JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN, and getting to meet those guys was incredible. And, of course, there’s BLACK SABBATH; being on a first-name basis with Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi was just great. Every time I’ve been on a bill with them, they say, “Hello, Alex.” I never got to meet Randy Rhoads, but I did play one show with Ozzy when he was looking for guitar players in the ’90s, so that was exciting.

GuitarWorld.com: Exactly how did that come about?

Alex: It was really cool. It was one of these periods where Ozzy and Zakk Wylde had temporarily parted ways. He tried out a few different people, and I think I was the only one who made it as far as doing an unannounced show with him in England, and he told me I was hired. But I later found out from Sharon Osbourne that they had also been looking at another guy, Joe Holmes, who ended up doing the tour. Then they brought Zakk back. It was a very confusing time, but it actually worked out great because I got to do the show and I was just starting to study jazz seriously, so it definitely would’ve gotten in the way. I can’t imagine not getting into jazz the way I did, so actually it worked out really well.

GuitarWorld.com: How have you been accepted by the jazz community?

Alex: Much better than I expected, actually (laughs). I was expecting to be publicly flogged. Most of the people I came in contact with were actually flattered because, you know, where I was receiving so much attention and I could just coast comfortably as part of this one genre, I did something very challenging and learned some of the most challenging music there is. It’s like speaking another language, and people who spoke that language respected the fact that I respected their language. I didn’t think I could just come in and do it instantly; that’s why I went to school. It took so long before I did my first jazz record, and then when I did, I thought I would have to do several before I got any sort of mainstream jazz press. But publications like Downbeat and Jazziz magazine were covering me. That was the last thing I expected. I felt honored. I’m probably the only person who’s ever gone on tour supporting SLAYER who’s been in Downbeat.

Read the entire interview from GuitarWorld.com.