Mark Holmes of Metal Discovery conducted an interview with guitarist Alex Skolnick of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT at this year’s edition of the Bloodstock Open Air festival, which was held August 9-12 at Catton Park, Derbyshire in the United Kingdom. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Discovery: So “Dark Roots Of Earth” has just been released and the general consensus in the media seems to be that it’s a mix of the old with the new. Was that a conscious decision during the songwriting process to blend the older TESTAMENT sound with a more modern dynamic?
Alex: Not at all; I think you can never plan too much. You just have to let it happen and, ultimately, we have to be happy with the result. And, hopefully, if we’re happy with it, then others will be as well.
Metal Discovery: It’s made number twelve in the Billboard Top 200, I heard, in the States a couple of days ago…
Alex: That’s pretty exciting.
Metal Discovery: Yeah, and it’s sold almost double what “The Formation Of Damnation” did in its opening week. Does that surprise you seeing as record sales are supposed to be declining?
Alex: Yeah, but I figured it’s a statement. I think our fans are rallying and making a statement. It’s really good because we’re a band that’s had a lot of different chapters because we didn’t have this vision where… we didn’t know all the right moves to make. Some other bands are really good at strategizing; we’ve never been one of those bands.
Metal Discovery: So it’s even cooler that you’ve sold that many just by carrying on doing what you’re doing.
Alex: Yeah, and sure, mistakes have been made, but we’ve reached the point now where we’re really doing it for the music and for the fans. There just seems to be a feeling among a lot of the fans that what we’re doing is worthwhile and, in some ways, it’s even better than before. I think so. Personally, well, I was away from the band for about half the time, but what was I doing? I was becoming the best musician I could be and getting all this experience doing other styles of music at all levels from jazz clubs to arenas. Then, when I came back to the band, I really had a lot to offer so I’m proud that… I never want to be one of those people where… “Oh, I wish I’d seen him early; I wish I’d seen him back in the day.” No, actually, it’s much better now! I play better; the equipment is better; the sound is better. And the rest of the band sound better too.
Metal Discovery: Yeah, that’s cool. You had Andy Sneap producing the new album whereas he only mixed and mastered the last two so why did you get Andy as full-on producer this time? Did you want the Andy Sneap kind of sound?
Alex: We talked to a couple of different guys, including Andy. Andy was the first but we wanted to see what everybody else had to offer. He just seemed really on board with what we were going for. We thought we’d give it a try and it just flowed. And for mixing, we had a couple of other people try mixing songs just to hear some alternate mixes, but Andy‘s just sounded the best.
Metal Discovery: Because “Formation” was billed in the press as a “comeback” record and it was so successful as well, did that add any pressure in getting it right with this one or was the pressure off because you’d already proved yourselves with a “comeback” album?
Alex: I think we proved that we’re able to do a good album. Also, we had a lot of live experience. We had much more live experience behind us immediately before this album than the previous one. And I think when people say it’s a mix of the old and the new, we came up with a lot of this stuff while touring and shortly after coming off of the tour so this feeling of performing the old stuff was there and, no doubt, that affected the music. But, I think, that is the difference from the last album — there was just a lot more touring. When we did the last album we were mostly doing a show here and there; a week here, a weekend there. Then we started doing more of longer tours. This one we’re coming off of was a long tour with ANTHRAX; we’ve had this tour with SLAYER and MEGADETH at the end of 2010. All of that, I guess, I think, has to affect the album.
Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery.