Jonathan Horsley of Decibel magazine recently conducted an interview with vocalist Chuck Billy of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Decibel: How far along is [the new TESTAMENT album] “The Dark Roots Of Earth”?
Chuck: Well, we just finished all of the recording the day before we left before this tour. We turned everything in and they’ve started mixing it now. Right now it’s just the beginning of the mix process.
Decibel: Andy Sneap is producing it; did you go to England to track it?
Chuck: We did it at our place in Oakland and at Trident Studios and Andy came out and did all the recordings with us — as much as he could — and then we finished off some vocals and guitars at Trident studios. I think over the years Andy really knows the sound of this band, and kinda knows what we want. We’ve mixed stuff with Andy, so I think he knows without has having to be there physically with him what we are looking for. And I just haven’t heard anybody in metal come out with any better mixes! Honesty!
Decibel: What can you tell us about some of the songs on the album?
Chuck: Well, there’s a song called “Native Blood”, which is basically a song about my Native heritage. It’s almost like a protest song, that the Native Americans have a voice that needs to be heard — that’s the chorus of the song. There’s another called “True American Hate”, which was kinds inspired by when we sent all our troops overseas there, and we were just seeing in the news when all that was going on a lot of young kids, under 10 years old, out there with their families burning American flags. And that was a pretty shocking thing to see, to see that generation, a kid that young being taught to hate that much. It makes you think what’s going to happen, 10 to 15 years from now when the majority of these kids have just been raised to hate? It struck me as a little odd. There’s a song called “Cold Embrace”, which we kinda hoped we’d be able to pitch the song into one of the “Twilight” series movies; it’s a song about a girl becoming a vampire and never being able to see the sun again. “The Dark Roots Of Earth” is kind of a play on the band we have together, just like a metaphor, like TESTAMENT is a tree and all of us in this group are really embedded in the planet, in the earth, the environment and our surroundings. It was kind of a play on that. “Rise Up For War” is more of a war song, like your preparing yourself for war, going into battle. There is a lot of cool stuff there.
Decibel: “Native Blood” must be a very personal song for you. What message are you sending out with “Native Blood”, what sort of issues need addressing for the Native American community?
Chuck: It is much different now compared to 10, 15 years ago, like on our reservation it was a pretty bad place 15 years ago. There was no help from the government, the schools were run down, no transportation, the housing was bad, broken down cars piled everywhere…. It was bad until we put a casino on our reservation and the money generated put people in work, brought back the schools, the culture, the language and the transportation to get the kids to school. But it’s just a bit of a sad thing that once you start helping yourself, the next thing you know the government’s got their hand out wanting their share for something you’ve done yourself and helping your own. It’s a sad thing; you ask for help and you don’t get it, as soon as there’s money involved the hands are out wanting a part of it. To me it was just about having a voice, for the Native Americans to have a voice that could be heard.
Read the entire interview from Decibel magazine.