Testament’s Chuck Billy Talks Touring, Upcoming Album, Thrash Scene + Management Company
Testament frontman Chuck Billy is a busy man these days. Between touring, balancing work on the band's next studio album and scouting talent for his Breaking Bands LLC management company, the singer has his hands full. But he did take some time to speak with Full Metal Jackie on her weekend radio show. Check out the chat below.
The last two albums are arguably the best Testament has ever done. What makes the new one capable of being even better?
I think Eric [Peterson] is always, he's been the main songwriter. He really doesn't follow a lot of bands. He's into his Black Death Metal stuff, so he puts a little bit of that into Testament. But he seems to create something different for every record that we do. That's what keeps our records sounding kind of modern and fresh, because he just does his thing. He just keeps getting better and better. I think with this one, we consciously thought, what record stood out to us? Which was like The Gathering, which I think was a turning point for the band musically where we grew. So that thrashier style, that's what we want to come back with that Gathering vibe. We're about six tracks into the demos right now, we still have a long way to go. The other guys haven't heard a lot of it because me and Eric have been doing a lot of the demos. Now that we're all together, we'll start going over the music and try to write on the road a little bit. We'll see.
Chuck is part of a new management company that was started and you guys signed Shattered Sun who are playing the Mayhem Festival this summer. Great band to see live. Now that you're part of a management company, are you actively looking for new talent?
Yeah, and we're approached by a lot of people. I think right now where we're at, it's been about a year and we have about six bands or so. I think we're good right now, [laughs]. We always keep our eyes open, though. You never know. For me, especially it's a lot of work. A lot of stuff you have to juggle with different acts and artists, and individual personalities. That's a whole other thing, [laughs]. Being in a band and knowing where people are coming from in that sense, I've been in that headspace. I have a little edge there to deal with that.
It's a wonder that you're on the other side of it. Are you ever like, man, maybe I was a pain in the ass at one point?
I was probably always a pain in the ass, I think. [laughs] To myself now! I answer to me.
You've been revisiting the early albums on tour. How are those classic tunes beginning to evolve and change onstage?
Big time. When we started the tour we started to pull off the records exactly the way we recorded them. It didn't feel right. Let's juggle them and mix them up a little bit, and that's what we've done and that's what's comfortable. Some of those songs we haven't really played in a long time. Some of those songs, "Over the Wall," "In the Pit." Those are classic songs that we always play. But songs like "Day of Reckoning," "Curse of the Legion of Death (C.O.T.L.O.D.)," "First Strike Still Deadly" -- those are some of my all time favorites. I'm enjoying it because we don't put those in our show and now that we've really honed in the timing and are tight on the songs, now we see the ones we didn't think we're going to be the fun ones are the best ones we enjoy playing. "Day of Reckoning" is probably one of the underdog songs we didn't think would be what it feels to us now. But it feels really good! We're having a lot of fun with it.
We just wanted to do something different on this tour. We've been touring for two or three years, four years on two records doing the same kind of show. We wanted to do something different before we get in and do the new record. We're having fun.
You were talking earlier about how you guys are having a good time out there and I got a chance to see the Testament / Exodus tour. What a great lineup! It really did look like you guys were having fun. Testament, Exodus, Zetro.
There's a lot of history and incest between bands, Zet singing for Testament for me and the drummers - we've had Bostaph. We've had everyone who's ever played for Exodus. We've had Jack fill in on bass for us last year. We shuffle around, it's very cool. We definitely get along there are no issues on the road. Everyone is having fun, it's been really smooth. No problems.
Looking back into the early days when all of you guys were coming up together, did you ever think in a million years that this many years later that Testament and Exodus, Slayer and Metallica were all going to be still doing it and still playing with a resurgence? Younger kids just discovering bands? Did you ever think it would be where it's at now?
I didn't think it would. When we started, that style, the thrash movement was such a new thing but we didn't know how big it was going to get. Of course yeah, Metallica took it to the masses worldwide and benefitted all the other metal bands growing. You didn't think you'd have a festival like this. Back then you thought it was the Top 40 bands on something, but no I didn't think so. But after experiencing it in Europe, it's nice to see it carry over, how they think and have festivals every weekend. The opportunity is ... we don't have it like that, you pick certain places to do that. But that's cool, it's a start.
Thanks to Chuck Billy for the interview. Check out Testament's remaining tour dates for the year here. And to learn more about Chuck's Breaking Bands LLC management company, click here. Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.
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