A conversation with: Chuck Billy (Testament)

20 Jul

Testament has been around for close to 30 years now. The band is legendary in the Thrash scene and are considered pioneers of the genre. Now Testament is releasing their 10th studio album and planning a world tour. I caught up with Chuck Billy to discuss the new album, touring and the history of Testament.

How is the energy in the band now that the album is close to being released?

Good! Writing a record is always a process that takes a lot out of you. You’re always so focussed and working so once you record it and it’s all mixed it’s like a huge weight off your shoulders and now it’s in everybody elses hands, haha. Right now we’re just looking forward to getting out on the road. We’ve been rehearsing and getting ready to leave in a couple of weeks. I think we’re doing about 4 new songs off the new record and I have to tell you man, they’re sounding really good. Usually when you rehearse new songs it takes a little while to get the groove going, but these new songs just felt really solid right out of the gate.

What can we expect from the new album?

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 theirs some thrash and power vocals as Testament would do, but I think this records 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 their 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.

Would you say the new record is a combination of old school Testament and modern Testament?

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 we’re we are as a band and friends, it’s definitely like the old school. When I got sick back in 2001 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.

Is it still exciting after all these years to release new material?

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 ‘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 2 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!

Do you think that the new album will be a reconnection with the fans?

I think the fans stayed with us, I think more so it’s a reconnection with ourselves in the band. We’re really confident and comfortable where we’re at with each other in our lives. I just hope that the fans will feel what we’re feeling and will understand where we’re at and embrace it all.

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?

Well, for us it’s a different situation I guess. We’ve had so many different drummers, guitarists and bass players, haha. 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 7 years but God damn those 7 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.

You guys have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music. Who has been your favorite to play with?

The one that stands out for me is in ’92 when we toured with Black Sabbath, when Ronnie James Dio was singing. It was a cold winter tour in Europe so we spent a lot of time backstage having beers after the show, chit chatting and just hanging out. It was a really special time, especially now that Ronnie isn’t with us so I really think of those times as special.

A day in the life of Testament?

Ummm, well we all do our own thing. We definitely start our day with a cup of coffee and try to get some exercise in. Alex likes to jog everyday and I do my P90x workout! It’s kind of different now because when I was younger I partied a lot and I missed the world. I slept all day because I was always hungover and now days I can bring my wife with me on tour and it’s almost like we’re tourists! We hit the city like tourists and see whats going on, have a nice lunch or dinner somewhere, get back to the show and perform for an hour, go to sleep and then wake up in another city! It’s almost like we’re experiencing the world as tourists but we have to play a show each night.

Has beating Cancer changed your music or your outlook on career/life?

I don’t know if it’s changed anything but I definitely absorb life more and observe things more. I think i also appreciate my friendships and family a lot more. When you’re just rolling through life in a band you kind of take it for granted. Like I said before, I’m just blessed to still be able to do what I love to do.

What kept you happy on tour 15 years ago and what keeps you happy on tour now?

Well, when you’re younger you can play 30 shows in a month and it was all just a big exciting party, haha! When you’re young it’s all about sex, drugs and Rock N’ Roll, that’s what I thought it was all about. Now when I look back at recordings of live shows I feel almost bad about it because I know that I was hungover and partying too hard. Now 25-30 years later I think we’re all performing better and I think the fans benefit from it because they get to see a better and more focused band performing those old songs. It’s about the fans now and it’s about the show. If we’re going to leave our homes and families, we’d better give it 110%!

What do you think the future holds for Testament and yourself?

Haha, no idea man. We’re just taking it a day at a time, that’s all we can really do. The music business is a tough business and I’m extremely fortunate to have made it this far.

Thanks Chuck for the interview. It’s been a pleasure.

Cool man! Me and my wife are actually planning new years in Melbourne this year. We have some friends there so we’re gonna go down there for new years! Hopefully I’ll see you in Australia sometime!



6 Responses to “A conversation with: Chuck Billy (Testament)”

  1. DON'T SHUT UP. NEPAL July 22, 2012 at 1:58 PM #



  1. TESTAMENT Frontman: 'We're Not Going To Take Huge Gaps Between Records Anymore' • Metal4ALL.com - July 22, 2012

    […] 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. […]

  2. TESTAMENT Frontman: ‘We’re Not Going To Take Huge Gaps Between Records Anymore’ « Metal Shock Finland (World Assault ) - July 22, 2012

    […] The Raffo Review recently conducted an interview with vocalist Chuck Billy of San Francisco Bay Area metallers […]

  3. Next Testament CD - Page 33 - Ultimate Metal Forum - July 22, 2012

    […] Black and they all sound really good. I wonder if SOB was just too far gone to do anything with. http://therafforeview.wordpress.com/…ent-interview/ __________________ […]

  4. Testament’s Chuck Billy Talks ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ Album + Cancer Perspective - July 22, 2012

    […] the new disc, ‘Dark Roots of Earth,’ the singer tells the Raffo Review, “I would say it’s got a little bit of everything we’ve done in our history, but […]

  5. Testament’s Chuck Billy Talks ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ Album + Cancer Perspective - July 23, 2012

    […] the new disc, ‘Dark Roots of Earth,’ the singer tells the Raffo Review, “I would say it’s got a little bit of everything we’ve done in our history, but I would say […]

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