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Testament Interview

A Conversation With Vocalist Chuck Billy

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Testament

Testament

Nuclear Blast Records
Updated March 03, 2010
Testament has overcome a lot of obstacles in their long career, and are still going strong. Their 2008 CD The Formation Of Damnation got great response, and they are releasing a special tour edition that coincides with a couple of major supporting slots. They are touring now with Megadeth and Exodus, and later this summer will be a part of the American Carnage tour with Slayer and Megadeth. I caught up with Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, and we chatted about the tours, the status of the next studio CD, his other project Dublin Death Patrol and a few other topics.

Chad Bowar: How come you decided to put together a special tour edition of your Formation Of Damnation CD?
Chuck Billy: It was something we spoke about doing early on, when we were touring last year. It wasn't pulled together in time. Then when the American Carnage tour came up with Slayer and Megadeth, the record label decided it was time to put this out. It has some cool stuff on there, like when we performed live at Alcatraz in the mess hall at night. It was a pretty cool vibe.

How did the response to Formation Of Damnation compare to your expectations going in?
It was what we hoped for. We are very proud of the record. We've done almost 200 shows since the release of the record, so we've been out there trying to promote it everywhere.

What's the status of your next studio CD?
We've been working on it since October. We weren't really planning to tour this year. We passed on a summer tour, but then American Carnage came up and we took it. We decided to do the tour, then come home and finish the record. We had hoped to get the record out by the end of the year.

You're heading out on a tour with Megadeth and Exodus, then with Megadeth and Slayer later this summer. It's nice to see three classic bands together instead of having some unknown young bands as opening acts.
It's killer. Last year we toured with Megadeth and Judas Priest. We talked about a Testament/Megadeth/Exodus tour, and it's good to see a guy like Dave Mustaine stepping up and not having the record company telling him to put a band on the tour who will buy in for a certain amount of money. Then it's not as special of an event. We are three bands in a genre who are still putting music out today and kicking butt. It's great he went through with it.

Dave Ellefson just rejoined Megadeth after being out of the band for several years. You guys have had that same thing happen with an old member coming back. What's that dynamic like when they a member returns after a long absence?
For us it was amazing. At the first rehearsal together, we knew the material wasn't the tightest, but the second day it was like we never left. It was locked in. There's something to having the guys who wrote the songs perform them. We've been fortunate to have a lot of great musicians in the band, but it's not the same as the original members playing it.

On the Megadeth tour you'll be playing The Legacy in its entirety. How was it going back and relearning the older material?
It was good. We did The Legacy and The New Order in Holland, London and Japan last year. Those shows went over really well and we had a lot of fun. So when they talked about us doing The Legacy, we thought it would be killer. We did it before and had a great time. When we started rehearsing for these shows, we stepped right back into it again. We're definitely up to par on the old stuff. We're excited about it.

For the Megadeth tour you're offering VIP packages to fans where they can meet you, get some merchandise and a few other perks. Have you done this before?
It was new to us last year. We were approached, and I didn't really know what to think about it. The fan response and appreciation from it has been cool. The fans wanted it, and they got it.

Is there anywhere you haven't toured or played live that you'd still like to get to?
There was talk about getting to India. That would be pretty interesting. We've been everywhere else. The last couple of years we got new agents and management and told them to send us everywhere we've never been. That was the goal, and we've covered a lot of spots that we hadn't been.

Now that you're older, do you make more of an effort to see some of the sights when you're playing in different countries?
That's all I do now. Since 2001 and the cancer, I've been back touring and have been taking my family and friends. I have a lot of friends that I've known since high school and before that. A lot of them have never been to Europe. It's a great chance to show my friends what I've gotten to experience and take for granted over 20 years. You see it all over again through different eyes, as a tourist. We go out during the day and do our thing, then I go back and do the show. It's flipped around. It used to be party, tour bus, good times, party, and I missed a lot. Now it isn't about that. You might party a little after the show, but not like 20 years ago.

Will there be another Dublin Death Patrol CD?
There's almost a whole record of material written now. We're just trying to schedule it. Testament will be focused on getting our record done, and I'll also be trying to get Dublin Death Patrol done as well. Now even more of our friends from Dublin are coming out of the woodwork and are ready to play. It's growing. It's going to be interesting.

More than 25 years later, so many Bay Area thrash bands are still together and making music, which says a lot about that scene.
It's pretty incredible. Speaking for myself, it's not about the business. It's about making music, having a good time, enjoying that I'm still getting the opportunity to do it. It's a good time for Testament and for me.

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