TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy was interviewed on the February 12-14 edition of Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show. A few excerpts follow.
Full Metal Jackie: Chuck, you’ve sustained a long respected career with TESTAMENT. Which do you feel is your greater responsibility to share with young new bands — musical experience or business knowledge?
Chuck: “Well, I mean, it’s a little bit of both these days. You know, the record deals aren’t what they were in the ’80s. But I always tell new bands [when they ask me], ‘What advice can you give me?’ It’s always trying to, especially these days, with the Internet and where to get your music out there, is to try to retain the ownership of your music, keep control of your music. There’s a lot of people that are looking to get signed just to get signed, but then they regret it, because songs are gone, they don’t get paid and then it ends up turning out to be a bad deal. So, sometimes it doesn’t work out.”
Full Metal Jackie: What does the exhilaration of stepping up to a mic and letting loose that energy feel like when you’re in the studio?
Chuck: “The studio is so unforgiving, because you hear everything so perfectly. [Laughs] It gets a little monotonous, but I’m more comfortable, especially after doing so many recordings now, that I look forward to it, because, for me, singing it live, it’s definitely a much more powerful vibe and everything; the vocals are much more intense and the songs on the records come across different. So, in the studio, for me, ’cause I get a chance to fuse three different kind of vocal tones. Like the last record, doing that ballad, there’s a voice I did on that that I haven’t used in a while either. So, by getting into the studio, I wouldn’t have did that if I just wrote the song live and started playing it live. Until I got in the studio and did that, that’s when I really found, like, ‘Woah, this is actually doing something different.'”
Full Metal Jackie: The new album is the eleventh TESTAMENT studio album. With so much experience making albums, what keeps you open minded to learn new things about the process of making music?
Chuck: “I’ve been actually fortunate, because Eric [Peterson, TESTAMENT guitarist] has always been the kind of writer where he doesn’t listen to a lot of other stuff; he’s really into his own thing. And I don’t ever… Well, I do know that whenever I’m gonna get a new song from him, don’t expect just the last record or what we’re writing. So he’s always kept me on my toes and he’s kept the band sounding fresh, because we’re not playing the same record you just bought and heard; you know, it’s got a different flavor to it. So I’ve been fortunate to be able to do that with Eric and having… doing it so long, that we can still have fun and enjoy it when it comes time to do that process.”
Full Metal Jackie: Chuck, what might surprise people about how your personal taste of music has changed since you were younger?
Chuck: “My personal taste… Well, I think… I don’t know if it’s changed, ’cause I still listen to the bands that I listened to growing up, wanting to be a guitar player when I was younger, and listening to bands like UFO; Michael Schenker was my hero. And early SCORPIONS, Uli Roth… I still revert back to that stuff, because, for me, that just takes me back to the good ol’ days when I was still living at mom’s house and had no bills and no worries. [Laughs]”
Full Metal Jackie: TESTAMENT are going to be touring with SLAYER and CARCASS this year. What goes into preparing to go on the road musically, logistically and personally?
Chuck: “I’m sure, as you know, there’s a lot — coordinating just everything, from all personnel to the bussing to the hotels to where the driver stays; there’s a lot that goes into it. But, you know, I think after years of doing it, you have your routine. You have certain companies you work with. And it gets a little easier. But there’s a lot going into it, especially preparing, musically, for a tour like this. We only have eight songs, forty-minute show, so it gets very difficult to prepare and decide, what are we gonna play? So we’re still in that phase right now, but I think we’re probably gonna definitely come out with some stuff that’s, like, current, and then go back classic — early classic.”
Full Metal Jackie: I’m excited about this tour and for what’s to come with TESTAMENT. Can you give us some sort of timeline on the new album?
Chuck: “Well, we’re into it right now. Eric and Gene [Hoglan, TESTAMENT drummer] just tracked a single this last weekend and we’re working on getting a single out for the tour first, just to get everybody a taste of what’s going on. As soon as that SLAYER run is done, we go right into the studio until June to get the record finished. So by the time we hit Europe, we should have a record mixed and sitting ready to go — hopefully get it out by, you know, June or July.”