Testament Guitarist Alex Skolnick Talks About Upcoming Album
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Peter Atkinson of KNAC.COM recently conducted an interview with TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow:
KNAC.COM: What's been your impression of Nick [Barker, new TESTAMENT drummer] so far?
Skolnick: So far it's been great. I wasn't that familiar with him before, but a lot of drummers I know are familiar with him. He sounds great. He's a really good guy to work with. He seems like this big, intimidating, hardcore metal drummer, but he's actually a sweetheart to work with and honored and blown away that he's working with TESTAMENT.
KNAC.COM: When I spoke with Chuck [Billy, vocals] earlier, he mentioned that you had worked on some new material with them during the rehearsals.
Skolnick: It was mostly the old stuff, because he [Nick] was about to do his first gig with us, ever. But we did look at some new ideas. And I brought in an idea of mine that is a little more complicated than things we did in the past as far as timing and stuff, but he did a great job on it and I'm really excited to see where it goes. But what's cool is he can keep a solid groove, which that was a concern of mine because I'd heard the DIMMU BORGIR stuff and I thought it was amazing, but I wasn't sure that he could keep a solid groove. There's some musicians, not just drummers but guitar players too, that can play all over the place but have trouble playing simple and he can play simple. He's great, he's one of these guys who can do both, and that's important. There's gonna be parts where you want him to go off and use all his resources, but there's other parts where you just want it to be solid and establish a groove, and because he can do that I think that's going to be a big plus for the band.
KNAC.COM: How will you approach the writing of the remainder of the album, will you work it all out as a group or just bring all your various parts together and try to make them fit?
Skolnick: I think we're going to get together and put the parts together. I've always come up with parts on my own, and I also like add to other people's parts. But it's hard for me to be in a room full of people and be creative on the spot. That's a step in the process the makes more sense once there are ideas to work with. We're still at the point where we're creating a lot of ideas in our separate camps. We have put some of them together and it's starting to sound good. But the camps will come together as the project gets closer. And in the meantime we'll be spending a lot of time together on the road, so we'll be able to look at some new material there as well.
KNAC.COM: Given how much metal has changed since you were with the band, and how the band's sound evolved after you left, and Eric's [Peterson] black metal dabblings with DRAGONLORD and whatnot, are you excited about the prospect of bringing all the pieces together, or could it be a recipe for disaster?
Skolnick: (Laughs) It's going to be a very different record because of all that. But I'm more excited about it than nervous. I know we can't try to re-create the past, I don't want to. We need to make an album that sounds like today. And I don't think it should be that hard to do because we are living today. It's not 1989, and I'm much more excited about what we can come up with now. I think the best thing to do is have fun with it and see where it goes.
KNAC.COM: Since much of what you've been doing is so radically different from TESTAMENT, has it been difficult to get back in TESTAMENT writing mode, or is that something that never left your system?
Skolnick: I don't think it really left my system. I was actually sort of surprised. A lot of ideas come about and it's a very similar process to the way I did it the first time around. But at the same time, I find I do have to separate myself from some of the other music I do because it is such different frames mind, not just musically, but physically. The way I touch the instrument is different if I'm playing TESTAMENT music than if I'm playing with my trio. With my trio I have more of a modern jazz approach, it's a lighter touch, it's much more sensitive, it's a quieter volume and it's a very different tone, it's much more acoustically toned. With TESTAMENT, there's a sense of dynamics, but the dynamics come more from a volume that's already cranked and it has to do more with how you strike the chords, the balance between open rhythms and closed rhythms and different types of grooves using a metal tone. But it's fun to compare the differences and similarities.
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