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Interview with Eric Peterson of Testament

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Band Photo: Testament (?)

Testament has been working hard for almost thirty years. With the release of their latest album "The Formation of Damnation," a new found glory followed. The band is currently on tour with four original members and one who has been around long enough to be called original. I caught up with guitarist Eric Peterson on their stop in New Orleans where we talked about their trials, tribulations, and excitations.

Buick Mckane: Welcome to New Orleans. You released your 9th studio album last year “The Formation of Damnation,” and its very popular. Hugely successful. It ended up on the Billboard chart. Do you think that’s because there’s so many original members right now?

Eric Peterson: I think that’s a big part of it. It’s a culmination of a lot of stuff. We’ve been working really hard on it. When Greg, Alex, and Louie left, Chuck and I took the band in a heavier direction. When Alex and Greg were in the band, we were on the album called “The Ritual,” which was still Testament, but with a more commercial sound. There was no more double bass, there was no more thrash. There was no death-stuff. I took the reins at that point. I said, ”You know what? Everyone says we’re done. This is our last record on Atlantic. I don’t care. I’m going to do what I want to do.” One of the tracks on that record was “Dog Faced Gods,” and that was leaning in towards death metal. Chuck always had this [roar]-type voice, but he never used it. In the set, he always had this regular singing voice and at the end of the line he would go [roar]. So I told him,” I wrote these lyrics and you have to sing it like [roar.] At first he did it, and we were like “Whoa.” He had a really unique sound. And from there we took this band into a heavier direction. We did “Low,” we did “Demonic.” We toured from August to December non-stop. And it was a hard time because it was throughout the Grunge era. We were playing smaller clubs again. But we built our popularity through the underground again. There were all the people that didn’t like us anymore, but we were getting new fans. All the fans from the first two records were interested. And then “The Gathering came out with James Murphy, Dave Lombardo on drums. There were very different people in the band, but they brought new life. Especially Dave Lombardo. I’m a big Slayer fan, so getting someone who did the “Reign in Blood” record. I’m thinking in my head,” I have the Dave Lombardo drum machine. I can have him do whatever I want. Well, not anything. But he’s playing on my record, probably for one record only. He’s a hired gun, so I’m going to get him to play my favorite beats he’s done . And that record came out amazing. That’s still my favorite record. And a lot of Testament fans really like “The Gathering.” It’s a very special record. We called it “The Gathering” because it was a gathering of all these different musicians. Steve DiGiorgio is more like a Journey bass man. Dave Lombardo, of course, and James Murphy from Death and Obituary, and myself and Chuck. I think with that record we started really getting ourselves back on the map. And getting popular again. But it took ten years to put out this new record “The Formation of Damnation.” We had so many hurdles. But, going back to your first question, it’s a combination of everything; Chuck’s illness, broke my leg, the studio got robbed and then getting those guys back. They came out to see us play in New Jersey, and it was a sold-out show. They got on stage and jammed with us. The crowd went nuts, they kept chanting “Skolnick, Skolnick.” He said,” I’ve been playing jazz, and I love what I’m doing, but I really miss this. Jazz fans don’t do that.” That was the planting of the seed I think. We ended up doing a reunion tour in Europe for ten shows, and it just took off from there.

Buick: Do you feel that the lineup is strong now since you’ve been through so much?

Eric: Yeah, of all the lineups, this is the strongest one. It’s the original guys. Paul is not original, but he’s O.G. in a way because he started off at the same club, he played the same type of music; he was in a band called Forbidden. Back then, there was no rivalry of bands, everyone was like a big family. Rather than him being from England or Germany or being ten years older or younger, he was right in there with us. So in a way he’s very O.G.

Buick: And yall have been around for so long; 26 years. That’s older than many of your fans. It seems like yall hate not touring or doing shows. You’ve been on the road for so long.

Eric: That’s just lately. We used to be more like Weekend Warriors. We just told ourselves we’re not going to take it that seriously. We’ve been trying so hard, we’ve had our ups and downs. We got really close to going to that next level, then not going there. One of the reasons we didn’t go there is because of the whole grunge scene. That was such a weird phenomenon. All of the sudden, heavy metal is not cool anymore, like overnight. It was really weird. But what it did was weed out the weak. The stronger bands could defend themselves. You either jumped on the bandwagon or you got heavier, and we got heavier. But just lately we’ve been touring a lot. It gets really hard, especially having families. You’re out there for an hour and a half. The rest of the time you’re away from home. I trip out sometimes and wish I could be home. But, overall, it’s great.

Buick: You’re heading to Europe soon for all of the festivals. Are they a lot of fun?

Eric: Festivals are great fun. They’re very well organized. There’s a lot of great bands, a lot of people, a lot of sunburned drunk people. That’s the only time I drink beer, when I’m in Germany.

Buick: I really like what you did on this tour with getting close to your fans. You have meet-and-greet packages, sound check access and fans can vote for which setlist they want.

Eric: Yeah, I think that’s really cool. Set C has been the dominant set. We haven’t really had to switch our set up. It got close a couple times where “The New Order” almost won. We pretty much play the first two records and a lot of the new stuff like “The Gathering” and “The Formation of Damnation.” And then we do a lot of title tracks. But the first two and the last two are the ones we play a lot. It just goes over great.

Buick: You went on tour with Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell and Motorhead. What was that like being with such famous bands?

Eric: Metal Masters? That was a lot of fun. What a bill to be on! For us, we were very overwhelmed. It was Judas Priest, who’s one of my favorite bands, Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath, another one of my favorite bands; Motorhead wasn’t my favorite band, but the records I did have of theirs I listened to a lot. I still respect the hell out of them. They were a big influence on me, just for the whole punk attitude and the fastness. Lemmy is awesome and Phil is amazing. When they asked us to do it, I said,” Holy shit.” There are so many bands out there. I think it was a good pick though. There are some bands that are new and popular, but they’re not masters of metal. We’ve been doing this for a long time. Am I a master of metal? No. But I think I’m a pretty big part of the blue print now.

Buick: I think it’s testament to you credibility that they asked you to be on the tour. I think you are a master of metal because you’ve been doing this for almost thirty years, you’re fan base has grown and you’re still touring.

Eric: There are a lot of people who are coming to the shows that have never seen us before, and they say that they’ve heard of us but never bought our records. I think a tour like that helped us. It wasn’t a bug profit tour for us, it wasn’t our show. We went on at 5 o’clock, it was half-full when we went on. By the time we were done, it was packed. But what was really cool on that tour was when we got to California, which was the last four shows, it was packed when we got on. So, I think the word got around. Towards the end of the tour, the audience kept getting bigger and bigger.

Buick: Is there anything you would like to say?

Eric: I’ve got a signature guitar out now. Go to deanguitars.com. What’s cool about it is that it’s an old-school model. I didn’t try to put out this new model or anything. It’s the old-school flying V with triple binding. It’s got EMG pickups, pearl block inlays. It’s black, and it has our old skull logo. It plays great. It’s a great price. If you like Flying V’s, check it out.

Buick: Which guitar do you usually play?

Eric: That one. I have a lot of guitars. I really like Les Pauls. The way the neck feels on it is amazing. My guitar’s neck is shaved down and has more of a v-shape. It’s easier to hold. It’s killer. Life is hard. Testament is harder.

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Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.

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1. SADIMZ writes:

Viva Testament!!!!!!!!!!

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