Interview with Chuck Billy of Testament
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Even though Testament was not included in the “Big Four,” many have said that Testament are not only as good, but even better than the bands that made up that elite title. You can tell that Testament is at the forefront of the subgenre even more so today,when plenty of modern thrash bands will emulate older Testament riffs.
Chuck Billy has been with Testament from the very beginning with their debut album “The Legacy.” Spanning over twenty years, with nine studio albums, Chuck Billy has forever engraved his name as a top dog vocalist in the thrash hall of fame. Having the capacity to mix harsh vocals reminiscent of old school death metal to a more cleaner style of thrash, Chuck Billy definitely is one of the best vocalists in thrash metal.
Daniel Becker: Did you recently watch the “Big Four” reunion? What are your reactions to that? What is the deal with Testament not being apart of this? Is there any particular reason why there could not be a “Big 5?”
Chuck Billy: I don’t know. There can be a “Big 4”, five, six, seven. The “Big 4” were deserving because they are definitely the biggest of our era, and sold the most records. As far as bands being around, we're still here playing.
Becker: What has been the most memorable gig for you personally? Any good stories you can share with us? Also, has there any been any gigs that went horribly wrong?
Billy: Well, you always have that little bit of everything. There is definitely some great memorable stuff. There are definitely some gigs that stood out in our early career. I remember the Monsters of Rock Tour back in ’88. We were backstage in our dressing room and all fired up. Kiss was playing and a lot of other great bands. We were in our dressing room and David Lee Roth was across from ours. We were hanging out with him, bullshitting with him. To us that was a big deal. We were like wow, we’re hanging out with David Lee Roth. That was something back then in 1988, with Kiss and other great bands that we will always remember.
Becker: Throughout the years, do you think the instability (constant band-changes) has adversely affected Testament?
Billy: Not really. I don’t think it has affected us at all.
Becker: Testament is in the middle of recording their tenth studio album. Do you want to share anything with us on how the recording process is coming along? How does the sound differ from the nine albums spanned discography?
Billy: Well, we are writing it, not recording it. We are going to record when we finish the Carnage tour. We’re still working on the album on the tour, and we will go into the studio once we get home.
Becker: So do you guys like coming up with new riffs and lyrical ideas on the road, and then string it together once you get back in the studio?
Billy: Yeah, Eric has a little Protool set with him on the road. Yeah, so we recorded all the guitars and drums.
Becker: What inspired you to incorporate death metal (grunts) into the well-established thrash metal sound?
Billy: Well, I did it on the “Low” record on “Dog faced God.” This got a positive reaction on the Internet; some older fans did not want it though. The next album Gene Hoglan played drums, so some of the drumming was really brutal. The death sound seemed to fit better with that record. That however, was for that time. That is where we were for those songs. You can see after that record it kind of changed again. We started going back to a little more melody and singing.
Becker: As a musician who was previously diagnosed with cancer, how has the remission process been?
Billy: It’s been good. Of course you got your check-ups yearly. You know, life is good though.
Becker: How does it feel to be one of the most recognized and distinguished vocalist of thrash metal?
Billy: (laughs). I don’t know. I guess you can say that I’m proud. For me, I think my voice has become better as the years went by. I think the more you practice something, and use it, the more you learn to fine-tune it. I got better control with my voice and everything now than I ever did when I was younger. So maybe that is it. Over the years the development as a vocalist, I’m comfortable more than ever. Like “The Gathering” and the new record is where I want to stay.
Becker: On the Megadeth Rust in Peace tour, what made Testament choose The Legacy to play in full out of any other album?
Billy: We decided that if we were going to do a record, we wanted to go back to the very first one. We had a forty-minute show time, and that record happened to be something like thirty-nine minutes. So it was the perfect record to perform in its entirety.
Becker: Are you surprised by the huge resurface of thrash metal? I don’t think it has been this big since the late 80’s. What do you think is the cause for this resurgence of this wonderful genre?
Billy: I’m not surprised. Everything comes around. Different sounds have a tendency to repeat themselves as time goes on.
Becker: You have an extensive catalog of incredible thrashy albums. Many of the fans I talk to cannot even agree unanimously on a favorite. Is there any particular album/albums that you are especially fond of?
Billy: I like the new one: “The Formation of Damnation.” Going back to the vocals, I just found a real comfortable and happy spot with that. So to me, it is more appealing to listen to myself. Everyone says, you cannot listen to yourself because you would eventually hate yourself. That record, I don’t hate myself as much (laughs).
Becker: How was joining Devin Townsend on stage and singing to Planet smasher? Any plans to release that show on DVD?
Billy: It was cool. It was something he asked me to do last minute. I went there, and learned it the night before and did it the next day.
Becker: Is there going to be any plans to release that show on DVD?
Billy: Oh, no. I don’t think there are any plans to do that.
Becker: Anthrax recently announced they are joining the later leg of the Carnage Tour. Any particular reason Testament will not be apart of that leg?
Billy: We need to finish our record. We need to get a record done. I don’t think they had any plans for a four-band bill too. You know we really want to get this record done. We’ve been wanting to get this done since the beginning of the year. The Carnage Tour has been holding us up, so it is time to move on. Basically, we want to get our record done because it sets up the next year or two for us.
Becker: Do you have a working title for your new record?
Billy: Not yet.
Becker: Any other news you would like to share with us?
Billy: that’s about it. We are just really looking forward to getting this new record done. For the carnage tour, we have a good set playing and we’re coming out full-force like Megadeth and Slayer. So, I think it is going to be a really good tour.
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