"some music was meant to stay underground..."


Interview with Chuck Billy of Testament

Photo 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.

DeathCrush's avatar

Deathcrush (Daniel Becker) has been an advocate of metal since 2000, when he discovered gateway bands such as Disturbed and Slipknot. As a metal fan, he is a guitar "muggle" but can play metal songs on the Piano.

What's Next?

Please share this article if you found it interesting.

17 Comments on "Interview with Chuck Billy of Testament"

Post your comments and discuss the article below! (no login required)

Dying_Isis's avatar


1. Dying_Isis writes:

can't wait for the new Testament but it sounds like its about a year away :(

and as far as the Big Four goes, I still think that Testament and even Exodus were better than Anthrax. They should have had a Big Six

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 7:25 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
DeathCrush's avatar


2. DeathCrush writes:

I agree. Testament is way better than Anthrax. Exodus and Anthrax, that is debatable. I think Exodus at their prime were not better than Anthrax. Past Belladonna though, yes

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 9:55 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
3. BrianMN writes:

I guess I just don't feel much sympathy for Exodus or Testament.
The whole "why aren't we included".
Ummm....because both band have done nothing but trash talk the big four for years, especially Metallica.
Do they thing that crap never got back to Metallica or the other three?
Why sould they include them?

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 11:15 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
4. Groghunter writes:


yea, cause MegaDave never said ANYTHING about metallica...

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 12:58 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
5. BrianMN writes:

Excellent point and it's nothing short of a miracle they got these four on the same stage.
My point was, if you're going to burn bridges as Testament and Exodus have done, then burn them and be done with it.
Don't cry about it later that..."Those other guys aren't being fair and inclusive".
I'd take Testament or Exodus over "Load, St. Anger" Metallica ANYDAY but still....
You run your mouth, you burn bridges, deal with it.

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 1:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
wilco's avatar


6. wilco writes:

good articall
do think testament belongs with them on tour
dont matter that they talked bad about metallica
so why is megadeth on tour with the big 4
well if one dude b****ed all the time its mustaine
so dont matter what they say testament belongs on tour withthem

and would be cool if exodus would be on tour
you dont hear them cry that kirk left their band and joined metallica

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 1:05 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

7. Diamond Oz writes:

I've always found the notion of adding Testament and Exodus to the Big Four to make the Big Six to be really silly. Yes they're both excellent thrash bands and made/make music on par with Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer, but I believe the reason why those bands are called the BIG four is that they sold more records than any of the other American thrash bands. If they were called the BEST four then those clamouring for a group of six would have a better point. At the end of the day, personal preference will always be an issue in this debate, but Testament and Exodus never sold as much or made as much of an impact in the mainstream metal world as the the Big Four, that's why they're not in it.

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 2:29 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
deathbringer's avatar

Founder, owner & programmer

8. deathbringer writes:

I think as far as influence goes, the Big Four had it all as well. I knew about Testament but not Exodus back in the day. Wasn't a big fan of Testament until later still (now they're my #2 band, after Slayer).

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 3:00 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
DeathCrush's avatar


9. DeathCrush writes:

Currently at this time:

1) Testament
2) Megadeth
3) Slayer
4) Metallica
5) ANthrax (just got belladonna back so who knows what is in store with them) Was not a fan of the bush era though.

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 5:21 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

10. Diamond Oz writes:

Bit unfair to Anthrax putting them, on the bottom of your pile going on current activities when they haven't released an album in seven years.

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 5:31 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
DeathCrush's avatar


11. DeathCrush writes:

^that's why I said currently :P Will see what belladonna does when he makes a new album

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 6:53 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

12. Diamond Oz writes:

Not got the highest hopes for a great album now that Belladonna's back but I've never made a secret about being a Bush fan. If you want to go by who's more influential at the moment, I would definitely put Slayer over Testament and Exodus. The popularity boost Testament got from the last album has worn off a bit and Exodus, whilst still putting out stellar material, have been struggling because alot of people don't like Rob Dukes. Slayer on the other hand still sell very well and loads of young bands out there copy them more than they do Testament or Exodus.

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 7:45 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar


13. hellrat writes:

testament rips fvcking anthrax apart....and nowadays, the rest of the lot as well---the fvcking B4 or whatever the fvck is nothing but a capatalist consumer notion, a goddamned catchphrase....it means fvcking zero except for numbers in cash, music quality has pretty literally nothing to do with it

even though they suck the sweaty scrote, metallica will ALWAYS outsell slayer, who will probably ALways outsell testament.....yes, its exceedingly stupid and sheep like, but alas, its just the goddamned way it is---he who sells the most wins---YAY, we love u britney!!

also, testament didn't debut until 87, metallica and slayer were already 3-4 records deep, and each had already released their pivitol and defining material. megadeth was charging rapidly toward their best...kind of difficult for a new band to catch up in record sales by the time the big 4 fairy tale was thought up, eh?

and like i said before....now'days, you want to see a fvcking kick a$$ motherfvcking show with some top grade musicianship, see TESTAMENT

slayer's the only of one 'them' that comes close

alrighty? good deal, class dismissed :)

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 8:31 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
xDecapitation's avatar


14. xDecapitation writes:

Great article you lucky bastard, I saw Testament on Canadian Carnage just last week in Toronto and you could tell Chuck is still having a great time, he seems like such a cool f***ing guy lol.

I never understood why Anthrax was even included in the "Big Four" when they sound completely different from Slayer, Metallica, and Megadeth. If you go by sales to see who the "big" four are and not the "best" four that goes against the idea of thrash metal.

Testament >; Anthrax

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 10:05 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
50bmg's avatar


15. 50bmg writes:

Hard to call Testament underrated anymore with the success of Formation. Still don't think they get the respect they deserve but that's mostly cuz the mainstream music media are lazy sheep. Chuck Billy is indeed one of most genuine dudes you'd ever meet. Mustaine could learn a few things from Chuck!

# Aug 3, 2010 @ 11:25 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
wilco's avatar


16. wilco writes:

have to say oz
do love the voice of john
but the anthrax sound is with joey

indeed i do think its about record sales
for the big four

thats why some people
say we do have a a other thrash group the b site

that includes

exodus testament metal church and deathangel
four of my fav bands as well
will take exodus any time over megadeth

i am amazed that the big 4 are still on tour had by now

expected megadeth would drop out due to some whyning

# Aug 4, 2010 @ 6:00 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
17. shimmerindarkness@hotmail.com writes:

Nice interview - I'm looking totally forward to seeing the Carnage tour in SF at the Cow Palace soon...! I made a few 'Testament Fav's' CD's for my friends who are coming w/ us - To me, TESTAMENT is the Headliner of the show. I am there to see you guys KICK ASS!!!! ~I know you will, you've never disspointed me for over 20 years now. <;3 Love You!! :-)

# Aug 7, 2010 @ 5:04 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

To minimize comment spam/abuse, you cannot post comments on articles over a month old. Please check the sidebar to the right or the related band pages for recent related news articles.