Chuck Billy Discusses Upcoming New Testament Album "Dark Roots Of The Earth"
Band Photo: Testament (?)
Thrash masters Testament are finally coming up with a follow-up to the comeback album "The Formation of Damnation," with the upcoming full-length "Dark Roots of the Earth" to be released later this year.
Prior to the launch of the new album, Testament has been on the road in North America with fellow thrashers Death Angel and Anthrax. A week into the tour I caught up with vocalist Chuck Billy to get the low down on the album's progress and in inside look at the Testament touring machine.
Below is a complete transcription of our conversation, in which Chuck discusses Gene Hoglan pulling double duty on the tour, the band's drummer situation, the new album's lyrical themes, and even confirms what many fans of Eric Peterson's side project have long been waiting for: Dragonlord is finally working on a new album.
xFiruath: You’re well into the tour now, how’s it going so far and what’s the most interesting thing that’s happened on this trek?
Chuck: We’ve been out a little over a week now and it’s going good on the second leg. We’ve got Anthrax and Death Angel so from day one we were back in the groove again. The only thing that’s really been different has been the weather. It’s colder and we’ve got the snow, but the tour is going really good.
xFiruath: What’s your set list looking like on this tour and are you playing any new material?
Chuck: No new material, because it’s coming out in April. I think the Internet kind of spoiled that. We don’t really want our music to be out there yet, with the new stuff on a cell phone recording or whatever. We go back to our first record and all the way through, playing a lot of our best hits off each record.
xFiruath: With tours like these, what do you do to keep yourself busy on long stretches of road between cities?
Chuck: Well, there’s a lot of miles between them so you get a lot of sleep and get your rest. If not, we’ll get out and do things. We’ll venture into the city, go shoot some targets or something. It just depends. This tour since the weather is cold we stay close to the bus, we don’t want to get out and get sick.
xFiruath: You’ve got Gene Hoglan pulling double duty and playing both with you guys and with Anthrax at each stop. How is that working out so far?
Chuck: It’s going good. Gene is a monster. He can totally handle it.
xFiruath: So Paul was with the band and it wasn’t really clear if he was officially leaving or not. Has Gene officially taken over the drummer spot at this point or are you still looking for someone else?
Chuck: That’s still up in the air and up for discussion. I think Gene’s in for doing the record cycle though.
xFiruath: You appeared on a radio show recently called “Native in the Spotlight.” Tell me a bit about that and what prompted your appearance.
Chuck: That was pretty cool. I think it kind of spun off of when I was in New Mexico a couple of weeks ago. I did an article for a magazine out there and they got me into the Hard Rock casino hotel there in Albuquerque. There’s a permanent display there, and I think from that our publicist contacted a few people who wanted to speak to me about. So it was a real cool thing to be on that show.
xFiruath: How’s the progress going on “Dark Roots of the Earth.” Is it actually completely finished at this point?
Chuck: We just started mixing it, and it’s not going to be out until probably April or May. We did the majority of the recording in Oakland.
xFiruath: At this point can you share anything about the lyrics and themes of the album?
Chuck: A lot of the lyrics are basically in Testament fashion about things we deal with in our lives personally. It’s issues that are ongoing like war, there’s a song called “Native Blood” which is about Native American roots and having a voice that needs to be heard. “True American Hate,” which is kind of inspired from watching news and watching 10 year olds and younger burning American flags with their parents. It’s a hard visual of what the world could be like a generation from now with the young generation being taught to hate. “Cold Embrace” is a song we had in mind about a vampire being unable to see the sunlight ever again. “Rise Up” is a unity song.
xFiruath: Looking back on your discography after all this time, what’s the Testament album that you still have the strongest connection with and still provokes the biggest response from you?
Chuck: I think they all do, I just wish we had the knowledge of technology when we did our first records. I wish they were better produced sounding. Coming through the years and getting to “The Gathering” record was a turning point where we found more of a modern identity at that point.
xFiruath: You’ve talked before about the possibility of re-recording or re-mastering the early albums. Is that actually on the table and something that may really happen at this point?
Chuck: Well, we’d love to do it, but it’s with Atlantic because they own the masters. So I guess it’s if they are still there and available and what condition they are in. There’s a lot to it. Years ago when we tried to get a re-master going we couldn’t get the rights.
xFiruath: Once this tour is over what’s on the horizon for you guys?
Chuck: We’ll be maybe doing a video and going to Europe for some promotional stuff, just kind of getting set up to release the album.
xFiruath: Do you know if Eric Peterson has any plans to put out a new album with his Dragonlord band? It’s been a few years now since the last one.
Chuck: Yeah, he’s working on that now.
xFiruath: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
Chuck: I’m definitely looking forward to having the record done. Writing and making a record always takes it out of you a little bit. So to have it done, it feels like now we can finally enjoy it and play it live. We’re looking forward to getting it out there and starting touring on it. The last record we did over 350 shows for it, so on the new one we’ll do just as much, if not more.
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