Testament Interview with Chuck Billy
More than 30 years into their career Testament have established themselves as one of the most reliable bands bringing out quality albums and putting on shows around the world. The new album ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ will be released on October 28. I had the chance to catch up with Chuck Billy. We talked about the new album and the upcoming tours.
Marc: Your new album ‘Brotherhood Of The Snake’ will be released on October 28. My impression is it is a lot heavier than its predecessor ‘Dark Roots Of The Earth’. Would you agree with that?
Chuck: Yes, I guess heavier is a good word. I think the key is that there are a lot more thrash elements thrown into it than on ‘Dark Roots’. Every single song seems to have thrash elements. It’s definitely a lot faster.
When we write a record we write a record. We don’t have any extra songs.
Marc: Do you see the new album as a natural continuation from ‘Dark Roots’?
Chuck: You know, we don’t write extra songs. When we write a record we write a record. We don’t have any extra songs. So we never know what we’re going into but we knew that wanted to achieve which was definitely to pick up the pace. So there is a little more thrash on the record. I think that’s we kind of shot for on this one and I think we really accomplished that.
Marc: How do you actually work together as a band when you write songs? Has that process changed over the years?
Chuck: Me and Eric are the remaining two original members so we’ve continued when everybody else was gone. On this record especially Eric had all the songwriting on his shoulders. He wrote everything and between me and him we did the vocals and guitars. It’s different these days especially for a band like us. We all don’t live in the same city. Alex lives in New York and we live in California. Gene is in Southern California, Eric is in Sacramento and I’m in the Bay Area. So it’s a little bit of a task to get together just to write. So me and Eric are close enough so that I can work with him. Then we just send everybody else the stuff through email. It makes it easier like that. A lot went into this record. It was probably a couple of years from the beginning to the end creating the songs and getting them finally recorded to today. It was pretty grueling. There were – especially from me – a little bit more emotions and anger and frustrations because it was just taking so long. I was just like ‘why aren’t we getting it done’. I just wanted to finish it. There is something about the album. It pushed us out of our comfort zone and made us dig in and really do the best we could without second guessing what we were doing and not over-polishing the songs and thinking about it too hard. Maybe whatever we had to do on this record I wouldn’t want to do this way again. I’m glad the record turned out as good as it did but I think we had to go through what we had to through to get to this point.
There is something about the album. It pushed us out of our comfort zone and made us dig in and really do the best we could without second guessing.
Marc: The writing obviously took quite some time but then you recorded the album in a rather short period of time.
Chuck: We didn’t stop. From the minute when we recorded I did the vocals. As soon as that was done we did the bass. We didn’t really take time. Once we got the ball rolling we’ve been on. We had a deadline to get the songs recorded by June 15 before we went to Europe or we wouldn’t have a record this year. So we really had to make sure we were done by then. We were recording until the last day before we went over to Europe. The next day when we got onto that plane to Europe it was the best feeling in the world. We were all like ‘my god, two years. It’s done finally.’ No more recording, no more thinking about it. Then we went on tour in Europe and had a great time.
Marc: The album will be out on October 28. You will then kick off the touring cycle with a quite extensive tour through Europe with Amon Amarth. What are your plans for 2017?
Chuck: It’s gonna be very busy. It starts off with 70,000 Tons Of Metal’. Then we’re trying to get to Japan and Australia in February. April and May were putting together an American headline run and right now we are booking our European tour for the summer. So everything is coming together. We’re mapping it out right now.
Marc: So we are definitely going to see you in Australia?
Chuck: Yes, that’s right.
Marc: You also just released a browser game. What’s the story behind that?
Chuck: It’s just a promotional game for fans to play and get a sneak preview of some of the songs playing in the background. I believe there is a price for the high score.
Marc: A couple of years ago you were part of a team that started a new management company. How is that venture going and how much time do you actually spend on that company?
Chuck: Well, it’s every day even when we’re on tour. There are always emails and I’m always in the loop somehow.