INTERVIEW: Chuck Billy – Testament

For over three decades TESTAMENT have been of thrash metal’s elite. With a lengthy and successful career under their belts, the band’s influence and legacy is written in metal’s history. Four years have passed since the band’s last record, 2012’s Dark Roots of Earth, and now fans eagerly await the next chapter from the thrash behemoths. We spoke to Chuck Billy ahead of a sprinkling of upcoming UK performances to talk about the shows and what fans can expect as well as revealing some exciting new information about TESTAMENT‘s upcoming record!

You have a handful of UK shows coming up this June, what can UK fans expect from these performances?

Chuck: Well we haven’t played the UK in quite a while, we’re coming through whilst we are playing the festivals so we will be carrying some production and we are going to put on a good show! We are looking forward to putting on a good performance and we have an arsenal of music out to choose from so it will be nice to play a lot of that and just establish that we haven’t forgotten about the UK fans. With this next record we are definitely going to talk to our agent and book a proper UK run for us so we can play a bunch of places we haven’t done in a long time! I guess this tour is to get our feet back on the ground but we are going to come back, we will plan to do a proper run!

So for these shows in terms of the setlist will it be a greatest hits performance or will you include some rarities as well?

Chuck: Well you have to have the greatest hits but I do see the majority of the songs being from our current records, so from The Gathering up to now. I can see the majority of the set being the current material, especially not performing that in the UK, that would be an injustice! A big part of the show will be that.

And the tour is really in the middle of festival season in Europe. I see the band has been confirmed for a handful of festivals in mainland Europe. Can fans expect TESTAMENT at any UK festivals this summer?

Chuck: Not on this summer, Bloodstock is the one we usually play and we didn’t get asked for that this year so that’s why we decided we needed to come and do these shows, so we can come say hello and say that we will be back.

Also this summer there is going to be a new album, it’s been four years since your last record, how has the band progressed in that time?

Chuck: Well good, we’ve been working on music for quite some time but we’ve also been touring so it’s the juggle of writing, stopping, writing. But we’ve just started tracking so we are recording the record as we speak! We should have it tracked by the middle of June, it’s coming along well, the record is called The Brotherhood of the Snake, we should have a lyric video and a single released by the time we come to Europe.

You’ve just answered my next point about singles on the way, up to this point the record has really been in secrecy in terms of the name and the vibe fans can expect.

Chuck: Yeah the single is actually the title track, The Brotherhood of the Snake, that’s going to be coming out. It’s a good thrasher, it will give our fans a little taste of what we are doing. I think definitely if you ask what this record is going to be like, the tempos are definitely sped up and we definitely have our foot on the gas pedal on this one. There’s like five or six thrash songs on this one whereas Dark Roots of Earth, the pace is a little slower and you have more melodic and catchier songs. I think this one is definitely more thrashy, I think the fans will enjoy that.

TESTAMENT have always been one of thrash metal’s biggest bands, how have you scene the thrash metal scene develop?

Chuck: Well, it’s wonderful! I love the bands that are still playing the style of music and are inspired by bands from our genre that play that style of thrash because they do bring a new element and a new style and there is something about nu metal that a young artist might put into the style of thrash which I think is good for music. Anything involving that is good, there’s nothing wrong with that. So I think it probably could be healthier in the thrash department, maybe a little more bands but I think the fans still really appreciate it.

It seems today that is a lot harder for new bands to really make a name for themselves and become successful. What advice would you give to upcoming bands?

Chuck: Well, especially for longevity, you really have to believe in what you are doing and put 100% into it. Like anything you do in life, the more you do it the stronger you get. So with thrash metal or whatever style of music you do, stick with it and perfect it and you will only get better and better. Just believe in what you do and it would be nice to try to retain the rights to your music, keep control of your publishing. It’s a big thing, you never know as an artist what that song will be worth to you so it’s always good to keep control of your music.

Oh definitely, going back to the tour, the supporting bands are BROKEN TEETH and SAVAGE MESSIAH, two up and coming UK bands. Did you guys hand pick them for the tour?

Chuck: We picked them, we had some suggestions from people offering support and we just researched it with our agent and those were the two best choices. For the UK they have a nice little buzz and a good following so it’s always good for a band like us to pick bands like that.

Do you feel that when you are heading out on the road that you have a certain responsibility to ensure that new bands are picked up and exposed to people?

Chuck: Well yeah. I don’t like to be forced from a promoter to have a local act on the bill if they just don’t fit and if the fans aren’t into them. It would just be a favour to the promoter or family member or whatever, I’m not into that. I want to make sure the fans enjoy the bands that are playing.

And really to close off, you’ve got the new album scheduled for release in the summer, we’ve got these UK shows coming up. What else is TESTAMENT up to for the rest of 2016?

Chuck: Well, right after the European tour we are going to take some time off in September and I believe we are coming back over to Europe in October/November. And then we are back in America for January/February for a proper Europe and American run for the new record. So we are going to be spending a lot of time in Europe this year instead of America.

How do those scenes compare? Is there much difference between the two?

Chuck: Well it depends on what time of year it is, if you are touring in festival season in Europe it’s tougher to do headline shows during the week because everyone is spending their money on the festivals. If you are doing a show off festival season it’s great! It’s always been stronger in Europe for metal than in America. America is coming around and it’s growing and it’s getting better but Europe has always been stronger for metal.

Well, best of luck for the upcoming shows and the upcoming record, thank you for taking the time to talk to Distorted Sound.

Chuck: Thank you

TESTAMENT will be touring the UK in June & they are currently working on the follow up record to 2012’s Dark Roots Of Earth – the new record is due out later this year via Nuclear Blast Records. 

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