by David Necro
Photos by: David Necro
Thrash Metal was (and still is to myself and many others) THE Metal scene, which crept out of the gutters of L.A, San Francisco, New York, and London, led by bands such as Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and you’d never believe it unless you’re old enough to remember, Metallica. Of course these 4 bands are now considered mainstream Metal, some more than others. In the case of Metallica, more like alternative pop crap (and that’s all I’ll have to say about those guys, they’re not worth my fuckin’ time, ok?)
Then you had bands such as Cryptic Slaughter, C.O.C, Crumbsuckers, D.R.I, M.O.D, and the like who were on the more punk side of the coin (thrash in general is and was a hybrid of punk and metal, even hardcore.) Not quite as underground was the band Testament. With their dark and heavy sound, they became instant favorites to die-hard thrash metal fans, and tasted a bit of mainstream success with the ‘Practice What You Preach’ album, released in 1989. Since then, with the possible exception of Slayer, they have become even darker and heavier, as evidenced by their 90s albums, such as ‘Low,’ and ‘Demonic,’ even less commercial than that. Like the other bands featured in this magazine, they uhave stayed true to who they are and to their music. As far the subject of horror goes, they’ve experienced that of the real-life variety with a fan years ago who was dying of cancer, then most recently, lead singer Chuck Billy the acquiring the same dreaded disease (who has to my knowledge, licked it but good) Despite this, the band has carried on. Any lesser band would have called it quits in a heartbeat. Such is the dedication to their work and heavy metal music. I had a chance to talk to founding member, and guitarist Eric Petersen to find out what “moving souls” is all about.
David Necro: You feel that you are the heaviest?
Eric Petersen: For what we’ve done, yeah..
DN: Well, ok, there are some fans that have said that it sounds like you’re trying to jump on the Death Metal bandwagon.
EP: Chuck can fuckin’ smoke any fuckin’ death metal singer away
DN: You don’t want to get stuck in one particular sound. You want to change it.
EP: Well, I’m not gonna go “Well, we’re trying to add jazz & we’re grown up”. . . I’m talking about metal, and hardcore, too. Sick of it All & shit like that, where it’s just attitude and it’s about believing what you’re doing on the stage and the whole thing. More underground. . .
DN: Do you think that the newer bands are influenced by Testament?
EP: Well, I don’t think that they just listen to Testament, but I’m sure they’ve listened to us.
DN: They might have picked stuff up off of you guys. . .
EP: Well, any musician isn’t like they pinpoint. I mean, the bands that are obsessed with one band and that’s all, you can tell right away. But there’s a lot of good shit out there right now, I think.
DN: Do you consider yourselves elder statesmen at this point? That you’re like an Iron Maiden or Judas Priest now?
EP: No, I don’t feel that old!
DN: Not to say that you’re old, but you guys have been around for two decades. . .
EP: Yeah, we’re older. We started getting big around ’90, then shit got weird. . .
DN: What do you think the future of metal is?
EP: (pulls out a copy of the writings of Lao Tzu) “For those who reflect on themselves, everything they encounter is medicine. For those who attack others, every thought is a weapon. One is the way to initiate all good. One is the way to deepen all evil. They are as far apart as the sky and the Earth.” So, there you go.
DN: So that’s the future of metal?
EP: I think so.
DN: Didn’t you do something for the Make A Wish Foundation?
EP: Yeah, we did something with that before.
DN: How was that? How did that affect you with that young man?
EP: Yeah, I mean, he was dying and he wanted to meet us. So we did the best we could for him. We think we made him happy.
DN: Did that make you feel that there is a purpose to this?
EP: Oh yeah, totally. . .
DN: Is this a sensitive subject?
EP: No, that was a pleasant thing for us, in a weird way.
DN: Looking back on that, it still means a lot to you – true?
EP: Yeah, of course. That’s what he wanted, and I’m glad that we were there and available at home to provide that for him.
DN: Is that one of the most important things that you have done as a band.
EP: That was a cool thing, that involved a human life who looked upon us for a little bit of comfort, and that was cool. That was touching.
DN: Is there a message behind this band?
EP: Yeah, man, totally. There’s a big message. It’s just to take those big three steps and just relax and enjoy life. Because you know what? We’re already dead, and music is a fuckin’ great therapy and healing process. And metal, you know you can get dark with it, but it just soothes the soul. It’s killer, and we’re lucky to have it.
DN: That you can do this for a living. . .
EP: Us, and that people going to shows can appreciate it. As far as Testament, as far as that goes, I don’t know many bands that are as traditional as us. I think there’s so many bands out there that have cut all their fucking hair off and they’re all rappers.
DN: What do you think about that, bands like Limp Bizkit?
EP: I’m not putting those bands down. I’m just saying, I think we’re one of the few metal bands out there that are not compromising. We’ve still got long hair. Well, it’s not even the long hair. . . It’s just that we’re real. We’ve got guitar harmonies, we’ve got a story to tell onstage, and people are watching it & digging it. It’s not just the new school, even though it’s fitting in with the new school, I think some of our newer stuff.
DN: You’re trying to keep current, though, true?
EP: I don’t know if it’s trying to keep current, but I think what it is is that it’s from the heart. I’m just trying to make metaphors here, like when you’re watching an old movie and you get all chilled up, and you go, “I understand what he’s saying.” It’s a human emotion.
DN: So you’ll be doing what you want to do.
EP: Well, whatever moves the soul.
DN: And you don’t care about record sales, true?
EP: Yes. You are mostly rich when you feel that way. I mean, there are so many people that are just rich, but they’re so worried about their fucking lives. And then there are some people that aren’t rich, and they’re having fun with this, and that’s great. But what I’m saying is, for rich or for poor, you have a soul that’s happy. I know I’m getting deep, but that’s the truth, that’s what I feel. I think that’s what this whole interview should be about; people should do what makes them feel good, and you’ll be happy. There’s no secret. Moneymaking, some people cling onto it, and some people miss their boat, even though they’re just as good as the competitor. But, the whole thing is, it moves the soul, and that’s what we do.
DN: How does this line-up compare to the other ones?
EP: Well, we’ve had a lot of them. This one was just kind of thrown together. I like this 1. It’s a good line-up.
DN: Would you say it’s the best?
EP: It feels the best. Onstage, I feel more comfortable now. It feels good, man; there’s been line-ups where it wasn’t comfortable. But this one feels right.
DN: Do you think that this is the high point of the band?
EP: Yeah, definitely.
DN: What was the lowest?
EP: Probably ‘The Ritual’. I like the record. It was a big compromise in the studio but it didn’t feel right on tour playing it.
For more on Testament, visit: http://www.testamentlegions.com
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