The Damned Are Ready to Thrash!

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Veteran American Thrash metal band Testament is back stronger than ever with a new powerful studio album: The Formation of Damnation, which during these initial weeks is selling a real bunch of copies. 25 years of existence in the metal scene is not anything many achieve. Chuck Billy, his vocalist, is a clear example of this spirit of survival: a man who was able to go through cancer and come back to the music business reborn and still kicking ass. FREE! Magazine talked to him and he kindly explained all what has been going around Testament during the past years.

Finally, after the last studio album for Testament in 1999, The Gathering, here comes the release in 2008 of this new The Formation of Damnation. Chuck, please, could you tell us a bit more about what circumstances were around the band for such a long time waiting?

In 2001 I discovered I had cancer, and then I did not play music in 2 years.  In 2003 we came back again and in 2004 we started working again playing music doing some songs. We knew we had to make a better record than The Gathering and I did not think they were up this good yet so we just kept touring. And we were not very happy with what Spitfire, the record company, was doing.

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And what were they doing?

Nothing, they did just nothing. That is the problem. They never set interviews; they never claimed we were their artists. We were recording a DVD in London and nobody showed up from the company…

So basically lack of interest from them…

Yeah, lack of interest! We were not too excited, working so hard, with a record company that was going to do nothing worthy. Then they were sold to a company called Sheraton Squares, so when we call to Sheraton Squares it was like “hello, good afternoon, so what is the plan?” and they said “well, we are not signing any new bands, we are only going to release gospel music”. So we had to go for the next step, and the next step was the “bye bye step”.

Are you happy now with Nuclear Blast?

Oh yeah! Nuclear Blast had been talking for us for 10 years. They were like “we can be your label, we can do things for you guys” So we signed the papers and released the contract with the old company and we said “hey, we are free”. Nuclear Blast came to the table with the best offer, much better than everybody by the way. We knew we wanted to be with Nuclear Blast so it made sense. They were the best company and they made the best offer so we went for it, and it has been great! We started right away working on the new record after signing with them.

Chuck, having gone through such a traumatic experience as having cancer, how do you see life nowadays? Do you see things with a different perspective?

Well, of course I go through life with a different perspective. I mean, when I was sick, I was not playing music for over a year. I thought “ok, it is done with music. My career is over.” I did not think about music that much, I was making efforts to feeling better and being with my family, so music was not so important for me at that time.

Spitfire, our old record company, did nothing for us!" -Chuck Billy. Vocalist of Testament-

So now, when you are on stage, do you enjoy the same or more than before, having this “second chance” to play?

Well, I enjoy it more than then. When I started playing again with the group it was such a good feeling!  We were on tour again playing in places we had not been before, and that made it so exciting again! We are playing better than ever, we are better musicians than we ever were, we enjoy the company out there and a lot of things look better than it used to be.

How does it feel to have Alex (Skolnick) in the guitar again?

Oh, it is a great feeling, to have Alex and Eric. They have a special unique style together. They always have a special formula when they play together.

And in Testament you have also had along your career great drummers, which have been good luck and bad luck at the same time, since you changed them quite often. Now, you have Paul Bostaph. Why is not Nick Barker playing with you?

Well, Nick Barker wanted to be in this record, but he had different issues in America. We could not wait for Nick. so we actually had to make a decision about what we wanted to do, so at first we thought to invite Paul just to play with us, and he did a great job, so we decided that he did such a good job and worked so hard and we asked him if he was interested to do the record with us. We needed him because Nick was not going to come back for about six months, so at that point it made sense. Paul was close and he used to be in the band.

About the new album, is there any song you would have any favorite song to recommend to our readers?

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I like all of them. I would not be able to recommend just some.  I think all the record is very strong, all the songs stand on their own.

Last year you also created other project called Dublin Death Patrol, playing together with your brothers and with Zetro Sousa collaborating there too. Are there going to be more DDP´s albums in the future?

For the time being, it is just done for it. With the record just done, I have to focus a bit more about Testament. Maybe next year, you know, or in the end of the year, Dublin Death Patrol could come with something. Dublin Death Patrol is not such a big project, we sell the record through our own website, and… that is really.

Was it fun to play all in family, with your brothers?

Last year we had the chance to go to play some gigs to Holland and England, and the other guys of the band had not been there before. We had the lucky chance in one festival to play in the main stage after Heaven and Hell, we were the last band on the main stage, and I was so glad to be there with my brothers and friends! It was a real great feeling!

How do you see the thrash metal scene lately?

I have heard many new bands that I think are better than the last Exodus album. It is a good album but I enjoy more new thrash metal.

Selected Testament Discography commented by Chuck Billy

{mosimage}-The Legacy (1987) It is a classic thrash metal record. I was starting to be fascinated really by what thrash really was, it was very influential to me to be bound as thrash metal singer.

{mosimage}-The New Order (1988). It was when I really started finding my own voice with my own style. ; learning a more natural style, singing the high speeded songs, feeling very comfortable playing thrash,  bringing my style and my songs to Testament. That is where we started crossing to lyrics about the environment, politics…  getting more involved with the environment around.

{mosimage}-The Ritual (1992). It wasn´t a good time for us.  It ended our career together for a time. We had different opinions on music and different music taste at that time. That affected when doing the music It was also the time of new styles, of grunge music, with better companies, radio stations, MTV, so that album did not come at a very good time.

{mosimage}-The Gathering (1999) It was totally a revival. It exploded with energy.  We had Steve DiGiorgio, James Murphy and Dave Lombardo; an outstanding band, a great band! We were inspired by our feelings. Andy Smith did a good job with that record. Testament started to get popular again. I was reborn. It was one of the best Testament records.

{mosimage}-The Formation of Damnation (2008). The best is that we have Alex and Eric playing together again. The structure of the songs is like the old days, what we used to do. It is really a combination of all the music we have created all over our career.    

Testament will be playing in Finland the 6 of June at Sauna Open Air metal festival in the city of Tampere.

For more information:

http://www.testamentlegions.com

http://www.sauna-open-air.fi