The Legendary Thrash Metal pioneers Testament are preparing to release a deluxe edition of their critically acclaimed The Formation Of Damnation. Vocalist Chuck Billy took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about the new release and the band’s upcoming summer tour. Testament is one of those bands that not only helped to define the Thrash Metal genre but has also consistently released relevant music, disc after disc. They have been one of my favorite bands over the last few decades and so it was with great pleasure that I had the opportunity to speak with Billy. Here is how that conversation went.
You guys are releasing The Formation Of Damnation Deluxe Edition. What can fans expect from this?
Chuck: There is some extra stuff we did that is on there. We went up to Alcatraz with MTV and we played in the mess hall and recorded it in Pro Tools and mixed it. There is also some video stuff on there. When we were going to do the American Carnage tour back in February we were releasing it for a sort of resurgence of the record again. Of course the tour has been postponed but the record company still followed through and is putting it out, so it is kind of a cool thing.
I know you guys just came back from a show over in the Philippines with Lamb Of God. How did that go and what was that experience like?
Chuck: It was amazing. W didn’t have much time in the Philippines. We just kind of flew in and then flew right back out so we did not get to see much of the country. The stadium was sold out, there were 40,000 people there and it was just off the hook. It was amazing.
So you had never been to the Philippines before?
Chuck: No, never that was our first time.
Since we are talking about other countries. Are there any countries that you want to get to that you have not yet gotten to?
Chuck: Last year we got to Russia finally. We have received an offer to go to India and that will be very interesting.
Wow, Metal in India huh? That is very interesting.
Chuck: Yeah. Metal in India. I know a few bands that have made it over there and they say it has been a real god experience.
What has been the response to The Formation Of Damnation since its release?
Chuck: The reviews across the board have been great and it received the album of the year of in Europe as well from Metal Hammer. It did really well. We probably could have been touring with it a little more but we decided to get back and start recording new music.
When can we expect something new from Testament?
Chuck: It is too late to get the record out this year so we are shooting for the beginning of next year.
I know you guys are planning to hit the road here for a bit of time. Are you excited to get back out there and play?
Chuck: Yeah. For our next trip we are going over to Europe for two shows, two festivals on the 4th Of July weekend and then after that we start the Carnage Tour at the end of July. That will be really cool because summer tours are really nice to do, especially here in the United States.
Did you ever imagine you would be releasing albums twenty-five years later?
Chuck: Not really. At that young of an age I never really thought that far ahead. You thought that at the age I am now that this was old. I wondered if I was ever going to make it to this age. But here I am and I still feel in body and mind like I did when I first started the band.
Do you find the rigors of touring taking a bigger toll on you as you get older?
Chuck: No not really. You have to actually be healthier on the road and take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself you will get run down and have a bad show and the fans have paid good money to see you play that show. So there is kind of a responsibility there.
Are you going to be playing a good mix of old and new on tour?
Chuck: On the Carnage tour it is going to be a shorter show so it will probably have to be a combination of everything just because with eight or nine songs it goes by pretty fast. It is tough to choose eight or nine songs out of a hundred.
How do you think the economic slump is affecting the band?
Chuck: Concert attendance is still pretty strong you still see a lot of bands, not just metal, that still depend on touring because that is where the fans get to connect with the band. So that is good and it is great for the bands but sort of sucks for the record labels who put a lot of money into the bands to try to sell records and make money for themselves. It is a tough business bit at least the fan base is there and they are still attending the concerts.
What do you see as the future of Testament?
Chuck: Shit, I don’t know I could walk out the door tomorrow and get hit by a bus. All we really do is keep playing one day at a time. We will keep doing this as long as we can. Speaking for myself if I am not having any fun or I sound like shit I am going to hang it up.
When you compare the early days of the Thrash Metal scene to the scene of today do you feel it has changed for better or for worse?
Chuck: It has definitely changed for the better. Back when Thrash Metal started it was very young and not known worldwide. Nowadays, thirty years later, you can hear Thrash Metal bands on television commercials. That says something for it right there.
In a hundred years from now what will the music history books say about Testament?
Chuck: That we always tried to stay a true testament to ourselves and have always focused on our style of music.
Any closing words Chuck?
Chuck: Keep thrashing one day at a time.