I recently caught up with Chuck Billy, of Testament, to discuss the upcoming Roots Of Thrash Tour II and his newest venture, an herbal vaporizer called “The Chief.” Here is how the conversation went.
You guys are getting ready to head out on the “Dark Roots Of Thrash Tour II” and from what I have seen there have been more dates added so the response must be real good so far right?
Chuck: “Yeah it is going to be a good five week run and I think we will be playing like 28 shows in 33 days.”
That is a pretty hefty schedule.
Chuck: “Yeah it is.”
So how do you keep up with the physical demands of being on a tour like that, do you do anything to prep for hitting it that hard and heavy?
Chuck: “We try and prep before, definitely train and do cardio before doing something like this, especially when you are the headlining act. When you are the playing the supporting set you get 45 minutes which is definitely much easier but this show is about an hour and half. So that is about it. I think going back and playing some of the early classic stuff is probably going to be fun and probably going to be less grueling than the set we have done in the past. When you are doing a record that is in a certain era you kind of stay in the same place. I think it might be a little bit easier.”
You mentioned it and I saw it online as well. Testament will be playing their first two albums in their entirety on this tour. Who did you decide to do that? Is it something you have been wanting to do or is it something that just sort of came about?
Chuck: “Yeah we did it a few times before, I believe we did two shows in London maybe seven or eight years ago, and we did it somewhere else and it went over well. It was fun because it was a set of songs we hadn’t played in so long and it was fun rehashing them. It was good but it was not something that we wanted to do a lot. But when this tour came up, since we are in the middle of writing a record right now, instead of going out and doing a tour with all the other songs we decided to do these records with the hope that going back and reminiscing and playing these first couple of records might inspire the guys. When we get together on this tour we are probably going to be working on the new album because me and Eric are doing all the demos and this will be the first time we will be together as a band so at sound check we will be going through the new stuff and working on it. We are doing this with the hopes of having fun, being inspired to write new material and just getting up there and just enjoying it. A band has got to tour, we haven’t toured a full tour in a while so we just have to get out there.”
Those records or at least Legacy is almost 30 years old. What does a Testament crowd look like these days? I imagine you probably have people like myself bringing their kids so is it a multiple generations then?
Chuck: “Yeah it is multiple generations. We have fans that bring their kids and there are a lot of new fans that I have noticed over the last five years that have increased as well. I guess heavy metal still attracts people looking for an aggressive escape so yeah it has changed but I still see the classic fans and hopefully on this tour, since it not often that we do this, some of those classic fans might want to come out and enjoy those old classic records.”
I think it is pretty cool that the younger fans are going to be exposed to the older material that may even be older than themselves.
Chuck: “Yeah it is kind of cool and we are actually going back to the older merchandise too. We are going back to the classic merchandise from The New Order and we are kind of going retro on this tour.”
Since we are talking about the thirty years here did you ever imagine you would still be doing this?
Chuck: “Well when we started I thought this is what I would still be doing. I guess I am fortunate that I am still doing it, especially with the return of Alex and especially when we did the reunion with Alex and we had Greg. It was a lot of fun and we had good times. Especially surviving the ‘90s and the early 2000’s when metal was not as popular and with the lineup we have over the last couple of years. We are in a good place, we are happy and comfortable as a band and we are in a good place. Life is good for Testament.”
I am going to switch gears here for a moment because I was asked to bring up your new herbal vaporizer, The Chief, and how that came about?
Chuck: “Yeah it is actually pretty cool my friend Adam Black from Lord Vapor who has been a Bay area metalhead for as long as I can remember from the beginning of the band. He started this company call Lord Vapor and they do all kinds of vaporizing products and things like that, he approached me and he is a metal head. A lot of people in the vaporizing genre are more R&B and Rap I guess like Snoop Dogg and others and he asked me if I wanted to partner with him and do a signature series for metal; I would be the first one. I thought it was a cool idea and thought it looked really cool. I started using a vaporizer because I am a singer and it keeps my lungs from closing down, it helps me out; it is nice and I take it to the movies and places I am not supposed to use it.”
It looks great as well at least from the packaging I have seen..
Chuck: “Yeah it is good, it is cool and people are enjoying it. It is just a different venture and I figured why not lets do it and so far so good. People are really digging it.”
You guys are taking out Shattered Sun on this tour, a band that you partially manage is that correct?
Chuck: “Yes they are the second band that we singed when we started the management company. They are great bunch of young kids out of Texas, real hard working real hungry for what they are doing. This will be their first national tour and it will be a lot of fun. I am kind of fired up and excited for them because I remember my first band trip so they are getting ready to do that. For me I am jealous and keep telling them that this is something they will never forget, so they are all fired up.”
Yes and they are playing their first tour with some of the most classic bands on the scene so that is even better.
Chuck: “I am glad they are with us because we manage them and it is nice. We are going to see them and take care of them and make sure they have a good tour. I am looking forward to it for them; they are going to have a good tour.”