Last Updated on 05.10.11 Written by John Guarnieri
There is no denying the thrash power and tenacity of the Bay area metal warriors, Testament. Lead by their vocal titan, Chuck Billy, the band has been through everything when it comes to the music scene, but here they are, ready to jump on the road on a co-headlining tour with Anthrax, with support coming from the mighty, Death Angel. It was an honor to speak with Mr. Billy, as we covered everything from the upcoming album, the Fall tour, an epic bar room brawl, and how his role as cancer survivor affected the dynamic of the band.
Testament is currently in the studio writing and recording the new album, and when asked if some new music will be heard, Chuck said: "There won't be any new song incorporated into the set. With the internet these days, some video would pop up of us playing a new song, and it wouldnt be the right representation of the music. The set-list will however, encompass new music from our previous efforts The Gathering and The Formation of Damnation, as well as the classics." One song that will definately be making the set will be 'Trail Of Tears'. " For me personally, this song means a lot to me, and it deserves raw emotion in the performance, which is a lot easier now since Alex and Greg are both back in the band. "
As a cancer survivor, Chuck Billy, as well as the rest of his Testament brothers have "come back together to finish something they have started." When asked how his victorious bout against cancer affected his approach to music, he said: "My battle with cancer hasnt really affected my approach to song-writing, as we will continue to carry on with the themes of the planet and life in general. It has however changed our outlook on shows and to not take anything for granted. We have had a revolving door of musicians throughout the years, but with Greg coming back in 2004, and Alex in 2005, we can truly set our sights on making music and performing at the highest intensity. When we were younger there was more of a competition: who is louder, faster, who screams louder. Now, that it is all out the window, since we are comfortable with what we are doing now. We are proud of our work."
There is no denying the fact that music has an incredible amount of power when it comes to not only raising awareness, but affecting each and every person on a different level. Mr. Billy echoed the same sentiment: "There are the star atheletes or actors, but with music there is something more and that stems from the creativity. Music means something to everyone. There is something about hearing a song from the past that brings you back to the best days of your life, the old friends and good times. When you are down and out, music can save you from the darkness, the doom. The gloom. For me, if its Winter, I will listen to summer music. Music is great like that."
When asked if there were any police stories he would like to share of the band being on the road, he laughed and recalled the story of the band getting in 'bar room brawl that was out of a scene from a movie' during the The Gathering tour circuit. "It was around 1999-2000, and our bus had just pulled into Louisiana, right outside of Bourbon Street, around 1AM. We thought, hell, its still early and we are on Bourbon Street, so lets go out and party all night. We were at some bar, when some random group of guys spilled a beer on the smallest guy in our group. He was like 4FT tall and maybe 100 pounds. They were looking for a fight and when one of our friends is involved, we were going to end what they started. And let me say, it was incredible. Right out of a movie. There were pool cues being broken on people's backs and bar stools crushed over bodies. The bouncers got involved, and quickly everyone was fighting the 13 or 14 of us. Ambulances were called and the police arrived, which resulted in all of us being arrested. The police knew who we were, so they helped us out, and reminded us that the bar was notorious for causing problems."
And just recently, Chuck was in L.A. driving, and ended up at a DUI check-point. "I don't l drink anymore, so I was like, wow I haven't seen one of these in a long time. There were 15 cops all lined up along the road checking everyone. I was like, here is the ID, and I felt great because I would be right on my way. Well, as I am driving through, a couple of the cops were like 'Is that the guy from Testament?' so I thought that was pretty cool that they knew who I was and were fans of the band."
After his hilarious stint as part of the opening sketch from last years Golden God Awards, chuck said that "he has on-screen agents and voice agents shopping his names around. Doing something like TV shows would be a blast." And its true, Chuck could play that classic neighbor next door that steals every scene. Just speaking on the phone with him, one would realize how genuine and hilarious he really is.
As we wrapped up the interview, I brought up the one song that pacts an emotional punch, 'Down For Life', as I was curious to what the band's inspiration was for the song. Chuck said that "the song was a personal one to him as it is about a friend he has had since they were 7 years old, and his friend's current addiction to drugs. This friend didn't want help, and was looking to the drugs for help and not the friendship. As the lyrics basically say, I am asking him if he has any fight left in him. The friend is currently clean and sober, married, and feeling better than he ever has in his life. I never told him that the song was about it, but I know he listens to our music so maybe he got the message somehow."
Chuck Billy is an incredible man. The band has donated to Fallen Blue in the past, and it is comforting to know we have their support as we movie into the future. Be sure to catch the band on the road this Fall, and be prepared to be blown away as usual, when Testament lays down the thrash law.
For more information on the band go to: http://www.testamentlegions.com/