By Tony Hicks
Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 at 10:47 am in Uncategorized.
I spoke with Chuck Billy from Testament this morning. The band’s in a bit of a renaissance that some didn’t believe possible a few years back, after shifting lineups in the 90s and Billy getting cancer in 2001.
Billy’s cancer-free, he’s happy to report, after his latest check-up. And his band is having a banner year.
New record “The Formation of Damnation” is the band’s first with the original lineup in more than a decade, with guitarist Alex Skolnick returning after fronting his own New York-based jazz trio. (He’s currently doing his annual holiday run with the Trans Siberian Orchestra.)
Even better, Testament spent the summer on the monster metal tour of the year, with Heaven & Hell, Judas Priest and Motorhead.
Billy, an Antioch resident and 1980 graduate of Dublin High, says they just returned a couple weeks ago from Mexico, where they played with Judas Priest. After a few months off they’re going to regroup and hit Europe for six-and-a-half weeks with Judas Priest and Megadeth.
“Whil Alex is busy with Trans Siberian Orchestra, we’re trying to get a jump on writing 4-5 new songs for a new record, which we’d like to start recording at the end of next year,” Billy says. “Our goal is to get in 200 shows next year.”
That’s pretty amazing, considering the band initially proceeded carefully in reuniting with Skolnick. “Alex is totally down,” Billy says. “We said ‘Let’s do it one gig at a time,’ and it blossomed into something special. It’s been great.”
Billy says there’s definite differences between today’s Testament and the Testament of old. “It used to be party, party, party,” he says. “Now it’s about putting on your best performance. We’re not going on stage hung over anymore. I watched some old videos and wondering what was going on back then. We’re sounding a lot better than we used to. We’re more responsible, we respect each other’s space, and we’re having a good time. When Alex came back, the fans came out of the wood works.”
Billy says the band will return to the States in March and hit the ground running, either with a headlining tour or opening for more large acts. While taking a bit of a break now, Testament and accompanying side projects (including Dublin Death Patrol) will reunite at Fat City in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve, with fellow Dubliners Laaz Rockit opening.
“It feels good,” Billy says. “It was a special chemistry, that first line-up. We’re having fun.”
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