Testament: 'There Is Ten Years Worth Of Writing On New Album'

artist: Testament date: 12/26/2007 category: interviews
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Testament: 'There Is Ten Years Worth Of Writing On New Album'
Testament was one of the first thrash metal bands to emerge from the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980's. Their unique powerful sound, influence, and longevity also saw them ranked as one of the Top 5 All-Time Legendary Thrash Metal Bands, putting them in the company of Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, and Anthrax. This year Testament signed a new record deal with Nuclear Blast and began working on a new studio album that also sees the long awaited return of guitarist Alex Skolnick to the fold. The band are once again ready to attack the music world with their trademark brand of thrash metal, while at the same time, very optimistic about their future together. During the recording sessions for the new album, Joe Matera spoke to an enthused Eric Peterson, the band's founding guitarist, about the band's new album and plans. Ultimate-Guitar: You're currently in the studio with Testament working on the band's upcoming new studio album, how is it all coming along thus far? Eric Peterson: We've been recording at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California and just finished the drums there recently. We flew in Andy Sneap, the producer who is also mixing the record as well for the sessions. We finished up the drum tracks about two weeks ago, and then I started doing my tracks and I have like one more song to record. And it is coming out really good and we are really happy with it all. I am also happy because I am using this new Eddie Van Halen amp, the 5150 III. That thing is just killer and I am getting a really great tone out of it. It sounds very much like the tone on the first Van Halen record. It's got that nice chugg-y mid-range and that total modified Marshall sound. It kind of sounds like it's got the Boogie saturation, but with the kick of a Marshall with that mid-range tone. Will you be including the Mark III as part of your new live set-up? I don't know yet as they're pretty expensive but I'm liking it a lot. As of right now though, I'm still thinking about that decision. Inside sources have revealed that the new Testament album is sounding like a cross between Practice What Your Preach and The Gathering, any truth to those claims? It is its own beast. It just sounds like Testament. It takes you back to a lot of the formulas of the old Testament ways but it has also got the technology of today like what we did with The Gathering. I would say it sounds more like The Legacy meets The Gathering. We do lot of cool harmonies and stuff like that so it is very cool. This upcoming new album will be the first with Alex Skolnick since 1992's The Ritual, how does it feel to have him back in the line-up again? It's been great. I just recorded with him over the weekend, I flew to New York to record with him and it went really well. We got half the record done, his leads, just over the weekend. His shredding on this record is killer. People are going to be really excited to hear his input. It's timely having Alex back since guitar solos are now back in fashion compared to when he originally left the band back in 1992 when guitar solos in music were no longer popular. Yeah it had reached its level and everybody was over soloing and over shredding, and I suppose you really needed a break from that. But now that there is not much shredding happening and there is interest in it again, we're going to deliver. I'm pretty excited because I'm playing leads on this record as well.
"Now that there is not much shredding happening and there is interest in it again, we're going to deliver."
How do you decide who plays what when it comes to guitar solos, is it something that you and Alex talk about and discuss first? Yeah, we go over it and we talk about it. And I basically give him the first option, like 'where do you want to put a solo in?' There is so much stuff to play over and a lot of stuff that I've written has got a lot of different textures and rhythms so I could solo over a lot of the stuff as well. The album's initial recording sessions were done with drummer Nick Barker but Paul Bostaph was later brought into the fold. Yeah Nick was originally recording the record with us as he was doing all the touring too. But we had some problems with immigration and stuff like that with him and so we had to make a choice. And because Paul Bostaph was available and was able to commit to the whole record cycle, we went that route. And I feel sorry for Nick as he was a great drummer, and is a great drummer and a good friend of ours. But it only made more sense to call Paul since he was in the same area and in the same scene, so it made a lot of sense. When it comes to the songwriting process within the framework of the band, how has it evolved over the years? I would say now, it is more about me and Chuck. I write like 99% of the music and Chuck comes up with the vocal patterns. And then we kind of just agree on what we're doing and will talk about what kind of sound we want to have. When I start writing, we will talk about what direction and what styles of metal and what old songs we like and what new songs we likewe talk about a lot of different things. And what about the recording process, how is it approached today? In the early days we used to have either the whole band or one of the guitar players or both of the guitar players out there with the drummer with headphones. And you'd sit there all day and you all had to go through helping the drummer get his drum tracks done. Now with Pro Tools and click tracks, I will make a tempo map of the song and we'll play to it before we start recording. We rehearse to the tempo and the drummer does too until we get something we're happy with and that will sound like its pushing and pulling like a real band. Then once we get that down, I play a couple of guitar tracks to the click. Then when the drummer comes in to record, he'll play to that so he'll have perfecting sounding guitars in the headphones. In the old days, we'd just put a guide track together, but the guitar would sound like shit, as I'd do it real sloppy. But now I really try to focus and try to make it sound almost like a keeper. What has producer Andy Sneap brought to the recording sessions? Just his confidence, his knowledge of recording and his quickness where we are not having to wait around for somebody to do something. And he really makes it comfortable for us to record. He's really good at getting sounds right a way, to the point where we look at each other and go, 'it sounds so good' instead of like searching for three days to get drums tone or to get a snare tone. We have had days like that in the past where it took a week just to get the drums to sound right. Paul got a brand new set of drums a week before we went into the studio, and surprisingly when we miked it up, it sounded killer right away.
"We'll be done mixing and everything and it will come out on April 29th."
Let's talk gear you mentioned the new Mark III, what about guitars, you still using Deans? Yes, I've been playing Dean guitars for ten years now. I first started playing Deans on the Demonic record. Then when we toured the record, I looked them up and Dean [Zelinsky] wasn't back with the company at the time. But when The Gathering came out around 99/2000, Dean had come back and so I started dealing with him directly and have ever since. The guitars that Dean produces are absolutely top notch. What are you using, guitar wise, for the record? I'm playing a Dean ML that is fitted with DiMarzio pickups and a custom Michael Schenker V though you can't tell it's a Michael Schenker model as its been painted in black for me. The V has EMGs in it and it sounds great. Those are the two guitars I used for the record. Do you like to experiment with effect pedals? Yes. I used the Eddie Van Halen Flanger for a couple of the rhythms on the record to get that nice old school, Judas Priest kind of sound. Many bands seem to be documenting their recording processes and later releasing them as a bonus disc with a new album, will you be going down the same route? Yes, we filmed some stuff with the drums and we filmed some pieces of each of us recording. We filmed some of the process of it all but it is not as in-depth as I would have liked it to be but we definitely got footage of each of us recording. We're going to take it to a pro company that will put it together and make it look really good and that will probably be included on the record. So when can fans expect the new record to surface? We'll be turning the record in to our label on January 30th, as we'll be done mixing and everything and it will come out on April 29th. Testament are part of what are considered to be the top five influential thrash metal bands of all time alongside Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer Yeah and it feels great. We started around the same time as those bands were kind of like the baby brother of those four bands. We were like the fresh mans and while were like the seniors (laughs). But they better watch out because our new one is going to fuckin' rule! So this could be Testament's very own Black album? Musically, absolutely yes. It's going to be one of our best. Depending on how many units it sells is up to the public but if they're looking for the best Testament record ever with great tone, and heaviness then it has got it all. There is ten years worth of writing on it. It wasn't written in a year so it has got all these influences of our last solid seven years. Finally what is the status with your black-metal side project Dragonlord? As far as being out in the public eye, we put a record out back in 2005 and we were going to follow it up with a live DVD from Japan which came out really fuckin' killer. But the label has kind of taken its time to get it together to put it out. Hopefully we'll have it out by March. And there is talk of us, of course after the Testament record is done, to be focusing new material for a new Dragonlord record. And that should be out in the Fall some time. It's going to be great year ahead 2007 Joe Matera
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