Guitarist Eric Peterson of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT recently spoke to Maximum Metal about the progress of the recording sessions for the band’s long-awaited new album, “The Dark Roots Of Earth“. Check out the interview below.
Hey Eric…How are you?
Eric: Good…up in Cincinnati with Anthrax and Death Angel getting ready for a show.
Tell me a little bit about your all’s appearance on Metal Evolution. How did you all get involved in that project? Do you think by appearing on that it my introduce you all to some new fans or rekindle the flame with some older fans?
Eric: Metal Evo–basically the producer was doing a documentary on metal from what I gathered. Before it came on he gave us a run down of what the basis was for the show and after seeing it, it’s like a family tree of different genres. It seemed pretty cool on vh1 and really commercialized. They chose some of the good bands and got the point across. I hope the exposure will bring new people in; if it’s done right and in your face, some bands will get some new exposure.
Let’s talk about Formation a little bit. Where did the inspiration come from for the album? How was the writing process on this one with Chuck being sick and recovering, different from the previous albums.
Eric: Normally, it would take a year to two to record the album, but bumps like member changes happened, Chucks‘ cancer and other side projects, getting new and old members back, reunion tour, Dragonlord, etc. Chuck did stuff with his old band and touring took a big toll on us. We went out to do a 10 day run and turned into 2 yr world tour. We had a deal with Spitfire and they ended up pulling the plug so we signed with Nuclear Blast and put out Formation. We were really busy with all the stuff going on. The old catalog kept us going and in fact we did better business with it than with new records. For me, I’m always playing and writing, so for Formation I wrote 90 percent. We had stuff from Gathering and from Demonic and then new stuff that we wrote between ‘03-05…Half was older stuff and the new stuff me and Alex put together. It was good span that felt like a first record again; taking time is a good thing–sometimes you get lucky, sometimes it’s so easy they write themself…our hands become a Ouija Board and they follow the music.
How are things going with “The Dark Roots of Earth”? Where do things stand production wise? When can we expect it out and what touring plans do you all have to support it?
Eric: It was supposed to be out in late April but may be in May, hopefully. Andy Sneap is going to produce. We almost didn’t get it done but he stepped up. There were a lot of things left undone that Andy knew and we didn’t feel right throwing it at Zeuss who had a great mix set up; maybe we can do something with him in the future. It’s gonna be our heaviest record and we have a ballad called “Cold Embrace” on the new album which we haven’t had since the Low album. We have songs on this album that have blast beats in the choruses with melodic vocals…very Dimmu Borgir/Emperor blast beats with Testament riffs with Chuck doing “Practice What You Preach” style vocals. “True American Hate” may be the fastest song we have ever done. “Dark Roots of Earth” which is the title track, sounds like “The Thing That Should Not Be” by Metallica and “Sign of the Southern Cross” by Black Sabbath. There are lots of different textures, not mediocre, every song has its own trip. “Throne of Thorns” is an 8 minute epic, one of my favorite tracks off the new album…kind of like “Hole in the Sky” by Black Sabbath. Lots of crazy middle sections that go into this weird jam that is just really cool. Also for me, I usually do leads. I did 30 percent of the leads on “Formation” but it’s close to 50 percent on this album. Chuck is singing well and I think old fans are gonna love it. Hopefully, a lot of new people will jump on board as well.
Tell me a little bit about getting Alex Skolnick back with you guys? How does it feel to have him back in the band?
Eric: People were talking and whispering in our ears and he would come out at a few shows we played. The 10 European shows bloomed from one festival date and we decided to play it by ear. It’s both a rebirth and nostalgic and we respect each other more since we got rid of most of the bad elements.
How’s touring with Anthrax and Death Angel; sharing the stage with those guys?
Eric: The tour is going really good and we’re playing markets we missed on the last leg–packed and close to sold out. We wanted to get the new record done and not really do this tour but we made commitments and held up our end of the bargain. We would like to go in and get it done and it’s been challenging to do it. We had to get shit done, it wasn’t fun b/c of the pressure. The day before we left we were at the studio till 4am getting vocals done, then went home and packed to go on tour.
How has the thrash scene changed since you all came about, rode through the heyday and the slight decline and then were still around for its resurrection? What do you feel keeps thrash alive and relevant in the world of heavy metal?
Eric: It’s solid music to play, there are lots of good storylines, good epic adventure for people to escape from daily problems by listening to metal. Metal in general is like that I think. As for the newer bands, we will have to wait and see what the future brings them. I think that people are looking for entertainment to escape daily problems or to get ideas, for me it was kinda my religion looking for answers and problems to the questions that I had.
Do you all feel as though you should have been a part of the Big 4 arena tour or are you happy doing your own thing?
Eric: It’s funny, a lot of people bring us up with that, Now we seem to be brought up in that category. Don’t know why they don’t call it the Big 5. I think it’s based on the heydays of the thrash scene, maybe not as relevant today as it was back then. I think it’s a great idea for those bands and for people to think of us is really cool. I think we’re the next chapter, the new titans on the block so to speak. We were like the second wave of thrash bands even though we were part of the first wave. We came in when the Big 4 started touring the world. We’ve got something planned but the details will come out when the time is right. Look for news about that to come sometime in the fall hopefully.
Tell me a little bit about what got you started playing the guitar and how long you’ve been playing?
Eric: Kiss and Aerosmith got me into playing guitar. NWOBHM got me wanting to be in a band really. Priest and Maiden in high school got me into metal and helped me realize that this was something I wanted to be part of.
What continues to inspire you as a songwriter and the band as a whole to continue churning out music after being around for 25 yrs?
Eric: First of all, for me, writing comes from being a fan of this kind of music. Also it’s what we chose to do, it’s like either you do good and prosper and can look back on what you’ve done or you tried and fold the cards and complain about what shoulda, woulda, coulda been. For us, we didn’t become a phenomenon or overnight success and we were in a weird state–big but not big like a Metallica or Anthrax so to speak. It’s weird…I don’t know if our records would be as real if we had become as big as some of those bands did when they broke onto the scene. If we had the success that some of the Big 4 had…I always wondered what would our records would sound like now. I think we’re still relevant being in the underground scene so to speak. We’ve been able to make a living out of doing something that we love. And obviously the love of the music is what keeps driving us.
Anything going on with Dragonlord at the moment? Have you decided to table the project for now or are you just waiting for the right moment to get everything done for the next album?
Eric: Dragonlord just signed with Spinefarm Universal, and we were supposed to record in Dec. or Jan. Good news is that the record is almost written, we might start recording in March and I’m really excited to get started. The first few records were good but I didn’t get it how I wanted it to sound. The new record is really gonna hit home for me and for my version of what I want it to be. I’m mixing my style with black metal and it’s important to have it work fluidly. Gonna be great, really melodic and grown up sounding without losing any of the edge that I want to bring to the album.
Any last words for our readers and your fans?
Eric: Like I always say, “Life is hard, Testament is harder”.
Thanks for your time and we are eagerly awaiting the new album and good luck with the continued touring with Anthrax and Death Angel.
Eric: Thanks you for your time man.