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Interview with Eric Peterson (Guitars) from Thrash Metal Masters Testament

 

Interviewer – Marianne Jacobsen

 

MGM: Firstly, I’d like to say that there are very few AUTHENTIC bay area thrash bands that I love and Testament is right at the top of that list…so thanks!

With respect to the new album Brotherhood of the Snake – What was it like having a different creative level in the Testament musical team this time around?

EP: Well this time around it’s so weird because four years have gone by since the last Testament record Dark Roots of Earth. I remember a lot of people right around 2013 were like “Where’s the new record?”. And we have been doing so much touring that every time we get a chance to work on this stuff for me it seems like, kind of impossible, because we start it and then we – It’s never like, you know, “I’m gonna go in the studio and write this many songs in this amount of time.” For me, it doesn’t work that way. It’s like I can write 20 songs in a day, or I could write 20 songs in 20 years. It just depends on how it’s going to come out. I mean that’s a little crazy of a broadcast there – but – haha haha

MGM: Well, the thing is though that romancing album recording and creating music. I think it was Phil Collen from Def Leppard who said that most people are getting into music nowadays for narcissistic reasons. Taking your time, the way that Testament has with Brotherhood of the Snake shows that you are a true artist and not just someone who wants to be a ROCKSTAR!

EP: Well yeah, to me first I look at it more like a producer or a creator of music, rather than a rock star. I mean, that’s fun live and what not, but when you are working on a record. I mean I think if we took time off and say, “Ok we are gonna take the summer off and part of the fall off and make a record.” But we never do that – we are like “Ok let’s start writing a record.” And by the way, next month we are going here we’re going there and so by then it’s only a week and that just throws the whole vibe off so at some point I knew we needed to get a record done and at this point with all the little starts and stops, I definitely had enough material to get started on Brotherhood of the Snake and had a brainstorm of ideas. And it was right after the Slayer tour this year that I kinda told myself that we have a two-month window before we do all the festivals in the summer and we did Wacken, Summer Breeze, and all those shows.

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MGM: Wacken looks like it must be a dream to watch from the stage! All the fans seem so enthusiastic!

EP: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. If you go you definitely want to go you gotta get a bunch of friends and camp. But I’ll tell you the best, well not the best but one of the best festivals is Metal Days in Slovenia. The reason I say that is because – it’s like you are in the forest and it kind of reminds me of a place in California called North Fort. It’s up towards Auburn off of the 50. It’s just kind of like surreal, mystic forest – creeks and rocks and it’s not like the country – it’s more like you are in the forest at a renaissance fair or something. That festival (Metal Days – Slovenia) has that kind of vibe and those are the ones l like. There’s another one called Mother culture in France that’s really cool too. The Wacken one is really really organized. It’s a really big, it usually rains and there is lots of stinky black mud everywhere.

(laughter)

MGM: Have you ever just ventured out on your own as a fan of the crowd? I know for me I look at all that mud and think there is no way my knees would be able to handle it for three days.

EP: You know, if I were you I’d suggest starting off with one that is more low key like the one in Slovenia. It’s real low key and there are a lot of people, but when you go into the town, it’s like going into Dracula’s town or something. It’s Trippy! I don’t know how to explain it – it’s just you feel like you are very, very chilled out.

MGM: It’s animated in that way that part of your innocence is coming back because your imagination is being woken up?

EP: Totally, totally!

MGM: How does Brotherhood of the Snake compare to the other Testament albums?

EP: Well this one musically I think – as far as being melodic and the heaviness – it’s kind of like mixing The Gathering and musically a little bit demonic and vocally, more kinda like Chuck’s (Billy) older style like Souls of Black or Practice What Your Preach meeting the Gathering, if I had to pinpoint it. I mean, vocally Chuck’s doing a lot more of the higher register, more singing, and more hooks but not so much, the songwriting – a lot of these songs are not mirrored where they go verse, chorus, lead section, chorus, you know whatever. It kinda doesn’t go back to anything – I just kinda keep going. Some of the songs are traditional – and obviously, that works. Obviously, that’s a good formula to have, there are certain formulas that work, but we kind of got off the path for some of the songs and some of those are the stand out tracks on this album – like The Pale King – it starts and it ends totally different. So that to me is kinda cool.

MGM: A brutal assault start to finish right? You come in and play the song and when it’s over everyone is so blown away they wonder what happened?

EP: Yeah, it (the song) makes you think it is gonna go this way but then it has a twist on it and now we are in the Rush era of the 70’s, you know, real weird.

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MGM: Hey man I’m Canadian I love Rush!

EP: You know All The World’s A Stage weird stuff. But you see now – that could throw you off track a little bit – then you start thinking we are gonna sound like Tom Sawyer.

MGM: You guys are Testament – you’d be the evil Tom Sawyer.

EP: Yeah it’s got that kind of, you know Permanent Waves meets Merciful Fate – I don’t know.

MGM: (laughter) Oh man I never put those two together before!

EP: I am pretty crazy! I mean, I know Alex (Skolnick) – because I wrote pretty much the whole record and he was like really concerned about parts and I was like “Bro (he call’s Alex Skolnick bro!- mj) I got you all the good spots.” A lot of the rhythms that I made for Alex to put solos over, they were totally different – a majority of them – than anything that is going on in the song.

MGM: On and off you guys have had such a good musical relationship – and to have the opportunity to actually complement one another. It’s like you setting Alex up for a spike in volleyball.

EP: Oh yeah, I think that’s a good way to put it and definitely I want him to shine at what he does and I was able to do a little shining myself. I’m pretty stoked on this one. I have a lot of solos on this record actually which is kinda cool and it feels good to hear me and Alex go back to back because we are so different – our styles.

MGM: So what inspired the songwriting for this album. Was there something that inspired you to create a different sound.

EP: Like I said, when I start talking about Rush meets Merciful Fate – I was listening to a lot of older school stuff that I did in the past – the music that first got me into metal and I kinda had a revisit to guitar music that I listened to when I was younger and kinda looked at it in a whole new light. Like stuff I hadn’t listened to for a long time and sharing the vibe with a drummer actually helped me with doing some of the demoing for this record as a ghost drummer. Having someone like that who doesn’t know who Ian Paice or only knows Metallica for their new stuff and doesn’t know the Lars from the first three records. It was really cool to share that with him.

MGM: I think is awesome when you can pass the knowledge or the torch to other people. Music is for sharing – and the people who try to be elitists are really missing out on what a wonderful world of sound there is out there to explore.

EP: And also, just having Gene (Hoglan) in the band for this long now knowing what he is capable of doing – that’s also a big plus for me because it’s like I can envision him playing a lot of this – whereas in the past I always wasn’t sure about whether parts could be played but with Gene I know he can do it – he can do all this stuff so…

MGM: I think it’s really cool how you have so much confidence in your bandmates- which is how a band should be. You speak their praises as they do you – and that’s really how it should be.

EP: I kinda know the potential and sometimes they don’t know and I have to tell them, “You can do this!” They originally don’t share the vision but then when they hear it they are like, “Oh ok!”

MGM: And you are the anchor this time around because you are the mainstay band member right?

EP: Pretty much yeah! I think we are all important. It takes all of us to do what we are doing but I definitely do my share I think.

JENA, GERMANY - JULY 23,2016: Testament photographed in Jena, Germany on July 22, 2016. © Gene Ambo
JENA, GERMANY – JULY 23,2016: Testament photographed in Jena, Germany on July 22, 2016.
© Gene Ambo

MGM: If you could use one word to describe Brotherhood of the Snake what would it be?

EP: One word…um..AWESOME!

(LAUGHTER)

MGM: GOOD ANSWER! What did you learn from this experience?

EP: I learned to have patience and I learned how to record. Well, I recorded everything myself for the Gathering – but this time, I did all the guitars at my house this time and now with the internet and sharing files and stuff like that. So I had to have a lot of patience with trying to learn how to play the engineer role recording myself, which is not for everyone. Some people worry about all the buttons and settings and mixing and that stuff so I had to have patience on this record. To me, this album was not difficult to make even though it took a year and a half to make I had a really good time doing it.

MGM: Well I look at a band taking the time and respecting their music and fans to take that time to make an album worth listening to instead of just pumping something out.

EP: That’s what it took – I mean we didn’t have a year and a half of writing. It’s like we had a year and a half with three weeks in between it all. Also, all the band members of Testament live a good 100 miles plus from each other – Alex lives in New York – we are not centrally located where we can call each other up and go “Let’s jam!” Now it’s about booking a time, a flight and a hotel room.

MGM: Yeah the budget is just not there for it anymore – be it a time or money. Now you are on Nuclear Blast’s label, how is that going?

EP: Oh yeah, Nuclear Blast is a great label! We’ve been with them now since 2007.

MGM: They are the best! I am so grateful that they have come and resuscitated what I consider to be some of the best music and bands that got overlooked when metal was at its peak.

EP: When music hits you – no matter what age – it’s like discovering a bunch of movies you never knew existed, it’s like “Wow man – Cool!”

MGM: So the burning question I always ask: When are you coming to Toronto again?

EP: Toronto? We will definitely be in Toronto next year (2017) for sure!

MGM: Perfect! That’s music to my ears! Any tour plans yet that are solid? I know the release date of Brotherhood of the Snake is October 28, 2016.

EP: Yep and right on that date, we will be in Europe. It’s our first show will be in Oberhausen Germany and we are supporting Amon Amarth.

MGM: I was talking to Doro about them and everyone just loves Amon Amarth!

EP: Yeah man they are really cool! The whole Viking trip that they have going on. After we play with them we are starting to map out for the States and Asia for next year (2017).

ROME, ITALY- JULY 27, 2016: Testament photographed at The Roman Collisseium in Rome, Italy on July 27,2016. © Gene Ambo
ROME, ITALY- JULY 27, 2016: Testament photographed at The Roman Collisseium in Rome, Italy on July 27,2016.
© Gene Ambo

MGM: If you plan it right you can do a tour across Canada in the Spring like Lamb of God/Clutch/Corrosion of Conformity did this year and you can see my Country when it is pretty.

EP: I think that’s kind of the plan. I would say Spring is kind of what we are looking at and definitely doing a lot of Canadian shows starting from one end to the other.
Toronto is great. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a show in Montreal – but that’s a really cool place to perform.

MGM: Yes! Quebecers love their Metal and they are some of the loudest fans in the world! I love going to shows there! Did you play Heavy MTL this summer?

EP: We didn’t play it this summer, we played it last summer.

MGM: So then you know the love!

EP: Well I think metal fans have each other’s back. I’ve been to other shows of other genres of music that I like and nothing really compares to a metal show. The fans are just a little bit more real.

MGM: For metal, I think it’s a trifecta to make a good show – Great Bands, Good Fans and a Decent Venue. When you have those three things magic happens. Every time I see Testament I know it’s been a good show – there is steam coming off the pit and the fans are walking out after the show soaking wet with grins from ear to ear. I find Testament delivers that every time without fail!

MGM: What do you attribute to the longevity of Testament?

EP: Well, I think it’s kinda something we do you know, that doesn’t sound fun but, we have kind of made it our job now and so with that in mind. And then just loving what you do. I love creating, you know I really love creating music in that I like the outcome of what we always accomplish and even though I know some records are harder to make than others, I always know that the outcome is going to be pretty awesome. Then to be able to share that with the fans when you go on tour. And I guess what makes it keep happening is that I’m kind of addicted to it! I have an addition except my addiction makes me feel alive.

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Brotherhood Of The Snake Comes Out On October 28, 2016!

Thank You Mr. Peterson And See You On Tour Soon!

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