TESTAMENT's ERIC PETERSON Talks Return Of DAVE LOMBARDO To The Band, New Music - "I Have A Lot Of Riffs Put Together"
June 20, 2022, a month ago
“MURDER IN THE FRONT ROW! CROWD BEGINS TO BANG!”
This lyric from the title track of Exodus’ 1985 release, Bonded By Blood is exactly what I was expecting when The Bay Strikes Back Tour rolled into town. The tour, celebrating the origins of 1970s and 1980s California Bay Area thrash metal featured three absolute giants of the genre: Death Angel, Exodus, and Testament. A tour de force of aggressive metal, if you will.
I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with original Testament guitarist, Eric Peterson, right before the show kicked off at the Theater of The Living Arts in Philadelphia, PA. We discuss this tour’s incredible line-up, the re-introduction of drummer Dave Lombardo to the band, what fans can expect on the tour’s second leg this fall, and more:
BraveWords: When I saw this tour was coming through, I was very much looking forward to it. It doesn’t get more ‘Bay Area Thrash’ than with every band on this bill. You guys have toured together before, not all three of you together, but separately over the years. For you guys, how has it been to hit the road together? Considering this is the first full-length tour Testament has done “post-pandemic.”
Peterson: “It’s been killer. We had a new record come out in 2020, and Exodus is working on a new one. We did Europe and that went really well. We were totally excited for the states, and then the pandemic hit, and our record came out. I wish we would’ve thought about it more. Maybe we should’ve waited? But, we were already in the process of everything, and we just figured that it’d be cool for people to have a record during the pandemic. Plus, we thought, a couple of months… we’ll get this under control… I remember thinking, ‘I’m gonna kick it on the couch and watch movies.’ Before I knew it, I’d gained ten pounds and I’d watched everything on Netflix. A year later I thought, maybe I should start writing some music. No one knew what to do.”
BraveWords: Even though in hindsight you might’ve planned it differently, I think getting the record out then was a great idea because so many other artists did wait which left a lot of fans wondering when they’d see the fruits of the labor from so many bands during the pandemic.
Peterson: “A lot of people were like, ‘Maybe you should write a record and put it out during [the pandemic].’ Well, yeah, but what are we gonna talk about? It’s so depressing, and we talk about depressing things or whatever, but… I don’t know. It just didn’t seem right. It seemed like we’d just be too focused on the pandemic. But, it’s great. This tour is doing really well. It reminds me of a show that we would do before all of us were signed. When we would play Ruthie’s or The Stone. This would be a line-up that you would see on a Friday or Saturday night. Now it’s 30 years later and we’re going all over. It’s really cool.”
BraveWords: I was getting that exact vibe when this tour was announced. I’m sure it’s been rewarding to see all of the shows selling out. Even outside, right now, there’s a huge line of fans already waiting to get in; an hour before doors. It feels like an authentic metal show.
Peterson: “All of the bands are great too. Death Angel kicks ass, Exodus is badass – we’re good bands. It isn’t like Testament’s going out and we’re bringing some new band that a label paid us to or a filler band. We’re all headlining worthy.”
BraveWords: Where did the idea come from to do this tour?
Peterson: “We kind of just put it together. We were talking about using the name Thrash of the Titans, and that was a benefit that we did for Chuck that went really well and we were thinking of bringing more bands into it like Vio-lence and Heathen… but we tested out the waters of where we had played. It was too many bands for a place like this. There were bigger places but, this just seemed to work, I think.”
BraveWords: Dave Lombardo, who played with Testament in the late ‘90s for The Gathering, is back in the band. How did this fall together?
Peterson: “Both of us, Gene and the band put out that we were parting ways and why. I think we were both disappointed. Gene wanted us to move stuff around… it had been too long. Two years for us to finally come out, and oh, now we can’t because Gene’s got a couple of shows here and there. It’s not even a blame thing. We both were like, ‘Hey, we want to do these things.’ He didn’t want to push back. So, we put out our feelers and started getting a lot of auditions. But, Dave… I remember his name got brought up and we were like, ‘No, he’s in Suicidal Tendencies, he’s in The Misfits, he’s in this, he’s in that.’ But, he ended up calling Chuck I think after the post hit, like a half-hour later. They talked a little bit, and Dave said, ‘Why don’t you talk to Eric.’ Chuck called me and says, ‘Guess who I just talked to?’ and I go, ‘I don’t know.’ He says, ‘Dave Lombardo’ and I’m like, ‘What? No way.’ Chuck says, ‘Yeah, he wants to do it.’ I called him up, we talked, I ask if he can send a video of some songs and he goes, ‘I don’t need to do no fuckin’ video.’ I go, ‘Okay, you’re all good.’ I think when I ran it by our old drummer Louie and some other people… it’s the obvious choice. Even if there were some other drummers that were younger or maybe knew more songs… for where we were with the pandemic, with this tour, I don’t think there was really anybody else that made sense. I think that would make people happy. We did a record with him – we already know that he is badass. I don’t think we even really had any auditions with anybody. He came up and we jammed for a couple of weeks. It took a little bit longer because it’s a lot of information. He’s more analog. But, I’m glad we did it.”
BraveWords: You can tell me if this is true or not. Were you guys planning on doing anything in regards to The Gathering for a future tour?
Peterson: “There was some talk about us doing just the record. Maybe do a week spread out all over the states, or maybe two weeks, something like that. Every time we would see him [Dave], we’d go, ‘We need to do that!’ and he’d be like, ‘Oh totally.’ But, we’d go our own ways and do other things. Now that he’s back with us, it’s definitely on the table. We’re doing three of the songs [from The Gathering]. We were doing more – ‘True Believer’ was on there [the setlist], I wish that was on there still. ‘Low’ was on there, we took that one out. I think our set was just kind of long and we were playing over what we were supposed to be… we were hired to play 70 minutes. Then the other bands, like I said, are not just fillers. So, the crowd is getting energized from all of them. They’re not just waiting for us to come on. Death Angel? I mean, come on. Let’s go! And then Exodus comes on, and we come on, and they’re like… LET’S GO! So, we cut out a little bit. The set is a bit better now. It was obvious to put some of those songs in there after I had jammed with him because I was throwing a lot of new stuff at him. I could tell that he was just on overload. With a lot of stuff, he’s more of an improv drummer. I’m like, ‘No, you have to go along with me.’ It goes this way, not that way. A lot of our stuff is written like that.”
BraveWords: Other than Dave handling the new stuff, did you find it easy to get back into that place of having him in the band?
Peterson: “For The Gathering stuff? Oh yeah. Even those, I remember we would jam all day… and it would be simple stuff that he wouldn’t get. Like ‘Practice What You Preach’ or ‘Souls Of Black.’ I remember that we worked on ‘Souls Of Black’ for four hours. Just this one part. There’s a weird turnaround. It reminded me… even Gene, he got all of Paul’s stuff and Dave’s stuff, but then when it came to Louie’s stuff, which is the simple stuff, Gene would throw his sticks across the room like, ‘FUCK!’ There’s some weird stuff that he’d start with the snare. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s weird simple stuff, and sometimes the simple stuff is harder to play. With that in mind, I was like, ‘Hey, let’s throw some Gathering songs in here.’ We were gonna do ‘D.N.R’ and maybe another one. After we went and ate and had a couple of beers, we were kind of buzzed, and we started jamming on some punk stuff. Then we said, ‘Let’s play some of The Gathering stuff!’ It was so much fun. All of a sudden, the energy level just went up. Right away we started playing ‘Legions Of The Dead’, ‘Fall Of Sipledome’, ‘D.N.R’ and they were just like… ‘Wow.’ It was me, Steve, and Dave.”
BraveWords: You guys have announced the second leg of this tour that kicks off in September. Do you guys plan on changing the setlist at all?
Peterson: “Oh yeah! I want to add more stuff. Dave wants to play ‘Animal Magnetism’ and our soundman is from Germany. He goes, ‘This is the heaviest stuff!’ We go, ‘That’s the Scorpions’, he goes, ‘No, the Scorpions suck! They’re terrible!’ We showed him the song and played him their version. He goes, ‘See? It’s shit!’ Our version is tuned down, it’s way tuned down. I think it’s tuned down to C or B. I think we even want to add ‘Return To Serenity’ because we haven’t played that in forever. We’ve got some really great ballads. Chuck is, I don’t know, it’s not insecure, but I think he just needs to feel comfortable. There are certain songs we play where I’ve noticed that people just kind of watch us. That’s not a bad thing though.”
BraveWords: Right. It doesn’t have to be crazy intense the entire show.
Peterson: “Right, and he goes, ‘We need to be more…’ And it’s like, no dude, that’s Exodus’ trope. They boast that they don’t have any ballads. It’s funny because I had a guest last night who drums in black metal and death metal bands, and he says that his favorite song was ‘WWIII’. I go, that’s weird because the band – we’re all like, ‘No one does anything to that song.’ But then I’ve heard from other people, like our roadie whom we’ve just met, we’ve known him for three weeks now. We’re on the bus and he goes, ‘My favorite song is ‘WWIII’. All of these people are saying this. I look at the people who are singing it… they’re just watching everything. It will be one of those songs that’ll get you in the pit.”
BraveWords: In a catalog like yours, or Exodus’, or Death Angel’s – obviously you guys are known for the really heavy and high-energy tracks which are great.
Peterson: “We get them at the end with those too.”
BraveWords: Right. But, there’s also a kind of beauty with letting things simmer for a second, and people don’t necessarily expect that from you guys. It’s a nice interlude. Switching gears, I know we’ve spoken about New Jersey and Boston, but has there been any show on this tour so far that has been a major stand-out for you?
Peterson: “Yeah. Boston which was the House of Blues, Starland where we thought, ‘Ugh, not this stage again.’ There were about four or five hundred people that couldn’t get in. We really need to think about driving a little bit more south in Jersey. There’s another city that’s got some bigger venues that we can play. In Dallas, there’s this outside place, and we went there and there are all these different levels. It looked really cool and it’s right on the water. The stage is a little small, but I just had a feeling that it was going to be a good night. It was kind of cloudy out, it wasn’t supposed to rain, it was one of the best shows. It was killer.”
BraveWords: Titans Of Creation was released back in 2020. Do you guys have any plans to start working on a new record now that Dave is back in the band?
Peterson: “Well, before he was even on board, I was planning on whoever… I’ll probably start working on stuff in October. I have a lot of riffs put together, I just need a drummer to jam on them and hopefully it’ll be Dave.”
BraveWords: Is Dave for right now just a temporary member?
Peterson: “He’s testing the waters… that’s what he calls it. We’re like, ‘Dude, you’re in.’ He sees all of the love around the world. People are just freaking out. What else do you want? He was the obvious choice because of our past, because of who he is and who we are. It’s a match, I think.”