TESTAMENT's Chuck Billy Talks Inspirations - "METALLICA's James Hetfield Has Always Been An Inspiration With Clever Lyrics"

August 14, 2013, 8 years ago

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Chuck Billy, vocalist for Bay Area thrash metal legends TESTAMENT, recently spoke with Greg Prato for Songfacts.com. An excerpt from the interview follows:

Q: By and large, how does songwriting work in Testament?

A: "With us, it's been me and Eric [Peterson, guitarist] for a long time. Eric will come up with a structure, what he thinks is the verse, chorus, lead sections. Once I hear it, I listen to where I feel that the vocals should be, and then I'll either rearrange it or stick with what he hears and come up with the arrangement. Once we get the arrangement down, Eric will take it back again and then rework it to make it all flow together. If he has to build an extra part to connect what he thought was the chorus that's now a verse, going into a new chorus or something, he'll redo it. That's always worked the best.

"There are some songs in the current years, like 'More Than Meets the Eye', or even 'Native Blood', some of those songs we came up with the riff and he had a lot of it already completed. From the first time we heard it to trying it live in the studio, the patterns were there, the song structure was there, and it came together really quick. And those are the ones where we go, 'Wow, this is a special song because it just came together so quick and it still stands strong even after you reexamine it and make sure it's got everything we need in it'. "And those don't happen all the time. Most of the time it's just building them. But sometimes we get lucky in that sense, and I think after working with somebody for 25 plus years writing music together, it's like anything in life you do that long, you hone your craft and get better at it. We kind of know what each other is thinking at this point and what our limits are and what keys not to go in and play in. He knows what I turn down as far as the scales and the keys he picks to write songs in. We've been pretty lucky in that sense as a team."

Q: Who are some of your favorite songwriters as far as either rock bands or solo artists go?

A: "Well, METALLICA's James Hetfield has always been an inspiration with clever lyrics. When I first started hearing Metallica it was something new to me the way his cadence of vocal styles sang to the music. Because when I was growing up, I was more like, UFO and THIN LIZZY and SCORPIONS and JUDAS PRIEST, where the vocalists were more melodic singers. So when there was that thrash attack, it was a whole new thing to me. In Testament, it was what we were becoming, that same style. He really inspired me with his clever lyrics and clever hooks. BRUCE DICKINSON. RONNIE JAMES DIO has always been a great songwriter and lyricist, same with Bruce. And then ROB HALFORD. Those guys always were my heroes."

Read the full interview at this location.

On June 1st, Memphis, Tennessee hosted the Scion Rock Fest, bringing together 32 heavy metal and hard rock bands to perform live at multiple venues along the world famous Beale Street.

The one-day festival coupled legendary outfits like Testament and THE MELVINS alongside punk-metal luminaries CORROSION OF CONFORMITY and NEGATIVE APPROACH with a number of the genre’s most celebrated newcomers including A LIFE ONCE LOST, ROYAL THUNDER and ANCIIENTS.

Footage of Testament performing 'Dark Roots Of Earth' can be seen below:

Two titles from Testament will be released on vinyl on September 24th, soon before the group will tour North America alongside LAMB OF GOD and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, two groups whose music they have undoubtedly influenced.

The 2001 anthology, First Strike Still Deadly, features tracks from Testament's iconic first two Megaforce/Atlantic albums (which have sold in excess of 500,000 copies combined), re-recorded with modern technology by the four-fifths of group's original lineup. The album has never been available on vinyl until now. Approximately 400 copies will be issued on 180-gram black vinyl; a limited-edition, 180-gram clear vinyl mail-order exclusive (approx. 100 copies) will also be offered.

Originally released in 1990 in EP format on vinyl and cassette, and finally released in its entirety by Prosthetic in 2009, Live At Eindhoven '87 - which captures Testament's legendary European coming-out party - will now be available on vinyl for the first time in its complete remastered form. In addition, the new LP layout - which features liner notes by guitarist Alex Skolnick - pays homage to the original EP artwork and includes never-before-seen pictures by noted photographer PG Brunelli. Approximately 400 copies will be 180-gram black vinyl; a limited-edition, 180-gram while vinyl mail-order exclusive (approx. 100 copies) will also be available.

Prosthetic's five Testament reissues are some of the label's top catalog titles, and the vinyl versions of The Gathering and Demonic have been sold out for years, so don't miss your chance to order these exciting chapters of thrash history.

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