Testament is one of the few bands from the Bay Area scene which are still around. With their latest release The Gathering the band is back in Europe! A great album! So I took the chance to talk with guitarist Eric Peterson about the new album, the new record label, the line-up and touring.
Please give a short round-up about the last years. You've been busy all the time, but here in Europe we haven't heard much about you.
Before The Gathering we did Demonic which came out in '97. We toured on that for about 6 months. We did about a month in Europe, we did 3 months in the States, South America and Japan. After that we only wrote The Gathering. So it was kinda quite.
I can't really remember that you played in Germany....
Yeah, we didn't played that much in Germany. We played I think 2 shows...
So why you just played 2 shows the last time, even this time there are not so many shows.
I think it was the promoter. We had some weird promoter who was doing techno. He didn't know how to do Testament right. So it was kind of a weird time for us. This time we are around like "Wow, 10 shows!" It's about time!
You are around for a long time. I mean I remember that I saw you in the late 80's at the Monsters Of Rock here in Germany! Then it was going down a little bit...
Getting out of the loop a little bit.
Now you're back with The Gathering! The album got very good critics. Have you expected this? Most were a little surprised, it was like "Wow, this is the new Testament!"
Usually we are used to everybody is "Argh, this is not soooo good." This is why we expecting the worst, I think. It is a good record, actually all the records are good, I think. But The Gathering got this little bit extra attention. And I think having Dave Lombardo on it and James Murphy playing on it..... That kinda made it to The Gathering. A kind of a super group. The music was already there, but it add much more to it.
Perhaps that got you the attention of the people. You signed with a small label here in Germany. Most of the bands they signed are from the rock / hard rock genre. Who got you in touch with USG Records?
We were looking for a new deal and we were shopping around and USG had a good contender and a good distribution. So we weren't sure if it'll work. we noticed that he had Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad, he is a good friend, he is like "Oh, they treating me very good, they did a really good promotion." So we take his word.
I mean they do a really good job, you are here on tour.
Yeah, absolutely great!
So, how were the first shows?
Great! Last time was good, Munich was great!
It's getting a little more difficult to tour these days. And you're not playing the most popular kind of metal.
Yeah, but the timing right now, the weather, the festivals are over and ...
They touring starts again, a lot of bands come around...
It's okay, it's working out! We got 2 good bands opening up. Vanize, they are not really popular in Germany, coz they are sounding like Accept and so all the German people are like "naa". It's a good record, I think.
So you like the opening acts?
I think it's okay for us!
You told me that you'll play about 10 shows in Germany and what's ahead for you?
We go back to the States to play there and do some Canada shows. Than we gonna come back to Europe in February! Than we will play more Southern Europe like France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Greece.
And probably Turkey!
Yeah, I hope so!
You know that you'll be the same time around like Overkill!?!
I dunno. Maybe...
They'll tour at that time!
Maybe we'll do some shows with them.... Who knows.
That won't be a bad thing! Overkill are around for a long time, perhaps they are not soo big, but they have a very strong following! You said you'll playing the States. So it sounds like you are one of the few bands who can play the States.
We do really good in the States!
So that kept you alive through the years we didn't see you here in Europe.
Yeah, and we were playing Japan, South America is really good for us. We do like 5,000 a night there! The States is big. We can tour for about 4 months.
I think it's different to tour in Europe. So many different countries and cultures... Can you feel that? Is the audience different?
Now this time that we touring we did 3 shows in Poland, one in Prague and the rest are in Germany. Oh, and Zürich, but I didn't play Zürich. I had to go to hospital.
I got something from the food, some food poisoning. Some bacteria which just knocked me out. I had an IV dripping, sitting in the hospital and Chucks calling me: "Hey, we got to play. Let me play your guitar!" and I like "NOO! You can't play guitar!" (laughs). But it worked out good, I guess. The next show I jumped back up, felt a little better. I can't drink that much... Taking medicine.
Which song presents the album best? What do you think? Often fans can listen just to 1 or 2 songs.....
I think a traditional sounding one.....
What song would you recommend to check it out?
Maybe Down For Life.... Or...... I don't know I like 'em all! They all really good! Say Down For Life and DNR.
Does a song have a special meaning for you?
The lyrics and just the whole vibe of it, the tempo and the riffs. I think Down For Life probably.
Can you tell a little more. I guess not everybody understands enough English.....
I guess they are pretty personal. Not so much fantasy, a lot of personal stuff. I mean people can take it.... Their own thoughts, whatever...
Perhaps that's why it is a stronger feeling.....
Yeah! You can almost relay. You can go like "Oh, I feel that, too." We also have some of the fantasy stuff, too. Like a song called Legions Of The Dead which is about the undead. It's not real (laughs), but it's still pretty cool.
How you came up with the idea for the cover artwork? Who had the idea?
Actually it was an idea I had, but I didn't think of it like that. I just take some of the lyric contains and explain it to the artist. It's pretty crazy looking!
It's very different.
He did a good job. He did the last three. He did Low, Demonic and this one. But this time we told him that we want something which catch the eye. Reds, not just the color, the pop-out. Told him, not to be shy. Kinda crazy.
So, what can we expect live? A good show, I know, but from the songs.... You have so many albums out, you can play for 3 hours....
Well,... We play about 2 hours and it's a good mixture of the new stuff and the old classic stuff. Also we playing one ballad, The Legacy. They don't expect it at all. It's right after a bunch of songs which "bam, bam, bam" right in to your face. And than we have a kinda bridge and than Chuck come in singing kinda pretty.....
So you surprise the audience with this one.
Yeah, I think it's cool, coz it really tells what kind of band we are, not just a thrash band! We have a lot more to offer! Even if our sets are pretty heavy.
But that's what the people expect.... That's how they know Testament!
But that's the other side of the band. That's cool!
You might play in Turkey. Do you know anything about the Turkish scene?
Nothing at all. We have done some interviews, got a lot of emails from Turkey..... They just want us to come there. Hopefully we can get over there! We just want to get up on stage there and have a good time!
So it's up to you to demand the shows and to make the band feeling welcome. They are looking forward to come back. Don't disappoint them!