Testament Frontman Chuck Billy on ‘Titans of Creation,’ Coronavirus + More

2020-05-12

Testament – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Testament frontman Chuck Billy talks with Anne Erickson about the band’s new record, “Titans of Creation,” his experience being diagnosed with the coronavirus and more in this in-depth interview

It’s been quite a year for legendary thrash band Testament and frontman Chuck Billy. Not only did the legendary thrash metal band release a new album this year, the towering “Titans of Creation,” but after coming home from touring Europe, Billy was diagnosed with the coronavirus (COVID-19). This was right when the news of coronavirus first started to circulate, and the unknowns had everyone in the metal community worried about Billy and his tour mates who were also diagnosed.

Thankfully, today, Billy tells Audio Ink Radio that he and his wife, who was also diagnosed with coronavirus, are “feeling back to 100%.”

Billy spoke with Anne Erickson from Audio Ink about Testament’s new album, “Titans of Creation,” his experience battling coronavirus, how the pandemic is changing the music world, the band’s triumphant new record and the one band Testamanet has never toured with that he would love to see happen. Real the full interview below, and listen via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: There is so much to talk about. First, of course, everyone is so happy that you and your wife have recovered from coronavirus– everyone was really worried there for a while.

Chuck Billy: Me, too!

So, how are you feeling right now?

We’re feeling good! We’re feeling back to 100%. It’s been six week or more. We never took any medicine or anything, we just kind of rode it out, got our results and were in quarantine and rode it out.

You’re been in everyone’s thoughts lately because of coronavirus, but you also have this great new album out with Testament, “Titans of Creation.” This is Testament’s 12th record. How do you keep things fresh and exciting year after year?

It does get tougher and tougher, but I think we’re in a fortunate situation because of where Testament was from, at one point from almost breaking up to having a reunion with the original guys. I think ever since ’05, it’s been a shift in our mental thought and the way we look at the industry. We’re fortunate to get to play music again together, and what really changed for us as a band over the years– writing records, we’ve been writing them more for ourselves than thinking about the public. Maybe it’s selfish, but I think we write better songs for ourselves and get more creative, and especially on this record, we pushed the boundaries. We really delivered some music that was that was really different from any other Testament record and from the typical metal riffs with what Eric did. It was different and challenging for me as a vocalist, but really inspired me and pushed me out of comfort zone, to try some new things, and this record, because of that, I think all the songs really stand out on their own as far as their identities. We had a good time putting this one together.

I love that this record has a melodic bent, but is also really thrash-y and heavy. How do you incorporate melody into the heaviness of Testament’s sound?

I think that was a selective choice by my part on this record and the vocals. I could go the lazy way and just get the riff and do something typical that would be easy, where it’s more bark-y without putting melody in, and I could do that, but I think it’s cheating myself and taking shortcuts. It’s a lot harder to slide a melody over the music to make it heavy but still catchy, and I think it’s harder to do that, but I wanted to sing more on this record. I wanted it to be more melodic, and I think I accomplished that. A lot of the songs really have a lot of melody in them. I don’t think there one song in there where I’m barking straight through.

Testament was on tour with Slayer for a long run, for Slayer’s farewell tour. I actually saw you guys for the first time on that run and was blown away. What’s your one greatest memory for being on Slayer’s farewell tour?

Every night we would finish the show early and have the whole night ahead of us. You’d get to see Slayer every night. Just the emotional part at the end of the show very night, when Tom would say his goodbyes, we’d sit there talking among each other, saying, “Isn’t that trippy?” They’re never going to be here again with these fans, and it got emotional when you really put it into perspective.

Slayer seems like the kind of band that will really retire, too, and not just say that and come back a few years later.

Yeah, I think so. (Laughs)

Did being on that tour make you think about Testament one day retiring, or are you guys still far away from that?

No. I mean, I don’t want to have to go get a job somewhere else! (Laughs) I enjoy what we’re doing, and I think we’ve put a lot of time into this band, and were having fun. We get along as a band on tour, and we write good music. There’s really not a reason for us to even think about that or talk about that. Everyone’s health is good. Until there’s a reason to consider it, we’re going to keep forging forward.

Let’s talk COVID-19. Where do you guys stand as far as shows this year?

I don’t have any idea, but I’m assuming, nobody officially said, “Hey, your summer fests in Europe are all canceled,” but I know some shows are, and I’m sure there aren’t going to be any shows in America with spring tours being postponed. Also, we’re just getting little bits of information, but I would think everybody is shooting for 2021, because I think everybody is going to have to learn what do we do. What do we learn from what just happened? How are we going to change the way we are in public now? There’s going to be a lot of businesses and people tying to figure out what we are going to do.

Would you like to wait until there’s a vaccine to start doing shows again?

I would. But, I would love to play now, but I would hate to go on tour and two people show up because they’re afraid to go out. So, we’re going to have to see what everybody does. I think once things like sporting events, like basketball and football, where they’re bigger gatherings– I think once those start happening, people will go, “Okay, I’ll go to a 1,000-seat show or concert now. I feel comfortable.” It’s going to be a slow process.

Was it scary to come down with coronavirus right when news about this virus was breaking everywhere?

Yeah, of course it was scary, because it was unknown and there wasn’t a lot of information. You didn’t know how sick you were going to get, and over time now, we learned it impacts people differently, where I didn’t get a fever, but I did have respiratory for a day or two, then it go better. So, when I heard Will from Death Angel got admitted, we all got scared and freaked out. I had a scary moment for a second, but you watch the news and watch everything and just don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know still.

There’s a lot of fear out there. What would you tell people who are terrified of getting this virus, based on your experience?

I think everybody needs to go do what we’re being told, if it’s quarantine or keeping your bodies at a safe distance, then do it. I still go out and sometimes see people without a mask or in gatherings, and they’re just ignoring it. The sad thing is that there are people out there who don’t feel sick that could be sick, and they’re out there spreading it. They’re maybe getting other people sick that might have different symptoms just because they might be a diabetic or a cancer survivor.

What are your thoughts on the state of heavy metal music? Do you think it’s in a good place?

I do. I really do. Especially if there’s bands like Slipknot having festivals and mega cruises, all those things when metal bands get sponsored and get things going in that big of a capacity, it’s healthy. I still think we don’t get the respect or recognition, like as far as the Grammys, we always don’t get televised, so metal still doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I’m sure there are just as many talented musicians in metal as there is in any other music out there.

Is there one band out there you haven’t toured with yet who you would love to tour with?

Of course. Metallica! (Laughs) I think I’ve been talking about it in magazines for 10 or 20 years, and it never happens.

Maybe that can be the big, exiting thing that happens when concerts come back.

That would be so awesome. That’s one band we respect and we are right there, and it’s amazing we’ve never played together. we played a festival together in Finland two years ago, and that the fist time we ever shared a stage, but we’ve never toured together.

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