Alex Skolnick

August 21st, 2005
by EvilG

Alex Skolnick
Interviewed on January 27, 1998 by EvilG

As most already know Alex was lead guitarist for Testament from 1987’s ‘The Legacy’ until 1992’s ‘The Ritual.’ During this period Alex was an inspiration to many a guitar player. His technical ability was without question amazing. Reports said that Alex had tired of Testament’s musical direction. According to the band, when Alex left they felt as if a weight had been taken off of their shoulders for now they could pursue much heavier music.

Following Alex’s departure he joined Savatage and appeared on their CD “Handful of Rain” and a live EP. Concurrently he was part of a jazz/rock project with bass soloist Stuart Hamm. This takes us up until the mid-nineties.

So where has Alex been? Fortunately I was given the opportunity to get an update from Alex himself on his years with Testament and his new project Skol-Patrol…here it is, enjoy.

Metal Rules!!
You were 19 when you first joined Testament (If memory serves)…How did you get so awesome at an early age??? Lessons? Or no life i.e. practicing 23 1/2 hours per day….haha. Do you look back at this period and at your time with Testament with fond memories?

 

Alex:
No, I was sixteen. I was eighteen when the first album (The Legacy) came out. I had played guitar since I was nine, and studied with Joe Satriani when I was fourteen. Also, I listened to a lot of different styles of music, especially guitar music. Ironically, that’s what led to the differences with the band later on. I didn’t practice as much as I did later on, or do now, but you could still say I had no life!

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Besides Yngwie Malmsteen who were your early influences?

Alex:
Eddie Van Halen, although I stayed away from his tapping thing that everyone was trying to do, and concentrated on his bluesy licks instead. Also, one of my biggest influences who continues to this day, was Jeff Beck. Also Hendrix, Clapton, Johnny Winter and Randy Rhoads.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Tell me about “The Ritual”….Testament refer to it as a CD on which you had more control, or where they felt that the heaviness of the songs were restrained to appease you. Is that how it was in your eyes?

Alex:
I don’t know why they say that. I guess if harmony, melody, dynamics and song structure = not heavy, then I guess that’s right. They didn’t have to do anything they didn’t want to. If anyone was restrained it was me. Obviously things were not working out.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
At what point did you begin to feel unfulfilled with being in Testament?

Alex:
Let’s put it this way: I was sixteen when I joined and they were all around twenty. Within two years I had developed a lot both as a musician and as a person, and they were still in an adolescent frame of mind. Over the years it got worse as I developed and they stayed the same. Many people that worked with us said they thought of me as the “adult” of the group even though I was much younger.

 

Metal Rules!!
Did you quit Testament or were you asked to leave? Or was it more of a mutual thing? When you left was it more because of personal problems or was it mainly musical differences?

Alex:
I quit, but by that time our relationship had gotten so bad that I’m sure they knew it was only a matter of time. It was definitely a combination of extreme differences, both musically and personally. Most of my friends wonder how I held on as long as I did.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I remember when you left I assumed from reading interviews with Testament that you were not into metal anymore…However, then you up and joined Savatage (a metal band in my books anyway)?! Why?

Alex:
There were a couple reasons. One was that Criss Oliva, whom I was replacing, had passed away. I was friends with the band, as well as a fan of their early music, and it was an honor to come on board and help them out. Also, I wanted to do at least one “metal” record where people could really hear me, instead of being buried as was usually the case with Testament. Although I had nothing to do with the writing of the Savatage album, and would have done it differently, I was great to play with people who not only appreciated me, but went out of their way to feature my playing. With Testament, it was almost as if they were ashamed, or afraid of it, so I was constantly buried in the mixes.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Were you a member of Savatage or just a “hired gun”??

Alex:
Definitely a hired gun, although they indicated they would have liked me to have been a member.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Why did you leave Savatage after such a short period?

Alex:
They’re based in Florida, and I’m in California. Also, I didn’t have a role in the writing and wanted to do music where I’m not just the guitarist.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
You have played on a number of jazz projects with such people as Stu Hamm. Wasn’t that called Exhibit A??? What happened to this collaboration? Did you tour with this band/project?

Alex:
I toured with Stu Hamm for his album “The Urge” in 1991. Exhibit-A was a band I put together and took on the road with Savatage but it never managed to get a good record deal.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
I guess my burning question (and 99.9% of the readers of this interview) is will you EVER play in a metal band again?? Will we ever hear such godlike shredding solos as that found on songs like “Over The Wall,” “Practice What You Preach” and “Souls of Black”???? (my three personal favorites).

Alex:
I’m glad you like what I played, which you call “godlike solos”. Let me answer it like this: I’m doing it now! Only now it’s being done over many different types of tunes: funk, swing, Afro-Cuban, Brazilian. You may not realize it yet but the same energy is there. Someday you may hear what I mean, and if and when that happens, you’ll think it’s an injustice for me to be in a band that does only metal. I could see doing a band like John Zorn’s “Naked City,” which does everything, including metal, but they would have to be musicians of that caliber.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Describe your new project Skol-Patrol.

Alex:
It’s high energy, funky, jazz fusion inspired by action adventure films and tv shows of the early 70’s.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Would someone like me, or Testament fans, like it?

Alex:
Yes, a lot of Testament fans have checked it out and I have been very surprised at how much they like it.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Is the music of Skol-Patrol jazz with just guitar, bass and drums? Or are there other foolish instruments like horns and shit??? haha…

Alex:
Yes there are foolish instruments such as tenor saxophone, keyboards, percussion, and female vocals!

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Does Skol-Patrol plan on recording an album of originals rather then cover songs? And why did you choose to cover all the cop theme songs to begin with?

Alex:
Our E.P. has three originals and two covers, Starsky & Hutch and Streets Of San Francisco. We since have more originals, although they all have the same vibe. I hope to do a full length recording some time this year with mostly originals. I’ve always loved crime/ action music. It’s got the attitude of heavy metal, but with a funky beat!

 

 

Metal Rules!!
What type of guitar(s) are you playing now, and what is your setup in terms of gear/amps/effects??

Alex:
For Skol-Patrol, I’m playing a Les Paul Classic and a PRS. My amp is a Rivera 212 combo. No effects except for the wah. I’ve also done various jazz duo, trio and quartet gigs at local bars and restaurants with a Gibson L5 Hollowbody. How many guys playing hollowbodies at restaurants have opened for Slayer?! Ha ha.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Do you still have, or play, the guitar the you used in the “Practice What You Preach” video?? (the one with the album cover painted on it?). (Want to give it away? haha…I remember drooling over that guitar quite allot back then!!).

Alex:
I’ve still got it, but I don’t play it much. Perhaps I’ll put on display one day!

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Who have you been listening to lately?

Alex:
My favorite guitarists are: Jimmy Herring of Aquarium Rescue Unit, Scott Henderson, Mike Stern, Junior Brown, Jeff Beck, and Ron Affif.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Do ANY newer/older metal bands interest you?

Alex:
Occasionally a student will bring in an album he thinks I might like. There have been a few, including Cynic and Sepultura (with the Brazilian natives). I don’t know if Alice’nChains counts as a metal band, but I like their first two records.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
Here’s another one I’m sure all the long term Testament fans are curious about….Have you heard Testament’s “Low”??? What did you think of James Murphy’s playing?? And what about “Demonic” (the new one)…????

Alex:
How can I be diplomatic about this… James is very good at what he does (which is very different from what I do), and Low had a few good ideas and great production. It’s a shame we didn’t have production like that earlier. However my tastes are so different now I don’t really know how to comment on it because it sounds so foreign. Demonic is basically the same, although I found it very hard to take the vocals seriously. I think it should have been done with more of a sense of humor, then I would have really liked it.

 

 

Metal Rules!!
So could you imagine yourself playing on either?

Alex:
No.

  

Metal Rules!!
Anything else you’d like to add on your time with Testament or on your new project please add it here:

Alex:
I just did a record with longtime Primus drummer Tim Alexander and Michael Manring. It’s an improvisational rock record and doesn’t sound like anything else I can think of. It’s on Magna Carta records and will be in stores this spring.

Thanks everyone, for not forgetting about me, even though I’ve moved on. And check out my website : http://www.skol-patrol.com 

 

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