Testament’s Eric Peterson

August 23rd, 2005
by EvilG

Testament’s Eric Peterson
Interview By EvilG in 1999

Eric Peterson is one of the founding members of Testament. On June the 8th Testament release their new CD “The Gathering.” I was given the opportunity to chat with Eric just one week before it’s release.


Metal Rules:
When I first put on “The Gathering” it ripped my head off!!

Eric:
Sorry!!

Metal Rules:
No! That’s a good thing!

Eric:
Did you listen to it loud?

Metal Rules:
Yes, very loud.

Testament - The GatheringEric:
That’s the key factor for this record.

 

Metal Rules:
Was the writing of “The Gathering” a painstaking process?

Eric:
No actually it was very fun. That was one of the reasons for the title “The Gathering.” It was great right from the start. Starting off with Dave Lombardo and him acknowledging who we are. He asked us to jam. It wasn’t like we called him up looking for a drummer. We were looking for a drummer to tour actually.

 

Metal Rules:
“The Gathering” is not quite as over the top as “Demonic” or as complete all out death metal. Was that intentional, did you decide to tone it down a little, or is this just what came out?

Eric:
It’s kinda what came out but beforehand we said we wanted to do something more, I don’t want to use the work assessable, it’s not assessable it’s just a variation of metal forms. It’s not like one heavy goth metal / death metal sound. Everything’s not the same. I think “Demonic” is more like everything is like one big song with just different parts. “The Gathering” is a collection of different styles of metal and Testament…but all heavy. It’s definitely not, here’s our radio song, this is our funk kinda song…it’s not like that. It’s all fuckin’ brutal metal. A lot of the European press is comparing it to “The Legacy.” It’s got the thrash…

Metal Rules:
Yeah its definitely got some of the sounds of old, while still maintaining what you did on “Demonic.”

Eric:
Yeah!

 

Metal Rules:
I’ve read that some fans were split on the death metal sound in your music. However, I thought that it was kind of like a big “fuck you” to all the trends and other bands that keep mellowing out with each release. You guys bucked the trend and got heavier!

Eric:
Yeah it’s weird. We’ve come full circle you know. We’ve gotten heavier as we get older hahaha… It’s usually the other way around. As a fan of bands I’ve seen Judas Priest go from where I got into them with “Unleashed in the East” / “Stained Class” they were on a roll then all of a sudden “Turbo Lover” comes out…whatever they did after that…And then Metallica of course. It’s “baby” now. I was watching their DVD last night and it’s pretty funny. James is like “come on” and “No Remorse Baaabay” Baby? I dunno man…

 

Metal Rules:
Would you attribute the more aggressive sounds to influences or was there something inside that drove you to write more “angry” songs?

Eric:
There’s a certain period when you’re a fan and you get into a band..my influences back then were like Venom and Mercyful Fate, Angel Witch, Priest, Scorps, shit like that. Now I still pull those records out but I’m also listening to a lot of Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Old Man’s Child, Covenant. That whole wave of black metal from Norway is pretty cool.

 

Metal Rules:
Yeah, I also like Dimmu Borgir, there’re pretty cool.

Eric:
That’s really cool and shit like that. It’s definitely put a fire up my ass. It put a little bit of blackness back into my heart haha. 

 

Metal Rules:
Did you and Chuck do all the writing for “The Gathering” before James, Steve and Dave were brought in?

Eric:
Dave was actually a big part of it. He wasn’t a part of the writing but he was definitely there when it went down. And of course he puts his sound into it. Steve and James came into it when it was done. Steve added a lot. When I just explained to him what was going on in the song, of course he would stay to the guidelines but play it the way he plays…which is what we did it’s just like with Murphy. It’s like ok here’s where you play and he’d do something and we’d kind of work on it and mould it in so it fit the song.

 

Metal Rules:
Are you playing any leads on this CD?

Eric:
Oh yeah, it’s kind of half/half I guess. I think James is doing four of them and I’m doing three and then the other ones just don’t have leads – “DNR” and “Down For Life” just rock on.

 

Metal Rules:
Do you enjoy playing lead or do you prefer the rhythm thing?

Eric:
I like both. It depends on what the song calls for. Like “DNR”, where would you put a solo at? The rhythms are pretty much a solo hahah.

Metal Rules:
That’s kind of a song where when it’s over you don’t even realize there wasn’t a solo. It didn’t beg for one ya know…

Eric:
Exactly, and the songs that called for it is like this part’s kind of long there’s a part that just goes on so we thought why not let Murphy do something there.

 

Metal Rules:
So how come James was brought back for this CD but wasn’t on “Demonic”?

Eric:
Because he was a dork and we didn’t like him, and now we like him again hahaha…just joking. To tell you the truth, after “Low” we went through some changes. Greg (Christian) was kind of at the end of his ropes we had Chris Kontos in the band as drummer and that was kind of weird and James was working on the solo record. It just wasn’t Testament anymore. Me and Chuck were like…….let’s just drop the tent, call it quits.

Metal Rules:
So there was a time there when you did think about breaking up?

Eric:
Well we did, we broke-up for like a week. We didn’t announce it in the press.

Metal Rules:
No but I remember reading stuff like, there’s a new band now called “Dog Faced Gods.”

Eric:
We were toying around with that, we wrote a few songs which is another reason why “Demonic” came out so heavy because it was going to be “Dog Faced Gods.” So there were three songs written for that and we were like, fuck man this is just Testament but just fuckin’ Demonic sounding. It just all clicked…YEAH DEMONIC!!   We were like YEAH WOW!!! At first we were going to call it “New Eyes of Old.” I remember Demonic got brought up a couple of times and I was like, “nah I dunno”  but Gene (Hoglan) kept on going “Demonic” in a very, very low voice…”Demonic.” 

 

Metal Rules:
Is James a guest musician now, or would you say he’s a member of Testament?

Eric:
Well, this is the band that’s going to tour and I think this is what everybody is going to want to hear. The touring thing will definitely be cool. We’ll see what happens you know? I’d love for this line-up to stay for the next record because out of all the interviews I’ve done I think people are just really excited about this line-up. It is kind of in a sense an allstar line-up if you have to put a label on it.

 

Metal Rules:
Even Dave Lombardo will find the time to tour with you?

Eric:
Yeah we’re doing the tour starting in August.

 

Metal Rules:
Will you be playing some shows in Canada?

Eric:
Yeah we’re definitely going to do that but not on the first leg. We’re probably gonna come up there…I dunno, probably like in November. If November don’t happen because we might be going to Europe again then we’ll probably be up there in February which sucks. There are too many places to play and you have to go with the best offers. If I had it my way I would just start and get it all done in one thing but we’re breaking the touring up this time around. We’re gonna tour for three weeks take some time off, do another three weeks.

 

Metal Rules:
You were saying earlier that Dave called you up and wanted to do something with you?

Eric:
It turned out I was calling him in March of 1998 to see if he was available to do a tour in South America with us because John Dette wasn’t going to participate in that tour. So I mentioned it to Chuck, Dave’s a good friend of ours, he’s come to our shows and hung out. I was like “what do you think should I call him up?” Chuck thought he probably wouldn’t do it. So out of a whim I just called him up, I was like fuck it I’m going to call him. It’s like “Hey Dave it’s Eric”….”Eric? Eric who?” “Peterson…” …I was like “Testament!!” Dave was then like “Oh yeah, hey what’s up??” So I asked him if he was available to tour, he said he wasn’t. I was then thinking aww shit. But he asked me to jam. He came up and we jammed for a weekend and we jammed on what is now two songs on the CD – “Fall of Siple Dome” and “Eyes of Wrath. We knew we had something and we planned it out as it went along.

 

Metal Rules:
Is Steve DiGiorgio still in Death?

Eric:
No he’s with that band Sadus. Testament is open to let people do what they want to do but I would say he’s in Testament now.

 

Metal Rules:
A couple of quick questions about past members if you don’t mind?

Eric:
Sure.

Metal Rules:
Last I read, former drummer Louie Clemente was running an antique shop, is that the case and do you ever hang out or chat with him?

Eric:
Yeah that’s the case and I don’t even think he owns a drum set. He gave it up all together which is kind of weird. I met him in my youth. We were both just headbanger kids with denim jackets with Motorhead patches. We’d go to all the shows. That’s how we hooked up. We just turned something that was a hobby into a career. It started with just wanting to play the club that we saw people at. We thought if we played that one club we’d be cool. Before you know it we’re playing there and headlining it. Then it was like “If we could just like do an album, a demo..that would be BAD!” So we did a demo…Then it was “Man if we could just do a record that would be the greatest!” We took it pretty far from our goals. We weren’t planning on being a professional band. It was funny because there were so many bands around us that rehearsed in our place who were like totally serious with stuff like this is when they are coming out, this is their flyer…and we were like these punk kids. They kind of put their noses up to us, with comments like – what’s that shit you guys are playing? Punk rock, metal, what’s that?? They were all into the glam thing. That’s when the glam thing was still cool.

Metal Rules:
Cool?? hahaha…

Eric:
Whatever, it was selling and people went to the shows. But it was funny, it was like a year later all these bands were looking up to us and going “fuck can we open for you?” We we’re like “No!”

 

Metal Rules:
How about Alex Skolnick, do you or Chuck ever touch base with him? Have you heard his skol-patrol or other recordings?

Eric:
No actually, he moved to the other side of the states. He lives in New York now. I guess he’s playing jazz. I haven’t heard anything he’s been doing. I didn’t know he did anything. I know he did one record.

Metal Rules:
That’s probably the skol-patrol?

Eric:
I heard it was bizarre?!?! Have you actually heard it?

Metal Rules:
No, because I read that it was jazz, and that’s not really my thing. I am interested because he is a great lead guitarist but I don’t think I can sit down and listen to jazz.

Eric:
Yeah, it’s how he feels and I can appreciate where he’s coming from but I just which he had more of a business line because he built himself a big name in metal. He had a killer style man. When he first started off he was into like Gary Moore, Schenker, Hendrix and Yngwie. He incorporated all those people.

Metal Rules:
It’s like you said he had a big name for himself and now it’s like most everybody who knows of his name is like “yeah that’s the guy that used to be in Testament.”

Eric:
And he hates that! I remember people and kids on tour saying they saw Alex Skolnick at this guitar camp or school and there’s all these people waiting in line saying “dude can you play the lead from ‘Over The Wall’??” and he’s just getting pissed off with like “I don’t do that anymore, I’m doing this.”….it’s weird man, I just don’t get it!

Metal Rules:
So you’re not going to turn into a jazz musician any time soon eh?

Eric:
I’m 35, I think my bed’s made, this is what I’m doing hahaha…

 

Metal Rules:
What happened to Greg Christian? Where is he now?

Eric:
I have no idea. We put out all kinds of messages. We heard he was in LA. He actually joined a band with John Dette. We heard through the grapevine that they were going to be the next, like the new metal thing. We were like “cool”,  but they had a weird trip about it.  We were like “cool, we’ll help you guys out” but they really didn’t respond to us, they had bad feelings or whatever. We would send Greg all kinds of messages like – do you want to come back, if you don’t have a drug problem anymore or that crap.

Metal Rules:
So is that the reason why things fell apart with Greg?

Eric:
Kinda yeah…..he just got too caught up in the go fast stuff. But we would of helped, we wanted him back for “Demonic” and before this record we were looking for him. That’s how we ended up with Steve which was actually a godsend for us. He’s all the good things that Greg was but he’s got a head on his shoulders and like the rest of us he’s got a family so that’s cool.

 

Metal Rules:
I’ve read that the band was disappointed with the distribution and promotional support for Demonic. What have you done to ensure that this won’t happen for “The Gathering”?

Eric:
Haha…..Well I don’t think you can really brace yourself or ensure yourself that nothing will go wrong. Who would figure that the really good deal we made with this distribution company would end with them going bankrupt?  Distributions just don’t go bankrupt, especially someone like we had, and to go bankrupt for 44million!! You know, that’s a lot of money!! We had a lot of money on the table that would of kept us through the hard times and we would of probably sold a lot more records because they stopped stocking the record in stores. But…I don’t think that’s going to happen again. That was a freak accident right there. It wasn’t like we got on a label and they dropped us. It’s not like a normal fuck-up thing in the music business. The distribution went bankrupt, so here’s all these records just sitting out there that we’re not going to get paid on and here we are touring the most we’ve ever done in our career and there’s no records in the stores. It was pretty frustrating!

 

Metal Rules:
“Demonic” was a harder CD to find. I ended up sending away for my copy.

Eric:
We could of sold them, there was a demand for it. There was a demand but people were like where do you order it at? The distributor was bankrupt and the CD was in their warehouse and they wouldn’t let it go.

Metal Rules:
You’re actually re-releasing it aren’t you?

Eric:
Yeah, it’s already been re-released. It’s actually gotten some pretty decent orders. We kind of have three new records out – the live one, Demonic and The Gathering.

 

Metal Rules:
Have you made any videos since the “Low” CD?

Eric:
No we haven’t but we’re actually going to do something. We’re talking about doing a live video with a good setup, not just a video camera but record everything in 24 tracks.

Metal Rules:
I think videos can be very important because that’s the first time I heard Testament.

Eric:
I don’t know if we’ll do a video “video” but we’re definitely going to do a live video with some really good footage. We’re actually talking about doing a DVD which would be cool because you can have different options. You could go to Eric and his guitars and talk about my guitars and be playing. Then we’ll go to Chuck’s Harley run with him on his Harley with all his big friends. We’ve got a format kind of planned out. We’d like it out before Christmas.

Metal Rules:
That would be really cool for someone like myself that (due to geography) don’t get to see many live bands.

Eric:
Yeah that’s the whole reason. We’ll pick the best theater we can for the look. It’s like when you play a gig and it’s 2000 or 3000 people and I’m like “I wish you could of seen that show man.” So we’ll have it on six camera film.

 

Metal Rules:
When exactly does the tour start?

Eric:
On August 6th, starting in the states.

Metal Rules:
What bands will be brought out with you?

Eric:
I’m not sure yet. I think that’s one thing we haven’t planned out.

 

Metal Rules:
Your cousin, Derrick Ramirez, played on “Demonic” but he’s not on “The Gathering.” Was being in Testament a part time thing for him?

Eric:
Yeah, he was available. He actually is a guitar player but he switched over to bass. He was really serious about it at first but he didn’t take it seriously enough. He did a great job live, I mean, he was the ham onstage, he was the one who had the most fun haha. What I like to tell people is that he had too much fun.

Metal Rules:
Wasn’t he one of the founding members of Testament?

Eric:
Of “The Legacy” yeah. He’s written a big part of our sound. He helped write some of the really heavy songs – Curse of the Legions of Death, Reign of Terror, stuff from the first record. He’s got riffs here and there throughout my whole career, he’s kind of like my brother. We would jam and I go “that riff’s cool, can I have it?” He’d say “Well I want a Les Paul”… Actually he’s got a riff on the new one as well on the song “True Believer” it’s pretty cool.

 

Metal Rules:
What makes Testament stick to their guns after so many bay area thrash bands have either changed with the trend or broke up?

Eric:
I dunno…..just the fire of my will.

 

Metal Rules:
There were a load of bands that came out and are just not together anymore like Forbidden and Death Angel to name a couple. Others have changed…

Eric:
Yeah Violence turned into Machine Head, or at least Rob Flynn did. Defiant turned into Skinlab and Exodus came back for a while but then hhaha..

Metal Rules:
I don’t know where that stands now?

Eric:
I guess they are trying to work deals…

Metal Rules:
But you guys have been there all along and that’s what’s really cool. Out of the bands that I was into in the 80′s who were coming out of the bay area, Testament are really the only ones that I’m still a big fan of. I’m still into the early Forbidden, but you can only listen to it so much…

Eric:
Their first record rules! That’s a classic.

Metal Rules:
You don’t like “Twisted Into Form”?

Eric:
It’s alright, it just wasn’t the same as the first one. It’s like Exodus, their first record is classic, the second record is kinda cool. Their records after that were all cool but not classic like the first one.

 

Metal Rules:
Were you or Chuck in any bands prior to Testament besides you being in “The Legacy”?

Eric:
I know Chuck has been in like probably 3 or 4, but this is my first band right out of high school so I was lucky.

 

Metal Rules:
What inspires you in terms of writing your lyrics?

Eric:
Umm, I would say Chuck wrote probably 95 percent of the lyrics for this record. I would imagine it’s personal life experiences and ahh…the discovery channel haha…Just stuff that’s real and that catches you that people don’t stay up and watch at 1:00 in the morning. There’s shit going on in the world that people don’t really recognize that is very heavy and very scary and very real. I think Chuck did a very good job talking about stuff like that. The only one song I wrote (lyrics for) was “Legions of the Dead”

Metal Rules:
Not “Curse of the…” hahah, that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the title…

Eric:
No not “Curse of the Legions of the Dead”!!! Part two…hahah

 

Metal Rules:
About the song on “The Ritual” called Troubled Dreams, which you helped with the lyrics; what inspired you at the time to write that because it does sound like a really from the heart type of story.

Eric:
Troubled Dreams…(Eric’s thinking hard at this point :-) It’s kind of about…I guess there was a time in our lives, we weren’t married yet, we’re travelling a lot. You get to a point in your life and you’re like “what am I doing?” and you have a certain way about yourself and sometimes people react to you and you’re like “why are people chirping like that?” Some people are real bad, they don’t even know how they act. They’ll just go “Why’d you say that?” So I think it’s one of those things where ah…troubled dreams, I don’t know why it’s troubled dreams. Maybe it’s troubled dreams in your life or whatever.

Metal Rules:
It seems to carry a theme of alienation and a feeling that no one can relate to you.

Eric:
Yeah..

Metal Rules:
Do you still feel that way, or now that you’re married you’re kinda more happy with life?

Eric:
Yeah I’m happier in life, definitely. I try not to let go of those feelings though because when they hit you again you’ll have it with you a little bit, it’s pretty hard hit. You’ve always got to keep one foot in the gutter and one foot on the road.

Metal Rules:
Yeah you can’t be too happy eh…

Eric:
No don’t be too happy…

Metal Rules:
No because if you are you might write shitty music, you have to be pissed off about something hahah..

Eric:
Yeah!

 

Metal Rules:
In terms of the new tour, I noticed you’re calling the tour after the song “Riding The Snake.” I am wondering, what do you refer to by riding the snake?

Eric:
Well it’s a ride you know, the music is the snake and we’re riding it. I guess, I don’t know hahaha…. 

 

Metal Rules:
I’ve seen the cover artwork, who’s idea was that?

Eric:
It was an idea that I had. It changed a lot. I explained it to the artist who did our last two covers, he did “Demonic” and “Low.” He had a couple of ideas. Usually we just tell him the title with some lyrics and boom he’s got something. But he sent us a couple of things and we were unsure. So I just starting talking off the top of my head about some ideas that I had and we went with that and it came back a little different then what I thought but fuck it, it just blew me away….like fucking phallic!!

 

Metal Rules:
He did the cover for “Demonic” as well you were saying…that was a really twisted cover I loved it.

Eric:
Yeah he says it’s actually an exorcism performance and that’s what the album is about. The title track is “Demonic Refusal.” It’s an African ritual where they carve a wooden figure face of the person who is possessed and they would hammer nails into it and say these incantations, whatever. That fit perfect.

Metal Rules:
So even though the CD was called “Demonic” it wasn’t really demonic (or satanic?)

Eric:
Well we didn’t want to call the record Demonic Refusal just “Demonic for short. It kinda sums up the whole record, the singing and just the sound of it had that demonic sound.

 

Metal Rules:
In terms of the vocals and Chuck’s voicings – does he now prefer to sing in the heavier voice, or does he prefer using all the voicings he’s capable of doing?

Eric:
Well live on the old school stuff he would always mix it up. I just kept referring to it like “Dude, the way you sang ‘The New Order’ tonight, that was BAD! You’ll be singing and you go and hit death on a couple of words.” It just really makes you feel what he’s saying. When you’re talking about corpses and shit and whatever, you really feel it instead of just one pitch.

 

Metal Rules:
Do you think you’ll ever write or play a song again like “The Ballad”, “Return to Serenity” or “Trail of Tears”?

Eric:
Oh yeah, we fucking love those songs. We didn’t really think about it, this is what came out.

 

Metal Rules:
Well that’s basically it for me, is there any other news or “words of wisdom” you can pass along to fans?

Eric:
Words of wisdom…if you live with a woman, put the toilet seat down haha..I dunno…I would advise everybody that likes really heavy music from the past and the new to check out “The Gathering” it’s fucking amazing.

Metal Rules:
Definitely!

Eric:
It came out really good…

 

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