Interview with TESTAMENT guitarist Eric Peterson
Interview + pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Testament have been touring their ass off ever since their excellent comeback album, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, was released in 2008. They have done many headlining tours of their own during 2008-2009, this including playing as a part of “Priest East” together with the mighty Judas Priest and Megadeth on their UK tour in February 2009 – and overall just working really hard touring-wise to keep the band´s name on people lips the best they can.
Testament also played at Ankkarock festival in Finland on August 2nd and were very well received there by the fans. After their gig I met a tired Eric Peterson briefly in Testament´s dressing room, and he was kind enough to tell what´s still in store for Testament for the remaining months of this ongoing year…
You have been touring around Europe lately, mostly doing festivals and stuff.
Yes, that is what we have been doing a lot lately. I mean, we have been doing what all young bands do. A lot of new, young bands are trying to break themselves out. And for us, we have done what we did in the past; we made an impact and then the whole…. I was gonna say crunch came over but… You know, something happened. Something wicked this way came. Then like, pushes us away, and then ever since we have been, you know, struggling and not taken this seriously as we wanted to, and bla-bla-blaa. And I think it´s the right time for us. We feel like we are strong again, and we are right into it.
Yesterday you played at Wacken. How was it for you?
Personally I thought we are gonna go up there and play in front of a lot of people, and I thought maybe the sound is not gonna be good – and there´s gonna be monitor problems, and maybe only a half of the crowd is gonna look at us. But when we went up there, it was quite the contrary. It was like good sound, good monitors – and just everybody was there. It was a blast!
So, the whole place was packed?
Yes, it was packed. It was like 50,000 people, and everybody was like really into it. It was just really good for us.
2 days before Wacken, you did a show in Istanbul, Turkey. I know you have played there before. How was it as an experience for you anyway?
Yes, we have been playing in Turkey, three times so far. We were like the Beatles. And it wasn´t the original line-up when we played there for the first time. It was Steve DiGiorgio, Steve Smyth and John Allen back then in the Testament line-up. We walked out on the stage with no intro. We just walked out and said hello to the crowd without the music, guitars on. It was like horns up and everybody was just freaking out, like going totally nuts in the crowd. And the second time when we played at the festival there, it was really good for us. We just played there like for ages ago. It was good, but… I don´t know. It was like: "Ok, we are here again, we are doing our thing". We did our show – and that´s basically it. And I was kinda disappointed because we did not have all our gear. We flew in there, and we had to rent all the gear – not the gear that we usually use, not the drums that we usually use and bla-bla-blaa… So hopefully next time things will be a little easier for us though. But today we have all our gear, so…
When you actually went there to play that show, what kind of expectations did you honestly have towards that country? Was you pretty amazed in the end that you have so many fans there, knowing that most of that population living in Turkey, are Muslims?
Yes, I know there´s a lot of Muslims there. Anyway I think metal is perfect for Muslims because it is so in-depth and metal is so humane for them. It´s very very… how could I say it to you. It stopped punk rock, and not so against everything, but metal has qualities of the beginning of democracy I think. It does. It is like: "F**K YOU… let´s get it right!". It´s like a purgatory; metal is purgatory. Testament is purgatory. We´ve been in purgatory for 20 years. We are not big – we are not small. Therefore we are like in purgatory all the time, ha-ha!
Kind of somewhere there in between bigger and smaller bands…
Exactly. And you know for Testament, it´s weird because we are living in America where we have a democracy world but our career is very very purgator-ish. You know we are not lower class, we are not higher class. We are somewhere in between there, and we never really quite get there. We are not Metallica, we are not… But then again we are not Death Angel either. We are like riding in between, kind of, dancing back and forth, so… I think metal is about a struggle of life, and that´s it.
When your last album, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION was released, it was just amazing to see how people really loved that album – both younger and older metal heads, it did not make any difference. Everyone seemed to love that album, and I think that is something that still pleases you a hell of a lot, doesn´t it?
Yes, you are right about that. Of course it does. It was a long way and a long time to get us there, and make that record. But during that long way there was a lot of shit that happened to us, and I mean, shit that happened to the world, too. We just put on to the songs I think. You know it´s like, Chuck getting which other people get a cancer in the world. Me breaking my leg, us getting ripped off by SPV, different member changes and all that stuff. There was just a lot of shit that happened to us over the past years. Like my father died, Chuck´s father died. Things that we talked about on our record, are totally real. 9/11, which some people say: "Oh, that´s so typical for a metal band without no insight on things". Not for us, we were there. I mean we weren´t there but we experienced it. It is our country, you know. It could have been in Germany, it could have been fuckin´… here even. It could have been anywhere really. We experienced it going, so I think the whole difference of this record, is the lyrics that are very personal to us. I think a lot of people around the world understand that.
This is your first time to play here at Ankkarock festival in Finland, and in the last 10 years or so, you have played at least 6 times in Finland. Seems like you really love playing over here for your Finnish fans?
Yes, we do. We love Finland. Finland is really good to us. The fans over here are great. This is one of the countries in the Scandinavia that is probably our favorite because the fans here are almost similar like the fuckin´ Italian or Spanish Testament fans. They are just very fuckin´ into it what they love, you know. They are really into it. You know, I mean more than in Sweden, more than in Denmark, more than… you know, in Germany. Germany of course is our best market, but the fans in Finland are just like killer.
You will also be doing a special performance for Sirius XM Radio on the evening of August 10, 2009 in New York City where a very small audience of friends and listeners of Testament will be chosen by a ´first-come-first-served´ basis.
Yeah, we are gonna play live there. People are like sitting Indian style there. It should be kind of like that thing. A lot of bands don´t do that kind of stuff, but we are gonna do it.
Have you ever done similar shows before?
We have done acoustic stuff in the air. We have also done acoustic stuff at parties and stuff like that. But this is not gonna be acoustic, this is gonna electric. At the Sirius station everyone is really corporative. Everybody´s working, they have got their business working and we are come out just fuckin´ do it you know. It´s gonna be cool to do it. Like right there behind my back there´s like an office or something, we are gonna set it up for that event when we go there. They are gonna be like: "Whatta H…!!!" (*laughs*)
After 2 more festivals here in Europe, you will be doing a couple of dates in Mexico, and 4 dates in Japan in September. Are those the last dates for you as far as touring is concerned, and then you will take a break from touring and start concentrating on your next album?
Actually something new came up. We are leaving on August 20th through September 8th when we are gonna do a tour with Slipknot, which is gonna last like 3 weeks. The opportunity came out, we are gonna be a direct support for them. At first we were all like: "Wow… I wanna go home, I wanna go drive my new car, I wanna be with my family and bla-bla-blaa…". But you know, then we were all like: "Hmmmm… we have this special chance to tour with Slipnot – let´s just do it!".
Good for you because touring with Slipknot makes it possible to introduce Testament to a whole new audience…
Yes, exactly. It´s good for us to do a tour like that, like you said, Slipknot have a younger crowd than what we have and stuff. So we were like: "Ok, let´s do it. So now we cannot get you to go home…" (*laughs*). We are gonna be home like for a week, and we will join the tour with Slipknot. We get home on 9th, and will leave on 11th of September, to Mexico. So we get one day off, and then we have those dates in Japan, and after Japan we are finally done.
Talking about your new material, could you say the songs still follow the same recipe as your highly successful THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION album, probably returning back to your roots even more?
Well, there´s a lot of stuff that I´ve written. For the last record there´s like 5 or 6 songs that are leftover, and they are really great songs. They didn´t make on the record because we had enough. We have 9 years of writing, so there´s a lot of stuff that we´re getting work on. And there´s some new ideas that are coming out. Therefore I really think that the next record is going to be killer.
Is it going to be more of this back-to-the-roots type of thrash as wholeness, or…?
I think it´s gonna be more of everything. Like more thrash, more melodic, more everything really you know. It´s gonna a good mixture of everything, I think.
Your label, Nuclear Blast, isn´t pushing you to any direction if we talk about going to studio within a certain time frame, like telling you: "Hey guys, we need to get your next album out by this or that months"?
First off, we are probably going into the studio around December-January. So they are like: "Really… That soon?! Wow…" (*laughs*) I mean, they are happy, but they weren´t like pressuring us at all. They already know how we are. They are like kind of scared of us because our whole deal – and our whole terms you know, we are not like all the other bands. They go like: "Ok, you guys gotta do this, we want all your merchandise. We want this – we want that..", you know. "You would better be around the blocks…". We are like: "No". They trip on us because we are like: "No… no… no… no… and one last time NO!".
I think it´s only fair and reasonable to give you a free hand and space to do whatever you want to do because you have such a long career as Testament behind you…
Yeah, I think so that, too. It is definitely there though.
Do you think it´s kinda hard to please some of your fans nowadays because every time when you record something, they kind of automatically expect your new stuff to be like a reflection from your past times, hoping your new songs to sound like something off your debut album, or THE GATHERING, for example?
Yes, definitely. You cannot please everybody. I think we managed to pull off to where – at least live. I think we put the right songs. There´s a lot of songs that we have. It´s always very hard for us to pick the right ones. I think we play good live you know.
Do have any plans to get a DVD out from probably some of the special shows you have played this year around the world that in your opinion would be a nice idea to get released as a DVD?
Actually we have been talking about that. We have been talking about shooting something from Japan. But the people that we want to film it are unavailable right away. So maybe that might have to wait until the light of the year. But we definitely have plans to do it, a really good Testament DVD. And that´s gonna come soon, but I do not think it will come out before X-mas.
´Old Skull V´ by Dean Guitars, which is a signature guitar of yours, came out this June – and the guitar looks really neat in my opinion. I guess getting it out was something that makes you feel really proud of for quite some time, correct? You have been playing with that model for a long time, so can you tell what you especially love in that guitar?
It´s a great guitar because it has aspects of all of the traditional Dean V, meaning it´s got a neck through, it´s got a great neck that they have. I picked all the best parts that Dean has done in their career. Just everything about it, there´s a lot of quality into it, and it´s just a great guitar. I´m stocked. They tried to tell me: "Oh you should have a bolt-on neck, and you know save money, bla-bla-blaah…". I said: "No…". It´s gonna be my guitar and I want it to be a certain way. I told them if you wanna do it, it´s gotta be this way. And they did what I told them to do, so I am happy.
The guitar came out perfect, I guess.
Yes, it came out perfect. It is a really good guitar, too. And it has got a very good price; it´s like 700 US-dollars, which is a pretty good and fair price, I think.
What about DragonLord? Is there any album news regarding this band?
Hmmm… DragonLord is kinda turning more like Old Man´s Child. It´s gonna be more like records. I can do some tours, that would be great. I mean, because the band does play live. But we usually just play live back home. We do a lot of shows at home, and the shows are great. It´s just that I do not have enough time to get it overseas, or anywhere else. I would like to get it to Europe because I think in Europe they would be doing really good. I think the band is great, you know – and the whole thing too. We are not trying to jump on this bandwagon. I mean, black metal is the most money-making music in the whole world. I think we did very well. It would be cool to see us to get out and play something, but we are putting a new record out – I would say probably in the year.
The last DragonLord shows you played in April this year, so do you think there´s even a chance for that you could play some single one-off gigs with this band in the end of this ongoing year?
I think when I get home I think in California and maybe in the East Coast we are gonna do some shows.
Are you going to do these shows alone, or with some other bands like 3 or more bands in the same package?
Probably with some other bands. I do not know yet.
As you have surely noticed yourself, thrash metal is overall very popular as ever again. New thrash bands are constantly popping up from every corner, and overall there´s been a huge movement for this kind of metal style for the past 3-4 years or so. Do you think that a great part of all this has to do with the fact some of these once disbanded thrash bands (Exodus, Heathen, Death Angel, Onslaught, etc.) that have made their comebacks, have simply showed to this younger generation of metal kids that thrash metal is still one of the most powerful forms of heavy metal music, that simply neither can be liked nor resisted?
I think so, yeah. I mean, the music is there. It´s in the archives, and people can go back and find what they want to find you know, what they want to listen to. I mean, I always go back to find – maybe not so much metal, but I go back and find stuff that has influenced my people that influenced me. And I am like: "Wow, that´s cool…". Jimmy Reed and stuff like that. But I mean, for thrash – yeah, I can see kids going back to that kind of thing. Who influenced In Flames, or who influenced any other of those bands and stuff like that, you know? Then they go back and they hear these bands and are like: "Wow… that is even heavier!", you know. So yeah, it is cool.
What new thrash bands have made the biggest impression on you lately?
Not really. I really like the Swedish scene that came out back in the day, and they are getting older now. But really, I don´t know if any new thrash band has made that big impression on me.
It´s also bands like Testament that have kinda heavily influenced all these new thrash groups, according to all their influences that they list on their Myspace pages and stuff…
That´s of course cool. I mean, I´d like to hear more of them, but none of them has impressed me that much thus far, you know.
I guess that was it, so thank you Eric for you time and now go and get a beer for yourself. You truly deserve it after a well done show of yours…
No problem, and thank you, too.