Chuck Billy of Testament – “Brotherhood of the Snake is 80% Thrash!”
Interview by Robert Cavuoto
For over three decades Testament with Chuck Billy [vocals], Eric Peterson [guitar], Alex Skolnick [guitar], Steve DiGiorgio [bass], and Gene Hoglan [drums] have consistently delivered unadulterated, unbridled, and unbreakable metal in its purest form without compromise. They now return in 2016 with a new CD due out October 28th via Nuclear Blast entitled Brotherhood of the Snake which promises to have more teeth and bite than ever before.
I caught up with vocalist, Chuck Billy, to talk about the Brotherhood of the Snake and the unique storyline that fuels the lyrical direction.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve only heard the title track from Brotherhood of the Snake and it sounds aggressive. What was the vision for the CD and what we can expect from it?
Chuck Billy: We wanted to have a thrashier CD and pick-up the tempos compared to Dark Roots of Earth. I would say 80% is thrash, maybe even more. We went in knowing that it would be a tough to top the last CD so getting it recorded was quite a process as it took about two years. I don’t know why we couldn’t get the songs completed prior to the studio. I think we were pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and had our back against the wall, everyone pulled through and it came out great. As far as all the problems, it just came together in the studio.
Robert: Do you have any favorite songs on the CD?
Chuck Billy: I have a bunch. I’m probably closer to a song like “Seven Seals” it was an extra track that was recorded but I never knew about it. I spent a day or two listening to it, found a pattern, and wrote all the lyrics in one day. Then I recorded them the following day. It turned out really well – strong and very catchy. When you have a song like that which just falls into place so quickly, they tend to have a little more meaning; as they are more natural and pure.
Robert: Tell me about the title of the CD, Brotherhood of the Snake as I’m sure there is an interesting story behind it; is it a concept CD?
Chuck Billy: It’s not a concept CD we just used a storyline to fuel the starting point of the lyrics and the lyrical direction. A lot of our past songs have been more personal and pulled from real situations in life. Eric mentioned to me to write songs that were less personal; to come up with a story that will have some cool visuals in the lyrics. Taking that into account, I was fascinated by a TV program where they made a connection between aliens, different races, and religion. So it opened my eyes about the possibilities. I also came across the story of the Brotherhood of the Snake which is a story about a secret society 6,000 years ago who were on a crusade to dethrone all other religions. They believed that there was either a leader or God who created mankind to use as slave to mine the gold and minerals from the earth. It seemed like a good starting point to launch the story between aliens, religions, secret societies, political/corporate powers. It all tied together nicely for this CD.
Robert: In the lyric video I saw a lot of images of the caduceus (medical symbol with the two snakes wrapped around the winged staff) how does that tie into the theme?
Chuck Billy: That’s just another symbol that could be tied to a secret society of the Brotherhood of the Snake. The society is probably still around today. The image of the snake always seems to come up, it’s almost subliminal. In our logo you can see the eye of the snake.
Robert: Your voice is such a recognizable staple in Thrash Metal, what do you do to take care of it?
Chuck Billy: I don’t really consider myself a really good singer [laughing]. I look at myself as a guy who has been doing it for 30 plus years and just somehow figured out it out. [laughing]. I don’t have a bunch of range and screams like I used too. I think I found a place where I won’t hurt or damage my voice. I still warm up religiously for an hour before each show. I have been doing it for 35 years now where it’s gotten to the point where it is a mental thing that if I didn’t do it I feel as though I won’t be prepared for the show. There are things that I do over the years where I take care of myself and think that my voice has actually gotten stronger. I feel I have more control now.
Robert: Are you a singer who doesn’t talk day of the show?
Chuck Billy: I don’t talk much anyhow unless I have something to say. I don’t do a lot of talking during that day. It’s not related to singing, if just me.
Robert: What makes you most proud about Testament?
Chuck Billy: Starting from 2002 forward where I beat cancer, having the reunion tour, and doing three CDs are probably the proudest things for me. I didn’t think I was going to return to music. To look back now, from that point forward, we have written the greatest stuff and it’s all been a blessing in disguise.
Robert: As I only heard the title track, do you think that you captured Testaments’ signature sound on this CD?
Chuck Billy: Sound wise you always try and make your records sound better than the last. You’re always looking for the perfect mix. From a production standpoint this CD has a cleaner, drier, rawer sounding record. The guitars are a little drier than Eric usually does as he uses different effects for his guitar tone. Same with me, usually I’ll wash out the vocals with some reverb or delays, we took that approach on the last CD and I really like it. The vocals are more up front now which leaves a little more room for everything else to be heard, especially the drums.
“Brotherhood of the Snake” is out Worldwide on October 28th, 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records!
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