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July 23, 1999

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In most genres of music, the "scene" consists of the fans and the bands they worship as two distinct entities. But in metal, those two groups are often one and the same. Case in point: Testament guitarist Eric Peterson. Having been a part of one of thrash and speed metal's most influential bands for well over a decade, its not surprising that Peterson has succeeded in leaving his mark on the music he loves. Yet his passion for metal continues today. Eric Peterson is as much a fan as you and I. He's aware of all the current trends and checks out the new releases. Now that passion has begun to come full circle. Yet the ever-so-subtle elements of death and black which have begun to creep into the Testament sound only begin to define the masterpiece which is 'The Gathering', Testament's 1999 release. The Metal Update spoke with Eric during a break from rehearsals for his band's upcoming tour.

T FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="2"> Metal Update: Congratulations. Your new album smokes.

Eric Peterson: Thank you.

MU: What have other people been saying to you?

EP: So far its been thumbs up. The real metal fans are very proud.

MU: Is this the best Testament album ever?

EP: I think--the only complaint I've heard from people is--I don't know if they're just James Murphy fans or whatever, but they think there's not enough solos.

MU: What do you think?

EP: It doesn't bother me.

MU: How many songs don't have solos?

EP: Well . . . James did four leads and I did three.

MU: Out of eleven tracks.

EP: Right. But I mean, I'd love to put a solo on every track, but some, like "Down For Life", I mean, where would you put it? (laughs) I wouldn't want it over the "chuggadin-chuggadin-chuggadin-chuggaDAA" [2:27-2:43] (laughs). . .

MU: (laughing) . . .

EP: Chuck's all like "FIGHT!" "FIGHT!"

MU: (still laughing)

EP: Its heavy, you know. I wouldn't want to hear "blidibloomooblidibloomoo" [random super-fast guitar lead noises].

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T FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="2"> MU: There are songs on 'Demonic' without solos, right?

EP: Yeah.

MU: Did that idea feel weird when it first came up?

EP: No, I was actually glad to get away some. I didn't want to have that shredder trip goin'. I just wanted the song to be good, you know?

MU: What would Alex Skolnik have said?

EP: He would have said "where's my lead?"

MU: (laughs)

EP: James kinda said that too, but you know, James is a metalhead too. He's like, "that song kicks ass, man."

Eric Peterson and James Murphy
T FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="2"> MU: You're a total metalhead.

EP: Oh yeah.

MU: Up on all the current stuff?

EP: I think so!

MU: Give us your current playlist.

EP: Dimmu Borgir. I just got the new In Flames. I like that one, pretty much.

MU: You're into black metal?

EP: Yeah. Not--well, there's a lot of it out there. I only like about five bands.

MU: Which ones?

EP: Emperor. I like their older stuff. I like the new stuff too, it's more metal.

MU: You don't think 'IX Equilibrium' is as good as their older records?

EP: I'm not saying its not as good, I just prefer . . . 'Welkins at Dusk' and 'Nightside Eclipse'. Stuff like that. Dimmu Borgir, they're getting better, I think. But I still prefer Enthroned.

MU: Those bands don't sound anything like Testament.

EP: I'm not listening to bands to copy them. That's just what I listen to. But "Legions of the Dead". That could be on the new Emperor record. Like "Fall of Siple Dome". That "dlldlldillillillill" [2:13-2:31]. That was me listening to Emperor and shit. Stuff like that.

MU: So the stuff you listen to does bleed into Testament a little bit.

EP: A little bit, yeah. But I don't, like, rip off anything. Same way as, you know, Eddie Van Halen listened to Hendrix.

MU: Yet isn't Testament being influenced by Emperor a bit backward? The black metal scene must have been partially born from bands like Testament.

EP: I'm sure those guys listen to 'The New Order', and 'The Legacy'. I listen to everything. I already know what I want to do, but I kinda like to hear what's out there. I mean, I don't do homework. I'm drinking beers and hanging out listening to tunes.

MU: What else are you jamming these days?

EP: Well, the newest one I've got is The Crown. I think that's amazing. That's pretty cool.

MU: What about the new In Flames?

EP: I like the new In Flames. I like the first couple songs, I guess. 'Colony'. I just like that whole trip on colonization of other planets. That's pretty cool. That's trippy. It's kinda cool.

MU: Are you into the whole Swedish thing?

EP: I like Arch Enemy. Hypocrisy, I've got all their recent records. I like 'Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken'. I like the first song on that, Its pretty heavy.

MU: "Roswell 47".

EP: I also like Covenant.

MU: Its so killer that you know all the new shit. A lot of guys are just like, "yeah, I used to listen to Maiden and Priest."

EP: I still listen to 'Killers'. It's in my CD player right now. I also have War 'Total War'. And I got Bruce Dickinson 'Accident of Birth'. I love that record.

MU: It's a great album. Have you heard 'The Chemical Wedding'?

EP: Yeah, I've got that too. I'm just hooked on 'Accident of Birth' though. The new one's just--its pretty good.

MU: I just saw Maiden last weekend.

EP: Oh yeah? I'm going to see them next weekend.

MU: When you go out to a show like that, do you feel the presence of a San Francisco metal scene in 1999? Does that still exist?

EP: Hell yeah. In the paper there's like fifty clubs. There's always something going on. Maritime Hall's got Emperor, Borknagar, and Witchery coming up.

MU: Witchery has the guy from the Haunted with them, right? Who are opening up for you on the August U.S. tour.

EP: Yeah, those guys are all in like twenty bands. (laughs)

MU: (laughs) You never did that.

EP: I've just been focused on Testament.

MU: Who owns the Testament name?

EP: Chuck and myself.

MU: What if one of you were to walk away, would Testament cease to be?

EP: I don't know how it would be.

MU: Like D.D. and Blitz are Overkill. The rest of the guys are hired guns.

EP: That's how we do it, kinda, right now.

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Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson
T FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="2"> MU: Who's in the band right now?

EP: DiGiorgio. I think DiGiorgio's gonna be a member. James. James is there for it too. James does a lot of stuff though, so we'll see how his schedule works. He's getting into producing as well.

MU: And what about this guy Lombardo? Whoever the hell he is.

EP: (laughs) Yeah, he's pretty amazing, huh? Yeah, it's all about scheduling these people. I would definitely like to do a record with the same people again. All the fans are just totally digging it.

MU: Is Dave still in GRIP Inc.?

EP: I think they have a couple of more records on their deal.

MU: The lineup on the record is the same lineup as on the first leg of the upcoming tour, right?

EP: Yeah. You should hear the set, man. Dave Lombardo is just breathing new life into songs like "Burnt Offerings" and "Over the Wall". Instead of like, "Louie rolls," it's Dave. Doing it right.

MU: (laughs) You've played with some great drummers.

EP: Lombardo, Gene, and Tempesta are the shit. Those three, their meter is killer. When we go into "Into the Pit" with Dave, it's like . . . wow.

MU: Did Dave know all those old Testament songs?

EP: Dave's not really too much into the music. He listens to a lot of industrial stuff. He's like, "which one's that?" And I'm like [mouths opening riff from "Into the Pit"]. (laughs) And he goes, "oh, OK."

MU: He's just feeling it.

EP: And I'm like, "Let's play 'Three Days in Darkness'," and he's like, "which one's that?" And I'm all like [mouths the gang chorus riff found at 1:38-1:49]. And he's like, "oh, yeah! That one's cool."

MU: 'The Gathering' is the ultimate San Francisco thrash record, isn't it?

EP: That's what a lot of people are saying. We've got a couple of people even being so bold as to say this is the record Metallica should have done after 'Master of Puppets'. (laughs) And I'm like "woah!" "Don't say that!" (laughs)

MU: Why not say that?

EP: Well I thought '. . . And Justice For All' was a pretty cool record. No, I mean, it's just a big compliment.

MU: But it took some time to get to this record, didn't it.

EP: 'Low' was like the rebirth of us. That's when Lou and Alex left. And we actually got a good drummer. Someone who could play the shit right. And then we got another guitar player, which was James. Who could play Alex's solos but also loved metal.

MU: Was Alex ever a metalhead?

EP: No way! Well, when we first started. 'The Legacy' and 'The New Order, me and him used to smoke pot and listen to Mercyful Fate. And Angel Witch.

MU: Where did he lose it?

EP: Right around the 'Practice' era. He started--

MU: Was it a money thing?

EP: It was a personality thing. He became intellectual-ish.

MU: Metal can be intellectual.

EP: I know. But he wasn't like, one of the fellas anymore. He became "Alex Skolnik." I've just always been Eric. Well, I guess I kinda maybe got stuck up during the 'Practice' era too! (laughs)

MU: 'Practice' was the biggest record, right?

EP: Yeah. So far.

MU: (laughs) Did it go gold?

EP: No, it hasn't gone gold yet. It's a weird thing, because that album came out before SoundScan. We were up to about, almost 300,000 before SoundScan, and now SoundScan is showing the record at 100,000 and something. Combine those two and its like, gold. A couple of them are. But who knows what Atlantic Records is doing. We're not really breathing down their necks. If there's a dollar lying on the table and no one's claiming it, they're not exactly gonna go "hey, man!"

MU: They're the biggest record company this past year in terms of U.S. market share. And they're back signing metal bands.

EP: I heard about that.

MU: They signed Judas Priest and Queensryche.

EP: Yep.

MU: Would Testament ever go back to a major label?

EP: It depends on their intentions. We wouldn't go back unless they were gonna go all the way.

MU: How come Savatage never got dropped?

EP: They were more melodic, kind of. And they probably just cooperated. (laughs) When we put out 'Low', they were like asking for new photos, and then they go, "can you guys wear a different kind of clothes, maybe an alternativey kind of song?" So we could get on the radio. We were so pissed. We were like, let's send 'em "Dog Faced Gods". (laughs) And we sent it to them, and they were like, "Oh my god!"

MU: (laughs) You were a rock star during the 'Practice' era.

EP: Not really, I'm still the same person.

MU: But, c'mon, it's a little different in 1999, isn't it?

EP: Its fine. Because we were being portrayed as "five guys," we were all trying to look good. We forgot where we came from. Well, even though we didn't drift too far. 'Practice' is a good record, you know. But there's a little bit of compromising that's going on there. You know, we're not going [mouths crazy random technical thrash riff] (laughs) We're not goin' off. We're just keeping it kinda simple. That's where our drummer was at, that's where Alex was at writing. That's just where we were all at.

MU: Looking back, was that a good idea for you guys at that time, making that record?

EP: Yeah, it felt good. I mean, people loved that record.

MU: What happened after 'Low'.

EP: We left Atlantic after that. I mean, they totally dropped the ball on that one. It was a good record, it got good reviews. We knew it was a good record, it was just that the time was weird. Grunge was happening. "Metal" was a dirty word. And we refused to say we weren't metal.

MU: Do you think metal is still a dirty word?

EP: No, not even.

MU: It's coming back, isn't it?

EP: Totally.

MU: Do you feel that vibe?

EP: Yeah, totally. On the 'Demonic' tour it was starting to come back around. I think we scared a lot of people with that record. It's like "holy shit!" I mean I was teaching Dave "Demonic Refusal", and we were listening to it and we were like, "dude, that song makes me feel weird." He goes, "that song is so . . . " He loves it. He loves the 'Low' and 'Demonic' stuff. When we listen to some of the older stuff, he's like "oh, OK."

MU: Maybe he doesn't like the drummer.

EP: It's the drummer. But now that we're playing it, he digs it. Like, he loves "Burnt Offerings". He's like "man, that's song's cool, man. I didn't catch the vibe from the record."

MU: Testament flatlined once, didn't they?

EP: It was like about two weeks. It became Dog Faced Gods. That's why the 'Demonic' record is like that. It became a different trip.

MU: What made you think you needed to pack it in?

EP: Just that the lineup we had at the time wasn't gelling. We had so much negativity around us, about Testament. And it wasn't the fans, it was the people who were in the band. It was the people around us, who sort of blindfolded us. We started believing it.

MU: What did you think you would achieve by throwing out Testament and starting Dog Faced Gods? Isn't that a step backwards?

EP: Yeah, that was the whole thing. We were just like, if we go out, we're gonna have to open up, we wouldn't be able to headline.

MU: That was going to be you and Chuck?

EP: Me and Chuck and Gene Hoglan and Derrick Ramirez. It was going to be a four-piece.

MU: Were you thinking that death metal was a more happening sub-genre at that time?

EP: No, we weren't thinking of it as death metal, it was demonic, it was heavy. Death metal to us was like, that stuff that's like [mouths random cookie-monster style, indecipherable lyric]. Ours still had--Chuck put melody into the death. He had depth.

MU: Any chance 'The Gathering' can reinvigorate the focus for a new wave of San Francisco thrash?

EP: Yeah, I just don't know if the other bands in the Bay are gonna . . . everybody is into that, you know, Machine Head . . .

MU: What do you think of what Robb Flynn's doin'?

EP: I haven't heard it, all I know is what people are telling me . . .

MU: The rumor is hip-hop.

EP: Its like hip-hop, Korn, Deftones, that whole vibe.

MU: Are you into that stuff?

EP: No. I don't like that. I like it, but its not--I'm not gonna buy it.

MU: Did you like Vio-lence?

EP: Yeah, 'Oppressing the Masses'. We took them on tour, 'The New Order'. I remember Robb Flynn asking me to show him how to play "Trial by Fire".

MU: Do all the old scene verterans still come out for the shows? I saw an Exodus show at Maritime Hall a year and a half ago and it seemed like all the old 'heads were there.

EP: Its always like that. All the shows are like that. When Emperor plays it's going to be like that. Cradle of Filth played, it was like that.

MU: Who are the big San Francisco bands in the scene today, besides Machine Head? Skinlab?

EP: I haven't been to a recent Skinlab show. Last time I saw Skinlab was in a bar, two years ago. I don't know what they do now. But we still pack 'em in. We're playing The Fillmore here on this tour, which is a really cool venue.

MU: With The Haunted?

EP: Yep.

MU: How did they get picked for the tour?

EP: It was between them and Nevermore. I was trying to get some other bands, but you know...

MU: What do you think of Nevermore's new record?

EP: It's pretty good.

MU: Why didn't they get the slot?

EP: Their record label just . . . I don't know. I think we had problems with their record label in the past.

MU: I heard it was because they weren't the right style.

EP: I read that on their website and I'm like "what the? whatever." That was just their excuse, you know. Their way of covering their ass. I mean, whatever. I don't care.

MU: So where is the band headed in the future?

EP: We're just fans. We're searching for that perfect metal record.

MU: How close did you come with 'The Gathering'?

EP: Pretty close. I dig this vibe, right here. Different styles, that's what I want to blend. We want to have the blast beats, the bluesey metal beats. The double bass. We just want to mix it up. We're rehearsing right now. It's gonna sound good.

MU: Do you ever hope to see Testament videos on MTV again?

EP: I don't know. It'd be cool. I hope it'd be on a program showing four or five of the top bands from Norway, six bands from Sweden, six from the U.S. All the cool metal bands. Not rehashed rap songs, or Cinderella or what have you. Give that a glam rock night or something.

MU: What do you think of the Milwaukee Metalfest?

EP: It's pretty cool. We were gonna play it actually. We got asked to headline a night with Cradle of Filth. It didn't go down. We didn't have enough time to rehearse. Dave was like, "let's jam for three days and let's go do it." I'm like, "dude, you're not gonna get our songs down in three days!"

MU: Do you think you could have pulled it off?

EP: No. We're on the fifth day now, and he's still stoppin' and goin'. (laughs)

MU: (laughs)

EP: "What's that part?" There's a lot of changes in our stuff.

MU: Why do bands always simplify things as their career progresses?

EP: Laziness.

MU: Why does a band always say their new album is more mature 'cause it has only two riffs instead of five? Why is that more mature?

EP: It's not mature. It's a cop-out. It's hard getting off a tour, getting a lot of money and spending your money and having fun, and then trying to go into a studio to try to write a masterpiece. Its like, what can we do to hurry up? Just throw a couple of chords together--that's cool, that will go on radio.

MU: So does adversity for a band breed a better record the next time around?

EP: Yeah, it kinda keeps your feet on the ground. Who knows what would have happened to us if we . . . money does weird things to you.

MU: Do you hope to play Ozzfest someday?

EP: A lot of people asked us how come we weren't playing it. We asked if we could play it. There was really no . . . I think they want new bands that are on big record labels that say, "here Ozzy, here's $20-50,000 to let the Deftones on."

MU: Then how is Slayer on the bill?

EP: Slayer is an exception 'cause they still do good business.

MU: What do you think of them?

EP: Slayer? I love Slayer.

MU: Is Lombardo jealous that they're playing in front of big Ozzfest audiences?

EP: No, he doesn't trip on it like that. He doesn't think like that. It's more of a personal thing for him, with the other three guys. The way they treated him. The way shit went down. He doesn't trip on it like that, though.

MU: A lot of bands either change or die, yet Testament endures in pure form.

EP: Its like I always say, "Life is Hard. Testament is Harder."

MU: That's on your website, under the street team section.

EP: My manager wrote that. I haven't read it yet though.

MU: It tells everything you guys went through with the last album and tour, and concludes . . .

EP: Oh, he tells the whole horror story then!

MU: Yeah, its great. He concludes by saying "Life is Hard. Testament is Harder."

EP: He stole that from me. That's my line.

MU: Is Lombardo only doing the first leg of the tour?

EP: We're going to Europe in September. John Dette is going to do that. Dette is going to do all the stuff Lombardo doesn't do. We rehearsed last week with Dette, and he already knew all of the new shit.

MU: What tunes are you playing?

EP: Like nine songs off 'The Gathering', then a couple off of each off the other ones. Actually, to tell you the truth, we're doing twenty songs. Actually, we are playing "The Legacy" again. We haven't played a ballad in a while. And the way this set is coming together, that song just fits perfectly in the middle. It brings this whole mood. It lets us just go "ahhhhhhh."

MU: Why aren't you playing New York, Boston, and some of the other big northeast cities?

EP: We're gonna do a second leg in November, and that's gonna be Montreal, Boston, New York. We tried to book a New York City gig. We were trying to get the Limelight--but there's nothing going on there. Then we tried to get something at Tramps, but it was booked. The promoters were like Coney Island High, and we were like, no.

MU: They closed their doors anyway.

EP: Well, for us, it barely fits Chuck on the stage. It's not like the old days, when we played New York City, we used to play the Ritz. That was just the bomb, man. Killer.

MU: Who's gonna support you guys on the November tour?

EP: I've got a call into The Crown. I don't know if they're really the right act for Testament. In Flames. The Crown. Just the bands that I'm into. Chuck doesn't say anything. He's like "Who? Whatever." And I'm just like . . . I'm trying to get Dimmu Borgir, but they probably have too big of a show, they probably want a lot of money.

MU: Do you realize the power you have to help the scene and bring everybody together with the right package? Shit, Eric, you're in an influential band yet incredibly aware of the current state of the genre.

FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="3" COLOR="#FF0000">Eric Peterson
T FACE="verdana, helvetica, arial, sans serif" SIZE="2"> EP: In 2000, we want to put together another Clash of the Titans, but call it something different. I'd like to do something with four or five bands going out on tour. But that's the problem. All the bands will be like our caliber or smaller. And where do you take it? The big argument with the promoters is, let's say, Testament and Machine Head go out. The promoters are gonna say that they draw the same people. But I say no. It gets the lazy metalheads out. "The Night of the Banging Head." You gotta go.

MU: You're such a metalhead, Eric.

EP: It's in my blood. My girlfriend trips on me. She's into Dave Matthews. She's 26, and she's growing out of metal. I'm 35 and I never left it.

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