ALEX SKOLNICK Looks Back On His Time Away From TESTAMENT: 'I Don't Need To Just Play Thrash Metal'
December 28, 2020
Alex Skolnick spoke to Italy's Poisoned Rock about his time away from TESTAMENT in the 1990s and early 2000s, including how he changed his life completely by moving to New York, studying jazz, and forming the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO, which is still playing jazz today.
"After TESTAMENT, I didn't wanna be stuck just being the ex-guitarist of TESTAMENT," the guitarist said (see video below). "I was very proud of my work, but I know people try to put you in a category, and they say that's all you are. And I've always been very open as a musician — I don't need to just play thrash metal, [and] I don't need to just play with thrash metal musicians. So I moved far away — I moved away from the whole scene. I moved to the East Coast, New York, and I met many different musicians. I studied music. I got a degree in music."
He continued: "I just really wanted to experience music at that level, which I might have done had I not joined the band. I always thought I might go on to study music at a university. So I did that. And at the university, I met my drummer from the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO, Matt Zebroski, who I still play with today. And I met many other musicians that you might not have heard of, who I've worked with on gigs and as a sideman. And during that time, I got a call from the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA [the progressive rock group formed in 1996 that has gained fame through its holiday-themed rock opera tours]. It was just starting to become huge. So I was there from the time that it was playing small theaters. But it split into two. So the very first tour happened, and it was just one band. And because it was a holiday show, they wanted to have one band on the West Coast and then one band on the East Coast, and they could both play at the same time during the same time period. So I got put into the East Coast band. In a few years, it was playing big venues, like Madison Square Garden in New York. We were on television."
Skolnick added: "So it was very interesting for me, because TESTAMENT was always an underground band. The biggest audiences we played for were supporting legendary acts — we supported JUDAS PRIEST and IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH with [Ronnie James] Dio at one point. But I'd never been in the headlining act. So with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, [I got to work with] some of the top crew people. The same people who did the fire [in the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA show] — 'cause there was a lot of fire — they did fire for KISS and Britney Spears."
Skolnick joined TESTAMENT in 1985 at the age of 16 and stayed with the band for eight years before leaving in 1993 and going on to study at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
In addition to playing with ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO and TESTAMENT, he has worked as a sideman with such artists as vocalist Ishtar of the French band ALABINA and Jewish folk singer Debbie Friedman. He has also guested on an album from RODRIGO Y GABRIELA.
Two years ago, the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO — comprised of Skolnick, Zebroski and bassist Nathan Peck — released "Conundrum", its first album since 2011.
TESTAMENT's latest album, "Titans Of Creation", came out in April via Nuclear Blast.
Earlier in the year, TESTAMENT completed "The Bay Strikes Back 2020" European tour with EXODUS and DEATH ANGEL.