CHUCK BILLY Reveals 'Best Thing' That's Ever Happened To TESTAMENT As Far As Business Goes
December 9, 2020
In a recent interview with Brazil's Heavy Culture, TESTAMENT singer Chuck Billy was asked what his biggest regret is from the early years of the band. He responded (see video below): "I don't know if there's a lot of regrets. I look back now, [and] as far as the business goes, maybe we weren't paying attention close enough with labels, management, lawyers — the whole thing.
"When we signed [our first] record contract, we thought it was 'sex, drugs and rock and roll — let's go on tour,'" he continued. "And we didn't think about the rest of the business. I think we were very lucky to have a guy like Jonny Z [executive producer of METALLICA's debut LP, 'Kill 'Em All', and founder of Megaforce Records] sign the band and me continue being friends with him, because Jonny actually made us do something when the band broke up and our Atlantic deal ended. He made us start a record company — me and Eric [Peterson, guitar] — so we've been licensing our TESTAMENT music every since then. And that's always been the best thing [that's] ever happened to this band as far as business goes. Maybe we lost the past, but we're still here in business to make stuff in the future."
Billy added: "So you've gotta watch your business, always try to save your publishing, retain your rights to your music. We've had a couple of situations where we signed record deals — even [for] 'The Gathering' record, which was a very good record, the label we signed with went bankrupt. So, if we did not own those masters, that record would have been gone — nobody would have ever seen it again. So, fortunately, we own that master, and we're able to take it to Nuclear Blast and everybody else and keep it out there."
This past summer, Peterson told Guitar World that the "darkest" period of TESTAMENT's career probably took place around the time of the 1992 album "The Ritual".
"I remember Atlantic Records telling us that we had only sold around 250,000 records that year — which would be amazing now [laughs] — and we were down about that," he said.
"We lost our management around that time, Alex [Skolnick, guitar] told us that this was going to be his last tour with TESTAMENT, and Lou [drummer Louie Clemente] left — so everything was kind of falling apart around then, but we were still hopeful.
"So we changed some things around, changed how we did business and formed our own record company and things like that — and just when it seemed that we had gotten a hold of things again, that was when Chuck [Billy, vocals] got sick. [In 2001, Billy was diagnosed with a cancerous condition known as germ cell seminoma.]
"But even after all that, we kept it going, and we got heavy again, and I think that was the start of the new TESTAMENT. We developed a more modern sound and had more of a black and death metal influence, even though we were still very much a thrash band. We just weren't trying to be politically correct with our lyrics and all that — I mean, come on, we put out a record called 'Demonic'. [Laughs]
"By that point, we had gone through a couple of different guitar players, a lot of drummers, we were having problems with our original bass player [Greg Christian] — and we weren't really sure what we were going to do. So we ended up doing a record called 'First Strike Still Deadly' , which contained re-recorded versions of some of our older songs.
"When I go back and listen to 'The Legacy'  or 'The New Order' , I'm not blown away by the production, but the songs sound modern when we play them today — they sound great, and that was what we were going for with 'First Strike Still Deadly'."
TESTAMENT's latest album, "Titans Of Creation", came out in April via Nuclear Blast. The disc was produced by Peterson and Billy, while Juan Urteaga of Trident Studios handled co-producing, recording and engineering. Andy Sneap was responsible for the mixing and mastering of the album. Eliran Kantor stepped up once again to create new artwork for the cover of this release.
Earlier in the year, TESTAMENT completed "The Bay Strikes Back 2020" European tour with EXODUS and DEATH ANGEL.