TESTAMENT's ERIC PETERSON On Metal's Decline In Popularity During The '90s: 'It Was Awesome. It Kind Of Weeded Out The Weak'

February 18, 2018

Sebastiano Mereu of From Hero To Zero recently conducted an interview with guitarist Eric Peterson of San Francisco Bay Area thrash veterans TESTAMENT. You can watch the entire interview below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the differences of being a musician today versus when TESTAMENT got their start over 30 years ago:

Eric: "When we started, our genre, thrash metal, maybe there was 10 thrash metal bands that were signed. Then maybe another 20 or 30 that were unsigned. Now, there's two thousand signed and two million unsigned, so, the genre has grown a lot, and, yeah, it's crazy. To think that my band is part of a blueprint of a certain type of genre of music, so it's kind of cool. I don't know… I'm very down to earth. I don't really trip on that. I don't feel like a rock star. I don't feel special in that sense other than I'm just a fan of what I do. I really like the craft. I'm very happy God's given me the creation to make this kind of music. That's how I feel."

On the decline of metal's popularity in the 1990s:

Eric: "It was awesome. It started becoming… thrash metal was all about poseurs and people that were fake. Thrash was more real. We always made fun of people that wanted to be in a rock band just for the sake of being in a rock band, getting girls or having long hair or whatever. It seemed like thrash metal started going toward that way. Even us, we started using hairspray and parting our hair on the side and doing some stupid shit. It kind of weeded out the weak and showed the bands that weren't real because they switched over and started wearing grunge clothes or switching over to the music that was called 'alternative.' Bands like SLAYER and TESTAMENT and EXODUS and a lot of thrash bands stood their ground, I think. They didn't really switch over. It was hard. Record sales went down for us, but it made the market a lot more [smaller], after we got out of that, we knew that it was going to be a certain period of time of music and we got out of it and I think we came back on top a little bit because we never lost that ground, I think."

On the overall decline in record sales:

Eric: "Back then, it was different because then, it was more real of losing record sales. Now, it's across the board. You got METALLICA who used to sell one hundred million records. They're selling a million now. For us, it's not really changed too much. We used to sell almost gold, maybe three, four hundred thousand in the States. Now, it's more like around one-hundred [thousand] or a little under. For us, it was a little bit [of change]. For a lot of bands that were up here, [it went down]. For them, it was probably, like, 'Wow. Crazy.'"

On whether TESTAMENT has to tour more to bring in revenue:

Eric: "Oh yeah, definitely. Since you're not selling a lot of records, it's gone down I would say half for a lot of bands, it's gone down two-thirds of your sales, so it leaves bands to tour more. But I think our kind of music is meant for touring, because it's not soothing, like you put on our music and you go, 'Ah! This is making me feel good.' It's more a live thing for TESTAMENT, just for the fans to be there and experience the energy. We love it. We love to tour."

On the conceptual element to TESTAMENT's latest studio album, "Brotherhood Of The Snake":

Eric: "We didn't say, 'Okay, 'Brotherhood Of The Snake', we're going to write about 'Brotherhood Of The Snake' to make all the songs about that.' A lot of the songs came into the theory of lyrics. Yeah, some of them co-existed with each other. I don't think TESTAMENT, other than 'The New Order', I don't think we've really written a record that's more conceptual, but I think maybe in the future we'll try to do something that would be cool, like [RUSH's] '2112' or something. I think we could do something like that, but it would be cool. That would be cool, especially with Steve [DiGiorgio, bass] and Gene [Hoglan, drums]. Those guys are awesome."

"Brotherhood Of The Snake" was released in October 2016 via Nuclear Blast. The cover was once again created by renowned artist Eliran Kantor, who also handled the art for TESTAMENT's previous album, 2012's "Dark Roots Of Earth", and worked with bands like HATEBREED, SOULFLY and KATAKLYSM in the past.

TESTAMENT will join SLAYER on the North American leg of the Tom Araya-fronted band's "farewell tour." Also appearing on the bill is LAMB OF GOD, ANTHRAX and BEHEMOTH. The tour kicks off May 10 in San Diego, California.

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