I had the chance to sit down for a brief 15-minute chat with TESTAMENT guitarist Eric Peterson a short while ago. The anticipation for the new album Brotherhood of the Snake (October 28 via Nuclear Blast Records) is at an all-time high right now in the metal community, so I jumped at the chance to get some insight from the man. We talked about the record, the band’s relationship with producer Juan Urteaga, and more. Have a look:
Amps: Tell me EVERYTHING you can about Brotherhood of the Snake and working with Juan Urteaga again.
Eric: We’ve done quite a bit of stuff with Juan since The Formation of Damnation. He worked on Dark Roots of Earth.
He recorded and mixed the covers we did on that one (“Powerslave”, “Animal Magnetism”, “Dragon Attack”) and I did some live DRAGONLORD stuff with him as well as the new DRAGONLORD record, which isn’t released yet. On Brotherhood he did the whole record except the guitars. I did my own guitars at my house.
Amps: I love his ear, and he just gets such great sounds out of a band. and those covers were great!
Eric: Thank you. Oh, yeah! He’s like us. He used to be the singer of the band VILE. He’s from the death metal background, he’s a screamer. He loves the older school stuff as well. He knows what we’re after and what we’re getting on about. It’s good to have somebody who’s a good engineer and is into the same stuff you are.
Amps: Four years is a long time to wait between TESTAMENT albums, but you certainly give the fans their fix by touring a LOT between records. And you always seem to hit wherever I’m living multiple times, whether it’s NY, Texas, and now Philly.
Eric: We love touring. Not only do we love it but that’s kind of what our job is. I think there are so many bands out there that CAN’T get on tour, or are waiting around for the right moment and we just say, “Look, this is what we chose to do. Let’s go out and do it while we can” you know?
Amps: I can honestly say that last year’s show was the BEST you’ve ever sounded as a band to me. And I’ve seen you seven times going back to 1989!
Eric: Oh wow, thank you! Oh yeah, that was a great lineup with Steve DiGiorgio (bass), and it’s still pretty hot. We were able to capture that in studio. This record, we got to finally work these songs out as a band. You know, when we’re not on tour Steve or Gene (Hoglan, drums) are, or Alex (Skolnick, guitar) was doing METAL ALLEGIANCE. So basically this record was put together mostly by Chuck (Billy, vocals), myself, and a kind of ghost writer drummer who helped us out. Before we knew it we were ready to record. It wasn’t exactly a shocker, but the other guys were like, “Huh??” (laughs). So with all that in mind, and with me being an original member I kind of know what direction musically we need to go in, and I’ve kind of taken on a producing role within the band, and Chuck has taken on more of the business side.
We really know what we want to do for TESTAMENT, and we were able to make this happen within a couple of months. Putting all the songs together, recording them, mixing them, then jumping back on a plane on the last day, it’s pretty crazy stuff. But, we made it happen. I think the odds were against us, but we did it. There’s a lot of material I have, and I wouldn’t put us in that position if I didn’t think we could do it.
Amps: How much writing are you doing personally? Is it constant, or only when the mood hits you?
Eric: I’m always working on stuff. I library a lot of riffs. Because I hate waking up and forgetting the riff I came up with the night before and being like, “Fuck! Why didn’t I record that?” On this record when I ran out of ideas I went back to a folder I have that says “TESTAMENT Demo Licks” and I’d listen for like an hour and then there’d be one of those, “Wait! What was that??” type licks. And that’s where I got some really good stuff from, my jamming. Not thinking of writing a song, just jamming.
Amps: Do you have a tour itinerary mapped out yet, or no?
Eric: We’re mapping it out right now. We’re hitting all the continents. Right when the record comes out we’ll be on tour with AMON AMARTH. We’re supporting them for four weeks in Europe. After that, we go to Asia in the new year. Then in the spring we’ll be doing the States. I can’t say the lineup yet but it’s gonna be pretty killer. And we’ll probably do some festivals in between.
Amps: Much like EXODUS, OVERKILL, and ACCEPT, you guys are doing some of your best writing now, in the second half of your career. Why is that?
Eric: If I had to ask myself that when I was younger I wouldn’t know. But now that I’m here and older (laughs) I guess it’s that I’m really, really into music still. And I think the hunger is there. TESTAMENT is still a force to be reckoned with, but we’re not stuffing our pockets with cash yet. We are staying hungry. We’ve still got the will to do whatever we’re gonna do. I think TESTAMENT is what it is, and I’m really happy with what we’ve accomplished. But there’s always that feeling, when you first start a band, that you want to get to a certain level. And I think that’s what drives us. It keeps us hungry and wanting to be viable.
Amps: What would you like the listener to take away from this record?
Eric: Good question. I think musically every record you wanna strive to be better than the last, but I’ve really been trying to get back on track to the heavier side of TESTAMENT, but also keep it melodic, and get both of those elements together. Somewhere along the way we’ve done both but this record is a good marriage of the melodic vocals but still being heavy, melodic guitars but still being heavy. Just trying to STAY heavy and be melodic, but without rehashing anything. It’s pretty hard after 30 years; it’s hard to have a record that really comes from the heart like your first one. I’m pretty stoked and I think everyone’s gonna dig it.
Amps: What would you like to say to all the TESTAMENT fans in the world?
Eric: Thank you for the support. Check out Brotherhood of the Snake, coming October 28. I hope you guys love it!
So there you have it. My chat with Eric Peterson. I don’t think anyone is more excited for Brotherhood of the Snake, and the upcoming TESTAMENT live shows than me. So on release day…you know what to do!!
BAND PHOTOS: © GENE AMBO