We find one very relaxed Eric Peterson in full chill-mode at the back lounge area of their European tour bus; ahead of their Irish show with Exodus and Death Angel.
With their new album due to hit the record stores and online streaming sites on April 3rd, Peterson is in great spirits and talks about the current sold-out shows that have been greeting them on this current EU jaunt, as we make ourselves comfortable on the shiny black leather sofas, on this rolling hotel.
OD – ‘Titans of Creation’ is a monumental album and see’s Testament pushing the boundaries once again with a much heavier presence to that of previous albums. Would you agree that things were kicked up a notch on this album, with regards to its sheer heaviness?
ERIC – Yeah, totally! I just knew when I heard the final mix that Andy (Sneap) did a phenomenal job and it makes such a difference when the mix is just right. We wanted everything to be balanced on this album and I think that we’ve achieved that for sure.
We just really dug a little deeper this time around, as we really try to push things further with each album. It’s been 35 years that we’ve been doing this. We try to stick to our formula and then we started thinking: “Okay, we’ve already done that, but we need to do it like we haven’t done it before” if you know what I mean.
So, that’s kind of the mindset when we approach writing. We wanted to create a sonic recipe that’s gonna taste fucking killer.
OD – I’ve noticed a more extreme element within the songwriting, for example, ‘Curse of Osiris’ which is a fucking absolute banger? Would you agree that this transition seems to be a gradual element with each new album?
ERIC – Yeah, that track has me screaming my black metal style vocals all over it [Laughing]. It’s my “Dragonlord” vibe. We were sitting around with Gene (Hoglan) and he was like: “We need another Thrash song!” and so I said: “Okay, let go jam” and I think in about a half-hour, we had that track laid down. I think we actually called that track ‘Thrasher” at first. It’s a fucking solid banger, that’s for sure. “Curse of Osiris” is just a brutal song, I love it!
OD – With regards to the new material, what are you including in the setlist?
ERIC – So far, we’ve been doing ‘Night of the Witch‘ and we plan to showcase ‘Children of the Next Level’ at the London show as that’s our next single. We have a killer, goofy/weird evil video for the track. That will be coming out on the day of the album’s release (April 3rd).
OD – How did this tour come about. Because this is kind of a dream line up for Thrash fans? Whose idea was it, and how long was it in the mix before it finally came together?
ERIC – It wasn’t really ‘one person’ per se. It was something that we’ve all talked about for years. I remember talking with the other guys and saying that it would be great to get this tour off the ground around the time when we were planning to release “Titans…“.
It was more for the purpose of getting these bands who were instrumental in the Bay Area Thrash scene on one bill. Just knowing that Gary (Holt) was going to be wrapped with Slayer and back in Exodus was just great timing. Death Angel are always great to tour with and seeing as they just got nominated for a Grammy, and with us having a new record about to be released, we all just figured that this was the right time to make this tour a reality; and celebrate our legacy.
It all just fell into place and I think that all the bands are very relevant today. You have to remember, it was 35 years ago we were all playing at Ruthies (legendary Bay Area venue)!
OD – There is no question that the Bay Area has produced some of, if not the most important metal bands of all time, regardless of what sub-genre. There seems to still be a very family-like bond between bands, not only from the Bay Area but in a global sense, more-so than other metal genres, why do you think that it?
ERIC – Well yeah, I guess it’s kind of special. A lot of the glam bands from that era hung out together also but the Thrash genre is still very relevant today; as it was back then. We all just used to hang out together, you know? We were, and still are, genuine friends.
It was almost like if you wanted to hang out, you had to be in a band [Laughing]. We have a long-standing collective bond with a lot of bands that is just as close today. We used to hang out at Ruthies and another venue, The Stone, where we used to just party all the time. And when those venues closed for the night, we’d take the party straight over to (Paul) Bayloff’s house, or someone else’s to just keep the party going. They were good times man [Laughing].
But all of those bands were always around or involved in some capacity. The fact that it’s 35 years later and we’re still hanging out with each other, putting out music and creating good times, is just awesome. We’re stoked to still be doing this.
OD – I can see from the reaction online that this tour (Bay Area Strikes Back) is doing really well.
ERIC – Yeah, every night is either a full house, or it’s close to it. Because of the success, we’re gonna come back to Europe after this Autumn to play in some different markets. I know what the plans are, but I just can’t say anything about it just yet.
OD – Testament played a vital role in the origin of Thrash and continue to do so, and seeing as you’ve witnessed the explosion of the genre from ground zero to what it is today, do you think that the story of Thrash has been represented accurately with the likes of “Murder in the Front Row”?
ERIC – Harold (Oimoen, Murder in the Front Row) was favouring Slayer and Exodus with that project. We get mentioned a couple of times but in my opinion, he could have given a little more attention to the other bands. But hey, that’s what he has, you know? It was his photography and that’s what he had in his collection.
I think we were just starting out around that era. There’s the picture of us in our priest collars ‘n shit [Laughing]! That was something that we did for like three or four shows. We were just trying new shit at the time and trying to find out who we are.
I actually remember actually going downtown Oakland with my cousin to find a clergy shop to buy the collars and the guy that worked in the store was like; “Oh, what nice young church-going boys.” And I’m thinking; “Yeah, if only he knew that we’re playing a track called “Curse of the Legions of Death” tonight!” [Laughing]
We got our rosary beads and bullet belts to complete the look. It was such a fun time. We had a blast with that stuff back then. [Laughing]
OD – Of all the Bay Area venues from back in the day, Ruthies seemed to be very much ‘ground zero‘ for everything. A hub where you all connected and hung out. Now that those venues are gone, is there any that holds a particularly special place in your memories?
ERIC – Well, these venues served their purpose and as a result, we got to cut our teeth, define who we are and present our music to the rest of the world. When we all came back, the scene had left [Laughing]. I would have to say for definite, Ruthies was my favourite. We did a lot of stuff in The Stone (Keystone), Mabuhay Gardens and places like that, but it was very much Ruthies that seemed to be THE place. Even if we were doing something at another venue, everybody used to end up at Ruthie’s.
OD – I was one of the lucky punters that attended the Thrash Of The Titans show in San Francisco, Maritime Hall and to this day, was one of the best shows I’ve been to. I was totally looking forward to a DVD or footage of that day to be released. Is it still all tangled up in legal bullshit and do you think we’ll ever get a chance to see it released?
ERIC – There’s so much stuff that was filmed that day. Loads of backstage footage. (Sigh..) I mean, never say never but that whole situation just turned into a legal battle and that guy got kind of weird with everything, which is such a shame.
OD – You’ve achieved a lot in the decades that Testament have been recording and releasing albums, what is your proudest moment when you look back over it all?
ERIC – We’ve worked very hard to get to where we are today but I would have to say, it was probably around the time of the second album (The New Order, 1988) and it was more of a dumbfounded experience that I’m referring to here.
Getting to play at Monsters of Rock in the UK with Kiss, Iron Maiden and David Lee Roth. That was just insane for me! We’re in the states playing to 200/400 people a night, working our way through the clubs and then next then, we’re being flown to Europe to perform in front of 100K people for three shows.
That was just so fucking huge for us at that time. It was kind of hard to process [Laughing]. We’ve since done shows like that many times but it was that very first time, it was like nothing else I had experienced, and it just had this really vivid and totally unforgettable sequence of events that surrounded those shows. It was just amazing.
We sort of didn’t really know how to handle it. It was just like; “WOW!” [Laughing]
OD – A lot of people would agree that the way Slayer retired was kind of like a perfect storm and the reaction was just huge. Do you think that it also was like a shot in the arm for the thrash scene, especially with older audiences?
ERIC – Oh yeah. Totally. Before that, Slayer was playing the bigger halls like two nights in the Warfield and then to come back to play outdoor sheds for like 20k people. That was just amazing to see. We went out with them for two runs, and it was just incredible.
In one sense, it was so great to see the numbers at the shows but in another sense, it was kind of sad that it took that long in their career… for them to say; “Hey, this is gonna be the last time we’re doing this” before people took notice if you know what I mean. Slayer should have always been playing venues of that size.
But still, it was monumental and it was incredible to see. Those guys totally deserve it.
OD – Of all the bands that emerged from the Bay Area is there one particular band that in your eyes should have been so much bigger than they were?
ERIC – Yeah, Testament! [Laughing]. Well, some of the bands kind of messed things up themselves. They had something really good in the beginning and then things changed. They just get steered in the wrong direction. There’s this one band that was called Lazz Rockit, and for the record, they had the look, the live show, they had everything going for them.
Metallica even came up to open for them at one stage. Now, I know that the band won’t take this in the wrong way, but they brought out an album and it was like: “What the hell is going on with the cover?” And then you look on the back (see below) and they have like all this leather and fur, and everybody was just like; “What the hell is this?”
They were just so badass. They used to wear leather jackets and jeans. I remember listening to the album and thinking to myself; “What happened?, This isn’t how this band sounds“. They were gonna be huge. I was a really big fan of Lazz Rockit and when that album came out it just sank. Honestly, it was kind of sad because I liked really liked that band a lot.
Their first album ‘Cities Gonna Burn‘ (1985) is incredible and that’s the album that caught my attention. We all thought they were gonna be huge.
OD – Would you consider Forbidden to be a Bay Area band that should have been way bigger?
ERIC – Yeah, totally. At least they got to do some good stuff and had a consistent rise in their career. With Lazz… they were destined for huge things. They were selling out venues everywhere and for a moment, they were the big thing in the Bay Area and then you had that album ‘No Stranger to Danger‘ (1988) and it was just a wipe-out. Forbidden had that amazing debut ‘Forbidden Evil‘ and it was just killer and then they went on to release some pretty awesome albums that saw them get a great deal of respect.
I’m not sure what happened with those guys but for whatever reason, they call it a day.
OD – I guess that’s just the way things are with some bands. Life is hard.
ERIC – Life is hard… but Testament is harder! [Laughing]
Testament releases their new album ‘Titans of Creation” on April 3rd via Nuclear Blast. You can order your copy here.
Overdrive’s full review of the Dublin show featuring Testament, Exodus and Death Angel can be accessed here.