Lounging around in the comfortable surroundings of the venues backstage lounge/hang out area, we are greeted with a chatty and upbeat Di Georgio, who is clearly pumped to be doing what he loves – touring and playing metal!
OD – We are now nearly a year and a half since the release of “Brotherhood of the Snake” and it seems that Testament have been touring almost non-stop since. When you complete the US dates with Slayer, will that be a wrap for this album?
STEVE – I believe so. It seems to be leaning that way. There’s no official word but I’m sure a few shows here and there will pop up, but with regards to the official album tour cycle, I would say it will be as good as done at that point. That’s a good thing because it’s great to see the band having a desire to do another record because leading up to creating time to do this one (‘Brotherhood of the Snake‘) we were not sure!
So we just did it and it came out great, charted very high in many countries and here we are supporting it all over the globe, so if we can do another round it would be great for guys of our vintage and at this point in our career.
OD – With your other projects on the go or at least on the back burner, do you find that time management can be a bit of a problem at times?
STEVE – Extremely difficult! (laughing) It’s one of the things that I’m really bad at. I recently hooked up with a management company to help me sort things and get the right amount of promotion happening for different projects etc. I can handle a lot of the business stuff but the time management can be a real problem sometimes. It’s just something that I need to get better at.
OD – You seem very open to new projects, for example, your involvement with ‘Mythodea’, ‘Charred Walls of the Damned’ etc. Do you find that the more diverse projects you get involved with the more your mind is open to exploring a new level of inspiration and writing?
STEVE – Yes, totally. Ever since I was young I really craved inspiration and influence from all kinds of music. It’s just something that I’m inclined to do and then when I look back and quantify it I think to myself “Wow, this turned out pretty cool“!
I kind of have the inclination to be a sort of chameleon of sorts, I just ‘fit’ wherever I go. When I was a kid, like 8 years old, myself and some friends got into the music programme at school and I was just jumping around all the different instruments, getting a taste for each new experience. When we got to the high school level, I was watching my friends win awards and I was thinking to myself “I’m like them. How come I’m not winning anything?”
I figured it out then that instead of jumping from one instrument to another, my friends stuck with just one and became the best they could on that instrument, whereas I was just kind of floating between each one and not really going deep into discovering my potential ability with that instrument. So, I guess you can say that I really don’t have any control and tend to just bounce around trying new things and experimenting with other artists and ideas.
Playing with Mythodea and then doing something brutal with say, ‘Charred Walls..‘ is just like using different colours on a painting, but instead of actual paint, it’s music.
OD – Have you ever considered putting out your own solo project?
STEVE – No, that’s not really my thing. I had a couple of projects where I was one of the main composers or creative forces, but I wouldn’t ever go beyond that and make it more egocentric because I enjoy the interaction and input with other musicians. I’de rather just be a slave and play what people tell me! (laughing)
OD – Like a hired gun?
STEVE – Yeah, that’s it. I’m a hired gun (laughing).
OD – Have you seen the Netflix documentary ‘Hired Gun’ and would you agree with the way it was portrayed?
STEVE – Yeah, that’s awesome! It’s a fucking perfect portrait of this industry. It’s dead on man.
OD – What do you think is the catalyst behind the resurgence of Thrash over the last decade?
STEVE – It’s like anything in nature. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s a mechanism that clicks with the bands providing the music, the fans buying or streaming that music and coming to the shows. All of those things have kind of brought back the older fans who would have been into the scene from back in the day.
Ther was a huge gap in the 90’s but when it all came back it seemed like it was the right time and it’s been fantastic to see. It’s a two-fold situation with the bands wanting to play but it’s no fun performing in an empty room, so the fans are the very beating heart of the scene. One feeds the other if you know what I mean.
OD – With reference to the Death DTA tours, would you regard that a cathartic experience with reference to closure on that part of your life?
STEVE – No, actually completely opposite. I look at the DTA tours as sort of a new beginning. We created and performed those songs as young men and then we go out 20 years later and reproduce them and it’s awakened something in us as musicians. We got to touch back on something that we used to do but without that, who knows if we would have awoken that forgotten path that was kind of hidden for some time.
OD – Did you find taking on those songs again without Chuck (Schuldiner) to be a challenge?
STEVE – It was absolutely a challenge and it was not easy by a longshot. That was one of the bands where there was more emphasis on quantity, we packed a lot of stuff into each tune. Luckily for us, Chuck was a great visionary songwriter and there catchy melodies and repeats here and there, so the listener was not getting lost in a progression of wankery. There was a formula and it worked. But, within each track, there is a lot of intricate detail and for us to be able to pull that off 20 years later, and considering that we literally had not played those tracks in such a long time, I think we did a pretty good job.
Also, another reason why it doesn’t feel like a ‘closure’ situation, is that so many people from all over the world have contacted us say stuff like “I never got to see Death back in the day and this is fantastic” or “I wasn’t even born when Death were touring and loved the show” and that’s just mind-blowing to me.
Look, I know it’s not the “real” Death because Chuck is not here, but if we didn’t sell all the tickets and fill up those venues, making so many people happy wherever we performed, we would not have done it.
OD – Could we potentially see DTA doing some more live dates in the not-too-distant future?
STEVE – We are still getting offers today for more shows. We know that we are a cover band. There’s no new product, absolutely no agenda to promote anything new or whatever, this is just cover band playing old songs and people really want it and they really enjoy it and that helps us enjoy it even more. Honestly, if ten people showed up to a DTA show, we would still enjoy playing it, because selfishly, it’s awesome to play those songs. Plus, we get to do whatever we want, because the boss is not there (laughing).
Chuck was my best friend since we were teenagers and I know he would really dig what we were doing. We totally plan on coming back, but we don’t know when or where. It’s a totally unique situation with a combination of like-minded musicians and we go out and have as much fun as possible.
OD – The Gathering turns 20 next year. Are there any plans for a 20th-anniversary tour?
STEVE – I’m not usually the guy that suggests things like that, but I’ve been dropping seeds to the rest of the guys about this idea of doing some shows for The Gathering’s 20th anniversary. We’ll see what comes of it and I’m sure the fans would want to revisit that album. We have a year to have a proper look at the idea and now that we’re older, wiser and slower, I’m sure we’ll do the right thing (laughing).
OD – The evolution of metal has been well documented, however, are there any bands that you feel don’t get enough credit, where credits due?
STEVE – That’s a pretty difficult question. That’s hard to answer man. Gosh, I just don’t know where to start. I feel that metal, in general, is only semi-well documented and we could do with some more focus on the origins with some of the earlier bands as well as the new, exciting genres that are currently making waves.
I remember buying the music magazines back when I was younger and they were just so important for discovering new music. They were some really exciting times. There is no question that technology has improved the waiting time for fans as well as the access to the music, but I feel that it flattened out the anticipation and excitement for the music. Do you know what I mean?
I want to embrace the technology and call it ‘progress‘ but like we were talking about earlier, there was something really exciting about that period of time and the limited access to the music, be it the magazines, videos, etc just made it more special when you finally got your hands on it.
OD – At what point in your life did you realise that this was going to be your career and did you ever consider another vocation in life?
STEVE – About five years ago! I’m not kidding! I was brought up with the programming in my brain to pursue your talent and do what you want to do, but remember you gotta live. So, I had a full-time job for most of my life until Chuck Billy yanked me outta there for a full-time position in Testament. I was just shy of 20 years in the school district in my town, but I had basically graduated from high-school on Friday and was started my job on Monday.
Most of my time in Death, I didn’t juggle too much between full-time work and music. But, when I wasn’t on the road or in the studio I didn’t have in-between time as I was always working. That was basically the situation up until I was about 45 years old. Then my kids grew up, moved out and became self-sufficient and things are much different now.
The responsibilities are still there but Testament is in a much better position than that of my first stint with them 20 years ago. I still don’t believe that I’m ‘set’ but at least for now, this is what I do and believe me I don’t take it for granted. To do it at this age and in demand, I never would have pictured that ever. I treat everybody with total respect and am just so grateful that I get to do this for a living.
Testament will be heading out on tour tomorrow with Slayer, Lamb of God, Anthrax and Behemoth, starting in San Diago with tickets on sale here. ‘Brotherhood of the Snake‘ is out now via Nuclear Blast. Get your copy here.
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