Tag: Eddie Van Halen
JOHN 5 is pleased to announce the new release date for his impressive upcoming full-length solo CD/DVD, God Told Me To. The CD/DVD will be released through Rocket Science Ventures and Sony/RED on May 8th, 2012—just days before he heads out to perform with Rob Zombie on their upcoming co-headliner with Megadeth. God Told Me To was recorded and produced by JOHN 5, Chris Baseford (Rob Zombie, Tommy Lee) and Bob Marlette (Sebastian Bach, Black Sabbath) in 2011. The cover art for the album is illustrated by none other than Rob Zombie, who is also tapping JOHN 5 to score the entirety of his upcoming film, ‘The Lords of Salem’.
JOHN 5 doesn’t just play the guitar. His guitar is an extension of his soul and through it his music has become the Frankenstein birth penetrating the ear drums of fans and admirers worldwide. For JOHN 5, the music is not just about playing, but living, breathing, feeling and passion. His impressive resume has seen him work with some of the most renowned musicians in the industry (Rob Halford, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie to name a few), and has cemented his name into the annals of rock history.
The CD portion of the release features ten painstakingly handcrafted pieces transcending multiple styles—an equal combination of acoustic and electronically influenced tracks—each designed to gradually reveal JOHN 5’s innovative interpretation of his instrument. The orchestration of God Told Me To showcases JOHN 5’s ability to master the subtlety of dynamics, thus emphasizing the overall production value of this body of work. God Told Me To stands tall as a stunning, audible cultural experience.
The DVD portion of the release is hosted by retro-style horror-host Mike Odd and takes a look inside the world of JOHN 5 during his terrifying trip into the realm of God Told Me To. The DVD features footage of JOHN 5 in the studio while working on the new album, exclusive videos taken on tour, a peek inside the photo shoot for his 2011 remix album Remixploitation, and more.
“I’m so proud of this record, I’ve put more time into this release than any other! It’s half acoustic and the other half electric with a tribute to Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen with ‘Beat It’,” states JOHN 5. “The DVD shows me actually recording the songs as well as behind the scenes of a “day in the life” of JOHN 5! This album will take you on a musical journey designed to show more diversity in my playing than in the past. Enjoy!”
JOHN 5 continues to branch out, coupling his solo career with his work in Rob Zombie. His five previous solo albums, up to his 2010 release, Art of Malice, continue to break new molds in solo instrumentalist work. JOHN 5 also continues to work in 2012 with other artists including Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart, and is currently working on new music for Rob Zombie’s upcoming album.
JOHN 5 Performing with ROB ZOMBIE on Co-Headliner with MEGADETH:
5/11 Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
5/12 Scranton, PA @ Toyota Pavilion
5/16 Pittsburgh, PA@ Stage AE
5/18 Grand Rapids, MI @ The Deltaplex
5/20 Columbus, OH @ Columbus Crew Stadium (Rock On The Range)
5/22 La Crosse, WI @ La Crosse Center
5/24 Sioux City, IA @ Tyson Center
5/25 Wichita, KS @ Hartman Arena
5/26 Pryor, OK @ Fever Music Festival Grounds (Rocklahoma)
For more JOHN 5 click here.
Interview: MEGADETH’s Chris Broderick – From noodling to embellishing, he may be MEGADETH’s strongest guitarist to date
Away-Team: Alright so I’m here with Chris Broderick the guitarist for Megadeth. Hello Chris, thank you for taking the time to do the interview with us today. Appreciate it. So you were in Jag Panzer before Megadeth…
Away-Team: And you played live with Nevermore for a couple of years?
Chris Broderick: Correct.
Away-Team: Didn’t actually record anything with them just kinda filled in, is that correct?
Chris Broderick: Right! Right, I did do Year of the Voyager the DVD with them.
Away-Team: Ok so Jag Panzer very intricate very tough stuff to do guitar wise very impressive work, Nevermore was no slouch musically there either doing the two of them at the same time, you just a glutton for punishment?
Chris Broderick: No! (laughs) I mean you know it’s just part of the reason why I do what I do. I love to play music and I love to play out. With Jag Panzer all the guys are awesome but they couldn’t always get the amount of time they needed to tour quite often and so I had always wanted to play out as much as possible and the opportunity arose to tour with Nevermore as well so I took that. And then there were cases where I had to pull double duty and play with both bands at the same festivals!
Away-Team: Nice (laughs). Makes for a long day no?
Chris Broderick: Definitely(laughs)!
Away-Team: So how did you end up with Megadeth coming off of Jag Panzer?
Chris Broderick: Well it was really Glen Drover, you know the guy that I replaced, him and his brother Shawn had recommended me to Dave who had also seen some of my YouTube clips online as well and so that’s how I got the call I guess a fairly short casting call for that. Then from there we just talked about what each other expected, what the roles would be, and stuff like that. And I just got to work because there was a tour coming up and I had 22 songs to learn in less than a month! So I didn’t even have time to consider that I was joining such a great iconic band it was just ‘let’s get to work’ you know.
Away-Team: For the readers that don’t know, YouTube Chris and check out some of his work online. You’ve got some amazing videos out there… some great, great guitar work… just blows people away. So you recorded parts of the Endgame, were you actually part of the writing process or was it pretty much complete when you came in?
Chris Broderick: No. No, we all submitted material and at the end of the day it’s just the process of going through and making sure it fits the Megadeth sound. I did get a small writing credit on Endgame and it was awesome to be able to get that on the record. And then of course also a lot of things that we do that don’t necessarily…you know there’s only two things that generally warrant writing credit on a CD – there’s the lyrics and there’s the main rhythmic component the music side of the song and then everything else is just considered I guess ‘embellishment’ over the top. But I think all of us have a lot to do with that embellishment whether it’s the melodies or counter melodies or guitar solos all kinds of things that you can do to add a lot of character to a song.
Away-Team: From Endgame to TH1RT3EN which is coming out reportedly November? Is there actually a street date yet?
Chris Broderick: Not that I know of…what they’ve told me as the tentative date is November 1st, so that’s…
Away-Team: What you’re going with for now?
Chris Broderick: Exactly, you know my guess is as good as yours beyond that.
Away-Team: So did you get more as you call it ‘embellishment‘ on TH1RT3EN? Was it more interactive between you guys because you had a little more history together now a little more comfortable with them?
Chris Broderick: You know this CD came together completely differently than Endgame did. It came together really fast. It’s the fastest CD I’ve ever been a part of to tell you the truth. From concept to finished product it was really just a lot of riffs that were written in the last two years and stuff like that brought togethe. Put it on the table right away and then we started looking at how you develop it, choruses, the bridges, the pre choruses all of that stuff, and the arrangement. And then from there we went onto our roles as individuals writing. For me it’s writing the melodies and counter melodies on the guitar and solos of course.
Away-Team: So Dave being no slouch on the guitar himself, getting the two of you in a room together must get pretty nuts at times? Pushing each other, trying to come up with a better riff a faster riff?
Chris Broderick: I don’t know if there’s ever a competition like that (laughs) but it is one of those things where we will play off of each other a little bit. If I present a riff he’ll be like ‘oh yeah, yeah that’s really cool but maybe you could straighten that part out.’ So it’s very back and forth I think sometimes when we play together that’s the cool part about it.
Away-Team: Absolutely! Dave also stated for the sound for the new album that it’s something completely un-Megadeth, it’s a sound Megadeth has never done before the guitars are completely different sounding. He actually hearkens back to, I think it was… I forget what album he kinda compared it to, but he said sound wise it was something that Megadeth had never done before.
Chris Broderick: I would agree with that as far as the mix and the mastering component absolutely this album sounds huge and just very raw in a way because we did put it together so quickly I think it’s got a raw component to it. But also with Johnny K producing I think it just has a much bigger sound to it so in that concept I agree. But I’ve always likened TH1RT3EN to almost like a cut in time from each CD of the past Megadeth discography so you know it’s got stuff that hearkens back to Peace Sells all the way up to Countdown to Extinction to Endgame so you kind of hear aspects of the whole timeline and that’s why I like it so much.
Away-Team: Speaking of Peace Sells, the band is celebrating the 25th anniversary of that. Which would have put you at 15 years old maybe? You’re the youngest guy in the band now right?
Chris Broderick: What was that ’84 right?
Chris Broderick: So I would have been 14.
Away-Team: 14. So do you count that as one of your inspirations as one of your…?
Chris Broderick: You know what’s funny I always heard the title track from MTV and stuff like that.
Away-Team: When they played videos?
Chris Broderick: Yeah back when they actually played videos (laughs). But I didn’t really start getting into Megadeth until Rust In Peace which is when Marty came in and that’s the whole reason why you know I’ve always kind of come from the guitar shredder root kind of thing. I was huge fan of Jason Becker and Paul Gilbert and all those guitar noodlers and still am to this day so when I followed Marty Friedman into Megadeth I was like ‘oh well what’s this all about’ and that’s when I got into the rest of the CDs.
Away-Team: So how’s Mayhem treating you guys? Dave had posted towards the beginning of the tour that there was a lot of problems, he had never contemplated walking off a tour before and then he posted a couple of days later thanks to whoever, whatever problems there were, were fixed…
Chris Broderick: There were some issues; they were mainly technical issues and stuff like that. I think once we got the right people notified they handled it really well and things were taken care of like that. So it was I think a minor glitch but once the right people were notified it was good.
Away-Team: You guys recently toured in support of the 20th anniversary also of Rust In Peace you guys were playing it in its entirety you’re now on the 25th like I said for Peace Sells. Do you guys have plans of possibly doing the same thing with Peace Sells that you did with Rust?
Chris Broderick: We had talked about it but I think because we’re coming off with TH1RT3EN that it may not happen because we’re definitely going to want to support TH1RT3EN in its…
Away-Team: Do a true cycle for that album?
Chris Broderick: Yes exactly, but you never know we might do something in tandem. I think that’s a really good idea we kinda did that with Rust In Peace and Endgame a little bit.
Away-Team: Did the first leg supported the album second leg you did that plus like a greatest hits afterwards type of thing at least knock out a DVD for the fans of you guys playing it live. So you talked about Rust In Peace was kind of your intro to Megadeth, what do you cite as your main influences?
Chris Broderick: Well it definitely it started with Eddie Van Halen of course! And then from there it quickly went to Yngwie and then onward to Jason Becker, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, you know all of those guys… Richie Kotzen, I mean I could go on and on and on. But as far as bands go during that time it was also like Queensryche and King Diamond.
Away-Team: So you’ve always had that kind of progressive lean towards at least what you like, what inspired you…
Chris Broderick: Exactly yes!
Away-Team: And with Jag Panzer and even Nevermore you still had that progressive lean, do you feel you’re getting that, you’re bringing that to Megadeth?
Chris Broderick: I don’t know if I would turn the ship that far that’s for sure. There are things I’ll want to try sometimes where they’re like ‘mmm nah that’s a little too progressive’ you know, but that’s ok. (laughs)
Away-Team: ‘Save that for the solo album in a year or two‘ …
Chris Broderick: I’m fine with that. And you know for me this is all a learning experience as well. And I love trying to be able to acquire new styles and new genres and thrash is definitely one of those!
Away-Team: So what was the worst name of a band you were in?
Chris Broderick: The worst name?
Away-Team: The worst name of a band you were in…
Chris Broderick: Oh, the first band I ever joined with my best friend was a band called Slaymaker and I have no idea what it meant…
Away-Team: Funny usually when I ask that question everybody always says it’s the first band they were in …
Chris Broderick: Well, you know, you’re young.
Away-Team: Because that’s your garage band you throw on some stupid name that you think sounds cool and gets attention and 20 years later you’re like what the hell does that mean?
Chris Broderick: Right (laughs).
Away-Team: So after Mayhem you guys are doing the Big Four in New York, Yankee Stadium a month or two after that in theory TH1RT3EN comes out what’s next for Megadeth tour-wise?
Chris Broderick: Then we’re going to do like a three week maybe a little over a three week tour down in South America which is will be the first tour where we actually support TH1RT3EN. So I’m really looking forward to that! And then we’ll probably take the holiday season off and then come the new year we’re going to look at gearing up for the whole tour cycle on TH1RT3EN.
Away-Team: Ok sounds good well I appreciate it Chris. I appreciate your time Chris and good luck with the show I haven’t seen you perform with Megadeth yet so I’m really looking forward to catching it tonight. And for everybody out there stand by because TH1RT3EN is coming soon pick it up when it does!
Chris Broderick: Thanks man!
Away-Team: Thank you Chris, appreciate it.
There is a long list of people to thank for making this and all of our Mayhem Fest interviews happen, so, forgive me if I forgot anyone, but thanks to Lilly at Roadrunner, Bill at eOne Music, Rikki, Natalie, and Jessica at Adrenaline, and Laura Jean with Mayhem.
For more MEGADETH click here.
Big 3 Records
0 out of 10
Ok, who here had The Yellow And Black Attack? Raise yer hand! Right.
Who here had Soldiers Under Command? RAISE YER DAMNED HAND! Right, thought so.
Who here had To Hell With The Devil? Raise yer hand, yeah you, there, right there. Raise your hand, you know you had that cassette jamming in your Pinto on the way to high school in 85. Don’t lie to me.
Now, who has any album after that by Stryper? Me neither.
25 years later and the bumble bees are back buzzing around with a new album. Only this time it is covers of their influences, the songs and bands that made them want to be musicians. The list of bands they are covering on the album is great. You’ve got Ozzy, Sweet, Black Sabbath, Scorpions, UFO, Kansas, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin. Sounds like a pretty badass CD doesn’t it?
Well it’s pretty bad alright. Don’t believe me? Here is Away Team‘s very own Bam Bam’s two word review of The Covering right here.
Musically there are some decent points to the disc. I mean, as soon as the song starts you can name every song they are playing. So, there’s that. That should almost be worth a point on the 1 to 10 scale right? Ok, so we’ll give them 1 point for being able to recognize the songs they are playing.
And of course the song list is great. Lights Out, Immigrant Song, Breaking The Law, The Trooper, Over The Mountain, Heaven And Hell, Carry On, Highway Star, Set Me Free, Shout It Out Loud, Blackout, and On Fire. I mean, I truly don’t think I’ve seen a better cover album song list than this on one album. So there’s a point for that. Now we’re at 2 out of 10.
The dude on the cover of the album looks like Chris Jericho the wrestler to me, so if you’re into wrestling you might give them a point for that. Now it’s 3 out of 10.
Then Michael Sweet begins to sing. Not that the guy has a bad voice, I mean he’s no Joey Belladonna and that is a point IN his favor, so we’ll give them a point on this CD just because he CAN sing better than Joey Belladonna. Here’s to 4 out of 10. Damn, they’re almost batting .500!
Oh, wait, Michael is still singing. Wow. Ok, I am TRYING to be fair here. His vocals on Set Me Free aren’t THAT bad. I’ll say that. So, in starting off the album it is OK. Of course starting off an album at just OK is not a good place to start. You better go up real quick, because you don’t have far to fall into the ‘this stinks like 10 pounds of hot steaming dog shit’ pile of no return.
The opening riff to the Scorpion’s Blackout kicks in, and you’re like, ok… Let’s get this going. Hey, Michael Sweet doesn’t sound too far off from the Scorpion’s Klaus Meine here. I’ll be damned. Oh wait, there’s the Michael Sweet Stryper Scream… Oh wait, just fucked the whole song, and now his inflection is more Stryper than Scorpions. Lost me there boys.
Heaven And Hell is next. I mean… It’s HEAVEN AND HELL for fuck’s sake! How can you butcher this? Dio, Tony, it may very well be the ultimate old school metal song. And these holier than thou jesus freaks are singing it? I was personally offended when Michael Sweet said that Stryper could have written Heaven And Hell themselves and YOU SHOULD BE OFFENDED TOO because he said that. I’m calling Bullshit! If you could have written something as epic as Heaven And Hell you’d have had a longer career than three years of semi-relevance. And the chorus of ‘ahhhhhh’ during the breakdown????? This isn’t church camp, this is Black Sabbath motherfuckers. How do you remove the balls from one of the most badass songs of all time? HERECY!!!!!!
UFO’s Light Out. Skip it. I can’t deal anymore. Again, I’ll say FOR THE MOST PART, the music isn’t bad. But fuck his voice is so unique, and so pussified that it has no balls to it. And every chance he has to pull this off, he just completely fucks it up. Maybe this should be an instrumental cover album!!!! Yeah, then it would only suck half as bad. Hell, I’d probably rate it a solid 5 then.
The weak ass drum intro into Carry On. What the fuck is that? There’s no balls in the drums either? WTF?????? Skip.
Everyone has their breaking point when it comes to savagely raping the legacy of metal. Stryper covering Deep Purple’s Highway Star is it for me. And we haven’t even gotten to Judas Priest or Iron Maiden yet. Fuck you Stryper for even THINKING about doing this album. Skip.
I don’t think I can continue. Really… My blood pressure can’t take this; my ears can’t handle the blasphemy coming from the speakers, my co-workers are yelling at me to stop killing the litter of cats in my cubicle already. Must. Finish. Worst. Album. Ever.
Shout It Out Loud. Starts out as pussy as the original does. Does that make it bad? No, but at least they can’t fuck up such simpleton songwriting as KISS. If this was maybe the second or third song on the disc, I could probably have handled it, but as we are on the seventh song of this musical abortion, I can’t take anymore, I am up to my limit in shit, so…. Moving on…..
Over The Mountain. Holy Fuck Randy Rhoads just died again. I can’t play guitar that well and I can play the opening riff better than Oz Foxx. Skip.
The Trooper. Stupid fucks, if you are going to take songs like Over The Mountain (Randy Rhoads), Highway Star (Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord), The Trooper (Steve Harris), that have such a distinct musical sound and style, you best be able to reproduce the opening riff, the organ solo, the bass line (respectively) of those songs, or fuck off and JUST DON’T DO THEM. And never mind the shit fucked guitar solo in The Trooper, come up with your own (not). Skip.
Nobody should cover Judas Priest. Period. Skip
Van Halen. Really? You try to tackle the intricacies of Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Randy Rhoads, AND Eddie Van Halen? Who do you think you are, Oz Foxx? Oh, wait… skip.
Do I even have to say anything about Stryper trying to cover Led Zeppelin? Really? Are you going to make me listen to this? FUCK YOU. and fuck Stryper.
And no, I’m not going to listen to their new song called ‘God’. Fuck that. You don’t get to do that to me after aurally sodomizing me for the last 30 minutes.
So, we got the album up to 4 out of 10 before Michael sang, so now where are we? Someone owes me for my therapy bills now!
DO NOT PICK THIS UP, you’ll thank me later.
In a new announcement from its publishing company, VAN HALEN are reportedly back in the studio recording a new album with original vocalist DAVID LEE ROTH. The record, expected to be released in 2011, will be the band’s first full studio album since 1998’s Van Halen III, which featured vocals by EXTREME singer Gary Cherone.
Since forming in the early 70s, Van Halen have released 11 studio albums and have had an on-and-off relationship with Roth. From 1986 to 1997, Roth was replaced by the red rocker SAMMY HAGAR and Cherone was called in for one album after that. Roth’s return to the band in 2007 produced the largest grossing Van Halen tour in history.
Warner/Chappell Music has extended its administration agreements with two original members of the legendary rock band ( Eddie and Alex Van Halen). Under the agreement, Warner/Chappell will continue to administer their catalog of works, including any new releases.
Source: Rockstar Weekly
For more VAN HALEN click here.
This interview was conducted on May 29th, 2009 in Raleigh, NC.
When you think of Bay Area Thrash, you think of four bands; Metallica, Exodus, Testament, and Death Angel. Sure there were others of that time, and many that came later. But those four bands defined Thrash Metal and the ‘Bay Area’ sound. Naturally there were none bigger than Metallica, but close on their heels has to be Testament. After 24 years, numerous lineup changes, a throat cancer scare, and a nine year period of inactivity, Testament is back with a new album Formation of Damnation featuring Chuck Billy on vocals, Eric Peterson on guitar, Alex Skolnick on guitar, Greg Christian on bass, and Paul Bostaph on drums. A new tour that is taking the bands to markets they haven’t played in 15 years or more (I caught the show in Raleigh, NC, and there was much debate as to whether Testament had actually ever played Raleigh before). And a new focus and determination to take the band higher and farther than it has ever been before. I met with Alex Skolnick right before their set at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, and talked about Testament, Trans Siberian Orchestra, the Alex Skolnick Trio and life before and after Testament. Here we go….
Away-Team: This is Jim Keller with Alex Skolnick from Testament. Once again I want to thank you for sitting down and doing this interview with us, much appreciated.
Away-Team: What I’d like to do basically is start at the beginning of the band.
Away-Team: Testament was originally started as The Legacy..
Away-Team: By Eric (Peterson) and his cousin. They had Steve Souza in the band as a vocalist who left to join Exodus before you recorded your first album. It was reported that he actually suggested Chuck (Billy) as his replacement. Why did Steve leave?
Alex: Well it was funny ‘cause he was the guy that gave us all serious talking toos about how everybody in this band has to be serious. You know when I joined the band he’s like you’re either serious, you either take this seriously or you take it somewhere else. We don’t want guys that are just in here that are just gonna leave and join some other band. Sure enough *laughs* he’s the guy that ends up leaving. But you know he left because I think he felt Exodus was going farther, faster.
Away-Team: At that time when you joined, you were a student of Joe Satriani’s Correct?
Away-Team: And after you joined the band did you continue practicing with him, learning from him?
Alex: I studied with him for about two years. I was with him, basically for the first six months I was in the band and then he started getting really busy. He did his first solo recordings. He definitely uh got me to learn a lot more on my own than I would have otherwise.
Away-Team: So, is it kind of a prerequisite that if you’re going to be in one of the better thrash bands out of San Francisco a la Testament, Metallica; you had to learn from Joe?
Alex: Apparently!! Everybody studied with him, yeah!
Alex: It was a hotel band…
Away-Team: A hotel band had copyrighted the name The Legacy?
Alex: Yeah. A hotel R&B band in New Orleans.
Away-Team: So the story I had heard was that the reason you changed it to Testament was because the CD artwork – everything was already done and the label didn’t want to re-do everything, so you had named the album originally Testament…
Alex: That’s not true
Away-Team: That’s not true, okay, so how did you come up with Testament, then?
Alex: Billy Milano, the singer for SOD came up with the name. Ya know he was on Megaforce Records. So basically an all points bulletin went out, to find a name for the band that Megaforce had just signed. So yeah, I think the guys from Anthrax were suggesting names. Everybody at the record label suggested. We were trying to come up with names and it was Billy Milano that came up with the name Testament.
Away-Team: Did he know you guys or was it just kind of, this is a cool name they should use something like this?
Alex: We had met him, once. But I think he had come up… I feel like I had met him, like maybe when we were recording the first album, and we just, we knew we had to have a name, before the album was released, obviously and it was just one of many suggestions and it was the one, we kind of lived with it for a while and it felt the best.
Away-Team: Your current album, Formation of Damnation, to me is far and away the strongest album you guys have recorded since Practice What You Preach. It’s probably a more straightforward thrash sounding album than some of the last few albums. Was this a culmination of various writing from the last nine years or did you all sit down and write the album together as a whole band?
Alex: No, it was a combination. I think the previous album the guys did when I wasn’t with the band, The Gathering, that was the first one I felt, a lot of people felt, where Chuck and Eric sort of found a formula that works for them. So I didn’t want to really, get in the way of that formula and try to make it 1989 again. But I made a lot of suggestions with the music they were doing and I did bring in some music of my own. Some of that got used; the song F.E.A.R. is something I wrote. But it was more a combination of ideas that Chuck and Eric had had, playing around with some new stuff.
Away-Team: And Eric being the predominant songwriter, music writer for the band, now with this you’re current lineup which is the semi-reunited lineup or the original lineup with addition of Paul Bostaph is it a more of a collaborative thing now or at least going forward to looking at the next album is going to be more collaborative?
Alex: We’ll see, just kind of going to let it happen as it happens.
Away-Team: And will there be a new album?
Alex: There will eventually be, yes.
Away-Team: We mentioned the many lineup changes you guys have done over the years. You being one of them. You guys all got together in 2001 as The Legacy for the Chuck Billy cancer benefit. That show saw the best of the Bay Area thrash scene reuniting for a great cause. Bands like Exodus, Death Angel, Sadus, Vio-lence and of course you. In the last eight years or so, Exodus, Death Angel, you guys now with the Formation of Damnation, have released what many consider to be the best music of your individual and collective careers. Some amazing stuff has come out of the original Bay Area thrash scene in the last couple years. It seems that it’s alive and well again. What do you attribute the current popularity or resurrection of the Bay Area trash scene to?
Alex: Well I think part of it is it’s not as isolated as it used to be. It used to be this very isolated area of music. Pretty much limited to the Bay Area with the exception of ya know Megadeth from LA and Anthrax form New York. I think it’s now like one of many genres of very heavy metal. Ya know you have black metal, you have death metal from Florida and it all relates to thrash metal. There are all these relatives in metal. And now you’ve got some newer bands that have formed in the last ten, fifteen years that in some cases are seeing a lot of success and that’s brought a lot more awareness to the original Bay Area thrash scene. So when we first did the reunion shows it was unclear what kind of type of fan we would have. Was it just going to be Old School fans? But there are actually a lot of young fans that are keeping it alive and well.
Away-Team: Well, if you go in the venue right now; I was very surprised. ‘Cause that was one of the things I looked at as they were lining up out here. Is that they are all going to be my age or our age like a bunch of older guys standing out here but the entire crowd in there tonight has gotta be 25 or younger!
Alex: And if we depended on guys our age, the audience wouldn’t be that big. Let’s face it.
Away-Team: Yeah. Absolutely.
Alex: People get to be our age and they have jobs, families; most don’t go out to shows like they did when they were in their twenties. So it’s nice to have a combination. It’s not that we have, we haven’t lost the original fans. But we do have this big young following now. I think a lot of other bands are seeing that as well, like Exodus.
Away-Team: You had mentioned what I call, like the second wave of thrash.. 10 to 15 year old bands. Today you’ve got bands like the band on stage right now, Lazarus AD. Very, very similar to the old Bay Area thrash style. Warbringer, Municipal Waste a lot of very young bands, that seeing a lot of good response, that can be harkened right back to you guys. It’s like the third generation now. Twenty years later there’s still bands coming out and they’re not Retro, they’re not recreating the sound, but they are continuing it if nothing else and that’s got to really, for you guys to be their inspiration, it’s really got to be something.
Alex: It’s great. It’s also great because for so long we were told our music’s not going to last. It’s passing. It’s in left field. It was this outcast music that nobody predicted a future for. So there’s the answer right there. Great, new young bands that are doing it today.
Away-Team: And twenty four years later, you guys are still out here kicking ass, so it’s very cool. Going back to the formation of not damnation, but of Testament. Can you name one of your favorite memories of the mid to late eighties in the Bay Area Thrash music scene? Some of the shows from The Stone or Ruthie’s Inn or Mabuhay Gardens?
Alex: Yeah, I will say I remember one time Metallica playing at Ruthie’s unannounced, just to do a warm-up. That was great. They did a lot of, they did some punk covers. It was just a fun gig. Uh, there was also this project called Spastik Children, with Cliff Burton, James Hetfield on drums and it was like comedy like sort of South Park before South Park. Completely politically incorrect, funny, bad, badly played on purpose music.
Away-Team: God, I forgot all about Spastik Children…
Alex: Yeah, some of those shows are pretty memorable.
Away-Team: With Metallica coming from L.A., basically because the L.A. scene just couldn’t handle them. The crowds didn’t get what they were trying to do, with you guys, Vio-lence, Exodus, Death Angel, were you kind of a close knit community? Was it kind of you against everybody else? Was there a lot of camaraderie there, or..?
Alex: I’d say there was camaraderie and competition simultaneously. Everybody wanted to be the best band they could and even though a lot of us we didn’t really sound alike. You always had to keep an eye out for the other bands. It’s like different football teams that are all in the same league. You want, as a whole you want to do well, but you still want to come out on top, above everybody else.
Away-Team: I understand. Your current tour, in support of the Formation of Damnation, is unique in that you guys are allowing the fans to vote, via your MySpace page, for the set list they want to hear in their given town. You have three options, The Legacy, plus hits, The New Order plus hits, or a chronicle set list, basically from start to finish of your catalogue. How did you guys come about the idea? How has it been received? And any regrets on having to keep rotating a roughly thirty song playlist on tour?
Alex: It’s worked out very easily, because overwhelmingly everybody’s voted for the Chronicle stuff, so that’s pretty much what we’ve done. And I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but it’s definitely been a very good idea and it’s just been fun to hear from the fans. And in the process they’ve not only voted on the songs, a lot of them have made suggestions a long the way. “We want to hear a chronicle, but we really want to hear this song. Why don’t you play this song?”
Away-Team: And you guys are actually listening and paying attention to what they’re…
Alex: Oh absolutely.
Away-Team: Beside the main lineup changes, you guys have several label changes over the years; mainly due to simple bad luck and the labels folding on you. Did I read though that somehow you guys ended up on a gospel label prior to signing with Nuclear Blast?
Alex: Well I think what happened was we were signed to Spitfire which got bought by another label, which was a gospel label.
Away-Team: OK. And they had no interest in releasing the new Testament CD? Laughs
Alex: Oh, Exactly. I’m sure at first they thought, oh this is perfect.
Away-Team: A “New Testament” band awesome!
Alex: And then they found out what it was and then they let the band go, no problem.
Away-Team: So did Spitfire have some religious bands on their roster?
Alex: I don’t think so. I’m not sure.
Away-Team: Laughs. Alright, you are currently on Nuclear Blast and they are treating you well…
Alex: Treating us great. It’s a great partnership absolutely.
Away-Team: Good, good. When the current tour with Unearth and Lazarus AD, at least the North American leg of it is over, what are you guys’ plans? Where are you going next?
Alex: We’re off for a couple weeks, then we’re going to be in Europe for July and part of August to do a lot of festivals.
Away-Team: Do you have any plans for a follow up album and will we have to wait another nine years for it?
Alex: No, it’ll be recorded next year, most likely released, late, by late next year
Away-Team: Great! With all the side projects, from your various members, Dragonlord, you in Trans Siberian Orchestra, Chuck’s Dublin Death Patrol and your jazz trio, how do you guys find time to get together, to record and tour? And how does that affect, I mean is Testament now the priority or is it ‘we can fit in Testament around these various projects’? TSO’s a big deal, it’s a big show and you have to…
Alex: Yeah, it’s a unique situation, because I was already, I’d already been playing with TSO for several years by the time the Testament reunion happened. So it’s been pretty understood that during the months of the Winter TSO tour I’m not available. I do my best, as far as my trio and I have couple other projects I’m involved with as well, some as a producer which I can’t talk about yet. They’re…They’re gonna be
Away-Team: Then I won’t ask that question…
Alex: Pretty exciting times and projects… We’re doing an album cycle right now. So, since last year we’ve been doing an album cycle, so this, Testament has been the priority. Soon as we’re done with this album cycle I think there’s going to be a slight shift in priorities. The way this record got created was a lot of the basics were worked on while I was with TSO, I would write ideas, which I think is going to happen this next tour as well, and then I think next year, Before the album cycle, before the Testament album cycle starts, that’s going to be a good chance for me to do a lot more stuff with the Alex Skolnick Trio. But then, of course, once the Testament album cycle starts then that’s going to be the priority. It really depends on where we are in terms of the album cycle..
Away-Team: So everybody’s working together though, with all their side projects, everything kind of fits in OK and there’s no real conflict going on with it?
Alex: Yeah, I mean it’s a different thing with me, because with TSO it’s a very set tour. With Dragonlord, Eric decides, when that tours. With my Trio there are people that decide it with me, so we work to make sure that we capitalize on any available time I have to tour with them.
Away-Team: I have heard that some of your solos for Formation of Damnation were recorded while on tour with TSO and done in someone’s bathroom in New York. Is that correct?
Alex: That’s not true. I mean the part about the bathroom is not true. What basically happened was some of the solos were recorded in Albany, when TSO had some days off in 2007. The first studio that we found was a guy’s basement…
Away-Team: It was his basement, OK
Alex: Yeah. And it just, it was an awful situation. We had like 48 hours, we had two days and the goal was to do all of the solos and basically a whole day was wasted. We were getting all of this radio signal out of the amps and the guy had no idea what to do about it. So then we found a really good studio the one that we should’ve been at all along and I did half of the songs, and I did the other half as soon I was done with the TSO tour.
Away-Team: Now did you already have the solos worked out or a rough idea what you were going to do with them…
Alex: I had a couple rough ideas, but some of them I came up with on the spot….
Away-Team: ‘Cause they’re some outstanding solos.
Alex: Thank you!
Away-Team: Across the board the musicianship and the work on Formation of Damnation is actually very stellar…
Alex: I appreciate that.
Away-Team: Paul Bostaph is currently drumming for you. This his second stint in the band now. He’s played with some other great bands besides Testament. He started out with Forbidden… Slayer, Exodus and another not as well known Bay Area band, but that I’m very familiar with, Systematic. He’s kind of become known as the ‘go to’ metal drummer, almost like a journeyman. Is he now a permanent member of Testament?
Alex: It certainly feels that way. That remains to be seen. Yeah, it definitely feels that way. I know on our end there’s no thought of working with anybody else…
Away-Team: OK, so Louie’s not going to come knocking on the bus one day? Where is Louie?
Alex: Louie comes… Louie makes appearances. He’s always… He always visits us when we play. He was just on tour with us for three days…
Away-Team: Oh, really?
Alex: He doesn’t really play any more. He just likes to hang out. We like having him around. It works out well. We get him away from his job. He’s like a, a relative…
Away-Team: Is there anything you haven’t done yet, goal-wise or music-wise that you still want to? And what is it?
Alex: Yeah there’s a lot of things. Definitely, I’m close, I mean I feel like with my instrumental albums I’m able to do the music that’s in my head. Which is great! For me it’s just getting my instrumental stuff to a wider audience. And I’d like to see Testament reach a wider audience as well. The truth is, what I would really like to see is the trio playing venues like Testament’s playing; those size crowds. I’d like to see Testament playing to crowds more like TSO’s.
Alex: I get this experience of every year playing in front of a packed arena. Sometimes twice a day! And this band has never experienced that. That kind of production, that kind of audience. We’ve had some great support slots in arenas. But I think this could be a great arena band.
Away-Team: You guys have never actually headlined arenas?
Away-Team: Really. Wow, I did not realize that.
Away-Team: There’s many bands out there today that are citing Testament as an influence, as a musician it’s got to be an ultimate compliment. How do you react to something like that? I mean, how does that make you feel?
Alex: Great! It feels great. It’s a great compliment. It’s not something you think about while you’re doing it, while you’re in the studio or playing live; about having an influence on somebody else, you just do what you do. But when you hear that, it’s amazing, ‘cause having had many influences myself, just to think that I was able to be what I saw in my favorite guitars players, other people are seeing in me, which is really, really cool.
Away-Team: Who are some of your influences?
Alex: Well, it started out with Randy Rhodes and Eddie Van Halen, Michael Shanker. I studied their influences, Jeff Beck, Clapton, Hendrix and then the classic Blues players. And then once I got into Jazz, Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny…
Away-Team: What made you pick up a guitar to begin with?
Alex: Yep. I discovered KISS and wanted to play KISS songs.
Away-Team: And it was the guitar always?
Alex: It was piano, very briefly in third grade. And then I had a bad music teacher and I, I quit piano. Now I bought a piano. I still like to play, but I have no plans to play professionally.
Away-Team: We’re not going to see you in a hotel lounge somewhere tickling the ivories…
Alex: Not anytime soon!
Away-Team: Well Alex, that pretty much wraps up my questions. I do appreciate your time… I wish you much luck with the rest of the tour…
Alex: Thank you!
Away-Team: The festivals this summer, of course TSO in the winter and then at some point next year we’ll hear a little bit from the trio again.
Alex: Yeah, yeah, going to try to squeeze out a new trio album. Or at least an EP this year.
Away-Team: Great! Alright, well I appreciate it Alex, thank you very much again for your time!
Alex: No problem Jim, good to see you again.
There you have it. We got some shout outs to Cliff Burton, James Hetfield and Spastik Children, Billy Milano of MOD and SOD, and KISS! My thanks to Brian at Adrenaline PR for setting up the interview, Mark for ensuring it actually happened, Alex for jumping in last minute and rescuing the interview, and Bam Bam as always for getting me in the interviews to begin with!
If you haven’t heard Formation Of Damnation go pick it up NOW!!!! And check out Testament on the road. The show that night was nothing short of amazing. The guys played with a furiousness that belied their age, and a sense of fun and having a good time. The music and vocals were spot on, and I did not hear one person walk away from that show with a bad word.