Testament’s Eric Peterson Has a Riff ‘Library’ + Aims for New Album in ‘Mid-2019′
Eric Peterson was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The Testament guitarist took some time to discuss Dragonlord, his black metal side project who haven't released an album since the 2008 effort Black Wings of Destiny. With Dominion set for a September 21 release, he spoke about returning to this endeavor, maturing as a vocalist and explained a bit about the album's story arc. Regarding Testament, next year is looking good for a new record.
We're here to talk about not only Testament tonight but Dragonlord and the new album Dominion, it's the third album from your side-project. Dragonlord gives you a chance to showcase different sides of being a musician, especially with this new album. What does it reveal about you that isn't so apparent in Testament?
Everything. [laughs] Well, that's not true. I'm kind of the main songwriter in Testament, but on this one, when you're the vocalist and you're the lead guitar and bass player, it's kind of hard to go, "Okay who's doing what?" But, I didn't mean to take on all those duties. It just kind of happened that way, especially for the bass. I've been playing bass for a long time — I'm kind of like a closet bass player. I think what showcases me on this one is, I think the vocals have come a long way since the first records. I think I've gotten comfortable with the cleaner vocal style that I do, and even the heavier one. What I've learned was, first of all, I'm not a singer.
I mean, I am, but I'm not. I'm not like a singer that can just start singing anywhere and sound amazing. What I learned was to tell the story, and this is a good lesson for anybody that's out there that is struggling with vocals or whatever, is to get inside the lyrics, and tell the story, and become a character. I learned that from Brett Manning. He's got a DVD set out that talks about vocals and whatnot and different forms of exercises and before I knew it when I let go of trying to actually sing and just get into the whole thing of it, it turned everything around and I was like listening back going, "Whoa, what a difference."
The epic storytelling of Dragonlord seems perfect for comic books. What made you realize that a crossover was possible between Dragonlord and your new comic book, The Burner?
Well, I've always been into comics books, especially the darker kind of stuff like Demon, and Lady Death and Spawn and maybe the newer generation of comics with Dark Horse and Image and all those different companies that came out with cool stuff.
On my latest record, I wanted to have my booklet... First of all, I'm friends with Christian Sloan Hall — he does a lot of the art for Amon Amarth and he's got that kind of comic book look. So anyway, what I did is I had each page represent the song, a piece of art like graphic novel style kind of stuff and when we came to the song "Northlanders," we're going to be putting a video out for that. We came across this character that was like a black metal skeleton dude, kind of Spawn versus black metal and he's standing there in front a church burning and I had to justify that for myself because I didn't want the church burning because it's Pagan versus Christianity.
What this character ended up doing in the comic sense of it was coming into different periods of time from the Planet of the Red Dragon, or that one planet that's going around our Milky Way right now, they're calling it Planet X or whatever. The Red Dragon is kind of like a meteor coming to earth in different time periods and he's been here in the 11th, and the 12th and the 16th century biding the wolves in the sheep clothing against stuff like what the Christians did to the Pagans. It's got some history in there and I guess the story revolves around Dragonlord II, where he comes to our time period and finds me. I'm writing all this music — it's like a Ouija board how it really did happen; it just came to me. It's like telepathy and I'm when I'm doing this, I'm stealing all of his images from the past. And, he's like, "Who is this person?" He seeks me out and something like that. So, it's pretty interesting, you'd have to actually read it yourself, but that's my quick analogy on it.
Testament is always a part of the conversation when people speculate about a hypothetical "Big 5" of thrash metal. What makes Testament continually so highly regarded in the metal community?
We were definitely from that same time period. Our old phrase is that we're a day late and a dollar short but we've just kept persevering, kept pushing the product out and we kept really busy. A lot of bands from our time period, I guess, kind of stepped down for a little bit and then they came back. I know Death Angel stepped down for a little bit, Exodus, stepped down for a little bit. They just didn't tour for a while, that's what I mean. I think Testament just kept going. We just kept going and going. Even from The Gathering in 1999 all the way up to The Formation of Damnation, which is like an eight-year gap of not putting out a record. But we toured so much it was ridiculous. People ask, "When is a new record coming out?" But year after year just we were able to survive on our past material and our songs. The Gathering really hit hard I think in the metal community in the 2000s era.
Chuck Billy says you've been gathering riffs and ideas while on tour with hopes of recording early in the new year. Based on your idea so far, how will the next Testament album compare to Brotherhood of the Snake?
I have a pattern with the way I write I'm very very picky. Chuck always says it gonna be sooner than later so I'm always later. I'm just tardy my whole life, [laughs] But it's only because I'm picky and I'm not gonna put something out that I'm not happy with just for the sake of it. I guess to me I'm the bad guy but I think in the long run once it comes out people are like, "Hell yeah" so with that being said I'll say it's gonna be close to you know what we've done in the last three records but fresh. No one has to fear that we're gonna like cut our hair off and write a bunch of pop tunes — it's gonna be heavy. Just heavy and evil.
Some bands peak early in their years but Testament is still hitting an amazing creative stride with the last three albums. Musically, what's kept this band so interesting and relevant?
For me, not compromising with everybody and just doing what I do riff-wise. It's pretty just me and Chuck on the last records as a team and [even] not as a team. [There's] a lot of fighting to get where we're at or maybe even going in circles. Sometimes I go in circles but we always know we're going to land on our feet.
I've heard a lot of demos that I rediscovered — some of the demo stuff we've had with Chuck with patterns and riffs and what not. [It's} weird to hear how "More Than Meets the Eye" was actually a part of "Dog Faced Gods." It's weird how I took parts from parts, but library wise I have a lot of stuff. As far as a song. I don't have any songs yet but I have like a library and that's cool because when you go jam with someone you can just take a riff and you start jamming on it and before you know it you know the drummer comes and starts feeling it and starts doing something else and you're like, "Whoops." But, it's not a "Whoops," it's like, "That's killer," so that's kinda how it happens for us.
Any updates on a timeline for Testament stuff?
Testament stuff probably '19 I would say. Mid-2019 and for the [new] Dragonlord [album] September 21st is the official release date. A lot of mom and pop shops will have LPs and bundles and what not. I can't wait for everybody to hear it!
Pre-order your copy of Dragonlord's 'Dominion' at the Spinefarm Records webstore and follow them and Testament on Facebook to stay updated on everything both bands are doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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