» Eric Peterson - Testament
« back

Interview conducted August 09 2012
Interview published September 09 2012

With a new, marvellous album just out - Dark Roots Of Earth - thrash legends Testament was one of the big attractions at the Swedish festival Skogsröjet. A day prior, they were scheduled to play at a small club in Västerås - a rare gig that was a must to attend. Some hours before the band's intimate, awesome performance, full of thrash pearls new and old, Metal Covenant was kindly welcomed onboard the tour bus for an interview with guitarist and founder Eric Peterson. Despite being a bit weary after a long travel, Testament's main writer and riff lord was a chatty, funny and cool character.

Many thanks to Darren Edwards at Warner Music for arranging the interview as well as access to this exclusive event, a very special night of first-class thrash metal.

Mozzy: First of all, congratulations on another great album!

  • Eric: Thank you. I guess now it really feels like the best, but then I go back and listen to something, and I'm like - ah, that was pretty cool! (laughs).

Mozzy: So how was it to do this album compared to the last one, now that you've been reunited with Alex and Greg for a couple of years?

  • Eric: Well, this record feels more like a band. Even though, you know, there is like a main writer, it feels like everybody connects a little bit more. Rather than everybody just learns their part and plays it, it feels like more of a band playing it. And everybody's pretty good, so… There is that extra special feeling I think; it's all on there.

Mozzy: Gene Hoglan came in for this album; what happened really with Paul (Bostaph)? Did he quit, or?

  • Eric: Eh, all of the above. Nothing bad. It was more of… he got injured. And here's the real story, cause I actually watched the Youtube video with him: he was at his own studio, and the lights went out. He fell, he hit his arm and he fucked it up. He started playing again and he's got some problems with his bones already. One of his bones started growing weird; like a spike, and it was hitting like a nerve or something, so it was hurting. So the doctor ……it was either surgery, cut him open; or let it heal. So he chose to let it heal, and the doctor said it would take a month. Later: another month. And a month later: another month. And it kept going: month, month, month… And at that time, I was like… (sighs). Paul actually called me and went "hey man, if you guys wanna get someone to write with, that's cool. I'll meet you when it's time to record." So I did that, and when it was time to record, he was like "I'm still not ready". It was just kinda, one thing let to another and…

Mozzy: You got a good replacement for sure, though.

  • Eric: Yeah. I mean, Gene… I remember when I said to Paul, "who do you think would be good?" He mentioned Bittner (Jason, from Shadows Fall), Chris Adler (Lamb Of God)…. And then I said "how about Gene Hoglan?", and he goes… I heard his throat go "gulp" (makes swallowing sound). "No, don't get Gene, how am I gonna pull off that shit?" (Laughs) But Gene… I didn't even think he was gonna tour with us. We just thought, he was gonna come in and 'bam' and leave. And then we would pick up the pieces. But it worked out pretty good.

Mozzy: Well, it sounded good in there (at the soundcheck) for sure.

  • Eric: I mean, basically two days before we came to Europe, we had been rehearsing for a month with Mark Hernandez from Forbidden (who have a new drummer now), cause Gene was going on tour with Deathklok. And we're all like "fuck…" The record just came out, and Gene's not coming with us. He was like "fuck…", everybody was like "fuck... oh well, whatever…" And then two days before we left, he goes "my tour got cancelled". So we called him up and asked him: "could we make this happen?"

Mozzy: He's well-known as well for learning things quickly, right?

  • Eric: Yeah.

Mozzy: Regarding Alex; during the years when he was out of the band, did you think that he would come back one day, or?

  • Eric: I didn't really think about it too much. I think when he was gone, I was more focused on rebuilding Testament back up from… being stereotyped. I mean, I think that Practice What You Preach, Souls Of Black, Ritual - it kinda kept leading up to…. I mean, now that it's said and done, it's kind of legendary I guess, whatever. But back then, to me, I was like "this is not cutting it". I'm seeing other bands coming up and I'm like…

Mozzy: Yeah, there was some new, different and more brutal stuff back then, like Machine Head and so on…

  • Eric: Yeah, and that's where I'm at. That's where my head was at. You know, I think for Alex, he was getting into jazz and he was like taken away from his metal creativity. Like, deep in his mind, even without thinking about it, without going "hey, why don't I do a side project", it was like "I can't do a side project, I got to do Testament". "I don't want to play heavy like that". And it just made everything fucked up. Now, it's like "duh, do a side project!" And then you get it out, you know. "Go fuck that other chick", you know (laughs). It's as easy as that.

Mozzy: (Laughs) So maybe he needed those years away, then.

  • Eric: Yeah. But it's kinda cool because now, we got a second chance, kind of, in a weird way. And we're doing it how we should have done it in the first place. These records right here should have been... - even Low and The Gathering - should have been records earlier, I think. It's so easy to say what it should have been, afterwards. Cause now you see it clearly before your eyes. "Oh, ok…"

Mozzy: How do feel about that second chance; it feels like Testament is perhaps stronger than ever now.

  • Eric: Well, I think we're doing it right now. The way we're supposed to do it. I'm sure there are always haters out there, but I think for me, and the rest of the band, we can stand by this without pointing fingers. Now it's like, it's our fault if it doesn't turn out right. Well, I mean it was our fault before, but now we're doing it the way we want to do it.

Mozzy: Cool. And you had some bad luck as well, with Chuck's disease, member changes and so on…

  • Eric: Oh yeah, all kinds of weird shit…

Mozzy: What about the business side?

  • Eric: Yeah, that's another point too. I mean, it's one thing just to be in a band… There are so many aspects. A lot of people get lucky. There is the whole business side of things too, it's not just about being good at what we do - it's about making the right choices.

Mozzy: Having the right people as well, I guess.

  • Eric: The right people behind you… Everything. It's like one big, you know, rolling ball effect. Right now I think we got a good team behind us, it's working really good.

Mozzy: Nowadays, with the recent tours with the Big Four (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax), you quite often hear people saying that Testament really belong among those. What are your feelings on that?

  • Eric: A lot of people say that. Well, I think "The Big Four" is an old saying. It's more that those bands were the first. I think people are referring to it as more of a heyday thing, you know. Like, the Big Four were the bands that were the big four that broke out in the genre. The ones that sold a lot of records. Testament were like a day late but a dollar short, you know (laughs). Not that we weren't good enough, but we just were…. They were the first bands, they were touring and making it while we were still playing clubs. We didn't have a record out. And there was a whole breed of new bands.

Mozzy: But it must feel good to hear that, to get that appreciation?

  • Eric: Oh yeah. You know, I think… to be politically correct, it should be the Big Five.

Mozzy: Either way, you have your own style. Compared to those four, for example, I think you have a bit more groove in your music, do you agree?

  • Eric: Well, I think… This is the brutal truth: Testament was able to be influenced by all those bands. They were the big four, they were first. Not that we copied them - we were playing our music just like they were playing their music - but we got to see what people said about them, how they portrayed themselves and so on. I think that like any person in music, you learn from other people and you're influenced by different things. So we kind of learned from everybody, like "that's cool, and that's cool" and "I don't like that". I think we kind of incorporated that into what we do.

Mozzy: Will you be touring for as long for this album as you did last time?

  • Eric: We'd like to. This autumn, we're going out with Anthrax and Death Angel. We're doing Canada, a couple of American shows but mostly Canada. We haven't been to Canada for a while so it should be really good.

Mozzy: What about this gig in Västerås; how did you end up playing this small venue? It's quite unexpected, but really cool.

  • Eric: Yeah! Well, first of all, we travelled 30 hours to get here. And when we got here, Chuck was like "what?!!" (laughs). We're playing a festival tomorrow, and what I think happened was, when they booked the festival, this was an off-date. So the agent checked who was available. And you know what, the people who work here are really nice, and I'm always the guy that says the glass is half-full. You have to make the best of it. And I think tonight is going to be like a party, you know.

Mozzy: I think so too.

  • Eric: You know, it's sold-out, and it's gonna be hot, sweaty, and a lot of fun. This show is by no means judging Testament. It's gonna be fun, you know.

Mozzy: Is it fun to vary things a bit; to play some smaller shows as well?

  • Eric: Well, you know, when you're in a band like Testament, there are a lot of expectations. "You're doing that", "you have to play there"… You start thinking it's a business. It's like, "slow down a bit!" Sometimes you have to be punk rock (laughs). And this is good, it's cool.

Mozzy: I think this gig is going to be quite special. Does it remind you of the old days too?

  • Eric: It does, yeah.

Mozzy: You're playing Bloodstock in England on Saturday. Are you looking forward to that?

  • Eric: Yeah! I think we played the first Bloodstock ever. I think when we did the first one there were like 10000 people there and now it has moved up to like 30000, so it's growing. I remember when Wacken first started, Hypocrisy was the headliner, which was like "wow, this is cool!" And even like Earthshaker, another German festival, that started in a club. And then it went on to be huge. So Bloodstock is turning into a big thing.

Mozzy: Yeah. I went there two years ago. It's a really cool festival, with proper metal heads, and a great atmosphere.

  • Eric: Yeah? Ok, cool.

Mozzy: Well, that is all I think, thank you. I'm going to let you rest some more and do your thing now.

  • Eric: Ok. Awesome, thank you.

See also: review of the album Dark Roots Of Earth

Related links: