Testament levererar snart en riktig stänkare till platta, “Titans of creation” Vi ringde upp den alltid så pratglade Eric Peterson för att diskutera den senaste skapelsen, men även mat och Neil Peart.
Where did the title ”Titans of creation” come from?
There are these demi gods, titans, and if you look at the cover, one of them is pouring something, which they´re hammering into life, like DNA. It´s kind of vague, but it is what it is. It´s like “What the hell does that mean?”, but you can tell what it means, you know. We had a bunch of different titles and we came up with some of the stupidest ideas, but that one, “Titans of creation”, felt really good. It made sense, also in a double meaning. Testament was part of the “Clash of the titans” tour (1990) and this is our new creation of music. I mean, that´s not what it is, but it made sense when we came up with it. We better have a good record if we´re the “Titans of creation”
Let´s start with “Children of the next level”, the opening track.
It´s hard when you live with songs for months. Like, my favorite song is “City of angels” I was thinking “That might be a good opener.” and then you start thinking like “Of course that´s not a good opener.” because it´s a mid-tempo, Sabbath throw back. “Children of the next level” was the title of the record at the beginning. A lot of people in our circle were making fun of us sending us pictures of them at the grocery store with “Next level burger…” and shit. All these memes with “Next level” this and that and we were “Alright, alright!” (laughs) It just got in our head and a lot of younger people say that, “That´s next level shit.” We didn´t want to be stuck in time, but Iron Maiden got away with it with “Killers” (1981). I was saying “Killer!” in like 9th and 10th grade and that record came out when I was a junior. I was like, “How did they know that the California kids were going `That´s killer!`? (laughs) “Children of the next level”, that song to me, is just a lot of nooks and crannies. It´s got a lot of elements of riffage and it goes all over the place. We just felt that was a good Testament song that is kind of upbeat and it´s got some riffage in there. I think Steve (Di Giorgio, bass) wanted “WW III” to open the album, but I felt it was more of a second song. The way Chuck sings on this album… when he comes it it´s always “No, no, no, no!”, but once he finds himself there´s no stopping him and it just gets better and better. I think that was like the third one and at some point I don´t even have to criticize him. We both criticize each other but only to make the song better. At some points where I´m just thinking “God, now what´s he´s going to do?” and then he´ll start singing and it´s like “Fuck, that´s amazing!” This was one of the songs where his voice has that raspy almost pissed off Tom Araya kind of feeling. That real spit.
It´s pretty cool to start off a record with a 6-minute song.
(laughs) Going back to my favorite “City of angels” which is almost 7 minutes. At one point Chuck said “We need to cut some of that out!” and I was like “What part?” and he said “Some of the solo.” and I went “Fuck that! “We´re not cutting any of my solos!” I think what we ended up doing was at the ending when it cuts back to the clean part where it went on forever, I think we put the chorus at the end and everybody were like “It just stops?” and I was like “That´s fucking cool!” When you´re writing stuff you all have different opinions, but now that it´s done and you go back and listen it sounds right. I guess that´s my fault.
Next song I picked is “Dream deceiver”, which made me think of Judas Priest´s “Dreamer deceiver”
Yeah, I wasn´t even thinking of that. When Chuck was singing that melody it sounded like he was singing that, but he was saying something else. We´re huge Scorpions fans and probably one of the biggest influences for me. That one is funny because it´s got the same vibe as some of the Scorpions stuff, with the chorus. It´s pretty damn close, but it´s still different. Some people are going to hear it and some are not going to hear it. We just love the Scorps and we´re known for covering a couple of their songs, like “Sails of Charon” and “Animal magnetism”, which we tuned way down. That´s a fun song. Especially the solo. On this record, Alex and I are trading off a lot. On that song in particular I take the first solo, then Alex comes in. Alex didn´t know what I was going to play at all, because when he came in to do his solos he was like “Ok, where am I playing at?” and I was like “You´re right here and I´ll be right here.” And then I started pulling a Jack Black, dancing around the room singing and he was looking at me like I was a freak.”
The third track is one you´ve already mentioned, “City of angels”, which is also a favorite of mine. Is it about Richard Ramirez, the Night stalker?
Yeah, it is. It´s funny because that´s my mom´s family name. I´ve actually got a cousin named Richard Ramirez. That was a song that when we wrote it and we were jamming on it, it wasn´t Gene´s (Hoglan) favorite because he wants to play fast and do a lot of crazy stuff, but me, Steven and Alex (Skolnick) went “The song´s pretty fucking cool, man!” It´s got some cool bass licks in it, there´s lots of cool guitar parts in it and Chuck wasn´t hearing it and he was telling everybody else that the song wasn´t going on the record. He hated it. He works with Del James and he´s been working with us since “The ritual” (1992) Del heard it and went “Dude, I fucking totally hear this one!” and when they read me the lyrics of over the phone I was like “Oh my God! Thank you!” (laughs) They totally were what the music was about, creepy and spooky. I do the first two solos and then I do the wah-wah. That part was supposed to have a girl moaning and screaming while I was doing the wah-wah part, but we never put it in.
What about “The healers” then?
That´s a fun song! If you take the vocals away there´s a lot of death metal kind of stuff going on there. I was picturing something like “Distorted lives” from “Demonic” (1997), like Chuck singing more aggro, but he didn´t want to do that. He ended coming up with more of a melodic pattern, simple but cool. It took me a while because I was so stuck on the death metal vibe, but once it got mixed and I was listening to it, it hit me like “Wow, it´s actually really cool!” That´s what sucks when you get stuck on something, like Chuck with “City of angels”… we make it happen, but it isn´t until later you realize that it´s really cool. That´s another fun one. I do the solo on that one and I was really trying to… I just got a new guitar at the time and I was going for more of the 70´s hard rock kind of stuff and I was trying to keep the solo with a Joe Perry (Aerosmith) kind of vibe, but a little bit faster. I don´t know if I hit that mark though? (laughs) More rock and roll kind of vibe, but still dark.
Last song I´ve picked is “Curse of Osiris” There´s a real black metal feel to some of the vocals.
That´s right and that would be me. On the first single “The night of the witch” I do the third part and it´s funny how both those happened. I was playing this part and Chuck was like “Do something else!” and I was like “Nah man, do something like this!” and then he went “You show me!”, so I went out and did it and Juan (Urteaga, producer) said “Yeah, do that!” So I said “There´s the pattern, try it!” and Chuck did it and it just sounded different so we ended up going with my vocal on that part. That was probably easier to sing and play at the same time. The “Witch” one is going to be hard live. If I was doing that in Dragonlord I wouldn´t sing over that part, so I was more just showing Chuck what he could do, but we ended up keeping it. I´ve got my work cut out for me.
Is there some kind of theme to the album?
I think mankind, or whatever… We´re really discovering what we can do. It´s almost like we´ve accepted that everybody´s going to die, but now it´s more like death is a problem and we need to solve it. The rich, rich, rich are at some point going to start rejuvenating themselves and fixing their organs. We´re thinking about where we´re headed as far as technology and what not and then shit that´s going on in the world with nuclear war and all that crap. We´re definitely not going to be on any side or anything. It´s always just been more about telling the story of what´s out there and not trying to provoke anything.
After all these years in the band, who would you say you´re the closest to?
Ehhmm, we´re all pretty close. I usually hang out with Steve because we´re kind of goofballs and we´re foodies and we like to go out and check out different foods. We all kind of hang out and check out stuff together. We all kind of like the same things. I´m close with Chuck too. I mean, Chuck´s my partner, but more business. Me and Steve just have more fun, I guess.
What´s the latest great meal you had then?
We were just in Katmandu and that was a lot of fun. A lot of vegetarian stuff there and different kinds of beans and rice and spices. That was a lot of fun. Really good tasting stuff. Just the simplest stuff like the way the black beans were prepared. It was amazing! My favorite food is probably Italian and Japanese. I really love Russian food. Some of the stuff they have, like their cheese bread. A lot of people probably think “Russian food?”, but it´s like Slovakian food. Meat and potatoes and it´s the way they make it. It´s so delicious.
A totally different thing. Lately a lot of drummers have passed away like Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity), Sean Reinert (ex Death, ex Cynic) and Neil Peart. Any of those guys that have meant a lot to you? Are you a big Rush fan?
Oh my god! Come on, Neil Peart! First of all his drumming influenced everybody, especially a lot of black metal stuff. Drumming is obvious, but lyrically it was just taking everybody to another place. The width of that guy! He was the Professor. Laughing at him when he joined the band, like “What a geek!”, but then seeing how deep he was. I guess he had the last laugh. “Little do you know, I´m going to be the guy writing all your songs.” I was going to post something on Instagram, but I didn´t even know what to say. I was just dumbfounded. One of my favorite bands. “All the world´s a stage” (1976)… I think I was in 8th grade or something and I remember my cousin Richard Ramirez (laughs) got a killer new stereo system and we were just cranking that record and listening to side two and “2112” live. It was just like “Wow man, I want to be in a band!” I was into KISS and The Commodores and stuff like that, but I didn´t really know what genre I was getting into, but that record was the one record that just made me go “Ok, I guess I´m a rocker!”
Have you ever met the guys?
I never met them and I´ve never seen them live. I really enjoyed “2112” (1976), “Hemispheres” (1978) and then later “Permanent waves” (1980) I think when they put out “Moving pictures” (1981), I still dug that record but their songs were getting shorter. I was just a big fan of their story telling, especially when “Hemispheres” came out. Then of course Reed, we toured with them back in 1993 and I hadn´t seen him in a long time, but it was really sad news. He´s like three years younger than I am. Crazy.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Björn Olsson (Testament), Fin Costello (Peart)