Q&A with Eric Peterson
Sheila Rene': Eric, so very great of you to call. I've been listening to it for weeks now.
Eric Peterson: Oh, yeah. Pretty heavy, huh? (laughing)
SR: How are you all feeling about getting ready to tour?
EP: Oh, great. We're going to start on the 8th of August after the people have had a little time to get into it. We'll use the time to rehearse and get a good set together. We're going to be hitting the States with Strapping Young Lads and Stuck Mojo.
SR: What a bill that is. You recorded with the drummer from Strapping Young Lads, didn't you?
EP: Yeah, we used Gene on the album and Glen will be out on tour.
SR: Do you think there will a chance of some jamming?
EP: You never know what'll happen.
SR: You guys started out in '85 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
EP: Our first album came out in '87.
SR: Can we talk? Did you guys worry that you'd not be able to match the strength of the '94 album, Low?
EP: (laughing) Yeah. We weren't thinking about it but we knew that Low would be hard album to follow up. We've had plenty of time to figure out the direction we wanted to go in. We want to be more aggressive and move further from the mainstream, but at the same time be contemporary.
SR: The contemporary part for me is the lyrics, the guitar and some sound surprises. I love the opening music and countdown in that evil sounding voice--10, 9, 8, 7, ...666. Sounds like the devil himself.
EP: It seems like it's that way, but it's going against that. That's the whole ironic part of it.
SR: Tambré's and my website is www.highway666.com so we'll need to talk to you about borrowing that great countdown.
EP: Oh, wow. You should use it.
SR: Tambré and her friend and bass player Jon Torres both live here now. It's great having a bit of San Francisco still with me.
EP: That's great. Cool.
SR: When you start to work on a song such as "Demonic Refusal" what tells you which guitar you're going to use?
EP: You know we've built our own studio now, Driftwood Studios, where we record everything. We bought some great equipment and it was so "at home" for me. There was no rushing or pressure here. I was in pre-production for a while and I just know how all my gear sounds and how I wanted it to sound. I did all the recording on the album myself. Knowing this, I was able to get the sounds I wanted.
SR: Talk to me about what guitars you used on this album.
EP: I only used two guitars...my Les Paul Sunburst and my ESP Explorer on this album and on Low. I have this new Yngvie Malmsteen Strat from Fender which I used on "Hatreds Rise." On that one, at the end of the song is where the lead comes in. We were going to have lyrics there, but Chuck just had me play at that point. I was thinking something that was moody like Michael Schenker.
SR: You've gotten rid of all the business frustrations. Never to have to worry about a label again now that you've got your own. All you need to be up on is that the album is in all the stores.
EP: Yeah, now we have to do it all. The main problem is that most stores are only ordering six or seven CDs in and they sold out the first day. I called around to all the stores in the Bay Area and they were all sold out.
SR: The fans in Europe will have double that problem.
EP: It has been out longer there over there. Plus what's cool about our deal is that it all goes through our label, Burnt Offerings, but we license it to labels over there. We go through Music For Nations who have their own office and are geared up to get it out.
SR: You are finally where every band should be...in control of their own destiny.
EP: It would have been nice to have this set up from the git go, but back then we weren't thinking business...just playing. I was a keg drinkin', hell raising guy. We were too trusting back then.
SR: I have to ask about the Fillmore live recording. I wanted to be there so badly. I've still got that album out and in my stack of good stuff.
EP: The good thing about that was that everything went so smoothly. We were worried about it because we didn't tour that much on Low. We were anxious that the draw would not be there; however, we filled it up. The Fillmore holds 1100 people and we sold out. We were so happy.
SR: Tell me about Dynamo '97? Did you just nail 'em.
EP: We did really well there. The only down aspect was that we couldn't bring our own equipment so I played on Exodus' stuff.
SR: I just got a copy of their live album today.
EP: Yeah, Gary Holt is really pleased with it. They play all their old stuff and Paul is back in the band.
SR: There doesn't seem to be may overdubs on your album.
EP: We did some because you're putting your hand up and you'll hit an open chord. (laughing) Or, you drop a pick or trip.
SR: Is this new logo really new? It's very much in keeping with your native Indian roots.
EP: The skull and pentigram is from our Legacy years. We used that as the cover on our first demo as Legacy. We brought it back because it just suits us still. It's sort of an Indian gargoyle, demon look. The cover actually has a cool meaning. It's a pin head, but the actual meaning of this particular piece of art is an African ritual voodoo thing they do when they think someone is possessed. They make a wood carving of that person and hammer in the nails on the whole body. They believe that this releases the evil spirits. We didn't come up with that. The guy who did our cover had the lyrics and title of the record. We just told him to go nuts and that's what he came up with.
SR: I'm as impressed with the back cover as I am the front.
EP: It is trippy.
SR: Megadeth have used a voodoo cover this time too. They recorded in New Orleans and their artist came up with some great symbols.
EP: Wow, that's interesting.
SR: You know what I like most on this album is the many voices I hear
>from Chuck. Is that you helping out on "Together As One?"
EP: Yeah, I'm doing harmony. It's like an answer back.
SR: You're carrying on in the tradition of "Trail Of Tears" on the song, "New Eyes Of Old."
EP: Yeah, that was supposed to be in the movie "Strange Days." We were to be in the movie and on the soundtrack a little bit more than it worked out to be. They gave us $45,000 to be on the set. They put us up in a five-star hotel and we did a week of shooting with them. They pulled the song from the soundtrack and part of the movie since we had our differences with the manager. Our manager at the time, Thrill Entertainment, got us the slot. They're new to this kind of music having most of their experience in R&B and Blues artists. We're co-managing ourselves. We redid the song again for the album.
SR: I think I found most of your websites. There are several. How much are you personally involved now?
EP: We have a couple of e-mail addresses. We don't have our own website but there is one that has been created by the label. Some college guy in London, England has put one up that we like. We're planning our own site that'll be up soon. We're working on some 3-D effecta on it. By the time we're on tour it'll be up with a lot of information.
SR: That'll be great. What's the story on "Nostrovia," the 1:32 last cut?
EP: Nostrovia means salute or cheers in Russian. What we say at the end is cheers in several languages.
SR: Talk to me about "John Doe" the first single.
EP: We wanted to go with a heavier song. Mayhem thought we should go with "John Doe." It's a song that right off the bat get your attention. It'll be okay and then we'll come back and hit them with a heavier one...maybe "The Burning Times."
SR: That's a great one. You know if we'd all been living back in those days, we would have all burned by now. Those people who went down were so ahead of their time, they scared everyone.
EP: You're right. It wasn't that they were bad people they were just not understood. The song is about everyday people.
SR: Are you guys planning to produce other bands in your Driftwood Studios?
EP: Yeah, after this whole record cycle we'll get back in there. We've already done some bands in there.
SR: Anybody I know?
EP: Just some young, new bands who need a demo. We're going to put together a compilation for our label that'll be called "Bay Area Home Grown" or "Cream Of The Crop." We've already mastered it at our studio.
SR: Yes, I noticed that you dedicated this record to John Driftwood's memory.
EP: He's actually on Low, the song at the end. He does a talking segment. He was a great friend.
SR: Do you think we could see another tour like the "Clash Of The Titans?" That was such a great bill.
EP: We've been talking about it. It would be such a cool thing to do. I think the show would be Entombed, Testament, Megadeth and Slayer. That would be a great one.
SR: I keep hearing that Alice Cooper is going to take some great metal bands out in a tent kind of situation.
EP: That sounds great too.
SR: What do you think a true Testament fan expects of you?
EP: Demonic. This record is for all the fans who have almost been getting what they wanted. We came back really strong with Low but, I think we reinvented ourselves on this new one. They expect unrelenting and straight-from-our-hearts material. It's coming from us as fans, too. We've been home and had time to listen to other bands and hang out in the clubs. From Legacy through The Ritual we were just writing and touring. We were only hearing from industry people then.
SR: I know writers sometimes get blocked. Is it the same with the riffmeisters?
EP: Uh, It used to be, but now what I do is this. I just have fun with it and I find a couple of beats I like on my drum machine then get some special herbs out. I just hang out and jam. A lot of times my favorite riffs come from fantasizing that I'm on stage in front of a big audience almost like I'm a kid again.
SR: I'm hoping you got out of Atlantic with your catalog.
EP: No, we didn't, but we'll be distributing our catalog through Burnt Offerings and Mayhem. We're cutting a deal as we speak. Atlantic has so many bands on their label, they don't need us. We'll be doing the marketing and distribution ourselves.
SR: You've stepped up to the lead player on this album.
EP: A lot of people have complimented me on my leads. I don't like the idea that you're a rhythm player or you're a lead player. I'm just a guitar player. That's what we got stuck with in the '80 and '90s with Alex. If I wanted to play lead the band would say 'No, you're the rhythm player.' I'm liking your playing on "Murky Waters."
SR: Did you guys ever recover any of your stolen equipment?
EP: Actually, it was funny. Testament has always had hurdles placed in front of us. Just when we think we're there, here comes a bunch of hoods who steal all our gear we just bought. Christmas Eve we got it all back. We couldn't believe it.
SR: You must really love working with Michael Wagener. You've brought him back more than once.
EP: He has been out of the loop lately. He used to be more in demand. It's just how the music biz is. We wanted to work with Daniel Bergstran, but we flew him out and he couldn't get past the immigration visa problems.
SR: Is Chuck using any special mics on this album?
EP: No, that's his voice. It's weird how he gets those sounds. He kneels down and puts his head up so that the sounds come from his stomach. He doesn't sing with his throat but from the diaphragm as you're supposed to do. We used a couple of mics...a Beta 57 and a Shure.
SR: Who's voice is the opening countdown?
EP: (laughing) That is some old countdown we found from the '40s or '50s. Chuck and I took a vacation to Europe. I went to Spain and he went to Amsterdam. When we got back we were really tripping with the opening ourselves.
SR: What is "Jun Jun" about?
EP: I have jun jun imprinted on my picks and it's the sound I make when I'm explaining what I'm playing. It's the verbal rhythm my guitar makes. It was going to be an instrumental but Chuck wrote some lyrics. It's about a guy who struggles with drugs and who's trying to find his way with God. My friend just said 'Dude, just call it jun jun.' Everybody liked it. It has become one of my favorites on the album.
SR: Did Slayer break up? Do you know?
EP: No, they're way ahead of the game. They're planning to have something out by the end of '97.
SR: It has been great talking with you again. Thanks for your time.
EP: It's been fun. Thanks for your support. You're in Austin now and we'll be there in October. We've got a hectic schedule coming up.