2016 Alex Skolnick interview talking Metal Allegiance
Alex Skolnick is a master guitarist and one of the most underrated fret-wizards of his era. He has spent a huge chunk of his impressive career as a member of Bay Area thrash icons, Testament, performing and touring on their first five studio albums as well as their most recent two records. He and Testament will return to the studio this spring after their current tour with Slayer and Carcass to record their next album. In the midst of all this, Skolnick spent time as a member of Savatage, as well as recording with his own Alex Skolnick Trio: The latter providing him a platform to showcase his love of jazz guitar.
In 2014, Skolnick connected with songwriter Mark Menghi, along with bassist Dave Ellefson (Megadeth) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Winery Dogs) to form the “core-four” of the project, Metal Allegiance. The band began its life in 2011 under a different name as something of an all-star cover band. When the guys showed up for 2014’s Motorhead Motorboat Cruise, talk of writing original material began to percolate. Later that year, Skolnick and the rest of the core-four hooked up for the first of two songwriting sessions which culminated in the nine tracks that comprise the band’s self-titled debut.
“We set aside time for the first writing session during the holidays in 2014,” Skolnick tells Metalholic. “We were just locked in a man-cave in Mike Portnoy’s house. That’s how we spent our days. We just set aside several days to do it old school—just come up with music, just jam, record everything, listen back, and arrange it as best we could. Then we ended up having another session like that a few weeks later, and within a really short time we had all the music and we made steps to record it as a small group, and then later piece in the guests.”
Once the music was underway, they began to reach out to their community of friends to join them in the recording process. They tapped vocalists like Phil Anselmo, Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Matt Heafy (Trivium), Mark Osegueda (Death Angel), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Chuck Billy (Testament), and several others. Gary Holt (Slayer, Exodus), Phil Demmel (Machine Head), and Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) all lent solos to the album. Skolnick offered that the process of picking who would appear as a guest happened rather organically.
“As the songs would come together we would just imagine it in a certain way. Like Mark Osegueda—he would sound great on this tune, and Chuck Billy—he would sound great on this tune, and hey, what about a female voice on this? Okay, so let’s get Cristina from Lacuna Coil, and then the same with the guitar parts. You take a song like ‘Pledge of Allegiance’, it has this breakdown and I knew I wanted to solo on it: I’m calling that. (Laughs) And that was the great thing about being a core writer of this project: I reserved my guitar parts. But then we had this whole other fast, heavy part, and we thought, okay, who is gonna play that? Well that would be perfect for Gary Holt. A lot of the parts came together like that.”
Check out the full interview below as Alex talks in-depth about making the Metal Allegiance album, some of the guests, the band’s backstory, as well as sharing some of his favorite band’s to riff on when he’s warming up. Will there be a second Metal Allegiance record? “There will be” states Skolnick.