by March Lowe (February 1990) for The Informant Magazine, S.F., CA.
They have been touring nonstop since the end of September when Testament kicked off their “Black is Back” world tour in Tijuana, Mexico, except for a small break around Christmas time. They have been playing 1,000 to 3,000 set venues with almost every night a virtual sell-out. Chuck shares:
“The crowds for this tour are a lot different from the ‘New Order’ tour. There’s not just a bunch of metal kids. There’s a lot more older people and a lot more girls coming to the shows. It’s been unreal.”
But no tour is complete without its share of mishaps:
In Boston, our tour manager got thrown into jail. Once night after a gig we went back to the hotel and we were just kicking back, waiting to leave. Our crew was partying in their room and they wanted to order a pizza, but they went over the phone bill limit so they had to go down and make another deposit. Well, they had been drinking and they told the lady at the front desk to fuck off, or called her a bitch or something. She got mad, so security and this cop went up to our crew’s room and they (the crew) were smoking a joint. That was no big deal, but the lady wanted to throw everyone out of the hotel, because of the crew. So our tour manager, Mark said, ‘you have no right to throw us out. I want to see the police, the real police!’ So the cops came down and arrested Mark for disturbing the peace and some other stuff. Our manager happened to be in town, Elliot Cahn, who is also a lawyer. He had to go down and get him out of jail in the morning. So they went to court and the judge was pissed off that they held him in jail because they didn’t have any reason to. We have a big civil suit against Boston now for false arrest and some other shit.”
In spite of that, everything else seems to be coming up roses for Testament. They have a first-rate album that has been hungrily devoured by fans and press alike.
The record is a lot more acceptable to a lot more people than just the diehard metal fans. For a metal band, there’s only probably about 200,000 to 300,000 metal kids that are going to be true to metal and buy it. And we’ve already got to that point, so we are starting to expand now and get these other people that are starting to come to our shows and listen to our music. We are not just a metal band. Our music is more than fast music. We do have meaningful songs. I think we are starting to get to the older people from 25-30 years old that used to listen to Black Sabbath and the people who buy Metallica albums, but won’t buy Slayer records because it’s too heavy. The New Order is good for technical speed and heaviness, but the songs blur by you lyrically, except for a song like ‘Trial By Fire’. The songs on this album are a lot more well written than the last album and people can relate to what we are saying lyrically.
With topics ranging from the greenhouse effect to suicide, Testament has undoubtedly come a long way, compared to the gloom and doom lyrics on their previous albums.
One obvious difference between their current album and their older albums is Chuck’s vocal style. On Practice What You Preach, he displays a much wider range than ever before.
“They gave me the room on this album. On all of the other albums, I had to sing like that, I went to college for music and took private lessons forever, so I learned how to sing. But when I got into the band, it was like, ‘We don’t want a singer, we want a yeller and screamer’ and I said, ‘That’s easier than shit,’ so that’s what they got. For the second album, I yelled and screamed but put a little more melody into it. When we were writing the new album, I sang like how I sing now and they said ‘Whoa, you have to sing like that on this record.’ And I thought, ‘Well finally! No problem.’ Everyone’s been asking me why I changed my style, but I haven’t. I changed my style two years ago when I did The Legacy album and now I’m going back to what I’m more comfortable with.”
It seems like whenever a band wins a bunch of new fans over, they also manage to lose a fraction of their older ones in the process. In this case, some fans of their older albums have been saying that Testament have wimped out or sold out, because their sound is not as heavy as it used to be.
“Everybody has their opinions, but like I said you got these hardcore metal fans, the people who will buy 200,000 records. But we don’t want to just sell 200,000 records throughout our entire record contract. We want to sell more. It’s not a sell out! I mean, what’s a sell out? We’re not Bon Jovi. We’re still harder than any of those bands.”
Testament are currently touring Europe with supporting act, Mortal Sin. They will return to the U.S. in February and then they will head over to Japan to do some shows there, after which they will come back and do some more dates in the States and then they will finish up their tour in Hawaii.
Special thanks to my old friend and Informant publisher Andy Hernandez for allowing this reprint.