TESTAMENT - THE LEGACY - ATLANTIC
TESTAMENT - THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION - NUCLEAR BLAST
In the thrash metal scene of the mid-'90s, there is no middle ground. Select few, like Slayer, make the leap to established fixtures in music. Others fade away: victims of massive indifference from former fans of the genre who have defected to the more brutal sounds of death metal. With the release of their sixth full-length album, Testament singer Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and James Murphy, bassist Greg Christian and new drummer Jon Dette find themselves in the aforementioned purgatory. The future of the band is about to be decided, based on the merit of their latest effort, Low. Ali “The Metallian” interviews guitarist James Murphy in 1995.
METALLIAN: This album is promoted and marketed as 'heavy, heavier, heaviest.' Why?
JAMES MURPHY: Marketing people can’t do their jobs unless they have something to say. There is some truth to every marketing campaign and this is the truth. They didn’t want us to write a heavy album. They wanted us to write an alternative album and be hip and trendy, but we ignored them.
METALLIAN: What makes Low Testament’s heaviest?
JAMES MURPHY: Power and aggression. Low has a great feeling, and a groove. It’s not contrived or phoney. It’s a very catchy album with memorable hooks and rifts. We didn’t sit down and meticulously plan it. We just let it happen. There was no influence by the label on the album.
METALLIAN: Tell me the meaning behind the title.
JAMES MURPHY: It’s the catchiest song on the album and it conveys best what we want to put forth. Chuck sings on the lower register 'cause we’ve tuned down the guitars - to C sharp on side one, and D on the rest of the album. We tune to whatever seems right.
METALLIAN: P.C. complains about corporate America. However, Atlantic is a corporation for which you earn money.
JAMES MURPHY: I think you are misinterpreting it. I would also challenge you on the notion that we are earning money for them (laughs). We are not complaining about corporations in general. We are talking about those, which control the textile and fuel industries. They put pressure on the government to keep alternative sources of energy out of the way - we are talking about hemp. The music industry has nothing to do with that.
METALLIAN: Apart from James Murphy, ex-Evil Dead drummer Jon Dette is also new to the fold.
JAMES MURPHY: John Tempesta departed to join White Zombie. It turned out that Evil Dead, now called Terror, were jamming at the same place as White Zombie. As John was passing by Terror’s rehearsal he heard Jon jamming some Testament tunes. John stuck his head in and told him he should audition for us. Terror were upset at losing their drummer, but they understood.
METALLIAN: Since you have a background stemming from the underground metal scene, I wonder what you think of the big black metal influx currently.
JAMES MURPHY: I don’t see it getting huge. It might be bigger because of sensationalism, but Satanic metal is only sensational to those people who are shocked or offended by it. I am agnostic. I can’t be shocked by anything they do. They run around with make-up and they have fake blood and swords - it doesn’t impress, frighten or intrigue me. I’ll listen to a black metal band if they are good. Although, very few of them have anything to say musically. They range in age from 12 to 15 and they think they are really bad and evil: 'Oh, we’ve got the black metal mafia, and we’ll kill you.' They live sheltered lives. Bring them to a tough urban neighbourhood in the U.S.A and leave them there on their own. Then see how long it takes for them to shit their pants and cry to go home to mummy. See if Satan’s gonna help them in a crack neighbourhood!
METALLIAN: Finally, what were the difficulties in your release from your Roadrunner contract and what are the chances of a second Disincarnate album in the future?
JAMES MURPHY: Roadrunner was actually going to release me. The Disincarnate album did OK, but it didn’t make me any money. It cost me money! When they heard about Testament’s interest in me, they decided not to drop me! Now I have a suspension contract to be in this band. Should I leave Testament, I still have to pay them advances I owe them. They are allowed to recoup off any money I make with Testament. Basically, they have me. Maybe I’ll do another Disincarnate or solo album on Roadrunner!
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 13.
If you enjoyed this, read Megadeth