Interview: Testament's Eric Peterson Offers Touring Advice, Discusses Early Success, Metallica and More
I recently sat down with one of the brains behind the metal monster that is Testament, riff master Eric Peterson. We talked about all things metal -- including guitar solos, gear, practicing, touring and more -- in this two-part interview.
If you missed part one, you can check it out here. Part two is below.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Testament's upcoming release, The Dark Roots Of Earth.
GUITAR WORLD: When Testament was first coming up, what was it like going from a lesser-known band to a huge success? Did it feel like it happened overnight?
Looking back, I always say we were a day late and a dollar short on some of our fame. But at the same time, we were pretty lucky. I was in high school and I started a band -- and that band is this band. I just got lucky with people and I think what I was playing and what I made up, and I wasn't following the trends.
At that point, everybody was dressing like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Almost every band looked like that, and everybody had names that were Exciter or Metal Mania or all these trendy names copying your favorite bands or whatever.
That's when I was like kind of trying to do my own thing and I was incorporating GBH and listening to Motorhead and the Sex Pistols and trying to mix it with metal. It wasn't until when my friends were in a band called Red-Hot or something stupid, they got this gig and said, “We’re going to play with this band from LA and they are really killer. Can you help us roadie tonight?” I was like, “Alright.” So I went to check them out and it was a band called Laaz Rockit and a band called Metallica.
I still have the flyer. It says, “Imported from L.A.” It was with Ron McGovney on bass and Dave Mustaine on guitar. I remember fighting with my girlfriend on the phone and this music starting, and then all I heard was this “chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga” and I just hung up the phone and I ran up totally tripping because I was like, “This is what I'm trying to do!” It really all came together that night when I went home. I wrote “First Strike is Deadly," “Curse of the Legions of Death” and all of these songs within a week. And I got a drummer; Louie Clemente came into my life and it all just kind of happened overnight.
It was really weird, after I saw Metallica, it wasn't like I was like, “Yeah, I want to do that!” or “I want to sound like this!” I already knew what I wanted to sound like, I just didn’t connect the dots, you know? I had all the influences; at that time I was starting to listen to some really heavy shit. I had just discovered Venom and Angel Witch, and everybody else at my school thought I was a devil worshiper or something. I had ninth-graders coming up to me going, “Hey, can you put a hex on this guy for me?” or “Don't put a spell on me!” [laughs].
Everything I would wear was red and black back then. I never ever took my jacket off. I was one of those kids … kind of trippy. But, yeah, I mean Lou [Clemente, ex-drummer] ended up moving from LA and he came to the park where I was hanging out and I noticed these two kids with denim jackets on with all these European band patches -- and this was not something you'd see in my town. I think the next day we were jamming at his house, and a month later, Zetro joined the band and it just happened really quick.
Within a year we were playing gigs and opening for people, and then before you know it we were headlining and Exodus had just gotten signed, and we got signed, and everything happened really quick. Once we got signed, that's when I was scared. I remember when we recorded our first record, we were just like, “Wow, what's going to happen?”
I was so paranoid that nobody would like the record and I remember when it came out it just took off. What I didn't like was how the European press kind of badgered Metallica, saying, “Oh, Metallica should sound like this; this is what they need to be doing.” I remember feeling kind of honored but at the same time I was like, “Don’t say that” [laughs]. Now we are never going to be able to play with them [laughs].
But Anthrax ended up taking us out on tour, and it's funny because we’re out on tour with them now, but we ended up doing a US tour with them. We did like 45 shows, then we went to Europe and we did 30 shows and then we had to do the new record, The New Order, and I think we just got lucky, you know?
If we weren’t recording, we were on the road. Our first big break I remember we were on tour in the States. We were in an old beat-up Eagle bus, and I remember Chuck woke me up in my bunk and said, “Dude, the tour’s been canceled.” And I was like, “What!?” And he goes, “We’re flying to Europe tomorrow, Dave Mustaine’s in rehab, we got the spot on the Monsters of Rock tour.”
It was Frankfurt and Eindhoven, and it was with Kiss and David Lee Roth. It was huge, like 100,000 people. It was like the US Festival. Super-huge, you know. We were scheduled to play that night too when we got the word -- a sold-out show, but it was for 220 people, so that's when we went over to Europe and just exploded over there. This was all right after The New Order, right after that.
What was it like seeing Dave Mustaine live in those days?
I used to go to all of their shows, and I knew James a little bit because my cousin went out with him. I used to go to parties with them; keggers and stuff like that. I remember seeing those guys; I hadn't seen them for a while and they were in the parking lot at the Cow Palace. They were all in Lars’ old beat-up Volvo drinking with Kirk.