He helped define thrash-metal guitar playing and has a signature guitar coming out from Dean. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…
I read somewhere that Dimebag Darrell got you playing your current guitar. Is that true? —Eric Smith
I saw Pantera before they were signed. We were at a bar in Texas, and Dimebag was playing a Dean onstage. I went backstage and talked to him, and he let me play one of his. I thought, Wow, this guitar is cool. What I like about the Dean is its V-shaped neck profile. It’s like an old Spanish classical guitar, and it has a really good feel to it. It took me two or three years after I met Dimebag to contact Dean. I got my first guitar from them around 1997.
How did you customize your new guitar, the Old Skull V? —Jeff Florescu
I modeled it after the Dean Michael Schenker guitar. The neck on that guitar is really thin up near the headstock, almost like an old Gibson SG. I wanted mine straighter, though, because I do a lot of my riffing up there. Mine has triple binding around the whole guitar, which is pretty old school. It also has block inlays, Grover tuning machines and my choice of pickup: the EMG-81 for the bridge and 85 for the neck, which works really well when playing loud.
What are the origins of Testament’s skull mascot? —Ed Donnelly
The skull’s been around since 1985. It was on our demo when we were called Legacy. A guy named Bill drew it, and he was a good friend of ours back in the day. I think we paid him a case of beer, and we’ve been using it ever since.
What was the first guitar you ever owned? —Kev Miller
It was a Memphis Les Paul copy with a bolt-on neck. It had a cherry burst and looked like an Ace Frehley guitar. It was really cool. I bought it at some music stores in a suburban area, where they carried mostly violins and banjos and had maybe two electric guitars. I took lessons there with a guy who was a real jazz-oriented guitar player. He was about 60 or 70 years old, and he taught me some cool stuff.
What’s the most embarrassing thing to happen to you onstage? —Hossein F.
Around 2004, I used to wear a pair of New Rock Boots that were really tall. We were on tour with Halford, and when I came out onstage I slipped on something. It happened just as Chuck [Billy, Testament frontman] announced my name, and I fell right on my ass in front of thousands of people. There were no drums or anything behind me; I was by myself. It was hard to stand back up with those boots on, and I was wearing stretch jeans, so they were really tight. Chuck just laughed. I think he just said, “Ouch.” He thought it was pretty funny. I was wearing those same boots once when we were in Slovakia, and I fell down some stairs and got sent to the hospital. That wasn’t embarrassing; it just sucked.
If you could bump into a 15-yearold version of you, what advice would you give yourself? —Neil Sandow
I’d say, “Do what you’re gonna do, but practice more and learn some modes and stuff like that.” I was basically self-taught. A lot of times, Alex [Skolnick, Testament lead guitarist] will mention certain modes. I kind of know what he’s talking about, but I did skip a lot of things in my musical education.
Have you begun writing a new Testament album yet? —Lisa D.
We’re going to start working on a new record in October. We’ve got five or six songs written already. I think we’ll probably put the record together in October and hopefully have a record for 2010.