There are a lot of younger players that are really influenced by what I did. Now, if you play trash metal it’s assumed that you are a good guitar player.”
Alex Skolnick (AS): Hi.
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hi Alex.
AS: Hi, how are you?
W (NM): Hi Alex, this is Nando Machado and Daniel Dystyler from Wikimetal. How are you?
AS: All right, all right. How are you guys?
W (NM): We’re fine. Just to let you know, you’re on Wikimetal, the number one Heavy Metal podcast in Brazil. I’m here with Daniel.
AS: Oh! Cool.
W (NM): And we’re the hosts of the show. First of all, it’s a real honour to have the legendary guitarist of Testament on our show. Thank you for your time!
AS: Thank you. Thank you!
W (NM): Talking about the early 80’s. Did you ever imagine in those days that those kids from California would have such an impact on Heavy Metal? On the Heavy Metal scene all over the world, for such a long time?
AS: Not really, no! I never did. I thought for a while that Metallica would be this no wordy band that got in the mainstream, but the rest of the bands would be mostly underground. But you can see that in the last few years, there’s been a ressurgence, and it is very clear that there are many bands from that that seem to have impacted, including ours and we are grateful for that.
Wikimetal (Daniel Dystyler): Hi Alex, this is Daniel. Talking about those days, it is so interesting to realize that from two cities from California emerged a huge amount of great bands. So, how is your relationship today with those bands like Exodus, Forbidden, and Slayer for example, since you all shared musicians among the bands?
AS: Yeah, well it’s interesting. Our drummer Paul Bostaph was with Slayer for years. The Exodus guitarist, Gary Holt, is now filling in, in Slayer.
W (NM): And also Steve Souza was the first singer of Testament. Right?
AS: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. So it’s interesting. I mean, I think. I don’t think anybody could have predicted that.
W (NM): And the relationship between you and the bands? Are you still in touch with the guys from these bands?
AS: Oh yeah, yeah. This is actually really good. I think now that everybody is a little older, there is more appreciation. In the old days, every band was kind of like a sports team. There was a big sense of competition. And, I think now everybody realizes, it’s okay if you like other people’s band too. We’ve played with both Slayer and Exodus over the course of the last year. And everytime there’s somebody from one of those bands watching us, and we’ll go watch them. Yeah, that is a good camaraderie.
W (NM): Talking about the story of the name Testament. I know the story, but can you tell us a little bit about who named the band?
AS: Ah, originally the band was called Legacy, and just as we were about to release our first record, we found out that there was another band called Legacy, so we couldn’t use the name. And we put out a message to everybody we knew that we were looking for a name, and as we were on Megaforce Records they asked all of their artists. So, groups like Anthrax, Overkill, S.O.D, you know they were all helping us come up with names. That was actually Billy Milano, the singer of S.O.D, who came up with the name Testament.
W (DD): Great, great story
W (NM): That’s a great story, Alex.
The song that got me into trash metal, which is ‘Fast As A Shark’ from Accept.”
W (DD): Excellent!! Let me bring to nowadays, to the current year. I also have my family roots coming from Poland, and I know you also have that. And we heard that you were for the first time cover of a Polish guitar magazine. So my question is that, what does that represent to you, both being a cover of a specialized guitar magazine and also that coming from Poland?
W (NM): And, excuse me Alex, what was Guitar Player doing for 25 years? Were they sleeping or something? Where were these guys?
AS: You know the reality is that it has more to do with popularity and record sales than anything. Even though I got a lot of support as a guitar player, I know some of the people from these American magazines really appreciate what I do, they also have to look at album sales. I’m glad that the magazine in Poland did it. They said that here is the situation where that makes sense…. it’s deserving. So it meant a lot that it came from the country where my grandfather came from as a little boy, and it was just a really big acknowledgment. I want to believe that I was doing the right thing, but sometimes is hard, there is pressure, there is pressure to be, not to be the type of musician that you wanna be, the pressure to be more like other people tell you to be. It is a really nice acknowledgment that, you know, I’ve been doing, you know, the path I’ve been on is right and I’m gonna stick to it.
W (NM): Tell me a little bit about Joe Satriani. Is he like a real exceptional teacher? I mean, you, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett…
AS: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s interesting because I think I’ve spent some time in the world of Jazz. I’ve had Jazz albums as well as Metal albums. I’ve studied with jazz piano players and more players that had very advanced music theory, and it is not that unusual but in the world of Rock is hard having that higher level of understanding of music. It’s rare. And it was especially rare in that area. And Joe had actually come from New York, he came from Long Island, New York, and when he was younger he studied with a Jazz Piano player named Lennie Tristano. He is actually very famous here in the Jazz world. It’s interesting he was the first teacher that sort of had that musical understanding that is required for Jazz, but he brought that into Rock. And he was teaching in Berklee, you know it was a great opportunity for those of us who were fortunate enough to study with him.
W (DD): Talking about great musicians, is it true that after you left Testament you played with Stuart Hamm? And how was that?
AS: That was great! It was actually while I was still in Testament, but that was the first gig I’ve done outside of Heavy Metal. You know, it was great, Stu’s music at the time explored a lot of different styles. He got me playing in ways that I hadn’t played before. And also the idea of somebody from a Thrash band actually playing at that level and being able to pull this on with that level of musician was unheard of at the time. Now, it’s not that unusual, now, you know, there is a lot of really good musicians that play Thrash, but I got into it in the time where you were sort of expected to be more like a punk player, you know what I mean?
W (DD): Yeah.
AS: At that time, Venom, Motorhead, and even early Slayer stuff, it really wasn’t about musicianship; it wasn’t as far for songwriting, but the guitars solos just weren’t the priority, and I was coming from the world of, you know, Ozzy and Van Halen, and I just saw that, I just decided, you know what, I wanna do Thrash, but I wanna play on the level of the guitarist from Ozzy, Van Halen and Dio. And that was very unusual, and I got a lot of criticism for that, for not being a real Thrash player. As it turns out, it was one of the best things that could’ve happened because now there’s a lot of younger players that are really influenced by what I did and now if you play Thrash metal it’s assumed that you are a good guitar player, which I think it is better.
W (NM): Of Course.
AS: Daniel, after I played, after I put a couple albums out there, Marty Friedman, that wasn’t really a Thrash player before, he joined Megadeth.
W (DD): Yeah.
AS: And I think, you know, him, Marty being in Megadeth and me,(missing) we helped established that, you know, Thrash lead guitar playing could be good lead guitar playing.
W (NM): One song that drives you mad and out of your mind and we’ll be listing to that?
W (DD): You can’t control yourself.
AS: Okay. Let’s see! Boy, I’m gonna say the first song, the song that got me into Thrash metal, which is ‘Fast As A Shark’ from Accept.
W (NM): Oh, that’s a great choice.
W (DD): Great. Amazing.
W (NM): So, we’ll be listening to ‘Fast As A Shark’ from Accept. Right now on Wikimetal!
When I heard the first Van Halen record, it was just all about guitar. I imagined myself playing like he was”
W (NM): The other day I spoke with Zakk Wylde and I know that he had a project in mind that would be doing a G3 with Thrash metal guitarists, it was Zakk, Kerry King and Dimebag, and after Dimebag passed away I think this was on hold, but do you think it would be something you would consider doing? Would you like to do a project like that with other guitar players from trash metal?
AS: Oh! Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. I think Zakk needs to start thinking about that again.
W (NM): We love to be part of it, to have contributed to this idea, anyway.
AS: Next time I run into him I’ll tell him to get that together.
W (NM): Just imagine how that will sound.
W (DD): Yeah, that would be great.
AS: That would be really cool.
W (DD): You can tell him: “I was talking to the guys of Wikimetal and they said something like that”
AS: Yeah, absolutely. I guarantee you guys will get credit.
W (DD): Alex, you were mentioning that you’re coming from Van Halen, Ozzy, and all that type of sound. Obviously you were referring to great guitarists that were on those bands like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoades, Jake E. Lee. So, in the beginning, it never occurred to you who were the guitar players or artists that inspired you to choose this profession?
AS: It was definitely Eddie, Eddie Van Halen. Without a doubt, he maybe one of the elite guitar players. I started out as a big Kiss fan, and before I played the guitar, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be… I was also a big Beatles fan, still am. You know everybody’s thing. So, I was saying, yeah, yeah, if I wanted to be singer guitar player, yeah. I heard some of the classics, you know, like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. But then when I heard the first Van Halen record, it was just all about guitar. I’m sure a lot of people have had this experience but that just touch the nerve. I just imagined myself doing some of those playing like he was doing.
W (DD): And as of today, who are your top 3 favourite guitarists?
AS: Jeff Beck and I saw him, not that long ago, about a year and a half ago. And he was as good as ever. It could have been 1976, but it was 2009, and it was absolutely incredible. I am actually a big fan of the guitar of Pat Metheny, he is not a rock guy but he has a lot of different sides too. He probably is one of the world’s best musicians. And there is a guy, there is a guy named Jimmy Herring, he is a great guitar player.
W (NM): Can you tell us a little bit about your side projects, like your trio, or are you doing anything else a part from that at the moment?
AS: Yeah, mainly the trio. The trio has a new album that came out a couple of months ago and we do a lot of shows, some with Rodrigo and Gabriela, just a lot of fun. And I played on their record, their most recent album called 11:11. And then I’ve been producing bands. I produced a band from Iraq called the Acrassicauda, a Heavy Metal band.
W (NM): Yeah, I saw their film just the other day. It is really good.
AS: That’s the band from the film. We produced an EP, they are on tour right now, writing more music.
W (NM): Do they live in America today?
AS: They now live in America, yeah.
W (NM): Just the other day that I watched the film ‘Heavy Metal in Bagdad’, and it’s a real cool film I thought!
AS: Yeah. It’s actually being a lot of fun helping bands from other countries. I’ve actually, I’ve also being involved with some musicians from Cuba, and Cuba has a great penalty. There are hundreds of metal bands there. People don’t know that. They are not able to leave the country because the government only wants to put out music that they are comfortable with, more traditional Cuban music, which is great music but you know, it is unfair to these metal bands. So, there is actually a movement in the States that help bringing some of these metal bands to the United States. The movement is called the Unblock the Rock. The number one Heavy Metal band in Cuba is a band called Escapes.
W (NM): I wonder why the name, right?
AS: Exactly, Escape from Cuba. And we’re working to get them to the United States. I’m a big fan of this band, they combine all genres of Metal like Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal… And they have this musicianship that all musicians need to have.
I’m thankful I got to do one show with Ozzy”
W (DD): And speaking about the musicians from other countries, I saw that recently Robert Trujillo from Metallica, he was playing live with Rodrigo and Gabriela. Do you consider doing something like that? Since you recorded the album with them.
AS: Oh yeah. And actually we played a show and he was a special guest as well at Radio City in New York. So if you go on YouTube and you put in Alex Skolnick Trio and Robert Trujillo, you will see our little jam that day.
W (DD): We’re gonna put the link in our show for that video.
AS: Oh that’s all right, that’s all right.
W (NM): Talking about Testament again Alex, since this is a special on Testament, we’re doing a one hour special on Testament. Could you choose a Testament song that you are really proud?
AS: Yeah, why don’t we say, I’m gonna pick Souls of Black.
W (DD): Great!
W (NM): That’s a great choice!
AS: Yeah. That’s a song I actually started on a bass. Actually I was playing around on a bass and came up with the opening.
W (DD): And since we’re just listening to the voice of Chuck Billy, let me ask you something. How is his health by the way?
AS: Oh, very good! Thanks for asking. He is in a great shape, he gets checked up a couple times a year. He’s had no problems and he now is as good as he ever was. And that’s great news, he is not only now back from his health scare, but he seems like one of the few guys that does this kind of music
W (NM): That’s very, very good to hear Alex. Thank you from letting our listeners know about that. Changing the subject again, could you mention a solo from another guitarist that you really wish you had written?
AS: I guess Randy Rhoads’ from Mr. Crowley.
W (NM): Oh, that’s a classic.
AS: That’s a classic, it’s an epic.
W (NM): Yeah, it’s an epic.
AS: It’s the greatest thing in the world.
W (DD): And how was your experience with Ozzy?
AS: Oh that was a very interesting. I thought it was great, I guess may not have been the right time period, like he hired me, Sharon decided to go with this other guitar player, but ultimately Zakk ended up, Zakk is in the band anyway. But I got to do one show with them; I got to do some rehearsals. It was exciting; it was like a glimpse into this very different world. I’ve never been around so many famous people.
W (NM): I guess all metal heads would love to see you playing with Ozzy. Even this one time.
AS: I think it would have been cool, but you know it only happened this one show. And I’m glad, I’m thankful I’ve got to do the one show.
W (DD): Thanks so much for your time and for sharing all of your stories and experiences. Could you please, leave a message to all Brazilian fans inviting all the metal heads from Sao Paulo to go to see you live on the 20th of August in Sao Paulo?
AS: All right, Brazilians Metal fans, this is Alex Skolnick from Testament and I’m telling you to get to Sao Paulo and check out Testament on August 20th. We’re overdue to get there, we are on our way and I want to see all of you. We couldn’t be happier to come to play in Brazil for the best Metal fans in the world. See you there!
W (NM): That’s great Alex. Thank you so much Alex for your time, I really appreciate it. I’m sure the show on the 20th will be fantastic, we will be there and I really look forward to meeting you there, maybe we’ll have a beer together.
AS: Sounds good. I would love to. Ok, thank you guys.
W (NM): Ok, thanks a lot man, once again.
W (DD): Thanks Alex
AS: Thank you! Bye, bye.
W (DD): Bye, bye.