Andrew McKaysmith of the "Scars And Guitars" podcast recently conducted an interview with lead guitarist Alex Skolnick of San Francisco Bay Area metallers TESTAMENT. You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On whether he's "overqualified" to be playing in TESTAMENT considering his accomplishments in the jazz guitar world:
Alex: "I hear that sometimes. I think it helps me definitely to be able to stretch out. We're sort of at a point — there has been for this whole later period of the band that I've been able to do that. I've been able to stretch out and balance out all of my other styles of music and working with musicians outside of the metal world. It's hard for me to exist in a bubble. I do love playing the music. The fans are amazing, the community is amazing, but I think one of the things that's helped is just not being stuck in a bubble. Thanks to technology, being able to have a personal computer on tour with a full-fledged recording studio with software and being able to work on any music I want during the day helps a lot, and also being able to send files to other musicians or work on my educational projects, whether it's video content for TrueFire or written projects that I'm doing. It wasn't like that the first few years of the band. It was just a pressure cooker of release an album, go straight on tour, do an album cycle, do the next record. I think, for me, I needed to get away and just develop on my own. But, now it's different. Having had that time away and being able to balance it just makes it much more doable."
On replacing the deceased Criss Oliva in SAVATAGE in 1994 for the recording of "Handful Of Rain":
Alex: "It was a big honor. I've been a big fan of the band in high school. I was one of many friends — that first album they did [1983's 'Sirens'], it wasn't well distributed. They didn't have a real record label at the time — it was very hard to get. Everybody had a third-generation cassette of that SAVATAGE record. At that time, I couldn't have imagined being asked to play for SAVATAGE. It worked out. It was very sad there was an opening because of Criss's loss. I was very honored to do it and it was a very good thing to do musically because, at that point, I had pretty much only recorded thrash stuff, TESTAMENT in its formative years, which is great, but it's very limited. With SAVATAGE, I am actually playing with some slow grooves, there's actually piano on a few tracks. It was a nice chance to explore some of the other sides of music as well."
On landing the coveted guitarist gig in Ozzy Osbourne's band in 1995 only to be told less than a month later it had been given to someone else:
Alex: "It was what it was. It was one of those things. Again, that was probably the greatest gig of all. Randy Rhoads was one of my favorite guitarists, but I do think at that point, yeah, it was a strange period. They sort of had gone back and forth with Zakk Wylde. At that point, Zakk Wylde, he's just such a larger-than-life presence and just knowing what I know about show business now, I understand it. They were used to somebody like Zakk Wylde, like a big lumberjack. [Laughs] I think that's what they had in mind. With all respect to Zakk, I think he's great, [but] Randy was my guy; Randy was my big influence. I really tried to bring more of that, but yeah, it was a crazy period. From what I've heard, just the tour was kind of crazy. There was still a lot of craziness in the Osbourne camp. It takes a certain know-how to just be able to come in and be a part of that. I suppose I could say, if I may be so bold, I had the musical skills, but there's more than musical skills required. [Laughs] I had the experience and that was it. It worked out well. It definitely motivated me to work harder at developing my improvisational skills and just focusing on finding what I wanted to do as a musician."
In a 2004 interview, Skolnick called the experience of being dropped from Ozzy's band "a major lesson in the music business." He explained: "I go home [after playing the Rock City gig in Nottingham, England] and don't hear anything for three weeks. Finally, I called Sharon's [Osbourne] assistant, who was surprised that she hadn't called me yet and that I should expect a call from Sharon. I sensed bad news. When Sharon called, she told me they really liked my playing and appreciate the time I put in, but they've decided to hire someone else, Joe Holmes. With all due respect to Holmes, to this day everyone I've spoken to has no idea why they [or she] made this decision. I was told it might have been because Holmes was a former student of Randy Rhoads."
TESTAMENT's new album, "Titans Of Creation", will be released April 3 via Nuclear Blast.