EXCLUSIVE: TESTAMENT’S ALEX SKOLNICK TALKS CLASSIC TESTAMENT JAMZ
Photo by Mitchell Damien Maurer
Tomorrow on MetalSucks, you’ll read our fancy new Q&A with Testament’s Alex Skolnick, one of the universe’s awesomest guitar players ever, a sharp blogger and jazzist, and a god in my world x1000. It was last week that Skolnick kindly paused studio work to gab by phone about the awesome-as-fuck new Testament album Dark Roots Of Earth (out Tuesday via Nuclear Blast), its super-heavy relation to classic Testament albums Practice What You Preach and The Ritual, and his way of making guitar solos into mini-odysseys within mega-jamz.
But to get more on that last topic, I pulled a lawyer trick and begged for a favor just as we were saying our goodbyes: Would the absurdly busy guitarist comment by email on some of his most epic solos? With no hesitation, Skolnick agreed and delivered, and now we all can peek into his then-teenaged brain at the geneses of excellence. All fans of going bold, big, and ballz-out, read on!
Song “Over The Wall”
Album The Legacy
Released April 21, 1987
Skolnick’s age 18
Alex Skolnick: This was inspired by two guitarists I was listening to a lot of at the time. One was Yngwie [Malmsteen], who inspired the Middle Eastern intro and fast arpeggios. The main part of the solo was inspired by Dave Meniketti of Y&T, an incredibly underrated guitarist. One of my favorite solos of his is “Forever” and this starts off almost as a variation on that solo.
Song “The New Order”
Album The New Order
Released May 10, 1988
Skolnick’s age 19
Alex Skolnick: “The New Order” is one of my favorites to play live. It was very difficult getting Eric [Peterson, guitarist] to agree to play long open chords underneath my solo — he liked to keep things busy — but we made up for it with busy middle section. I really focused on singable melodies here, sneaking in some fast licks as embellishments. For the final arpeggios I was going for the mood of Randy Rhoads on “Mr Crowley” but with the sweep style I’d picked up from Yngwie and Uli Roth [The Scorpions]. The slow bends right before we’re inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.”
Song “Practice What You Preach”
Album Practice What You Preach
Released August 8, 1989
Skolnick’s age 20
Alex Skolnick: “Practice What You Preach” was the one where I really felt I came into my own. Originally I’d been using the underlying riffs to practice (no pun intended). It was a modal exercise — it runs through almost all seven major scale modes — and I’d played it a bit slower. I found I was able to incorporate many different influences, from my Rhoads-/Van Halen-style climbs to that Stevie Ray Vaughn blues pull off at the end. I hadn’t planned on this working with the band, but when the song “Practice” came together, I realized it would work as long as the tempos matched. It worked out great because it really took the song to this whole other place harmonically without losing the energy and attitude of the song itself.
I play these solos today in a way that is very recognizable, but with a lot more control and depth. They are still among my favorite pieces to play live.
Pre-order the awesome new Testament record Dark Roots Of Earth here. See u back here tomorrow for the full Alex interview!