Interview By Alison Booth
Alex Skolnick is world renowned for being guitarist of thrash titans TESTAMENT over many years. Not one to sit back on his laurels, Alex has also explored many other avenues throughout his musical career, taking part in projects with a selection of varying artists, become a writer and he also formed his own band, the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO (AST), creating a music fusion of jazz combined with rock and metal elements.
On the road promoting their first live album “Live Unbound”, with Nathan Peck on bass and Matt Zebroski on drums, the AST has just completed a run of UK dates of the ‘Europe Unbound’ Tour. MSF Senior Manager Alison Booth had a chat with Alex prior to the show at Real Time Live in Chesterfield on 2nd March. Some excerpts can be read below, as well as the interview being available on the video, though as the sound is not very loud, the audio is available as well.
Discussing “Live Unbound”, Alex stated:
“There were two main motivations behind this album – one, that it was time to do a new album, but it’s also been hard to get into the studio, largely because of scheduling.
I had these new songs and knew I wanted to do them, but we’ve never done a live record with the Trio. Some of the songs, we’ve been playing for a while, I’ve known these guys over ten years. The songs develop live and I think releasing them now, recorded live, it’s almost like releasing new songs because they’re so road tested and we’ve developed these really cool improvisations that weren’t there when we first recorded the music.”
On cover songs, Alex explained:
“First and foremost I have to like them, but also we haven’t done any new covers in a while. We’re much more interested in original music, but when we were doing them and we still love to play them live, it was a matter of tunes that would work. There has to be a really good melody. Most of the jazz repertoire is built on standard tunes, a lot of them were old show tunes, they had these amazing melodies. And metal is not exactly known for its vocal melody, it’s more about the riff. But I think part of what we do is prove there are amazing melodies, so the first song that we started covering was a song by the Scorpions and the Scorpions are a great example of amazing melodies. The first song we did was ‘No One Like You’ and then we later ended up ‘Still Loving You’, which is our favourite one to play.”
Explaining about freedom of limitations in AST:
“It just feels good and it feels very honest. If you see me playing with Testament or Metal Allegiance I can’t fake it, I’m having a great time. But I also a long time ago, still in my teens, decided that I still wanted to develop as a musician, I don’t want my growth to be stunted. As much as I was a fan of Van Halen, I was also a fan of Jeff Beck and the musicians that Jeff Beck was a fan of, like John McLaughlin and Charles Mingus who’s a giant of the jazz world, so I wanted to know more about that music. And the more I learned, I put so much into guitar technique and being able to shred and play fast and know the music theory, it just seemed a shame to really like this music, whether it was by Mingus or Miles Davis and not being able to play it. I didn’t know it would take years! [laughs]
That’s why I was on a hiatus from performing heavy rock shows for a long time, I didn’t know if I was going to do it again. I figured I probably would, but only if I could get to the point where I felt I had the other side developed.”
Talking about if he will stay with TESTAMENT, Alex expressed:
“[Laughs] I have to be careful how I answer this! There are certain websites that I’m not gonna name, instead of reporting on my tour, you know something really newsworthy, it’s like ‘ok let’s find something he says in an interview and try to make it controversial’, it’s so silly, I’ll just say I didn’t expect to be here this long. When I came back to the band in 2005, honestly at that time I didn’t even know we were going to do a record, but we did the Formation Of Damnation record and the next thing we know, we’re touring with Motörhead, Heaven And Hell and Judas Priest. That was an amzing tour, the Metal Masters tour.
I’ve been here now longer than I was the first time, it’s going really well. Here’s where it gets to be a slippery slope – I’m not sure I want to be an ageing metal guy. I’m still in the decade of relative youth, I’m not in my fifties, I’m in my forties, which is longer than I thought I’d be playing this music. It’s such youth music, you can’t say never but I feel like I don’t wanna be one of those guys going forever in between taking Geritol. But who knows, right now it’s working.”