Interview: Gene Hoglan of Testament

Bay Area thrash metal legends Testament have just dropped a new song titled “Night of the Witch” along with the release date for the new album Titans of Creation which will be out on 3rd April via Nuclear Blast. Testament are coming down under to in March to be a part of Download Festival along with a sideshow in Brisbane. I got the opportunity to talk to drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan about all things we can expect on their visit to Australia.

Testament is coming to Australia in just over one month for Download Festival, what can we expect from you at Download?

Some serious brutal thrash metal played well by some guys who love playing thrash metal well. That’s what we’re excited about. We are going to bring the heavy down to everybody. I’m not familiar with who else is on the bill. Somebody else just told me that we have Carcass playing, so that’s cool. There is a couple of serious metal bands on the bill, I’m not sure who else is there but we’re excited to be bringing some Testament down under. We are excited to be representing the harder edge of thrash metal at Download. Hopefully people are going to be ready for it. Testament is going to be doing what we do, laying down some heavy ass thrash so if you don’t like it, go grab a beer and suck it.

What is your favourite part about travelling to a different country for a festival with so many other great bands?

Finally arriving and going to the hotel and get some sleep. We are really excited, it’s what we do for a living. We are touring all over the place and of course flights from America to Australia, they are pretty ball crushing. Once we land and strap on the instruments, we are good to go. It’s always great as you get to see a lot of friends and hang out with a bunch of cool people. You get to make new friends in bands you wouldn’t expect to be friends with. Sometimes there is the member of some super popular pop bands that are on these festivals and you get to make new friends and enjoy a fine day out.

Do you get to arrive in Australia a day or two before?

We usually do. I think we are going to get there a day before. So that means we have to travel two days before that because we lose a day in travel. We travel on the first and we land on the third, so we literally lose an entire day. We’ll probably arrive there the day before, grab a little rest and be ready for the shows immediately.

You are basically playing a whole weekend in Australia with Download Melbourne on the 20th March, Download Sydney 21st March and a sideshow in Brisbane on 22nd March.

Yeah, there ya go. We are excited man!

You have already sort of answered this question, is there a particular band on the line up you are excited to see, but you don’t really know the line up?

Ha ha, yeah, I’m not really sure, but I heard Carcass is on the line up and I'm always really excited to see them. There could be a cool band that I'm not familiar with and that always happens at festivals. You know, you find somebody you weren’t familiar with their music but then you catch their set and then you are a fan for life after that. That has happened quite a few times at some of these festivals, I'm excited for that possibility at the festival.

Yes, that always happens! At Download Festival in Sydney last year I came across Fever 333 and I’d never heard of them before, but they were my highlight of the day.

Well there you go, absolutely that’s pretty good. We are all fans of music so we when find a band that we are super stoked on that’s really cool.

This time around the only sideshow you are doing is in Brisbane, will your setlist be different to the setlist at Download?

I would imagine. I’m imagining at Download we will probably play for like an hour or something like that. I’m sure that the headlining setlist will entail at least another half hour on that. I imagine we will have a few more songs in the setlist compared to Download. I am excited, we are going to Europe next week for festivals with Death Angel and we have completely overhauled our set for Europe. We are playing a bunch of songs that we have never played before or its been 25 years since the last time these songs have been played. A completely different line ups for Testament since playing those songs so we are excited for that. However, we are in Europe for about three months of the year every year. Australia doesn’t get to see us as much, so I would not be surprised if we lean on a lot of the classic songs. The older school classic Testament tunes but I am sure we will be playing songs off the brand new record. The record will be dropping right about the time we exit Australia. I would imagine we are going to play a new song or two from that. Testament always has a really well-rounded set list. They have so many albums out it's hard to cram songs off every record into a set. Testament finds a way to do that however. So, we will see if that happens on this round, I hope it does.

You have a new album out on April 3 “Titans of Creation”. What can we expect from the new album?

Kick ass Testament music! Everybody that has heard it so far is like super stoked on it. We just dropped a new song today. It’s a kick ass tune and the album are pretty kick ass. It’s an aggressive yet melodic record. It’s going to be right up Testaments alley. I see Testament fans going “fuck yeah dude, you guys did it again!”.

You have been a part of Testament for nine years now, do you have a favourite memory from touring with them?

Well you know, we get to do a lot of cool shows. There have been many shows where we are just looking out over a sea of people and that’s always neat. Some of the travel we get to do, like travelling to some obscure countries, we just played Nepal a couple of months ago and that was a great show and it was a festival that we head lined. For me that was pretty cool because one of the younger bands on the bill their drummer could not make the show as he was trapped in India. India was having a bunch of unrest happen so they shut down airports, every airport was shut down. The day of the show I said “dude I’ll play your set with you”. So, I played a set with a band whose music I had never heard but I fell in love with it. It’s a band called Underside, definitely check them guys out! They are from Nepal and they are kick ass! That was a pretty fun personal highlight. Some of their stuff is out on iTunes, Spotify and a lot of it is on YouTube. If someone is interested check out the band Underside, they are pretty good.

As you have been a part of so many amazing bands and albums, do you have a single career highlight?

Gosh, every album that I'm on I try to make that one the latest career highlight. I realise some of my drumming in Testament might not be the same style of drumming as Death, Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad or Dethklok or any of those bands, but I try to bring it with every record. I try to lay down the perfect drums for every project that I'm in. If we get to do another Dethklok album I'll try to make that the highlight of my career or if we get to do another Dark Angel album, I'll try to do the same. My project that I have with my wife, Laura Christine, those drums are insane and I'll try to make that the vital of metal drumming at the time. Each record I do I try to keep the bar set very high, for myself. I will never phone in an album or a performance or anything. That is just not me at all, I try to bring the most that I can with everything I do involving music.

Before we go, do you have any words for your Australian fans?

Absolutely, we love Australian fans. I love Australia, I love the Australian people. Everyone there is super cool and super down to earth. The metal fans there are intelligent and sharp and they know what they like, they know what they don’t like and the one thing about Australia is they always lead towards the more extreme side of metal and I’m cool with that. You have a country like Germany who appreciates the power metal sort of thing and then you have a place like Australia who says fuck, bring it even heavier. So that’s always cool and that’s one thing I always appreciate about the Australian fans. So, we are really excited to be coming and sharing some time with our fans down there. We hope to meet everybody and everybody has a big smile on their face at the end of the show, that’s great. That’s what we intend to do to you Australia. We are going to watch you smile as we cut your heads off.

Listen to the new track "Night of the Witch" below:

Visit the official Download Festival site for tickets and info:

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