Testament's Chuck Billy on the Time He Performed a Scalping
Chuck Billy is the six-foot-four singer of veteran thrash metal band Testament, who play House of Blues tomorrow night. You do not want to piss him off; he once laid down some serious vigilante justice, and he's no stranger to hanging with felons. (More on that in the interview below.)
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Although he's mellowed since the chaos that was Testament in the 80s, he's also a cancer survivor -- so he remains tough. Earlier this month, the band's lead guitarist Alex Skolnick self-published his tell-all autobiography, Geek to Guitar Hero, revealing the bacchanalia that drove him to quit the band in '93. (He rejoined in 2005.) We asked Chuck if he'd read the book.
Have you read Alex's book?
So, this will be fun. What can you tell me about a guy named "Tattoo Rob"?
[Laughs.] He was pretty insane. We met him on our first [Testament] tour, in Florida or somewhere out there. We picked him up on a roadside or hitchhiking or at a show, and next thing you know, he was traveling with us. He was older than us and fully tattooed. Looked like he'd escaped from prison...But, we connected, and turns out he lived in California. He had family there. So, after we threw him out of the van on the side of the freeway, he contacted us back in the Bay Area. Then he kind of just hung out with us and followed us. Almost stalked us, I guess. He went to a show in the Bay Area, and I don't know what Alex says in his book, but [Tattoo Rob] broke the law one night and went off to prison. I don't think we've ever seen or heard from him since.
Was he already some kind of fugitive when you first met him?
He'd been in jail a few times. He was just crazy. He had that institutionalized mentality. He was scary. I know the rest of the guys in the band were just scared shitless of the guy. Thinking back, it probably wasn't the right move to let him travel with us.
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And what was his role in introducing you to your wife, Tiffany?
Well, at one of the shows, the night [Tattoo Rob] actually got in trouble, I sent him over to try to get her phone number...and she basically told him, "If he wants my number, he needs to come ask me himself." And that was the message that came back. So, I went another route, through another friend, and had him get the number for me. And [Tiffany and I] actually connected a day or two later after that show and have been together ever since.