MORE

Testament's Chuck Billy on the Time He Performed a Scalping

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.)

See also: Testament's Alex Skolnick Went From Geek to Guitar God

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?

No.

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.

See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History

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.

You have some Native American heritage, and there's an incident referred to as "the scalping" involving Rick Ratto, the singer of the band Diamond, in the mid-'80s. What's this about?

[Laughs.] They were like the new hot band in the Bay Area. Danny Gill, this amazing guitar player [for Diamond], was actually one of Alex's instructors when he was younger. I think what kind of spurred it on was, Danny told me, "Rick Ratto keeps talking about how you should give up singing, and you're a terrible singer."...It was just filling my head with all the stuff he was saying.

Me and my buddy [Willy Lange, also of Diamond]...went out to Diamond's studio in Oakland. Willy opened the door, and I went there prepared with scissors and, I think, Nair, or something like that. [Rick] was on the phone with his girlfriend...and he had real long hair. It was kind of metal, but kind of a pretty-boy band. The last thing he wanted was his hair cut. So I just pulled his whole ponytail back and cut all his hair off and just held it, shaking it in his face, as he screamed bloody murder with his girlfriend on the phone. It was a bad situation. And I think I ended up dating his girlfriend right after that. So it was a pretty brutal scalping.

See also: The 20 Greatest Metal Albums in History

Follow us on Twitter @LAWeeklyMusic, and like us at LAWeeklyMusic.

Top 20 L.A. Metal Albums: The Complete List

The Ten Most Unreadable Metal Band Logos

Top 20 Sexiest Female Musicians of All Time

The 20 Worst Hipster Bands


Sponsor Content