If you’re an avid reader of this site you already know that I’m a huge fan of Testimony, I’ve written about the band on several different occasions over the last two and a half years, including an in-depth feature just the other day. With the band set to release their brand new EP, The Beast That Prays, at any time now, I recently sent bassist Derek Lambacher a few questions regarding all things Testimony. Like the true gentleman he is, Derek gave some really great answers to my (not so) great questions resulting in one hell of a must read interview. Hope you enjoy!
GLOBAL THRASH ASSAULT: Hey guys, thanks for taking some time out to answer a few question for me today. I’m sure you’re busy with your personal lives and if I’m not mistaken you’re on the verge of releasing your highly anticipated EP, The Beast That Prays.
DEREK LAMBACHER: Thank you for the interview; it’s always a pleasure doing things like this.
Before we talk about the new album, let’s go back to the beginning. How did it all begin? What made you guys decide to form Testimony?
Going back to the beginning you had my brother Taylor and our original guitarist/singer. Shortly after they got together, Mike was brought into the band but they were still lacking a bass player. After some convincing from our Mom, Taylor asked if I would be interested in joining the group. Not being in a band at the time, I agreed to join. Later Adrian was brought in on vocals, and the other guitarist left the group. The idea behind Testimony was and still is to play, complex, challenging metal music that, while rooted in tradition, has a quality and sound all its own.
Testimony is a very technical/progressive band but at the same time you guys manage to keep things heavy and very much rooted in the thrash metal genre. What are some of your influences as a band? How do these influences come together to create the sound of Testimony?
If there’s one band that has influenced all of us, I’d have to say there’s no better candidate than Death. However, when you begin to break down our individual influences different pictures begin to emerge. Adrian is a huge fan of the “Three M’s” as he call them; Maiden, Metallica, and Megadeth. Mike is a huge Dream Theater nut, and he also loves guitarists like Jason Becker and Paul Gilbert. Taylor and I grew up together so a lot of our influences are the same, although not identical. Any more I’m just a fan of good music played well; whether that’s jazz, funk, metal, or otherwise. Add all of that up and somehow you end up with Testimony.
As I said in the previous question, Testimony is a very technical band. I’m curious, how many hours do you guys spend working on your craft? How many years of lessons did you guy’s take? How many hours a day do you each spend practicing your individual instruments?
I can’t speak for everyone on this, but I try and spend at least two hours a day playing bass either by myself or with others. As a band we get together once a week to rehearse and we also have writing sessions outside of our normal rehearsal time. In terms of lessons, we each have different experiences. Mike is totally self-taught, Taylor took some lessons a little while back, and I’ve taken lessons as well as studied music in college. We’ve each gone about our instruments in a different way, but we’re all very dedicated to them and the band.
One thing I’ve always been curious about with Testimony is the Lambacher brothers. Obviously they grew up together and share the same interest in music. How has their relationship impacted Testimony as a band?
It’s definitely been a huge advantage growing up together, and because of that we share a very similar musical lineage. When we were first getting into music, and even today, we would always share bands that we were getting into. So in a lot of ways our influences are closely related and that means we share a lot of the same musical tendencies. It’s almost like sharing one musical brain, where I can present an idea and instinctually he can be like, “I know where you’re coming from.” I’d definitely say it’s one of our strengths as a band, especially since we make up the rhythm section.
Let’s talk music now. In January 2012 Testimony released their first album, Transcending Reality. Can you take us through the writing and recording process of that album? Did one person bring the ideas to the table or was it a communal effort?
All of the material for “Transcending Reality” was written prior to hitting the studio, and each song was written by an individual member; which included our former guitarist. That was our first major recording, outside of a demo, and we were able to take away a lot from the process. “Society’s End” was a new song written just for the EP and was never rehearsed before entering the studio. Using Guitar Pro we each individually learned our parts and then went straight to recording. Not something I would recommend!
Transcending Reality gained a lot of attention from fans around the world and the album received some pretty solid reviews from critics as well. How did this response impact the band?
As it was our first official release I’d say we were all pretty surprised. It was like, “Wow, someone actually lies us!” The band was pretty stoked with the response we got, which was and still is a really nice feeling. Another part to that is the motivation to keep writing better material and make the next release even better. There were part to “Transcending Reality” that we didn’t like, or thought we could improve on, and we’ve been inspired to take our next EP to another level. That’s one thing we’re all constantly striving for; making the next song, riff, or whatever better than before. Putting the “progress” in progressive if you will.
Following Transcending Reality’s release Testimony went on to play a fair amount of shows opening for bands like Witchaven, Vektor, and Revocation. Is there a particualr show from this time period that stands out? Any stories you’d like to share?
The show you just mentioned were all awesome and it has been an honor to share the stage with the above mentioned bands. Vektor and Revocation are bands we look up to as they both play heavy music with progressive elements; like us. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from bands that are on the next level than you, and we are always diligently taking notes. Other than that, I’d have to say playing Diamond Plate’s record release show was awesome. Just some great band from the Chicago are and awesome people as well.
Let’s fast forward to a more present time. Testimony is on the verge of releasing their second album, The Beast That Prays. I’ve heard the album and it’s tremendous. I have to ask on behalf of everyone waiting for this album, is there an official release date yet?
There’s no official release date as of now, but we’re very close to wrapping things up. We’re just finishing some details with the artwork layout for the physical copies. So stay tuned as we should have a release date set soon.
On what formats will The Beast That Prays be released?
Right now we’re working on getting physical CD’s printed. In addition to that, we’ll be streaming the whole EP on our bandcamp site where it will be available for free download.
Like I said, the album is tremendous. It’s evident that you guys really took your time writing and recording this album. To me the music sounds more technical but it’s also a bit heavier as well. The production is also cleaner than it was on Transcending Reality. How did the experience of writing and recording Transcending Reality help with the writing and recording of The Beast That Prays? Was there any significant differences in the two or did things pretty much stay the same?
Recording our first EP was a great experience for the band and we were able to take away a lot. We wanted to come into the studio better prepared than last time, so we made sure everything was worked out in advance; things like tempos and arrangements. Some parts of our songs can get a little tricky in terms of meters changes, so it’s best to have that worked out ahead of time even though sometimes you’re stuck having to redo things on the fly. Probably the most common criticism from our first EP was the production quality, so naturally that was something we wished to address. Luckily, thanks to the guy who recorded us, we were able to get a cleaner, punchier sound on this EP.
When the writing process for The Beast That Prays began did the band have any type of goal in mind? Were you looking to do something on this album that you didn’t do on your last, or did the music just kind of flow?
Since this was our first release after our former guitarist left we wanted to make a statement with the EP. With three people contributing songs and ideas, naturally some stuff gets left out. Now with just Mike and I writing, we wanted to take the music in a more technical and heavy direction. For our last EP each song had just on composer, but now the band is more of a collaborative effort. There’s sort of a friendly competition between Mike and I, where we’re like, “bet you can’t play this riff!” That sort of drive is an integral part of Testimony, and I think our new EP highlights that.
The Beast That Prays is set to be released soon; do you guys have plans for any type of CD release show?
I don’t think we’re going to have any type of official release show. Right now we have some pretty nice shows set up for the summer, so we’ll probably just stick with that for now.
Like Transcending Reality, The Beast That Prays is going to be a self-released album. Obviously there’s a lot involved in releasing an album on your own. Can you talk ab little about the difficulties in releasing an album on your own? Has the band experienced any setbacks or turbulence from taking the DIY approach?
Obviously there’s the cost of recording, printing CD’s, and getting the artwork, but luckily for us that’s never been much of an issue. There’s also distribution, marketing, and that whole bag that come with not having a label behind you, but the bottom line is if you love it, you’ll do it; no excuses. Being in an independent band, or signed band for that matter, is kind of like operating a small business. You have to deal with marketing and promotion, bookings, keeping track of finances and all sorts of other goodies. There’s a lot to keep track of being in an independent band, but there are some benefits. You’ll never have someone else making creative or business decisions for you, and any money you make (if at all) is yours.
I mentioned earlier that Testimony went on to play a bunch of shows following the release of Transcending Reality. Is the band planning anything following the release of The Beast That Prays? Is there a possibility of a Testimony tour in the future? What’s next?
Right now we have some good shows line up, but given to right opportunity we’d love to go on tour. We’ve had some bad luck in setting up tours in the past, but that is something we’d very much be interested in. Hopefully things fall in place and we’ll be able to hit the road soon rather than later.
Thanks again for the interview! Congratulations on The Beast That Prays, it’s truly a great album! Is there anything you’d like to say before we wrap things up?
I’d just like to say thanks Chad! You’ve been a great supporter of our band, and for that we are always indebted to you. Other than that, I’d just like to say we’ll be releasing our next EP “The Beast That Prays” very soon, so stay tuned!