Alex Skolnick is best known as the guitarist for the legendary thrash metal band Testament. Alex also performs with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and his jazz group The Alex Skolnick Trio. Media Mikes caught up with Alex on the floor of the New York Comic Con to discuss his upcoming book.
Adam Lawton: What led to your decision of writing a book?
Alex Skolnick: I have wanted to write a book for years as I am a fan of books. For a long time I had thought that if the music thing ever got too difficult to deal with I would look to literature as an option. I would never slow down on music and guitar playing but the music business is tough. The business side of things is completely separate from the music itself. It is very challenging and there are a lot of perils. I actually have ideas for several books in my head. I think the first one that I wrote had to be very personal and about me. I have lots of other ideas and eventually would like to branch in to fiction. This first book is really sort of a memoir. I am inspired by memoir/autobiographical books. This book has been a long time coming but it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I really buckled down to get this out. This is a legitimate story that I think will appeal to more than just guitar and rock fans. In the book I talk about the high levels of resistance I encountered as a youth. I come from an academic family and I really rebelled against them by joining a band in high school. That was an amazing and very defining moment for me. I played with Testament the first time from the ages of 16 to 23. During those years you do a lot of growing and a lot of musicians are just beginning their careers at 23. I did my first album at 18. The book segway’s from my childhood and adolescence into joining the band which would become Testament. Our story is a bit different as we didn’t have a hit record with a set career path. This was a band that every album was a struggle. We got a lot of respect from the fans but never really from the industry. We never had gold/platinum records or won a Grammy yet we existed.
AL: Did you find writing the book was similar in any ways to writing music?
AS: Yes. Absolutely! Physically the process is very different. I would imagine if you compared different types of sports and how you play them there are differences however there is also some overlap. You get in to similar zones. What I found between guitar playing and writing is there’s this inspiration process that happens. With music you can try and get inspired by listening to music or going to concerts. Sometimes the best ideas come when you pick up your instrument after not playing for awhile and a great idea comes out. You just have to capture those ideas and with writing it was very similar. Usually the ideas are completely un-presentable in their raw form. I would just write page after page of stuff I wouldn’t want anyone to ever see but after awhile within those pages some pretty cool stuff starts happening. From there you have to go back and pick the best parts. It’s the same thing with music. You are hopefully trying to create some result. You have to do this quite a few times and abandon some huge chunks. Though this can be hard it is very important to de-clutter things. This process requires a lot of humility.
AL: Will fans get to see you out on tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra this year?
AS: I won’t be going out with them this year. I just have so much going on with Testament right now. The band is scheduled to go to Europe and the UK this coming year for some shows and we are also booked to go to India as well. My book is going to be coming out right around this same time so I have some things in the works to promote that as well. I worked with Trans-Siberian Orchestra for 9 seasons which was great but it was a lot. Ultimately all the projects I have going on right now I am more closely tied to.