“It’s growing and growing and growing — literally.” – Chuck Billy
When Berkeley, CA-based thrash metal band Testament started making music 33 years ago, the marijuana landscape looked vastly different than it does today. However, after selling fourteen million albums worldwide, marijuana is still serving as a major source of inspiration for these OGs of thrash. Testament’s first album, The Legacy, came out ten years before California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, so finding good bud wasn’t always so easy for the band.
Luckily, cannabis technology has come a long way.
In an exclusive sit-down with WeedmapsTV, lead singer and cancer survivor Chuck Billy explained, “About a year or more ago, I got my medical card. Right away, my friends who knew I had it were telling me to go onto Weedmaps, it’s basically like Uber on your phone for weed. You look on your phone and you can see all the people around you delivering, see all the menus, and have what you need in an hour or so. I thought it was wild, just where it’s come from; getting busted selling in the parking lot at school to having it delivered to my house. Who ever thought canna-business would be such big business?”
The revelation was inspiring for Chuck, who wanted to incorporate his two passions into one the best way he knew how — songwriting. While in the writing stages for Testament’s highly-anticipated upcoming album Brotherhood of the Snake, Billy wanted to spread the word about the burgeoning legal marijuana industry while staying true to the signature style that generations of Testament fans have loved. We spoke with Billy about the song “CannaBusiness,” Testament’s long-awaited next release, and his battle with cancer.
Read on to learn more, and possibly be inspired to join the “CannaBusiness” yourself.
Marijuana.com: How did the song “CannaBusiness” come about? What inspired you to make a song about the growing legal marijuana industry?
Chuck Billy of Testament: I probably wrote it about eight months ago, and it was just a play on words. I got my medical card about a year ago and also sell a line of vaporizer pens called “the Chief,” including a dry herb vaporizer and an oil vaporizer. So, I’ve been involved in the scene. After I got my medical card, my friends were telling me to get this new program for my phone — everything’s got a program, of course — called Weedmaps. So I go on Weedmaps and next thing you know, I’m having weed delivered to my house. It’s crazy, where it’s come from to what a business it is now. Whoever thought cannabis would become a legitimate business? The Canna-Business! I thought to myself, “I should write something about that” after my first few deliveries.
Marijuana.com: As someone who is from California and has been smoking for a long time, what has it been like to see the industry evolve from a black market to where it stands today?
Chuck Billy: We played at a festival in Colorado about eight or nine months ago, and just to be able to walk in with our licenses and no medical card is pretty insane. As the other states catch on, eventually they’ll see the revenue it can provide for their state. It’d be incredible [laughs].
Marijuana.com: What motivated you to get involved in the industry?
Chuck Billy: Like I said, I’ve been a longtime smoker. From when I was growing up using it recreationally and getting stoned to now, where it helps medicinally like you see with the epileptic children. It’s become much more than getting high on THC these days. I’m a supporter of it. It’s taboo amongst everyone else, but it’s starting to make sense to people. You’re starting to see more and more people supporting it who don’t even use it to get high, they’re supporting it for the right reasons. I was approached by a company who wanted to team up and make vaporizers, and we’re about two years into it right now. It was something that made sense at the time for me.
Marijuana.com: How do you think the regulated marijuana industry is progressing so far?
Chuck Billy: It’s all about people spreading the word and talking about it more. It’s the people who will end up pushing it through and get it recognized. It’s so new, we’re in the early stages. Look at Colorado, they made like over $200 million in tax revenue on it. You can’t deny that this is real.
Marijuana.com: During your bout with cancer, were you aware of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits or using it in that way?
Chuck Billy: During that time I wasn’t a heavy smoker. While I was going through chemotherapy, marijuana didn’t really agree with me so I didn’t use it when I was ill. Fortunately, I didn’t have a lot of the side effects of chemo like the stomach issues. I just stayed focus, and I was barely ok after going through that.
Marijuana.com: Knowing what you know now, would you have approached your treatment any differently?
Chuck Billy: No, because the results are evidence that it was the answer. Marijuana is definitely a tool that can ease the pain you’re going through, physically and mentally, when you’re going through something like that. It’s “to each, his own” at that point.
Marijuana.com: Do you primarily vape now, or do you still smoke flower as well?
Chuck Billy: I still smoke, I do both. If I’m in public or something I can vape, but if I’m at home I still like rolling a classic fat joint.
Marijuana.com: What are your favorite strains of flower?
Chuck Billy: I like indicas. Sativas are fine, but I prefer the skunky, sweet indicas. When I’m just chilling, that’s it for me.
Marijuana.com: Have you ever toyed with the idea of developing your own signature strain?
Chuck Billy: I’ve never thought of it. I mean, that’s something that [pause]no.
Marijuana.com: Throughout all your years of touring, where did you always find the best weed (besides California)?
Chuck Billy: Yeah, California rules [laughs]. Anything up north, like Seattle and Oregon, they’ve always had really good stuff. I have some friends in Milwaukee that always come through with some kick ass shit, too. It’s all over now, whereas before you’d go somewhere and they’d only have that nasty dirt weed. Now it’s everywhere, you can get skunk anywhere you want. We travel around the world and countries who used to have crap now have pretty good weed.
Marijuana.com: When you guys are touring in places where marijuana’s legality is murky, how do you “secure the bag?”
Chuck Billy: Yeah, after doing this for thirty years you acquire friends and hookups everywhere pretty much. We always work with a lot of the same crew, so everybody always has the same friends. We always know who we’re going to see wherever we end up going, so we can map it out.
Marijuana.com: What can you tell us about your new album Brotherhood of the Snake?
Chuck Billy: We came up with the concept to start writing songs about this secret society called the Brotherhood of the Snake that existed over 6,000 years ago. They were a Sumerian race that was on a crusade to put down all other religions as false religions. As they saw it, a King or a God created mankind to serve as slaves on Earth to mine for its gold and minerals. That’s basically what got the ball rolling with the album, in addition to the connection with aliens and religion. There’s been documentation in books regarding things written in caves; the same beings with the long arms and the big heads and flying objects through the sky. It’s documented around the world, this connection.
Marijuana.com: Do you think the Brotherhood of the Snake is still around?
Chuck Billy: It could still be amongst us today. When you think about secret societies associating with things like power, control, and religion, maybe the Brotherhood of the Snake is still alive today in some other form that’s not necessarily the Brotherhood. You never know, it could be the Illuminati, the Masons — who knows? They are still out there, I bet.
Marijuana.com: It’s weird to think who else is here with us.
Chuck Billy: …or how we’re being watched and observed. My eyes were definitely opened. Growing up Catholic, you’re taught certain stories and the way of the bible. Now my mind is a little more open to the possibilities of it maybe being aliens.
Marijuana.com: A little birdie (or alien?) told me you really like UFO’s Strangers in the Night.
Chuck Billy: I love it, that’s one of my favorite records of all time.
Marijuana.com: What other albums, besides your own, do you enjoy listening to while you smoke?
Chuck Billy: When I’m smoking, I like kicking back and listening to Pink Floyd; either Animals or The Wall — stuff I got high to when I was younger.