August 26, 2010

Testament frontman on Pomo heritage

Where heavy metal and American Indians meet

By Tom LanhamStallion-maned thrash-metal rocker Chuck Billy ... was just rewarded by no less than the Smithsonian Institution, which is featuring the Pomo tribesman in its new exhibit “Up Where We Belong: Native Americans In Popular Culture.”

What’s happening with your tribe these days? Our reservation is up in Hopland, so I spend a lot of time up there. Right now, our tribe has come a long way. In the past, we didn’t have much money for schools, transportation or even keeping up the land. But, 10 years ago, they built a casino there and started generating revenue for themselves, then started improving the schools, roads, everything. And now, here comes the government with its hand out, suddenly wanting a piece of it, which upsets me a bit.

How have your Pomo beliefs informed your music with Testament? Back in 2001, I had cancer. And, I was born and raised a Catholic, went to church and the whole bit, so it wasn’t like I was really turned on to my Native American side at all. But, it got to where I really turned to my Native American spirituality and went through the process of healing ceremonies, sweat lodges and just—just believing. Being focused on the power of the Earth, as well as the power of the mind. And, here I am. Back on tour, doing what I love.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Inside Up Where We Belong and Up Where We Belong at NMAI.

Below:  "Big honor: Testament frontman Chuck Billy, center, a member of the Pomo tribe, is represented in an exhibit at the Smithsonian." (Courtesy photo)

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

Exclusive interview with Testament front man Chuck Billy

Chuck is very proud of his Native American heritage. The songs “Trail of Tears” and “Allegiance” are tributes to his heritage. He was recognized in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian exhibit Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture, which was on display through the first of this year. He told me that he was honored to have been chosen.