Kerry King of Slayer
With a massive career spanning over twenty six years, speed metal warriors Slayer recently re-released their album Christ Illusion with a bonus track and live DVD footage. Christ Illusion was their fastest billboard charting album and the first album in over ten years with the original lineup of Kerry King (guitar), Tom Araya (lead vocals, bass), Jeff Hanneman (guitar) and Dave Lombardo (drums). And oh yeah, they won a Grammy as well. That’s right…Grammy award winning artists – SLAYER.
Never one to shy down from a little controversey, Slayer has teamed up with shock rocker Marilyn Manson for the most anticipated tour of the summer. Each not without their share of critics, good and bad, they are taking their show on the road and will undoubtedly leave their mark at each stop.
Slayer guitar slinger Kerry King took some time to talk to TWRY about the Slayer legacy and 26 years of kicking ass as well as a look at the tour and the future for Slayer.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | August 2007
It’s not very often that I get to talk to someone who’s been at the top of their game for 25 years…what do you attribute Slayer’s longevity to? What makes Slayer stick when so many other bands have come and gone?
Well there’s continuity for one thing. Me, Jeff and Tom have been here since day one and the only question mark has been the drum spot but now with Dave back hopefully that remains how it is now until we’re done. I think that’s important. I think making relevant music is important, I can’t put my finger on exactly what that means. To me it’s about staying what your fans want you to be. We started out playing what we wanted to be and the fans started liking us so in a sense we’re just being who we want to be and kids are into that. Kids and old folk alike.
Yeah some of us aren’t such kids anymore. Your latest release Christ Illusion was your highest charting album to date. That’s pretty amazing after so long. Was the writing process any different on this album other than having Dave back?
No not really. We don’t like to be in there (the studio), at least I certainly don’t. It’s like pulling teeth, hurry up and wait, like making videos, hurry up and wait.
Is everyone in the band involved in the writing process?
Yes, so to speak. Tom’s contributed, Dave throws drum ideas our way..
And primarily you write most of the lyrics..
For the last few records I have.
You also recently re-released Christ Religion with new songs and bonus dvd footage on a new label. What prompted the new label?
Well Rick Rubin moved and when Rick Rubin moves we move. He moves every half second, I think we got five new labels while we’ve been talking.
Was the new song, Final Six, one that didn’t make it onto Christ Illusion originally?
Only because we didn’t finish it. Tom took a vacation one weekend and had to have surgery and couldn’t come back. We just finished it after the last US tour before we went to Europe, Tom went in and sang it. I found out there was another lead that I was suppose to do and I had no idea I had to do it. I hadn’t played guitar in like three and a half weeks and I was like “thanks this is going to be great.”
The fans definitely think it’s great.
It came out good. I was sweating it thinking “Fuck I’m not going to have any chops” but it came out sounding like a Slayer lead.
You’ve been called every name in the book over the years and you’ve seen your fair share of bans and lawsuits, do you think that people (other than your hardcore fanbase) will ever get what you’re about and what you’re really trying to accomplish?
No because they don’t want to. The way I look at it is people have too much time on their hands to worry about what other people are doing. They can’t even sort out their own fucked up lives so they want to pick on mine. Most of them are just “Oh I heard Slayer wrote a song about ‘this’ – they must be the fucking antichrist”.
Is it important is that to you in the grand scheme of things that they understand?
No because they care about me about as much as I care about them. I don’t.
Given the distinctive musical differences between Slayer and Manson the tour is sure to piss off some hardcore Slayer fans, they’ve been known to give some of your tourmates some shit in the past. How has the reaction been so far?
I haven’t been able to really go up and see Manson’s set because I’ve had so many friends out to see us that I’ve had to entertain that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I’ve caught some of it on the video feed backstage though. I was talking to Manson the other day though about this and I said “I see some of your fucking chicks in the front row and they’re just yawning at me.” He said “Yeah well, at least three of your guys have sat through my entire set and just flipped me off. I have to admire their stamina.”
Just looking out into the crowd is there a clear dichotomy in the crowd between the Manson fans and the Slayer fans?
Well I’m sure there’s gray area, but there are definitive ones who are either fans of one or the other.
Most people probably GASP when they hear the words Slayer/Manson TOUR. Were there any problems getting this show booked because of the lineup?
I don’t think so. We’ve got 25 to 30 dates. I’m sure there are areas we could never go that we wouldn’t even try to go to. The funny thing is, I thought there would be more protests. This tour is a Christian’s wet fucking dream. We haven’t seen anything though.
You’d think the tour dates would be marked as a holiday for them to come out and protest…
That would be awesome, I’d go out there with a camera crew.
Kerry King Live – Photo by: Mary
So what is the order each night? Are you switching off back and forth?
No, he plays last every show. We play the same amount of time but he closes.
So have you been hanging around with Manson, have you had a chance to get to know him at all?
A little bit. At the beginning of the tour he had some stomach issue and I just found that out at the last show. Saw him a little bit then. He’s always in his dressing room but if we find him outside we talk.
So you’re not going to pop out on stage with him one of these nights for a collaboration are you?
No, someone else asked me that a few days ago too. As much as he’s a superstar in his own right, we’re just too different. I’ve played with Hatebreed, I’ve played with Pantera, I’ve played with Sepultura and all of those were okay but I think with Manson I’d be a fish out of water. One of us on his stage or any of his guys on our stage.
Yeah but I think it would be great, it would give everyone something to talk about!
Oh we can do that all on our own.
That’s true, you’ve never had trouble with that. Having passionate fans is a great and part of the reason you’ve had such a long career but Slayer fans have pretty set expectations – do you every find it limiting to know that your diehard fans want a particular sound?
No because it’s the same thing that I want to hear and write. I think the last few records are pretty brutal, the most brutal since some of the things we wrote in the eighties and it seems to me that that’s what the fans want to hear because they are digging it.
So you don’t ever feel lik you’re compromising, you’re just writing what you want to write..
No, definitely not.
As our culture gets more and more censored Slayer continues to push buttons and encourage people to fact the reality of the world we live in. is there ever a moment where you have an idea and you think..nah..that would be going too far. Or are you actually shooting for just that?
No I have never thought that. I don’t think that’s what we’re striving for either, we just write what we like and writing what I like, I offend people. I don’t have to try, if we tried…Jesus Christ..
So are you playing a lot of the new songs on the tour?
We’re playing Jihad, Cult, Eyes of the Insane and Supremist.
How have the crowds been so far?
We just played Cleveland and it was the first one that didn’t have seating on the floor and it was fucking chaos. It kind of looked like a big ass circus tent. A lot of the places, like where we are today have the pit, then seating, then grass. Cleveland didn’t have that, it was more like a Slayer show people doing what they want when they want where they want.
I read an interview recently where you said you’re seeing a lot more women in the crowd as well..
Even before this tour, of course on this tour, but going back five years.
I think the first time I saw you was The Clash of Titans tour and even then there weren’t a lot of women in the crowd and it seems since then it’s changed a lot and women make up a good portion of the crowd.
We’ve been around so long maybe they think it’s more tame. We play big enough places where theres room and you’re not thrust into the pit unless you want to be and I think that makes a difference.
Let’s talk about the Grammy a little I don’t know why but when I picture you sitting at home with a Grammy on your mantle it cracks me up. What was your reaction to hearing “Grammy Award Winning Artist – Slayer..” Does it mean anything to you?
I made my friends call me that for awhile. You know it’s cool but this is the same award that was given to Jethro Tull a few years ago. It’s something that a lot of people don’t have though.
You have a pretty extensive group of snakes and reptiles. Do you breed them?
Yeah when we wrap up this tour I’m going to get my snake website back up and my tshirt website back up. Since the record came out I’ve been dealing with Slayer but when I get a minute to myself that’s the plan.
Are they pets? Or just for breeding?
I breed them. Next year I’ll probably have like 20 batches of eggs so I definitely have to get a website happening.
Do people have to be licensed to buy them?
No, I don’t have anything illegal.
Yeah, not illegal, I just thought that sometimes you had to have a license for anything considered an exotic animal.
It might differ from state to state.
So there is an author that’s working on a Slayer biography. is that with your input, will it be official?
There’s one or two and I don’t know the difference between the two and I don’t know if we’re giving both authors information or just one. I’m not positive so I can’t confirm.
Do you ever contemplate taking an extreme detour musically ala Zakk Wylde’s Book of Shadows?
Stop right there. No.
Never? You’ll never think you’ll want to explore any other styles of music?
Not in this band. Not at all really. Look at the shit I’ve written over the last few records.
So will there be another Slayer album?
You guys are just never going to stop are you?
Well we’ve had the luck of our first record coming out when most of us were in our teens. We’re on 26 years now..there’s gotta be a 30th anniversary, you can’t miss that shit.
In your recent Revolver interview you mentioned not knowing what to say when people ask you How it feels to be a legend but on some level you have to realize that you’re a legend in the industry and you’ve inspired and paved the way for many other bands over the last few decades. Do you ever hear from bands asking for advice or leadership?
Nothing as heavy as that. It’s like “Hey Dude, we’re big fans” and that’s what I would have said to Priest when we had the opportunity to open for Priest in ‘88 but I couldn’t talk to him.
No I was speechless I was just in awe.
So are there any artists out there left that would still leave you speechless?
Not any more. The last one was Iommi but I finally got to the point where I could talk to him.