Slayer - An interview at the Unholy Alliance tour
Yes ladies and gentlemen, a dream became reality. As I saw the first announcements for the Unholy Alliance tour, I asked for an interview with Children of Bodom, and as a joke one with Slayer. Little did I know that the day before the concert I would be called by Buzzin Hornet, informing me that I could attend a press conference by Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, Jef Hanneman and Kerry King. So I went down to the Brabanthallen and waited for two hours because they got stuck in traffic and other delays/problems. I had already given up hope of seeing any of them at all, but eventually, thanks to Warner’s hard working employee Sayori we got to talk to Kerry motherfucking King! And I say we because I did the interview with colleague’s from Zware Metalen and Kindamuzik, so we have questions from all three webzines. So here it is, another milestone for Metalrage, and another incredible personal experience for me!
How was your trip?
‘The trip sucked! It took us forever to get here, if I had known I would’ve left earlier!’
Are you looking forward to playing in Europe again?
‘Yeah, we just came from South America last month. We did Mexico, Singapore for the first time, and now coming to Europe, it’s like one of our second homes. We’ve been here more than anywhere else in the world. ‘
Is there a political message on Christ Illusion?
‘The only political thing I wrote is ‘Consfearacy’, but it’s very general what I write. I only took one shot at Bush, because I know the world laughs at him. He always came on the news making up words, so I wrote the line ‘I can’t relate to your verbal idiocy’, that’s pretty much pointed at Bush. But everything else in that song is about how everybody hates their economy, doesn’t matter where you live. You guys probably hate your economy, we hate our economy. What else do I say in that song? ‘Politics that fail from a president derailed’, that’s us, and ‘I hate the shit economy’, that’s everybody. Everybody hates that. I try to say things so that everybody in their own country can find something in that song. And ‘Jihad’ is kinda like ‘Angel Of Death’. It’s kind of like a documentary but from a perspective nobody in the world wants to hear about. Maybe that’s why the album is more political. ‘Fleshstorm’ is about war and it’s kind of written from a media perspective. The second verse is all from the media, maybe that makes it sound political. But other than that it’s just a Slayer record haha!’
How do you explain that you are less shocking today than you used to be?
‘I think the world has changed. When we came out we were scary to a lot of people. Many people were afraid to talk or sing about things we did. And I think it’s the desensitising of the world, you see horrific things on the TV, you read horrible things in the newspaper. So really, what could I do to become more horrible than the world is now? I think it’s just how the world changed in twenty years.’
Nowadays nothing is news because nothing amazes.
‘Yeah, and what am I gonna come up with that scares you more than what’s going on haha?!’
How's Tom's voice doing now?
‘Not bad. He has decided not to do interviews anymore. So I said just stop talking on the fucking phone haha! If you can’t do interviews, stop talking altogether, save it. I don’t know it must have something to do with Europe, every time we come here he fucks his voice up.’
When you look at Slayer’s career and divide it into three pieces, the first being when you started out, struggling to get your name out there, the second when you achieved fame and the real sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll started or the third, achieving the status of legends of metal, gods of metal even to some; which period did you like the best?
‘Probably the beginning. Because as much as you look back on it, as much as you say ‘man those were fucking hard times, I never wanna go on tour in a Camaro again’, but that’s where all the memories come from. It blows me away that bands today think you owe them something. Not just the fans but because they’re in a band and because they have an album, someone should get them a bus you know. We had to earn that shit. The first tour in America we drove Tom’s Camaro and a U-Haul. On two tours. The next one we got a van. So we were all sitting in the van and somebody drove the fucking U-Haul truck. We didn’t get our first bus until, I think it was… I’m pretty sure it was with the Reign In Blood album. We paid our dues, and once you achieve it, you can’t go back. Once you get on a good bus, you don’t wanna go back on a worse bus, you just want better busses. Or at least stay at the same level. Hotels is the same thing; in the beginning we were staying at places like Motel 6, and now when you drive by them on tour you’re like ‘not in a million years’ haha. But those are stories, I’m still talking about them 25 years later.’
Don't you miss playing in small venues then?
‘Sometimes, but all it takes is one small venue and the crowd sucks and you go ‘yep, never wanna do that again’. We did a show in I think Osaka for 2000 people and that’s the smallest show we played in two years.’
But it's also the most likely show that the crowd tears the place down.
‘Yeah, I think 2000 is one of my favourite sizes to play, because it’s big enough, yet intimate enough for me to go crazy.’
How come Slayer always starts 15 minutes later then scheduled?
‘We don’t. We’re always on time!’
I don’t believe you, a friend of mine has been a fan for 25 years, he says to me they always start 15 minutes late.
‘Well, 9.45 tonight, check your clock. I mean it wouldn’t make sense because there’s curfews you know. We went on late, we would have to cut our set, and we don’t do that hehe. With festivals it’s different because of all the travelling and stuff, but on our own tours we’re usually on time. He must have seen a couple of weird shows haha.’
Some time ago you recorded Undisputed Attitude, is that something you might do again?
‘We did that purposely because we know Paul Bostaph was gonna quit. We didn’t have any new material,we didn’t have a drummer, so we said why don’t you stick around, we’ll put this out so we can buy us some time to recreate our band. That’s the whole reason behind that. Dave looks at it, you know those are all songs Dave used to love as a kid too, so he’s all bummed he didn’t get to play on it. Someday we might do something like that for Dave, I don’t know. But as for now, I’m not planning on it.’
When you look at other bands that started out with you, you see that Slayer always slightly modernizes their sound. Is this on purpose?
‘It’s just the songs you got and go for it. We’re notoriously a band that never over thinks themselves. We just put a song together and then figure out what we’re gonna sing about, as far as the lyrics go. But I think this one is probably less produced than the last one.’
You also got some criticism that the guitar sound was more crunchy on God Hates Us All.
‘The seven-string? Well that’s probably because there are no songs on the seven-string on the new record. And the whole reason for that is just because I didn’t write anything on the seven-string. I didn’t stay away from it because people hate it, if I would’ve played it and made up a song it would have been on the record haha.’
Is there some kind of a healthy competition between you and Jeff to keep each other on a high level of writing songs?
‘I think for as far as the writing goes, I think it’s more of policing. If I hear something he has made up and it sounds like what we call a happy riff, we’ll go no man that’s a happy riff. You know like The Haunted has got some great riffs, but if you can headbang to a song like this (moving his head from left to right), if you can ever do that to a Slayer song it’s gone. We take them right out. I do that to him and he does that to me. And for as far as competition goes, the only competitive parts I play are probably the leads. You know if he comes up with something that sounds really awesome, I’ll go and think of something better. And I think that’s good for the band, because both of us are trying to outdo each other.’
Some solos differ from what you usually do, why is that?
‘I went out of my way to make better leads for this album. With Dimebag’s passing, I had in my mind I wanted to give the fans more for their money. One of their heroes went away. And I know that I’ll never be able to fill his shoes but if I pay more attention to my solos people might get more out of it.’
So no false tones.
‘It’s all kinds of weird shit.’
Yeah that it is, but there are no false tones.
‘Yeah probably more so, but there’s probably a couple. I got this advice from Dime years ago, we’re doing Seasons In The Abyss, maybe Divine Intervention I don’t know, and I was like I got all these solos mapped out and I know what I’m playing. And he says ‘King, don’t stop what you do best, go out there and wig it!’ So I always do the bars and the pick slides, basically create chaos you know. But I don’t rely on it like some of the early ones, I didn’t even make up leads, I’d just get on the bar and jack off.’
Still, some solos are recognizable from the album, why is that?
‘For those particular leads like I do in the songs tonight, I liked them enough to put them on the albums. But I think the kids wanna hear like you play it on the record. For me, I don’t like it when guitar players go out and make up a whole new lead in a part I used to know. Judas Priest did that on one album with the video they did. I’m like ‘man quit playing the lead, play the riff!’ So I just take all the things I learn from me being a fan of music.’
What motivates you to promote new metal bands by taking them on tour, like Mastodon, Chimaira and Killswitch Engage?
‘Well you gotta take somebody on tour, might as well be somebody good!’
But you really add something to their career. Look at Hatebreed now.
‘I mean realistically if it wasn’t for bands like that, who would play with us? It’s funny when you think you like somebody a lot, you take them on tour and you don’t. That’s how we were with Killswitch Engage. I mean Killswitch with Jesse in the band was awesome. I met Howard before, saw him sing and I thought he was a cool guy. But when I saw him play live, and Adam running around like a fucking retard, they’ll never play with us again. Just because Adam is a retard. To me he’s making a parody out of heavy metal. And I’m thinking ‘that’s your life man, that’s how you pay for your house and whatever the fuck you’re doing, and you’re out there making fun of it’. That’s how I look at it. I still like some of their songs but I’ll never take those guys on tour again.’
Is it still hard for bands to open up for Slayer?
‘It used to be.’
I heard from Mastodon that Killswitch Engage had a hard time with your crowds.
‘Well yeah if you’re running around like a fucking retard. He never wore his bunny ears with us. Did you ever see him wear his bunny ears and short shorts running around like a retard? What the fuck dude.’
And how about that time when System of a Down was opening up for you?
‘Yeah that was a mistake. Sometimes we listen to our manager and think okay that’s a good idea. And then you do it and you go ‘these guys have no business, I mean not opening for us because they’re not good, but because our fans will destroy them. Italy is one of the worst places; there was this festival there, about five or six years ago, and we weren’t in town yet because we were still flying in. And I think Methods of Mayhem, Tommy Lee’s band, was on and they fucking let him have it. Bottles, batteries, money, just throwing shit at him. And they played like two songs and they had to quit. My crew told me ‘you should have videoed it!’
Are you planning on doing festivals in Europe next summer?
‘I would imagine, because we didn’t do any this year. I think we’ll do the bigger festivals, like headline With Full Force again. Graspop I’m sure we will be on it, and what’s the Dutch festival again?’
Dynamo Open Air, but that doesn’t exist anymore.
‘No more Dynamo? Well, I guess we have to play somewhere else then hahaha!’
I’m gonna ask my bullshit question. In movies, who do you prefer, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone? Just movies, don’t involve the politics.
‘Yeah yeah, fuck politics. I’d say Schwarzenegger has more cool movies than Stallone, but I think Rambo, that’s a great movie. And I like Demolition Man. But I like Wesley Snipes in that movie, not Stallone. ‘
And what’s your favourite Schwarzenegger?
‘I’d say Terminator 2.’
Yeah, right on! That’s all I need to know for this interview!
‘Hahaha! But there’s a couple… o fuck; Commando and Predator!’
How about Conan?
Did you see Hercules in New York? His first movie where he doesn’t even speak decent English.
‘I always thought that in those old movies, they overdub him.’
Yeah that’s what they did, but I have the original one!
‘That’s fucking funny.’
What was the hardest part for you when you recorded the album, next to that it took five years due to Rubin’s label change and stuff.
‘Actually recording didn’t take long. It was less time than with God Hates Us All. But it’s the record company that takes so much time to promote things and I think it came out later over here too. But it came out pretty easy.’
How did you come up with Josh Abraham as a producer then?
‘We thought that Rubin was gonna do it for a while. But he never got back to us, that was another reason why it took so long, Rubin wasn’t really communicating with us. And he decided not to do it, so we had to find a different producer.’
But on previous releases he also stands as an executive producer, but he never really did much on them.
‘Right, but since Dave came back in the band we thought he would be interested again and do a real production job on it. And when he said no, we had to find a guy and we didn’t want to wait around so we had to find a guy that was available. In the end it came down to Josh Abraham and Garth.’
The one with the three G’s?
‘Yeah, we never met him for this album. I mean I know Gggarth, he was up with us when we were recording God Hates Us All in Vancouver. But Josh came down to us, heard us play, got in front of us and really felt the power and said let’s go for it.’
But you don’t feel like you’re experienced enough to produce it yourself?
‘No, I can do much better with someone who can be honest. Otherwise I’ll be like; ‘yeah that’s good enough.’ Sure you got pride and everything, but after three weeks you get fucking tired of it. And you need someone to say; ‘no that’s not it.’ But Josh did a good job and if he’s available for our next record he’ll be our first choice.’
So what do you think of Rick Rubin doing the new Metallica record then?
‘That’s part of my motivation, as soon as he told us he was going to do the new Metallica record I was like ‘that’s fine. You’ve got history with us and at the end of the day when my record is done I’m gonna hand it to you and know mine’s better.’ I think if anyone can get them out of their funk, maybe he can, but I don’t think they can make metal anymore. They can make pop and get away with that, but as far what they tried to do on Saint Anger, that was horrible. You can’t turn your back on what you’re doing for ten or twelve years and then jump back in and think you’re the same band. And they showed us.’
Do you think that this also created more fans for Slayer?
‘I hope so, hahaha!’
Your guitar abuse clinics; will you do those in Europe too?
‘I did one in England, I didn’t do any this year because I was in between contracts with B.C. Rich and they wanted me to do some. And I was like I’m not doing anything until we’re done doing our business. We finally got done with that like four months ago, maybe five. So we haven’t really talked about it, but when I have some downtime in between tours I’ll call them up and ask if they wanna do something. The clinics are pretty fun, I did one in El Paso and 600 people showed up for one dude to play a guitar at what’s not even a gig, that’s pretty big.'
You always seemed quite straightforward and level-headed about the business side of the band, does that help?
‘I think level-headedness helps out big time, because you’re not getting caught up in things. But when I hear a band like… like when I first heard Demiricous I loved those guys. I wanted to take them on tour but they are so similar to us, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. But if they were in the spot of Thine Eyes Bleed, so there’s two bands between them and us I think it would work. I don’t think they should be right in front of us because that would be like watching us twice.’
Isn’t it hard for you to still come up with new songs that still have that Slayer element?
‘It depends. One moment you think you suck and can’t write good songs anymore and then some time later you wrote five of the best songs you’ve ever written. So it’s just kind of like a rollercoaster ride. If you sit down with the intention to write a good song, chances are you’re not gonna do it. But if you just sit down, move around on the guitar a little bit and get a riff, and you build on that riff, that’s pretty much how I made stuff all along. It’s still the same.’
The song Final Six that you recorded for this album, will it be on a re-release or what is the idea behind it?
‘It was gonna be on the re-release for Christ Illusion, you know how record companies always wanna re-release albums with extra shit on it. That was the idea, but Tom still hasn’t sang on it. At this point I’m wondering if we’ll save it for the next record and call it the Final Three in a few years, hahaha!’
What kind of song is it then?
‘It fits perfectly on this album, all along it was gonna be included. But then Tom got sick and he didn’t come back to sing it. It’s already got lyrics written for it and everything. We’re just waiting for the vocals.’
At this time the lovely press lady informs us that it is time, so we take a moment to act like fans and give our copies of Christ Illusion to Kerry for him to sign. Can life be better than this? I seriously doubt so. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Metalrage did it. Metalrage fucking did it! We interviewed Slayer’s Kerry fucking King! This is why they invented a phrase like HELL YEAH!!!!
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