I got to speak with Kerry King of Slayer this week and it marks another first on DCHeavyMetal.com. Previously I’ve only interviewed people from the area that this blog covers however when you’re offered an interview with a member of Slayer you accept it! I did try to ask several questions with a local focus though. There was some crackling on the phone and I did my best to reduce that in editing without making the recording sound too choppy. Our entire 10 minute conversation is transcribed below (with links, photos and videos) and you can stream it by clicking the orange play button below or if you want to download the 9.78mb mp3 file you can do that here. As usual my words are in bold.
This is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’ve got Kerry King, guitar player for the legendary thrash metal band Slayer on the phone with me. Slayer will be playing at the Fillmore Silver Spring this Tuesday, November 19th with opening acts Gojira and 4Arm. Now I’ve heard there’s going to be some sort of old school set list on this tour. What exactly can fans expect from Slayer this Tuesday?
It’s going to be Seasons In The Abyss and prior. It’s pretty fun, [the] set goes by in no time.
So we get to hear some old stuff like “Black Magic” and “Hell Awaits” on there?
Uhhh… yeah. I had to think about that, I’m like ah man. We just played a show in Austin, we played Fun Fun Fun Fest and we had to make our set shorter so I was just trying to remember what’s on the set list. Yeah, it’s really cool. We came up with this idea ’cause we played two nights in LA and they wanted something special for the second night. I came up with this idea and then I realized right away everybody was going to want us to do the old school set. And it’s cool timing. This is the last tour before new music and we’ve never done anything like that before so the timing’s cool, it’s fun to do and people dig it.
Now this will be the first time that Slayer has played in the DC area with the new line up, which includes Gary Holt of Exodus and Paul Bostaph. What have these guys brought to Slayer’s live show?
Well Paul, this is what the third time he’s been in the band. Hopefully he sticks around this time. And Gary, he’s just an old school thrasher like I am so it’s really as close as Slayer can come to not missing a beat, I think, as it could possibly be. It’s just as good as everybody ever wants it to be, you know?
Now you’ve said [in previous interviews] you were talking about going back to the studio I guess with this line up. When exactly are you planning on starting the recording process?
Well you know if you ever read my interviews I’m always the optimist, haha. It just never always pans out but my plan is to be in [the studio] in January. That’s what I want to do. Me and Paul have, I think we’ve demoed like eleven songs and I think there’s parts of fourteen, fifteen that are just mine. We just gotta get a plan set and follow it. But we’ve got way ahead of the game. I’ve got seven songs done lyrically and I’ve never had that many before we hit the studio so it should be, whenever we get in it should be a quick process.
Now Paul Bostaph, since he’s back behind the drum kit here for Slayer and you know on one of the Slayer albums that he was on, Undisputed Attitude, there were a few covers of a famous DC harDCore band, Minor Threat. Is there any chance we’ll hear Slayer play a Minor Threat song for us on Tuesday?
I couldn’t play one if I had to hahahaha. It’s probably been since then that I’ve played those. We might have played some of that stuff on that tour in like ’96 but I would definitely have to go and do some homework.
Do you have any favorite bands from DC?
I don’t really pay attention to where bands come from. I mean it sounds kind of silly when you think about it but I don’t even know who’s from DC. Help me out here.
Well we’ve got you know Pentagram and The Obsessed. We got a lot of old doom bands from here. Pig Destroyer is from here, Darkest Hour and then of course all the old harDCore bands like Minor Threat, Fugazi, Bad Brains.
Yeah Pentagram is one of those painfully obvious names. Cool as shit hahaha.
Unfortunately Jeff Hanneman who was the other original guitar player for Slayer, he passed away in May of this year. This was a big blow to the metal community as a whole but I’d actually like to know how this affected you personally.
Ummm… Well you know it just… Untimely death just sucks and it’s the guy that I made music up with for thirty years. That super sucks. He went early. It sucks. Heh, that’s all I can say, it sucks. My guitar tech died the year prior so death has become no stranger to me and you just gotta deal with it. You know I’m not set up to where I can just go away and live in my house and not work ever again. You just pretty much gotta tighten your belt a little bit and get on with life. It’s a horrible thing but we gotta trudge forward.
Now Slayer’s last appearance in the DC area was July of 2012 when Mayhem Fest came to Jiffy Lube Live. I heard a lot of older metal fans complaining that legendary bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Motörhead, that they shouldn’t be opening for a band like Slipknot. What’s your take on that?
You know I understand that perspective and everyone knows I believe that sometimes but whether you’re playing in front of us or behind us– sometimes I even think it’s even harder to play after us so I just go up there, I do my show. I don’t put a lot of thought into the politics of it and say all right we’re done. Now your turn. Have fun buddy.
Now in 2002 Paul Bostaph had just left Slayer and you guys were holding drumming auditions and one of the guys you did an audition with was Kevin Talley who DC area metal heads will know for having played with Dying Fetus and Misery Index for years. There’s video of this that’s gone around on YouTube and other places on the internet for a while. And I was kind of curious what were your thoughts on his performance and is there any reason he didn’t get the job?
He was definitely in the final one or two and I think that was the first time Paul left that we did that. The second time Paul left Dave [Lombardo] came back so we weren’t doing the auditions then. It had to be the first time, probably like ’97 but yeah I remember him playing with us. He was definitely one of my top choices but the guy that we picked just seemed like the better fit.
Washington DC is something of a craft beer town these days and several of our local breweries have metal heads working there and running the places and brewing beer. And with bands like Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Amon Amarth and even locals Pig Destroyer, they’ve all got their own official beers. Have you ever thought about making an official Slayer beer?
I know it’s been brought up and I know we have Slayer wine over in Scandinavia and I don’t really understand exactly what it all takes to get the permit to sell that stuff here. You know that’s not something I worry myself about all day but I’m sure it’s going to be getting world spread. And then there’s been talk of beer, there’s been talk of spirits. You know it’s just gotta get it all thought out and then be presented to us in a way that it’s ready to go. I’m totally into it.
You know I could probably get one of these guys to bring some great local beer backstage if you want on Tuesday.
Oh Gary would be into it. I’m not a beer drinker.
Alright man, what would you rather have some Jäger I guess?
Nah we got plenty of that, hahaha.
There was a recent commercial on ESPN with sports analyst John Clayton wearing a Slayer shirt and I saw you guys recently posted a photo with him backstage I think in Seattle. And apparently he’s actually a really big Slayer fan in real life, it wasn’t just on the commercial.
I know that’s when I found out too. I was like, ah he’s really into us, haha.
That’s pretty cool. So I was wondering do you know any other public figures or celebrities that are Slayer fans that people might not expect?
Oh I’m sure I do. Um… But I mean it’s more like people you’d expect like Josh Barnett the MMA fighter he’s big time into metal. I always see him in the pits actually at my show or anybody else’s show you can always pick Josh Barnett out cause he’s the biggest guy out there.
I don’t think I’d want to be in a mosh pit with him at a Slayer show, hahaha.
He doesn’t have to worry about getting his ass kicked, that’s for sure. So you know that, you know ball players, but that’s kind of obvious you know. Anybody that gets pumped up before they do anything Slayer pumps you up as well as anything you know, gets you fired up.
Yeah it definitely does that.
John Clayton one was definitely crazy. We didn’t know he was coming to the show. We’re warming up and our tour manager says “hey, John from ESPN” and Gary says “John Clayton?” hahaha and he comes in and we’re like “ah man that’s cool” and he had the shirt on that he wore in the commercial. It was rad.
Alright so what’s your favorite Slayer song to play live? You know it really does get people pumped up but what’s your favorite?
Probably “Raining Blood.” There’s so many musical changes in that song and when you hit the opening riff the place just becomes electrified. It’s awesome.
That’s an awesome song. You know I’ve always loved that song too because it sounds like a thunder storm ripping through the area. So here’s another question about music: What’s your favorite new band putting out music right now?
I don’t have one. That’s a question I really struggle with. You know and I’m not really checking out new music right now because when I’m working on new material of our own I don’t listen to things I don’t know so it doesn’t outside influence me. And I know that sounds crazy for a guy that’s been doing this thirty years but I mean your subconscious is a strange thing. You might hear this riff and it ends up in your song kinda. You know even now it’s five, the last ten years I don’t have anybody. I wish I did. Most [of] the stuff I listen to is old.
Alright. You know DC is the seat of political power in the western world. Is there any kind of statement or anything you’d like to say to any of our politicians or about policy here?
Not really. I’m not a big political evangelist type person. I make music, they play with the law.
Alright. The last time you guys came really anywhere near here with the original line up was when you played 1st Mariner Arena [in Baltimore] in 2010 and that’s when you guys were doing [the] complete album Seasons In The Abyss and I think Megadeth was on that and they were doing Rust In Peace as well.
I don’t think so. South Of Heaven‘s got great songs on it but it’s also got a cover on it and even though we sometimes do covers… doing a whole tour… I just don’t think that’s as strong a record as Reign In Blood and Seasons. I think we picked the right two to play. I don’t like “Cleanse The Soul.” I think that’s one of the worst songs we ever made up.
Another thing I was wondering is, I know last year Slayer put out those Christmas sweaters that were so popular. Do you have any other ideas for off the wall Slayer merch coming up?
It always comes up man and I know they’ve got new ones this year because they just made a limited amount last year and they were gone before you could blink an eye which I thought was ironic because I vetoed that to start with. But yeah they’re going to have more this year. They planned on making more so people would be able to get them I know that. They’re always coming out with different shit that we’ve gotta approve. I just approved a coffee mug. I don’t even know where they sell those things but you know the ones you put in your little cup [holder] in the car so they don’t tip over.
Oh yeah like the traveler mug.
Yeah, yeah. If it’s cool I approve it. [If it] sucks I don’t hahaha.
Alright well that’s about all of my questions here. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans of DC?
I’m stoked to come to DC man. Always a good show there.
All right man. Well thanks for taking the time to do this with me. This has been a cool experience for me so thanks a lot man.
Cool brother. Come say hello in DC.
I shall. I’ll be up in the photo pit too so I’ll be taking pictures.
Well alright man. Have a good one.