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Exclusive! Interview With Slayer Guitarist Kerry King

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Wednesday, November 10, 2004 @ 1:10 PM


In Slayer We Trust: Davis' Exc

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There are some things you just can’t get enough of: good sex, good food, money, and Slayer. The four true essential food groups, if you will. Having been the forerunners of one of the most prolific styles in music history, Kerry King & Co. have been a mainstay while their other fellow thrasher compatriots have fallen by the sold-out/washed-up/drugged out wayside. As others from the infamous Bay Area Thrash Scene flounder in their media-mongering and inflated self-worth, Slayer continue to focus on their relationship with their fans and raising the bar on their own standards. More on track now than ever with a fully rejuvenated original line-up and a newly improved stage show, the band that doesn’t die continues to reign supreme on their collision course with the elite realm of the legendary.

Just before conquering the stage in Helsinki, Finland Kerry King calls from across the Atlantic to give us the scoop on the new record, a blood drenched stage show and their upcoming instant-classic DVD Still Reigning.

KERRY KING: Hello?

KNAC.COM: Kerry?
KING: That’s my name.

KNAC.COM: Good, I got it right.
KING: [Laughs] How’s it going?

KNAC.COM: Good. So you’re calling all the way from fuckin’ Finland?
KING: Yeah, about as far away as we’re getting from L.A.

KNAC.COM: How does that affect you? I know you guys have been doing this for years, but Jesus Christ, the time difference! What time is it there now?
KING: Uh… 6:00 pm.

KNAC.COM: Shit, it’s 8:00 am here on the West Coast. Doesn’t that fuck with you guys at all? The constant time changes?
KING: Just for the first couple days you get over here. It’s just like being in America -- it’s only… from Spain to here is only two hours difference. Once you get here it takes a couple days and then you’re cool.

KNAC.COM: Alright, I just got an advanced copy of the Still Reigning DVD last night…
KING: Really?? I haven’t even got one yet. [Laughs] They’re all getting made while I’m over here.

KNAC.COM: Well, it’s really good. I don’t know if they’re going to be adding anything else to it, but it has an interview with the band -- a kind of retrospective that looks like you guys did it right before the first show with the blood rig?
KING: Yeah.

KNAC.COM: I was really impressed. The set was tight as hell -- you guys were just on your game. Loved the six extra bonus tracks…
KING: Yeah, that was from the show too. We didn’t just play Reign.

KNAC.COM: I was wondering if it was going to be just that, because Reign In Blood is only 28 minutes…
KING: No, we played a whole set, and then rather than put out a whole DVD of the live show like the last one was, we just picked some of the songs that maybe hadn’t been on DVD.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, you’ve got “Spill the Blood”…
KING: Yeah, that one and “Hallowed Point” -- we tried to pick out some songs that we could play that hadn’t been videoed.

KNAC.COM: Great choices -- I was extremely impressed. The first thing I know a lot of people want to know is… Is Dave [Lombardo] back for good?
KING: Until Dave says otherwise. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: You guys have been touring the hell out of everywhere…
KING: Yeah, after we do Jager[meister Tour] in a couple weeks, that’s going to be it. We gotta go record! [Laughs] We were pretty much off for five months before we did Ozzfest -- that’s how we got so many new songs out. We’re almost ready to record, we just need to get some titles and some words and we’ll be rockin’.

KNAC.COM: So you don’t have song titles yet?
KING: Nah, I don’t… I mean I have some that I’m mulling around in my head but nothing attached to anything.

KNAC.COM: Ideas for the lyrical content?
KING: I would imagine it will just be an extension of what God Hates Us All was.

KNAC.COM: As far as input on the lyrics, I know you guys really mix it up, there seems to be a pretty good democracy as far as everyone putting in their piece on the lyrics. Is there anybody specific that’s got a head start?
KING: I think it’s just gonna be like last time: if somebody has an idea and runs with it and it gets done, then that’s who does it. I don’t have any preconceived things that I wanna work on. I mean maybe there’s two or three songs that I’d really like to dive into and do those particular ones, but I haven’t even really addressed that yet.

KNAC.COM: So basically you’ve got a ton of music laid down, and when you get done with Jager you’ll go back?
KING: Yeah, we were playing 12 songs before we took off, so I think after we go home and lay the instruments down for a few weeks and get back to it. I know me and Jeff [Hanneman] will at least put out one more, so I imagine we’ll end up with like 14 tunes.

KNAC.COM: Do you anticipate that those will all end up on the album?
KING: I would imagine probably 12 in the States, because the people overseas always want more. You know, the imports that have the extra songs and whatever.

KNAC.COM: In GHUA you broke into some 7-string stuff -- are you doing any more with that?
KING: I haven’t played with it yet. I made one song up for WCW, “Here Comes the Pain,” and I did that on a 7-string, and once I did the one song I figured, “Well, I might as well make up another. I’ve got this guitar, I might as well make up some more stuff.” [Laughs] But I haven’t even picked it up for this cycle yet. If I run out of ideas I might go to that because sometimes you play that instrument-- you could play the same riff and it sounds completely different. I haven’t needed it yet -- we have a lot of ideas. We had a pretty prolific early part of the year. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: When I interviewed Jeff a while back he was saying that you guys were just steadily rolling on the album, and then all the issues with [Rick] Rubin’s distribution and all that came up, which kinda put you guys in the backseat on hold.
KING: Yeah, you know what’s funny, man, it’s like every time we do a record there’s some kind of crazy shit going on with that distribution, but you know, it’s just bad timing. But in the absence of us recording we’re putting out the Still Reigning DVD so I think everyone is going to dig that, and it’s going to be bargain priced because it doesn’t have-- it’s not a long DVD, it’s just a “Here you go, have a piece of history.”

KNAC.COM: I was gonna say, it’s going to go over so big, to have the original line up 10 years later doing the full album… I mean it doesn’t get better than that. Any other type of releases planned? Like you said you did the WCW track awhile back; every once in awhile you guys throw something onto a soundtrack, etc.
KING: I don’t think there’s anything sitting around that they’re waiting for us to do. I haven’t heard of anybody requesting anything recently. I’m a little bit out of touch way over here, but usually somebody will mention it to me.

KNAC.COM: And you’re intending to pull out the blood rig on every stop that will allow you to on the upcoming Jager tour?
KING: Yeah, I think what I heard was 20 out of the 30 shows. It’s not exactly what we did in the video, because the video was a one-off. We tried to get that guy to do the entire tour but he just priced himself out of the equation. [Laughs] It was pretty ridiculous. I was like, “Dude, this stuff exists. It’s not like you’re making up new ones for every show.” I mean the stuff’s sitting there. So we got a European dude over here and we created it differently. And when it works it looks cool! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: So you guys are using it right now while you’re in Europe also?
KING: Yeah, definitely.

KNAC.COM: It’s still a fairly new concept you guys have added -- the DVD was your first time using it. Have there been any quirks or has it gone smoothly?
KING: Actually the one for the DVD there was no dress rehearsal. The only dress rehearsal -- I think you see in the DVD -- the guy ran it outside in the parking lot. That one-- what’s cool about the one in the DVD is it was like torrential rain. I mean it’s just huge.

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Yeah, Tom [Araya] was douched!
KING: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah! Well, he got-- in that one there was actually buckets above us and you had to hit a mark between “Post Mortem” and “Rain” so when the lights come back up we’re just doused. But we’re not doing that out here, it’s just the rain. So it’s a little bit different. Now it comes on when Tom starts singing, “Raining blooooood!!!!!!”

KNAC.COM: So was it hard to play? I mean at the end you guys were SO soaked in the blood. How does that affect your grip on the instruments, etc?
KING: Well I went in thinking, with that initial dousing, if I get a ton of it on my guitar it’s going to be useless. And you can hear when I walk through the blood -- the feedback is all big and pure, then it gets squelched. That’s-- when you hear it, just picture me walking through the blood. And I walked right through it -- I couldn’t find my mark and I’m just stumbling around looking for it because it’s dark and then I hit it and you can hear it get on the guitar and stuff and I’m like, “I gotta go before this guitar dies!” So then I turned on my free amp and my other little gizmo on my guitar so it wouldn’t die, and Tom-- [Laughs] Tom just sat under his, and Dave had nowhere to go, so… it was pretty cool. And that shit was slick -- I mean like oily slick.

KNAC.COM: I couldn’t imagine -- you guys looked just soaked.
KING: Yeah, I’ve had stage blood before, which is like corn syrup sticky, but this stuff must have been oil-based because man, my pick was flying out of my hand, etc. I can’t believe we played that song as tight as we did. I mean I couldn’t hold my pick and my hand was all over the fret board. It definitely wasn’t easy, it was just like, “Come on, pull it off -- just get to the end of the song.”

KNAC.COM: And so now you’ve got it down a little more, does the rain not impact your grip as much?
KING: Well, this stuff-- what we did in the beginning over here since we didn’t have the buckets dousing us, we’d go behind the rigs while we’re getting feedback and have our techs with water bottles that have holes drilled in ‘em and douse us like that because it’s a lot easier and you achieve the same thing. But then a couple days the rain didn’t work so we’re sitting out there like douchebags with blood all over us and there’s no rain, so we kinda stopped that until it kept workin’, and now it works all the time but we just haven’t gone back to doing it that way.

KNAC.COM: Tell me a little bit about your “Guitar Abuse” clinics.
KING: I’m going to be doing a bunch of those on Jager. I think they’ve got five booked so far. But usually on days off in the town where we’re going to be the next day or sometimes they just wanted me in and out, but it’s pretty cool -- I kinda inadvertently started doing those because B.C. Rich wanted me to do a signing and the guy that books said that “you’re gonna be playing there” and I’m like, “Well, I don’t do that.” And I didn’t know what I was gonna do -- I’m sitting there the night before having dinner with these people and I’m like, “You know I have no idea what I’m gonna do.” So I made it up: I just went in there, and now it’s pretty much become how I’ve done all of them. I go in, I talk for like five minutes and tell people what’s up: “I’m not here to show off, I’m not here to show you 20 ways to play this 8-finger scale I do or anything like that.” I said, “What I’m good at is making up riffs and having a good time, and that’s what we’re going to do. Any of you guys that had a Slayer riff that you always wondered how to play and wondered if you were playing it right… come up here, play my guitar, and then I’ll show ya.” It’s interactive, and every one is just different from the other because they all just take their own little course. There’s no format; I don’t play the tapes or anything.

KNAC.COM: That’s excellent. Just informal and up front.
KING: Yeah, it’s just like, if you think about it’s just like what you’d expect from Slayer and Slayer’s fans.

KNAC.COM: And that’s another thing -- going back to the DVD -- I loved how much emphasis, repeatedly, that you guys put on fan support, the approach that Slayer fans have to the band, the hard time that opening bands have because of how rabid-- [Laughs] I mean you go to ANY concert where Slayer is nowhere to be found and you’ll still hear “Slayer! Slayer!” chanted.
KING: [Laughs] That’s cool!

KNAC.COM: They know there’s no Slayer within fuckin’ 20 states but they’re still chanting for Slayer.
KING: That’s awesome. It’s gonna be a cultural phenomenon. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: It already is! Alright, a lot of people bagged on you for this and I’m definitely curious: the Sum 41 appearance. What brought that about? Was that a willing thing or…
KING: Well, that was floating around forever and the Sum guys are huge Slayer fans, and still I was doing like you just said, I was like, “Man, I don’t know if the fans are gonna get this.” So I was on the fence for a long, long time, and a dude from the record company kept trying to talk me into it, and one day he had the right approach, he’s like, “You know, it’s not any different than when you played on The Beastie Boys.” And I said, “Wow, he’s right.” And this one to me it was more modern, and the part I play is more of a “punky” part…

KNAC.COM: And punk is a huge part of the band’s roots in the first place.
KING: Yeah, so once he said that I’m like, “Well, guess it kinda makes sense.” Not makes sense, but there’s no reason for me to fight it because I’ve already been there and I think this is a better part than my original part. So that’s how all that went.

KNAC.COM: You also did a small part on “Goddamn Electric” from Pantera’s Reinventing The Steel. That was supposedly a one-take, backstage thing… Is that…
KING: Yeah, it’s-- it’s one of those legends that’s actually not made up. [Laughs] For one thing, it’s pretty weird for me to play on Dime’s record because I look up to him as a player, and even though we’re buds it was kinda weird for me to invade his guitar space with mine, but he was so into it I’m like, “Alright, man.” So we fuckin’ put my rig up in Dallas after Ozzfest, set it up in their bathroom backstage. They weren’t even ON Ozzfest but they had their own dressing room! [Laughs] So we set it up in their bathroom and went to it. I got done with the first one, Dime’s already, uh… having a good time [Laughs] and he’s yelling, “DON’T LET HIM DO IT AGAIN!” We tried again, I said, “I gotta do it again just in case -- maybe I’ll find something better,” but obviously he kept the first one.

KNAC.COM: Dave Mustaine, who’s become this big born-again media whore crybaby…
KING: Born again idiot… [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Yeah, it’s sick. I found this ridiculous quote I wanna run by you. He was asked what he thought about your playing, and said: “Well, before I started showing him my guitar style, he was pretty good. Afterward, he was really good! I showed him a lot of different tricks he had never seen before. I think I helped him more than he’s willing to acknowledge, but as you probably know, Kerry now hates my guts…”
KING: [Laughs] Everybody hates him!

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] “…I don’t know why. I don’t dislike the guy. But Kerry has a problem, because he hates everybody.”
KING: Yeah, that was in Guitar World. We were on Ozzfest and I was hanging with Zakk [Wylde] all the time, because me, Zakk and Dime are like the same person. [Laughs] I go on Zakk’s bus and Zakk says, “DID YOU SEE THIS FUCKIN’ SHIT?!?! THIS FUCKER’S TALKING ABOUT YOU!” And I’m like, “I don’t care, man -- I’m fuckin’ above that, it’s fuckin’ stupid.” Anybody that knows anything knows Show No Mercy came out before I ever played with Megadeth. So apparently I could play the fuckin’ guitar. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: That’s what’s so sickening -- he got brought into that whole… Metallica with their fuckin’ touring psychologist and their movies and their books and whatever bullshit they’re doing; it’s obvious he saw this as a chance to steal some limelight, rejuvenate his band….
KING: The whole thing I think about that, you know, to me whatever happened to him was convenient timing because he had to re-invent himself. Nobody gave a fuck about Megadeth, and he put this record out and the only good thing about it to me is the leads that Chris Poland is playing. I mean, I used to love Mustaine’s playing myself; I looked up to him big time. But the only reason to even listen to that record is Chris Poland. I mean the songs are fuckin’ garbage! And you know, you listen… “Kerry hates everybody” -- yeah I hate a lot of people, but you ask anybody in the industry that knows me and knows Mustaine, I’m the one hanging out and having a good time; Mustaine’s the one suing his fucking bass player! [Laughs] The ONLY guy that stood by him from day one, and they’re in a lawsuit. So that lets you know what kind of a guy he is.

KNAC.COM: Here’s a little twist -- is there a least favorite Slayer song you have?
KING: I’ve got two.

KNAC.COM: And they are?
KING: “Cleanse the Soul” and “Desire.”

KNAC.COM: And why is that?
KING: Uh, because I think “Cleanse the Soul” to me is-- it’s got what we call a “happy” riff in it. [Laughs] It doesn’t have your typical Slayer mood and that riff bugs me to this day. “Desire” -- that doesn’t sound like a Slayer song to me either.

KNAC.COM: So obviously you don’t pull those out live much…
KING: [Laughs] Uh, no. There’s a couple that, you know, there are good songs that we don’t play; I make up the song list every night… everybody always wants to hear “Ghost of War” and I’m just not a big fan of that song. I like the ending, you know, I like the big heavy part and I always say, “Let’s put the heavy ending at the end of ‘Chemical Warfare’ and just do the last half.” But I could never make that fly. And then sometimes I try to put “Behind the Crooked Cross” in there and Jeff-- it’s funny, Jeff wrote that and he don’t wanna play it; I wrote “Ghost” and I don’t wanna play it. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] That’s appropriate.
KING: On this thing over here with Dave, the only song that he didn’t record that we’re playing at this moment is “Disciple.” Everything else is Seasons or earlier. I don’t know how much of that’s going to carry over into the U.S. -- maybe we’ll even play more old stuff that he was on, I don’t know. Because we don’t have time to teach him; when we were off, we were working on new material, and we’ve only got four days off after this tour before we start Jager, so I don’t think-- I mean the next one I teach him would be “Dittohead,” but I don’t think we’re gonna have time to get that down.

KNAC.COM: Is there any specific song that you think you guys play too much, that maybe is a great song but you just get tired of it?
KING: Not really. I mean because some of them you have to play -- you have to play “Dead Skin Mask,” you have to play “War Ensemble” and “Raining Blood.” And you know, they’re fun songs -- that’s why people wanna see them; and they’re fun to play too.

KNAC.COM: Are there any newer bands, or bands that have had a kind of second coming-old school bands that are giving you some inspiration now?
KING: I like a band from Sweden called Burst. I don’t know what label they’re on [They’re on Relapse – Ed.] but that’s like the last record I bought because I couldn’t find anybody that knew where to get it; I like Chimera from Cleveland, they’re pretty awesome. Uh, I mean there’s a few that I like, like Killswitch [Engage] is going out with us in the States. I like their first album better than their new one. There’s good stuff on the new one but I like [Alive or Just Breathing] better.

KNAC.COM: Have you ever heard The Haunted?
KING: Yeah, I’ve got the new one. [Guitarist] Jensen just gave it to me the other day -- I saw him. But I haven’t heard it yet; I heard one song -- I heard “99.”

KNAC.COM: I mention them because there is so much Slayer influence and inspiration there in the song compositions. One Kill Wonder sounds just like Seasons at times, and there’s a song on the first album that could have come right off Divine Intervention.
KING: I like their first album -- that was my favorite one. That’s the only one that had Peter [Dolving] singing on it, and now he’s back on the new one so I’m looking forward to hearing that. The two prior they hard Marco [Aro] singing; to me, it was good, but he made it more hardcore.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, he didn’t have the range Peter brings.
KING: Peter sounds more thrashy/punk-like, like I’m used to. That’s why I got into them in the first place.

KNAC.COM: How do you find the time to do your stuff with the clothing line (KFK Industries)?
KING: I got that together when I had some down time. As anybody can see who’s been there recently, I’ve been neglecting the hell out of it! [Laughs] You know, I’ve got some things coming down the pipe -- I wanna get a work shirt in there, skull caps… I wanna keep it on a swag level, you know, like concert swag. I’m not gonna make up pants or do anything like that. If I did make up pants, they’d be really cool -- it’d be versions of camouflage you’ve never seen, stuff like that. I’m not gonna go into making slacks or anything stupid like that. But if it’s something that I might wear, my door is open, but I’m definitely gonna focus on concert-type stuff.

KNAC.COM: So are you hoping to bring more commercial access to your line?
KING: Well, I know Hot Topic is. They’d like to have our stuff, but I’m not gonna change any of my existing styles to accommodate them because the people that got the original ones are gonna say, “Well that’s gay!” So if I make up a shirt that they’re into without me having to change it, sure. You know, I mean the kids dig it, and it’s stuff that I make up and has nothing to do with Slayer, so if I have a shirt idea and I think, “That would make a good Slayer shirt, but I’m gonna keep that for myself…” that don’t happen. Slayer comes first, and I don’t like to use any of their ideas for mine either. But the same company that makes the band shirts makes my shirts -- it’s the same art department. So a lot of the times there’s a gray area where they’ll use the same font on one of mine as one of Slayer’s or vice versa and I’m like, “Listen guys, this ain’t gonna fly because I’m doing my best to keep this its own entity.” I don’t bring them on tour, I don’t compete with Slayer on tour. I mean I might hand out flyers when I sign autographs, but that’s it.

KNAC.COM: That’s respectful. I guess that’s about it… Heidi [Ellen Robinson Fitzgerald], your PR rep, might get me set up with you guys again for the Jager tour. Hell, I’d interview you guys every week if I could. [Laughs]
KING: Cool. Yeah, I’m glad we’re working with her again -- she’s awesome.

KNAC.COM: She is. As far as her approach to you guys and pushing you and the way she treats those of us on this end is just great. Well, good luck in Finland tonight… how much longer do you guys have left on the tour over there?
KING: Uh, we’re home a week from today. And then we leave the following Thursday to go out on Jager.

KNAC.COM: And who’s going with you?
KING: Killswitch and Mastodon.

KNAC.COM: Alright, see you there. Good luck!
KING: Cool man, see you on the West coast.

Slayer.net


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