Interview with Kerry King of SLAYER
Interview & live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Slayer last visited Finland in 2002 on their ”Tattoo the Planet” tour. That tour suffered from the cancellations of both Pantera and Static-X due to the WTC/Pentagon tragedy. Luckily the Slayer guys stated that they didn´t allow terrorists to disrupt their lives, and they tour was eventually made with Cradle of Filth, Amorphis, and In Flames filling Pantera´s and Static-X´s empty spots for the dates in both Sweden and Finland.
On “The Unholy Alliance” tour, Slayer brought Mastodon and Slipknot with them to Helsinki Icehall on 17th of October ´04 and Slayer proved to be in a very good live shape just like they have always been (hey, we are talking about Slayer here, so what more you can really expect from them!).
A few hours before Slayer hit the stage, I met Kerry King at Helsinki´s most expensive hotel, Hotel Kämp, and went through an interesting conversation about the on-going tour naturally, the band´s forth-coming album, Slayer –fans, Kerry´s own K.F.K. Industries (I guess it´s not hard to guess what the letters K.F.K. stands for, heh!), Kerry´s favorite hard drinks, the state of Metal scene nowadays, etc. – amongst many other cool things were talked through between me and him as well.
Now just keep on reading what Kerry had to say about all these things more accurately…
I think I should ask a very important question as for starters: Is Tom able to sing tonight as he has had some troubles with his voice lately?
Yeah. It was the strangest thing because his voice was gone before and when it goes, he cannot talk, but he can still sing. That´s strange, I think. But in Munich he couldn´t either talk or sing. And it was the biggest show in Germany on this tour and poor bastard´s voice went down, but we made work. It was chaos and Tom saw a doctor next day and it was a day-off luckily. And then we changed a set a little bit, so it was easier on his voice and we started playing older songs and German fans liked that anyway. But eventually that worked out good, so… and you haven´t even noticed, when we played night you wouldn´t even have noticed.
THE UNHOLY ALLIANCE
How would you guys say this on-going tour “The Unholy Alliance” differs from other tours you have done thus far?
Well, I don´t know. I mean, it´s very similar. If you play in Europe, the Slayer fans come out and they are crazy, so it´s actually very similar. The only thing I would say Slipknot brings in kids that you otherwise wouldn´t see on a Slayer show. These young kids…I mean, our fan base reaches generations itself, but not the age they are bringing in.
What do you think of your touring mates Mastadon and Slipknot?
To be honest with you, I haven´t had a chance to see Mastadon yet. They have been out a little over week now. The only thing I really know about them, I have seen them on “Headbanger´s Ball” in America, so I know they have got a couple of songs I´m into, but I haven´t had a chance to set them watch the whole show.
Then I know you guys have been playing the whole REIGN IN BLOOD album on some of your past couple of shows this year. Is that something you are going to do tonight as well?
We haven´t done that on this tour because we will only be playing 1 hour and 10. I thought we are gonna play longer, that´s why I thought we are gonna play the whole album. If we did the whole album, we would only play 7-8 other songs and I think that alienates too many people. If we played an hour and half, we would definitely play the entire REIGN IN BLOOD album, that´s for sure.
When was the last time you played the entire REIGN IN BLOOD album on your gig?
It happened about three months ago when we did this STILL REIGNING DVD.
Who came up with the idea to play the whole REIGN IN BLOOD album on your gig (-s) anyway?
The booking agency over here came up with the idea for years ago already. And I think Paul Bostaph was in his own band (Forbidden) at the time. So it still makes sense. I mean, I remember him suggesting it and we were like: “Nah, we will never do that…!!”. I honestly really didn´t think we would, y´know. Then Dave got into the band and we toured like endlessly for GOD HATES US ALL, so every time we come back to the area we have been into, I´d like to change the set-up, so people don´t come to see the same tour for three times. I want to offer them something different to look at each time when they come to see us on tours, something worth of their money, y´know. It came to the point where we were, ok, we´ll try this. We had never played the entire REIGN IN BLOOD album since it came out. It was kinda cool when Paul was in the band. Everybody always talks about REIGN IN BLOOD, so it seems like a good time.
Now when Dave has come back to the line-up of Slayer again, how do you feel about working with him with the new stuff for your next album, for the 1st time for many years?
Me and him have been working together more than anybody else in the band. We did a 10-song demo in his garage and since then we have been playing a couple of more, so before we came on tour we had twelve songs and I think when we go home, we put the instruments away for two-three weeks and then get back into it. I´m assuming we are gonna have like 14 songs to record for our next album – hopefully starting recordings for it by the end of January / beginning of February 2005 to get it out by the beginning of the summer.
TATTOO THE PLANET
Last time you played here in Finland two years ago (in 2002) when you had this “Tattoo the Planet” tour going on. What kind of memories do you have from that tour anyway?
(*Kerry starts laughing…*) I remember… hating being on tour with Cradle of Filth!!
They are nice guys, but I´m not just a big fan of the stuff what they do. And I wished Pantera wouldn´t have bailed out. A funny thing about that was Pantera was already here when everything went down and they decided to go home rather than wait for us to get out of here. I´m sure they didn´t bother to care for any of their fans and they broke up right after, so… It was a good tour; it was fun and I wished Pantera was here to do the tour with us because it would have been… just a better tour.
So how do you feel about Cradle of Filth´s cover song of “Hell Awaits”?
I´m not even sure if I have heard it or not. Actually I don´t think I have, If I did, I forgot.
THE CHEMISTRY OF SLAYER
One thing about the Slayer line-up. It´s overall been quite stable for many years except you had Paul in the band doing drums for the last three Slayer albums. So what´s your secret for having almost the same line-up since the beginning of your career?
I think putting the first record out is like one of your babies, he-he!! We were lucky not to get noticed and have something out 1st record came out, that´s ´90s, y´know. A lot of bands don´t get that, y´know, their 1st records come out when they are 25-27, so there´s no chance of ´bonjovi-ty´ there anyway. We came out young, we started playing what we wanted to do. We helped to create the genre and that helps credibility and credibility helps you stay in the public eye.
Now when you have played f.ex. with Jeff since Slayer has existed, I think it´s even damn hard for you to think to play with someone other than him, correct?
Well, I have talked with Don, I´ve talked with Zakk, those guys have been talking about doing a guitar project for a while and I think they have even been talking about me as a third guitarist whether I am or not into it, I´d love to hear those guys doing it anyway. But as far as this band goes now, if any of us views that´s over from my part.
But in Slayer, you wouldn´t like to play with anyone else?
No. It´s cool as I was thinking about this the other day and I haven´t been asked this kind of question for a while, so the me and Jeff double guitar thing, I think it works so well because neither one of us is selfish. It´s like we know which leads we should be doing like when a new song comes up, we never fight over anything. It´s just a mutual respect, and no jealousy. We have got a perfect guitar duo thing to happen. Like a lot of bands, I can see them fighting over trivial stupid things, and me and Jeff never do that.
Do you guys still enjoy touring as much as 10 years ago when you were (-eh!), 10 years younger?
I like playing, I don´t like touring. But touring is a necessary evil to play. I wouldn´t give up stage time to anything because that´s why I do this. Right now I hate recording. It´s like pulling teeth. It used to be that I would rather record and not tour. Now I´d rather tour and not record, he-he!!
So can you tell what kinds of things have changed when you guys are on tour nowadays compared to your previous years on the road?
The only thing that has really changes is when we start here, we start with a UHO truck, y´know, a car, you go across America. Next tour you move up to a van and you still got your UHO, y´know, it´s just achieving better things to make a tour easy. Now we have tour busses and giants trucks and a great road crew. Before we used to have some friends with us on tours who had no idea what they were doing. It´s just stam, building up your professionalism.
WRITING A NEW SLAYER ALBUM
As you already mentioned there, you guys have already written lots of stuff for the up-coming Slayer album. Can you Kerry already tell how does it compare to the stuff on your previous album GOD HATES US ALL? Is it going to be much different from that stuff music-wise?
We have got a bunch of stuff. It´s all music, no titles, no words, but everybody to whom I have played some of that stuff – like I have played it for Jamie from Hate Breed and some of his crew and they have headbanged it, doing their old things, so it must be the right vibe.
What kind of expectations do you have toward it when composing stuff for this new album? Do you care for what other people may think of it?
Not really. We have never thought that. To me the only difference between me and people watching me, is that I´m in Slayer, I gotta make that shit up. I am that Metal kid; I´m the one in the band that goes out and sees anybody remotely heavy that comes near my house. I stay in touch with what´s going on and I know what´s Slayer is about and has always been about, so it´s easy for me to make something up and know the fans are gonna take it.
Do you personally think that writing songs for Slayer has somehow become harder and harder over the years? I mean, you still have this sort of an in-born tendency to compare your new stuff to all the past stuff what you have done on your previous albums, right?
Yeah, you could say something like that, yeah… It´s getting harder to please yourself with what you do, especially to make up something that doesn´t sound something you have already done, y´know. Every year that part is harder because we have got another record to follow up. Because it´s easy, you get this little box area that´s where you would like to play and if you only do so much on that area, you gotta move, you gotta keep, you gotta keep playing, trying to find the place where it sounds best for the riff, best for the song and not like any other songs we have done.
What about the importance of your old stuff in the song writing process of your? Do you ever bring some of the old Slayer songs on the table and try to find some sort of a vibe out from them in order to get inspired?
Not really. I mean, I´ll go back to a tape, back to those riffs on it that I didn´t use for our previous album (-s) and see if I didn´t use them because they didn´t fit or didn´t use them because they sucked so much, y´know, ha-ha!! Trying to make that assessment and maybe just listening to a riff that was never used, leave me to making up something better anyway. So, if you haven´t been used, keeping it around because it might bring out new idea or, y´know, might fitting to a song, incredibly that it didn´t have at that time.
As I see it, a big part of the Slayer –fans are known as quite ´die-hard Slayer –fans´. Do you think they sometimes go too far over the top by coming to you after the show, carrying their huge Slayer collections with them and insisting you to sign everything they have got with them? Does that disturb you sometimes?
Well, I don´t think so. I mean, people have an access to us, too. It´s not like we are Kiss, y´know, you play your gig and you hide and we never sign autographs, we never talk to the kids. I think we have a fanatical fan base, but I think that being easy even to get to us, y´know, if you see us after the show, we sign whatever you have got. It´s not like you couldn´t be friendly to them because they are the reason why we exist, if you know what I mean?
KERRY FUCKING KING INDUSTRIES
I was just recently diving into your own website www.kfkindustries.com and read from there that you have been making special Slayer -wristbands by your own hands and have now like 12 wristbands done altogether. Do you have any plans to put some of them for sale through your website with your forth-coming DVD called STILL REIGNING, meaning only a small bunch of these DVDs would become highly collectible; signed and hand-numbered by you exclusively?
Well, no, it´s not gonna be a cross-promotion like that. The reason why I haven´t put them up yet is because I wanna have at least 20 because I think these so-called ´die-hard´ people with money, they are just get right in and buy them all, y´know. Therefore I think I´m gonna make 100-200 just because it takes me a while to make them. And when I decide how many I´m gonna, y´know, do then I´ll put them up. And I wanna have at least 20 available, so they won´t sell out for the first day. So I´m probably gonna make some on this Jägermeister –tour. When I´m back to home, I´m gonna dice some leather up and get them as ready as I can and just do the nails for them, put the nails through them on tour as I can do that anywhere. So hopefully, probably in the middle of the tour they might go up.
So when you have enough them ready, they will only go for sale through your web site?
Yeah. That´s the plan…
And they will be all hand-numbered by you as well…?
They will be numbered like that. I´m gonna take the pants I wore for the STILL REIGNING DVD, come up in the pieces like that, sign a number of them to match the wristbands, so it´s gonna be a small memorabilia item, y´know. I mean, the wristbands I never wore, but the pants I did in that video, so I think people will get a piece of history from that show.
Do you have some plans to expand the merchandise in your web store from shirts to something else like for hats, etc.?
Over here I´m just talking with the people who design by computer and I´m trying to get a work shirt going, I´m trying to get more T-shirts; more long sleeves and we have got a belt buckle coming down the pipe that´s really cool. In these more shirt ideas, we are probably going to have like this (*Kerry points to his own shirt with his finger he was wearing on at that moment*), some sort, y´know, I just wanna stay strictly with a concert stock that sounds familiar with. I don´t wanna make pants; I don´t wanna do anything ´weird´ like that, y´know.
So there´s not gonna be like Kerry King -socks, candles, plates, Kerry King look-alike puppets, coffins and so on available through K.F.K. Industries in the future the same way Kiss has been doing putting out shit for years already?
Ha-ha… no, but coffins are cool, tho.
TALKING ABOUT BOOZE
What about your own brand of beer? We have one or two bands here in Finland that already have their own brands of beers…
Is it good?
Jeff would be into that. I don´t drink beer at all; I drink vodka, so I have to hit something up with Finlandia or something.
How does Finlandia taste, as I have never tasted it before, believe it or not?
How does it taste like?! Vodka pretty much all tastes the same, so I don´t know I have to think some gimmick. What I usually drink is Absolut Mandrin because I don´t like the orange flavor ones, I like the mandrin one. But if I was gonna shoot vodka, it would probably be Grey Goose (French vodka) or, y´know, something that´s way too expensive. Actually there´s really cool Russian one, but I forgot what´s called. It has got a picture of a red square on the back of it. It´s really cool. I like vodka bottles at home, I drink them and save the bottle, he-he!
By the way, also Dave Lombardo has his own website (www.davelombardo.com) up and running. When Jeff and Tom will have their own websites up and running then?
Jeff will never have. Jeff doesn´t like being famous. He likes playing, but he just doesn´t like being famous. That´s why he is hardly ever seen out on the town. He doesn´t like getting recognized that often. He´s more like a Kiss kind of guy, but, y´know, I like to be out, shaking hands and seeing the kids because, y´know, they get so excited. I´d not be surprised if Tom did one somewhere down the line when he got some, I don´t know what it would be about. But I have never been into Dave´s yet. As for mine, it has got T-shirts, it´s got some guitar abuse sessions done by me, so it obviously has got a few purposes.
Is Tom into these serial killers and stuff like that even nowadays?
Oh yeah, I don´t think that he has read as many books as he used to in the past, but every time he wrote one of those songs about them, it was definitely from, y´know, reading books that he read about that dude. He tried to come out so good because he knew what he was talking about.
THE METAL SCENE IN 2OO4
(BY THE MOUTH OF KERRY)
So how do you personally feel this recent phenomenon when once disbanded Thrash Metal bands have all been making their comebacks and comeback albums, like Exodus and Death Angel just recently have done?
I think it´s great. I was never a Death Angel -fan and I don´t know much about them, but I always was an Exodus –fan. I wish like them better with Paul Baloff as I was never really a fan of, I forgot whatever the guy´s name (now the ex- vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza) is right now. I think Metallica made the wrong choice when they took Kirk Hammett into the band. They should have taken Gary Holt instead. I think Gary´s amazing, but that was their choice. It is also great that the old Priest is back together again. To me that was huge news because I´m a big Priest –fan. Then Sabbath gets together every five years or so, ha-ha!! But as long as it´s put together well, as long as they still believe in what they are doing and are not doing it just for a paycheck, I think it usually works pretty good.
How do you overall see the state of Metal music in general nowadays?
I think it´s as big as it has been since early ´90s which is good. I think people, they go in cycles, I think. People get into bands like Disturbed, Godsmack, y´know, I´m getting in for a while and I´m getting tired because, y´know, it´s pretty much Pop and any Metal kid will always go for the hardest thing they can find, so then they come looking for Slipknot and they come looking for Slayer, Pantera and so on. I mean, that´s how I did when I was a kid. I have seen that to happen twice in my career, so it´s pretty much ´sit and stone´ that´s what happens. It´s just people like I got into Priest probably because I heard them in a local radio station. They played ´stupid songs´ like “Breaking the Law” and “Living after Midnight”. But if I never heard those songs, I may never bothered to buy that record – and then I heard all the ´cool songs´ on that record, and I went back and heard STAINED CLASS album from the Priest and, y´know, did my ´metal homeworks´ so to speak and I´m like: “Wow… these guys are cool way before they got on the radio…!!”.
What about any new bands that have a great impact on just lately?
My favorite band is Chimaira. You know them, too?
Yes, I do.
Cool…!! So I mentioned them to some people the other day and they were like: “Who?”, ha-ha!! Those guys remind me of Slayer that, y´know, our second record. I see those guys and they remind me of what I did around HELL AWAITS. They put on the same thrashing show we do, y´know, it´s just different guys doing it. I think they are great. Then there´s a band from Sweden called Burst. I have never seen them playing, but I have got their album and I love it. I´m also a big Shadows Fall –fan, then I´m a big Lemon God –fan. I really don´t understand Lemon God´s popularity actually. Killwitch Encage I like a lot, too. But like I said when I pay attention to bands, I try to see what´s coming up.
Have you already checked the new The Haunted album called “rEVOLVEr”, by the way?
I have it, but I haven´t had time to play it yet. Jensen gave it to me like two days ago. That album has the original singer that they had on their debut album. I didn´t care for The Haunted that much when Marco was their singer because he sounded more like a Hardcore singer. I thought they were more like a Hardcore band at that time because of Marco´s input in The Haunted.
What kind of places do you prefer to play anyway? I mean, are you more into playing club gigs than big festival gigs?
Clubser, any more clubser… hard, just because, y´know, people can´t get in that´s when you have the opportunity for bad things outside. Why? It´s a little kid played down us, y´know. But I think theatres are my favorite because you gotta the vibe of an arena and you gotta the intimacy of a club because you saw that kid right in the front, but you got moved a bit of a balcony kind of thing, so that´s kind of the best of both worlds, y´know. Arenas are fun; you can out on a big show, clubs are fun because they are hot and sweaty and really core, y´know. But the theatres are my favorites because they have got both of the aforementioned elements to play a concert at.
So what kind of picture have you gotten about Finland? This is your 4th time when you play here in Finland?
I like it. I mean, I know every country´s exceptionally different, but to me Finland is just a part of the Scandinavia and I don´t care what Copenhagen and Denmark is in that as I have always thought that Norway, Sweden, Finland and you guys are so close to Russia, it´s close to be in the Russia without getting there. It´s cool, I have had a good time in your country.
Do you have any special or strange habits inside the band like a half hour before you hit the stage?
I´ll try to start playing an hour before even though it doesn´t take me that long to warm up. I just like to give myself time to get… Just think about Slayer, y´know, whatever I was doing during the day, forget that and warm up like an half hour, stretch my neck, get my stage gear on and then usually after the warm up sitting down, after getting my stage on and stand up, y´know, getting my neck warmed up for headbanging while I´m playing because if you just start headbanging and playing on the stage while I do the prior, it´s like your body isn´t coordinated yet. This hand isn´t still, ha-ha!! Because when you start headbanging, this hand is all over the place. You gotta get on that out of the system, so when you hit the stage, you are not doing any of that.
What do you think you have achieved with Slayer ´til, let´s say, 2010?
I think we have got at least 2 records if not 3 records left in us – maybe more. I was actually thinking a couple of years back about when I will retire: “Hmm… let´s see, maybe a couple of records, 6 years, hanging up and…”. And then after the tour with Priest and seeing how good they were, I mean, they don´t thrash like we do, but they were the same band like they were 15 years ago. So they kind of inspired me, they just, y´know, leave it open. And when it comes to the point when you either one of us wanna do it either as physically we can do it, hopefully that´s when we know to hang it up rather than stick around too long. So far shows are so great and, y´know, it´s a good time right now.
BOOZING IS FUN… LET´S TALK MORE ´BOUT IT
Back to the more ´wet things´, he! You mentioned you like vodka in general, so what´s your favorite drink?
I drink regular vodka and I drink Jägermeister -shots all the time. I mean, those guys have been good to me, so I will support them. If I do a drink, regular vodka be regular vodka with just a flash of orange juice, very little. And if I´m drinking mandarin, that´s the only time I have cranberry. I will just shoot vodka once in a while, especially if it´s expensive vodka, it´s supposed to be good, so I´ll see how it tastes like out of mixer.
One more question about drinks… What the hell is “Rumble Minze”?
“Rumble Minze”? It´s the quality of Germany and you cannot find it over here.
… and you cannot find it from Germany either (*laughs*)!! It´s a peppermint snap 100% proof and that´s what I was drinking, I don´t know, five years ago maybe, actually less than that. But that stuff will get you. “Rumble Minze” means bad news. However, I´m glad I´m drinking Jägermeister now because it´s easier. Jägermeister, Jefo, Shoots and Buka… whatever! Oh shit, over here we do a raw vodka, too. That´s horrible… I mean, HORRIBLE! I don´t like to drink it.
Ok, I guess that´s all I got. Thank you Kerry for having this nice conversation with me. It was my pleasure to talk to you, so thanks again!
No problem, thanks to you, too.