Heart of Steel: Interviews

SLAYER Interview With Kerry King

Interview by Luxi Lahtinen & Marko Syrjälä 4th of October 2001
Photos: Luxi Lahtinen & Marko Syrjälä
Transcription & Intro by Luxi Lahtinen

In all honesty and sincerity, when I was hit by the news that there could be a tour called "Tattoo the Planet" crawling across Europe - with bands like PANTERA, STATIC-X and definitely on the top of that bill, always the mighty SLAYER sharing the same bill, I naturally became very excited just because of the latter mentioned SLAYER on it only. But as we also got hit by the news of these horrible Sept. 11th terrorist strikes against the U.S.A. at the very same time when this package was supposed to land on the Old Continent, both PANTERA and STATIC-X pulled themselves out from the tour in the very last minutes which left SLAYER alone to keep the flame burning for a concept for the "Tattoo…" tour. It became evident pretty soon that this tour wouldn´t have ever happened if AMORPHIS, IN FLAMES and CRADLE OF FILTH hadn´t been taken in to replace PANTERA and STATIC-X - and as I suppose SLAYER didn´t want to let their fans down in Europe, the determined people behind this tour made it happen eventually and I bet everyone who came to see these shows, were somewhat pleased and happy ´coz at least in my opinion "Tattoo the Planet´s" European leg was even better than what it was originally supposed to be. Just my opinion, tho.

I myself became also very happy by the news - being a huge SLAYER fan like I have been since I heard Show No Mercy in 1983, that both me and Marko, your loyal METAL-RULES.COM´s Finnish contributors in their Highness, were blessed by this extraordinary opportunity to talk to the band´s tattooed riff monster Kerry King. Everyone of you who have gotten the same chance to share a few thoughts with him, surely know how Kerry is; he´s always talking ´bout certain things pretty much "tongue-in-cheek" vein - no matter whether even some dead-serious topics would be touched upon or not, but his sense of humor is just always there as a part of his sayings in its fine, unique way. No doubt, that day when Kerry retires from SLAYER, he could have a perfect career ahead of him as a stand-up comedian for sure. Just read the following chat thru with him - and you will surely find out what I meant by all of this.

Kerry talks about the concept of God Hates Us All, tattoos in his skin, the up-coming "Soundtrack of the Apocalypse" box set - plus many many more interesting issues as well…




First off, I do need to ask a question ´bout the title of your new album, God Hates Us All. Namely if you are thinking of that title afterwards - and at the same time knowing what happened both in New York and Washington D.C. some months ago, you kind of start to think how on earth you guys were able to come up with such a fitting yet so spooky and even, let´s say in some strange way, even ironic album title, possibly months before these terrorist attacks hit against the U.S.A.? So, do you consider yourselves now as some sort of "Nostradameus of Heavy Metal" if we still keep those tragic events in your minds for a while?

That´s not the first time that has happened to us so. When Seasons in the Abyss came out and the Gulf War was just started and we had "War Ensemble" at the same time. So this is actually our 2nd coincidence with naming our albums titles the way we have done. This record was supposed to come out in July already, but it just got delayed and delayed, so… well, I guess it was just coincidence. It ´s kind of interesting anyway all that shit went down the day God Hates Us All came out, but that´s about it, y´know.




PANTERA, for instance, decided to pull out of the tour, so how come you decided not to?

Because traditionally the show must go on which is a stupid thing to say, but that in a nutshell is what´s going on. We have a new record out; if we won´t tour, the new record dies. It´s reality - it´s what business is nowadays. You just need to tour to sell your albums. If you don´t tour, you cannot expect to sell a huge numbers of your albums either. It was both a business - and an economical decision and we wanted to play anyway. We just wanted to get out for the tour when it was safe enough for us.


How do you feel about flying at the moment anyway…?

Not as safe as I did before… for some obvious reasons, HE! HE!! But I think it´s probably the safest time in the recent history, with all this passing through  tight security and stuff.


What are your feelings in the SLAYER-camp right now when the original line-up for the "Tattoo the Planet" tour for your European leg didn´t quite turn out the way as it originally meant to be?

For us, we are always gonna be on it, so the only thing about it is that we are gonna play longer. Now it´s like a co-headline SLAYER set which is pretty cool. It´s good to be playing one and a half hour again. In the States we played like an hour and when you got onstage it felt like all of a sudden you are already done your set. But now, it feels like we are touring again…


Have you already heard Tori Amos´ version one of your song, "Raining Blood", by the way?

Yeah, I have heard that…

So, what did you think of it, -eh?!

She likes it (Kerry´s pointing his finger at their tour manager…). Our tour manager likes it. Not my cup of tea really, but me and Jeff were listening to it and we didn´t even know what the hell it was first and then we caught up with the lyrics for it and went like: "Oh, that´s our song "Raining Blood…". It was definitely a weird version of it really…


As for this current tour that you´ve bee doing, do you feel like you´ve been put in a position now where you have to represent the American people, sort of?

I don´t think something like that at all. I think we come out as heroes ´coz we came and made the tour happen. But other than that, our fans know that SLAYER is not a political band. SLAYER comes out and just goes onstage - creates a little chaos; one and a half hour and every since then everybody´s happy.



GODS HATES THE U.S.A - AND LOVE CANADA (…´coz of cheaper studio costs?)

You recorded this new album in Vancouver B.C.; what made you record it there - cheaper studio costs, maybe… ?

Yea, it was cheaper and I´m sure it has something to do with it. The producer we had, did not want to use any of the studios in Hollywood that were available at the time ´coz most of them were tied to some other bands already and someone suggested that studio in Vancouver and I´m glad we recorded it there. If we had recorded it in America, that record would have cost us a hell of a lot more money to make for the amount of time we spent in the studio.


How did you like Vancouver anyway? Was it your first time there… ?

We played there before. This was the first time I lived there for 3 months; I became a Canadian for 3 months so to speak. Now Vancouver is like my second home. When I go there, I can go out everywhere and wherever I go, I can get free booze (…laughs!) and hang around like anybody else. It´s kind of cool, y´know.


Still sticking with some of the details of the making of God Hates Us All... when you started to lay down songs what were the most challenging parts of this massive process to get the album done?

The hardest thing in the long run was definitely the vocals even if we had most of them done, there´s so much acting involved. You kind of have to become a song so to speak and we wanted to make sure that Tom did them with the best abilities he had and captured all that what the song is all about.


When you are making a new SLAYER album, do you ever think that you should live up to some of those hopes of fans in order to not let them down? Is there ever any pressure in the creation process of your albums ´coz your fans naturally are expecting to get better and better albums from you all the time?

Well, to be honest with you, yes there is and there is not. But as I am a fan of this kind of music as well as the rest of the guys naturally are - and being a fan, we kind of get pleased by our music as fans and as being in SLAYER. Of course we are doing this primarily for ourselves, but I know our fans dig most of it, too.




Speaking of record companies, what was the main reason for you to reunite with your former label DEF JAM?

DEF JAM had nothing to do with us (…laughs!) We all had our guns blazing in SONY COLUMBIA and then re-grouping they decided to change distribution again just like they did when Diabolus… came out. And that´s what held that record for like 6 months. This new one was held for a couple months, so I guess it was better, but when we go into thinking our next record tragedy, it traditionally will probably change the distribution again and it will get held up again. As long as you think they do a good job. I was happy with SONY COLUMBIA, but as far as business go, I don´t know what beyond that made them change.


What´s your last time when you attended a concert in the audience as a fan?

In the audience…?? (…laughs!!!) Oooh man… that´s toughie. Because I know everybody knows I´m always at a backstage. When I was last time in the audience…?? Hmmm… I´m gonna guess… it was probably a PANTERA show; a record before this one. I went to the backstage, but I didn´t go to the audience and check them out for the back. But beyond that, I don´t know. I mean, first time I met SLIPKNOT, I met the dudes and I went out to the side where there is this V.I.P. area, but as far as being out as a general population I can't tell ya…


Apart from metal concerts, have you seen any non-metal concerts like, -eh? … MADONNA, for example?

Nope (…laughs!)! I need examples ´coz I´m definitely a metal kid of the band. When MACHINE HEAD comes thru, I see them, PANTERA comes thru I see them - or SLIPKNOT comes thru I see them. And beyond that, I wouldn´t think twice to go and see IRON MAIDEN any more.




So, would you tell us this "Tattoo the Planet" -tour what´s is really all about (the name of the tour mostly) and so on as I kind of really haven´t gotten it yet?

You wanna hear what I exactly think of it…. (…laughs!)? Our booking agent, John Jackson, he´s pretty much behind this all, I can tell. Namely I know we did "Tattoo the Earth" last summer in America and I know he thought it was a good thing. So, he went out and copied "Tattoo the Planet" which made all the "Tattoo the Earth" people very upset ´coz now they cannot bring their own tour over here. So he copycatted the good idea and made it of his own - and all my friends in America are very pissed off for me doing it. But anyway, they know we didn´t do anything wrong; they know it´s not us. We are just in "victims of the situation" kind of thing. But, to answer to the other side of your question, tattoos are very prominent, Rock´n roll, Heavy Metal and stuff - and just bringing two popular genres together, I think.




Speaking of a bit more tattoos, I was just wondering do you have any "crap" tattoos that you really regret that you took sometimes?

No, my first figure was a SLAYER eagle. And the dragons and the tribals are all I have got. I wish that I only would have done the SLAYER eagle and not the dragons ´coz I like tribals that stand out from a distance. Like you could be a snowblind in the concert and you are still gonna see it. That´s why I like about it.


Can you tell us how does it feel to get a really major tattoo done?

It SUXX!!! (… -laughs!!). It sucks more than you can ever imagine… (-laughs!!!)




You are having plans to release a SLAYER box-set sometimes, too; could you possibly tell us some details ´bout it? What will it contain exactly?

Well, the record came out so late that it probably won´t come out ´til Spring or Summer for sure! I know we are gonna be on Summer festivals this year, so maybe finally before then we are gonna get it out by then. But we are gonna re-release everything that got remastered on SONY, but I don´t know what´s gonna happen to that. But we have re-recorded some of the METAL BLADE songs that are gonna be there over the METAL BLADE years - maybe 8-10 songs on it. Maybe we´ll do some live stuff between down then. It´s really up in the air, but we certainly try to get anything that we think of the time any SLAYER fan might be interested in it doesn´t have.


Some of the very early SLAYER songs that you did were called "Night Rider", "Ice Titan", "Assassin" or "Simple Aggression", f.ex.. Have you ever given a thought to re-record some of those songs again - like especially for this forth-coming box-set thing?

"Ice Titan" became "Altar of Sacrifice". So, even though there´s these songs and whoever the hell put it in the internet, if there´s any good riffs in them, we raped the songs and put in the new ones. We didn´t re-release them ´coz we didn´t like them. If there was any good parts on it, we would have re-used them.


Are there any new songs from this new album that have become crowd favorites during this tour?

We haven´t played that many of them because all our gear was over here waiting for us when we could get here. So we didn´t get to rehearse any of the new stuff, so we have planned to play 3 or 4 new ones. But one of the song we will definitely play is "Bloodline" because people have to have an opportunity to hear that longest. So, we will play that one and "Disciple" goes over like a ton of bricks…


You recorded your new album at Warehouse Studios, Vancouver, which is owned by Mr. Bryan Adams. What did he think when you decided to re-create the design of that studio. You had red devils, skulls and that kind of "decorations" over there…?

I NEVER saw him… (-laughs!!) I even didn´t know he was in the studio ´til a halfway thru the recording process. So, he was there… - really?

Yeah... ?!

Hmm… (?), I never saw him, so I don´t know whether he came out of the woods or something, but we didn´t destroy the place or anything (…laughs!!).


Still ´bout the title of your new album. Namely I need to ask from you did you come up with that title before or after completing the record? And is there any statement involved with the title "God Hates Us All" ´coz I think it´s very cool title anyway… ?

It´s a part of "Disciple". That´s the first chorus you hear on the record. And we had a title; we were gonna called it as "Soundtracks of the Apocalypse", but I brought that one up to our manager and he doomed that title to be the boxset. So when the boxset comes out, it will probably called "Soundtracks of the Apocalypse". We needed the title and I brought that one up with a bunch of cool packaging ideas and told the guys about it and everybody bought it.



As for the lyrics on "God Hates Us All", they seem to be much more hate filled and angrier than what you´ve done in the past. What actually inspired you to get all this negative energy and frustration out of yourself into the lyrics?

In the beginning when I started to write lyrics, I wanted to do something what I haven´t done before. So, I threw away the synonym finder. I used the dictionary very minimally and I just wrote how I speak. And I speak very hateful manner usually. I constantly did that because I think the fans would get more out of it if they understood exactly what I´m saying - exactly where I´m coming from. It´s written as I speak more than it would have been in the past. And I dealt with topics of human nature that we never really dealt before, but definitely fall into the SLAYER realm of what SLAYER should write about. So, it´s a new perspective where I got a role in and they are just spewed out of my mouth (…laughs!!)


Is it easy to be creative when you are really pissed off at something…?

When something irritates me, I don´t go home and write; I just don´t do that. I write when I have to; I write when the song is done and I deal with the idea and I just go with it and I´ll become what that song is all about until I have finished it. And when you do that, it makes the song more visual, it makes it more like… personal, y´know…

You used 7-string guitars and dropped your tuning down on this album a little bit. Was there any particular reason for that like this album possibly needed a bit heavier sound than what you have had on your previous albums?

I just wanted to experiment a bit. Before we did "Here Comes the Pain" for a WCW compilation, I was at the B.C. Rich guitar company and they had like 10 of those 7-string guitars going out , just those ´cheapos´, so to speak; nothing special and I asked from them whether I could borrow one of those for use. They even didn´t know if I would have liked it, so I took it home and made a song up on it and thought I guess I´d better order one. And once we had one song done, we thought that we´d better record 2nd one, too ´coz there´s no point having one tuning for just one song. So, we got like two 7-string tunings, we got 4 dropped to B and the rest of the record is in a D sharp.


Speaking of "Here Comes the Pain", isn´t that a line from some Al Pacino movie? I remember him being at some bathroom and storming out with his guns blazing, screaming at the same time: "Here comes the pain…!!!".

Really…?! It could be ´coz it´s not any original title at all. It was only supposed to be on WCW compilation; on that wrestling compilation. And for that I thought it was good. And then we threw it on our record as well.




Speaking of the very concept a bit more, do you ever go to see any wrestling matches when you´re about to get a chance for that, by the way?

Oh, I do that every time when WCW comes thru the town; I go to Anahaim.


What do you think of the whole concept of wresting anyway as you really cannot consider it as a sport?

It´s not sport! It´s definitely not sport. Once you get over that, you enjoy that. Y´know, it´s not real…


If you were a wrestler, what would be your stage name…?

(It just takes not for a moment when Kerry spits it out…)
"Bad Motherfucker?! " (… and some intense laughs follow…!!!)

The King…?

That goes, too. No, there´s already the King…

What do you think of your tour mates then…?

It was better before PANTERA and STATIC-X quit… (…laughs!!)


What bands have been playing with you on this current tour, taking PANTERA´s position on the tour, for example?

BIOHAZARD has been on most of them. They haven´t been touring in Scandinavia, but they hooked up with us on some shows. They will play in Berlin tomorrow. So the only three bands are on the road all the time and most of time it is us, CRADLE OF FILTH and BIOHAZARD as far as these "Tattoo…" shows go.


If you chose any band(s) on tour with you, which bands would you like to tour with?

I have already done them all. I have already been on those tours. My perfect tour… hmmm… well, before SLIPKNOT´s new record would have been: SLAYER, PANTERA and SLIPKNOT. But I´m not that big fan of SLIPKNOT records, tho.


What ´bout the Swedish thrashers THE HAUNTED - how do you like them anyway…?

I just saw Jensen the other day. They are gonna be in the States at the same time when we are doing the tour, Se we´ll see if we are going to see somewhere.




Here´s a ´rock star´ question that we always ask from every artist in our interviews. Have you ever thrown out a TV set out of some hotel´s window?

No, but I have thrown out a microwave out of hotel´s window ´coz it was cooler.

Why…?! (…laughs!!)

I don´t know…

What happened… ?

I have no idea; I guess I just didn´t have anything better to do at that time (…laughs!!)


That´s what also Dee Snider from TWISTED SISTER said when I asked about the same thing from him when he was sharpening his teeth in the ´80s…

He did THAT…?!

Yeah, it also seemed to be a good idea at that time…

I didn´t know he did that (…laughs!!)




Have you got any response so far from this cover art - from fundamental, religious people and such people?

I think… I think; the church and the religion right now have a lot more to be worried about than SLAYER.


Or maybe they are already used to SLAYER´s cover arts, so maybe it´s just that they don´t pay too much attention to them any more… ?

Could be, could be - I don´t know really. But there´s a bigger fish to fry right now.


So, they are not sending emails or anything to you… ?

Oh yeah, they are having computers nowadays, too, I can tell ya… (..laughs!!)


Is that real blood on the bible there?

I doubt it… (… LAUGHS!!!! ) That all was obviously been done already when we were touring in America with PANTERA. We were sending like stuff back and forth through the mail, y´know, ordinary mail - and it would have been better if we had been around and dealt with them every day, but we dealt with them every 3 or 4 days and let the Universal´s art department to get it right and overall take care of that. So, what´s you got there, was a hell of a lot better than it started out. I mean, it was SHIT… the first time I saw it!! So, it came out better, but if we had more time to work out with it, it would have turned out even better.


Did you actually buy that Bible on your album cover - or did you just steal one from somewhere?

(… laughs!!)

I don´t know who the hell did that. But I was at home before we went to Japan and they were still looking for a cover and I said to them that: "Give me a Bible… I´ll fuck it up and I´ll give you a cover…". (…laughs!!) But once we got on that idea, I said: "You won´t do it right - give it to me…!!". And…

(in this part, I couldn´t help it, but started to cough unintended without no intention to interrupt Kerry at all and what he was ´bout telling to us right at that moment…)

YES… ?!


And I got two bibles in my house, but by that time I wouldn´t have done shit for them on that night and send them back ´coz they would have delayed the record, so I didn´t do it.


Have you been modified that Bible a little bit, then, -eh?!

I didn´t do shit to that.


Do you find it harder and harder to wake people up nowadays in order to get some reaction from them?

What do you mean by that… ?

I mean, to shock people with your lyrics and stuff, for example?

Well, it´s definitely harder to shock people than it was when our 1st record came out in 1983 because now people have done everything we did back then. I mean, MARILYN MANSON got popular with "Antichrist Superstar" doing shit we did 10 years before that. So, that was ok then. People get used to it and if you try to shock somebody, you have to go more out of the limit every time and think of the most abstract thing you could be able to come up with.




Last time I saw you guys playing in Finland, you were playing so goddamn LOUD even if I was using earplugs in my ears - because afterwards my ears were still ringing and I guess it was THE LOUDEST concert I have been in by then. Is that some kind of a deliberate thing for you to keep your volumes high on your concerts or have you turned your volumes down a little bit since then?

I play loud onstage for my own benefit as I like. But I´m not too fond of the P.A. either. I´m sure those closer to the P.A. surely get a hell of a more an ear-full than those in the back of the arena. But, it´s gotta be loud, so everybody can hear it.

It´s like: "If it´s too loud for you, then you´re too old…"

Exactly, you´re right on… (…laughs!!)


Anyway, how about your favorite SLAYER songs;  what´s your favorite song on your albums and what about your favorite song to play live?

Live it would be probably "Raining Blood". Because that song just electrifies the crowd; people just shit when that song comes on. Especially, y´know, they know it´s coming ´coz you have got that "tom-tom-tom…" thing going on and when we hit the first riff, people just go absolutely crazy ever time. Still… So, that would probably be it.

As for the album songs, well, that changes all the time; where the wind blows, y´know. I may like one for a while and get tired of it; I like another one for a while and may get tired of it again.

What ´bout "Angel of Death"?

What ´bout it…?!

How do you like that song?

Well, when we play "Angel of Death", it´s actually ´a 2 and half minutes sign´ ´til our party starts. That song is pretty much been played traditionally in the end.


Have you ever been blamed for supporting Nazis by that song?

Of course we have!! Germans are sensitive people and they are always trying to share words in their mouth that aren´t there. In fact, a lot of journalists in Europe in general do that, but y´know, there´s nothing wrong with stating the fact of history; there´s just nothing in that song that says which is good or bad.




Here´s sort of a philosophical question for you: How would you define ´evil´ ?!

Hmmm… let me think this earlier, right… ´evil…´ ?! I don´t have a definition for that.

People who blow up skyscrapers and such… -eh?!

Yeah, I was just fucked up!! I mean, every person has got his/her own perspective. To me, he was evil - to him, he thought he was going to the Holy Land, y´know what I mean. It´s just a different perspective.




Last time you were here we interviewed Tom and I remember there was some article in the Kerrang! Magazine about some Gay Rock band or Punk band (!) that listed their favorite hunks and n:o 1. was, surprise! surprise!! Kerry King of SLAYER!! Have you seen this particular article called "Pancity Vision"?

I´m not sure if I did see that. If I did, of course I wasn´t flattered (…laughs!!)

Tom said you have seen that magazine article…

Kerry: Yeah, you can´t blame me for blacking that out of my memory banks (…laughs!!)




How about life on these tours generally? Is it hard life - or just boring life?

Definitely both!! It´s fuckin´ hard ´coz you have got different time zones; you can´t sleep and y´know, it´s boring way for the show to happen, but you do off the stage. Y´know, onstage it´s all better.


How about partying after your show is over…?

I mean, that happens, too. That´s why I said when "Angel of Death" comes on - 2 and a half minutes later, my party starts.


Do you sometimes tend to play your songs faster in a live situation?

Nah, it´s fast anyway; we couldn´t probably play any faster.


Do you sometimes feel to be in a wrong place in hotels like this hotel, for example, where you can see all these business men around you with suits and briefcases and stuff?

I guess I have gotten used to that. I mean, the one luxury we do take in, on tour we´ll try to stay in a comfortable hotel. Y´know, we could stay at a motel ´til 6 PM or something, but if there´s a fuckin´ giant rat going across the floor, I´m not going to sleep too well. So, there´s like one luxury you take and since we do that, y´know, you´re involved with people in suits; business people all the time. But hey, if I sit down on a bar and they leave, good for me.


Faster service… ?!



What ´bout airports nowadays when so called "regular passengers", the staff of the airports, etc. see you there, do they pay any attention to you - how you look like and so on?

Nah, I have gotten used to that, too. Besides, I´m always using a towel around my head. They don´t worry about me… (…laughs!!)


During this tour, have you been forced to leave something out of your hand luggage that you would have liked to take in on the board?

No, ´coz I fly a lot, so I knew what´s gonna be good and what´s not. So I put everything into my check bag I think I might need during these flights. Check bags are fun. I just make sure there won´t be anything illegal in my check bag which is forbidden at a cabin of a plane. Just leaving things like scissors and such out of my carry-on things in order to avoid troubles with some certain airline, y´know. Even my pass - I put my pass into my checkbag ´coz, y´know, I just try to think anything what they would say, so it´s never on my carry-on.


Can you tell us what´s your personal highlight in being SLAYER so far?

Probably playing in Donington because when I was growing up, I always see that stuff in Kerrang! and stuff, y´know. In the America years, I thought "WOW! Donington MUST BE THE THING…!". When we finally got to play that and we had a great show there, well I can tell it was pretty awesome. Y´know, we probably did bigger festivals since then; we probably headlined bigger festivals since then, but I will always remember that.


What´s the strangest media (or magazine) you´ve done interviews for?

Hmmm… that´s tough. Maybe a photo session they all had dressed up like 50 gangsters. That was pretty cool. We have to get some more of those kind of photos sometimes.

(At this point of the interview Luxi & Marko kind of don´t know whether there´s something elz we could ask from Kerry…?!)

YEZZZ!!!! Three seconds of silence means we are done… (…laughs!!)

Thank you Kerry for sharing your time with us.

No problem, thank you guys…

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