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King of Slayer - King of Metal. Peter Atkinson's Exclusive Chat With Kerry King

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, July 2, 2007 @ 1:22 PM


It's like, "Come on, let's hav

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Talk about an unholy alliance. Speed metal overlords Slayer will be teaming with shock-rock poster child Marilyn Manson for what promises to this summer's most "interesting" tour. Whether that's a good "interesting" or not we'll only know after July 25, when the tour kicks off.

There's no mystery what Slayer will be bringing to the table - a 70-minute beat down the likes of which few bands can match. But with Manson, it's anybody's guess as over the last decade he's morphed from industrial metal's "Antichrist Superstar" to an electro-pop she-male to his current persona as an emotionally scarred goth artiste - though thankfully he's shed the fake boobs.

And even though some of his initial trepidation was assuaged after having met up with Manson a little while back, Slayer guitarist Kerry King will be as interested as anyone else to see just what goes down on opening night. At least Slayer will have the relative advantage of going on first every night - something that will no doubt please their notoriously unforgiving fans.

A day prior to the tour's first show, Slayer will re-release last year's Grammy-winning Christ Illusion album - the first in more than a decade with the original fearsome foursome lineup of King, guitarist Jeff Hanneman, frontman Tom Araya and drum god Dave Lombardo - in a limited-edition format that will feature the previously unreleased "The Final Six," an alternate version of "Black Serenade" and the bonus DVD "Slayer on Tour '07." The DVD includes the "Eyes of the Insane" video, a live version of "South of Heaven" shot during last year's "Unholy Alliance" run, and a behind-the-scenes, documentary-style montage.

The reissue marks the band's first collaboration with new label Columbia Records, which is now headed by longtime producer/guru Rick Rubin who first brought Slayer into the major label big leagues for 1986's landmark Reign In Blood.

On the phone from Nantes, France, where Slayer were to perform as part of the fittingly named Hellfest, an unusually affable King talked about why the Manson tour was making him nervous, the band's Grammy win, the Christ re-release and his tattoos - as well as solving "the mystery of the taped over nipples" on the Still Reigning DVD.

KNAC.COM:: So how is France?

KING: Very French (laughs). This is always one of the hardest countries to do anything in or communicate with people. And it's not like we're in Paris or Lyon or one of the major cities, we're in Nantes. I think it's the first time we've been here and you just look at the menu from room service, there isn't any secondary language, it's just French. Makes it a little difficult.

KNAC.COM: Does anyone in your touring party speak much French?

KING: No. We walked around, me and my tour manager, and we found a restaurant that had English menus. And it was like, well even if they don't speak English, which we didn't expect them too, at least we could point (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Are what you're doing now all festival shows?

KING: I think these are all festival shows that we've got left. We did do some side headlining shows. We've been here for like 33 days and have done 20-some shows, which is a bit slower pace than a usual tour. It seems like we do the early set of festival shows every two years and the later set every other year. It seems like every two years we headline With Full Force and every two years we play Donnington, so we stay away just long enough that we're welcomed back.

KNAC.COM: Do you prefer playing these European festivals to doing something like Ozzfest?

KING: Yeah, I do because Ozzfest is in the heat of summer in America and there are some brutal venues. You'd think we'd learn our lesson, but this tour with Manson, we're gonna hit some brutal venues because it's the same sheds at about the same time (as Ozzfest). The Unholy Alliance tour we did last year was mostly inside, which was great. But this time we'll be outside in Arizona in August, I used to live there so I know what's coming (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Are you looking forward to the tour with Manson or is this one of those deals where it's like "what might we be getting ourselves into?"

KING: I was kind of like that, but we met Manson before we came out here and we did the Revolver shoot and interview and since then we played a festival together and I took one of those rare opportunities, I don't usually drink before we go on, but I went over and did a shot of absinthe with him. And then I got a better vibe about him.

It's more like I think he knows what he's gotten himself in to - and I don't say that in a disrespectful manner - but let's face it, he could come out and play music that just makes everybody leave, at least everyone who came to see us, or he can play music that they are into as well. And I kinda got the vibe that that's what he was going to do. That's the wild card, so we'll just see.

KNAC.COM: He very well could come out dressed like a chick and play a lot of his mellower newer stuff?

KING: That he could. He's definitely an unpredictable guy and who knows what his mindset's gonna be when the tour's ready to start. I guess we won't know for sure 'til opening night. If that's the way he ends up going, it could be a pretty brutal few weeks. But, again, that's not the impression I had after we'd met up.

KNAC.COM: If you guys had teamed up during his Antichrist Superstar phase, that really would have been something to see.

KING: That would have been the tour of tours, for sure. I threw out a request to him when we did the interview and he said he was gonna do some of it, so we'll see what happens.

KNAC.COM: Do you originally envision this as another Unholy Alliance package tour?

KING: Yeah, it was, but once we got Manson he didn't want to call it that. I guess he's not "the antichrist" anymore or something. I remember him saying something to our manager that "that's you guys now." And that's when I got the first red flag, like "Uh oh, what's he gonna play."

But I think it's gonna be all right. It's three bands instead of five, and we'll both be playing full sets. He's gonna go on last every night, which I've got no problem with. All the pressure will be on him, playing after us (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Even so, as notorious as you both are, this tour is like the Moral Majority's worst nightmare, you could be bringing the bible thumpers out in droves.

KING: It's funny but I hadn't even thought about that. That would be awesome, I welcome that shit. Bring it on. It's like, "Come on, let's have a discussion so I can shoot all your ideas down." That'd be fun.

Believe it or not, I don't think that's ever been too much of a real issue with us. The press makes more of it than anyone else, what else is new (laughs). Manson's probably had it worse than us, because he's more famous. We get protesters who come out and have their signs out in front of the show, but our fans would just laugh at them. They're just barking up the wrong tree, man.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned how your fans might react to Manson, do you remember the last time any of your warm-up bands really got the "Slay-er, Slay-er" treatment.

KING: I honestly don't know because I can't go out and watch people as much as I used to because I'll either be doing press or warming up. That's a tough one, I don't have an answer for you. I think bands know they've got their work cut out for them when they tour with us and that they better bring their A-game. Maybe that's been working for them, because I haven't noticed anyone really getting brutalized by our fans in a while.

KNAC.COM: Maybe your fans are mellowing?

KING: (Laughs) I don't think that's the case. All you've gotta do is go to our of shows to see that, they still go fucking ballistic. But there are a whole new generation of Slayer fans, maybe they just don't know that part of the history.

KNAC.COM: I remember seeing you guys with Raven and W.A.S.P. in, I think it was '87, and people were spitting on Raven and just about everyone left after W.A.S.P. came on…that was pretty harsh.

KING: Oh, they got destroyed. That really was brutal. W.A.S.P. took us out on the Inside The Electric Circus tour. What kinda fucking nightmare media dude put that together? Reign In Blood and Electric Circus, yeah. No contest. They lost.

The one that I remember the most was in Chicago when Trouble opened for us. They're from Chicago and you could hear the crowd yelling "Slay-er" louder than they were coming through the P.A. It was huge. And the drummer stood up and started chastising the crowd, and that was a big mistake. All that did was make it worse. I felt bad for them, but still, you do that shit and you're just digging your own grave. Just shut up, play, get it over with and try to leave with some dignity.

KNAC.COM:: There was five years between God Hates and Christ and you toured pretty consistently during that time. Do you expect to tour as long and hard until the next album?

KING: After God Hates we also had the box set (Soundtrack To The Apocalypse) come out, we had the two DVDs, we kept putting product out and had a lot of reasons to go out on the road, and I don't see that happening with this time. There's gonna be an Unholy Alliance DVD coming out, but I can't imagine us going out on tour for that because it won't just be us on there, it's all the bands.

And I don't want to wait five years to do another album, because if we wait five years it probably would be the last album. We're definitely thinking about it (a new album). I've been moving off and on for the majority of this year, so once I finally get into my new place I'm gonna focus on writing some new shit.

KNAC.COM:: So songwriting doesn't seem to have become a chore for you, even though you've written the majority of the stuff on the last couple albums?

KING: It's never going to go away. I could walk down the street and write 10 albums (laughs). Who knows if I'll write most of the stuff for the next one? It always depends; it's not a pre-thought thing. It's not even about who's got the hot hand, it's about who's coming up with the best material.

It's real easy to get sidetracked at home and I know that's what's happened to Hanneman the last couple records. He's home, he's having a good time, he doesn't want to think about Slayer. And Tom's got his family and his ranch out in Texas. But it comes a time when it's like "man we gotta get rolling." And I'll just close myself in a room and come up with lyrics for a week. It's not even a dedication thing, it's just we've gotta get rolling and we can't get rolling if somebody doesn't start writing something (laughs).

KNAC.COM:: You've been kind of cursed by significant dates in recent years. God Hates come out on 9/11 and you tried to get Christ out on 6/6/06 but couldn't and then start the Unholy Alliance on that date too then Tom's gall bladder had to be removed. July 24 seems like a fairly innocuous day for the re-release of Christ, but it makes you wonder.

KING: (Laughs) I guess we'll see. The cool thing about Sept. 11 is that you'll always remember when God Hates Us All came out, it was a very appropriate title. 6/6/06 was a pretty obvious date to shoot for; we weren't the only ones who tried to do something then. We did end up getting Eternal Pyre out (a three-song maxi single). But shit happens, it took longer to get Christ done, then Tom's body wore out for a minute.

KNAC.COM:: Speaking of which, you guys aren't kids anymore and you still tour an incredible amount. How are you holding up?

KING: Good. You just don't go out and wreck yourself every night. There's no reason why you can't go out and have a good time, but if you got wrecked every night it would become a chore. You take your days off, I like to work out a little bit and I'm into it, we're all into it. That's what makes it fun. If it wasn't fun we wouldn't be doing it.

KNAC.COM:: Since you have followed Rick Rubin over to Columbia and are getting something of a fresh start, does that change anything for you in terms of Slayer's future?

KING: I think that's just us making executive decisions about us and do we still look and sound like Slayer? Do we still perform like Slayer? Do I hate doing this? Those are the kinds of things that are going to determine how long we keep going.

KNAC.COM:: But since he's president of label now, and you've sorta been "his guys" for all these years, do you think you might end up getting some more support on the business end of things?

KING: He is king shit now isn't he (laughs). He'll definitely be in our corner, so as far as that goes, that's probably a good thing. But I don't know, other than that, I don't think much is gonna change. And to be honest, I don't know how much it would actually help. At this point, we're gonna sell pretty much what we always sell no matter how much extra promotion or support we get.

KNAC.COM:: The "new" song on the re-release, "The Final Six," was actually supposed to be on the original?

KING: Yeah, the music was done; we just needed to do the vocals. Tom took the weekend off and was gonna come back sing his part, but that's when he ended up having to have the gall-bladder surgery. The album was already getting late as it was, so we put it out without it. This is the album as it should have been.

KNAC.COM:: What's different about "Black Serenade?”

KING: Here again, the music was done, but when Tom went into sing it, Jeff said to me "you still got a lead to do." I was like, "what the fuck are you talking about, I played a lead on this song." But I guess there was another one that he never told me about, or I would have done it. I hadn't played in like 3-1/2 weeks, I'm like "thanks a lot dickhead" (laughs). It takes me a while to get my chops back up. I ended up doing the solo, but the version on the original version is the one without it. This one has it.

KNAC.COM:: So it's not like the dance remix or something like that, then?

KING: (Laughs) Not in my lifetime.

KNAC.COM:: In the "press kit" stuff I got, it mentioned new cover art. Will it still be a Larry Carroll illustration, or something else?

KING: Larry Carroll, I think his art's gonna go on the disc itself. But there's going to be some tricky new cover they made up. It's not like a hologram, but Tool had a cover where if you looked at it a certain way it moved, Ozzy had one of those a while back too. But the Larry Carroll art is definitely going on the disc. That will be a cool way to differentiate between the two.

KNAC.COM:: I just read something about him in an article about cover artists. He's sounds like quite a strange ranger?

KING: I've never met him. But I do know it can be pretty hard to get a hold of him, because he moves around a lot. And we hadn't been in touch with him from '90 to last year. When Dave was back we thought it would be really cool to get Larry Carroll back because we hadn't used him since Dave's last record (Seasons In The Abyss).

He's gone on to become a world famous artist - doing political illustrations for magazines and stuff (including the New York Times and Village Voice), not as an album cover artist. But when we did manage to track him down, he was into it. And I was kinda shocked that he did it. But he valued the time that he spent working with us and our history. So he was like "Yeah, I totally want to do it."

KNAC.COM:: And the stuff he's done for you has becomes so iconic.

KING: Totally. On this one, we didn't tell him what to do. We just basically said "here are our lyrics we have, here are the titles we have so far, go." But he knows who we are, and he got a vibe off what we gave him. The only thing we really told him after we saw what he had been working on was that the Christ guy was looking too healthy. So he went and lopped his fucking arms off (laughs). He definitely didn't look very healthy in the end.

KNAC.COM:: Since you mentioned getting warmed up just to do the solo, what kind of regimen do you guys have when its time to start a tour?

KING: I wish we'd practice more, but I can' get everyone in. Tom's in Texas, but he's into it, it can just be a pain to work out the logistics. Dave never wants to practice. The funny thing is, after we do the first show I see the guys and it's like "bet you wished we'd fucking practiced now." But for this Manson thing I definitely want to get together ahead of time because I want to pull out some shit we haven't played in a while.

KNAC.COM:: Such as?

KING: I don't even know. I'll go through the I-Pod and listen to all the Slayer albums and see what makes me go, "Hmm. We've gotta play ’Raining Blood,’ we've gotta play ‘Angel of Death’ and probably ’South of Heaven,’ I could go on to like 10, but we can't keep that many if we want to mix in something different. You can only do so much in a 70-minute set, we're not The Ramones (laughs).

I'm pretty sure we're gonna open with a song from the new album that we haven't played yet, but that's probably going to be the only "new" song off this album that nobody's seen us play before. And then we'll see if there's anything in our history that we haven't played that goes cool that justifies being played in a 70-minute set.

KNAC.COM:: I remember reading that even though it won you the Grammy, you didn't like playing "Eyes of the Insane" live. Will you almost be forced to still include it in the set?

KING: I don't know. It's got good visuals, and when we have good visuals to go with it, I have more fun playing it. But it's one of those songs like "Skeletons of Society." Bo-ring as fuck to play. People always want to see it but I can't stand up there and play that song (laughs).

KNAC.COM:: The Grammy award itself, what's your take on that?

KING: It's kind of an honor, I'd be silly to say it's not an honor, but does it mean a lot to me? Not really. I think I got the most bang for my buck when I talked to my dad and said, "Hey dad, I won a Grammy." That was pretty cool; it's probably the last thing he ever thought he'd hear me say.

KNAC.COM:: Now every time you see something about the band, it will say "Grammy award-winning Slayer," which has some caché.

KING: Grammy award winning, Man of the Year in Metal Hammer, Kerry King. That does make a pretty nice business card (laughs).

KNAC.COM:: Since you've been around so long, you can almost look at it as a lifetime achievement award.

KING: Kinda. My take on it is we've been around long enough that we're a household name. Once you get nominated, you can vote, you're part of the academy, and I can only imagine all of these hip-hop artists going through, voting for their homies and they get to the metal category and it's like, "Who the fuck are these white boys?" But they know us. So sticking around definitely worked to our advantage.

KNAC.COM:: Same thing happened with Motorhead, even though they won for a Metallica cover, which is pretty weak.

KING: Yeah, I don't think that's right at all. Good for Lemmy to win the award, but you shouldn't get something like that for a cover.

KNAC.COM:: Lombardo plays with, or has played with, a bunch of different bands. But the rest of you guys have really only done Slayer. Is doing a side project anything that holds any interest for you?

KING: If I ever did something like that it would probably be something with Zakk (Wylde). Something with my friends, but I'm so busy and Zakk's so busy that we'll probably never end up fucking doing it (laughs). He's double dipping now with Black Label and Ozzy, so he's extra busy.

KNAC.COM:: Say you did do something on the side, would it be something metally or some drastic departure?

KING: It would be something metally. Metally (laughs), that's a great word. But with Zakk with Black Label, he gets to the point where he could almost be folksy, so if I were to do anything with Zakk there would be a metal tinge and there'd be some laid-back thing that he'd insist on. But right now, that's pure speculation on my part because we really haven't talked about it and we're both so busy I wouldn't hold your breath.

KNAC.COM:: Couple final things here. On the Still Reigning DVD, when you guys are coming off the stage there's a woman with you with a mesh top and tape on her nipples. Who is that?

KING: Who was that? Tom's wife. Pretty classy, huh? (laughs)

KNAC.COM:: Really? The mother if his children?

KING: The mother of his children. At least she used the tape (laughs).

KNAC.COM:: I wanted to also ask you about your tattoos. Since every time you go out on tour, they seem larger and more elaborate, do you have some sort of final grand design in mind?

KING: No I don't and I have two people who want to work on me, and I'm not rushing into it because I don't know when I want more. Kat Von D, she wants me to be on her new TV show, and I can't think of what I want her to do. Bob Tyrrell, I have a day off in Canada, I was gonna get something but I can't decide and I'm not gonna just have him put something on me. I'm into it and I'm know some of the best artists on the planet. I'm one of these lucky few people who can pretty much get something by anybody at any time, but I don't abuse that by coming up with stupid ideas and just rushing into it. It might evolve into something huge, or I might just decide to stop some day. Who knows, I've gotta a lot of skin left.

KNAC.COM: How did the rest of it come together?

KING: Usually I'll have an idea. Like the tribal stuff on my right arm and on my head, and my left arm, I have "God Hates Us All" on the inside. But the outside I had Paul Booth just run with it, I'm not afraid of Paul doing anything weird on. I told him, "When you work on the outside I want kids to cry." So he had a good premise (laughs).


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