From the depths of their brutal musical style to their antisocial lyrical content, Slayer have been stirring up mayhem and controversy for nearly two-and-a-half decades. Nothing's ever said more about the height of their popularity than debuting their latest release Christ Illusion at number 5, followed soon after by another Grammy nomination.
Interview With Slayer's Kerry King
By John Foxworthy
Photo: Donna Rickles
From the depths of their brutal musical style to their antisocial lyrical content, Slayer have been stirring up mayhem and controversy for nearly two-and-a-half decades. Nothing's ever said more about the height of their popularity than debuting their latest release
Christ Illusion at number 5, followed soon after by another Grammy nomination.
This isn't the kind of stuff that impresses guitarist and co-founder Kerry
King. In fact, as he puts it ever-so-bluntly, Slayer fans don't care either. I
had a chance to spend a few minutes with Mr. King and discovered that while he's
short spoken, what he does say is straight up and real.
First of all, I wanted to congratulate you on your second Grammy
nomination in as many albums. That's pretty huge, I think.
I dunno. It's either that or the competition was so lame they had to
fuckin' vote for us.
You've got some pretty stiff competition ... Lamb Of God, Ministry,
Mastodon and Stone Sour. What are you
hoping to come out of it?
Don't even care. Our fans don't give a shit and that's the most important
thing to me. I mean, if they want it ... well they probably want us to win, but
just so they can say "Fuck those other guys." It's not gonna make us
any better. People may look at us differently, but not anybody that's a Slayer
fan. You know what I mean?
Yeah. I'm also thinking a Grammy nomination didn't help you break Christ
Illusion at #5. Considering your propensity for writing inflammatory lyrics
and touching on controversial subject matter, I was kind of surprised.
That would be the coolest thing, you know? To win with the shit we write
Will you be going to the presentation?
No. We'll be touring.
You're kicking off the tour in January, right?
You guys did the blood raining down on "Raining
Blood" and the Unholy Alliance Tour was pretty wild, too. On this one, are you going to
be pulling out any surprises for us?
On this one we're doing in January and February, it's probably the
smallest tour we've done in a while. In most markets, it's only us and Unearth.
We're just taking the old school backline and backdrops. It's not gonna be
anything like we just took out with Unholy Alliance, which was our answer to our
"Raining Blood" thing that we did. We had big, fuckin', seven-high, upside-down
cross Marshalls. I had one and Jeff had one and that was the backline, but on
this little tour we're doing now we're not bringing them.
Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King
Photo: Larry Weeks
You've come a long way since Show No Mercy. To what would you
credit your, I'll call it "mainstream," success?
To me, it's just producing music that the fans are into. It's a weird
thing to say, but it's where I came from. I'm a fan just like those guys are, so
I kinda got an inside track to what our fans are into. If me and Jeff are into
it, generally our fans are into it.
I agree ... and even today a lot of metal bands say that you
influenced them. Does it ever get old to hear that you're one of the most
influential thrash metal bands of all time?
It's still weird, man. We aren't the kind of people that sit and talk
amongst ourselves about that ... or to gloat about anything we've done or are gonna
I kind of get that impression. I don't mind saying that I've been a Slayer
fan since '83, so for me it's a big feather in the cap for the genre as a whole. I
mean, even after 20 years Reign In Blood is still revered as the consummate thrash metal
album to this day!
Yeah, it's weird. It took time, you know? It's just a record we put out.
I've been diggin' Christ Illusion too. It reminds me a lot of old
school Slayer, so the record's been kind of a flashback for me. Do you think
having Dave back in the band made a big difference in the way it came out?
I think he gives it a different vibe for sure. It's definitely something I
can't pinpoint, either. I can't say, "This is how Dave changes what we
do." It's just when he plays, it's different than how Paul plays. Even
though Paul's great and Paul's Reign In Blood was "God Hates Us All,"
when Dave plays it's more reckless in a good way. It's hard to explain. It
always sounds like it's gonna fall apart at anytime, but it never does.
Slayer (l-r): Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Dave
Photo: Paul Natkin
I just happened to see the album up on Amazon the other day and noticed
there was a different album cover than the one I have.
It was probably just an insert.
Is there some new controversy going on around the original cover art?
Always? How do you handle things like that? I read that they yanked the
album off the shelves in India right after it was released.
I would like to have seen that. I hear they burned 'em and did all kinds
When you get these parent groups, religious groups and,
recently, families of 9/11 victims attack you for your music, does that stuff
get under your skin?
Photo: Donna Rickles
Victims of 9/11 did that?
Yeah. It was some news story right after the album came out ... regarding the
The easiest way for me to sum that shit up is that if that song ... if
somebody would have said that on CNN, it'd be fine. But, Slayer put it in a song
and it's scary. Seriously! If you took those words and put them on CNN, people
would just say, "Hmm. Interesting."
Whereas you have some hard background music and it's not anymore?
Yeah. It's a crazy double standard. It is what it is. I don't give a shit.
That's just closed-minded people not taking shit for what it is.
Have you ever seen these people picketing outside your concerts?
Actually, my crew tells me and I make 'em go video it. "Video them
fuckers, see what they're saying!"
I was kind of surprised Unholy Alliance didn't come here ...
through Salt Lake.
We couldn't get everywhere, because it was hard enough to get that many
bands to commit to anything for any period of time, so it's just kind of tough
to make it happen.
Hah! And I thought it was the Mormons.
I doubt it, because shit ... we play there!
I want to thank you for taking the time to kick back and talk and we look
forward to seeing you out on the road next month.