15 minutes with Slayer

Slayer blows the speakers

Two hours after I found out I was interviewing Slayer, I'm standing in the Powerstation, waiting for the band to finish soundcheck, and hurriedly scribbling down some questions.
After much noodling about, the band launch into a song. The power cuts out, killing the PA and all their gear on stage, leaving singer Tom Araya singing away unacompanied, and for a brief moment I witness Slayer Unplugged! Ten minutes later, problem fixed, they try again. The power dies again, and this time only the PA cuts out.
These guys are obviously intending on doing some serious damage, and I make a quick mental note to hunt out some ear plugs before the show tonight. We rush in and grab a quick chat with guitarist Kerry King.

How's the tour been going?

Kerry King: It's been going cool, til we got here! (laughs) They don't seem to have enough power for us. We've just been through the States, that was happening. We played with Fear Factory and Kilgore opening, that was a pretty cool tour, for like six weeks.

What's the response to the new album been like?

Same as it always is. Crazy.

This is your ninth album, is it any different from previous albums?

As far as what we do?

Yeah, in the response and so on.

Well, this is the first time we did a studio record for quite a while. With all our songs, we haven't done a regular studio record since 94, with Slayer originals. With the crowds, it seems like the guard is changing a little bit as to who shows up. It seems like a lot of the older fans are giving way to new ones, little brothers, or offspring, or whatever.

Do you enjoy touring?

Yeah, I grew into it. I used to hate it quite a bit, but, it's what I do. I just had to learn to shut up and take it like a man!

How was it working with (Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chilli Peppers producer) Rick Rubin again?

He'd just been executive producer on the last two records before this new one. It seems like once he came back, it got a lot fatter again, you just hear something in the mix, that we don't do on our own, so it was definitely cool to have the opportunity to work with him again.

There's one song on the new album, called Scrum. Are you aware of how big rugby is in this part of the world?

Oh yeah, that's why I wrote it! People overseas don't really care what it's about, they just dig the tune, though I've had a few people ask about it. I got into rugby when we were writing tunes. It was originally only supposed to be on the Japanese release, which would've come out here, but it came out so good, we put it out worldwide.

You guys play really heavy music, what do you do to relax?

Go to a bar.

What else? Got any hobbies?

Not as much as I used to. I used to show dogs, I used to breed the shit out of reptiles, had very many, but I?ve toned both of those down, cos I move around too much.

What kind of reptiles?

Nothing poisonous!

How do you write the songs? They seem so heavy I can't imagine you strumming them on an acoustic guitar.

That's pretty much how I do it, actually. I just pick up my guitar and an old tape player, very old school. Just in case I like the riff and I want to remember it, I tape it down. Then I play it to Jeff (Hanneman, guitarist), or show him the riff.

So who writes the songs?

Me and Jeff.

Is that the way it's always been, or is it changing?

Always is, always was, always will be!

What's the lyrical subjects about on the new album?

Typical. Rugby! (laughs) It's dark. We always write dark music. Slayer isn't going to write a song about roses in the park. It doesn't work. Slayer has to write about serial killers and stuff like that.

It must be satisfying to have been doing what you do for seventeen years, without too much compromise, and be successful.

Well, I always think we're just a hard version of AC/DC, you know. They've made the same record twelve times an everybody bought it each time, right?

Do you guys ever worry about your hearing, playing that loud?

What? What? (laughs)

(okay, so we've done the hearing gag). Have you ever had your ears checked?

No, I don't need that fucking pain in the ass. The only time I ever wore ear plugs was when I had an ear infection, I think.

Can you guys imagine doing something different from the Slayer sound, like your collaborations with Ice T or Atari Teenage Riot?

Not me. It's really cool for us being big fans of this kind of music and being able to make it up, you know. In a way, I get to hear it before it comes out, and chances are if I like it, most of the fans are gonna like it too. Cos I'm a fan myself.

What sort of stuff were you a fan of before you were in Slayer?

Venom, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, the obvious choices. Jeff was into hardcore punk back then.

Can you ever see Slayer doing a remix album?

No, cos all the remix albums, they just try and industrial them out, that was pretty hip for a while. But I never liked the remix versions of anything I ever heard. It's a sales ploy actually. That's what I see it as.

If you weren't doing Slayer, what would you be doing?

I've been doing this since I was seventeen, so there's really no alternative to doing anything else. I never got schooled in doing anything.

Anything else you'd like to do?

Not really. This is pretty cool. I can't think of getting a paid trip to New Zealand, working in the post office or something.

What about when Slayer finishes, what are you going to do then?

I don't know. No idea. Hopefully I'll have enough money to just sit around and do nothing. But I aint there! (laughs)

Later that night, Kerry and his noisy buddies put on a punishing display for their fans, without blowing up the PA again,
thankfully. What was it like? Unrelenting, uncompromising, and unbelievably loud. Just how their audience
likes it. Nothing like customer satisfaction, is there now? After the encore, lead singer Tom Araya
thanked the audience for coming, and as he exited the stage, muttered huskily, 'Time to go get stoned!!!'.
A man with his priorities sorted. Slayed again.

originally published in Lava Magazine, 1999

1999 pmclennan@hotmail.com

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