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A Conversation With Kerry King
by Samuel Barker
February 9, 2002


Kerry King
Kerry King

Samuel Barker: How have the shows on the tour been going so far?

Kerry King: We had a real good one last night. People are digging it, digging it with Paul, digging it with Dave.

Samuel: How has it been having Dave back for the tour?

Kerry: I really didn't think Dave was going to be able to do it, but he surprised the hell out of me. He comes in and rips through it better than he did the first time.

Samuel: How much time did it take for him to learn the new songs and for all of you to get ready for the tour?

Kerry: We rehearsed like two or three weeks. Actually three weeks, but less than 14 days we actually played. He's still learning a couple of them, but they're good enough to play.

Samuel: Any luck with the drummer search so far? I know you've had one day of auditions, and I see you have another tomorrow.

Kerry: Yeah. The guy Dave brought down has been our favorite so far. But that's the good stack (points to a pile of tapes on the table), it's a lot smaller than the "ungood" stack. We've got "ungood" ones everywhere, I'm just going through the ones we picked off already and seeing if there is anything I want to remember about them or if I just need to be done with it.

Samuel: How many people are you planning to see tomorrow?

Kerry: It might only be two. There are a lot of people from the East Coast sending tapes in that can't make it to Dallas, so they may have a better chance getting into San Francisco. It's easier to fly coast to coast. I think we only have two tomorrow. A kick ass dude might be coming tomorrow, but if not, he'll be in San Fran.

Samuel: Is there any certain aspects, outside of playing ability, you guys are looking for in a drummer?

Kerry: Swagger.

Samuel: Any certain age group that you're looking for? I know you guys have been around a while, are you searching for someone around your collective or younger?

Kerry: I'd rather get someone less than...the oldest guy I'd want would be in his early 30s, because I think we'll go longer than whatever drummer it's going to be. Because they get beat up a lot more and it definitely takes more out of them. I want someone who is going to be able to play as long as we can play. If we get someone 37 or 38, they might run out of gas after a few years.

Samuel: With God Hates Us All recently coming out, have you been pleased with the response to it thus far?

Kerry: People fucking love it. They go nuts at shows. This is the biggest show we've done in a while. We've done a lot of smaller ones, make sure we sell out, get packed houses. I don't know what they expect here tonight. We're still opening with "Disciple" and now the crowd sings it at us.

Samuel: You guys finally were nominated for a Grammy with this album, any excitement about that or is it something off your radar?

Kerry: Jeff really doesn't care, I don't care, a little bit. It's certainly not something I was waiting on. It's not like I was going, "They're announcing the Grammies tomorrow, I hope we get nominated." I never for a minute thought we'd get nominated for one, whether lone win one, which I don't expect either. To be nominated, it's cool I guess, but I certainly wasn't waiting for it.

Samuel: With your songs, like "God Send Death," which is a narrative, do you guys read a lot of literature to come up with these characters?

Kerry: Well, Jeff did that song. With a lot of the ones I did on this album, I didn't rely on the dictionary or synonym finder as much as I used to. To me, I made it more street. Like if I talk I'm saying "Fuck this, fuck that. I hate that fucking TV. The color of that fucking couch sucks my ass." That is how a lot of the songs came out. Not that colorful, but...

Samuel: It was definitely noticeable that this album had a more conversation type feel rather than the old songs, which were more...

Kerry: Stories and shit? Yeah, I wanted to try something different that still related to us.

Samuel: Something one can't help but notice about Slayer is the lack of a sound change, while most of your peers are trying different sounds in order to make a few bucks, you guys are staying with your true sound, has it ever been difficult to not stray from the path that Slayer's music has followed?

Kerry: Well, it just goes to show that we're fans to. This is what we listen to. Jeff and I could have written that radio song years ago, but we never did.

Samuel: So you try to stick with what a real Slayer/metal fan would want to hear?

Kerry: Yeah. If I'm listening to music, it's something similar to us.

Samuel: You and Jeff do the majority of the songwriting for Slayer, how do you go about doing it, do you work more on riffs or do lyrical ideas come first?

Kerry: Always the riff first. Ninety-nine percent of the time we start with a riff. Usually we will finish a song before we will put the lyrics to it.

Samuel: One odd thing about the album, there is the white crosses on the "cover" but under it is...

Kerry: The real cover?

Samuel: Yeah, was that something put there because the first cover was not up to standard?

Kerry: Well, the label wasn't against it, it's more marketing than anything. If we didn't put something more placid on the cover, you'd see it hiding in the back bin somewhere. I think we're beyond being hidden in the back, we want to be seen. I like it. It sticks out like a sore thumb, that big ass white fucking cover. I think it serves its purpose really well, and you get the artwork with it.

Samuel: Is it ever weird that after being in music for so long that people can still be turned off by the artwork on an album?

Kerry: Well, if they're turned off by it, they're not Slayer fans. We're trying to hang that so-called carrot in front of the people that aren't Slayer fans and say, "Oh yeah, we're a lot better now, try this record."

Samuel: I thought it was interesting to see that Tori Amos did a cover of "Raining Blood" on her new album, were you guys aware she did it?

Kerry: We had to okay it.

Samuel: Have you gotten a chance to hear it?

Kerry: I heard it.

Samuel: What was your take on it?

Kerry: I thought it was odd. It took me a minute and a half to find a spot in the song where I knew where she was. It's so weird. If she had never told us, we would have never known. You could have played it for us and we'd have been like, "What's that?" Like a minute and a half through I heard a line and was like, "I know where she's at!" It was odd; hopefully she'll make us a lot of money.

Samuel: I know coming up that you guys had some influences that got you into metal, is it ever strange to think that Slayer has become the influence for so many kids getting into metal today?

Kerry: It was weird ten years ago, because they were doing it back then. I've become what those people were to me, to a lot of other bands. It comes with the territory. We've got big credibility, we've been trudging along for almost 20 years, I guess we gotta take the chariot one of these days and be the top dog that people look up to, but we don't even really think about that shit. It's not the reason why we do it. It just comes with what we do.

Samuel: I see you guys have been bringing a lot of younger bands out on the road with you, who are some of the young bands that you really enjoy?

Kerry: Well, we played with Slipknot last summer, they were badass. Pantera has come out since we've been around, but now they're old school too. Mudvayne is cool. I'm not trying to pick out the ones with the make-up and gimmicks, but I dig some of the shit they do.

Samuel: Speaking of Pantera, I know you two were supposed to headline the Tattoo the World tour in Europe and they do it because of the World Trade Center disaster, but you guys went ahead and played it.

Kerry: We're Slayer, we have to.

Samuel: There was no question about whether to cancel or not?

Kerry: We were supposed to leave that day (9/11) to go to Europe. Our crew was over there, they went the day before. We lost tons of money just keeping them there. We couldn't get there for at least a week, so it ended up starting 10 days later than it was supposed to. It took tons of money to keep them there, putting them up in hotels, feeding them, and paying them for doing nothing. But, we eventually made it over there, the tour would have been better with Pantera, but it was better for us that they didn't come.

Samuel: What are some of your plans for the immediate future following this tour?

Kerry: Well, this is over in the middle of the month and we have to find a drummer. That's first and foremost; we can't do any gigs without a drummer. After that we'll South America, Japan, Canada, everywhere we always go.

Samuel: You guys play a lot of overseas shows, how do the crowds there compare to the crowds here in the U.S.?

Kerry: It's pretty much the same everywhere. The ones in the front are the psychos, the ones in the back want to watch.

Samuel: Well, I know over in Europe with places like England and Germany, metal is a lot stronger over there.

Kerry: We could headline Holland and sell out 9,000 seaters. Strange, I wish we could do that everywhere.

Samuel: Speaking of that, how has it been coming from California where everyone is so jaded, and aren't really as responsive as most people?

Kerry: Slayer fans are different people. They're not the Hollywood crowd, they're Slayer fans. Some of the Hollywood crowd comes to, that's where you get the looky loons who stand there with their arms crossed and say, "Impress me." And I don't care if I did or didn't.

Samuel: What was it, coming up, that really got you into metal? I know when you grew up, in the 70s, metal wasn't too strong at all in the U.S., what led you to get into the music?

Kerry: Maybe, Ted Nugent, Van Halen being a stepping-stone. Just like kids today, you start from one place, and I started going heavier. I was like, "I like this is good, but I've heard about THESE guys." It just goes like that. When I was growing up, I felt like I was one up on my friends listening to the heavier music than them. Then there was Motorhead, Venom, Jeff got into southern California punk, and we became what we became.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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