Slayer's Kerry King: 'We've Never Tried To Be Anything We Weren't'

Kerry King is friendly, open, not afraid to voice his opinions and most importantly genuine in the way he lives and performs.

Slayer's Kerry King: 'We've Never Tried To Be Anything We Weren't'
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On first impressions, Kerry King stands as an imposing figure. Heavily tattooed, dark shades that his eyes and his long, thick beard helping to complete a picture of one of metal's kings of evil. Yet, behind the persona, it is a totally differing contrast. King is just a normal down to earth cool guy, the sort you can hang out with at a local bar finding yourself immersed in conversations for hours on end. Friendly, open, honest, not afraid to voice his opinions, passionate about his music and life and most importantly genuine in the way he lives and performs. Kerry King is that and more. On Slayer's recent tour of Australia - their last being back in 2001 - Joe Matera caught up with Kerry King for this exclusive interview for Ultimate-Guitar. Ultimate-Guitar: How does this Australian tour compare to others you're currently doing in different territories around the globe? Kerry King: It's hard for me to compare because we don't come here that often. They're not really different though. But in general with all the tours we do, it doesn't differ. It's the same fuckin' story, just different song. How do you go about making your live performance as intense as possible? It is hard to say. But I just think of it like this all these people have paid a lot of money to see me perform so it is up to me to deliver. And with that mind set, I just go out and attack. A recent UK report declared that Slayer were one of the music choices of child prodigies. That is in stark contrast to an Esquire article back in 1992 that claimed one out of five kids who kill love Slayer? Well we do cover a broad spectrum! (laughs) I think that it is all because we've stuck around so long that we are now a household name, which I think is how we won the Grammy. When we got that and when we were up for that second one, I thought to myself, 'who goes about voting for this?' So I tried putting myself in the situation of a voter where, if I was voting and it came around to rap or hip-hop, I wouldn't know who the hell to pick. I'd pick somebody who I had heard of. I figure 65% of our votes probably came from that sort of situation where people had never heard of us, never heard of our music but had heard of our name. I don't care for stuff like winning a Grammy any way. The only stuff that means something to me is the fans because they're the ones into it and they're the ones living it. What do you think has contributed to the Slayer's longevity in the music industry known for its fickleness? All the way back to our very first record, and though you can look back on it today and it is a little bit corny, you have to realise we were 19 year old kids trying to find out what the hell we were doing. But central to that point is that it has always been real for us. Slayer has always been really street wise. We've never tried to be anything we weren't. Like for example, I don't believe in God or the Devil but I do put religion on trial because that is who I am and so that translates into the music. If people get that and they like us they will cling onto us. A Slayer record or a Slayer show to me is almost like a guarantee, you know that if you like Slayer, then you're going to dig it all. And we've always come through and done it. 90% of what I write, I like to throw it out there in a way that you might have ten kids who read the lyrics while another ten kids will walk away with something different from it.
"I don't care for stuff like winning a Grammy any way."
Going back to the band's early days, how do you now look back on your debut Show No Mercy? We still play songs off that album, like tonight we're playing two songs off that album. We don't play anything from the 1990s because Dave wasn't part of the band. I mean that is not the full reason but now that Dave is back, and because this is the first time Australia has seen us with Dave, we're totally focused on that. We do play stuff off God Hates Us All but nothing from the 1990s. I mean except for Seasons but that is not really the 1990s, we don't do anything off Divine or Diabolus or Undisputed for that matter. Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits, proudly displayed a lot of the band's influences? Absolutely, when we were making those records we were really into Mercyful Fate, which is why the Hell Awaits songs are so long. We were really into them and that is why there are ten thousand riffs and all those songs. But that album was the last time you could totally see an influence on us. I think that was the last time when were impressionable. Now we know what we do and we know what the formula for a Slayer song is. I mean, I know the difference between liking someone and being influenced by them. But I think a lot of musicians don't. Venom were another heavy influence on the sound and musical direction of Slayer? Yeah. Recently Cronos came around to one of our shows in Birmingham in England and I went 'that is fuckin' Cronos there man!' I never paid attention to the band once Cronos had left. He was the only reason why I was into the band. I dug his Venom personality. A funny thing happened recently too. I was doing autographs in Germany for one of their music shows and Mantas was there too whom I had never met before so I didn't recognise him! (laughs) He doesn't look anything like he used to. Anyway he's telling me all these stories and I'm like 'yeah I was on that tour' and he's like 'well I'm Mantas!' And I go 'fuck off, no you're not!' (laughs) I still listen to them all time on my I-Pod. When it comes to writing guitar parts, do you do it before going in to the studio or do you tend to do a lot of it during the recording sessions? The leads are usually the last thing we address because it's just me and Jeff's personal thing. The song has to be a song first. The lyrics have to be part of it before you can move on and that is not to say that they're an afterthought. But our leads are very rarely made up before we have any lyrics done. Once we have got Tom pointing in the right direction singing wise, me and Jeff will then kick back in the hotel and make up our leads. The only thing that comes before anything else like the lyrics, are the riff. I think I've written lyrics only once before I had any music. I just wrote some stuff down, not like a poem or anything but I knew I had these lyrics but also had no music. But I wrote them down and knew that I would use them some day. When you guys get together in the rehearsal studio, do you jam with each other? We never jam! I'm not a jammer. I mean I get offered to jam by so many people, like an all-star jam kind of thing. But I can't jam dude. I wouldn't know where to start. You know, for me it has been very methodical. This is what it is and there is no room for a jam session to come out of it like a lead in South of Heaven or something. I can't do that to a lot of music. It is not Deep Purple music you know. I make up all my own riffs. When we rehearse, we rehearse. We don't just come in and fuck around. We're all grown men now who have very separate lives at home. But in the old days, it'll be like I'd be playing guitar and Jeff would jump on the drums and vice versa and we would both make up riffs from that. As a guitar player what do you think are the required elements that can make a good riff? It is hard to say and it is hard for me to put it into words. But some of my favourite riffs are ones that are memorable and compelling at the same time.
"The only stuff that means something to me is the fans because they're the ones into it and they're the ones living it."
When you and Jeff are laying down your duelling guitar lead work, do you tend to have a healthy competitive spirit emerging between yourselves? There is probably something there from both sides. There have been times where I went in and did my three solos and his parts were blank. Then he came in and did his three and did something that made mine sound like shit or vice versa. So I redid mine in order to make them better. I recall a comment Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton once made where he stated that he and K.K sometimes find themselves competing to out do each other's guitar solos? It seems funny to me because I think Tipton is in a league of his own. Tipton is like the guitar guy and K.K is like the one that picks up the scraps! On the current tour what is your gear set-up like? On tour here in Australia it is stripped back because we're so far away and we don't need half the things that normally I have in the rig. Live, I'm playing my new Marshall signature head that they've got coming out soon. I think it just went into production. It's not going to be a limited edition like Zakk's and Slash's models. It is a production model. I had it designed so I can come to any country and if my gear does not show up, I can grab that head, plug it in and play. So I'm running that, a Shure wireless, a Zakk Wylde Cry Baby and an A/B Box. I don't have a speaker cab running my clean channel as I run my clean directly into the monitor board that goes directly through the PA. It runs through a Chorus of some kind, just so it doesn't sound plain. It is a very basic set-up. And the guitars are obviously all B.C Rich. You have contributed guitar solos in the past to Pantera, Ice-T and Hatebreed songs. Can we see Kerry King doing something similar again soon? It really depends. I did the Pantera thing just because Dime was my friend. I was so blown away when he said 'I want you to do a lead in this song' and I was like 'why? Why the fuck do you need me for?' (laughs) But it comes to a point where everybody asks and you pretty much have got to shut the door because if you turn somebody down and in six months you turn up on somebody else's record. Then that's wrong. I don't want to be that guy. It would take the right opportunity to do another one. I've always talked about doing something with Zakk and I'm sure we'll do something some day. Before Dime passed away, me, Dime and Zakk were going to do something. And Dime was the glue because I was better friends with Dime than Zakk. Now, Zakk and I have become better friends because Dime is not around anymore. Me and Dime, when he was doing press for the Damageplan record, I called him up one day and said 'dude you and I have got to do this song. I don't know what we're going to do with it, but it is you and me'. And he was like, 'what is it King?' I said 'we got to do Snortin' Whiskey, Drinkin' Cocaine'. He was like, 'I'm in. What's it for?' 'I don't care. I just think we need to do it'. So we were going to do it but they got all busy with press and I said to Dime, 'there is no reason to rush as we have all the time in the world to do'. And then I never saw him again
Check out Kerry King (photo) greeting Ultimate-Guitar.com at this location.
2007 Joe Matera

107 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    sambargun
    Its sad that they're not doing anything from the 90s because 'divine intervention' was one killer album. For those of you who think that kerry is a loser, hey at least he's honest enough to admit some stuff, like that he's not a 'jammer'. Lots of pseudo guitarists love to go on about jamming here and there. At least he admits that he cant do it and doesnt want to do it.The part about Dimebag was nice.....
    hardrocker64
    South of Heaven and Seasons of the Abyss are my favs. These dudes are rippin. Come to Raleigh,nc Kerry
    Deathfru
    i saw them at the unholy alliance tour they were ****ing fantastic! my body got chills when they played there final song Angle Of Death, at first i thought they wernt gonna play it and i was sad but at the end omg i ****ing went crazy
    wench
    timbojones wrote: Bullshit. I saw them on the Australian tour and it was pretty obvious they did not care about our city. It was just another night at the office; they didn't want to be there, and I wasn't impressed. If your talking about Adelaide, Australia, I couldn't ****ing agree more!!!
    seen slayer a few times in chicago (aragon brawlroom) which were really good shows..last time i seen them summer of 06 in milwaukee wisconsin (shit place) the show was really bad..they acted like they wanted to hurry and get the **** out. that will be the last time i pay money to see them again...their last album...ugh, what a horrid piece of shit that was.
    lexaah
    slayersaves22 wrote: slayer is the best thing in metal, there would not be metal if it werent for slayer, i couldnt car what ppl say about slayer solo's king and hanneman own all. SLAYER RULZ!!!
    wow lol ur an idiot! i believe that metallica and pantera and so on and so forth were the starters of it all. i never actually listened to slayer but it sounds like it wouldn't be my kind of music, consedering i love pantera and metallica maybe i would.. but NEVER EVER say that there wouldn't be metal if it weren't for your precious slayer.
    haz_uk
    a friend of mine was with mantas when he met kerry. the lucky sod's in a band with him :/
    pablo_89
    .... Slayer are awesome!!! they are one of the only true metal bandsw that has stayed metal, without becoming comercial or radio friendly... KEEP IT METAL!!!
    tommythecat00
    i love slayer, but i can see why people don't. personally i like that if i buy a slayer album i know its gonna sound like slayer. and so what if king doesnt play the most technical solo's out there, it suits the music thery make perfectly (who listens to slayer for melody? seriously....). and i really like christ illusion. as for the australian tour, i saw them in perth and they totally went off, played hard and were active on stage was an unreal show.
    thedarkblues06
    Slayer = GREAT band...but it's over for them. Christ Illusion was such a lacking album compared to all of the other ones (Diabolus was one of my favorites.) I love the fact that him and Zakk want to get together, that sounds righteous.
    And2001PT
    (who listens to slayer for melody? seriously....)
    You're right, I mean, what kind of world would we live in if people started listening to music.
    metalreaper450
    operation ktulu wrote: I kinda hate Slayer why 1) Their singer..can't sing 2) The drums all sound the same 3) The rest is shit But they must be doing something right, and good on em for that, i would rather listen to MEGADETH any day
    Basically, listen to some shit that takes more than 5 seconds to write and doesn't repeat itself for 5 minutes
    crfowler_09
    hardrocker64 wrote: South of Heaven and Seasons of the Abyss are my favs. These dudes are rippin. Come to Raleigh,nc Kerry
    carolina boy. sweet. yeah, they needs to come here.
    F-ing Hostile
    why does kerry king get so much credit!? hes so overrated, jeff is such a better guitarist, his solos dont sound like random million note per second tapping and he actually adds melody to the songs.. and on top of that, kerry is such a tool in real life, Jeff Haneman >>>> Kerry king
    cephalectomy
    I think you all are a bunch of friggen idiots, Slayer has changed the way the world perceives the metal genre. there must be a lack of knowledge and understanding to say that slayer never made a good song, and truthfully a song doesnt have to be packed with picture perfect melody and awesome timing with the utmost attention paid to structure, it just has to fit that mood your in at that time of your life, if it makes you feel connected than hey, it works. Slayer dominates, rules, kicks ass, and all that shit, and yea there are bands out now that do the same and better, but without a musical influence such as Slayer where would we be in the metal genre? megadeth? c'mon pussy, Killing is my buisness and buisness is good? thats a gay title but hey..I got a secret place too..you can suck it.
    bdub98899
    [quote]not_dead_enough wrote: i_eat_souls wrote: hey not_dead_enough you're a ****ing moron. SLAYER FUCKING RULES, THEY WILL TURN YOUR BRAINS TO SHIT, CAUSE A VOLCANO IN YOUR ASSHOLE, RAPE YOUR CHILDREN AND THEN KICK YOUR DOG!!! That is seriosuly the most moronic thing I have ever heard in my life. and I agree with not dead enough. The only thing good about Slayer is Jeff. It has always been that way and always will.
    not_dead_enough
    i_eat_souls wrote: hey not_dead_enough you're a ****ing moron. SLAYER FUCKING RULES, THEY WILL TURN YOUR BRAINS TO SHIT, CAUSE A VOLCANO IN YOUR ASSHOLE, RAPE YOUR CHILDREN AND THEN KICK YOUR DOG!!!
    Well they didn't when I saw them...
    chiefmegadeth
    I love slayer new album is a ****ing master piece there slayer and will never change... And i love them for it,not like thoes ****ing sell out pussies metallica man did there music go down hill and suck so bad,boring boring boring.....st anger wow what a terrible album and no solo's Slayer rule im not in to the satan crap, ive always see slayer as a possitive Kerry rocks
    mr kipling
    slayersaves22 wrote: slayer is the best thing in metal, there would not be metal if it werent for slayer, i couldnt car what ppl say about slayer solo's king and hanneman own all. SLAYER RULZ!!!
    No.
    And2001PT
    "King's eaten so many cheeseburgers his brain's starting to clog up." - Robb Flynn KK is one of the reasons I don't listen to Slayer. He's a poor guitar player and one of the most rude and conceited persons I ever met.
    no/mas/control
    kerry kicks a** i dont care what everybody says have some respect i bet most the music your listening to right now is influenced by slayer
    Agent_00Funk
    Skarr wrote: I understand why some people come on here and bash/flame Kerry King and Slayer for their music, but it is their style. If all the bands played the same way, music would suck. But if you look at it this way...they're one of the very few bands that are still around today that started back in the 80's.
    Couldnt agree more. Let them do what they want to do and sound how they want to sound. Slayer rocks.
    ibanez666
    i really wish that dime and kerry made that song, cause i know it would off been the ultimate heavy/thrash metal song. rip dime, and long live slayer.
    Kram
    Slayer have put out the same album, what is it 8 times? Even Kerry admitted it in some interview!
    Nightstrider
    slayersaves22 wrote: slayer is the best thing in metal, there would not be metal if it werent for slayer , i couldnt car what ppl say about slayer solo's king and hanneman own all. SLAYER RULZ!!!
    Haha! Priceless.
    Anarchy_Ant
    Although i don't think he's a great guitarist, he's done a lot for metal and Slayer have some pretty damn awesome songs. Nice interview. \m/
    gotosleepalive
    Kerry King wouldn't have been able to a a G3 because hes a shitty soloist. All of his solos sound the same...bad
    Squidge
    Im not trying to piss you guys off, but when you say "Kerry King is a tool.", it irritates me. I mean he is not up there with Dimebag or Z. Wylde, but dont f**king complain about him doing his f**king job and going out on stage playing the best he can every night. I not saying im anywhere near his talent but i want to go see you guys f**king go out and play like him.
    gotosleepalive
    Kreuger wrote: I remember him saying that he Dime and Zakk were gonna do a metal G3. That would've been gold
    recliner33
    fritodip wrote: hey recliner33 sweden is part of scandanavia.
    fritodip wrote: scandinavia is Norway,sweden,finland and denmark. So technically we are both right Recliner33. Black metal is the way to go. I bet kerry king still goes to church.
    Yeah I'm a dumbass, I don't know what I was thinking. I knew that before, I must have just forgotten. But I am still a dumbass. I'm not a fan of black metal, the only new metal I can listen to is doom. Every other metal genre seems to be lacking these days.
    ShredHead396
    I enjoyed reading this interview as kerry king is a great man, and a very influential gutiarist, and is in one of the most influential bands ever in the history oh thrash. I think he is way to overated and really isn't as good as a lot of other guitarist out there,but still,he has composed some of the sickest songs and is a great guy,i also feel and think that slayers material is so easy its good learning material for a new guitarist who has been playing for a few months and has a little speed,so yeah,to me slayer is a great band, with sick but not so complex tunes that you can pop into the CD player any day and its still as metal as it was 20 years ago.
    Seamus001
    x_themetalfan_x wrote: I strongly disagree with the whole "Slayer is going downhill" thing. Christ Illusion was a solid album, they really haven't changed a bit in the years they've been together and that's the way I like it. I don't rip open a Slayer CD looking to be enlightened musically, I open it up to have my face melted off and my balls crushed (figuratively of course). They do a great job of what they do.
    I completely agree Slayer FTW
    Lavatain
    even if kerry's sound exactly the same to most of you, they arent, similar aspect, and there is a bit of music theory there, i think his solo's just sound ftw, jeff is better but could get anywhere without kerry
    dday0512
    One slayer album per decade, that's all you neeed because that's about how often they make an album with a remotely different sound. Altough Kerry playes pretty much the same damn solo every song. Nonetheless, Reign In Blood, God Hates Us All, and Christ Illusion are the shit!
    fritodip
    scandinavia is Norway,sweden,finland and denmark. So technically we are both right Recliner33. Black metal is the way to go. I bet kerry king still goes to church.
    ss311
    E V H 5150 wrote: This guy seems so...conceited. Not really Slayer fan, myself. But let me say this: If this guy were to do a shred off against Randy Rhoads, Slash, or EVH, he wopuld get pwned soooo bad. (assuming we found a way to resurrect Randy) And what's wrong with jamming anyway? Is he saying that his stuff is too good to come out of a jam? I can get a lot of ideas from jamming. Maybe he's just not that creative. It's heavy metal; it's basicly screaming and drop tuning anyway, right? Not much creativity...
    Because playing guitar is all about shred offs and competetion. If Kerry King, Dime and Wylde all get on, that must mean they don't have your elitist attitude of thinking themselves to be the best. The top guitarists can play together without being egotistical. YOu need to grow up. Great interview by the way. It definitely showed me the other side of Kerry King in comparison to his aggressive music.
    powerage225
    goddamn you cant go on the internet without hearing about how somebody hates a band anymore all I've got to say is that I'm pissed we never got to see the BLS/Damageplan/Slayer tour
    recliner33
    If you ask me, Lombardo is the bread and butter of the band. Sure the other guys in the band might have some talent, but without Lombardo they are horrible. Pretty much the only reason why I still occasionally listen to slayer is because of the drumming. Kerry King's guitar playing just bores me sometimes and so many of their songs sound the same.
    slayersaves22
    slayer is the best thing in metal, there would not be metal if it werent for slayer, i couldnt car what ppl say about slayer solo's king and hanneman own all. SLAYER RULZ!!!
    fritodip
    slayer sucks dick from the back. they are a sad excuse for metal. No real metal comes from the states. it's all in scandanavia.
    El_Bozo
    E V H 5150 wrote: This guy seems so...conceited. Not really Slayer fan, myself. But let me say this: If this guy were to do a shred off against Randy Rhoads, Slash, or EVH, he wopuld get pwned soooo bad. (assuming we found a way to resurrect Randy) And what's wrong with jamming anyway? Is he saying that his stuff is too good to come out of a jam? I can get a lot of ideas from jamming. Maybe he's just not that creative. It's heavy metal; it's basicly screaming and drop tuning anyway, right? Not much creativity...
    I'd rather listen to a version of G3 when 3 great metal players make new versions of their songs, combining their style, and a couple of new ones/covers then a random shred off. Seriously music also isn't about skills and such. Aperantly you don't know whats metal is about. Even if it is drop-tuning and screaming, still it's bvetter then cramming 40 notes per second which have absolutely no context to song whatsoever. I agree with ss311, you need to grow up.