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

artist: Slayer date: 05/18/2007 category: interviews
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Slayer's Kerry King: 'We've Never Tried To Be Anything We Weren't'
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 at this location.
2007 Joe Matera
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