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There are great bands, and then there are legends. Slayer are undeniably legends of the metal genre, veteran warhorses carrying on with the battle after literally decades of spreading slaytantic chaos and aggression across the land. Now, it seems Slayer are crushing all with more power and force than ever before, with the current inclusion of original drummer Dave Lombardo in the touring lineup. Indeed, Slayer are the only members of the big four 1980's American thrash acts (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer) now touring with their "original" (most classic) lineup fully intact. The Metal Update marked the occasion by catching up with guitarist Kerry King in the midst of the band's U.S. tour with Soulfly and In Flames for a quick chat.

METAL UPDATE: This tour is just flooring fans everywhere. You really have been busting out with an amazing set list. Are you playing the same songs every night?

KERRY KING: Pretty much. Although we did make some changes for the second night in New York. We changed, I don't know, five, six songs of the set - just throwing stuff in there to get people talking - to say, well, I'm glad I came this time because they played shit I didn't see last night.

MU: In the past when I've seen you do shorter sets, it seems like, for the old fans anyway, you guys have played the same songs every time, most of which I admit are fairly mandatory. But this time around it just felt really fresh.

KK: Yeah, it's tough, when you're playing 50-60 minutes and you've got 8 - 9 albums to choose from - that's a tough setlist.

MU: What are the most obscure songs you're playing on this tour?

KK: We play part of "Haunting the Chapel".

MU: Was that what you were jamming right before "The Antichrist"?


KK: Yep. The show at Universal Ampitheater [in Los Angeles, the show I was at] might have been the first day we played it because we had Tom and Dave learning it.

MU: What else?

KK: Those two, "Spill the Blood". We're playing "In the Name of God" tonight, which isn't old, but we haven't played it in a while. "At Dawn They Sleep", the intro to "Seasons" we haven't played in probably 2 - 3 tours.

MU: Who puts together the setlist?

KK: I put a list together and show it to the guys, and I'm pretty in touch with what I think we want to play. I think I know what the fans want to see, and songs I think will go over well live that maybe I didn't like on the album, but you bring it up and it's like, "this part will be really fucking heavy live!" Like, "In the Name of God" is a heavy, heavy tune - it's heavier live than it was on the record for sure.

MU: Who wanted to play "At Dawn They Sleep"?

KK: Well, we've had that in and out of the set, and I'm pretty sure we played that at one point or other on the last album cycle. So I just brought it up, and it's something that, on this tour we didn't have time in between to do a lot of rehearsals, so it's like, what can I bring up that Dave wouldn't have a problem with? And that was one of them. Anything he's played on, he's going to grasp quicker than the stuff Paul did.

MU: What did you play when you mixed up the set at Roseland the second night?

KK: Oh, we played "Spirit in Black". We played "Death's Head". We played "Bloodline". We played "Altar of Sacrifice", "Jesus Saves". We opened with "Payback". . .

MU: Holy shit! [I'm exclaiming for "Altar of Sacrifice" into "Jesus Saves," and to a lesser extent, "Spirit in Black"]

KK: Yeah, we just mixed it up and threw in some extra songs in there. We substituted - I don't mean to say we added - we still played 19-20 songs.

MU: So what didn't get played that night?

KK: We didn't play "Chemical Warfare". We didn't play "God Send Death". We didn't play "At Dawn They Sleep". We just interchanged, you know, cause you know some of those kids paid both nights.

MU: That's really cool. It's like the Grateful Dead mentality or something.

KK: Our fans are like Deadheads, you know, and a lot of people - I'd say probably half of that audience saw both shows - so I want to give them reason to come back again.

MU: Do you think there's anyone following the tour around in a van?

KK: I hope not, because we don't have that many songs! (laughs)

MU: In Flames are opening up on the tour, what do you think about them?

KK: Um, they're all right.

MU: Did you know who they were before this tour?

KK: They've done a random show or two with us in Europe the past couple years. I guess musically they're pretty happening, but not that entertaining to watch for me.

MU: Why do you say that?

KK: I need to be entertained, you know, anybody can play fucking guitar.

MU: Are you familiar with any of the Gothenburg bands, like Dark Tranquillity or Arch Enemy?

KK: Arch Enemy tried to get on this tour too.

MU: What do you think of them?

KK: To me it's Euro-metal, you know? It might be the next thing, a lot of people say it is, but I'm into more aggression.

MU: How do you define Euro-metal?

KK: More melodic. More like souped-up Iron Maiden.

MU: Are you more into Euro-metal or nu-metal?

KK: Neither, I'm more into thrash. (laughs)


MU: What do you think of that trend of baggy-pants rap- metal type bands?

KK: I guess it was a necessary evil, to infuse some life into a maybe dying genre. You know, anything grows another head and spews off into another direction. Death metal, you could say it came from us, but we're not really death metal anymore.

MU: Do you accept the title of Godfathers of Death Metal?

KK: Well, who else would it be? Venom? Maybe Sabbath on a much earlier note, but that was just dark heavy metal. I guess, death metal, you had us, you had Venom, you might even put Mercyful Fate in there, I don't know. . .

MU: When I talk about the big four thrash bands, do you know what I'm talking about?

KK: Oh yeah. That's thrash. You can't put death metal on any of those bands, not even Megadeth with "deth" in their name.

MU: Do you ever think about the fact that of those four, you are the only band sporting the 100% original line- up?

KK: Not really. We're not really legacy-heads, so to speak, you know. We don't think about what we've done that often. . . until we do interviews and people bring it up. We just carry on. This is what we do. Slayer just happens to be the conveyor belt that brings what we do to everybody else.

MU: Do you give a shit about the "metal scene"?

KK: Um, I get a lot of new CDs from friends, or people I see backstage. RoadRunner generally gives me new CDs of bands that want to open for us, so I check them out at least. You know, I'm not saying I'm going to get past two songs and they're going out the window. But I check it out like, you know, Godsmack, Linkin Park, I check them out to see if I can figure out why they're selling, you know, what's so great about this?

MU: Why do you think they are selling?

KK: Well, Linkin Park just writes catchy fucking tunes for a very young-oriented crowd. Young people are very susceptible to what their friends are listening to. They are catchy as fuck, you gotta give the guy credit.

MU: Does Slayer take anything from that kind of sound?

KK: I don't think so. But I listen to it. I try to understand why it's big. I mean the screamer in that band, what's his name, he's got a killer scream, but every time they come on the radio now I have to change it because I was force-fed it so many times.

MU: There are a lot of people who would cringe at the thought that Kerry King would endorse Linkin Park, you know?

KK: Well, that wasn't an endorsement - I said the screamer could scream. (laughs) You know, Sebastian Bach can scream too, but what the hell has he done lately?

MU: Are you having a good time with Lombardo on the tour?

KK: Yeah. Awesome. You can tell when you watch him play - he's having a fantastic time. I don't know what kind of pop he gets with Patton or Grip, Inc. or anything like that, but we get a huge pop when we hit the stage. There's nothing like it.

MU: I've seen interviews where you were afraid that an older guy couldn't keep up with the new material on the drums.

KK: Yeah, well, before I knew, I didn't think he could.

MU: Had you guys sort of lost touch?

KK: Over the last ten years, yeah. If I'd see him at a gig, I'd say "hey" and that was about it. It was a necessary healing period for whatever we went through. But everybody's over that, you know, nobody brings it Up. Nobody's got any old bad vibes or anything.

MU: I keep waiting for you to announce a new drummer, but Dave's still there.

KK: Yeah, well, we put all of that on the back burner because we've got the original guy playing with us. He's playing well. He's having a good time. So I, myself, am definitely not going out of the way to confuse the issue and say we need to find a drummer. Let's wait until the end of this tour and see what happens.

MU: Is there any chance Dave will play on the next record?

KK: I wouldn't say there's not.

MU: You know that's what the fans want.

KK: Oh yeah. I mean it's pretty much, if he wants to, I'm pretty sure Jeff and Tom would be down with it. I'm totally down with it because he's doing a good job.

MU: What did you think of the Testament record he played on?

KK: That was ok.

MU: What do you think of Testament generally today?

KK: Well Testament was always a good band. They didn't always make the best record on the planet, but they've definitely had good songs over the years.

MU: What about Overkill?

KK: You know, I still see them kicking around in Europe when we've been over there, I've seen them playing, but I haven't heard anything they've done in years.

MU: Do you care about the heavy metal underground, and do you think Slayer has a role in it?

KK: I think. . . I don't know. . . maybe even grunge, or maybe when Limp Bizkit started getting big, we pretty much became underground again. We were famously underground, you know what I mean? (laughs) Last tour, I'm seeing a lot of people come out, a lot of new fans. There's definitely a buzz on this tour, so if we come out with some more stuff in a timely manner, maybe we'll ride that wave up again. . .

MU: Would you do Ozzfest again?

KK: We got offered this year, but I didn't want it.

MU: Why not?

KK: A number of reasons. For one, I don't like to play every other day. I don't want to play at five in the afternoon for forty-five minutes in broad daylight.

MU: And then play the same six or eight mandatory Slayer tracks.

KK: Yeah. And all our fans are a hundred yards off in the cheap seats. You know, we could be doing our own show like we are now - indoors, with a mood, and play a whole set and headline.

MU: It's way better for the fans, but for heavy metal in general it's kind of cool for there to be a true metal band on a tour like that too.

KK: Well, if we were playing closer to dark, like if we were second on the bill, I'd consider it. But I wasn't a real big fan of the bill either. When I heard about the bill, they were talking about having Tenacious D on there, and I was like, man, this is a parody.

MU: What do you think of Meshuggah?

KK: Meshuggah is a really good band, they're just a little too out there for me, you know? (laughs) It's just like, what the fuck are these guys doing?

MU: How about Down?

KK: Down's a little tired for me, you know, I'm not a stoner, so. . . To me, that's killer fucking stoner swamp music, but I've heard Superjoint Ritual, and I like that better, because it's more Pantera-like.

MU: Can you believe Pantera is still out there slogging away?

KK: Well, they're not really doing anything. Everybody's playing around with, you know, their friends. So, to me, Pantera's nothing until they come back and do a record, because who knows if they will.

MU: Who are Slayer's musical peers?


KK: Well, I don't know if it's Slayer's, but I've got people that, to me, are like my circle of guitar friends, it's like me, Dime and Zakk. (laughs)

MU: If you had to pick a few acts that are, not the same because you guys are unique, but in the same ballpark as Slayer, who would they be?

KK: I'll always say Pantera, because they've got - they've got "it." I don't know what "it" is, but they have it. They're a little more bluesy and they definitely have the down south vibe, but "Becoming" is probably one of the best songs ever written.

MU: What about bands from when you first started? Anybody still kicking around?

KK: Ummm, no. I can't say Exodus because they don't do anything. Metallica, you know, they've been pop for years.

MU: Exodus are trying to get it back together.

KK: Yeah, but it's never been the same.

MU: Did you take note of Paul Baloff's passing?

KK: Oh yeah, we knew the day, or a day or two after.

MU: I saw Tom Araya at the Trash of the Titans benefit for Chuck Billy where Baloff and Exodus played.

KK: Yeah, I think Paul went too.

MU: Did you guys consider playing at it?

KK: No. I don't remember why. I think we were coming through there on our own, either right before that or right after that, so it didn't make sense.

MU: Did you know Chuck Schuldiner?

KK: I don't think so. I might have - he might have been an acquaintance, but I never really knew him.

MU: Let's talk about the tour a little more - at the Universal Ampitheater during "Postmortem" there was a video going on the screens in background, what was that all about?

KK: You know, just more icing on the cake from the tour before.

MU: Who made that video?

KK: Our lighting guy and my guitar tech put all those clips together.

MU: Are you showing those video clips at every show?

KK: Well, see, Universal had three screens, we only carry one with us, and that's the middle one. I think we had two in New York at Roseland, but most places we only have the main one. Sometimes they'll have their in-house TV systems, and they'll run it through the TV as well.

MU: What's left for Slayer to accomplish?

KK: See, it's not about accomplishing anything anymore. I've got gold records. I may never get a platinum record, and I'm fine with that. I've played everywhere in the world I could have imagined I would have ever played, and more so. So, to me, it's just keeping the machine rolling.

MU: Are you having fun?

KK: Oh yeah. It's not about accomplishment, it's just about getting this tour done, doing another record and going out again.

MU: Do you feel an obligation to your long-time fans?

KK: Well it's not an obligation - I'm a fan too. And I know what I want to hear.

MU: What were the bands that were your heroes when you were just getting started?

KK: Priest and Maiden. Mercyful Fate even, because, you know, we put our first record out around the time they had their EP out, so I was still definitely in fan mode, but superstar fan - probably Priest. Tipton and K.K., you know, you had me and Jeff, so that's pretty much where we based our two guitar attack from, I guess.

MU: What do think of what Halford and Priest are doing right now?

KK: Well, Halford, to me, is more Judas Priest than Judas Priest itself. Cause I heard "Resurrection" and I'm like, "that's the best Judas Priest song I've heard in ten years!"

MU: Have you talked to Rob?

KK: I've seen Rob - he did some shows with us in Europe recently. We headlined a show in Bulgaria and he played right in front of us.

MU: What do you think of the current incarnation of Judas Priest?

KK: Well, to me, they're failing miserably. And I hate to see them fail, because they're my own heroes, but the songwriting on these last two records, to me, just sucked a big dick.

MU: Could you tell they tried to bust out with a more modern image or something with that 'Demolition' thing?

KK: Maybe a little bit, you know, but they didn't live it, they just tried to supplement it, you know what I mean? If you supplement crap like that, that's not your style and you have no business fucking with it.

MU: You know how you feel about Priest, do you ever worry if you dramatically change your style how your fans would feel about it?

KK: Yeah! Yeah, cause when I was a kid, 'Point of Entry' came out and I was offended. To this day, I'm like, I never want to do that.

MU: What do you think is the worst Slayer song?

KK: My worst one? Fucking - it's from 'South of Heaven' - I always forget the name because I hate it so much! (laughs) "Cleanse the Soul" - I hate that song.

MU: But 'South of Heaven' is a great record.

KK: There's nothing wrong with it. I just don't like that song! (laughs)

MU: You've definitely pushed the boundaries of changing a little bit with some of the newer stuff.

KK: A little bit. Then 'God Hates Us All' comes out and people go, "Whew! Glad that came out!"

MU: So if you were just a Slayer fan, you'd still be into it.

KK: I think so.

MU: What did you think of Iron Maiden's comeback?

KK: You know, I like Maiden, and we did some of the shows when Bruce came back with three guitar players, and it was the most Spinal Tap thing I ever saw in my life.

MU: Why do you say that?


KK: They've got three guitar players onstage and you can't hear any of them until one does a lead. There's something seriously wrong with that. I mean, you only need two, for one thing. You've got Dave and Adrian up there - what the hell's Jannick doing up there?

MU: Why do you think that is - is there some sense of loyalty or something?

KK: I have no idea. I mean, I was baffled. And when I saw them play, it was Nicko, fucking Bruce, and Steve, and that was all you heard. And I was right at the front of the house. (laughs) It wasn't like I was sitting off to the side anywhere.

MU: How many copies has 'God Hates Us All' sold?

KK: You know, I asked the other day, and it's the first time I've asked probably since it came out. He said it was probably around 200,000 or something.

MU: How does that feel to you?

KK: You know, it doesn't matter anymore because I know it's a different day and age of people burning CDs and buying used CDs. It's not like it used to be. If that wasn't around, it'd probably be gold like the old ones.

MU: But that's still a fat number.

KK: Yes, it is. I think so. And we're doing tours right now in markets where everybody's dying but us - we're selling out. So that's what's important to me.

MU: When this interview comes out you'll probably still be on the road - are they any other shows coming up where you think you'll mix up the setlist?

KK: Well, we don't have any two day in a row shows - we don't have any two New Yorks - we're not playing two nights in Chicago or any place close. We really don't need to, but Dave likes to play around with stuff, so now that he's learned all these songs we might, you know, throw some oddballs in. But the main set right now's still got "Spill the Blood", "Haunting the Chapel", "Antichrist", "At Dawn They Sleep" - so people will see stuff they haven't seen in awhile.

MU: Any plans to videotape this tour or do a live record from it?

KK: We've got a live DVD in the pocket already. It was filmed on the last tour Paul did. That's probably going to come out before Christmas. It would be nice to get some footage of Dave now that he's playing.

MU: You can't see him behind the fucking kit though.

KK: Well, as long as he's playing as good as he's playing - I don't care! (laughs)


review of Slayer 'God Hates Us All'

review of Slayer 'Reign In Blood'

review of Slayer 'Hell Awaits' vs. 'Show No Mercy'







Interview: Eric German [ ]
Photography: Cynthia Pelzner [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
Webmaster: WAR [ ]

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