It's been 16 years since the release of SLAYER's pinnacle "Seasons In The Abyss". Yeah, that was 1990! For most of us it, along with the immortal "Reign In Blood", has remained a defining moment in the band's history, primarily due to the fact that it was the last time its original lineup was intact. After drummer Dave Lombardo's departure, SLAYER remained SLAYER, just not at 100%. Fast-forward to 2006. Now five years since "God Hates Us All", and nearly four years since Lombardo officially rejoined the ranks, the original lineup (Tom Araya - bass/vocals, Kerry King - guitar, Jeff Hanneman - guitar, Lombardo - drums) hits the studio to record "Christ Illusion", their first studio album at full-strength since the highly-praised "Seasons In The Abyss". Suffice to say that expectations are through the roof for this one. How can they NOT be? Again, this is SLAYER after all, and when you've been in a band for more than 20 years consistently putting out some of the most violent, brutal and debilitating music on the planet, that's exactly what your fans are going to demand from you - regardless. Guitarist Kerry King tells METALEATER that anything less than 100% is not an option. On a personal level, he makes no attempt to be anything different than who and what he is. And just like the band's music, it just all comes down to attitude.
You have a new album coming on August 8. How did it feel getting back in the studio with the complete unit... the original lineup?
"It wasn't weird because we'd already been playing together for four years almost. And we'd done it before. I think it was cool that we got to go out on tour for however the hell long it was before we had to worry about recording because if there's any weird vibes, the weird vibes were all gone by then; and there wasn't any, but you never know. So we just got to play and get used to each other and get used to each other's each other's little idiosyncrasies that happen when you play and it probably made things a lot easier than if we just would have jumped right in the studio."
So if I may ask, why the five-year wait between "God Hates Us All" and "Christ Illusion"?
"Well, we toured pretty much non-stop until December '04 and then '05 we just had six weeks of shows in Europe. Before this tour (Unholy Alliance) we had six weeks of shows in 18 months, so we were pretty much fucken toured out, and after we did last Jager (meister) tour we scattered. We fucken went four different ways; probably didn't talk for four/five months... just burned out, you know. We had to recharge. In that time we put out the box set ('Soundtrack To The Apocalypse') and two DVDs, so we kept products coming out that weren't irrelevant products, you know. Like when we put out 'Still Reigning', that's when we did the last Jager tour. So we put something out and toured a little bit and then getting the album done and getting Rick (Rubin) changing distribution companies again, which happens every time we put out a fucken record. Amazing! It's like for the last... this one ('Christ Illusion'), the last one and back to 'Diabolus (In Musica)'. I guarantee you it's been like that."
"Every time. So he's got to sort his shit out 'cause we were ready to go in the studio, and what we did was... that's another reason we put out the DVD. It's like, you don't have to promote DVD; it's gonna sell."
Was that "Warfield"?
"I think it was 'Still Reigning'. But if you put out an album... say if we would have put it out when we were still on Universal, they'd put it out but there'd be no advertising, no follow-up, you know. You don't want to do that, so we had to get that squared away. And this time - the only time it's ever happened - we literally had to beg to get into the studio, because for some reason or another, I don't know if Rubin was trying to fit us into his schedule or what but he said 'No you guys aren't ready.' And I'm like, 'Who the fuck are you talking to, man? I've made a few records, you know.' (laughs) So finally the only way he was going to green-light it - and he held us up... he didn't give us an answer for a while - was if we went into pre-production with another producer, and then we can go. Me and Jeff (Hanneman - guitar) were like 'Well we don't want to do that but if that's the only way we're gonna go, we're gonna go.' So we went in there and did it; met Josh Abraham who is the producer and we were supposed to be there seven to ten days. After three days he's like 'You guys are ready.' I'm like 'That's what I fucken told you!!' (laughs) So I don't know what the fucken hold up was but it is the weirdest thing. Usually the record company is beating down your door to make a record in this time, we were beating down their's. It was weird."
How did the whole recording process go from start to finish - from pre-production to finished product?
"Well, pre-production was so short. The only thing that was good about the pre-production was Josh sat there and just listened to what sounded like live, 'cause he wanted to match that on the record. He was just blown away by certain things... hearing us play as a whole. That gave him direction when we actually started recording."
Before you went in the studio, did all four of you have a set path you wanted to go on? Did you have in mind exactly what the sound would be etc.?
"I mean - I don't how many records - but we've done a lot of records. It's not like anything is going to change. The only thing I did, once I got in there, like for the past at least two records, I would go in and say 'That's my sound - record it!' That's not always the wisest way to go into recording and I realize that and have thought about it. And I was listening to how the guitar sat in the track and I'm like, 'It's too hot.' Sure, my sound is coming out of that cabinet, but from the cabinet to the board it doesn't sound like my sound. So I had to back off the gain, which is like telling a man to cut his balls off, you know. But in the end, you get more tonality out of the guitar as opposed to too much distortion, because if it's too much distortion, you're hearing more (makes white noise sound) than note. So I backed off mine, then I backed off Jeff's and it made for a lot better guitar sound of the album."
The track "Jihad" - what inspired it?
"It's about September 11 from the terrorists' perspective. Jeff wrote that."
Which song was inspired by the war in Iraq?
"Maybe 'Eyes Of The Insane'."
When you're done with this tour you're heading over to Europe for the European version.
"Man, we've got so many things going. I've got like 3 1/2 weeks off and then I'm pretty much rolling until Thanksgiving. We do a weekend in the UK - a big festival - then we go straight to South America; then Mexico, then we're home for like two weeks and then we go to Japan, Singapore, Europe and the UK. That's going to be a long time from home. That's gonna suck. You know what you're out in the States it's not that hard because you can get on the phone - get on the cell phone - call your friends, but when you're two months away and you're going to Japan, Shanghai and Europe, that's just a long time to be that far away from home, you know. You're completely detached."
Is there a point at any time on a tour where you kind of get to that threshold where you're etching to go home?
"Not so much with this one. Fuck, after... I think we were out on tour for like 8/9 days we were in St. Louis and I flew home for the day off, and that's the last time I've been home. But just having the cell phone in your pocket you know, you're in touch. Like if we were doing 8 to 10-week U.S. tours like we did when we were playing clubs; that probably would be a little tiring. Home is going to be really good this time."
One thing I respect about you guys is that you never change. You've always remained true to your music - ballsy music - and you're doing your thing, without answering to anybody.
"That's what it's about. (laughs)"
"That's why people come back, you know. Whenever a SLAYER show goes on for sale in, you're not sitting there thinking 'Man, I wonder if it's going to be any good?' And you know, it's kind of like a guarantee. Kids know that they're going to see a SLAYER show and they're gonna go home and can't wait until we come. With the records it's the same way, you know."
I think that's one reason why your longevity has remained constant throughout your career.
"That's definitely an aspect for sure. But I mean, at the end of the day it's just like... that's who I am. This is what I'm wearing backstage. If you see me at a fucken grocery store at home, I'm wearing this; probably haven't even washed it (laughs). But I'm the same dude at home as I am out here. I don't have to dress up to be SLAYER. I mean sure we put on the black leather and shit for the stage, but other than that back here I mean, this is how I live at home; I've got the boots on. I ain't wearing flip-flops or anything. It's a lifestyle; it's SLAYER; it's me; it's what it is. And kids see me out in public. I'm dressed just like they are, you know, and I think everything we do we relate well in regards to the fans. I think that's how, as a whole, longevity comes around."
Do you have any qualms about going out in public because you're so well known?
"It's getting harder and harder for me. We were in the elevator today, me and Tom (Araya - vocals, bass), and a kid looks at me and says 'You're Kerry King from SLAYER.' He didn't even blink at Tom (laughs). So it's getting harder and harder and you know, sure I'm getting more ink (tattoos) and my beard is getting longer so you know... I stand out in a crowd, but it's really turning on. But you know, as long as somebody is cool, I've got time for 'em. Come up to me while I'm eating, and I might say 'Wait until I'm done eating.' I realized a long time ago the worst thing they're gonna want is a photo and a couple of autographs. That's not gonna take long."
Have you ever encountered any fans that were really crazed or kind of over-the-top?
"Yeah. All the time; (laughs) after gigs, you know. I mean, shit I was walking down the street somewhere in Canada the other day - I can't remember where we were - oh I was in the Edmonton mall... that big Edmonton mall... and you know, kids shake my hand; there's like five of them and they are all like 'Can't wait for the show!' - walks away and screams SLAAAYYYEEER! (laughs)"
Yeah everyone does that. So you've be going at it 25 years now. How much longer you keep going at this?
"As long as it's fun; as long as we can physically sell a show, because I don't want there to be a time where people go see SLAYER and we're just standing around, 'cause us being physical and the lights and what we do... it makes the event. You know, if we just stood around you're taking a piece out of the puzzle." [FIN]
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