Don't judge a book by its cover... and so on. That's what they always say, and it seems 'they' might be right.
Gearing up to interview Kerry King, by far the most aesthetically intimidating soul in music, I got ready for a rough ride. Shouting, standoffs, arguments -- I expected all of 'em when dealing with Slayer's beast of a guitarist. After all, any man with his entire head tattooed can kick your ass, my ass and both of our grandfather's asses at the same time.
Little did I know he'd turn out to be the nicest musician I'd ever interview.
Promoting their fierce new DVD War at the Warfield [American], I got Kerry to discuss everything from Slayer's controversial past -- including claims of being Nazi sympathizers -- to the current state of metal. Of course, that's after I was greeted with a friendly "Howdy!"
Dig in, Slaytanic Wermacht:
I love the ferocity of the new DVD, man. Howíd the audio come out so clear? Did you have a role in that?
Probably none, dude. We were just showing up, doing the gigs, and the recording part was all the production company.
How important was it for you to get a live DVD out for fans that for some reason or another never got to check out a Slayer show?
That was kind of another impromptu story. We werenít in the market to do one, but we always thought they were cool. So the company approached us, and asked if we were into it, and I said ĎShit yeaí, I love doing that stuff.
(A slight tinkling sound wafts through the telephone)
Just so you know, Iím not pissing -- Iím watering my trees. I have to leave for New York tomorrow.
Iím pretty sure one of the fans interviewed in it is that guy Dax from Ashton Kutcherís show on MTV Punkíd. Any word on that?
Really? No, but Iíll have to check that out.
What role do you feel that Slayer has had on the current state of metal?
I think metal recycles itself every interval. When itís on an upswing like it is now, labels go to sign tons of bands and thatís what ends up killing the genre, and it just has to regenerate. Then you get some bulldozers like us who are able to come through and kick the scene back up.
Iím not one to go tooting my own horn. Iíve heard lots of people say that weíre legendary and things like that, but I donít go around thinking it. But thatís not to say that when I hear some bands I donít think ĎGee, I wonder where they got that riff.í
Many would argue that Reign in Blood is the best speed metal album of all time [Editor's note: to set the story straight, my vote goes to Master of Puppets]. With the genre damn near dead aside from Slayer and a few other bands, do you think the tradition will die?
Chimaira is very old school, but this new record of theirs is awesome. Killswitch is awesome, and their record could have come out in 1990 during the climax of it all. Nobodyís writing riffs anymore, so when they do it and intertwine the drums, not too many are able to do that.
Do you think the criticism Slayer took in the 80s of being Satanists and Nazi sympathizers was unjust?
I think in Europe it was bigger than everything, but they had to deal with Nazis in the flesh. But, I think they jumped on the bandwagon and said ĎYou guys were praising Nazis,í and we answered to that for many years. Itís not whatís going on in our music, and those guys were just making it up.
Do you think bands in the future will be able to tackle the same issues?
The European media will always try to put words in your mouth. A billion times a day I say Ďno I didnít mean it like that, I said this. If you want to think thatís what I said, knock yourself out.í They always twist it.
Whatís your take on the fans coming to Slayer shows now? Do you think thereís a large portion latched onto the new metal scene rather than the diehards of old?
It definitely regenerated itself, and our management of course is thrilled to death. Itís not just all the 80s and 90s fans now. Thereís lots to be said for that. I canít explain why they come to us and nobody else, but it works for us. Maybe itís cause we didnít shoot ourselves in the foot or make many mistakes.
As if itís not ironic enough that it was released on 9/11, were you surprised at all at how relevant the lyrics to God Hates Us All became after 9/11?
Instantly. I donít remember anybody calling me a prophet before. Especially ďDiscipleĒ and ďPaybackĒ, those were relevant that day! We were supposed to fly to Europe that day to tour with Pantera. It was weird getting on a plane right after that. I donít think it helped the album. Slayer fans bought it, but they would have anyway. Our fans arenít gimmicky like that.
Lots of people credit Rage or Limp Bizkit with sparking the whole rap metal movement. Do you get pissed knowing that you played guitar on the Beastie Boys License to Ill album in 1985/86?
Not really, cause I donít want to be associated with that becoming so big. Iíll let Anthrax take that glory. But you can pair it up with Ice T too. Our song on the ĎJudgement Nightí soundtrackÖ I knew he was the only rapper who could pull it off.
Do you ever think people will wake the fuck up and stop blaming teenage troubles on heavy metal?
No, because America is a place where you can sue for getting tissue paper thrown at you. I can sue someone for walking on the side of the road because it affected the shade on my side. Itís pointing the finger. Whatever the situation is, the music isnít what sent that kid over the edge. If he was listening to it that day, or he was a big fan is irrelevant. I grew up listening to Judas Priest, Sabbath. I do play in Slayer, but I do think Iím pretty normal.
Yeah, I must say Iím a bit thrown off at how nice you are. I was expecting to get scolded and yelled at. Iím actually sort of disappointed.
Fuck you! Iím hanging up!
Finally, after 20 + years of doing interviews and publicity, whatís the one question from journalists that you hate answering the most?
Just a general question, ďDid that hurtĒ (referring to his tats), and I get that almost every day, almost to the point where I want to just wear hats all the time. Whatís stupid is people with tattoos ask that too. For years and years the most painful part to get done was my fingers, but then I got the back crown of my head, and that was just miserable pain. Maybe that was my tender spot.