SLAYER's KING: 'It's Essential To Emulate Your Heroes To Help You Find What You Need To Become'

Steven Rosen of recently conducted an interview with SLAYER guitarist Kerry King. A few excerpts from the chat follow below. Do you listen to new bands in any serious way?

Kerry: I get CDs probably more than anybody in the band because I do more signings than anybody and people always bring 'em out. My rule of thumb is if somebody has time to give me a disc, I got time to listen to at least a couple songs eventually. So, yeah, I listen to a lot of stuff. What about touring with bands like LAMB OF GOD and CHILDREN OF BODOM? Does what they do rub off on SLAYER at all?

Kerry: We've played with LAMB OF GOD and BODOM. I just saw BODOM in Japan; they played the same show we did. I loved 'em. We've been on tour with them many times. "World Painted Blood" presented a slightly different wrinkle inasmuch as you wrote the record in the studio instead of having the material prepared before you started recording? Do you think that lent more of an organic and cohesive feel to the record?

Kerry: Yeah, that, and also what I think really affected us was consciously making sure nothing sounded the same. We wrote so quickly that it's really easy for songs to sound similar. So I know I went out of my way to make up riffs that sounded different than songs I'd already done for this album. So I think that made it overall more cohesive. As a songwriter and a guitar player, you were trying to stretch yourself?

Kerry: I think that's just part of being a guitar player and making up new music. Like I always try to think of things that I don't think I've heard before or haven't necessarily heard SLAYER do. Like on this album, "Snuff" opens with a tradeoff lead in the beginning. And I know we've started songs off with leads but I don't think we've started one with a tradeoff. Even in that song there's a recurring double lead later in the song which I know we've never done. So even though people have done that, we haven't. And if I can ever think of something I've never heard anybody do, yeah, I'll definitely try to get that happening as well. Because you write so many of the riffs in the songs, do you already have a sort of pre-conceived idea of what the solo is going to be? Do you come in with solo ideas or are they off the cuff?

Kerry: I generally go in with like 75 or 80 per cent figured out and then I go into record one that I made up in my room. Even though it sounds cool in my room, once you get in there playing it to the track, it may not be as cool as you thought it was so that might have to morph once I'm in there recording. And then there's ones where if it's gonna be a whammy fest, have fun on the trem bar, I might have a couple notes that I'll get to. But Dime told me ages ago as one of my pieces of advice that I kept from Dime, "Do what you do. Don't make up everything when you've had success. Just go in there wreaking havoc with the whammy bar." So I kind of do that today. I go in like I said maybe 80 per cent ready to rock and then room for embellishment. On the other side of things, are there times when a section really doesn't work or you've missed the mark with the solo?

Kerry: Oh, absolutely. I look back at "South of Heaven" as one of my low-points as a lead player because I just went in there and half-assed everything. I saw myself turning up on guitar polls and I understand they're popularity contests but if enough people are paying attention, I should be paying attention and I should be doing something better with what I'm doin'. That's why I went back and took some lessons before "Seasons in the Abyss" and brushed up on how I should be approaching leads and stuff like that. Going back to the beginning, what does "Show No Mercy" mean to you now?

Kerry: Well, sonically it's pretty horrible [laughs]. People ask me if I ever get bummed out by people that sound like SLAYER on their first album? I'm like, "Why would I? Our first album is fuckin' IRON MAIDEN here and there." It's essential to emulate your heroes to help you find what you need to become. And I don't think we really landed on that until "Reign in Blood". I think we were still lookin' for it and that one kind of filled it up for us. I think people gotta start somewhere and emulating a hero is a good place to start. Where would you have been if SLAYER hadn't won the Grammys and sold all those records? Would you still be doing it without the success?

Kerry: It's hard to say. That's a very open question with lots of ways for things to go down. But it's safe to say that. I mean if this ended tomorrow, I would probably continue to play with Dave [Lombardo] because Dave has loads of fire left. And I've got loads of friends in this business who would be stoked to play with me and I'd be stoked to play with them. There's so many options for me to play with. People talked about me, Dime, and Zakk for a long time; and people talk about me and Zakk or me and this guy or me and that guy. And that may happen at some point. You bring up Zakk so certainly you heard about Ozzy firing him. Any feelings about that?

Kerry: Yeah, mostly bitter. Zakk is my friend and Ozzy's an acquaintance but Zakk is such a superstar, to see anybody in his place doesn't make sense to me. And just introducing a new guitar player with Ozzy now doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. What's Ozzy gonna do that he hasn't done? Have you heard Gus G. play?

Kerry: I'm sure he's awesome for Ozzy to even breathe his name but there's such a legacy with Zakk. He's such a Rhoads disciple. Hopefully it works out well for Ozz and Zakk's got BLACK LABEL, for sure. But I just don't know. I did the Ozzfest in '08, the one they had in Dallas when they had the Dime tribute. I went up and played with Vinnie Paul and Mike Inez and Chad from MUDVAYNE and later on, of course, there's Zakk playing with Ozzy and he was killing and running around and doing his Zakk Wylde thing. That's a big thing to replace.

Read the entire interview from


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