Interview: Slayer (Kerry King)
Thu, 17 Dec 2009 15:36:39
"Driving to LA today the traffic was somewhat forgiving," chuckles Slayer riffmaster Kerry King with a smile.
Slayer's latest masterpiece, World Painted Blood, is not forgiving in the slightest though. In fact, it's the most undeniable and brutally unforgiving metal record to shatter eardrums and split skulls this year. It's also Slayer's best offering since Seasons in the Abyss.
World Painted Blood is the kind of record that makes you think, while it bludgeons you into submission. The lyrics traverse family-friendly subjects from genocide to snuff films to religious hypocrisy. No one is spared from Slayer's sonic cleaver either—no one, man, beast or divinity.
Slayer's Kerry King sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about World Painted Blood, similarities between Slayer's music and movies, the story behind "Snuff" and so much more.
World Painted Blood feels like your most cinematic album. If you could compare it to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you liken it to?
That's a bizarre question [Laughs]. Well, it's definitely going to have some scary stuff. It's not goofy like Sam Raimi, so I can't say Drag Me to Hell—probably Saw at its best, Hostel or something like that.
It could be Saw meets Apocalypse Now.
There's definitely war in it!
When you approach writing songs do you have specific stories in mind?
When I make up music, I may have a title or I may not, but that has no bearing on how I write the music. Usually, music's done first. This time, I had some titles that I knew I wanted to use, so I could think of the music that best suited the titles. For instance, I thought "Public Display of Dismemberment" was the most radical title that I came up with, so I put that on the most radical song.
"Public Display of Dismemberment" shows how dynamic the album is. It's got light-speed riffs, but there are a ton of catchy hooks.
It came together cool, man. We're all pretty proud of it. There's no rhyme or reason to it other than the fact that we played differently. We recorded and made things up in such a condensed manner. That hasn't been our style in years. I think that helped create what World Painted Blood sounds like. That's the only reason I can think of because we didn't do anything else differently.
Was the album recorded over a short period of time?
We put some of it together in the studio. When we went to record, we only had about five or six songs done. We had to come up with five more. We had ideas, but I hadn't even shown some of them to Dave or Jeff.
"Snuff" just rips. What's the story behind that song?
I just listened to that! It's funny because World Painted Blood came together so quickly that I'm not tired of it. I have a car, and my wife and I have a truck. If I'm out by myself, I'm usually in the car, and I've got that in my player. I never play my own record when I'm done with it, but this one came together so quickly that I'm not tired of it yet. "Snuff" was the last song I wrote. I was out of ideas pretty much. I did a lot of writing while driving. I would go home, and I live about an hour away from the studio. Believe it or not, that's a great time to think because you're just driving. Driving doesn't really require thinking, it just requires your attention. So my mind wanders while I drive. I made up tons of lyrics. I'd type them into my phone. I'd have papers on the passenger seat that looked like chicken scratch, but I remembered what I was getting at. One time I went home and saw a buddy of mine. He said, "Here's the DVD I was going to give you." I totally forgot what it was, and he handed me a documentary on snuff films. I went, "That's it!" The next day I went to the hotel, and I finished that song in like three hours. It came together really quickly and easily for some reason. I never watched the DVD either [Laughs].
"Americon" stands out too.
The riff is very memorable. It's almost anthem-y in a way.
Where does World Painted Blood stand in your catalog?
I think everything we've done this decade is pretty awesome. It's funny. I take our career in thirds. There are the first five records that we did. Then there was the '90s. The once we started up with I>God Hates Us All, it seemed like we got back on track again. I think the '90s just fucked everybody up, with all of the stupid fads that got popular.
With God Hates Us All, you embraced a new energy. It bubbled more on Christ Illusion, and then exploded on World Painted Blood.
Yeah, it's definitely another upswing. For Christ Illusion, Dave came back. It's really fun working with Dave. When he got back in, it'd been enough time where it was no skin off anybody's ass. Everybody was happy to see each other. He's really enjoying himself on this tour. He's having the time of his life. I don't know. I guess it's good timing.
Do you enjoy writing lyrics?
Yeah…if I have something compelling to write about. I think that's a problem with a lot of our contemporaries so to speak. They just make up this story, but nobody cares about it. I'm not saying I've got my hand on the pulse of it, but trying to come up with compelling, sometimes frightening things to write about, keeps my attention better.
The record's only eleven tracks, but you say everything you need to say in that span.
That's another thing we did in the '90s—we got caught up in that whole thing where people just fill up CDs with music and generally it's just filler. It's garbage. By the time I figured that out, we were going into Christ Illusion, and I said, "How many songs did your favorite records have when you were a kid?" When you think about it, it's just ten, period. That's the way I want to do it. If we didn't put "Psychopathy Red" on there, we would've just done ten songs, but since everybody had access to "Pyschopathy," we wanted to add it to the collection.
Tell me about the tour with Megadeth in the U.S.
If you became a fan of either of us since 1990, you've never seen us play together. So I think it's pretty cool. That's a long time. It's 19 years—more than many people's careers [Laughs]. Dave's always been a great guitar player too! We were supposed to play Madison Square Garden, until we had to manipulate our dates and we lost the building because things get booked so far in advance there were no other openings. Now, we're playing the Izod Center in East Rutherford. We haven't played MSG in a long time though, that would've been really cool.
Would you ever want to write a movie some day?
I don't know if I have the patience for it. You could probably write a screenplay out of a number of our tunes, have a starting point and elaborate on it, I'm sure. We just saw that movie The Box. My wife was telling me that was originally a short story and look it's an hour-and-a-half movie now. All you need is a premise!
What makes the "Kerry King" sound?
It was trial-and-error until I landed on something that I liked.
Well you really hit the strings hard…
Live especially! That's why I always say, if you want a perfect performance don't come to see us play because we're visual as well. If I just wanted to stand there and replay the record note-for-note, that's not interesting, at least it's not what I think is interesting. I like that missed note, and that chord that's a little bit bent sharp [Laughs]. It happens so quickly, you don't notice it. If there's no bump in the delivery, people don't notice.
Are you writing at all now?
We should be! We have this down time, but I have all of this construction going on at my house, so I'm a little sidetracked. We're not touring, and I'm like, "This is a great time to get some songs in the bag for the next record." Hopefully between now and when we leave, I'll get two or three ideas down just to have something to start with whenever we're done touring.
You're obviously excited about the shows in Europe with the other "The Big Four"—Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth…
That's the first time ever this is happening. It's really legendary. It's groundbreaking. I don't think people realize how big of a deal it is. Mustaine said something like, "It's the biggest four metal bands from America," and I never thought of that. I just think of metal as metal and I thought, "No shit, we are one of the four biggest metal bands in America. That's pretty cool [Laughs]."
Back on the movie subject, there are correlations between a lot of Slayer songs and Se7en.
Yeah, I love that movie—"Seven Faces," all kinds of stuff. If I'm writing, I like to lead you in a direction and then take a left turn that you didn't see coming [Laughs]. It's very movie-like.
Check out Rick Florino's new novel Dolor available now for FREE here…