Slayer guitarist Kerry King has long been one of the most outspoken members of the heavy metal community. When we spoke to him for this week’s Slayer feature, there were plenty of topics he touched on beyond what ended up in our final article. Below are just a few of the opinions and anecdotes shared by King during his 90-minute conversation with L.A. Weekly.
On seeing Van Halen live as a teenager:
“That was when Eddie was still an amazing rock guitar player and not trying to be in a fucking pop band! The last truly great Van Halen rock song was probably 'Romeo Delight.' That was the last 'guns blazing' song they did. It’s unfortunate. Can you imagine the awesome hard rock songs we missed out on if they had kept that direction?”
On writing music as soon as Jeff Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis:
“I started working on music as soon as Jeff got injured. [Jeff’s health] was a big question mark. I couldn’t have a question mark looming over Slayer so I had to work on stuff. I’m glad I started when I did. When Jeff passed it wasn’t an instant burden. I didn’t have to make up ten songs on the spot. I already had about eight or nine ready.”
On his approach to signing autographs for fans:
“Without these people, you’re fucking nothing. When I sign my name, I fucking make sure you can read it. I enjoy collecting football cards, jersey pieces and other collectibles. When they don’t take time to write more than a letter and a line … that fucking sucks.
“I saw a kid who had an autographed drumhead from a band we toured with. I asked the kid, 'Who’s this?' He told me who it was, and the guy had signed it with the first letter of his first name and a line, and the first letter of his last name and a line. I tracked the guy down and said, 'You fucking sign this for real! This kid looks up to you and all you have time for is to give him two letters?'”
On transitioning from Rick Rubin's American Recordings — then owned by major label Sony — to heavy metal specialty label Nuclear Blast Entertainment:
“We got this great offer from Nuclear Blast, but we had been with American for 25 years and we wanted to make sure they had an offer. The offer American gave us just fucking sucked. It was obvious that they wanted to move on.
“The difference between Nuclear Blast and Sony is that people at Sony go to work, do their jobs, and get paid. The people at Nuclear Blast go to work, do their jobs, get paid, but they also like what they do. They want your record to succeed more than I even care that it does. I met the owner in Germany, and we got along great. We got drunk as fuck and stayed up watching metal videos until 3 a.m.”
On not drinking before going onstage:
“Some of these fans are spending their last 15 bucks to come see Slayer. I said to myself, 'How dare I go onstage after I’ve had a shot?' When our fans come to see us, who am I to not give them the best show that I can give. I wish a lot of people did that. Just care, man! Plus doing a shot before going on stage gives me dry mouth. I don’t want that shit! After the show, anything goes.”
On playing India for the first time in 2012:
“It was Dave [Lombardo]’s last show with us. We had six or seven thousand people that came out to a field to see us. You would die if you saw how they build stages there. We use two-by-fours and steel scaffolding here. They built their stage from sticks. It was one of the sturdiest stages I’ve been on in my entire life. It was made from actual tree limbs. There was a platform across the top, but everything holding it up underneath was a chunk of wood. It was amazing to me. I stepped on that stage and didn’t feel a bounce anywhere.”
On binge-watching metal videos on YouTube:
“I think it’s a bad idea to put out a live CD or DVD because people live on YouTube. I do. On this European press tour we just did, I was having a heavy metal party night in my hotel room every night watching YouTube videos. One of my favorites is Judas Priest at Rock in Rio 1991. I just found another live clip from Judas Priest in 1978 performing 'Rock Forever.' I couldn’t believe I found something from 1978 by Judas Priest that I had never seen before. I’m up until 3 in the morning when I should be sleeping because I’m just a fan.”
On the lack of guitar heroes in today’s metal and rock bands:
“During the decade before Slayer and decade after, there were guitar heroes … Ted Nugent, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Dave Murray, Glenn Tipton, Tony Iommi. Later on, there was Yngwie Malmsteen. You had guys in the ‘90s like Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell … people that you would aspire to be.
“We were at a festival in South America a few years ago and we were watching a video feed of the band that was playing onstage. I was watching the screen and I just did not get why this band was popular at all. I pulled [Exodus/Slayer guitarist] Gary Holt aside. I pointed at the screen, and asked him, 'Hey Gary, would you aspire to be these guys?' He said, 'Not at all.' It was because they were the most boring and lethargic guitar players I had ever seen. I would never want to be these guys. I’m looking at a lot of these bands and it looks like it’s the road crew sound-checking to me. There’s no vibe. There’s nothing that gives you aspirations to be awesome.”