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Line up:

Tom Araya – lead vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitars
Jeff Hanneman – guitars
Dave Lombardo – drums

Just about a couple of hours before their show in Helsinki, we had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Kerry King from Slayer, a man who doesn’t need any introduction, I’d say. Sitting in the backstage with also Gary Holt, who’s replacing Jeff Hanneman at the guitar, here’s the conversation with this icon of Thrash Metal:

Marco: So, I was afraid when I saw that Jeff got sick and then also Tom had some health problems, that maybe you couldn’t have made it here for this gig tonight. But luckly you and Dave are not the only ones here!

Kerry: Yeah. We are ready to play man! The shows’ve gone good.

M.: And I saw instead that yesterday [in St. Petersbourg] Mustaine didn’t feel really good.

K.: Yeah, I think he played five songs?

M.: Pretty much, it didn’t last more than half hour it seems. You know what might be the reason?

K.: I haven’t really talked to him about it. If they wanna announce something they’ll announce it.

M.: From what I heard it was probably some sickness. But anyway, how is Gary Holt fitting into Slayer?

K.: [points at Gary sitting on the couch nearby and laughs] Gary’s doing a good job.

Gary: Thanks man!

K.: He was my first choice and luckly he said yes!

M.: And it’s interesting to see that now there’s Gary playing with you guys, Andreas Kisser [Sepultura] playing with Anthrax instead of Scott Ian...

K.: Yeah, I just found about that the other day.

M.: ...I think it’s quite interesting for the people to see them in these shows.

K.: Anthrax’s going on without skipping a beat, you know, it’s really good. I am excited. The Ian/Andreas thing, that sounds pretty cool. He’s a good player that hasn’t got to do a lot of big shows, so it’s cool for him to be able to jump on that jet, on the "Anthrax ship", and get a bit of a taste of the Big Four shows, ’cause that’s gonna be gigantic.

M.: Yes I think that it will be a really good occasion for him. And what about you guys, are you going to play maybe some Exodus cover during this tour?

G.: I’m still learning Slayer’s songs! [laughs]

K.: Yeah, he’s learning our songs, and I haven’t learned... I know a handfull of riffs of Exodus songs. And people are coming to see Slayer, you know. If we were gonna do a big headline show, where you play like an hour and a half, maybe I’d entertain the idea.

G.: This is my vacation from Exodus, I ain’t fucking that up!

K.: [laughs]

M.: Alright! [laughs] But I was thinking, since you have now this Big Four thing going on, is it just because the "Big Four" are considered those four bands, or there is some other reason for that? Because for instance Exodus, or also Testament are two really good bands.

K.: We gotta put it in perspective. We didn’t name ourselves the "Big Four", the media did. We didn’t have anything to do with it. We just were playing and they said "you guys are the Big Four!". Then I went like "Alright...".

M.: You guys do something with bands like Testament and Exodus as well!

K.: I think it could be the Big Four with some other bands. Just get everybody to be a part of it.

M.: Like a "Big five" or "Big six"?

K.: Yeah, everybody could be a part of it. That’d be cool.

M.: Since you have played with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax together, and now you’re touring again with Megadeth, how is it to tour with them, after you guys’ve been around for so many years?

K.: I don’t see Megadeth that often. They play their show, and usually Dave wants to take off. So when Dave takes off everybody takes off. You probably see them maybe like once a week. It depends on the travel too, because we’re travelling, and we’ve a crazy schedule right now. Actually I probably see them more on the Big Four shows. Here we aren’t just, having time for each other... They got their show, we got ours, and we’re all on different schedules.

M.: And can you say now that everything is completely fine between you and Dave?

K.: Yeah! Yeah, we were fucking around out at the airport today.

M.: Ok, because after last autumn, when you played with them on stage, everyone was like "wow, Kerry King with Megadeth, amazing!".

K.: It was amazing, I got on stage and played a song with them!

M.: Are you going to do that again?

K.: I don’t know. He [Mustaine] hasn’t asked me to on this tour, so... I’m sure he’ll do that at some point.

M.: I guess a lot of people would like to see that.

K.: Ah, it was cool! We might do that again.

M.: Instead I’ve read that Mustaine and Megadeth has been also working on the new material. They have a few songs ready, and said it will sound a bit like the "Endgame" album. Did you have time to work on some new songs for Slayer as well?

K.: Not really. I’ve got some ideas, but I haven’t put the songs together yet.

M.: So you’re not yet beyond the "World Painted Blood" album.

K.: No, I mean, we haven’t even been in South America yet, we have to stop there in that tour happening in June... We haven’t got to do a lot of the "Painted Blood" stuff, so we’re doing it now. Like I said I’ve got ideas for songs, but I haven’t put more than two riffs together.

M.: Ok. And are you satisfied with the outcome of the album?

K.: Oh yeah! Yeah, I want to play it more actually.

M.: And how do you and Jeff usually come up with those riffs that made Slayer songs famous?

K.: We just play the guitar untill we hear something we like, you know. And tape it on something, tape it on the phone, tape it on a cassette player. Just so that you can remember it, and come back to it when you get riffs that sound good together. You get a handfull of riffs, two of them might go together. You put those together and you build it from there.

M.: Which is your favourite Slayer song then?

K.: I don’t think I can pick one.

M.: And about your favourite riff?

K.: Riff? Probably... [There are] A lot of great riffs, but probably my favourite song to play is "Raining Blood".

M.: Changing topic, some people believe that when you played in the debut album of Beastie Boys in the ’80ies, you became some sort of pioneer of nu-metal.

K.: Well, if they think that, I apologize completely. [laughs] It wasn’t my fault man!

M.: What’s your opinion instead about the Thrash metal scene nowadays, compared to how it was like 20-25 years ago?

K.: It’s cool. The heavy hits are still playing, and since then we had bands like Machine Head come out, and Arch Enemy, In Flames... I call them Thrash, but they are very "heavy", interesting bands. You know, I think it’s cool.

M.: Did you happen to listen to some new interesting band in the past few years?

K.: Naa. I wish there were some new bands coming out. ’Cause... Don’t seem to me like anybody else have any originality.

M.: Yeah, I’ve always wondered what would be like when the older bands will call it a day.

K.: Yeah, there is supposed to be [Judas] Priest’s last tour this year. It’ll probably end next year, depends on how they’ll drag that stuff out.

M.: I actually find it hard to believe that.

K.: Could be, man! They’re going out.

M.: Since it seems we don’t have much more time, I would like to conclude with this question: How do you think that the music scene, and your life, would have been if there wasn’t Slayer?

K.: A lot shittier. Definitely a lot shittier. And a lot of bands wouldn’t exist. I think most of us, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Megadeth... Everybody, we wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for guys like Toni Iommi, Glen Tipton, and [Iron] Maiden. And there’s a lot of young people that would include us in that. So, no, it’s cool. I’ve thought about that, but... My life without Slayer would be... I probably would have never left the country, and it’d be a very boring life!

Intervista di  Marco Manzi

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