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Slayer’s Kerry King Talks Touring, New Album Progress, Jeff Hanneman + More

Kerry King
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Slayer‘s iconic axeman Kerry King was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s radio show this past weekend. The guitarist took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the band’s current tour, moving forward without the late Jeff Hanneman and the progress of work on the group’s next album. If you missed Full Metal Jackie’s show, check out her full interview with Kerry King:

It’s Full Metal Jackie! On the show with us, once again, the one and only Kerry King from Slayer. How you doing, man?

What’s happening, I just got done with rehearsal, so kind of burnt.

I bet. Slayer of course, has the North American headlining tour. The band’s first in two years. It runs through the end of November and you guys have been touring the summer with Paul [Bostaph] and of course Gary Holt. At what point over the last five months did you know that this lineup of the band was ready to go into the studio, or work on new music?

Well realistically, as soon as Paul got with us, I started teaching him new stuff because I’ve got probably thirteen, fourteen songs. So when we didn’t have any touring schedule that we had to learn stuff for, well let’s take this time to get yours and my chops up together to work on this new stuff so when the time comes, we’ll already have 90 percent of the work under our belt.

Kerry, metal fans around the world were terribly saddened by the death of Jeff Hanneman. Will his style and what he brought to the band continue to influence Slayer’s legacy even after he’s gone?

I think so, because when you play guitar opposite somebody, Jeff with myself or myself with Jeff, I think our styles get fused a bit. I think in some of the things I write, I think people are going to say, “Wow that sounds like Jeff wrote it, stuff he would have wrote, had he written anymore, people would have said, ‘Man that sounds like something Kerry would have wrote.’” You know, we’ve been together so long that we kind of fuse ourselves into each other. I think it’s going to be business as usual going forward, just one member less which sucks for everybody.

This is the first full-blown Slayer headline tour in quite a few years. What are you looking forward to the most about it?

Yeah, this is the first one in at least six or seven years. Every time we’ve come to the stage it’s either been on Mayhem or Slayer / Manson tours or Slayer / Megadeth tours so we might have maxed out at an hour and five, an hour and ten, but on this one you can expect an hour and thirty, or an hour and thirty-five, which we haven’t been able to do on the stage in a very long time, and I enjoy doing full headline sets because if you’re the actual last person playing most people spent their money to come see you. So I want to be able to give them something they’re going to remember for the first time in quite a while.

What can we expect from the setlist from the rest of the tour. Will you be debuting any new music prior to releasing it?

No new music. I think it’s far better that people to know our music before they come see it because it’s either so intricate or so fast that you can’t really wrap your head around it. It’s just not conducive to the good fan-band experience. I know there’s YouTube and it would be up the day after we play it, but I also believe that people should have the recorded version so everything sounds how you want it to sound, and then when they see it live they know what to expect.

I’ve got to say, I agree with you when it comes to hearing new music for the first time. I don’t know if live is the best way to hear it first. I like to get to know the music first before I see it the live setting.

Yeah, there’s too many variables live for my taste. I think the song would be performed well. I think it would come off well, but if any mic goes down or somebody breaks a string — there’s too many variables in a live scenario to hear something for the first time, I think.

Going back to the summer, I know you guys did a lot of touring overseas these last few months. That first show without Jeff after he passed must have been hard.

It’s hard — it would have been a lot harder if it was with somebody we hadn’t played with. Gary’s been with us for two and a half years, so it was as easy for us as I think it could have been. In the face of tragedy, let alone adversity, you’re in the face of tragedy. We’re going to have to deal with that for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of time, as long as there’s a band. To lose somebody and still be a prominent band and still move forward is kind of unheard of. We need bands and people move on and do something else, but to have somebody that’s been a songwriting member of your band for the better part of thirty years, and they’re not there anymore, that’s a little bit different. I’m sure we’re going to be learning how to deal with it in the years to come.

Do you ever question the future of the band?

I haven’t. I’m one of the people that was always of the opinion that if me, Tom or Jeff wasn’t in the band, it probably shouldn’t be Slayer. But I was always thinking of if someone quit, not if someone died. It’s a little different for me. Now, I’ve got my songwriting partner taken away from me, it’s not like he left. I’m still in a place where I have to work and I don’t want a new job, I like my job.

We touched on working on some new music. Anything you can tell us about a timeline or what we can expect or when?

My personal timeline, which never makes any sense, is to go in and start working on something in January. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish. Paul and myself have worked on stuff to the point where so much of it is 80-90 percent polished. We’re looking to be so well schooled in the new music that when we actually do go in, hopefully it takes less time to record. That being said, we’re looking at January. Hopefully having a quick recording cycle, because I already have seven songs done lyrically which is unheard of for me. Hopefully it makes it all go quicker. I would love to have a record out in May. Before all the summer festivities, be it Europe/U.S., whatever.

Kerry, always appreciate you being on the show. I’ll see you out there. Psyched on the prospect of new music in 2014. Keep us posted.

I shall.

This coming weekend, Full Metal Jackie will welcome Pantera / Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.

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