Kerry King: King of Pain
“Kerry is the best road tester on the planet, because Slayer tour incessantly,” Bowcott says. “He’s still using the first three prototypes that we gave him. They’re now the only amps in his rig, and Jeff has a few prototypes in his, as well. Kerry hasn’t had any problems with them. We’ve done four runs of the amps now and sent amps from each run to Kerry.”
“Before Marshall even started making the production models they wanted to make sure that the amp was going to stay together and not have issues on tour,” King says. “I’ve been running three of the prototype heads at once, and I have one or two backups that I’ve never had to use. The production models are exactly the same as the prototypes. If for some reason my gear doesn’t show up or gets stuck in customs, I can go to any music store, buy some heads and do a show.”
Marshall is not offering a special cabinet to go with the head; instead, guitarists are encouraged to make their own speaker choices. King uses the heads with Marshall Mode IV cabinets. “This head is made to sound big,” King says. “The biggest sound I can get with a Marshall cabinet comes from the Mode IV cabs.” In King’s rig, the three heads are hooked up to six cabinets in a staggered configuration, with the top cabinet diagonal from a bottom cabinet. “If you turn two of the heads off, it completely changes the tone,” King explains. “I can play one individually and go, ‘That sounds cool, but it just doesn’t have that fuckin’ ugh!’ I’ll dial each one to where I think it’s cool, and when I put them all together it sounds gargantuan.”
While Marshall’s previous signature amps for Slash and Zakk Wylde were limited-edition models, King demanded that Marshall make his amp a standard production item. With a street price of $1,899, the amp is also more affordable than Marshall’s limited edition offerings.
“That was the most important thing to me,” King says. “I didn’t want to make a limited- edition amp. When I tried to get one of Zakk’s amps, I called Marshall way early in the game and said, ‘Zakk’s my friend. I don’t care how much you charge me for it—I want it.’ But I couldn’t get one! If it was that hard for someone who is connected to all these fuckers, I wondered how difficult it was for the kids. The only way you can get one of Zakk’s signature amps is on the secondhand market, by paying two times what it’s worth. I told Marshall that if they wanted to make a limited-edition amp, I wasn’t interested. Kids want to emulate their heroes. If the amp isn’t affordably priced, you’re missing the whole point.
“It would be cool if they wanted to do a limited run of maybe 300 with some crazy graphic on it that would be numbered and signed,” he considers. “I’m not against that. But a product is a product. I want the kids to be able to enjoy it. So many of my friends in the biz have already ordered them.”
As the third guitarist to be honored with a Marshall signature amp, Kerry King enjoys a rare distinction in Marshall history. According to Bowcott, the guitarist has rightfully earned that recognition. “Slayer and Marshall are pretty much synonymous,” he says. “They’ve arguably been one of Marshall’s best and most consistent billboards. They’ve always had a minimum of 24 Marshall cabinets onstage, whenever possible. Right now, they have a total of 58: a wall of 18 on each side and two hanging inverted crucifixes configured from 11 cabs each.
“Kerry King is a consummate professional,” he adds. “He’s been there with us every step of the way on this project, and he’s always been a pleasure to work with. He’s become firm friends with Jim Marshall. He may look intimidating, but he always treats his fans and peers with respect.”
King is equally honored and humbled by Marshall’s acknowledgement of his contributions to the company’s success. “As far as I’m concerned, Jim Marshall is the ultimate rock star,” he says. “He made all of us sound better. It’s an incredibly unique honor to have my signature appear on an amplifier head next to his.”
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