Slayer: Grave New World
Originally published in Guitar World, November 2009; photos by Travis Shinn
Slayer continue their quest for global domination with World Painted Blood, their annihilating new album. Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King talk about working hard, playing fast and living life on the dark side.
"Have you ever seen someone and the thought comes in your head that you just want to... kill 'em?”
Coming from most any other human, this line of questioning might be surprising. But when the human in question is Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman, it’s par for the course. He is, after all, the dark-spirited counterpart to Kerry King, his co-guitarist in Slayer. “But why would you do it? Why would I do it?” Hanneman continues, as he cracks open a second Corona. “I think about that more than I should.”
Hanneman is airing his most sinister thoughts as we settle into our booth at a Mexican restaurant in Chino, California. Paradoxically, he happens to be very happy, and with good reason. Slayer have just put the finishing touches on their 10th full-length album, World Painted Blood, and by all accounts the record is a thrashing tour de force that continues in the vein (no pun intended) of Christ Illusion, the group’s 2006 return to form.
“Christ Illusion was the first album of pure attitude we did since [1990’s] Seasons in the Abyss,” says King, who credits Christ Illusion’s success to the return of original drummer Dave Lombardo following a decade-plus break. “We messed around and kept our bit of fame, but when Dave came back was when we really started getting big again.” More than 25 years into their career, at a time when most bands their age are simply reheating the hits on nostalgia tours, Slayer are bigger and more vital than ever. Christ Illusion debuted at Number 5 on the Billboard charts, and fans worldwide came out in droves to see the original lineup—which includes vocalist/bassist Tom Araya—tear it up on multiple headlining tours, big-ticket gigs with Marilyn Manson and the mega-metal Unholy Alliance Tour.
It was on the wave of this success that Slayer entered the studio in October 2008 with producer Greg Fidelman (Metallica, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson) to begin tracking World Painted Blood. “Dave was in a real ‘Slayer’ mood,” Hanneman says. “He was on fire and loving what he was doing. Plus the band was getting along better than in previous years. Not that it’s been bad, but because Dave was in a good mood we’d go into practice with an idea, jam it out and have fun.”
Those initial sessions resulted in three Hanneman-penned tracks, including the break-neck single “Psychopathy Red,” which was released as a limited seven-inch vinyl disc in conjunction with national Record Store Day on April 18. Afterward, the band took a break for the holiday. When Slayer met back up with Fidelman in March 2009 at L.A.’s Pass Studios, they hammered out the rest of World Painted Blood, taking a more spontaneous approach than they had for Christ Illusion. King says, “With Christ Illusion, we were ready for so fucking long before [the record company] even allowed us to record. This time, we weren’t prepared at all. At the beginning of the week, Jeff would come in with a new song to record, and we hadn’t even played it yet.”
For years, King and Hanneman have been Slayer’s primary songwriters, and they remain so. While they used to collaborate closely, the songwriting process has become an increasingly solitary one for the guitarists since 2001’s God Hates Us All. It has less to do with artistic friction than it does with simple logistics. “It’s not because there’s something bad between us,” King explains. “It’s because we’re maturing and growing. We also live further apart, and by the time we go into the studio the shit’s already done.”
Hanneman adds, “In the old days Dave was hard to get a hold of, too. We’d say, ‘Come to practice at five,’ and he’d show up at seven. So Kerry and me would sit there and work stuff out together. But nowadays everybody’s more professional, so we tend to write on our own.”
The guitarists’ songwriting process may have changed, but the good-natured competitiveness that fueled some of metal’s most memorable riffs is still alive and well. “In the early years there was a lot of competition,” Hanneman says, with a laugh. “Now I don’t really feel that I should be playing to beat Kerry, but I definitely want to impress him. It’s not about winning or losing, because we’re on the same team.It’s healthy form of competition.”
Slayer may be entering their most productive, responsible and affable period, but one listen to World Painted Blood reveals that the guys haven’t lost their signature hardcore metal edge. It’s more like they’ve honed it. Written against a backdrop of economic collapse, the swine flu epidemic, foreign nuclear threats, protracted war and a general sense of increased global unrest, World Painted Blood’s tormented sounds, pit-inducing riffage, logic-defying solos and demented lyrics are as relevant, and vicious, as ever. From the determined marching-beat of the midtempo “Americon” to the ripping thrash punk of “Hate Worldwide” and “Psychopathy Red,” the album is a terrifying collection of squealing and distorted classic thrash. In other words, it’s Slayer just the way we like them.
When Guitar World arrives at Slayer’s rehearsal studio in Chino, King and Hanneman are geared up and raring to go. The band has finished all tracking and punch-ins, and Fidelman is completing final mixes for World Painted Blood. The guys have just wrapped up two weeks of intensive rehearsals and are about to kick off a short tour, dubbed Canadian Carnage, with coheadliners Megadeth before jumping on this summer’s mammoth Rockstar Mayhem Fest with Marilyn Manson, Killswitch Engage, Bullet for My Valentine, Trivium, Cannibal Corpse, Job for a Cowboy, Behemoth and others.
In the following interview, Hanneman and King dig deep into their pasts to reveal the at times dark details that ultimately led them to their latest, bloodiest creation.
GUITAR WORLD To kick things off, I’ve always wondered about your first guitars and amps. Do you remember the first instruments you picked up?
JEFF HANNEMAN I think it was a Fender Reverb amp, because that’s all I could afford. It wasn’t very big and it didn’t even sound that great. I mean, it wasn’t a Marshall. My first guitar was a Les Paul that I bought off a friend for 500 bucks. I worked a long time to save up enough money for it. I did telephone solicitations for the marshals—you know, the police. I would call old ladies and say, “Can you give us money?” [laughs] And I was actually good at it! I was selling that shit, because I wanted that Les Paul. Then when I had enough money to buy it, I immediately quit.
GW Kerry, what were your first instruments?
KERRY KING Man, I think my dad lived vicariously through me. He would get the [local classified paper] Recycler all the time to see who was selling what. I played whatever caught his eye in the paper, because back then I didn’t know what I wanted to play.
My dad had a Gibson ES-175 lying around the house, and I learned to play on that for a while. He also had a Fender 1963 L Series Strat with a tobacco sunburst finish, which is probably worth a ton of money right now [roughly $30,000]. But we traded it for the B.C. Rich Mockingbird that I eventually used on our first album, so it served its purpose well. Thank you, Mr. L Series Strat.
When I started doing shows, I had a Fender Super Showman, but it didn’t take me long to get the Marshall thing going. My practice amp back then, which I still have today, is a Fender Super Champ. Those things are awesome.
GW Did you take lessons?
KING I took lessons for the first 18 months. My teacher was this doctor of music theory, which to this day is a topic I know nothing about. But he taught me how to structure leads with whatever rhythms are behind you. I went back to the same teacher before Seasons in the Abyss. If you listen to the leads on South of Heaven and compare them to Seasons, it sounds like a different guy. South of Heaven is a guy who didn’t care and just made up some horseshit leads. But I started seeing my name in guitar polls and I thought, If I’m in these polls, I’d better at least know what I’m doing. So I started paying more attention and putting respect into what I was doing with my instrument. I’m sure I still don’t do it “right,” but it makes sense to me.
HANNEMAN I took a few lessons, but I really sucked at it because I didn’t want to be taught by anybody. Kerry and I actually met at that place where I was doing the phone solicitation job. He was in the building trying out for a band. Because I was always working there I knew the musicians and I would hang out and play guitar with them once in a while. So Kerry was there and he looks over at me and goes, “You wanna start a band?” And I’m like, “Yeah, why not.” Kerry had been playing a lot longer than I had; I was still learning. I knew right then and there that I had to learn how to play guitar really quickly or I wouldn’t be able to be in the band. As Tom likes to say, “The next thing you know, Jeff’s writing all the songs.” [laughs]
GW Jeff, were your parents influential in helping you get into music?
HANNEMAN Kerry had the supportive dad and got all the money and stuff from him. My dad was one of those hardcore guys that would say, “You’re never gonna make it.” [laughs] But there’s no bitterness there. [laughs] Fuck it, I don’t care. Kerry was just brought up differently than I was. Plus, it’s irrelevant now, isn’t it? But I just loved music: from Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, all the way to Sex Pistols and punk. Then one day, I can’t tell you at what exact age, I just realized that I wanted to play guitar because it was cool.
GW So you were listening to lighter stuff like Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Can you point to a moment in your own past that led you down the path of extreme metal?
HANNEMAN I guess Zeppelin is some happy stuff compared to us. It’s pretty hippy, too. The only thing I can put my finger on is, back when I was listening to Zeppelin and Aerosmith and whoever, I remember always liking the heavier songs. I knew that if I were ever in a band it would be all about being heavy and dark. At this point it’s an unwritten rule for us to always sing about the dark side. We just do it. But I do know that in the beginning I always hated the love songs, and the happy, hippy ones, too.
KING Sure it’s a nice, sunny day here, but the world is not all flowers. And there’s five billion bands singing about the flowers. I just like to put things in perspective…hardcore style. [laughs] And I’m not into the flowers, anyway. [laughs] I don’t know the exact thing that made me so aggro. That’s something for the psychoanalysts to figure out.
GW Were you rebellious as kids?
KING Not really, because I was always worried about ramifications from my dad. My dad is 40 years older than me, and both my parents are old-fashioned. I stayed in line or I’d get hit. My dad would make me go out and pick the tree branch that I wanted to get hit with. I’d be like, “How about that little one over there.” [laughs] Or he’d cut off a piece of the garden hose. That’s true fear, man. Now if you hit your kids it’s, “Oh, that’s wrong.” Fuck you. I got hit and I’m fine. Or maybe that’s exactly my problem. [laughs]
HANNEMAN Wow. I’ve never heard that story. My dad was very into discipline, too. But I still rebelled. Me and my dad were so much alike that we would just butt heads. I pretty much hated him from the age of 16 to 24 for no real reason. My mentality was that I’d never let him win. I remember every once in a while he’d grab me by the throat and I would be like, [assuming a defiant stance] “Come on!” But after the age of 24 he became my hero. I loved the guy to death.
GW So, Kerry, you walked a pretty straight path when you were younger. Were you good in school, too?
KING Yeah, up until my senior year when I found chicks. [laughs] Then it was all over. In junior high I got the math award for the whole school, and by 12th grade I was in math analysis. But when I found girls, numbers just didn’t make sense anymore. I didn’t get it. And I used to own that shit. It’s weird how quickly it fell apart: A’s, A’s, A’s, D’s. [laughs]
GW Let’s talk a bit about the writing for World Painted Blood. Since 2001’s God Hates Us All you guys have been mostly writing independently and bringing in tracks for the rest of the band. What are your home-demoing processes like?
HANNEMAN I have a drum machine at home that I use to work out my stuff. Then I come to practice with a CD and say, “Here’s the song idea, what do you think?”
KING I basically map out the song at home so I have a method to my madness when I come into the studio. I have this old cassette player that I got from Radio Shack. It’s the same thing I’ve been using since Slayer’s beginnings. I just never graduated to the drum machine and the four-track like Jeff. I don’t know how he has the patience to do it, because Jeff is not a patient man. [laughs] I’d rather play guitar and keep my ideas happening than have to stop and play around with the drum machine. I know in my head what I want the drums to be like, so when I go in I just convey that to Dave. It’s funny because we were rehearsing for this album and I’d be bringing in cassettes like, “Well, here’s the new song.” And they had to look around to find something to play it on. [laughs]
GW Since you’re writing guitar parts without drums, were there any instances on World Painted Blood where the riffs that you brought in didn’t work with Dave’s drums?
KING Sure. For this recording cycle, I brought in a couple of riffs that didn’t work when the beats were added. The one riff on “Snuff” is like a nine count, which was interesting to work out. It wasn’t until I showed Dave that I realized we needed to have an industrial-sounding snare that he would hit nine times, following me.
GW You and Jeff also play some crazy dual-lead sections on that song.
KING Yeah, we’ve been talking about doing more of that. Double leads are always an afterthought. I don’t know why, because isn’t that the point of having two guitarists? So this time I was keeping that more in mind, and “Snuff” is one that actually blossomed into having two big double-lead sections in it.
GW When it comes to actually sitting down at home and writing riffs, do you have certain rituals you follow?
HANNEMAN A lot of times I’ll be playing while I’m drinking beer and watching hockey or football with friends. But then I’ll get an idea and be like, “See ya!” I’ll take off down to my music room and record it real quick before I forget it. Because when I forget it, it’s usually gone. But most of the stuff that I come up with is something I’ll hear first in my head. Then it’s the process of trying to match that thought on the guitar. That’s what happened with “World Painted Blood.”
KING The best thing for me is to be in a quiet room where nothing’s happening. If I’m watching TV, I’ll be paying too much attention to that, or I’ll make up a riff and not even know that it’s good. I definitely want to have silence so I can concentrate on what I’m doing. Then I’ll just noodle around, and if something catches my ear, I’ll put that on tape.
GW What’s your preferred environment for writing lyrics?
HANNEMAN Lyrics are a different thing. For lyrics I like to get in a dark mood. I like to be alone, and I usually don’t drink. I like drinking when I come up with guitar riffs, but not when I’m working on lyrics. I’ve found that you can really reach the darker side when you’re sober. [laughs] I just sit there by myself and think about things and write down a bunch of ideas and dark thoughts. Then I put them into verse form.
KING I definitely need to concentrate, too, because you gotta think about rhyming and being poetic and that sort of thing. When I sit down to write I have my dictionary and synonym finder. I’d rather write without those things, but if I can’t think of the right word then I’ll use them. You need ideas that make sense, not just mindless, drug-infused cock-eyed shit. [laughs]
GW Do you keep a journal with all these ideas?
HANNEMAN I have a notepad that I write all my ideas in. You should see it. It’s got all kinds of crazy stuff on it that you’d recognize from the last few albums.
KING I probably use one notebook binder per record. If some ideas don’t get used, I yank them and put them in a folder for later. Sometimes I have all the lyrics before we start recording, but for World Painted Blood we were recording the entire time while I was writing lyrics. This was a very weird process for us.
GW Slayer are known for their taboo subject matter. Is there any topic that is off limits for you guys?
HANNEMAN I think the only thing we wouldn’t hit on is rape. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anyone like this, but there’s this certain type of man that just hates women. I’ve met a few of them and it’s like, “What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you hate women?” We have wives, mothers and sisters, so rape is the one thing we haven’t touched on. Except for necrophilia, which is the dead, so who cares. [laughs]
KING Huh. I don’t think there are any areas I wouldn’t explore. I mean, Jesus Christ, Jeff can write about the Holocaust but he can’t write about rape? That’s bizarre. I’m not saying it to one-up Jeff, but the topic of rape is not tootaboo for me.
GW Jeff, on “Unit 731” you dig deeper into Word War II subject matter, this time dealing with atrocities that Japan committed [Unit 731 was a covert Japanese unit that experimented on human subjects during WWII]. How did you first get interested in WWI and Nazi history?
HANNEMAN My dad. He was a military guy. He got drafted and went to Germany to fight in World War II . When he came home he had a lot of German medals that he took off dead Nazis. Years later he was cleaning out his drawers and he gave them to me. I was like, “These are kinda cool.” That’s when I started getting into medals and the World War II thing. Plus, I had two older brothers that were in Vietnam.
GW So coming from a military family, how did you manage to stay out of the service?
HANNEMAN I escaped it! [laughs] Nah, I was just too late. Both my older brothers were drafted. I probably would have gone, too, but I was born too late.
GW Have you added any new medals to your collection?
HANNEMAN I got a real nice German Knights Cross, but I’m not collecting anymore. I was really into it in the late Eighties. I still have them set up in my music room where I write, though.
GW “World Painted Blood” has a lot of Biblical imagery, like “Angels fall wings on fire crucified” and “Gomorrah’s dream to live in sin.” Do you read the Bible to look for these kinds of descriptions?
HANNEMAN I’m just a regular atheist. The whole Bible thing is interesting, but I don’t believe it. But I do go back and read it a little bit to refresh my memory. I think Kerry does that too. And Tom, well, I think Tom’s a Catholic, so he’s actually religious. I really like that aspect: Tom has to sing all the bad shit that me and Kerry write. [laughs]
GW You guys also dip into political subject matter with “Americon.” What’s the inspiration behind that track?
KING I’m not the most political dude on the planet, so it’s odd that “Americon” came out of me. My inspiration behind that song comes from the idea that Europeans think all of America’s wars are about oil. So I wrote about it from their perspective. And I was even thinking, Well, maybe we are actually like this. But I don’t care what anyone thinks of my government. This is one of the best places to live.
GW How do you feel about President Obama and the change in leadership?
KING I think it’s a good thing, because the Republicans fucked up a lot of shit. For a long time I thought I was a Republican, but now I think there’s things in both factions for me. If I had to tell somebody what I was, I’d say Independent. Once this election started to come around, I was telling people that our next president would be either a black man or a woman. I’m not the fairest dude on the planet, but it’s good because it gives black kids an incentive to be president. I think that’s what a president should do.
GW Can you guys talk about what you think is the difference between your styles and how that makes up the balance and tension in Slayer?
HANNEMAN I just think my style is a little darker. We both write stuff that’s fast, but I think I write the darker, more evil stuff.
KING A buddy of mine has a wife who’s a big Slayer fan, and he played her “Psychopathy Red.” And she said, “That’s not Kerry’s song.” I was like, “How the fuck did she know that!” Because it really sounds like it should be my song. Like Jeff said, people tend to think my songs are more aggro and Jeff’s are moodier. But that’s not to say I won’t write a moody song and he won’t write a fast one like “Psychopathy Red.” We are individuals whose styles are very different, but we can each do what the other guy is doing, too.
GW Guitar players often say that Slayer’s solos don’t “make sense.” What governs your approach to soloing?
HANNEMAN Nothing. [laughs] Kerry took lessons; I learned from scratch. I just picked up a guitar and started to play. I don’t know anything about scales or notes or stuff like that. When it comes to solos, I just go off. I don’t know where the proper note should be, and I don’t care. [laughs] But I think it works real well with our music. It’s just so off the wall and crazy. It’s like, “What the hell are they doing!” [laughs]
KING Like I said earlier, around Seasons I went back to my original teacher and did some brush-up shit. So for Seasons, I probably had like 80 to 90 percent of my solos mapped out. Then I was talking to Dime [Dimebag Darrell] one day and I said, “Dude, I got all these leads mapped out and they sound badass!” And he’s like, [in a gravelly southern accent] “King, don’t forget to do what you do best: line them up and just make some noise!” And I’ve done that ever since. Now I make up 75 to 80 percent of them and I wing the rest of it.
GW Do you ever write stuff that’s not right for Slayer?
KING No. Because even if I played with anybody else, what I contributed would be very much Slayer. The one time I almost played with Dime, I called him up and I’m like, “Dime, I got this idea for a song that you gotta do with me.” I told him how we should cover “Snortin’ Whisky” by Pat Travers. He learned it, and we were planning to do it, but Damageplan were doing press for New Found Power and he didn’t have time. I didn’t want to rush it, because I figured we could do it anytime we wanted. But of course, that never happened.
HANNEMAN I write tons of stuff. I’ll just get up one day and throw some drums down on the drum machine and start writing. Every once in awhile a riff comes along that’s worthy of Slayer. In fact, that’s where some of my best riffs come from: when I’m not thinking about Slayer. I’ll be jamming on some bluesy stuff, having fun, and then I arrive at something heavy. I hate sitting down and going, “I’m going to write a Slayer song.” It’s not gonna work that way.
GW Do you save those, and if so, would you ever considering putting them out as a solo project?
HANNEMAN I listen to them all the time. I’ll probably listen to those going home tonight. But I wouldn’t consider putting them out until Slayer is done. I wouldn’t mind doing something else, but I don’t know what that would be yet. Because, in case you didn’t notice, Slayer is pretty fucking cool. [laughs]
GW Let’s talk about working with producer Greg Fidelman. What did he bring to the process?
HANNEMAN He is an excellent producer and great to work with. The last producer we had, Josh Abraham, was sitting there on his laptop the whole time while we were recording. Every once in a while he’d look up and say, “Yeah, that sounds good.” Then he’d go write back to tapping the computer keys. That guy was an idiot. But Fidelman is excellent because he really gets into it. World Painted Blood was recorded so well that it captured exactly how we sound at rehearsal.
GW Did Greg’s engineering work on Metallica’s Death Magnetic influence your decision to go with him? To my ears, the production on World Painted Blood—specifically how everything is situated in the mix—has some of the same flavor as Death Magnetic.
HANNEMAN I haven’t listened to Metallica in a long time. Maybe Kerry or Tom did.
KING Yeah I listened to it, but it had nothing to do with choosing him.
GW Did you like the Metallica record?
KING It’s better than the last one… Now, that’s a very safe comment. [laughs]
GW Did you use any new gear on World Painted Blood?
HANNEMAN My gear is all the same. I got my ESP with the EMG-81/85 pickup combo and the EMG-SPC [Strat Presence Control]. I like more chunk when I get to the slow stuff, so I’ve been using a gate, which works great. For this recording, I used a Dunlop Zakk Wylde wah, a Boss RG E-10 [graphic equalizer], and two Marshall JCM800s that ran to two Marshall MF400B cabs and Greg’s Orange cab.
KING My seven-string is new. It’s a B.C. Rich Warlock with a Kahler bridge. It has a Trans-Black finish with my tribal graphic over it. It came out really cool and spooky looking. I have EMGs in it, too. My main guitar for tracking was my B.C. Rich V with an EMG-81 in the bridge and an EMG-85 in the neck, along with an EMG PA2 [preamp booster switch] and a Fernandes Sustainer. Last album I used my prototype head, but this time I played through the Marshall KFK 2203 head that anyone can go out and buy. I used that with my Marshall JCM800 “Beast” and Greg’s Marshall and Orange heads, and we mixed all the sounds together to create my main tone. For leads, I added a Boss RG E-10 EQ to the JCM800 “Beast” and used either a Zakk Wylde wah or a classic Dunlop Cry Baby wah.
GW I heard that [Dimebag Darrell’s commonlaw wife] Rita brought Dime’s original Dean from Hell down to the sessions. Did you end up using it?
KING Rita’s a good friend, and Dime was a good friend, so Rita decided to bring my boy’s Dean from Hell down to the studio for inspiration. But I didn’t end up using it, because the guitar is set up very differently than my guitars. We had everything set up to support my EMG pickups and the Kahler.
GW In the past, Kerry, you’ve tracked all the rhythm guitar parts. Why is that, and did you do that on World Painted Blood?
KING I did track Jeff’s rhythm parts, and I used his rig and guitars. The only reason is that I usually track my stuff first, so I’m already dialed in to what the track is all about.
HANNEMAN Plus we both have different styles. We play well together, but we play a little differently. I learned a long time ago that if one guy plays both guitar parts it sounds much better. I just chose to let him do it because he’s usually quicker than I am. He’s not quicker in speed; he’ll just get it recorded faster. I fuck around too much. [laughs]
GW Kerry, do you ever track Tom’s bass parts to keep things moving in the studio?
KING If Tom wants me to. [When we were tracking] this album, he didn’t even know half my songs, because we made them up so quickly. He only came in a week before we went in the studio. I already knew them, but if he wanted to play them I was like, “Sure.” My idea of a perfect bass player is [Judas Priest’s] Ian Hill, who stands back there and plays his root note. I’m a guitar player—what do you expect me to say! [laughs] But sometimes after I get the two guitars down, I’ll sit down and write a third harmony for the bass. I did that on the intro to “Atrocity Vendor,” which came out really cool.
GW I also want to talk a little about Dave’s signature style. What about Dave’s playing makes him the perfect drummer for Slayer?
KING The oddness of Dave is that he’s a left-handed drummer playing a right-handed kit. Maybe that’s responsible for some of the bizarre stuff he pulls off. Other than that, even today when we play live he’ll make up stuff on the fly, and hopefully we’ll all land on the same spot. But it’s that recklessness that keeps us focused. The only thing you hear coming out of the monitors on my side of the stage is me and Dave. No vocals, Hanneman or anything. I need to hear myself and I need to follow Dave. Any more is just extra noise.
GW You guys are obviously in full-throttle Slayer mode right now. What you like to do when you’re off the clock?
KING I’m a football fanatic, and I also raise snakes. I got my first one after our first U.S. tour, when we used to stay at fans’ houses because we didn’t have any money. We stayed with a group of people, I think it was in Houston, who called themselves the Doom Society. They had a boa constrictor and they named it Slayer. So when I went home I got one and named it Venom, because I was way into that band back then. I stopped raising snakes in the late Nineties, because it was becoming more time consuming than my band. Then years later, when I met my wife, she wanted to get a snake, and I got back into it.
GW Jeff, you have pets too, right?
HANNEMAN I’ve got two Rottweilers. They’re the coolest. They love you to death. One is called Guderian Von Himmel, after the German General [Heinz] Guderian from World War II. The other one is named Slezia, after a German territory that used to be in Poland. My wife and I do serious commands in German, because if you say “No!” they aren’t going to listen. But when you say, “Nein!” they pay attention.
GW Before you join up with Manson for this summer’s Mayhem Fest, you’re heading out on a short Canadian run with Megadeth. Kerry, I know in the past you’ve been pretty outspoken about your less-than-positive feelings toward Dave Mustaine. Have things cleared up between you two?
KING I just don’t have any respect for Dave. As far as playing goes, I can’t take anything away from him. He’s awesome. But I know things. That’s not like, “Ooh, I know things.” I just know he’s a hypocrite, and I have no respect for that kind of person. But when I see him I’ll say, “What’s up Dave?” If he’s not an asshole to me, I won’t be one to him.
HANNEMAN Oh, it’s gonna be good. [laughs] I’m looking forward to it. If nothing happens between them I’m probably gonna have to instigate a little bit. [laughs] I like Dave, and obviously Kerry, but I also like to watch a good fight.
GW It seems like you guys have refined the Slayer sound to its most powerful state on the past two albums. At this point, do you feel you’ve perfected the formula?
KING If there is such a thing as perfection, I’d say we’ve got it. I think we’ve added every aspect we want to add. When AC/DC puts out an album, I want it to sound like fucking AC/DC. We’re the thrash version of AC/DC. It’s what our fans want to hear.
GW This record is the last in your commitment with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings. Tom has stated that the band would sit down and discuss whether it was right to continue playing music. What are your thoughts on this?
KING If you asked me 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have said that I’d still be playing today. But then I go out and watch someone like Dio, who still sounds just like his records—and he’s 60 something! But I can’t imagine, even if I find the fountain of youth tomorrow, that I’ll be playing at 60. Slayer is an event. It’s not just listening or watching—it’s everything. And when it’s not able to be that anymore, I don’t want to do it. That said, I still feel young right now and I still enjoy playing. There’s gonna be a time that maybe Tom pulls the plug and says, “I don’t wanna headbang anymore. My throat hurts. I’m tired of this.” But that’s something we’ll all have to decide ourselves. But I’ll tell ya one thing: it ain’t gonna be me.