Slayer: Grave New World
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]