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Singin' In The Rain

Kerry King's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, Part 1

CREEM: Given the election results, do you think we're closer to the apocalypse?

KING: Well, if there's going to be an apocalypse, it seems reasonable that every day we're one day closer to it.

"Man, I've gotta sober up," said Slayer guitarist Kerry King as we get ready for our pre-show interview. He takes the stage at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom in a few hours, but he can be excused for imbibing. It is, after all, the Jagermeister tour, and that green elixr's name and image are plastered all over the venue.

Liquor aside, Slayer is on the road in part to support a new DVD, Still Reigning, which documents a concert in which the band played the entire 1986 LP Reign in Blood. That record, released in 1986, is considered by many to be a milestone—the Pet Sounds of metal, if you will.

"For us, it was the first record where you could hear everything. It was our first time on a major label. We got the reverb taken out. We'd always played fast," said King. "Maybe that was a special time for a lot of people that were into it. I think it was just that we had 10 killer songs and it was cleaned up enough that you could hear everything and it just whacks you in the forehead from top to bottom."

(Which brings up a great image…"Hey honey, remember on our first date when we listened to Reign in Blood?" "Yes, dear, your eyes in the moonlight with 'Necrophobic' playing in the background sure whacked me in the forehead.")

The culmination of that show—as it was in Chicago—was a massive deluge of blood literally raining from the ceiling (during, appropriately, the song "Raining Blood").

On the DVD, the band was doused in blood before returning to the stage for an extra-gory look. King said the vital fluid made playing a challenge.

"That stuff was pure stage blood, and it was thick as hell. I thought it was going to be sticky, but it was like fuckin' oil, so my hand was all over my neck, picks flying out of my hand. It was definitely tough. But the stuff we used in Europe was more corn syrup-based, and we didn't have the initial dousing, so it's more controlled now," King said.

The idea had been kicking around for many years, King said. "People would say 'Why don't you do fire?' Everyone's done fucking fire. You've got to do something unique."

The bloody rain device is a dedicated truss and sprinkler system that uses a unique pump technology. It was designed in the UK and King said there were some difficulties getting it to work in the States at first. But by the time the tour rolled through Chicago, it was in full effect, spewing 150 liters of blood over the stage.

When it came time for the blood, it began somewhat cheezy. Before the encore, roadies were scurrying around, placing special mats on the stage to absorb the blood. Then the song started, with a pathetic little dribbly piss of blood rain. Seemed a little low-rent, kind of Spinal Tap.

Ah, but then the blood started coming...and kept coming. Just when it seemed that it couldn't get anymore over the top, it went a little move over the top. The crowd was slackjawed laughter, wide-eyed amazement and a touch of queasiness.

The blood rain is a fitting celebration for the return of Slayer's original lineup of Tom Araya (vocals, bass), guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo, who rejoined the band in 2003. After this tour ends in December, the band plans to record a new album.

"We had a bunch of new songs done before we started the tour. We did a 10-song demo. Before we left, we were playing 12—Jeff brought two more in. I know Jeff's going to disappear after this tour for a good four weeks. We'll probably pick up and maybe record in February, in a perfect world. Who knows? But we've got a lot of shit already," King said. "It's what you'd expect Slayer to sound like, and Dave's back in the band now, so it probably sounds more traditional."

The band's records have been known to relate to world events in strange ways. Seasons in the Abyss seemed to presage the 1991 Gulf War. The last album, God Hates Us All, came out on September 11, 2001. That record—and particularly the first track, "Disciple," seemed to presciently reflect the terrorist attacks and their aftermath. But that was just a coincidence, King said.

"If every world problem got solved today, there'd be another one next week," King said.

Kerry King's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, Part 2

KING: [On writing the song "Disciple"] Nothing was really going on. I mean, there's wars all the time in the world, but it certainly wasn't pinpointed. It seems like it is for September 11. It seems like it was written about everything that happened after that. I don't know. People are going to start calling us prophets or something.

CREEM: Would you like that?


It seems like the great heavy metal beast, which goes through alternate periods of snarling mass popularity and underground slumber, might be stirring once again.

"It's definitely on an upswing. It didn't bottom out, but it hit a lower point in the late '90s. Now it's just cycling up again. It seems to me that our first wave of popularity was '91-'92, and now we've hung around until it peaked again," King said. "And we're still playing, luckily. If it continues to get more popular, we'll still be at the forefront, I'd imagine."

Who would have imagined that, of the metal bands who helped originate speed metal in the early '80s, Slayer would be the last band standing tall? Metallica has long wussed out, while Anthrax's records haven't been consistently good. 

"First and foremost, we don't give a fuck what's popular. I think too many bands try better themselves by changing drastically. Nine times out of 10, that doesn't work. We were lucky enough to nail what we wanted to do on our first record and just embellish on it throughout our career," King said. "Who was popular a few years back? Korn and Limp Bizkit? Didn't matter, I didn't want to be them. I wanted to be as far away from them as possible because I fucking hated them. We've got the same mentality. We're still a bunch of punk teenagers saying 'fuck you.'"

Brian J. Bowe
November 2004
Photos by Sam Barker, Hangman