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Q&A: Kerry King

The founder and guitarist for Slayer on their first ever India concert, Jeff Hanneman’s condition and the new album


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Thrash metal icons – and one of the Big 4 – Slayer make way to India in four days. Their headlining slot at Vladivar Rock ‘N India in Bengaluru on October 20th will be their first ever Indian concert. In the run-up to the concert, founding member and lead guitarist, Kerry King, spoke to us long-distance from Los Angeles.

There have been a couple of false alarms about your India show. We had heard back in 2010 that Slayer was headed here with Testament. But that never happened.

I can’t believe we’ve been doing this for 30 years and we’ve never been there earlier. And a couple of weeks later, we’re doing Paraguay. There’s still a lot of places in the world that we haven’t been to. I enjoy touring so it’s going to be interesting to get to India. In the next month, I’m gonna be in India, Japan, South America. So my life’s pretty busy.

Have you heard anything about what to expect in India, from your friends in Metallica or Megadeth, both of which bands have been here before?

No, I rarely talk to the Megadeth guys. And Metallica is as busy as we are. We just move in different circles. But the funny thing is I hear from crew people. I actually talk more to crew people than I talk to bands because, you know, crew may work for Megadeth and they may work for us. So they have stories to tell.

The last few years have been pretty exciting, especially the Big 4 tour starting with Sonisphere. I remember [Slayer drummer] Dave [Lombardo] telling me in 2010 that the last time Slayer played with Metallica was way back in the early Eighties in Orange County when both [Dave] Mustaine and [Rod] McGovney were in that band. So, Kerry, how was the experience of that Big 4 tour?

You know, it’s funny. About Metallica, the funny thing about the two bands is that we never really talk. Not because we are at odds with each other. Simply because we were in completely different circles. When we were touring, they were home. When they were touring, we were home. So aside from a couple of shows early on in Orange County like you said, we played maybe five shows in 25 years at random festivals. So it was really cool making that connection. I thought going into that, the whole Big 4 idea was to get these bands together. What I was left with was a great opportunity and a great memory of my own.

2013 is going to be the 30th anniversary of [debut album] Show No Mercy. Do you ever sit down, look back and say, “Wow, we’ve been around for three decades!”?

Absolutely! In the beginning, I never assumed we’d be around 30 years. We got lucky. Our first record went out when me and [guitarist and founding member] Jeff [Hanneman] were 19, Dave was 18, I think [bassist and vocalist] Tom [Araya] was 22. So we were lucky enough to get an early start. And at that time, we got into music to get beer and chicks. And luckily, somebody found us and we got to make a career of it. I think for a lot of bands, their first record is their shot at getting famous. Their second record – they gotta repeat that.

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