Slayer’s Tom Araya and Kerry King on How Much It Rules to Be in Slayer

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If Black Sabbath is the bride of Satan, Slayer is his trusty whore — they do it faster and more consistently. Guitarists Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, singer-bassist Tom Araya, and drummer Dave Lombardo formed Slayer in Huntington Park, California, in 1981, and grew into thrash-metal titans who wrote tunes about all things sick and twisted — concentration camps, psychotic murderers, war. Today’s release of their eleventh album, the outstanding World Painted Blood, marks Slayer’s last contractual obligation to longtime producer Rick Rubin, which has launched rumors about this being the beginning of the end of Slayer. Vulture spoke with Araya and King about the usual: killing, godlessness, music, retirement, and trends that should die.

True to form, World Painted Blood has two songs that are about serial killers. Why has Slayer always been into psychos?
Tom Araya: Human behavior is an interest of mine. How people act, how people are. The mind can do some crazy stuff, and we have a tendency to write a lot about serial killers and people of that sort. When you step back and look at the whole picture, it’s like, of course — the name of the band is “Slayer.” [Laughs]

“Playing With Dolls” is a chilly track.
Kerry King: It’s totally creepy! “Playing With Dolls” started out as the working title. It was only music at that time, so Jeff [Hanneman, guitarist] started bringing lyrics to it and I saw how the lyrics fit into the song, and I said to him, “I think you should keep that title, man. It’s creepy.”

There’s a lyric in “Hate Worldwide” that sounds like Slayer’s raison d'être: “I'm a godless heretic / Not a god-fearing lunatic / That's why it's become my obsession / To treat God like an infection.” Why is God bad for humanity?
KK: I think it’s force-fed upon people, especially in America and especially in certain parts of America, where it’s just a way of life. People just accept it without questioning it. I think anybody’s entitled to whatever opinion on anything, but I also think you need to suss out these opinions and why you believe what you believe. Just don’t believe blindly.

There are rumors that World Painted Blood is one of the last Slayer albums.
KK: That’s nothing that any of us have talked about collectively. These things come out when we do press. I’m like, “Don’t worry about it! We’ll be done when we’re done.” When we have our farewell tour it’s not gonna be like KISS, it’s gonna be the last fuckin’ one.

TA: The fact is, this is our tenth album with Rick Rubin — our last album with him. What we do after this, I don’t know, because we’d have to decide new details and do a new contract. How people do records and how people create has changed so drastically. After this, we gotta sit down and talk.

Slayer is approaching its 30th year. If you could go back in time and give yourselves some advice, what would it be?
KK: Pay more attention to the mix in [1994 album] Divine Intervention.

TA: Don’t forget the video camera! It would have been great to have documented this crazy ride.

What’s popular in metal right now that you wish would die?
KK: There seems to be a plentiful amount of metal bands that are like, religious, so to speak. Personally, for me, it’s an odd thing … bands that are doing metal, but they’re singing, like, Jesus metal. And I don’t mean Stryper. When I hear them I’m like, “Oh they’re one of them Jesus bands.” It’s enough of a distaste to me that I don’t even want to hear it.

TA: I don’t watch anything that tells me what’s going on today in the world as far as music goes. I don’t care. I’m in Slayer. I like Slayer. And that’s about it. Slayer.