Chris Jericho on Being Scared of Slayer, Wearing "Stupid Hats" With Kerry King | Revolver

Chris Jericho on Being Scared of Slayer, Wearing "Stupid Hats" With Kerry King

AEW World Champ picks best Slayer song for wrestling entrance
chris Jericho GETTY 2019, Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
photograph by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

After nearly four decades as revered pioneers of heavy metal and one of the best live acts on the planet, Slayer are nearing the end of their farewell world tour. What will they leave us beyond the fruits of their uncompromising vision: songs, videos, shirts, posters and other memorabilia? For one thing, stories. Lots of stories. So for Revolver's new issue, which features Slayer on one of its multiple collectible covers (you can purchase a copy via our store), we tracked down a few of their many famous friends and fans to compile some of the best.

Here, AEW World Champion pro wrestler, Fozzy frontman and metal fanatic Chris Jericho tells tales of the thrash OGs, from being scared of Slayer's satanic imagery as a kid first getting into heavy music, to the time he tried — and epically failed — to be David Lee Roth while performing onstage in front of Kerry King.

CHRIS JERICHO Well, I was scared of Slayer when they first came out because I was very much into Christian heavy metal and thrash metal, as well. But I kind of stayed away from the satanic elements, which if you grew up and you were an early teenager in '83, '84, '85, it was very prevalent. But my best friend, he was super into it. So we went to a record store. I would go, "OK, I'm going to buy Metallica's Kill 'Em All and Anthrax's Fistful of Metal." And he said, "Well, I'm going to buy Slayer Show No Mercy." And the cover has obviously this horrible-looking demon and swords and just terrible lyrics and antichrist and black magic, 666. I was like, "Dude, I can't listen to that. It's terrible."

So we would always argue about it because I'd go to his house or he went to mine and we would play songs for each other. Like, "You got to hear this new song, this new song by Lizzy Borden." "OK. You got to hear this new song by Slayer, "Haunting the Chapel." It's super fast, super heavy. Here's the thing — people forget just how fast and heavy Metallica was in 1983 because nobody played like that. But Slayer was even faster and heavier and nobody played like that.

They really were a pioneering band. But really the first thing I ever heard with Slayer that I liked was when Hell Awaits came out. Once again, scared of the cover, but the beginning of it has this really cool two or three minute intro that's all kind of a mid-tempo, very groovy and some backwards messages that we thought, "What does that even mean? It sounds so cool." Then it just breaks more into a super fast rift. But as I got older, I got more into Slayer's musicality before I ever got into the lyrics. Of course, when Reign in Blood came out and "Angel of Death" and you can't be a card-carrying metal fan from that era — or any era — and not at least like that song.

Hmm. I mean, obviously it's hard to go against Reign in Blood just because of the power of it. They've have always had great records, but I really liked God Hates Us All.

Yeah! There's a song on there called "Payback" — it's maybe my favorite Slayer song. It's kind of almost obscure, but it's more shouting and punky and I love the riffs and just the chorus, like, "Tear your fucking eyes out/Rip your fucking flesh off." I really love "Seasons of the Abyss," too. I always like the slower Slayer songs because I like the groove of it. And the middle section of "Angel of Death" — I thought, "If they played like this all the time this would be one of my favorite bands."

I understand why they can't, because they're Slayer. But the musical genius of that band lies in their groove that they would pull out of nowhere and they knew it. Because they would be going through a super-fast thrash song and out of nowhere they would just go [drumming noises]. And that really hooked you in. They're still best at that, I think, for thrash metal.

The cool thing is I'm friends with Kerry, and I'm not saying this is just somebody that I know, legit friends. Kerry King and I go back a long way, and I really like him.

We toured with them in Australia. It was cool because Kerry would get up early to come see Fozzy because he's a fan of our band, and we played fairly early at that point, we would go on probably 12:00, 12:30, 1:00, whatever it was. I'd always look over and there's fucking King standing there. Sometimes [Gary] Holt would be there, too. I said, "What are you guys doing?" Most of the main stage guys are sleeping. And they said, "Oh, we like your band. We've come to see you." So I'd always try and do something extra to impress them because I knew Kerry as a friend. At the end of our set, it was in Perth, Australia, I took this big jump off the drum riser where, in my head, I was being David Lee Roth, but in reality, I was like Mr. Magoo. I landed and I fell down. But if I don't pull something out of my ass here, King is going to fucking laugh to me about this for the rest of my life, I'll never live it down.

So I landed and then without missing a beat, I did a front roll and did a big stage dive into the crowd. Essentially, they caught me, kind of just surfed me and then put me back onstage. It was the best save of all time. Afterwards he was like, "You motherfucker, I had you! I had you for the rest of your life for falling onstage, and then you went and pulled it out of your ass and you saved the day." That was like, I finally got my redemption from King.

But my point being, that's when I got to see Slayer five or six times in the course of a week. I would always see their set. Whether you like Slayer or not, they're one of the most powerful bands live, ever. They have a sound and whether it was with Jeff [Hanneman] or whether it's with Gary, whether it's Jon Dette or whether it's Dave Lombardo, whether it's Paul Bostaph, they have a sound like no other. And that's all based in King's guitar playing, in his right hand, and of course Tom's vocals. And Slayer's bass ... I mean, you could never hear the bass line in a Slayer song really, but when you see the live, you feel it. You feel it in your chest.

If you ask me to tell you, "What's one word to explain Slayer live?" I would say, "Power." There's so much power in a Slayer performance.

I don't recall the exact moment, but he's a wrestling fan, right? There's a lot of musicians that are wrestling fans and they can assess out who the metalheads are. I'd written a column for Metal Edge magazine for years. I first met Kerry, I don't remember where, but the mutual respect ... a Slayer fan, and also a metal fan. I can talk for hours about any band from any era of heavy metal. And I think that was one of the first things that really endeared me to a lot of guys when they first started hearing my name in the late Nineties. "Who is this Jericho?" "Oh, he writes a column and he's a wrestling guy, but he's writing about the intricacies of the difference between [Judas Priest's] Defenders of the Faith versus Screaming for Vengeance. This guy knows his stuff."

You have kindred spirits. I can remember, on that same Soundwave tour, me and Kerry and [Anthrax's] Frank Bello just listening to a portable speaker going through songs with weird time changes. "Hey, check this out ..." And you're talking with three guys that, OK, it's not just Anthrax, Fozzy and Slayer. It's three guys that just like talking about music with other guys that know music. And Kerry really, really is into that.

I remember Kerry came and saw Fozzy one time, some little shitty place kind of outside of the O.C. We went to his house after — me, his wife and Brian Slagel [Metal Blade Records founder]. We go to his house, he's like, "Before you go in, you got to put these hats on." I'm like, "What?" "You got to put these hats on." They're these stupid foam hats — you put one on, it's like a big tree, big snake on it. It's the dumbest thing. You buy them at Walmart for three bucks. "Ayesha [King's wife] decided to go buy funny hats, and you have to put them on before you come inside." So here I am at Kerry King's house eating Halloween special Oreos that are orange, wearing a stupid hat with a camel on it made of foam, looking at his old snake cages.

When you think of Slayer and see Slayer, they're the most evil band. And then they're not evil at all. You realize it's show business. It's the characters they're playing, because Kerry will still wear those leather pants with those giant fucking chains. They have to weigh 50 pounds each. He wears them and he's still stayed thrash metal, heavy metal, because that's what the guys of Slayer do ... And then afterwards you're eating Oreos and wearing funny hats. That's kind of the dichotomy between them as a band and as guys.

I don't have a workout playlist — I just go through bands. I have a gym at my house and I just say, "What do I want to hear today? I want to hear some thrash metal." I found a Big 4 thrash playlist, and then that led me to a Slayer playlist. You're hearing all these songs that you haven't heard for a while because, like I said, nowadays you hear one song. It's a playlist, you go on to the next. I'm playing full albums. When was the last time you played Reign in Blood in its entirety, or God Hates Us All, or Seasons of the Abyss? You play it in its entirety — there's a story there.

There's a misconception to those who don't know: "Oh, it's Slayer." No, they're not. There's a lot of great musicianship. You can always tell a Kerry King solo. Same with Jeff Hanneman. They were one of those bands I could listen to like Iron Maiden — that's Dave Murray, that's Adrian Smith. OK, that's Kerry King, that's Jeff Hanneman. Half of guitar players [who play together] have a lot of similarities, but they sound different. That's a pretty rare thing to have in any band. You could listen to the Beatles and not know which one is George [Harrison] and which one is Paul McCartney and which one is John Lennon. You don't know which one is which, but you sure know which one is which on a Slayer song.

I think because of that, like you said earlier about them transcending music, it's one of those things — and you still get it to this day — when you go see a band and there's a lull in the set, someone will go, 'Slayer!' It used to be, 'Freebird!' Now [it's] 'Slayer! Play some Slayer!'" And I think a lot of those people that are yelling it might not even know a Slayer song. It's just the fact that that's what you're supposed to shout out. It's like, people just wear [Slayer] shirts because they look cool, not because they even like them or not. Isn't that where the whole "Kill the Kardashians" started from? I think it's very rare that you have a band like that."

It depends on the person. I can only talk for me, but the one riff for Slayer that ... it's great because it's the Slayer riff. It's the "You Shook Me All Night Long" or the "Whole Lotta Love." It's the breakdown for "Angel of Death." That used to be the theme song for Power Hour when you'd watch videos on Much Music.

I don't know if you saw this, but I did a couple of months ago or whenever it was, [James] Hetfield [on Metallica's Instagram], where he's driving down the highway and you see his hand, and he's listening to Slayer, and he's singing along with it. Then that part comes on and he goes, "Riff!!!" So there was James Hetfield driving down the highway listening to Slayer. That's the way it should be.

But to me if somebody said, "You have to come to the ring to a Slayer song," it would be that riff because it makes you want to punch somebody in the face. It really does. I was never the type of guy that would do moshing, the slam dancing, but I would understand why you would want to, to that riff, because it's so powerful. It's so aggro, but it's not easy to play. It's very hard and the beat is very hard. Then when it kicks in with the vocal, I mean, if you had to tell me, "What's one of the best moments in thrash-metal musical history?" You could talk about "Master of Puppets" or you could talk about "War Dance" and "Indians" or "Holy Wars," but that riff would have to be up there. It's top three for me. Out of the Big 4, Slayer is not my favorite. But that riff might be the best riff out of the Big 4 in musical history.

When you hear a band is going to retire, KISS has done it before, Ozzy's done it or whatever, but when Slayer has balls to say, "We are retiring," that's a big statement. And with Slayer, I believe it. I have no doubt that Kerry will continue to play and they'll continue to go. But I think when Tom says he's done, he's done. Maybe they'll do a show again, or maybe not. If anybody's to believe that they're not going to play again, it's Slayer because they have that street cred and that legitimacy that when they say it, it's not a cash grab because they don't need fucking cash. They can go headline every festival in every country in the world. I think at this point in time this is it — and it's kind of a drag, man. A world without Slayer ... It's like that old KISS song "A World Without Heroes" — [sings] "A world without Slayer ..." It kind of bums me out.

But I've seen Slayer so many times that I don't feel that I have to [this time on the Final Campaign]. I have a lot of great Slayer memories. But just the fact they're not going to be out there and I won't get a chance to, it's kind of a drag. I guess it shows that that's the type of relationship Slayer has with their fans — that when they say they're leaving, people buy it, and that's why they sold out every show they basically had since they left. So they're going out on top — that's something to respect. My hats go off to them. Because they definitely aren't ... what is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I don't know. But to me, Slayer should be in it, and hopefully someday they will be. But if not, they're in my Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and that's enough for me.