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, Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg tells tales of discovering Slayer as a kid at his summer job at a supermarket, being starstruck when he first met Kerry King, getting goosebumps to "South of Heaven" as an adult, and more.
WHEN I SAY SLAYER, WHAT MEMORY GOES TO MIND?
JOHAN HEGG Actually, I kind of have two. But I'll start with the first one, which is when I started listening to Slayer in the first place. I was already into metal, but I'd never heard of Slayer and this was in the late Eighties. I had a weekend job to make some extra money as a teenager and I would work there also during the summers, summer breaks and all that stuff. One summer I wound up working in the dairy section of the supermarket where I was working together with another metalhead. We would play metal as loud as we possibly could [laughs] before the store opened, of course. He introduced me to Slayer. I think the album that we listened mostly to back then was probably Hell Awaits. We [also] listened to Show No Mercy. I think also one year, when Reign in Blood came out, he brought that, as well.
UNLOADING MILK CRATES AND LISTENING TO SLAYER? THAT'S PRETTY AWESOME. SO WHAT'S THE OTHER MEMORY?
Oddly enough, it's actually a memory I have from years later when I'm already in Amon Amarth. This is actually in 2008, we were support for Slayer on the Unholy Alliance tour and we were going to be the opening band on that bill. Very exciting to go on tour with Slayer. It felt like this huge deal. I mean, we're all massive Slayer fans in the band, and the management that we had at the time, they said, "Well, Johan, you need to go to London and do some press for this tour." And I say, "Sure. I'll do it." And so I fly to London, but I don't really know what's going to happen at all really.
When I get there, it turns out I'm going to spend the whole day with Kerry King [laughs] doing press and photo shoots. The very last thing that we did was a takeover of Bruce Dickinson's metal show on BBC radio. So, I was totally unprepared for any of that. For me, I was super starstruck, meeting Kerry King. I was like, "Wow, this is awesome." Even though I knew we were going to tour with them, it was just ... Kerry King, immediately was the coolest guy ever.
It felt like I got a good vibe right away and he could have been, "Hey, I'm Kerry King of Slayer, who the fuck are you?" But he wasn't. For me, that was a big moment [laughs] since I'm such a huge, huge fan, of course. And then we did the tour and the tour was amazing, too, and we got to meet — actually that was the original Slayer, as well, with Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo.
But we've enjoyed touring with them. I mean, we were on tour with them this spring, in May in the United States and we had a great time, also, with Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph, as well. So they're such a great band and great people all the time. It's always been a pleasure to meet them and tour with them.
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT WHO THEY ARE AS PEOPLE? IT WOULD BE INTERESTING FOR FANS TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHO THEY ARE ON AND OFFSTAGE, LIKE YOU WERE EXPLAINING ABOUT KERRY BEFORE.
It's really difficult to nail everybody down obviously. But Kerry King is the one that I've hung out mostly with. He's always been a very generous, straightforward guy, super cool to talk to, but he also does have this sense of like boundaries, right? He has a boundary where you know when to approach and not. He doesn't really have to say anything, it's just there.
I mean he's a super cool guy and he's very calm and relaxed and easygoing. Tom [Araya], even more easygoing, if you ask me, because he's very mellow. But he likes to keep to himself when you tour and he doesn't want to hang out too much and all that stuff. But every time he does, it's a pleasure to talk to him. It's been great to get to know him a little bit more on the last tour we did now.
Gary Holt is super fun, great guy, super nice dude, and Bostaph, as well, super mellow. I mean, it's hard to say enough good words about these guys, honestly. Because they're Slayer and they have influenced so many bands and they've basically kicked open so many doors when it comes to heavy music. And for all of us, all the bands that come after, I don't think there's a lot of bands who would be where they are today if it weren't for Slayer. I think they influenced so many bands or at least influenced bands who then influenced other bands. But it's hard to underestimate the importance they've had in the music scene when it comes to metal I think.
And with that in mind, the way they are as people, I think it's very inspiring. I think it's great. I think it's a massive amount of respect for them and for what they do and for who they are. But I always felt like we were welcome when we met them or toured with, by all members of the band.
THERE'S NOTHING MORE AWESOME THAT FINDING OUT YOUR HEROES ARE DOWN-TO-EARTH PEOPLE.
I think so. And I mean, people say, "Be careful meeting your heroes because you might get disappointed." But in this case, no. [Laughs]
I TOTALLY AGREE. WHEN I FIRST MET TOM, HIS SMILE WAS JUST INFECTIOUS.
He's a fun guy. We played a Sweden rock festival at the same time and I was there with my wife and there was lots of stuff going on and that was his birthday. So I just wanted to pop by and say happy birthday to him.
But again, I was a little bit stressed out because all the things that were happening and we came in and I was talking, saying something. We're talking and then I kind of repeated myself and he just looked at me and said, "You're talking in circles, man." I thought it was so funny. I just started laughing. [Laughs] He's a cool guy.
HAVING TOURED WITH THEM YEARS AGO BACK ON UNHOLY ALLIANCE AND RECENTLY ON THE FAREWELL RUN, WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE SEEN AT A SHOW, WHETHER IT WAS ONSTAGE OR OFFSTAGE?
You know, the mosh pits, the stage diving and people actually getting up onstage and throwing themselves over the barrier and shit.
One of the highlight moments ... it's not really a crazy thing, it's just an atmosphere thing. We were at a festival in Denmark in 1996. We were there partying, drinking, and Slayer was going play. We were walking to the stage and it's me, Olavi [Mikkonen], the guitar player from Amon Amarth, and some other friends. But we don't really know what time it is. We kind of know, but this was, like, before everybody had cell phones. So, we knew it's about to start, right? And as we approach, we just hear the intro to "South of Heaven" go on. Olavi showed me his arm and he had goosebumps, hairs standing up. And I showed him my arm — it was the same. [Laughs] We just ran into the pit, there was nothing stopping us then. Just — "Raaaah!"
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST UNIQUE THING ABOUT SLAYER?
Their uncompromising way of writing songs, honestly. They do their thing and they've done their thing since day one and they didn't care about anybody else's opinions. They do what they want to do and they do it really well.
I think the way they can write songs that just sound mean is unbelievable. I mean, their music sounds evil, you know? But evil not in the spooky, ghostly way. Evil, like he wants to hurt people [laughs], you know? For me, that's one of the most characteristic things about Slayer. It's like you can always, no matter where you are, if somebody puts a Slayer song on, you can hear it immediately because of the way they played. So characteristic. No one's ever come close to doing anything similar.