It's a big day for Kerry King. Today (February 5th), the pioneering thrash guitarist unveiled the stacked lineup of his new solo band, announced his first album post-Slayer and dropped his crushing debut solo song, "Idle Hands."
After teasing the project for years in the wake of Slayer's 2019 retirement, King finally unveiled the players in his new band: ex-Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph, guitarist Phil Demmel (formerly of Machine Head, and briefly a part of Slayer's touring lineup in 2018), Hellyeah bassist Kyle Sanders and, last but not least, vocalist Mark Osegueda of the almighty Death Angel.
King's eponymous new group — which he recently described as sounding like "an extension of Slayer" — will release their debut album, From Hell I Rise, on May 17th,
The future is looking bright for King, but the axman took some time to reflect on his recent past in an extensive new interview with Rolling Stone.
Throughout the conversation, King spoke candidly about how his new band came together, addressed a rumored collaboration with Pantera's Philip Anselmo, and then spoke in detail about the end of Slayer and his relationship with the surviving OG members of the thrash institution.
On the solo band front, King revealed that in addition to Bostaph, he was at one point toying with the idea of having Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, who played in Slayer from 2013-2019, in the lineup, but ultimately decided against it because he was afraid fans would see the group as "Slayer Light" or "Baby Slayer."
"There was no falling out between me and Gary," King assured fans.
As for the vocalist position in his solo band, King said Osegunda's name was in the mix early on in the process, but King held out for a while in the event that a singer with a bigger profile expressed interest in the job.
"Say for instance, [Judas Priest's] Rob Halford calls me and says, 'Hey, I would love to be your singer,' I'd have to go that way," King explained.
It doesn't appear that the Metal God was ever actually in the running, but for a while, King said there as the possibility that Pantera vocalist Philip Anselmo would be the singer.
"It was considered," King said of Anselmo's potential role. "My management, my promoter, my record label all wanted Phil. Phil's a good friend of mine, but I always thought he's not the right guy.
"That has nothing to do with his ability; I just knew he wasn't the right guy. When you hear Mark on this record, you know that's the guy.
"I had to do due diligence, because at the end of the day, had Philip been the guy, we'd be in arenas immediately because we could play new stuff, we could play Pantera, we could play Slayer, and fans would've been happy. It ended when the Pantera thing came up."
On the Pantera front, the interviewer mentioned a rumor that King was once being considered for the guitarist position in Pantera's reformed lineup. The gig, of course, went to Black Label Society/Ozzy Osbourne axman Zakk Wylde, and King wouldn't "confirm or deny" if he was ever in the running to fill the late, great Dimebag Darrell's spot in the band.
Take that cryptic answer how you will.
The biggest bombshells in the interview, however, arrived when when King discussed his relationship with his former Slayer bandmates Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo.
King said he first found out Araya was planning to retire from Slayer from comments he made during an interview in 2017; the two hadn't yet discussed the matter privately, according to the guitarist.
"We were on tour and some kid was interviewing him," King recalled, "and he said something about, 'I've got to get together with Kerry and talk before we talk about the next record.'
"He should have just said, 'I'm probably not going to do another record,' or had that conversation with me before he mentioned anything like that.
"I was just assuming, 'Oh fuck, what's this going to be?' And it was, 'I'm done.' Not what I expected. But if you made that decision, I'm not going to try to talk you out of it because your heart's not going to be in it anyway."
Rolling Stone asked King if his and Araya's differing political ideologies played a part in Slayer's split. For instance, in 2017, Araya used Slayer's official Instagram account to make a post about the newly elected President Donald Trump, causing a huge scandal within the Slayer fandom.
"I was super pissed off at that — but not enough to fucking quit my band," King said of the incident.
"I was like, 'Dude, that's what your personal social media is for. You're the only one in this band that gives a shit about this idiot, and when you put it up there, we're all backing him.' And I am not [backing Trump], Gary's not, Paul is not. That's your opinion, not ours. I would never do that to you."
King then delved further into the decades-long ideological divide between he and Araya, which only grew starker in the years leading up to Slayer's farewell.
"Well, me and Tom have never been on the same page," King said. "Like if I want a chocolate shake, he wants a vanilla shake. 'Kerry, what color is the sky?' Blue. 'Tom, what color is the sky?' White. We're just different people. The further on in years we got, it just became more.
"Am I going to hang out with Tom? He likes tequila a little bit and I'm a big tequila-head, so I'll have my shot with him, and we'll part ways.
"We're not going to hang out or anything because we are very different people. And together, we made great music and a great live show."
Indeed, King said that he hasn't heard from Araya since Slayer parted ways in 2019.
"Not even a text. Not even an email," he said. "I've talked to everybody else from the band on the phone, text, or email. If Tom hit me up, I'd probably respond. It probably depends on what he hit me up for, but I don't wish him dead at this moment."
Since King's Slayer co-guitarist Jeff Hanneman died in 2013, the only other living Slayer co-founder is drummer Dave Lombardo. King is on even worse terms with him than Araya.
King said the two haven't spoken since Lombardo was fired from the band in 2013 after posting on Facebook about his issues with the band's business dealings.
"Lombardo is dead to me," King told Rolling Stone.
"He went on that tirade when we were on a flight to Australia, and he knew we couldn't retort for 14 hours, and he threw me under the bus.
"I was the only one keeping him in the band. Tom wanted him out before that, and Jeff had just gotten the spider bite [which caused a flesh-eating bacteria, forced him off the road and ultimately contributed to his untimely death in 2013], so he wasn't playing with us much.
"I said, 'We need [Dave]. The fans won't get it if we replace him right now.' And then the Australia thing came up. He threw me under the bus, and I'm like, 'I'm the guy that kept you here.' So I thought, 'Fuck that guy.'"
To close out the Slayer portion of the interview, King opened up about his relationship with Hanneman during the last years of his life, when Hanneman's health had seriously declined to the point where it affected his musical abilities.
"We always assumed that he'd be able to come back and hopefully join us for more than just the fucking Big Four show he did. But that didn't pan out," King said.
"I think the last year he toured with us was 2010. He wanted to come back. And I told him, 'If you're not a hundred percent, people are going to know immediately.' We had that conversation before the Big Four when he came back.
"He'd learned four songs. I talked to Tom about it, and I said, 'Listen, it's in our best interest and Jeff's best interest to play two songs because people are going to be so stoked to see him, they're not going to hear him play anything.'
"So I went to Jeff with this and he's like, 'Yeah, but I learned four songs.' I said, 'You are going to be excited, so you're going to be extra intense, and by the third song, people are going to start realizing that you're not playing at a hundred percent.'
"It's probably the hardest conversation I have had in my life. I said, 'That's how it is, man. I'm doing you a favor.' And in hindsight, no one ever had anything bad to say about that show because they never had a chance to."
Sadly, King revealed that he never had a chance to say goodbye to Hanneman before he died during a hospital visit in 2013. The cause of death was revealed to be alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver.
"I knew he was in the hospital. I knew he was in bad shape, but I didn't know it was that bad. I was rehearsing with Paul for whatever we were doing, and [my manager] called me one day and said, 'We lost Jeff.' I'm like, 'I didn't see that coming.'
"I thought there would be a point… I mean, he lived only an hour from me, in a direction I never go — which that's no excuse. But you just don't know until that finality comes and you're like, 'Motherfucker. I wish I went there yesterday.' But it didn't happen."
Lastly, King was asked point blank if he and Araya would ever get back together and re-start Slayer again. His answer wasn't hopeful.
"I can pretty much a hundred percent say no because I have a new outlet, and it's not Slayer, but it sounds like Slayer," King said.
"I'm making the music I like to make still, so I don't need to do that. Records don't sell anymore anyway. It's just a means to have a product out so people know what I'm playing when I come to town.
"Will Slayer tour again? I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. Could Slayer play a show again? I'm sure there's a scenario. Am I looking for it? No, I'm just getting ready to start my career. So if that happens, it happens. But I'm going to be doing this for the next 10 years at least."
Read the full Rolling Stone interview here.