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, heavy-metal icon Philip Anselmo sounds off. The singer's history with Slayer is long and well documented, from befriending and jamming with their guitarist Kerry King before Pantera broke big, to now touring with the thrash titans on their Final Campaign and performing a special "Vulgar Display of Pantera" set every night with his solo band the Illegals. Drawing on that, he had deep insight and many great stories.
YOU'RE OPENING FOR SLAYER ON THEIR FINAL CAMPAIGN — INCLUDING THEIR VERY LAST SHOW. HOW DOES THAT FEEL?
PHILIP ANSELMO It's insane. It's surreal. Because, as a youngster, man, Slayer always had to be — and it's kind of tough to say, but it might be true — they had to be my favorite. Especially in the early Eighties when heavy metal was really transforming, both in sound and in attitude.
And plus, with our history, I'm sure everybody knows this shit — but before Pantera was signed, we had befriended Slayer, they befriended us. They were playing Dallas, Texas, on a Saturday night, we were playing that weekend and they came out on a Friday with the day off and that's how we got to know each other. Kerry King used to call me up and come visit us and get up onstage and jam with us before we were anybody. So the amount of encouragement and help and just someone who had our backs, man, the Slayer crew — I don't want to leave anybody out — but Slayer, for as big of an influence as they were on me, in particular, those were some surreal times. And now, to have it, fuck, all the way to 2019 it's unbelievable how everything has just come full circle and they didn't forget about me. [Laughs] It's unbelievable, it really is.
YOU'VE ALLUDED TO THIS, BUT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR FANS TO KNOW WHO THE GUYS ARE AS PEOPLE, BECAUSE YOU SEE KERRY ONSTAGE, FOR INSTANCE, AND HE'S PRETTY INTIMIDATING, BUT THAT'S NOT WHO HE IS OFFSTAGE. CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT WHO THEY ARE IN "REAL LIFE"?
I don't think I should. [Laughs] I mean, they're real people with real lives and real sensibilities and kind hearts and very aware what's going on with them and very self-critical and they're a lot like all the rest of us that are trying to make music out there who also have private lives and whatnot.
When I first met Tom [Araya] and Kerry and all them back in '87, '88, it was Kerry that really took us under his wing and gave us so many different ideas and just gave us a lot of hope to keep on doing what we're doing and just let time control itself and the ebb and flow of things just work itself out. Tom, also, just so damn down to earth. Matter of fact, the first night I met him he just sat there and talked to me for so long. And the way he was talking to me, it was like I'd known him five years or something like that. As a young kid I was just floored, it was like, Jesus Christ, he was truly at the time [one of my] underground heroes because they weren't as big as Judas Priest — but still, they held that magnitude and loftiness in my heart and brain.
It was just amazing how down to earth they were and nothing changed even when Pantera sold a bunch of records and we were doing very well and we did the tour together [where] Slayer was playing in front of us. It was like it didn't matter who was playing last or first or any of that shit. Everybody is just so cool and so fucking humble and I'm almost at a loss for words because I just saw all the Slayer guys not but a month ago and it's just the same — so consistent, the friendship.
They're the type of people that you meet, you feel like you've known 'em a million years, and you don't see them again for a whole year or two or three or four, but the next time you see 'em it's the same exact feeling. I appreciate that, man. They're not flakes. They're for real. The mere fact that they're bringing me and the Illegals out for this run … it shows that they're aware of what's going on and what's happening in the heavy-metal world and the fact that they picked us… [sighs] it makes you almost want to tear up. They're for real, they're fucking for real and I love it.
IT'S OBVIOUSLY SPECIAL TO YOU AND A LOT TO TAKE IN. YOU MENTIONED CONSISTENCY — IS THAT THE MOST DEFINING THING ABOUT SLAYER?
I would have to agree with the consistency part both as artists and as people. But, man, when a band like Slayer comes out to begin with Show No Mercy, you could see and hear their ambition right off the bat. And it was their first album, so of course it's far from the finished product. But by the time their EP [1984's Haunting the Chapel] came out, I think they had all their ducks lined in a row. They were satanic. They were extreme. They were fast as fuck for the time. They were relentless for the time. And then they dropped Hell Awaits on us and that cemented everything even from a production standpoint. The sound of that record — that's a dark, dark, crunchy record, man. The guitar tones are heavy as fuck, the bass sounds like it had three-year-old strings on it. It was fucking great, just the feel of it.
I guess, throughout the years, that's where I'm sure everybody's "consistency" thing comes in. Case in point, middle Nineties when, you know, there were a lot of different forms of heavy metal that were popular at the time, [but] Slayer was still Slayer. They weren't the most popular band at the time, but still, you go see 'em live and the second they would even dip into those old songs … you were right there back again sitting in your buddy's van in 1985 fucking headbanging against the fucking goddamn dashboard. [Laughs] That's what it felt like. It's like, "Chemical Warfare," "Hell Awaits," "At Dawn They Sleep." I gotta agree with the consistency, but the never-ending attitude — it's so much to do with attitude. It's fucking beautiful, really.
YOU'VE MENTIONED THEIR LIVE SHOW, WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF THE BEST AND MOST INSANE. WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU'VE SEEN AT A SLAYER SHOW, WHETHER IT WAS IN THE CROWD OR ONSTAGE?
Slayer was the first show I ever saw where people were jumping out the balcony seats into the pit. That was pretty fucking extreme.
And on a whole different end of things, when we were on tour with them in 2000, 2001, I also knew that they had plenty heart, too. Jeff Hanneman, he was onstage and he was playing and I don't know what he did … but his shoulder popped completely out of its socket. He had to run offstage and he had his road crew just push all up against it. We were just sitting there watching going, "What's going to happen? What are they going to do the rest of the show with just Kerry on guitar?" But sure enough, they popped that damn thing right back into place and he was right back out there. That takes a lot of heart right there. I don't know if you've ever knocked anything out of joint or socket but, man, that shit hurts. [Laughs]
Another phenomena is when Slayer first caught true momentum, there was no playing a gig with Slayer. It didn't matter if you were opening for 'em or playing after 'em. Heaven forbid you were playing after them, but even opening bands would be pretty much ignored, and in between every song the crowd would just start [chanting] "Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!" So there was no playing with Slayer. If Slayer came to town, that was the band. No, It didn't matter who the fuck else was on the goddamn bill. It was Slayer that the crowd was there to see. That was always this great, intimidating factor when dealing with Slayer.
Those are all firsts from the way I remember it. I'm sure I'm leaving out some vital shit. But when it comes to Slayer, there's so many different emotions I get and so many different memories that it kind of blinds me in a weird way. Looking at a career where it's a bunch of dudes who did it their way, who found a formula within a formula in heavy metal and beat it into the fucking ground until it was beat into your fucking head … and then here we are. I'm telling you, I just played gigs with them all in Europe [where] they are beloved and they're still a great live band. They never missed a beat over the years. Like any other band, they've gone through loss and trials and tribulations and all that shit, but still, if Slayer's in town, Slayer is in town and they're going to be Slayer and [adopts evil voice] there's nothing you can do about it.