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, Rick Rubin, the record producer behind the thrash OGs' Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Seasons in the Abyss and more, shares some of his standout Slayer stories — from his first memories of the band, to nearly suffocating at a show — and discusses the way in which Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman "reinvented how a guitar could be played."
WHAT'S YOUR FIRST SLAYER MEMORY?
RICK RUBIN I was invited to a metal concert at The Ritz in New York City in the mid-Eighties. I wasn't familiar with any of the bands. Slayer closed the show. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life. I couldn't believe a band so young and so new was so confident. The theater held about 2,500 people — it was where the biggest acts who either hadn't gotten to arenas yet or could no longer fill arenas played. Slayer was flawless. They owned the room and the show and the audience. It was breathtaking.
KNOWING THE MEMBERS OF SLAYER WELL, WHAT STICKS OUT THE MOST ABOUT THEM? PERHAPS A MEMORY YOU HAVE WITH ONE OF THE MEMBERS THAT FANS WOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT THEIR PERSONALITY?
I remember flying out to meet with the band. Dave Lombardo picked me up in his Sixties muscle car and drove me to rehearsal in the garage at Tom's mother's house in Southgate, an outer suburb of the already suburban Los Angeles. I was struck by his Southern California lingo, an accent more associated with hair-metal bands than the greatest death-metal band in history.
WHAT'S THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE SEEN AT A SLAYER CONCERT?
There are too many to count ...
The first one that comes to mind is a Slayer show at L'Amours in Brooklyn. A former disco turned metal's ground zero in the New York area. Metal was never a Manhattan scene. It always thrived in the outer boroughs. I was standing behind the sound board on the floor behind the audience against a back wall to the raised balcony. The band started the opening "tune" and the audience went so ballistic, heaving in every direction. That the 1970's large, heavy mixing desk got pushed up and backwards. The soundman and I were pinned against the back wall with knobs of the desk pressed into the sides of our faces. We were trapped and suffocating. Luckily we survived to encounter many, many more atypical events at Slayer gigs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST UNIQUE THING ABOUT SLAYER?
The two things I find most fascinating about Slayer are, unlike any other speed metal band I can think of, Slayer's music is groovy. The rhythms are almost funky. Rhythmically, their music feels more like a descendant of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC than Iron Maiden, which is counterintuitive as there is no reference to blues in the music. The other is the avant-garde, atonal nature of the guitar solos. Slayer reinvented how a guitar could be played.