As this summer's concert tours go, you won't find one more deliciously dark, devastating and demonic than the triple bill of Slayer, Lamb of God and Behemoth, which makes landfall July 12th at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minnesota, and will spend the next six weeks laying waste to arenas and amphitheaters across North America.
Slayer, still the thrashiest of the original "Big Four" American thrash bands that minted the genre back in the 1980s, have already logged over 150 live dates since the release of their most recent album, Repentless, in September 2015. But guitarist and co-founder Kerry King tells Revolver that he can't wait to get out and do it again this summer with their comrades in metal from Virginia and Poland. When we caught up with him at home, a week before the tour, King gave us the lowdown about what we can expect from Slayer's set lists this time out, as well as how he prepares for the shows and what he listens to during his downtime.
REVOLVER Slayer, Lamb of God and Behemoth on the same tour — that's a pretty sick bill, isn't it?
KERRY KING Yeah, I'm excited. We haven't played with Lamb of God since at least 2006, though I may have my year wrong. It's hard to put a good metal tour together; it's hard for everybody to get their time freed up at the same time. So I'm glad this worked out. I can't wait for it to happen — if I was a metal fan, I'd be stoked. I mean, I am a metal fan, but you know what I'm saying! [Laughs]
Will the Slayer set lists for this tour be pretty similar to the shows you guys were recently doing in Europe?
Um, I haven't done much homework on it, yet. I just looked at the set list from the last time we played Vegas, which was roughly a year and a half ago. I want to go back and look at the rest of them, because I know on that particular tour our set list morphed a bit. I just like to make sure we're playing some things that we haven't played the last couple times through; you know, there's a ton of things we have to play every time we come through, so it gets harder to fill the random void, I guess you'd say. I know we're playing a new song off the new record that we haven't played before. That's one cool thing, but there will be some other stuff, some historical stuff that we haven't done in five, six years. Like I said, I'm still researching it.
Is that pretty typical for you before a tour — you'll look at what you played on previous dates in the same region, and construct the new set lists accordingly?
Yeah, and I'll take random cities, too — because sometimes you'll hit 'em on an A tour run, or sometimes you'll hit 'em on a B tour run, so… I put a little effort into it, and hopefully the fans appreciate that. I try to make it as good an experience as they can have.
You guys pulled out "Necrophiliac" [from 1985's Hell Awaits] when you played in Milan, Italy in June…
Did we? We hadn't played that one in a while! [Laughs]
Yeah, and you played "Die by the Sword" [from 1983's Show No Mercy] a handful of times on the European tour. How do you decide to throw something like that into the set? Is it a spur-of-the-moment thing?
It's funny — if you were sitting next to me, you'd see that I've still got my travel bag with me, and it's got thirteen or fourteen papers in there, all my European set list homework. It's a mess, for sure, with all the scribblings, all the set lists I actually wrote down and compared. I probably knew going into Italy that we were going to try "Necrophiliac," and at soundcheck we probably ran through it before we threw it in the set somewhere. It's preconceived, for sure.
What's the unplayed song from Repentless that you'll be doing on this tour?
We should have "Cast the First Stone" in there, which we've rehearsed a number of times. I think Tom's finally prepared to do it live — and we've got a rehearsal day the day before the first show, so I'm pretty sure that'll be in there from day one.
"Repentless," "When the Stillness Comes" and "You Against You" are the Repentless songs you've been playing most often. Do they just feel the best to play live, or are those the ones from the album that have gotten the best crowd response?
"Stillness" is an outstanding live song. The only time we've taken it out of the European set lists was if it was a daytime show, because then the vibe ain't the same. [Laughs] And "You Against You" — those two songs really work well together, because you've got the moodiest song on the record followed by the punkiest song on the record. I might have to separate them, though, because we've been doing it that way for quite a while now. But I'd like to have those songs still in the set; we'll see what happens. We're just trying to make the best set list — not for us. I mean, of course there are songs that I like to play, but fortunately most of the fans seem to like those songs too, so it's not like I'm constructing set lists just for my benefit.
What are some of your absolute favorite songs to play these days?
Absolute favorites to play? You know, I like to play "Raining Blood," I like to play "Hate Worldwide," I like to play "Disciple." [Laughs] I play in a band I would definitely be a fan of!
Does how you prepare for a show differ at all now from the way you'd prepare for one ten, twenty or thirty years ago?
Nah, I probably just stretch more. I've always played guitar for roughly an hour before going onstage. But I make sure my back and my neck are stretched out, because to throw that out at this point in the game would not be good! [Laughs]
What music do you listen to during your downtime on tour?
Basically, there are two times I listen to music on tour. One is in the gym, because when you're doing cardio you've gotta listen to something, or you'll just bore yourself to tears with whatever shit is on TV. In that case, it'll be something that I've known for a long, long time — I've got two Priest go-tos, which are Stained Class and Defenders [of the Faith]. I mean, I might play other ones, but with those, everything on the entire album is good. Could be Long Live Rock 'n' Roll by Rainbow; could be any of the old Sabbath stuff, even the old Sabbath stuff with Dio — that's great stuff. Sometimes I'll throw in Doomsday Machine by Arch Enemy; I love that album.
If we've been out drinking, and I don't want to get caught up in a Netflix series that I've been paying attention to — because if I've been out drinking, I'm not going to remember it — at that point in the night, I go to YouTube and just have rock and roll party night. I pick out videos that I love, or I haven't seen, and check it out.
Are there any plans in place to begin working on a follow-up to Repentless?
Funny thing is, Repentless isn't even two years old yet, though it seems like it is. But from that session, there are six or eight songs that are recorded — some with vocals, some with leads, but all with keeper guitar, drums and bass. So when those songs get finished lyrically, if the lyrics don't change the songs, they'll be ready to be on the next record. So we already have more than half a record complete, if those songs make it. This is actually the most prepared we've ever been for the next record in our history; there's no reason to not do more work, because it's already more than halfway done. Just write four or five new songs, and give the others some attention, and we'll be good to go. If we get a down period of time, which I know is coming at the end of this year, maybe we'll focus on that and get to it.
So it's conceivable that we could see a new Slayer record next year?
It's conceivable — but I'm certainly not gonna promise it, because every time I do, I make a liar of myself! [Laughs]