Kerry King on What the Future Holds for Slayer: "We've Never Been This Far Ahead"

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Some of their albums include combinations of the words "abyss," "blood," "hate," and "hell"; the graphic nature of their lyrics references controversial subjects such as genocide and necrophilia; and their music is blistering, concrete-shattering heavy-metal insanity. Slayer and every member of the legendary thrash band should be absolutely terrifying, right?

Not so much.

It turns out that cofounder, guitarist, and principal songwriter Kerry King is a really cool, down-to-earth dude.

New Times spoke with King ahead of Slayer's show Wednesday, September 28, at the Fillmore Miami Beach. The band is touring its 12th studio album, 2015's Repentless, alongside another of the genre's most influential groups, Anthrax, as well as good friends Death Angel.

King talked about Slayer's 35-year history (and the band's future); the late Jeff Hanneman, a founding member of Slayer who died in 2013 from liver failure; and some timeless advice for modern metalheads looking to break into the business.

New Times: When you cofounded Slayer in '81, did you ever have any grandiose rock 'n' roll dreams? Did you think this would be a thing still 35 years later?

Kerry King: No, because back when we started in '81, '82, "old" had a different meaning me to back then. Old was 55, and I'm past that and I don't feel old. Things hurt worse than when I was 25, but the Slayer shows are still epic. So back then, absolutely not. If Jeff was alive, he'd say, we used to do it for chicks and beer, and I didn't drink beer, so we did it for chicks. [Laughs]

You're touring with Anthrax now, but did you ever view them as a rival?

Yeah, for sure. When the "big four" came out [Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer]. When we did the tour Clash of the Titans [with Megadeth] around '90, '91, it was always, you know, you couldn't really be at war after that point. We thought we were better than everybody. I would imagine Anthrax probably did too. Dave Mustaine thinks that to this day. [Laughs]

So it's been a couple of years since Jeff's death. How is the band honoring him now?

Well, this tour doesn't really have anything to do with him. Is it a tragedy? Of course it is. Do I think about him every day? Absolutely. For me, it comes to a point where it seems like you're dwelling on it as opposed to celebrating it... He's gone but certainly not forgotten.

Slayer has been around for almost four decades. What's next? Do you ever think about the final chapter for this band?

I don't have an endgame in mind. That being said, I don't want to die onstage either. The good news is we've got seven to eight songs from the last recording. The lyrics don't make those songs change. They're done, recorded, with the Repentless sound. We've got plenty of stuff — it's just finding time to get in the studio again. [The record label] Nuclear Blast is already bugging me about that, but I don't see that happening until at least late next year or early the following year... It's a wonderful place to be. We've never been this far ahead.

Metal, for the most part in mainstream rock, seems to be out of fashion. What advice would you offer young heavy-metal bands trying to make it in 2016?

I gotta tell you, dude, I wouldn't know the first place to start. You got to figure, when we were doing it, we would hop fences in fucking high schools and put flyers in lockers and stuff. There was no internet. It's a completely different world these days. The only thing, the only hard advice I'd give: Don't play music you don't believe in. For instance, if I made Slayer a pop band, a rock 'n' roll band, I don't believe in that. The fans don't believe in that. You've got to do what you love, and I love metal. I'm a metal kid. I could sit here and talk metal for hours.

Last question: If you could grow back your hair, would you?

Nah. It was a pain in the ass when I had it. [Laughs] My beard is a pain in the ass on its own.

Slayer with Anthrax. 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 28, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300. fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $48.50 to $82.50 via livenation.com.

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