Slayer: Big Four thrash metal band and rescuers of local kitties. Kerry King remembers that cat adventure from last year well, 'cause Indy's one of his favorite spots (a "second hometown" he says). His band will play three songs from their upcoming record, Repentless, at tonight's show at Klipsch. That record is out on September 11 and marks a big departure in label, producer and lineup for the band. After considering their options, Slayer moved from American Records (helmed by their longtime producer Rick Rubin) to Nuclear Blast. And, of course, after the untimely death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman, touring guitarist Gary Holt has become full-fledged member in Hanneman's stead. Contract disputes with founding drummer Dave Lombardo means '90s-era Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph is back recording with the band. So it's a newish Slayer with a new record and label in tow tonight in Noblesville, where they'll play as part of Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival.
Here's some bits from my conversation with King on Wednesday.
On writing tracks inspired by Jeff Hannamen:
"Well, 'Repentless,' as much as chasing death, is about addiction and dealing with death. That's just what happens as you get older. I deal with death a lot more now than when I was 20. It's not easy, it's not fun, but I do think most people can relate to people having addictions, and people dying. So that's a song for everybody, not just me. But after ['Chasing Death'] was done, and after Jeff passed away, I said, 'You know what we should do?' I called it the Hannanthem — [I thought] we should do more of a tribute song. And that was 'Repentless.' I wrote 'Repentless' about how I think Jeff looked at life."
And recording them for a new album with Paul Bostaph:
"Paul is totally business as usual. I know Paul's work ethic, and I don't need to concern myself with it because it's as good as it comes. And we got to play this stuff for a long, long time before going in. It's almost been two years — shit, it has been two years — since he's been with us. He's very easy, nothing was different. If Paul hadn't have quit this band twice, there wouldn't have been that 15-year window where he wasn't in the band. It's very weird, because it was never personal. We came through town, I would hit up Paul and say, 'Hey, you coming to the show? Let's have some drinks.' It was definitely a surreal situation because you'd think you'd be at odds and not friends, but we've always been friends. It's just like riding a bike, like putting on an old pair of shoes. There's nothing different about that.
And Gary's involvement with the new release:
"I thought for a very long time about how to involve Gary, and maybe I thought it too much. I don't know. I always think back to when I was a teenager, and just a fan, not in a band, and things that bands did that I may have liked or may not have liked. I put a lot of thought into it, and thought, Slayer fans might not be ready for an 'outside' so to speak to contribute music to this record. But I wanted Gary to be involved, so my solution was offering him leads. I said, 'Hey man, you want to play some leads? I think it's a two-guitar attack, we need two guitars.' He was all about it, so he came in. I don't worry about it. Gary's been playing with us since the beginning of 2011, so I didn't have any second thoughts. When he was playing leads that day, I took almost a day off. I was in my room, either working on leads or lyrics to stuff that wasn't done. I came in that evening thinking he was going to be in the next day, and he was already done."
On leaving Rick Rubin behind as producer:
"It wasn't so much leaving Rick, because we were totally free to do whatever we wanted anyway. He learned many records ago that it doesn't matter what he says; if we like a song, that's how it's going to be. I remember, when he did pay attention, in the late '80s, he would always say, 'It's your career!' We're like, 'Yeah, we know.' So that really wasn't an issue. I'm not a producer nerd, or a producer geek. I don't nerd out on records and say, 'Wow, who produced this? It sounds so amazing' I'm not that guy. I knew Terry Date mainly because of the Pantera guys, because they were good friends of mine and I knew him from back then when he did those records. We were recording with Terry for three or four weeks before I even realized he did Soundgarten and Deftones. We're sitting there one day, and I'm like, "You did Loud Love?!" That's one of my favorite records, and I had no idea he did that. That just proves my point. When his name came up, I knew I hadn't heard it in a while. I thought our record would be a good thing for him, and he would be a good thing for us, because we hadn't done a record in a while. I think the marriage between Slayer and Terry Date couldn't have come at a better time."
And moving to Nuclear Blast for Repentless:
"They were the first ones to come to the table with a real offer. And us being who we are, we both decided, well, let's see what American has to offer. We've been with American forever, we owe them that shot. They came with an offer that just wasn't in the same ballpark, which I kind of hoped would happen. I wanted to be on Nuclear Blast because I truly believe those guys believe in what they do. They're not people that go to their job and get paid. They're people that go to their job and get paid because they like it. They think as much of this record as we do. They think it's their child, and they step up and do their job in a way that any other label in this day and age doesn't work, in my opinion.
Who offered them an imprint for a new record:
"We signed the deal, and that was in the deal. When that happened, I was like, 'Oh, yeah, we gotta name our little record label.' Until somebody mentioned it to me like 10 days ago, I completely forgot about it. [laughs] I mean, to me it's just trivial. It's a nice gesture from Nuclear Blast for sure, but I'm pretty sure Tom [Araya] would say the same thing: it's just not on our mind. When it first happened, we came up with some names, but I totally forgot about it."
And coming back to Indianapolis:
"Indy, I call it one of my second hometowns. I've got a lot of friends there and I know a lot of places there. It's always a good time on days off. ... Years ago, I was at [St. Elmo's] and I met the head bartender. We just stayed in touch, and that's why I always go there."