In case you didn’t know, Slayer have an album, Repentless, coming out next month. Then again, it’d be pretty impossible not to know, given that they’ve released the title track, have an 8 pound, $180 version of the album up for pre-order and have been headlining Mayhem. Then there’s guitarist Kerry King. The id of the band, his unfiltered opinions of the tour they’re headlining, it’s co-founder, and everything else has been nonstop, perhaps even at the expense of the band. And while King is the one that always gets the attention, Noisey caught up with the more soft-spoken singer and bassist, Tom Araya for a frank interview that made us feel pretty bad for the 54 year-old.
“Tom Araya Sold His Soul For Slayer, But Was It Worth It?” the title of the article asks. Reading the interview, it appears the answer is “no.” It appears how important his family is when it’s stated that on his days off, Araya will fly home to spend time with them. He says that when his children were younger, he’d take them on the road with him, but now that they’re older (16 and 19), they don’t want to be on the road any more. Perhaps the saddest part of the interview comes from him talking about them:
I’ve sacrificed a lot of my life. You miss a lot. People don’t even realize that, but you miss a lot. I have brothers and sisters, so I have nieces and nephews that were born and had birthdays, and they’re full grown now. And I missed a lot of that. Even my own family—I’ve been married 20 years. I have a daughter that just turned 19, and a son that just turned 16, and I missed a lot of their growing up. I was around for the first month of my son’s life, but I saw him next when he was walking, making sounds and talking. The same with my daughter; after my daughter was born, I left, and didn’t see her for almost two months. When I saw her, she was walking and talking.
Elsewhere, the article talks about the creative process of recording the album. Araya says that without Jeff Hanneman, he was apprehensive about how Repentless would turn out:
I was a little apprehensive, because Jeff and Kerry wrote the music for Slayer. We all contributed to the lyrics, but music was written between the two of them. So you have half of Slayer, musically you have half of Slayer and physically you have two-thirds of Slayer, so it’s a big percentage of the band. Two-thirds is still a big percentage, and like I said, I was a little apprehensive because they each wrote differently, so it would be a lopsided wheel, you know what I mean? [laughs] And when we went into the studio, the relationship me and Kerry share is very different than the relationship me and Jeff had. The relationship between me and Kerry is more black and white.
Is it more business?
Yeah, more business. And through the course of our history, Kerry and I have had a different relationship than Jeff and I. I had to wonder how things were gonna be, because the studio experience was always different with Kerry. With Jeff, it was very open, and things came together, and magic happens. With Kerry, he didn’t allow the magic to happen, you know what I mean? It was very cut and dry. I was apprehensive about how this record was going to come together, and so we sat down, we communicated, we shared our feelings, I shared my feelings about how I wanted to move forward if we were going to finish the record. We shook hands and we said “Okay, let’s do this record,” and we went in there.
I did what I did, and we had a great producer that listened to what I was doing, and really liked the stuff that I was doing, and who said “No, this sounds really great, we’re not changing anything.” Kerry was able to pull a couple of rabbits out of his hat and wrote some slower, heavier music, too; he’s written the heavy stuff before, it’s not like he hasn’t, but both heavy songs kind of just came together in the studio. In the beginning, you’re like “Holy shit, what’s this gonna sound like?” and then in the end it was like “Okay, this is good, this is Slayer.”
It’s a pretty interesting behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of Slayer. And it’s nice to see that even Kerry King is capable of compromising. The whole article and interview is a great read, so check it out here. Repentless is released on September 11.