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‘I have no idea what I’d be doing if I wasn’t in a band. Selling drugs. Crack,’ joked Slayer frontman Tom Araya in a 1988 interview with Spin, shortly after the release of their fourth album South of Heaven. ‘When I was a kid I planned on being in a band, I had nothing else in mind, so I took one shot and it happened.’ Most young boys dream of becoming a rock star but when many grow up they leave their childhood fantasies behind and focus on adult priorities, such as respectable careers, savings and starting a family of their own. But for a select few, those dreams that had perpetuated in front of the mirror with an air guitar or hairbrush for a microphone would later manifest themselves as a teenage desire to form a rock band. Even fewer would manage to land a record deal and tour the world but in extremely rare instances they are still living that dream over thirty years later. But for Slayer, who formed in Los Angeles in the early 1980s and, along with Metallica and Anthrax, would produce the first American thrash albums, they have survived changes in musical taste, controversy and even the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman.
In September 2015 Slayer released their twelfth studio album and first with new label Nuclear Blast and while the critical reaction may not have been as acclaimed as some their more revered offerings, the reception proved that even after three decades they have managed to remain relevant. In a new interview with Team Rock guitarist Kerry King comments on the difference in attitude with modern rock groups in comparison to when he first started out in the 1980s. ‘I’ve seen a lot of bands over the last decade or so get a record out and think they’re owed a tourbus. We drove ourselves in a Camaro and a passenger van and U-Hauls. We did it all ourselves. We didn’t start to taste any fruits of our labour until Reign in Blood came out and we finally got a tourbus. We never expected it. It was like, ‘Really? We get our own tourbus?’ I think that’s something missing in bands. People just have a huge sense of entitlement when they haven’t paid any dues. We paid our dues, then we got some things that we were entitled to and that’s the way it should be.’
King also commented on the music scene that existed when Slayer were first unleashed and the attitude metal fans had towards the band. ‘When we started Hollywood was more hair metal. We played more in Orange County, where there was more of a metal stronghold. Once our fanbase started growing, it got big fast. There weren’t any rivalries, because I felt superior to all of those bands. We were trying to be the opposite of what hair metal was.’ He continues, ‘People hated Slayer. Now we come to town and everybody wants to hear Evil Has No Boundaries and The Antichrist and all the songs from that time, but when we first came out most people absolutely hated what we were doing. But hey, I liked it. It doesn’t matter what critics say. It never did.’There are many artists that listeners can feel nonchalant about; they may like one or two songs or even an entire album but are still somewhat indifferent to, but Slayer has long provoked a love-them-or-hate-them attitude, often taken to such extremes that fans have carved the band’s logo into their flesh. ‘People do a lot of crazy things,’ admitted Araya to the Scion AV All Purpose Show in 2014. ‘That’s just crazy. Not that I’m talking bad on anybody but that’s just kind of psycho. I mean, I don’t even have any Slayer tattoos!’ But the band have always been aware of the notoriety that they have caused over the years and the image that has been built up around them. ‘We like to shock people,’ admitted Araya in Spin back in the 1980s. ‘We write songs about what we like; we write lyrics about blood and death.’ Recently it was confirmed that Slayer will be appearing next June at the annual Download alongside Rob Zomibie and headliners System of a Down, Billy Clyro and Aerosmith. Slayer made their debut at the festival in its second year, taking to the stage on 6 June 2014, before returning twice in 2005 and 2007, respectively.