Wednesday 12 May 2010

Interview with Tom Araya of Slayer

Last year, while Slayer were in town promoting their then-upcoming record, World Painted Blood, I interviewed Tom and Kerry individually. Anyways, for the piece, it needed to run as one interview, so I kinda mixed it all up. Here is the entire Tom Araya interview in one shot, I will post the Kerry King one at a later date.

AFITFOG: So, another album. I haven't heard it yet, is it a continuation from Christ Illusion? Or a return to the good old days?
Tom: Very classic Slayer, more so than Christ (Illusion).

Okay, that's good.
It's awesome. You're gonna like it.

Did you produce it yourselves?
We produced it with Greg Fidelman, he searched us out, when we did Christ. And then we had three songs that our manager wanted us to record to get people crazy for the new album, so we hooked with him to do these three songs. When we did that we said, 'listen, we want you to do an album with us', so we booked some (studio) time - even though we didn't have songs - cos we liked what he did. We were in the studio, we had maybe five songs that we took in the studio with us, and then another 6 or 7 songs were written in the studio, which was a first for us. It allowed everyone to give input, and that's why I think the overall album is a bit more...

Very spontaneous, its really good.

You guys have been together now for what, 28 years, no break-ups etc?
We've had a rotating drummer but that's about it. We went from Dave to Paul, to Dave.

You had Tony Scaglione from Whiplash for a minute too?
A month. Yeah, one tour. It was the second half of a tour when Dave first left. We had just started a tour with W.A.S.P. (the Reign In Pain Tour 86/87), and we did that tour and Dave took a hike, so we had to find someone for the four weeks that were left to finish the tour. That was the last of Tony, he was, y'know, an okay drummer. He was a good drummer, but he wasn't Slayer material.

And it's back to the original line-up huh.
Yeah, there was a period of over 10 years where Dave wasn't involved with the band and it was Paul (Bostaph, currently of Testament), you mentioned the other drummers - Tony, there was another drummer (Jon Dette)... We tried out different drummers, but each time we would get ready to do something, like on South Of Heaven, we worked with Nick Menza (once of Megadeth). He was someone that we thought had potential, he's a natural. And then Dave came in, and changed that, ha ha. So, Dave rejoined the band. And when he left again, we had Paul. Paul was actually a really good drummer, out of all the drummers, Paul would be the the one that would stand the closest to Dave. It's like - you've got the master, and then you have his disciple ha ha. We lucked out by getting Paul, he's now in his own right becoming the 'master', cos every band he's with I notice their albums do really well, ha ha. Which is amazing because it takes that kind of talent for people to go, 'fuck, this album sounds great'. Its the drummer and the vocals, you know? If they're coming out strong, its awesome. Its the the first thing people notice.

Does he write anything (Dave)?
Well, even though the song credits, whenever you read album credits of a song, especially on ours... With Dave, even with Paul, he and Kerry worked out a lot of material, helped him work out a lot of his songs for Divine (Intervention) and Diabolus (In Musica). Same with Dave. He's a drummer, 'why don't you do this here or that there.' Dave has a lot of input in the structure of songs, even though his name's not on anything.


What are you memories of touring with Venom?
That was actually a really good tour because it... it was good for us. You know, you're young, having fun, you know, you get fucking obliterated ha ha. Kerry was a fan of Venom, he had their first record, Welcome to Hell. Yeah, he liked Venom... But yeah, when we started out as a band we wrote material, but it wasn't Slayer material. It wasn't until we listened to Metal Massacre (featuring Metallica & Ratt. Slayer would go on to feature on Metal Massacre III) we thought - we could be heavier and faster than this shit. So we wrote a song, and just stuck to our guns. 30 years later we're still heavy and fast, which is what we always set out to do.

So was there competition between the bands? Who was the heaviest, the fastest etc. and was there a point where you thought 'actually, I can't keep up with these guys'...
There is no competition! Ha ha! We've looked at it that way, there's no competition. There's no comparisons and no competition. Ha ha.

What bands were you listening to at the time, bands that were coming out then (early to mid 80s)?
Well, I got turned on to a lot of that material from the guys, when I hooked up with the band. I mean, that was in 81. I didn't know about Maiden. I mean, I was going to school and working at the hospital (he worked as a respiratory therapist), so I wasn't really focused on the metal scene. I was more familiar with the American rock scene. Kerry said, 'hey, I've got a list of songs', he listed off the bands and I was like, 'hey, who are Iron Maiden?' So I went out and bought it and I was like, (whispers) 'fuuuck, where have I been? This is awesome!'. And then all of a sudden, Kerry breaks out Venom records and you start meeting up with other bands - Exodus, and we'd trade tapes. Then we went up north and we met the guys in the band, did shows with them and we're like, 'fuck these guys are fast!', not realising that we were fast too. They would go back, 'no, YOU guys are fast.'

So, fast forwarding a little, the Clash Of The Titans was another big tour, there was a semi-reunion of sorts earlier this year when you toured with Megadeth again 18 years later?
People say, 'oh you said you'd never tour with him (Dave Mustaine) again, but hey, it makes good business sense. Kids wanna see that stuff, the promoter was dying to get us to Canada, and Mustaine thanked us for doing it. I was hoping not to see him, but I ran into him, he was like 'thanks for doing these shows, and I was like, 'er... sure'.

You said you had the rotating drummer, he had the rotating band ha ha. He never lived down the whole Metallica thing huh?
Ha ha, nope, he's never really lived it down.

Speaking of Megadeth, they changed a lot musically in the 90s, along with Metallica, whereas you guys went back to your roots and covered a bunch of punk songs.
We stuck true to what we do. Metallica went, and got to a certain level and were like, 'we're gonna do it. Ready, jump, let's see what happens!' So they crossed-over (musically) but they kept their fanbase, which was amazing. Dave Mustaine tried to do the same thing, he made the jump but... (mimics a guy clinging on for dear life, grabbing frantically at the sofa's cushions) And he fell off the cliff...

And he's got his own coffee now
Ha ha right, I guess that's success!

So where do you see the future of Slayer heading?
Future I see is, we're gonna be prolly touring the rest of this year, I know we are (you didn't! Ha!). We're prolly gonna tour all of next year, after that, it really depends. We gotta sit down and work out what we wanna do, this is our last record with Rick Rubin (American Recordings). Record companies aren't you know, signing record deals, we lucked out when Rubin said, 'we'll sign you to a 10 album deal'. That doesn't happen anymore. Now it's, 'let's do an album' ha ha you know what I mean? With us, we guarantee, they know if we put out a record our loyal fanbase will buy our album. So they know that they can guarantee a certain amount of records sold. Whereas with other acts, even with bigger acts... Who knows what's gonna happen you know? Its a new world for record companies.

Its a changing industry, when you started out it was vinyl, now its MP3.
Yeah, yeah, it was vinyl, tapes, CDs... We've been together 28 years an we've gone through all the formats. It's funny though, cos we're sitting here and we're like 'in 30 years we've from vinyl to...', but in a hundred and fifty years car has gone from four wheels and an engine to... four wheels and an engine! Ha ha ha ha.

Well at the end of your record deal you need to go and reinvent the wheel ha ha. Anyways, through the 28 years and the number of changes in media, it's still the same instruments you're playing, eh.
Yep. Still the same instruments, but, its a whole different world when it comes to recording now. Now you don't use analogue and tape, now, you can record a million tracks and go click-click-click you know, mark the tracks you like. Whereas before you'd have to go, 'what tape is that? Er, tape number 26!' And then you'd like chop out this part etc.

You think it takes away from the sound at all (recording digitally)?
I guess it's all to personal taste. Cos analogue, there is a difference in sound, if anyone were to actually sit down and listen and pay attention, they'd notice the difference. Digital is very crisp, very clear, you know what I mean? But analogue is very warm, and has a very warm, soft sound. It adds to it.

You didn't think about going back to analogue for this next release?
Even though everything is recorded digitally, it all goes back to tape, so you can get that analogue sound. It's made recording so much easier, cos you (used to) spend most of your day changing tapes, now its like click-click-click, this is the one you like. As opposed to taking a piece of tape, cutting it at an angle, finding the spot you like, piecing it together.

Do you ever listen to the old records and think, 'man, we should re-master these' or are you still happy with them as they are?
Those are what they are. For the time that they were recorded in I think they (still) sound fucking great. Why change 'em? We could re-master them or whatever, but you know, why? It's good the way it is. When I listen to those albums I do think, 'wow, technology has changed a lot', but they're still great albums. If the technology had've been better then, would the albums be any better? It was just us getting to know the studio. The first albums were done by us and whoever... The first album was us, the second album Hell Awaits Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Records founder) got it in his head to get some guy to produce it - I can't think of his name (Ron Fair) - to accompany produce that album. Haunting the Chapel, that's something we produced ourselves, there's a lot of stuff we did ourselves. Even when we were working with Rick Rubin, we were a big part of that process. All the other producers too, they sat in. We do a lot.

You still in touch with Rick?
(Grins) Not like I would like to, no. No. I mean, we did those three albums (Reign In Blood, Season in the Abyss & South Of Heaven), and that was it. He's got his own thing, producing other people. He does good, but he doesn't really do a lot, but he manages to get what he needs out of people. He did amazing stuff with Johnny Cash, same with Neil Diamond. That album is really great.

You guys must've toured everywhere by now, is China up next?
We had an offer to do Beijing, which was interesting. We played South Korea, which was kinda interesting. We did Singapore, I'm surprised they sent us there. The minute we landed they're talking about how they a list of songs they didn't want us to sing. We were like, 'listen, we came here, this is the list of songs we want to play, right, any of these songs you want to knock off you go right ahead, just means we're gonna play a pretty short set if you don't want us to play any of these songs'. We told them to fuck off and played them anyways.

That's weird, its a predominantly Buddhist country
Well yeah I know, I think they didn't like the anti-religious aspect. The government - 'the music police' - were actually at the show to make sure we didn't say anything bad, or make a statement about the fact that they were trying to control what we play.

Wow. So lastly, do you listen to any new metal bands out there?
Nah, I'm so outta touch with that. There's nowhere really to go. Where I live there isn't a 'mom and pop' record store, that would have independent things. The only thing that's accessible to me is Best Buy, record store chains!


Todd said...

I guess that I too will play into the band rivalry thing and state that "Endgame" is better than anything Slayer has done since "South of Heaven," just sayin....

Anonymous said...

todd... u r a douchebag