"Humanity is just a failure. Humanity is just waiting to end humanity": Kerry King has a new solo album - he also has things to say

Kerry King studio portrait
(Image credit: Andrew Stuart Photography)

Kerry King wasted no time in getting back on the horse after his band, thrash metal juggernauts Slayer, called it a day in 2019. “I had a few months off, and that was enough for me,” says the guitarist. “I’ve had a long career, and I’m a lot closer to the tail end of it, so any time wasted is lost time.” 

The fruit of his recent labours is his vicious debut solo album From Hell I Rise, a record that won’t disappoint Slayer fans. That band’s unexpected reunion is off-limits today – a publicist sits in on our conversation to make sure – but King still has plenty to say about religion, politics and his late bandmate Jeff Hanneman.

Alt

Was there any grand plan behind the solo album, or is this just what comes out every time you pick up a guitar? 

Every time you go in with an agenda, nine times out of ten you’re not going to achieve it. For me it’s just sitting down with a guitar and a phone to record it on. 

It’s instantly recognisable as an album by the guitarist from Slayer. Was it tempting to step out of that comfort zone and make, say, a prog-metal record or pull a Load/Reload-style left turn? 

No. I’m a fan of metal, and luckily I get to write my own. And it just so happens that I’m good at this. If there was ever a point in time to try that, this would have been it, but I don’t have that desire. 

Did you get people you hadn’t heard from in years saying: “Hey, I hear there’s a vacancy in your band…” 

Surprisingly, very few. I think people figured I had a masterplan from day one. Which I kind of did, but it wasn’t chipped in stone. And I thought there’d be offers to fill in [with other bands], but that phone never rang, so I worked on my stuff. 

You could have had your pick of pretty much any modern metal singer. Why did you go with Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda?

We’ve been friends for decades, but we got tighter in the last five or six years. He was the only one we tried out. I didn’t want Death Angel Mark, I wanted to build him up in a way that no one’s ever heard him. Everybody I picked was good friends. Paul [Bostaph, drummer] was in Slayer, Phil [Demmell, guitarist] had left Machine Head, Hellyeah [bassist Kyle Sanders’s former band] had broken up. Everybody needed work, so it was out of necessity.

Were you ever tempted to sing? What’s your singing voice like? 

I have conviction, but I don’t have great pipes. If it had have worked out to where I had to be the singer, I could have done it. But I can’t sing and play either, so that would have been a big problem. I did do scratch [rough] vocals [on the demos], so if Mark had said: “Why don’t we both sing this part,” I might have said: “Yeah, let’s do it.” It would have been two pissed off, angry guys fucking screaming away. 

You’re fifty-nine. What have you still got to be pissed off at? Are you just the angry guy shaking his fist at the sky? 

I’m definitely not that guy [laughs]. I believe humanity is just a failure. Humanity is just waiting to end humanity by whatever idiotic fuck-up we do. The world’s a fucked up place. That’s why there’s no shortage of things for me to write about. 

The song Toxic is about bad government and political hypocrisy. What or who inspired it? 

Toxic was written right after the Roe vs Wade decision went down in America [the controversial ruling to overturn US abortion laws]. Every Supreme Court justice Trump appointed lied to get the job. I can’t understand how that happened. I can’t understand how the American people are okay with that. Trump divided the country, and it’s still divided. I don’t know what needs to happen to make that change. It’s certainly not going to be the 2024 election, because nobody cares about either one of those candidates. 

The songs Where I Reign and From Hell I Rise take aim at religion. Do you think some priests will hear them and go: “Hey, you know what, Kerry’s right, religion’s a crock of shit?” 

Ha! That would be a great day. I could go: “I told you!” But it would be a horrible day too, cos I’d lose half of what I write about.

You’ve said you changed the lyrics to a couple of songs because of the war in Ukraine. Why? 

One song was Two Fists, which had a war reference that I changed the perspective on. Trophies Of The Tyrant might have got tweaked a little bit too. That song is kind of about the Ukrainian war anyway – they didn’t ask to be invaded by some lunatic. And the Russian people are being lied to about what’s happening in the Ukraine. It’s a horrible situation. 

You and late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman were one of metal’s all-time greatest guitar teams. When you’re writing a song, do you ever think: “What would Jeff think of this?” 

I did think of that when I was doing this record. And I thought to myself: “Jeff would fucking love this album – there’s plenty of anti-religious stuff on there, there’s plenty of war stuff, there’s plenty of hate.” He would have dug it. 

It’s your name above the marquee this time – there’s no sharing the blame if it goes wrong. Does that add pressure? 

I never wanted my last name attached to this. But every time we came up with a name, we’d find out there was a trademark issue. Naming a band in this day and age is fucking difficult. They were getting ready to announce the festivals shows we’re doing, so we went with my name. I’ve only had the burden for a few months, so let’s see. 

When Slayer started out, you were in competition with Metallica and Megadeth. Who is Kerry King in competition with now? 

I guess it’s Slayer, because that’s my career. People always expect you to fail, no matter who you are. It’s up to me to either be consistent with or beat what I’ve done in the past. 

From Hell I Rise is out now via Reigning Phoenix Music.

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.