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CBS SF talks to Slayer guitarist Kerry King about his new band's debut album, upcoming tour

For the uninitiated, Slayer's co-founding guitarist Kerry King has been at the forefront of thrash metal for almost four decades. With a style that encapsulates the finer moments of thrash, punk and metal, King's songs have been the soundtrack to many head-banging youths with such song staples as "Mandatory Suicide," "Hell Awaits," and "Raining Blood."

As the debut his new band's latest single "Idle Hands" proved, longtime Slayer fans didn't have to worry if the guitarist softened since Slayer's farewell tour back in November 2019. Said Kerry -- who ceremoniously left his trademark chains behind as he walked offstage at the last Slayer gig -- "I knew early on that I wasn't done, and I had no intention of not continuing to play."

Kerry King
L-R: Kyle Sanders (bass), Mark Osegueda (vocals), Kerry King (guitar), Paul Bostaph (drums), Phil Demmell (guitar). Jim Louvau

With principle tracks recorded at Henson Studios in Los Angeles over the course of only two weeks, From Hell I Rise was finished shortly thereafter. Featuring 13 blistering tracks including standouts "Crucifixation," "Toxic," "Residue," and the highly infectious "Tension," there isn't a dud to be found. And with song structures and topics that could only come from Slayer's axeman, this soundtrack to the apocalypse -- available on all formats on May 17th Reigning Phoenix Music -- is sure to incite riotous behavior and circle pits wherever the band performs.

Much more than a side project, Kerry King -- both the band and the man -- are on a mission and putting the group at the forefront of all conversations. While Slayer may have announced reunion appearances at a trio of festivals in the fall (including one at Aftershock 2024 in Sacramento), King and his new band will be on the road as much as humanly possible. Started well before the pandemic, King has been a writing machine and, perhaps, even more prolific than during his full-time Slayer tenure. 

And while there is much chatter going on about Slayer returning this year, From Hell I Rise showcases one helluva line-up and is much more than a distraction from current events. Featuring some of Bay Area's best including longtime Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph (who also once played in Forbidden), guitarist Phil Demmel (formerly with Vio-Lence and Machine Head, who is also a member of the recently unveiled supergroup Category 7 featuring Armored Saint and former Anthrax frontman John Bush), and Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda along with bassist Kyle Sanders (Hellyeah), there is more than enough firepower to appease even the most devout Slayer fan.

Kerry King - Idle Hands (Official Audio) by Kerry King on YouTube

As luck would have it, the band will be supporting Lamb Of God and Mastodon on a stateside trek dubbed the "Ashes of Leviathan Tour" that sees them crisscrossing the U.S. starting July 19th in Grand Prairie, TX and then ultimately ending in La Vista, Nebraska at the close of August.

CBS SF: Just finally listened to the new album as a whole and it's a great listen from top to bottom. How long have these songs been ruminating? Were any of these riffs meant for Slayer originally?

Kerry King: There are two complete songs on this album that were left over from 'Repentless' and they were even done lyrically then, but I wasn't thrilled with how they turned out. I put them back in my pocket until the next Slayer record, but there never was a next record, so that became part of my new record.  Some of these riffs, like the main body of 'Residue,' is probably over 20 years old. I could never find the parts to finish it. This time I was able to. It's one of those songs that I always knew I wanted to use, but didn't want to put it out prematurely. There's tons of stuff I wrote since Slayer was done. There's also tons of stuff I wrote since 'From Hell I Arise' was done, so record number two is shaping up nicely as well.

CBS SF: Your band features a veritable who's who of the Bay Area metal scene. Why that area in particular?

Kerry King: I didn't think of it like that, but that's just how it panned out. I've known these guys -- especially, everybody from the Bay Area -- for decades.  All of them except Mark [Osegueda] needed work. Certainly Paul and I were out of work. Phil Demmel was also out of work, but he put his name in the hat very early and worked with us doing demos off and on. Every five or six weeks, he'd come down to play and we'd sound better. 

Using the demos we had, Phil would send new ideas whenever had new material. Phil's an incredible player and Mark's one of the best singers in thrash metal, without question. The pulse of thrash definitely comes from there. We were a little displaced because we were in Southern California, but at the end of the day, so was Metallica. 

I met Kyle in 2015 on the Mayhem Tour and we became friends very quickly. I knew that if I ever wanted a bassist, that's who I'd be calling. He's my East Coast connection. Paul's been working with me on and off since the early 90's, so the talent and the friendship is there. I'm happy I could help the guys out when they didn't have work. Right now, I get to go forward and show everybody what we got. 

Kerry King - Residue (Official Music Video) by Kerry King on YouTube

CBS SF: A full U.S. tour is already on the books. Do you plan to stay as busy with the KKB in 2025?

Kerry King: Absolutely. I would like to get something filled up between October and December 2024, but if the promoters think that's too early, then it will be soon after the New Year as business picks up again. Five weeks in Europe is very short for any kind of tour, be it festivals, or whatever. We want to go back and do a proper headline tour over there. We'll probably come to the States and do a proper headline tour or shift gears and put our other record out. We will be busy for sure.

CBS SF: Do you prefer festivals over headlining dates?

Kerry King: That's difficult. I like both. If I had my choice, I would probably say a headlining date.  When you're doing festivals, you're just a pawn in a sea of bands that are there to entertain a mass of people, so there's too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.

CBS SF: Any songs that didn't make the record?

Kerry King: Absolutely.  Within three months of Paul and I getting together, we had so many songs.  I said, "Hey dude, let's shift gears and finish the ones I've already got lyrics or titles for, or just songs making this record, so we aren't spinning our wheels and getting burned out." Before we called those songs, we made demos of them however far along they were at that point, and those are ones I'm going to readdress when I start working on stuff again. Actually, when I finally go on tour, during days off I'm going to really try to finish lyrics and stuff. When I come home and when the tour cycle is over, we can go right back in the studio and get more music out.

CBS SF: Why no Bay Area show scheduled so far? Seems like your biggest market aside from Los Angeles and New York.

Kerry King: I'll bet that Lamb of God has played the Bay Area recently. There's no New York City show either, so I'm assuming Lamb of God had shows there awhile ago as well. We're playing the sheds in some B & C markets, but when we come back we'll be hitting the other places.

CBS SF: What are your earliest memories of touring alongside Mark Osegueda previous to joining the band? What about Phil Demmel? 

Kerry King: My earliest memories are all gone, because that was probably 40 years ago. I've known Mark since he was a teenager singing in Death Angel. I remember them opening for us because Mark always reminds me he did when he was not even 18 years old and still a kid. Beyond that, Death Angel did an opening run for us in around 2016 or 2017. Before that, it was basically different circles. 

As far as Phil goes, I knew Phil in Vio-Lence, but really I don't remember that period either. We'd already toured with Machine Head lots and unless we were playing the same festivals and we turned up at the same place, I would never see him. However, every time if I was off and he came through or he was off and I came through, we'd hang to talk music and stuff.

CBS SF: Have you worked with anyone else outside of your band that has music recorded for possible release someday?

Kerry King: No. This isn't a solo project. Kerry King [the band] happens to have my name on it. This is my band and will be until we decide no longer to be one. Hopefully, that's when we're all done and want to hang it up to go sit on our porch and watch a bucket of grass grow. These are my guys now, so get used to them.

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