Slayer have been heading up the thrash metal scene for a quarter of a century. Frontman Tom Araya tells Joel McIver that it may soon be time to rethink the band’s future and defends the forthcoming Unholy Alliance III tour with Trivium.
This autumn, the UK’s bigger clubs will be quaking to their foundations thanks to the latest instalment of the Unholy Alliance tour, headlined by Slayer and featuring Trivium, Mastodon and Amon Amarth on the bill.
Previous jaunts included Slipknot and In Flames and received much acclaim, but there’s a sneaking feeling among Slayer’s rabid fanbase that perhaps some space on the bill could have been allocated to newer, more extreme bands this time around. Thrash Hits .com put this to Tom Araya this week, as well as asking him to clarify his band’s future.
Some people would say that you, Slayer, are in a position to give smaller bands much-needed exposure by taking them on tour with you, rather than taking Trivium and Mastodon out who are already established.
I hate to say this, but at this stage of the game, for as many years as we’ve been out as a band, it’s about income. When it comes to having a band who you would love to give exposure to, in all honesty, you would have to be really wowed by that band. I can honestly say that there’s only been one other band in recent times that has done that for us, and that’s System Of A Down. Nobody knew them, but we heard them and we were like ‘Fuck! Let’s take these guys out on the road’. And look what happened.
Watch the video to ‘Eyes Of The Insane’ by Slayer
So System Of A Down was the exception?
Yes, that was an exception. Can you name any other bands that deserve that kind of break?
Yes – tons!
OK, there’s tons, but is there one that gives you that wow factor, that makes you say ‘Fuck!’? Because I haven’t really heard anything recently that makes me say, ‘Wow! This is fuckin’ amazing!’ You can sit back and name bands that are worthy of being exposed to a broader audience and would never be given the chance, but you have to look at it from our perspective. They’re not gonna sell tickets, and the idea behind the tour is to try and sell tickets, to fill those seats.
You were quoted a while ago as saying that after the next Slayer album you would have to discuss whether to continue as a band, but your guitarist Kerry King has downplayed this comment. What’s the truth? Are you really going to talk about winding up the band?
Yeah. Let’s put it this way, this is the final record of our commitment with Rick Rubin. When we first signed a deal with him back in 1986, we never sat down and said, ‘How long do you guys want to keep this together?’ We signed the deal and we’ve just been doing records since. Then, by the time we did Seasons In The Abyss (1990), our third record with Rubin, we had a manager [Rick Sales] who did a really good job of renegotiating an entire new deal for 10 records. We just continued making records, with no game plan other than ‘We’re gonna do a record and then tour’, ‘We’re gonna do another record after the tour’ and so on.
So if you’ve never said to each other, ‘What are we going to do after our final album?’, when will that conversation happen?
I don’t know. We’re working on new ideas now just so that people can have a taste of what’s coming. Kerry and Jeff are putting together ideas, so what the end result of this next two and a half months is, I don’t know. Once we’ve put together new material, we can get together and discuss our future plans.
Are you in a position financially where you could retire?
I don’t know. I would think, to some extent, that I’m a little better off than most people, but as far as being secure? Maybe. But you know what, life will always be good. I don’t fear it. I’ve been very grateful for everything that I’ve gotten.
Is it because of your age that you’re thinking of hanging it up?
Seeing a 50-year-old man headbanging on stage would make me cringe. If I was watching that, I’d think, ‘Dude, you’re a little too old for that, aren’t you? You’re gonna fall off!’
The Unholy Alliance tour kicks off in Manchester on 27 October 2008