Slayer’s Kerry King Gushes Over Judas Priest: “There Wouldn’t Be a Lot of Metal Bands Without Them. Us Being One of Them.”
Anyone who’s ever listened to Slayer‘s South of Heaven know that the band are huge fans of NWOBHM legends Judas Priest. Slayer weren’t really doing covers at the time, but that album includes a steel-plated, blood-streaked rendition of Priest’s classic track “Dissident Aggressor.” Now, in a new interview about Halford and Co.’s possible induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Slayer guitarist Kerry King has gone all-in on his love for the band, gushing over them to a nerdy and awesome degree.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Kerry lays out exactly how much Judas Priest influenced Slayer. It’s kind of sweet, given that Kerry is definitely considered one of the saltier dudes in metal, and here he is pouring his guts out about another band. But hey, we were all kids at some point, and the music that got us here will always hold a special place in our hearts, so we understand where he’s coming from. For many of us, Slayer was that band.
Here are some highlights:
“I must have first heard Judas Priest on the radio. I was a very sheltered 16-year-old, and I didn’t have an older brother or somebody that was already into music to turn me onto it. I was basically force-fed whatever my sisters would have around, and luckily they liked rock. So living in Los Angeles back when British Steel came out the radio stations, KMET or KLOS started playing ‘Living After Midnight’ and ‘Breaking the Law,’ and immediately I latched onto it.
“As a young guitar player, I could tell there were two guitars on the recording, and the creativity and early uniqueness of two guitars totally inspired what Slayer became. And then there was the singer, Rob Halford. To this day, he is my favorite singer. He knows it. It’s an uncomfortable thing between us, but we’re friends and he knows he’s my favorite.
“Rob Halford’s stage presence, his stage persona, and his stage look were always upper echelon. His entrances at concerts were always pretty grand. On one of the tours, he would be in this basket singing ‘Electric Eye’ that was slowly lowered to the stage from the lighting trusses. The band was always on the stage and then when Rob came out, it was just that much bigger. And his voice — he hits notes and holds notes for a duration that’s almost inhuman. It’s like Eddie Van Halen playing guitar; that’s Rob Halford singing.
“After hearing them on the radio, I was on the Judas Priest bandwagon. I bought British Steel and found the real quote-unquote ‘metal songs’ on the album — not the radio hits. And I was like, ‘Wow, I definitely have to do some homework on this.’ So I probably bought the live album Unleashed in the East first, because that was the most recent record, and then Hell Bent for Leather and Stained Class and went backwards. Eventually I got all the stuff and realized that Priest were a metal band first that was trying to break into the U.S. marketplace by doing songs like ‘Living After Midnight’ and ‘Breaking the Law’ — which aren’t bad songs, it’s just my love for Priest is from the metal aspect. Priest were like, “We’re metal and we’re pretty proud of this and we hope you guys become proud of it, too.” And that was cool to me. I think more than anybody, Priest had a hand in what the perception of metal is.
“One of the covers we messed around with in the old days was ‘Dissident Aggressor.’ I always thought it was a super heavy song that maybe didn’t get the recognition it deserved. And during the South of Heaven session, Jeff and I had writer’s block for like the only time in our lives and weren’t getting enough songs together. I don’t know if Jeff said it or me — it was probably me because I was a bigger Priest fan — ‘Why don’t we do ‘Dissident Aggressor’?’ And the funny thing about that is when we did it, it was so abstract, a lot of people thought it was our original song. It was really weird.
“Around the time we recorded that, Slayer toured with Judas Priest. We played, like, 13 shows on their Ram It Down tour in 1988. That was one that was like the last remnants of hair metal for Judas Priest, after they did their Turbo album, because when that tour got announced, it was Priest with Cinderella opening and it was bombing. I just thought, ‘Why would you do tour with them? That’s the stupidest thing ever.’ And then we got asked to pick up the last 13 shows, and that was the best thing anybody could have ever said to me at that point. It was such a stronger bill, and thrash metal was becoming something. So I’m very happy and proud they chose us because that kind of re-legitimized them to metal people.
“Priest’s most recent album, Firepower, in my eyes is definitely the best they’ve done since Painkiller. For a band that had already been in the biz 40-ish years to write an album that a true metal kid like me can say, “That’s a legit record and it’s awesome,” that’s longevity and creativity. They stayed true to what they were, but they know it’s Judas Priest and they’ve got to deliver.
The last time Slayer played, in ’19, Rob was on my side of the stage at one of the shows, and I just I just planted him there and I told all my friends, ‘Don’t you fuck with him. I want him to enjoy it.’ And I’d go over and give him an elbow in the gut and say, ‘See all this fucking nonsense you inspired?’
“If I were going to vote for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I would totally vote for them. Without question. First and foremost, there would be no metal without Black Sabbath. But once you get beyond that, there wouldn’t be a lot of metal bands without Judas Priest. Us being one of them.
“The people who do vote are probably going to vote for the bigger bands. That says nothing for Priest’s longevity and the things they’ve done. I don’t know what else to say. If you’re not a metal fan, you’re never going to get it. If you are a metal fan, you’re never going to forget it.”
In conclusion, we’re not crying, you’re crying.