Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Q&A: Slayer's Kerry King (May 9, 1995)

The year was 1995. Bill Clinton was in the White House, and Rush Limbaugh was on both radio and television. I interviewed Kerry King because I was writing a piece for WORLD on songs about Rush Limbaugh--of which there were several at the time, pro and con--and Slayer's then-latest album, Divine Intervention, contained the song "Dittohead" (talk-radio slang for "fan of Rush's show"). I quoted from this Q&A in my piece; below is the transcript in its unexpurgated entirety.


ORTEZA: I'm working on an article for WORLD magazine about Rush Limbaugh songs, and "Dittohead" fits in that category.
KING: I think it pretty much owns it (laughs).

ORTEZA: The song doesn't mention Limbaugh. Why did you call it "Dittohead"?
KING: The title came after the lyrics and the music were completely done. I wrote the music, and it was pretty much the punkiest song I'd ever heard, and the pissed-off lyrics were inspired by all the crazy things I'd seen on TV for the past couple of years at that time.

ORTEZA: Like what?
KING: All the blow-out trials and lack of responsibility, and lack of just about everything. That's when I watched Rush Limbaugh everyday. I had the song completely written, but I had no idea what I was going to call it. Then I thought, "Well, it sounds like a radicalized version of what Rush Limbaugh does on TV everyday, so I'll just use that name."

ORTEZA: You wrote it in response to the Rodney King trial?
KING: Rodney King, the Menendez brothers, Bobbitt.

ORTEZA: In retrospect, would you throw the O.J Simpson trial in there?
KING: Oh, certainly.

ORTEZA: What does the appearance of a pro-Limbaugh song on a Slayer album say about rock-and-roll?
KING: It's pretty democratic (laughs).

ORTEZA: Does the whole band tune in to Limbaugh?
KING: Jeff [Hanneman] and I do a lot. I don't get to much anymore because I've been touring. I watch him in California a lot. In Arizona he's on late at night, and I always forget he's on. But Jeff and I always watch him in California.

ORTEZA: I bet most Dittoheads don't listen to Slayer.
KING: That's probably true.

ORTEZA: What do you think you have in common with the rest of his audience?
KING: The main thing is our beliefs about what's wrong with the political system, to start with, things we see that we can change. Obviously, a lot of people wanted change because they overthrew the old Congress in a landslide. But it's hard to say. Our music is pretty much for a pin-pointed age group. The late-to-mid teens to age twenty-one seem to make up the bulk of our audience. It's mostly a teenage audience that listens to us.

ORTEZA: Don't you think most of your fans would describe themselves as liberal?
KING: It's hard to say. I don't know.

ORTEZA: Do you vote?
KING: I'm going to next time (laughs).

ORTEZA: Against Clinton?
KING: Oh, yeah.

ORTEZA: What other aspects of the conservative agenda do you support?
KING: If anybody ever puts on an initiative for a flat tax rate, I'd be the first in line.

ORTEZA: You don't agree with those who say a flat tax demonstrates an unwillingness on the part of the well off to help the less well off?
KING: That's bullshit. I mean, Rush said it best: "Penalizing the achievers." Why should I get penalized for learning how to make money? I didn't have all the opportunities. I didn't have scholarships. But you don't hear me bitching about fucking having to sit in the gutter. I got off my ass and did something with my life. That's what being an American is about, not sitting on your ass and letting the rich people pay for you. It's about getting off your ass and accomplishing things.


(Update: Discussing the song "Americon" [from Slayer's
2009 album World Painted Blood
], King said, "It's about what I think the rest of the world thinks of America. We may not be big on a lot of people's lists, but I don't care what you think of my government, of my economy, or whatever. I live here and this is one of the best places that I've ever found to live. So f*#k you if you don't like it.")

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