This summer's Mayhem Festival has Slayer back on the road for their first nationwide tour since 2010, and guitarist Kerry King is already plotting the future. The SoCal thrash originators have begun recording a new album that he hopes to have finished by September and ready for an early 2013 release.
Before leaving on Mayhem last weekend, Slayer finished two songs that now await mixing, began two others that still need leads and vocals, and demoed two more with producer Greg Fidelman, who last joined them on 2009's World Painted Blood and is currently working with Rick Rubin and Metallica. King hopes to get back to work as soon as Mayhem ends August 5th in Hartford, Connecticut.
"If I get off my ass and start writing again on the road – since we've been in Europe, I keep trying to work on lyric ideas, maybe some leads, and fixing songs that didn't work correctly – it should be a real quick process," King told Rolling Stone, sitting in a black Metal Mulisha T-shirt and long camo pants, backstage at Mayhem's opening day in San Bernardino.
So far, the band has been working without guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who is still recovering from a devastating attack of flesh-eating necrotizing fasciitis on his right arm, believed to be caused by a spider bite. At last year's Big 4 Festival in Indio, California, Hanneman joined the band onstage for a two-song encore, but he hasn't yet been able to tour again.
"He's rehearsed with us a number of times. He tried to do the Fun Fun Fun Fest [in Austin]," King said. "That's the last time he tried to get out and do a show, and he's just not there. It's no secret we're very intricate, especially rhythmically. But he can't do that yet."
Other than two domestic Big 4 dates and the current Mayhem tour, Slayer have performed only a handful of U.S. shows since Hanneman was sidelined. Exodus guitarist Gary Holt has been the main substitute since Hanneman's illness. "Gary's a fucking badass," said King.
Hanneman wasn't at the recent recording sessions. But King explained that he typically records all the basic guitar parts himself anyway, even on songs written by Hanneman, before bringing the other guitarist in to perform his leads. "I do a lot of the bass, too," said King. It's still unknown if Hanneman will be able to return in time to perform solos on the new Slayer album.
"After Mayhem we'll reevaluate and see if he's any closer," King says. "We're planning for him to come back and the door is open, because it's his fucking gig. If he can play, Jeff Hanneman is going to fucking be here, and I'm stoked about that. I love playing with Gary, and he's doing a killer job, but if Jeff came back and said 'I'm ready,' I'll check him out to see that he's ready, and off we go."