Use Your Illusion

Slayer's leader talks spirituality, slaughterhouses and Simon

Over the course of the band's 25-year career, the thrash-metal pioneers of Slayer have been accused of inspiring murder and necrophilia (check out www.elysemarie.org). They've covered "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" for the Less Than Zero movie soundtrack. And just last year they won a Grammy for the song "Eyes of the Insane," off their latest album, Christ Illusion. Wednesday kicks off the quartet's second national tour this year, this time with Marilyn Manson. Although both acts have created controversy, Slayer audiences have been notoriously violent. "The two bands have one thing in common, and that's just being evil in the traditional sense, the way rock and roll is supposed to be," Manson says about the tour. "We might not be identical musically, but I think that our fans share a lot of the same sentiments. I think that when the two crowds come together, they'll have something in common. Hopefully they won't beat each other up."

We caught up with Slayer's lead vocalist and bass player, Tom Araya, and discussed his spiritual beliefs, his ranch in Texas, the upcoming tour and Graceland.

Slayer is going on tour with Marilyn Manson? What's next, Slayer Unplugged?

Tom Araya likes Cat Stevens' music. We swear that's what he said.
Tom Araya likes Cat Stevens' music. We swear that's what he said.

Ah...that's what this is about, huh.

No....First of all, I love Slayer.

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah....[laughter]

You know how many times I've stood in the audience, chanting "Slayer, Slayer, Slayer"?

How many times?

Well, let's see, I missed the Reign in Blood tour; I was too young. The Divine Intervention tour, West Palm Beach Auditorium 1995...

Yeah, that was a really good show. Actually, they all are!

How does it feel to be opening for Marilyn Manson?

I don't have any problems with it. We really don't have a preference. If we're co-headlining and the other band prefers to close, we say, "Sure, if you want to follow us, that's fine." We have no arguments. All we want to do is play, and we are the best, period. So you better be fucking good. I know of Manson; I'm familiar with some of his material. It should be an interesting lineup.

Will Dave Lombardo be drumming on this tour?

Yeah. I don't understand why people would think any different.

Well, he left Slayer in 1987, returned in 1992, left again...

He does other things. One of the stipulations is that he can do other stuff, but when it comes to Slayer, he gives 100 percent. I think that some of his other projects are really cool. I like Fantômas [with Mike Patton and Buzz Osborne].

A lot of people consider Slayer a satanic band. 

Yeah.

The rumor for a while has been that you are actually a born-again Christian.

[Manic laughter] First off, I was born once [more laughter]. When you use the term born-again, it is because you found something that you lost, right? I haven't lost anything. I was born and raised Catholic, so it's in my blood. I don't go to church.... I was born and raised Catholic, which is about the extent of my religion. My parents made one request, that I have my first Holy Communion.

You had a Holy Communion?

Believe it or not, I had my first Holy Communion. I am not an atheist; I believe in God. But my religion ends there. I have my own personal belief system that is so strong it allows me to do what I do. I don't have to worry about going to hell because of Slayer, you know? Everyone has a personal belief system and believes in life somehow.

Do you recommend any books that might help us understand Tom Araya's belief system? 

[Laughter] I recommend anybody go to a bookstore, go down the self-help or New Age section and just walk those aisles. See what book jumps out at you; there's a good chance it's a book you need in your life. That's basically how I find the books that I read. I just walk down the aisle, look at titles, glance at covers. You just happen to pick one up... If it does something for you, great; if not, you just keep looking.

You frequent the New Age section?

I like anything that captures my attention: New Age, religion, philosophy. True crime books are my favorite; there are a lot of brutal ones. They already have new books about that Virginia Tech dude...He outdid himself—sort of a re-enactment of what happened at Columbine a few years ago.

What are your hobbies? 

Besides Slayer, which is a full-time job, I raise animals. I have a ranch in Texas. My wife takes care of the animals when I'm on tour. When I get home, I become a ranch hand. I have cows, chickens, dogs, pigs, ducks...

Tom Araya's farm?

I raise the cows for personal consumption. I just started a herd of nine cows. These are meat cows to be eaten, not to be milked.

Are you going to slaughter these cows yourself?

No. It takes a lot of work, and I am not prepared for that. I don't have a slaughterhouse.

Do you wear a cowboy hat?

Not yet [laughter].

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