Slayer’s man­ager RIck SALES takes us in­side the job of a life­time.

… is how Rick Sales de­scribes a band like Slayer. He should know: he’s man­aged them for more than three decades

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - Words: dave ev­er­ley

Rick Sales had just fin­ished tour man­ag­ing hair-metal B-lis­ters Dokken when he got a call ask­ing if he wanted to go out on the road with an up-and-com­ing band named Slayer. He was tired and ini­tially turned it down, but a friend told him to re­con­sider. “I went and got a copy of Reign In Blood and I was hooked,” he says. Rick soon grad­u­ated from tour man­ager to full-time man­ager – a role he still has to­day. Has it been fun man­ag­ing Slayer, or is it hard work? “Well, I’ve been do­ing it so long, of course it’s fun. If I didn’t like do­ing this, I would have called it quits a long time ago,” he says. Still, we asked him what it’s re­ally like work­ing with one of metal’s most iconic bands.

What were Slayer like as peo­ple when you first met them?

“The guys were very young at that point

– still in their early-to-mid-20s. Tom and Kerry and Dave all lived with their folks and fairly close to each other. Jeff lived with his then-girl­friend [and fu­ture wife] Kathryn, and the band re­hearsed in Tom’s fam­ily’s garage, so I re­mem­ber do­ing a lot of walk­ing from Kerry’s house to Tom’s. Tom’s fam­ily were lovely peo­ple, and his mom would make food for ev­ery­one.”

Kerry comes across as a no-bull­shit guy in pub­lic. Is that what he’s re­ally like, or do you get to see a dif­fer­ent side of him?

“No, he’s pretty black and white, that’s Kerry, ab­so­lutely. Tom’s the same way. He may not come across in pub­lic the same way as Kerry does, but he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like. These guys are smart and they’re thought­ful, they al­ways have been.”

Kerry King has been crit­i­cal of some of the mu­sic Slayer made in the 1990s. What was the mood like in the band dur­ing that pe­riod?

“There is al­ways cre­ative de­bate in ev­ery mu­si­cal group. These guys were broth­ers. It wasn’t that there was only one guy with the vi­sion, it was three guys with a vi­sion – Dave was an amaz­ing drum­mer, he just wasn’t the writer. So, there were al­bums that were spear­headed by Tom, then there were other al­bums that were spear­headed by Kerry, and al­bums spear­headed by Jeff. It wasn’t a uni­form, ev­ery-al­bum-is-the-same process.”

They’ve had their mo­ments of con­tro­versy, from An­gel Of Death to Ji­had from Christ Il­lu­sion. Have you ever said, ‘Guys, I think you’ve gone too far’?

“No, I en­dorsed their vi­sion. I thought it was art, mak­ing a state­ment that peo­ple re­ally picked up on. They made peo­ple think, they made peo­ple feel. The whole ‘anti-Semitic’ ac­cu­sa­tion - that wasn’t by de­sign. That was the pub­lic com­ing back with that ac­cu­sa­tion. If you read the lyrics to An­gel Of Death, it’s a nar­ra­tive, not an en­dorse­ment.”

God Hates Us All was re­leased on 9/11. Did that have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on the al­bum?

“The tim­ing was sur­real, but no, not at all. They had made a state­ment and the fans en­dorsed it, in a way: ‘If there’s a god and this god is sup­posed to be won­der­ful and look­ing af­ter us, why does he let this kind of thing hap­pen?’”

Jeff Han­ne­man con­tracted a flesh-eat­ing bac­te­ria af­ter be­ing bitten in his hot tub in 2011. How hard was that for ev­ery­one to deal with?

“It was very hard for all of us. We all hoped he was go­ing to re­cover and come back as a full­time mem­ber of the band. I saw pho­to­graphs of his arm; the re­sults from the spi­der bite were di­a­bol­i­cal. He went through hell in terms of the process to re­build the tis­sue, the skin grafts, get­ting the nerves and all that stuff work­ing again. It was very hard for the guys. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’re never go­ing to see Jeff again.’ It was, ‘Okay, we’ll go on for a minute, he’ll come back.’”

Was there a chance that they might not con­tinue af­ter Jeff passed away?

“I think it was con­sid­ered. But they also thought, ‘What would Jeff say if he was stand­ing here?’ He’d say, ‘Hey, you went on with­out me while I was here.’ And Jeff en­dorsed Gary, there wasn’t any con­flict about that. But of course, when you lose a brother af­ter so many years, it’s like, ‘Should the band con­tinue?’ That’s hu­man na­ture.”

When the band an­nounced they were go­ing to re­tire, did you try to talk them out of it?

“No, I un­der­stood it. Tom had been say­ing in the me­dia for some time that he lived for that hour and a half on­stage - the rest of it was hard. But Kerry and Tom made the de­ci­sion. When they an­nounced this was go­ing to be it, I sup­ported it. To me, it’s like the co­me­dian, Jerry Se­in­feld. He was top of the food chain, he had one of the most suc­cess­ful tele­vi­sion shows and he just called it quits. Slayer are go­ing out on top.”

Is this re­ally the end? Do you see any tours or one-off gigs in the fu­ture?

“No, I don’t see any more tours. This is their swan­song, there’s no ques­tion about it. Peo­ple have asked me, ‘Is this like Ozzy or Cher – how many ‘fi­nal tours’ are they ac­tu­ally go­ing to do?’ And my an­swer is: ‘This is it.’ One of the things Slayer have al­ways had is ul­ti­mate cred­i­bil­ity, and if they say this is it, this is it.”

When you started work­ing with them, did you ever an­tic­i­pate that Slayer would be­come such an in­flu­en­tial band?

“This is The band’s swan­song, There’s no ques­Tion abouT iT”

“Ab­so­lutely, def­i­nitely, you could see it af­ter a few al­bums, for sure. They put their stamp on hard rock mu­sic, they’ll go down in the his­tory books, no ques­tion. They in­vented what they do; no one’s done it bet­ter, and no one ever will. Slayer comes around only once in a life­time.”

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