UTG INTERVIEW: Slayer’s Paul Bostaph Talks ‘Repentless,’ Mayhem Fest

Paul Bostaph

On July 26, Under The Gun Review sent me to Mayhem Festival at Nikon Jones Beach Theater in Long Island, NY. With only two stages for the whole festival this year, the average crowd size for each band I saw was a bit worrisome; for the better part of the day, it seemed like no one was interested in some of the festival’s most impressive acts.

However, that all changed when headliners Slayer–the undisputed kings of thrash and one of the most legendary metal bands in history–took the stage. The band commands a crowd with incredible ease, and their pyrotechnic-heavy live performance left a lasting impression on every attendee.

I had the chance to sit down with Slayer drummer Paul Bostaph about the band’s new record, Repentless, as well as their run on Mayhem Festival and Paul’s inclusion in a pivotal incarnation of Slayer. Check it out below.

UTG: Slayer has a new record called Repentless out on September 11, produced by the legendary Terry Date, with returning drummer Paul Bostaph. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of the tracks from the new record, and it’s classic Slayer — fast, to the point, expertly executed thrash. In relation to your career with Slayer, what does this record mean to you?

Paul Bostaph: Well, it means a lot. It’s the first record that the band has done without Jeff Hanneman, so that’s a big deal. You know, with Jeff not only did we lose a friend, but we lost a talented songwriter, so there’s a lot that went into it. A lot of people thought that we should give up, and I think that us getting this record done and being proud of it stands for this band’s resilience.

There’s a story that goes around that says when you first tried out for Slayer in the 90s, the band doubted if you’d be a good fit because they had heard your more “melodic” stuff in Forbidden, and you had to step up the hand in foot strength in order to emulate [previous Slayer drummer] Dave Lombardo’s style. How have you accommodated to the role after replacing Lombardo again in 2013? Do you have a similar mindset this time, or do you feel more focused on allowing your personal style to shine through?

You know, now I’m kind of doing it my own way, but in the beginning I was never really a part of the band. i had to come in and learn what this band was all about. It took me years of working with them and writing with them to learn how to make it become first nature — how to make it my style. Now when I play, it’s just music. I just know what it is.

Slayer Kerry King [Sinestra]

So you’re saying it’s different now because Slayer isn’t a new thing to you anymore?

Well, unless it’s a song I haven’t played before [laughs].

Very true. The Repentless lineup of Slayer has only worked on this record together. However, you and Gary Holt have both played in Exodus together for the Shovel Headed Kill Machine record, which released in October of 2005. What’s it like to work with Gary again on another high-profile metal record 10 years later?

You’re actually the first person I’ve heard that’s pointed that out, that it’s actually been almost 10 years to the day.

[Gary Holt, Slayer guitarist, enters the room]

Hey Gary, did you know that it’s been almost ten years since Shovel Headed Kill Machine? [laughs]

Gary: Has it been that long?

Paul: In a few more months it’ll be ten years, yeah.

Gary: Wow, we were ten years younger back then? [laughs]

Paul: But yeah, working with Gary has been great. I have a lot of respect for Gary; he’s a great guitar player and artist, he’s a great songwriter. I also really like Gary as a person and as a friend. So it’s not like I rejoined Slayer and it was just Tom [Araya, Slayer bassist/vocalist, myself, Kerry [King, Slayer guitarist], and some other guy I didn’t know. When I stepped back in, I was familiar with everybody, and it made it a lot easier for us to jell quickly.

I was surprised to learn that Slayer has never worked with Terry Date before. What’s the extent of your relationship with Date and what did he bring to Slayer’s table?

Well, this is the first time I ever met Terry. We worked on 2 songs, Implode, with Terry before we recorded Repentless. As far as I’m concerned, I consider Terry a friend, other than the fact that I respect his body of work, and all of the stuff he’s done with [bands like] Soundgarden, Pantera, Rob Zombie. All of those records are amazing. Terry brings respectability with him. He wasn’t some new guy I hadn’t worked with before, I didn’t have to learn that he got it, he just got it. I was really looking forward to what he would bring sonically to this style.

Slayer Tom Sinestra
Last year, we saw Avenged Sevenfold and Korn headline the Mayhem Fest, and the tour seems to skew toward younger metal fans with the occasional veteran metal band every year or two. The last time Slayer played was 2012 with Slipknot. This year, with two older metal bands headlining in Slayer and King Diamond, have you had an older, more typical Slayer crowd, or have you noticed younger kids that might not be familiar with the band?

It’s hard to say, because by the time I get to see the crowd, I’m on the drums. I’ve seen older people and younger people out there. It is more of a legendary lineup this year, but there are a lot of younger bands out on the second stage. The one thing I can say about this is it’s a true metal festival at the moment. There’s not any quote-unquote radio bands, it’s all bands that are just playing metal.

What’s it like to play for a festival crowd versus a typical Slayer headlining show?

Festivals are always way different because we’re not the only bands. On this bill, there are four bands on the main stage alone, then there are a bunch of bands on the second stage, so it’s a totally different thing. There are so many more people involved in the touring entourage. You’re not always playing in front of all your own fans, which is pretty cool because after all these years, we’re still getting exposed to people who have never heard us before.

Slayer Gary Sinestra

Repentless is Slayer’s first record with Nuclear Blast. How’s it been working with an indie label at this point in Slayer’s career?

Our experience with Nuclear Blast so far has been great. I’ve been in other Nuclear Blast bands like Exodus and Testament, so the Nuclear Blast crew is nothing new to me. They’re all metal fans and they get it. The funny thing about those guys is you can say that they’re an independent label, but they’re pretty big now. But they know and love metal — they’re all fans. So they’re not just some bigwig who think they can make a buck, they’re excited about working with metal bands.

I like to end interviews with a music recommendation. What music have you been digging this year?

Wow, I’ll be honest with you, recently all I’ve been listening to is Slayer [laughs]. The last two years before we recorded this record, Kerry and I were just hammering out songs, and when I work on a new record, I’m usually so focused on that that I don’t really listen to anything new. But I will say I have been listening to a lot of gangster rap. My fiancee is really into gangster rap, and I’ve been getting into that. It took me a while because I never listened to that, but I’ve been getting into that. I don’t know if that’s anything new, but now I’ll hear some of those songs and think “Yeah, I enjoy that.”

That’s very interesting. There’s a lot of shared aggression there with metal.

Exactly. So, yeah, gangster rap [laughs].

Interview conducted by John Bazley. Follow him on Twitter.
Article photos by Derek Soto, courtesy of Sinestra Studios.
Feature photo courtesy of Gene Ambo.

John Bazley

John Bazley was raised in central New Jersey by the romantic aura of the Asbury Park beachfront, punk rock, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4. He is still trying to figure all of this stuff out.

In addition to UTG, John has contributed to Alternative Press and Full Frequency Media. Follow him on Twitter for pictures of his dog.
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