Slayer are the one and only. The princes of darkness, the lords of thrash and the band who will quite literally play the soundtrack to the apocalypse. We got to sit down with their drummer Paul Bostaph and find out more about the explosive force behind the bands trademark rhythms.
How are you?
Paul: I’ve been alright. Running around trying to get stuff together.
So I just got through listening to Repentless again and I was wondering… going forward with the solidified lineup what do you think your role in the band will be?
Paul: Well my role in the band is obviously to play drums and contribute what I can creatively. I think that’s always kind of what it’s been nothing more than that. I’m just trying to be a good band member.
Do you ever feel like you’re in the shadow of previous lineups?
Paul: I used to. I don’t anymore. In the beginning it was definitely that and you can’t erase the past and the past records are awesome – I’m a fan of those records. I feel like I’m a part of that now.
In regards to the records you were I noticed that you said you favorite Slayer record that you played on was Diabolica In Musica… which is an interesting choice. Can you tell me more about that?
Paul: It’s kind of funny that you bring that up because I like each records for different reasons and I don’t know why I said that. That album is one of my favorites for sure because the songwriting was killer and it was the only album we worked on with Rick Rubin from top to bottom. I actually had the chance for him to sit in on my drum tracks the whole way through which was really cool.
Paul: It’s weird because on those other records I had never taken as much time away from the band. Now it’s been 13 years or something since I last left. There’s a lot of personal perspective and reflections that come from gaining knowledge and working with other individuals. I think this album is a lot more personal. I’m not trying to be the best drummer in the world I’m just trying to do my best on these songs.
I’m assuming there’s going to be more Slayer right?
Paul: I hope so.
Do you want to expand your role in the future?
Paul: That will be the future and I can’t tell you what the future is. You never want to write the same record twice I can tell you that. Once we get into the writing sessions we will be in a different place and we will have this under our belts. Obviously I like playing and I would like to have a bigger role on certain tracks and improve production values but that will be the future – I’m not there yet.
I noticed that is you’re super into Clive Burr and Tommy Aldridge… how do they impact your playing?
Paul: Those two drummers are very heavy influences on my playing. Tommy Aldridge has always sounded amazing. He has some great bass fills and the stuff he did with Ozzy was amazing. Clive Burr was a single bass drummer but he had an almost punk style and I relate to those drummers a lot.
You’ve talked a lot about your ying yang philosophy, how much does that carry on to your day to day?
Paul: I don’t think it only applies to drumming. Drumming is an extension of who I am it’s not who I am.
If drumming isn’t who you are – who are you?
Paul: Playing the drums is an entirely different thing for me. It’s a space I get in not just physically or mentally. People call it the ‘zone’. I get into a zone with it. I really only get that from drumming. It’s something that when you’re doing it you’re so occupied with doing it you’re not thinking about it. You drift away from the mechanical part of it and you’re just in a total flow. If I could have that in my everyday it would be amazing.
Is it a spiritual thing?
Paul: Almost. You kind of connect to it through other means than your brain. When I’m thinking I’m not playing well – when I don’t think I’m playing well.
Obviously Tom Araya has been pretty open about his faith – do you have any religious leanings?
Paul: I believe in God. After that… I’m not religious. I don’t go to church at all really. That’s as far as it goes really. People can believe what they believe. I think sometimes people only look at things inside the box from which to live and don’t accept that there is more than one way of thinking out there. I try and accept that.
On the song Disciple – that was the first Slayer song I ever heard and that song changed my life… It kind of put me into a phase of being ‘The Slayer kid’ in high school. What do you think it is about Slayer that you think cultivates this extremely focused die hard fanaticism that goes beyond what you see in other metal bands?
Paul: I think it goes down to the fact that there’s no compromises in this sound. No one compromises their sound or what they are writing about. This band has been true to its convictions since the beginning. I think that’s what it is. They are loyal to themselves. From a fan standpoint I get that and that makes me stay loyal to them.
Is that what drew you towards Slayer back in the day?
Paul: Their first record I heard was Reign In Blood and that knocked me on my ass and then of course South Of Haven and Seasons In The Abyss were amazing it showed they were relentless and there was no compromises in the sound. When I got a record I knew what band I would be hearing. It wouldn’t be invalid and it would never be commercial. That’s what I loved about it.
A lot of people in recent years have made the argument that Slayer has compromised… I think that certain people believe that Slayer are a corporate entity now…
Paul: They haven’t been around for thirty years! If you’re around for thirty years existing in an industry your band becomes a brand. After thirty years of being in the business if your band hasn’t becomes a business then you wouldn’t be in that industry you would be doing something else for a living. You can’t ignore this side of being in the music business. You need a business sense, that’s how you keep afloat. You need to do a lot of things and wear a lot of hats. If you think we compromised we haven’t. If you think the compromise is being in the industry well that just doesn’t work – you can be in a band and in the business as well. If people listen to your records they shouldn’t have to deal with that stuff. Band guys usually just want to play music and not worry about anything else, but unfortunately it’s also a business and you can’t ignore that.
Do you ever long for the garage days?
Paul: No. Not at all. The skill level and the songs were so far behind us now. In those days I was trying to get out of the garage I don’t want to spend any more time getting back into it. In the garage days you would get the cops called on you for playing too loud.
And now you’re trying to be the loudest…
Paul: We’re just loud. We’re not trying to be loud!
Why is there a desire to be so loud?
Paul: There actually isn’t. I try to play deliberately and that’s the way I get the best sound. That’s the only reason why – I like it.
Going through your biography and looking at everything you’ve done is obviously really impressive but I’ve noticed you’ve had to take breaks due to injuries and stuff.. do you ever worry about the future of your career due to this history of injuries?
Paul: I don’t worry about that. My health is in a good place.
The other thing I was trying to figure was… when you weren’t in bands what were you doing?
Paul: I was still doing music. I was just doing it on a non-national level. I was largely giving drum lessons.
You’ve gotten to play in all of these awesome bands like Slayer, Exodus, Testament and Forbidden, which is your favorite?
Paul: At the end of the day probably Forbidden since it was the first band I was in and it was the first time I went on tour. It was something special. It was totally my band. We shared the experience of having nobody know who we were and passing out fliers and trying to make our music better
I imagine it has to be a weird thing mentally to go from playing to dozens of people with Forbidden to playing literally hundreds of thousands with Slayer… how does that feel?
Paul: It’s pretty unbelievable at times. In Forbidden that’s what we were striving to do – we wanted to have some longevity to play these bigger stages but actually getting to do it with Slayer was pretty great. With Forbidden it was small steps and then with Slayer I wasn’t climbing a ladder – instantly I was on the big stage. It was pretty unbelievable. The first time I did it was in front of 50-60,000 people. I didn’t have much time to soak it in to be honest with you I was so focused on remembering the parts! I couldn’t let myself live in the moment at the time.
I wanted to ask – what do you love so much about music.
Paul: I love to listen back to something and realizing how it captures a feeling. I like working with other musicians and creating something with other people. I really enjoy how you can get together with a group of people and make some sounds that when you look back at them you get excited about it. It’s like “Wow that sound was inside of me” and then I find myself in the music and that’s what I like best.
Any final words of wisdom for me?
Paul: Brush your teeth! (Laughter) If you’re in a band don’t push your band mates buttons. Respect each other and the guys you play with and if you don’t find a different group.
Slayer is on their North American tour with special guests Testament and continue hitting the festival stages over in Europe this summer including Hellfest, With Full Force Open Air, Volt festival and ending at Bloodstock. Many dates are already sold out so grab your tickets early. Also pick up your copy of ‘Repentless’ which is out now on iTunes, Amazon, and all the other usual retailers.
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