Music by VICE

Slayer's Tom Araya and Paul Bostaph Talk Rights, Regrets, and the Constitution

During filming for the first episode of Noisey Shreds, we sat down with the thrash metal legends, and got political

by Kim Kelly
Feb 15 2017, 6:58pm

This week, we premiered the debut episode of Noisey Shreds, our brand-new heavy metal show, and I'm super excited (not least because I'm hosting it). For the first episode, I headed West to San Diego to meet up with one of the most iconic metal bands of all time: Slayer.

The band was in town for an appearance at Comic Con, where they were launching their new comic book collaboration with Dark Horse, and playing an intimate club show at House of Blues (more on that later). I sat down with Kerry King the day before for an illuminating conversation about police brutality and metal itself, but wasn't done yet. The next day, after braving the technicolor mazes and pop culture onslaught of Comic Con, I made my way back to a small room, wherein sat two legends—Tom Araya, and Paul Bostaph. 

We talked for a good while about a variety of things, from their House of Blues show to the family vibe that's become a big part of the band. We also talked politics, and the two guys surprised me a few times; our conversation was a big part of why I was so perplexed and bummed when Instagramgate happened, but hopefully the portion of our conversation below (and the episode itself) will provide some more insight into the political leanings of these unsinkable thrash gods. The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Noisey: So, I spoke with Kerry yesterday and we were talking about how it's funny that you guys are at this wild pop culture convention while at the same time there's another, way crazier convention going on—the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Have you guys been following that?
Paul Bostaph: I really haven't had any time to watch it. I turned on the news last night when I got back to my hotel room and you know, I'm sorry but—hopefully I'm not offending anybody—Donald Trump is the biggest joke I've ever seen in my life.

Tom Araya: I can't believe you said that.

Bostaph: I'm looking at this, and I'm [thinking], they have this big convention so this guy can come up on stage and everybody already knows he's going to be the guy. It sounds like a bunch of BS to me. He's saying he's going to fix everything, and he doesn't even have a plan. I guess he's a great salesman, because he got everybody sold.

Yeah, he sold us his image and nothing else. But I guess a lot of people are buying.
Bostaph: There are people that were at that convention that are supporting him just because they're Republican. But secretly at home, they think he's scary. When I look at that, and he's saying stuff and I see everybody clapping for some of the stuff he says, I'm like, this is the scariest shit I've ever seen as an American. In my lifetime.

Why do you think people like him? Why do you think he got this far?
Araya: He has a TV personality.

Bostaph: That's part of it.

And the way he's pandering to the religious right.
Araya: That's what he's saying. He's saying everything that he knows people want to hear.

Bostaph: That's all he's doing. He knows there's this need in America right now. There's people that need to be reassured that things are going to get better. They want that. And every time we get a new president, there's this feeling of hope. He's basically pandering to what some people want to hear. They want somebody to say, "I'm gonna fix this." That's what they want.

Araya: The other candidate is more of the same. People don't like what's been going on. He's saying, I'm gonna change this. And they're like, 'Great, because she's not. 'And that's how people are deciding this.

Which is terrifying.
Araya: It's sad.

Bostaph: It's funny because I think they call that mudslinging, what he's doing.

Araya: He can get away with it. He's allowed to call people names. He's allowed to call people names. He's allowed to say what he wants about other people but when you do that to him he sues you.

Funny how that works. Musically speaking, you guys have always paid attention to politics, even from the very beginning. Do you think any of this current craziness is going to bleed into the next record?
Araya: I don't know, we'll see what happens. Crazy shit going on in our world these days. We were talking about the Constitution, about how they wrote it, and it's about the people. They literally wrote in there, 'Hey, listen, if things aren't going the way you think they should, trash this. Get rid of your government. Write a whole new one because it's time for a change.' That's in the Constitution right?

Bostaph: Yeah. The Founding Fathers put that into the Constitution. It's funny, because I think now more than ever it's really important to read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Presidential Oath. Read that. I read that one time and it was scary as hell. Because you realize when you're reading that that every president you've seen has broken that oath. But nobody really remembers these things. I can't even tell you what the wording of the Constitution is, but I read it once, and when I read it, I went 'Holy crap!'

We're doing this all wrong.
Bostaph: Yeah, I think everybody that's an American right now should read those documents. As long as those documents still have power, that's your right. Those are your rights as a citizen of the United States. Those things are put in place for that. There's a lot of confusion going on. And we're looking at other people, like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or whomever, to solve problems when you've got the power. People just don't have that knowledge, because there's a lot of people who don't even know what the Bill of Rights is. I know because, as an American, I never read them—I was taught as a little kid, and I completely forgot. And then one day, me and my friend were just sitting around and we're like, 'Hey, let's read these things.' After I read them, I'm like, 'Holy crap.' You start realizing what's actually going on. It's like anything else. Somebody makes a mistake and you forget all about it. For instance, Donald Trump calls out a Mexican judge or whatever that was; you know what's happening right now, he did that but people are forgiving him for it.

They forgot because he's done so many other crazy things.
Bostaph: People are willing to forget as long as the guy says, 'Oh, I made a mistake.' The most important thing is it's gotta be about character of an individual as well. It's like your neighbor—if you think your neighbor is a weirdo, are you going to give him the keys to your house and watch your family? 

Araya: Yeah, that's in the Constitution, you know. If the government is getting too big, it's time to rethink that. Like he said, I have to agree with him. People haven't read that, they don't know that. Ii's something they just put on the back burner. They don't want people to know that people have that power. They don't want people to know that. And that's the power that they gave you in the Constitution. There are so many articles that they've changed. There were some things that were written into that healthcare law that was passed that people don't even know about.

Like what?
Araya: There were several articles that were changed that give the president more power to take over banks, to take over institutions. They gave him the executive power to do that, for any given reason. A lot of those bills they pass, they sneak these things in, and they pass them as laws and nobody really knows that they're in there. Because nobody reads them. Those are available to the public, but when are you gonna read that? And then the politicians, when they try to sell you those policies, they only tell you what they want you to know. They're not telling you what's really actually in the policies. I read somewhere [that] there's eight articles that literally contradict the Constitution, which is really mind boggling. So, take it from us. You guys should read the Constitution.

Bostaph: And the Bill of Rights.

Araya: And the Bill of Rights. Know your rights.

It's certainly important. Do you think a revolution will ever happen here again? 
Araya: If they keep trying to disarm America, it'll never happen. Revolution will never happen.

You don't want the government to be the only entity that has all the weapons.
Araya: They shouldn't be the [only] entity. Because then we're defenseless.

Bostaph: that's why in the bill of Rights you have the right to bear arms. And think about when that was written. America was a new country, and the citizens fought that war to be independent of England. And then also then think about the Civil War. Now fast forward, it's kind of a balance. I own a gun, it's in a safe, unloaded, with a child lock on it, at home.

But that's the thing. Look at the things that are going on in America right now that are being sensationalized. A lot of these things are horrible. Period. And it's going to be blamed on guns completely because a gun is used in every incident. But a gun doesn't shoot itself. Period. People shoot guns. If you blame it on guns, what next? There'll be random stabbings. What're you gonna do? You're gonna say, 'Well you can't have a knife.' And then what next? 'Okay, now you can't play baseball anymore because a baseball bat is a deadly weapon.' It's like, what people inherently are—they're gonna use tools. Somebody picked up a rock a long time ago and threw it at something, and realized they could eat. It's up to people to govern yourself. You have to use common sense. No government, no one else can tell you that. Don't trust anybody but yourself.

Araya: Music is great, but believe me, you guys, that's important. You really need to read up on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, because they're slowly being taken away. You need to really brush up on this shit. That's what's important.

Before I let you go, I've got to ask: Why do you keep stepping out onto that stage? You guys aren't 22 anymore. You've got families, you've got responsibilities, but you're still out here. 
Araya: Because personally, I have a responsibility. I have a family. When we started this 35 years ago, it was about doing something we really enjoy, something that was fun. Over the course of time, your priorities change. It was because it was fun and something we enjoyed doing. And it got to a point where it was something I had to do, because I have a family to support. It's the way everything changes as you grow older and as you move forward.

So Slayer is your day job.
Araya: Yeah, and it's a great job [laughs]. I can't complain about that. That—and I know it sounds cliche—but fans want to see the band. That's a part of what we do. Sometimes we play places we've never played; could've cost a lot to get there, the expense is more than what you're making, but it's an opportunity for a band to play in front of an audience that's never seen the band. You make that exception. Those are just things you just kind of do.

Do you feel like you owe it to your fans to do this, to go these faraway places just so they can see you?
Araya: Yeah a big part of that is that you owe it to them. They buy your records. There's a lot of times I'll say no, which is something you just have to do. After 35, years it's a time to be doing what you're doing. I spent the majority of my life away from my family, not only my immediate family, my brothers and sisters, but my own wife and children. I spent a lot of time away from them. After awhile it's like, it'd be nice to be home. I've missed a lot of that.

Do you have any regrets?
Araya: No, you can't live with regret. You just gotta keep living. You gotta take what comes. You have to overcome that stuff. I don't have any regrets. You got any regrets?

Bostaph: Me? About what?

Araya: About anything. About life. About doing what we do.

Bostaph: No. You know what, I started doing it because I loved it and I still love it. If I didn't love it I wouldn't do it anymore.

Kim Kelly has millions of regrets on Twitter.