Monday, May 13, 2013

Remembering Slayer's Jeff Hanneman

One blog post in dedication to Slayer's Jeff Hanneman, including statements from the band and from peers. It was May 2nd when most of the metal community were getting ready to either attend or watch the Golden God awards when the announcement was made the guitarist for the ultimate metal band Slayer, Jeff Hanneman had passed away. We found out recently that the actual cause of death reportedly from alcohol related cirrhosis and not from complications from a spider bite.
Kerry King and Tom Araya shared some stories about Jeff shortly after announced that they would go ahead with European touring plans:
KERRY:  “I had so many great times with Jeff… in the early days when we were out on the road, he and I were the night owls, we would stay up all night on the bus, just hanging out, talking, watching movies… World War II movies, horror movies, we watched Full Metal Jacketso many times, we could practically recite all of the dialogue.”
TOM:  “When we first formed Slayer, we used to rehearse all the time, religiously, 24/7.  Jeff and I spent a lot of time hanging out together, he lived in my father’s garage which was also our rehearsal space.  When he got his own apartment, he had an 8-track and I would go there to record songs I’d written, not Slayer songs, other stuff I’d written.  At a certain point, you still have the band but you start your own lives outside of the band, so that 24/7 falls to the side, you don’t spend as much time together as you once did.  I miss those early days.”
KERRY:  “He was a gigantic World War II buff, his father served in that war, so when Slayer played Russia for the first time – I think it was 1998 – Jeff and I went to one of Moscow’s military museums.  I’ll never forget him walking around that place, looking at all of the tanks, weapons and other exhibits.  He was like a kid on Christmas morning.  But that was Jeff’s thing, he knew so much about WW II history, he could have taught it in school.”
TOM:  “We were in New York recording South of Heaven.  Jeff and I were at the hotel and we had to get to the studio – I think it was called Chung King, a real rundown place.  So we left the hotel and decided to walk, but then it started raining.  We walked maybe five blocks, and it was raining so hard, we were totally soaked, so we decided to get a cab.  Here we are, two dudes with long hair and leather jackets, absolutely soaked, thumbing to the studio.  No one would stop.  We had to walk the entire way.”
TOM:  “Jeff was a lifeline of Slayer, he wrote so many of the songs that the band will always be known for.  He had a good heart, he was a good guy.”
Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo also shared his memory of their punk rock roots:
This picture was taken at the Troubadour in Hollywood around 1982. Jeff was the guy that shaved his head and shared the music he was so inspired by. I enjoyed Dead Kennedy’s, Circle Jerks, Black Flag and the Germs with him. My drumming was getting faster and Jeff was writing original songs with a Punk attitude. The fusion of Heavy Metal and Punk took over Slayers early mediocre style, hence a new force was born. Thank you Jeff for your inspiring discovery of Punk rock that has continued to shape my personal drumming style.
In maybe one of the classiest and heartwarming statements Testament guitarist Alex Skolnick shared some thoughts about Jeff at Premiere Guitar:
It was L.A.'s hottest day of the year, soon to segue into one of metal's biggest nights—the Revolver Golden God Awards fifth-anniversary show—when a very sad rumor spread amongst those of us in town to attend the event. Soon it would be confirmed as true via an official statement from Slayer: Founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman—who'd suffered from a tragic necrotizing fasciitis infection that prevented him from playing with Slayer since early 2011—had passed away a few hours earlier from liver failure. The world had just lost a voice hugely influential in metal and beyond.
Jeff had a subtle sense of humor that was all his own, and though he was a bit more reserved than the rest of the Slayer camp, he viewed life as a party to be enjoyed to its fullest. Much of what Jeff’s loved ones and fans appreciated about him was his steadfast and genuine style—the fact that he didn’t stray from his own vision. In Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman’s Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, Jeff is quoted, “I tried to emulate what [well-known shredders] did and really grow as a guitarist. Then I said, ‘I don’t think I’m that talented, but more important, I don’t care.’” But as legions of dedicated Slayer fans the world over would attest, Jeff’s portrayal of himself as marginally talented is completely inaccurate. A more apt description could be summed up in one word, "immense.
What separated Jeff from the rest of the metal pack was his rhythm technique, his songwriting, and that for which he will be most remembered—his riffs. But his frenzied, turbulent solos were also an important part of the package. They weren’t about showing off. They served a greater artistic purpose—to sonically channel the qualities of Slayer’s lyrical content. They were sometimes abrasive, sometimes jarring, and at times disturbing. They had less in common with typical rock-guitar virtuosos than they did with the sonic collages of avant-garde improvisers such as Derek Bailey and John Zorn, the latter of whom is a self-professed Slayer fan who has cited the band as an inspiration. Though Jeff’s wider, more holistic guitar approach didn’t garner the same accolades as some of his more technically proficient contemporaries, Jeff never waivered from his original approach. And the fact that he continued to attack his guitar with relentless abandon—as though he were a linebacker on his beloved Oakland Raiders (whose logo adorned some of his signature ESP guitars)—is without a doubt a big part of why Slayer’s music will always be deemed one of metal’s high watermarks.
If you’ve ever seen Slayer live, you’ve felt exactly what propelled the band’s popularity past those of Venom and other classic-metal influences. In fact, prior to Hanneman and his bandmates’ groundbreaking albums—including 1986’s bar-setting Reign in Blood—many believed metal could never reach such levels of popularity and fan dedication. Before Slayer, metal had never had such razor-sharp articulation, tightness, and balance between sound and stops. This all-out sonic assault was about the shock, the screams, the drums, and—again, most importantly—the riffs. And it was Hanneman who brought so many of the band’s timeless riffs.
Of course, one cannot dismiss the voracious riff and song output of co-guitarist Kerry King, who, with his giant spiked wristbands, goatee, and shaved, tattooed head, essentially became the “face of Slayer.” But if you took a poll of the band’s fans—from dedicated concertgoers to peers and professional music journalists—their favorite Slayer songs would likely be dominated by pulverizing Hanneman gems like “Angel of Death,” “Raining Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “War Ensemble,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” and “Die by the Sword.” To many fans of heavy music, these songs and riffs aren’t just definitive of the band, but of metal itself.
Had Jeff recovered from his medical challenges, one can fully envision him confronting his demons head-on with songs about spider bites, skin grafts, and flesh-eating bacteria. Tragically, all we are left with is his memory and monumental songs and riffs that will reign in metal fans’ blood forever. By being true to himself and expressing his own unique style, Jeff Hanneman ended up doing what most musicians will never do—he impacted music in such a way that an entire genre will never be the same.
Former Pantera and current Down vocalist Phil Anselmo at The Revolver Golden Gods said:
“Something that’s very very heavy on our minds and in our hearts is the loss of Jeff Hanneman. I think we should expect something to be done in his honor. I love Jeff Hanneman and Slayer is one of my favorite bands in the history of bands and it’s a great loss. I’m sad.
Stone Sour and Slipknot vocalist shared:
“I think he’s one of the most underrated writers and underrated players that ever was. He was responsible for a lot of the classic Slayer songs and a lot of the classic Slayer sound. And there’s a huge hole in heavy metal without him, so it’s really sad.”
I don't think there is any doubt that Jeff passed on from this world way to early, he was only 49. Last week's guest Snake Sabo from Skid Row also went on at length about Jeff. That conversation will be posted shortly in the latest Hangar 19 Podcast.
At least we have a plethora of amazing metal riffs to listen to that Jeff wrote while in Slayer.

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