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Gnarly Charlie’s exclusive interview with Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman

By Charlie Steffens, aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 @ 12:45 AM


“We don’t do what we write abo

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KNAC.COM: Hey Jeff.

HANNEMAN: What’s goin’ on?

KNAC.COM: Alright, man. How are you?

HANNEMAN: Pretty good.

KNAC.COM: How is Tom [Araya] feeling these days, recovering from his gall bladder surgery?

HANNEMAN: A little bent over (laughs) …he’s walking a little old right now. He’s got a little bit of pain, but he’s not too bad.

KNAC.COM: You guys launch on the 15th for the Unholy Alliance Tour –do you think he’ll be up to snuff by then?

HANNEMAN: Hopefully (laughs).

KNAC.COM: He can just stand still, you know?

HANNEMAN: Yeah, I think we’re going to try to ease him in to it, you know … play songs that are easy for him to sing for a little while. But I think as soon as he gets his feet wet he’s going to be fine.

KNAC.COM: So 666 (referring to June 6, 2006) is the release of the Eternal Pyre album –and that’s an EP, right?

HANNEMAN: Yes.

KNAC.COM: That also marks the day of the National Day of Slayer as opposed to the National Day of Prayer?

HANNEMAN: (laughs) Yeah …that’s funny as hell.

KNAC.COM: It is! Should I just call my boss and tell him to fuck off that day?

HANNEMAN: (laughs) I’d like to get up that day and just turn on the news, like, “Everybody’s walking out of work” (laughs).

KNAC.COM: It could happen. Your fan base carries you guys.

HANNEMAN: No.

KNAC.COM: That’s what is so great about bands like Maiden and Slayer, you can pack stadiums just on word of mouth and I’m sure there are going to be a lot of new kids checking out this upcoming tour.

HANNEMAN: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of new kids at the shows. You can just see it in the crowd, which is really cool.

KNAC.COM: I see it all the time, here in L.A., kids flying the Slayer colors and the pentagrams.

HANNEMAN: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Who are the bands on the bill that Slayer handpicked for the tour?

HANNEMAN: I don’t think any of us actually, you know? We said “yes” or “no”, but I don’t think there was anybody that really chose anybody that I can remember. I didn’t.

KNAC.COM: You got some heavy acts alongside you.

HANNEMAN: They’d have to be heavy.

KNAC.COM: Well, you guys wouldn’t be up there with any lounge singers, I’m sure.

HANNEMAN: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: You had some dates postponed due to Tom’s surgery, but all the other dates are pretty much in place. Which dates were scratched?

HANNEMAN: Just the opening ones. I think everything is the same, but we had to kick out some initial dates. We’re going to try to make them up later.

KNAC.COM: What do you think you’ll be doing, aside from taking time off with your families, after this tour?

HANNEMAN: Right now we have this tour and then I think we go to Europe to do some festivals for a week, week and a half, and after that we go to South America, Japan and then we hit Europe again in November.

KNAC.COM: So you’re a well-oiled machine, other than Tom being a little hunched over.

HANNEMAN: (laughs) I think after a while he’s going to be fine. I think he’s more scared than anything –worried about … “Wow, is this going to affect me?” But I think once he gets started he’s going to be like “Ah, this is fine”.

KNAC.COM: How does that feel on you, realizing that it was in ’82 or ’83 when you first became Slayer?

HANNEMAN: To us it’s like, I guess age is creeping up there isn’t it? Tom sent me an email after he had to postpone the tour and everything-- he’s like “Sorry, about that, but we’re all getting older and apparently I have bad genes” (laughs).

KNAC.COM: You guys are pretty unscathed, really. I mean, you’ve tapped into perpetual youth-–don’t you think, with metal music?

HANNEMAN: I think so, yeah, because like I mentioned earlier, I see a lot of new kids. You look into the crowd and it’s like, “these people aren’t the same age as me, these are new kids”.

KNAC.COM: I had had this preconceived idea about Slayer: that you guys were dark, but you actually seem pretty well adjusted. You’re happy.

HANNEMAN: We don’t do what we write about, but we love writing about what we write about (laughs).

KNAC.COM: You wrote “Jihad” for the new album. I read that it’s being compared to “Angel of Death”.

HANNEMAN: That’s being said because we’re expecting to get shit for it. Either the Muslim community is going to embrace it or they’re going to hate us for writing it or the victims of 9/11 are going to hate us for writing it. We just expect shit for it, but all it is, really is, I basically did the same thing like “Angel of Death”, it’s just a documentary. But being Slayer, we don’t put it on the victim side, we put it on the bad guy side. The words are kind of coming from a terrorist point of view, not a victim. That’s why we think we might get shit. Who knows?

KNAC.COM: I hope so.

HANNEMAN: (laughs) We’re not scared of it.

KNAC.COM: Oh, by this time? Come on. That’s just another day in the life, right?

HANNEMAN: Yeah. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: It can be two-sided, just like “Angel of Death” –but the Tippers and those types of people will assassinate you.

HANNEMAN: Oh yeah …it’s a good thing, actually.

KNAC.COM: Are you a practicing musician?

HANNEMAN: I play for fun when it has nothing to do with Slayer. When we’re not doing anything—I’ve got a home recording thing and I’ll just lay down the drum machine beat, come back later and just play something over it just for fun. Sometimes a Slayer riff comes out of it. Other times it’s like blues or something that’s heavy, but it’s not heavy enough for Slayer. To me I look at it as a hobby …it’s just something I like to do.

KNAC.COM: You play ESP guitars and they’ve designed you a few signature models, right?

HANNEMAN: Yes. When we go out on the road we have three different tunings when we play live, so when we go out on the road we have to have a lot of guitars. So, I mean, I play bunch of different guitars because we have a drop B tuning, a C# tuning, a D tuning and you need a backup for each tuning in case you break a string. So we have a lot of guitars with us.

KNAC.COM: Amps? Cabinets?

HANNEMAN: Marshall. 800 Series heads, Marshall cabinets since the beginning –tried other things over the years, no, Marshall’s the best.

KNAC.COM: You, in particular, come from a punk background, where Kerry [King] was into different stuff when you got first got together.

HANNEMAN: When Kerry and I met he was into Priest, Maiden, AC/DC and stuff like that. I was just getting out of that, getting into punk. So, I knew what he was listening to, but he didn’t know what I was listening to. He was like “What the hell is this? ‘It’s punk, man. Dead Kennedys! It’s great!’ The speed part of the band basically came from me listening to punk and then getting Dave into it, because Dave loved it. So then we started writing, basically heavy riffs with fast drums.

KNAC.COM: Dave’s drumming is so fucking good. Aren’t you guys glad to be back together?

HANNEMAN: Fuck yes! He’s so much fun to play with ‘cause he keeps you on the edge. You never know what he’s going to do live. I mean, he rarely fucks up, but he always has that potential to fuck up ‘cause he starts doing drum solos, like drum rolls out of nowhere. And you’re going “What the fuck is he doing?” (laughs) It’s fun, but he always comes in where he should …I’ll turn back and give him a dirty look and he’s like “What?"

KNAC.COM: Yeah, but you guys pick it up, man.

HANNEMAN: Yeah. It makes it fun. It’s good to be scared.

KNAC.COM: You've lived outside of your comfort zone before. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy, even though you’re doing what you absolutely love, right?

HANNEMAN: Yeah, we still love doing this. The only think I personally hate out of this whole thing is just traveling. I hate airports, I hate getting in a van and going someplace …I hate the whole traveling aspect. Once I get to point B …whatever …from A to B. Once I get to point B –fine. But I hate traveling. I’ve never liked traveling.

KNAC.COM: And you’re a family man?

HANNEMAN: I have a wife, but no kids.

KNAC.COM: Does she ever join you on the road?

HANNEMAN: She comes out once in a while. Basically I’ve known her forever. We were teenage sweethearts or whatever you want to call it. As long as she’s known me I’ve been in this band, so she knows what it’s about.

KNAC.COM: You grew up in Huntington Beach?

HANNEMAN: Actually, Long Beach.

KNAC.COM: Any surfing?

HANNEMAN: I tried to surf. I was horrible at it. So I just hung out at the beach and looked for girls.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, didn’t we all? Nothing’s changed …on my end, anyway.

HANNEMAN: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: I was told before the interview that you usually don’t have much to say. This is much different than I expected.

HANNEMAN: That’s what everybody says (laughs).

KNAC.COM: I’m a big fan of Reign in Blood. Out of all your albums, which one are you partial to?

HANNEMAN: I would say …I hate to say it, but Reign in Blood. I would hate to say it, because that’s what everybody says.

KNAC.COM: But you love to say it.

HANNEMAN: Yeah, because I can put that on and listen to it 4 times. It’s so short and quick and to the point.

KNAC.COM: 25 minutes?

HANNEMAN: 28, but you were close (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Which bands do you like right now.

HANNEMAN: Right now there are not a lot bands that I’m into right now. And traditionally, throughout the years, I’ve always gravitated to bands that didn’t sound like us anyway. We play what we play, so when I want to listen to something I want to listen to something else. I was a big fan of Alice in Chains and bands like that. They’re still heavy, they’re still dark, but it’s not Slayer at all. So I always gravitate to those kinds of bands, but there’s nobody …right now there’s nobody I can even think of that I listen to. I listen to Type O Negative. That’s the kind of shit I like to listen to away from Slayer. Kerry’ s the one that’s more into always keeping abreast of what new bands are coming out. When Slipknot came out I was into them –when they first came out. Even though it’s kind of influenced by us, there’s enough of a difference where it doesn’t sound too much like us.

KNAC.COM: And nine members to put the point across!

HANNEMAN: (laughs) That’s always funny.

KNAC.COM: When you want to chill what do you listen to? Like, when you’re at home or when you’re on a road trip.

HANNEMAN: It would be Type O Negative, Alice in Chains, old school punk …stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: Give me your guilty pleasure. Tell me it’s Luther Vandross or George Benson or...

HANNEMAN: Okay. I will give you …this is the only band that anybody would go “What?” –when it’s a sunny day and, of course, I’m Californian and live not too far from the beach …I go to the beach –I like listening to the B-52’s.

KNAC.COM: Yes!

HANNEMAN: That’s my embarrassment (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Wild Planet?

HANNEMAN: Yeah (laughs).

KNAC.COM: I would have never thought that. Now I’ve got you nailed. And it’s going in the interview, not off the record.

HANNEMAN: (laughs)


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