- advertisement - - advertisement - You’d be hard pressed to find a more laid back, funny guy in the metal world than Mr. Jeff Hanneman. Always the seemingly quiet one off in the back somewhere, it turns out he actually has quite a bit to say. Although usually content to just sit back and ride the monstrous Slayer machine that he helped create, he was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions, fill in some blanks on the band’s and his own personal history, and all the while display a great sense of humor and an extremely down to earth demeanor. Maybe not what you’d expect from one of the primary songwriters for one of the biggest metal acts in the world -- but that just goes to show, you never know. Even the Angel Of Death himself knows how to kick back every once in a while.
KNAC.COM: You don’t do many interviews, so why don’t we start from the beginning. What brought you into Slayer? What tied you in at the beginning?
HANNEMAN: Kerry and I met-- I was hanging out with some friends who played… I don’t know what kind of music it was… more like Robin Trower? Bluesy kind of music; and Kerry for some reason was trying out for that band. Me and Kerry got to talking, and he and I picked up a guitar and we started playing with a drummer after the tryout session was over. We were playing Priest and Maiden songs with a drummer, and so Kerry and I started talking after that and Kerry was like, “Why don’t we start our OWN band?” [Laughs] and I was like, “…Fuck yeah!” [Laughs] Eventually—Dave [Lombardo] lived down the street from Kerry, and approached Kerry because he heard that he had guitars, then next thing you know Dave was in the band. Then Kerry said that he’d played in another band with this singer named Tom [Araya], and soon he was in the band. The rest is history.
KNAC.COM: How old were you guys at the time?
HANNEMAN: Ah… barely 18, I think. Dave’s a year younger and Tom’s a couple years older. We were still in High School --well, the three of us; Tom was out by then.
KNAC.COM: And you were a big punk fan back then, right?
HANNEMAN: Oh yeah! Yeah, the thing that tied me and Kerry together was that I was just getting out of stuff like Maiden and Priest, Zeppelin -- whatever, and I was getting into punk. But I still knew all the Priest and Maiden stuff, so we started jamming with stuff like that. And then I started getting the guys into punk, and that’s how we got our speed and got more aggressive.
KNAC.COM: Just kind of came together and developed a sound between the two...?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, Dave jumped on the punk bandwagon right away, but it took Kerry and Tom a little while longer. Eventually our songs just started getting faster and faster.
KNAC.COM: What would you say were your main punk influences?
HANNEMAN: There was a lot back then, but I don’t know… probably Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, T.S.O.L., stuff like that.
KNAC.COM: I’ve read that Tom’s brother John and your brother Joey had a band called “Bloodcum,” is that right?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, actually he wasn’t my brother, he just happened to have blond hair and he kinda looked like me, so we just joked around. John is Tom’s brother, so me and Joey would look at each other and say, “Hey, you should be my brother!” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Ok, yeah -- that’s misquoted a lot on the Internet. Back in ’84 you, Rocky [George] from Suicidal Tendencies, and Dave had a punk band called “Pap Smear,” is that right?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, we had tons and tons of songs and we were getting ready to record it. But then [producer Rick] Rubin calls up and says, “Ahhhh, don’t do it, man -- this is the kind of thing that breaks bands up!” And I was like, “Hmmm… you know, I think you’re right!” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: Yeah, got a good thing going -- don’t want to fuck that up. So you used your song “Damm (Drunks Against Mad Mothers)” on Undisputed Attitude…
HANNEMAN: Yeah, we did two of my songs.
KNAC.COM: Any chance of the rest of that coming out anytime, or is that pretty much under the bridge?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, it’s… it’s kind of on the shelf, or whatever you want to call it. Sometimes I’ll pull--‘cause I had like 25 songs or something -- and sometimes I’ll pull a good riff out of that and use it on our stuff. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: I’ve heard a song called “Ice Titan” on the Internet. Can you tell me about that? Why that’s not anywhere on an album, or…?
HANNEMAN: Probably that would have to be one of our first original songs. And actually, I think… yeah, I think the chorus in that song is part of one of our songs on Reign In Blood, so we couldn’t put it out after that. [Laughs] That was the same thing with the punk thing -- we just pick the best stuff out and use it.
KNAC.COM: Okay. Speaking of Reign In Blood, you guys just filmed a DVD. There’s a whole lot of buzz about the effects you did with the blood raining down during the song “Raining Blood.” Where did that idea come from, and what made you decide to bring out the whole album on DVD?
HANNEMAN: The raining part -- the actual blood raining down on the stage -- was something I think I came up with like two years after Reign In Blood came out, but it wasn’t feasible then -- we didn’t have the money or the wherewithal to do it, but it was always in the back of my mind. And then I remember -- I don’t know, a few years back when that movie Blade came out….
KNAC.COM: Right, right!
HANNEMAN: You know the scene?
HANNEMAN: And I remember me and Kerry were watching it and I go, “THAT’S what I want to do! That’s what I want to do!” [Laughs] And then years later, now we finally decided to do this DVD because we’ve been playing with Lombardo and we’ve been playing the entire Reign In Blood album. We were talking about doing a DVD because we’re doing that and we’re playing with Dave again, but we didn’t want to just put out another DVD because we just put out a live DVD. So that whole raining on stage came up again and we made it happen this time.
KNAC.COM: The perfect opportunity -- excellent. Are you going to be doing that more, or was that just a one-shot thing?
HANNEMAN: It started off as a one-shot thing but after we did it, it was so cool; plus the idea that we already have the equipment built and we’ve already paid for it. The major problem with it now is that it makes a mess, and I don’t know how many places are going to let us do it. We’re trying to work all the details like that out right now so that hopefully maybe when we go out on this Jaegermeister tour in-- what is it, November -- we can have it in a lot of venues; Probably not all of them, but several anyway.
KNAC.COM: That’ll be sweet! Okay, I gotta ask -- What was up with the “Born To Be Wild” cover?!?!
HANNEMAN: That was just something--we were asked to be on that compilation, and we couldn’t think of a song and time was winding down [laughs] and then somebody came up with that song -- I don’t know who it was, I don’t know if it was somebody in the band, or the record company or management -- and we just fuckin’ -- we were under the wire, and we just did it. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it was very different. I was like, “Goddamn, that almost sounds like Slayer!” [Laughs]
HANNEMAN: After it aired on TV, I got phone calls from friends, “WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH YOU PLAYING THAT SHIT?” [Laughs] I’m like, “Shut up, it was just a last minute thing. I didn’t have time to think it through, alright?” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Right on. So what’s it like being out there with Sabbath and Priest? I mean, shit -- I can only imagine.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I grew up with that kind of shit. When I was a little kid I remember listening to Sabbath, and then later on getting into Priest and stuff like that -- it’s pretty cool. And it’s cool that they’re still playing and Priest got back together with their original line up. It’s pretty awesome.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, it must be. I mean, obviously you guys have had more opportunity than any other metal band out there as far as being able to play with your biggest influences.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, We did a tour with Priest years ago.
KNAC.COM: The only cover you’ve done for an album was Priest’s “Dissident Aggressor,” right?
KNAC.COM: Was that because of the war theme in the lyrics?
HANNEMAN: Yeah… well, it was more just like one of those odd songs that a lot of people didn’t know, but it was a favorite of Kerry and I, so we just picked that one.
KNAC.COM: So is that a rare thing to you guys -- the idea of covering songs?
HANNEMAN: That was the only one I think we did on our usual albums. Usually we do covers when we’re adding to a compilation or something.
KNAC.COM: Right -- try to separate that from the actual band’s music. So as far as the songwriting, from what I’ve read, you guys don’t have a real formula as far as just sitting down together and hashing out some songs, is that right?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, we just basically--we always start with music. So I’ll come up with something at home, or Kerry will come up with something. And eventually-- you know, because I can do my stuff at home because I have a new 24-track and a drum machine, so if I get an idea I can run with it as far as I can get it. Then I’ll bring it to these guys and play it, see what they think, and Kerry will add a riff or Dave will say something about “change it here” or “change it there” and Kerry does the same thing. And then when we get together we try to get the basic structure of the song done, and then we kinda know where the lyrics go and where the leads go. That’s when the lyrics start falling into place, and the song will change here and there; but it’s all done spontaneously, it’s not like-- we don’t sit down around a table before the album comes out and have a meeting on what the album is going to sound like. It’s whatever we’re into.
KNAC.COM: So you don’t say, “Kerry, you’re going to write 6 songs, and I’m going to write so many…..”
HANNEMAN: Oh no, it’s all just whoever comes up with what. Sometimes I’ll be more on a roll and I’ll have more stuff, same with Kerry -- it’s whoever’s hot, really.
KNAC.COM: And then lyric-wise it’s just a free-for-all?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, anybody can write anything; if it’s good we use it, if not we don’t.
KNAC.COM: So you’ve got a full democracy going on there. That has to play into keeping everybody going and feeling involved, obviously. On the downtime most of you guys’ main obsession is sports, right?
HANNEMAN: Oh yeah. Sports and a few little hobbies here and there. We don’t hang out that much. Kerry lives like 40 minutes from me, so sometimes we’ll hang out and have a BBQ, watch a game -- something like that, but then we go our separate ways.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, I’m sure you spend enough time on the road with them that you need that break. I just read an interview with you that was just posted today and you were saying that the wife stays home, and you kind of have the separate worlds there that keep things in balance for you.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, for me it works out perfect because once we tour for months and months and I get sick of these guys, I go home and she’s fresh. Then when I get sick of her I go and hang out with these guys. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] There you go -- that works out pretty well. Alright, this is one of the most common things that can be found about you on the net, so I won’t get into it too much, but the whole-- the German war medals, and I know your father started you up into that… but I noticed you talked with Lemmy [Kilmister, Motorhead] and he’s also into that?
HANNEMAN: Oh yeah. He’s a bit older than me so he started collecting a long time before I did, but he’s totally into it. When we toured with them we used to have discussions about our medals, stuff like that. It’s just --for both of us -- [the Germans] just had the coolest medals and some of the best weapons and developed all these new tactics that we still use -- our army -- uses today. And they were just ahead of their time, and it was just fascinating. Because I’m into war history anyway, like WWI and the Franco-Prussian War, all that other stuff. So it was cool talking to him.
KNAC.COM: Is that fascination inspired by your father mainly, or is there other….
HANNEMAN: Well, my father was in WWII, and I had brothers in Vietnam so it was always around the dinner table. There was always war talk -- I mean not a lot, they weren’t obsessed with war, a lot of the details they left out of it in front of the family; they didn’t get into gross shit or get all morbid or anything. But there was always-- like when I was a kid, there were all these war movies on TV, and my two older brothers used to build tanks and models, which I eventually got into. You know, building them up and spray painting ‘em and doing all that crap. And then one day my dad was just cleaning out his closet, and he dumped all these medals on me and goes, “You want these? I’m gonna throw ‘em out if you don’t.” I was like, “Whoa! Yeah!”
HANNEMAN: And in the early days there was nothing else to do -- there was no tour bus and we were driving around in cars. There was nothing really to do, so I would just buy books about WWII and just read and read and read.
KNAC.COM: And that influences your writing today still, obviously.
HANNEMAN: Oh yeah. Right before I wrote “Angel Of Death,” I read a bunch of books about [Nazi Doctor Josef] Mengele because he was pretty sick. That was how “Angel Of Death” came about.
KNAC.COM: And that’s a HUGE misinterpretation --people misconceive Slayer as being Satanic, Nazis, and Racists, etc. and that’s one of the main songs where people go, “Oh my God! Angel Of Death -- that’s so pro-Nazi!”
HANNEMAN: I know why people misinterpret it -- it’s because they get this knee-jerk reaction to it. When they read the lyrics, there’s nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he was a bad man, because to me -- well, isn’t that obvious?!?!?! I shouldn’t have to tell you that. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: Well, and it’s one of those taboo things that as soon as it’s mentioned, especially in the context of an entire song, people are going to just make that automatic assumption, “Oh, well they must be Nazis.”
HANNEMAN: Yeah, just because we don’t say, “Nazism is very bad!” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Yeah, “let’s not listen to them or listen to the lyrics, we’ll just make our assumption now.”
HANNEMAN: Exactly -- it’s that knee-jerk reaction -- “Huh? Oh My God!!!”
KNAC.COM: Yeah, that’s always annoyed me. Alright, let’s see -- Do you share Tom’s fascination with the morbid, as far as like Jeffrey Dahmer and Gein, stuff like that?
HANNEMAN: Not as much as him, but I’ve read tons of books on serial killers. I’ve like gotten into it so much that I’ve thought it through, and I think if I was going to kill somebody they’d have to piss me off first -- I couldn’t just kill somebody. I mean, it would basically be like -- you kill them and you’re like, “Wow, that was a rush. So…”
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] “Now what?”
KNAC.COM: “Now I gotta clean up the mess!” [Laughs]
HANNEMAN: [Laughs] Yeah! I mean if I was to kill somebody, they’d definitely have to piss me off.
KNAC.COM: So you wouldn’t even make that serial killer status -- they’d probably nail you after the first guy.
HANNEMAN: Yeah. After I killed the first guy I’d be like you said:“What a mess!” [Laughs] “I don’t wanna do this again!”
KNAC.COM: “This is too hard!” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: So as far as the new album, I read that you’re not actually going in until around January because Rubin has changed distributors again.
HANNEMAN: Once again. So instead of getting the album done and waiting, having it sit on a shelf, fuckin’ we’ll just go tour.
KNAC.COM: So do you have anything towards the new album yet?
HANNEMAN: Oh yeah. Me and Kerry have a bunch of songs. Like I said before, music comes first so we were on our way on trying to finish an album this year and then we heard the whole fuckin’ Rick Rubin scene. So we said, “You know -- fuck it.” We’ll just wait until he figures out what’s going on and then we’ll do the album.
KNAC.COM: Well, the cool thing about Slayer -- I mean, some people bitch about originality, some people love the sound obviously; you guys were onto something way back then, you’re still onto it now, and you’re still keeping it strong. So obviously we can easily expect the usual Slayer album.
KNAC.COM: There’s a confidence there that you guys are going to perform just like you’ve been performing.
HANNEMAN: Well, we might surprise you and write a bunch of ballads. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Great -- can we expect you to be singing?
HANNEMAN: [Laughs] Oh yeah! We figure I’m gonna be the front guy.
KNAC.COM: Well, I just read that… who was it… Dave Ellefson [ex-Megadeth] is going to be covering Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.
KNAC.COM: Yeah, pretty scary. Okay, concept albums -- I know they’ve become extremely cliché these days, everybody and their mother are putting one out -- but is that something Slayer has/would consider?
HANNEMAN: I can’t recall ever even discussing it.
KNAC.COM: It seems like there’d be a few subjects that you guys could pull off a pretty solid album with.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, I think our writing process is just too into coming up with what we’re into at the moment and not planning it out.
KNAC.COM: Right on. What have you been listening to lately?
HANNEMAN: Not a whole hell of a lot. [Laughs] Um, God, the last thing I was really into was the first album from Slipknot. I can’t really think of anything after that...
KNAC.COM: Are there any punk bands nowadays that are catching your attention, or do you think that’s a dead scene?
HANNEMAN: No, not a lot. I get all my information word of mouth from my friends, or I just happen to be in the right place at the right time and go, “What the fuck is that playing?!?!” [Laughs] I don’t listen to radio and fuckin’ I hate MTV, so… even the radio I don’t listen to a lot of because I don’t like being told what to listen to.
HANNEMAN: But the disadvantage is I miss a lot of stuff coming out that I might like.
KNAC.COM: That’s true. But it is extremely annoying to know that a band just put out an album with 14 songs and you get the privilege of hearing ONE every five minutes for like fuckin’ 4 months.
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] That ain’t worth it. Alright, obviously you guys have toured and played with just about everybody under the sun; is there a specific show or line-up or anybody like that you’ve played with that stands out as one of your best memories?
HANNEMAN: Yeah, there’s… the Priest thing was pretty cool -- the first time we played with Priest. That was definitely great. They were just one of the last metal bands that I really thought was worthy of that school of metal at that time. And we played with Venom -- that was kinda cool. And… probably the first time we played with Ozzy and Sabbath.
KNAC.COM: What did you guys think of the Extreme Steel Tour?
HANNEMAN: That was one -- that was not because of Pantera’s music, because I’m not a big Pantera fan, you know -- I like a handful of their songs, but those guys are really cool to tour with. They love to drink like we do [laughs] so it was just like a party every night.
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] It was really cool -- when you played here Phil [Anselmo] had come on the stage during your set, and during your leads Phil’s out there giving Tom hits off a joint.
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] I thought that was pretty laid back, man. I could just imagine the festivities backstage.
HANNEMAN: The third show into that tour we had one of those BAD drinking nights -- it was a black out and nobody knew what happened. I had a big knot on my forehead and Dimebag had a fuckin’ black eye.
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Oh shit!
HANNEMAN: [Laughs] We never did figure out what happened.
KNAC.COM: Where was Dime’s video camera when you needed it? [Laughs] We need some footage of that.
HANNEMAN: Nobody from any band remembered anything. [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: Maybe its better that way, you know? [Laughs] Okay, is there any certain celebrity, public persona, actor/actress, musician, whoever -- that just makes you wanna climb a fuckin’ clock tower to save the world from their bullshit?
HANNEMAN: Oh, I’ve got a shitload because that’s what I hate about the Hollywood fuckin’ people. I mean I love watching movies and there’s a lot of good actors, but they just fuckin’ get on their soapbox and they preach about politics and stuff like they know better than you, and they complain about the rich when they’re the fucking rich.
KNAC.COM: Right, living in their cushy houses...
HANNEMAN: Yeah, just shut up and fuckin’ act. Do your job. [Laughs] I hate seeing those interviews and they start talking about their character like it’s real.
HANNEMAN: [Laughs] It’s like --“Somebody wrote that! It’s not a real person!”
KNAC.COM: “Give it up!” [Laughs]
HANNEMAN: [In a stuffy voice] “Oh I can identify with that person because I think that way sometimes too.” What the…?!?!?
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] “I feel like this role was written just for me!”
KNAC.COM: Okay. Favorite Slayer song?
HANNEMAN: Oh man, there’s a bunch of them... I would think “Raining Blood” is still one. I mean, we’ve played that song to death but when we play it live it still gives me goosebumps. And “Angel Of Death” is always fun.
KNAC.COM: Okay, what about overall album?
HANNEMAN: Um… I hate to say it, but probably Reign In Blood. Not just because of what other people think of it -- it’s more like at that time that album was stamped into my memory because things were really starting to change for us and things were starting to get professional and serious, and that’s the first time we had a tour bus and a real record label. And we put that album down… I don’t know how long it took us, but everything was done, everything was fast, everything was good. In fact, you’ve probably heard this, but our biggest scare on that record is that once we got finished with it we checked the time and it was like 28 minutes. We were like, “Holy shit. Too short!” [Laughs] So we sat there with Rubin and thought, “Does it sound great? Yes. Do we all like it? Yes. Fuck it!” [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Well, personally as an avid fan you don’t notice the length. I mean, you don’t notice because it’s so tight and flows so well. You’re not sitting there looking at the clock going, “Hmm, yeah -- how long is this song gonna be?” and whatever. You get sucked in. Alright, is there -- obviously again, you’ve played with about everybody -- but is there… say grab some musicians live or dead, personal heroes or whatnot that you could throw together, maybe do a little project with -- who would that be?
HANNEMAN: I’ve been asked that a couple times and I’m not really into whatever you call it -- hero worship, or whatnot. If Slayer broke up for whatever reason today, I would still want to write music but I would want to get a bunch of fresh guys. Start it off fresh -- I don’t want a bunch of name brand guys. Everybody would expect everything to be up here and usually it fails. So I’d probably go underground and look for a bunch of talented people, like a singer who screams but has his own personality, etc.
KNAC.COM: And so obviously side projects and things like that are not even an option for you.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, I want everything to run its course with Slayer.
KNAC.COM: That’s good. That seems to happen with a lot of musicians, like Phil Anselmo -- They get focusing on the other stuff and the main thing that got them to where they are winds up suffering because of it.
HANNEMAN: Yeah, I got that wake up call like we talked about earlier, a long time ago when Rubin told me, “Don’t do that, that’s the kind of thing that breaks up bands.” He was totally right.
KNAC.COM: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The story about the black out on the Extreme Steel Tour was great -- do you have any other cool stories, ones that you guys just sit back and rehash?
HANNEMAN: That’s another thing… fuckin’ every time this happens we can’t think of anything. [Laughs] Then me and Kerry will be sitting on the tour bus just talking and we’ll come up with something that was really funny then we’re like, “Why didn’t we think of that then?!?” [Laughs] I can’t think of anything.
KNAC.COM: Right on.
HANNEMAN: But I’ll call you back if I do! [Laughs]
KNAC.COM: Yeah, let me give you my number! [Laughs] Well, I was scrambling for shit -- there really is very little to find about you. Is that just a personal thing that you don’t care to do a whole lot of interviews, or….
HANNEMAN: Well, a lot of people say I hate interviews, which is-- I always say that, but it isn’t really true. I just don’t do a lot of interviews because I don’t read a lot of interviews, so it’s kinda like, “What’s the point? I don’t read what other people are about.” If I like a band I don’t care what they’re about unless I meet ‘em.
KNAC.COM: It’s all about the music.
KNAC.COM: Alright, well I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. Good luck with the shows and hopefully I’ll be seeing you up here.
HANNEMAN: Alright man, thanks.
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