Only six weeks after the May death of fellow founding member and guitarist Jeff Hanneman due to liver failure, metal legends Slayer went back to the grind and performed at festivals throughout Europe.
Hanneman had been off the road for the previous three years battling complications from flesh-eating bacteria brought on by a spider bite. Exodus guitarist Gary Holt had been filling in on tour since then. There was always optimism among fans that Hanneman would recover. For vocalist Tom Araya, playing those European shows was one of the hardest things he's had to do, and we spoke with him and guitarist Kerry King.
“I spent most of my time trying to compose myself to sing those songs,” Araya says. “One year prior, I had always had hope that Jeff would come back and play. When we did that tour after his death, it was different because Jeff was never going to be a part of it again.”
The European festival dates were a contractual obligation that had been set over a year in advance. For King, playing those shows was important to getting back to the business of Slayer.
“It's always a heavy decision to move forward with touring plans when something tragic happens,” King tells us. “At the end of the day, this is my job. I have to earn money for myself, my band mates, and my crew.”
That is not to say that King did not mourn Hanneman's death. In fact, on the day of Hanneman's death, he was already scheduled to be a presenter at Revolver's Golden God Awards. All parties involved would have understood if King cancelled. But King decided to forge forward and attend the evening's festivities.
“I figured if I went,” King says, “I might be able to relive some Jeff moments with all of the fans that have given us love and with friends like Zakk Wylde. I went on-stage and just talked unconsciously. I was just kind of numb. It was a sad day, but I went out there and tried to give him a sendoff for the fans that he would have wanted.”
During King's speech, instead of calling for a moment of silence in memory of Hanneman, he called for “a moment of noise” in tribute to his fallen comrade. The fans responded.
In the months prior to his death, Hanneman had continued writing and presenting ideas to the band. The remainder of Slayer — Araya, King, and new drummer Paul Bostaph — are forging forward and have begun writing songs for a new album, expected next summer.
Hopefully it will feature Hanneman is some way — Araya and King will soon be looking through their archives — but King stresses it won't be just for the sake of having him on it.
“There's been musicians historically that passed on and had a lot of stuff put out that was unreleased during their lives,” King says. “But most of it was unreleased for a reason. I don't want the last thing for people to hear from Jeff be mediocre.”
Below: The 1988 riot at Hollywood Palladium
Slayer is also moving forward with an upcoming U.S. tour, which will roll through the Hollywood Palladium this Sunday and Monday. The Sunday show will be a special “Old-School Slayer Night” exclusively featuring songs from the band's early years, up until 1990.
These will be the first shows the group has played in Hollywood or Los Angeles proper since a riot 25 years ago at the same venue. Fans looking to buy tickets on the day of the show — August 12th, 1988 — got unruly when denied entrance to the sold-out show (above).
When asked to reflect on that night, Araya recalls only being made aware of what was happening after a television news crew requested an interview.
“I normally don't do interviews after the show,” Araya says. “We thought it was cool that we were going to be on the 11 o'clock news. The first thing they asked was 'What do you think about the riot outside?' We had no idea what had happened. We thought they were joking until they told us fans went crazy and started breaking windows.”
Says King: “Everyone overreacted and it became Slayer's fault.”
Slayer perform at the Hollywood Palladium on Sunday, October 27 and Monday, October 28
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