On May 2, the sudden news took the metal community by storm: SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman had died. In the August 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine, the band’s bassist/vocalist Tom Araya recalls his final communications with his longtime friend and bandmate: “I had been texting with him, and he even sent me a song that he had been working on. So it seemed like he was doing okay. But when I got the call that he was back in intensive care, I became concerned. Eventually he stopped responding to my texts. It was like a one-sided conversation.
“I was home with my family when I found out he had died. The phone rang and my wife answered it, and she had this look of dread on her face. She handed me the phone and didn’t say anything, and it was our manager, Rick [Sales], and he told me. I hung up the phone and went to my room and I cried.
“It hit my family hard, because they really liked Jeff. My mother was really upset, my sisters loved Jeff, and my brother too — he was Jeff‘s tech for a long time.”
Hanneman died from alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, a result of a lifetime of drinking.
His bandmates are quick to point out that Hanneman‘s drinking rarely became an issue within the group, though it did creep in on occasion.
“The only thing that comes to mind,” guitarist Kerry King tells Guitar World, “was when we were on the ‘Divine Intervention’ tour [in 1994-1995], when [drummer] Paul [Bostaph] was with us, and we wanted to play ‘Sex. Murder. Art.’ live. But on that album I pretty much played everything in the studio, so I don’t think Jeff had ever played that song. And he was just too messed up all the time to learn it, so Paul, Tom and I just did it as a three-piece because Jeff would not come on stage and play it. After that, we said, ‘Listen dude, like it or not, you’re a part of this band, and if we decide to play a song, you gotta play that fucking song.'”
There were events that occurred in the previous few years that could be viewed as contributing factors in Jeff‘s downward spiral. One was the death of his father in 2008. “That’s when things really started to go downhill for him,” Kathryn Hanneman, Jeff‘s wife of 24 years, tells Guitar World. “It was probably the hardest thing he ever had to face in his entire life. When I met Jeff, he didn’t have all that great of a relationship with his father. But as time went on, they became very close. So that took a toll on him. He was never quite the same after that. I just don’t think he cared anymore.”
To read more of the interview, purchase a copy of the August 2013 issue of Guitar World magazine.