Tom Araya says he and Kerry King don’t plan to make any decisions on a Slayer future without late co-founder Jeff Hanneman until after the thrash metal pioneers finish their current North American tour at the end of November.
“We’re at a point where we’re obviously going to have to do a lot of communication and figure out where we want to go,” the bassist tells Billboard. “There are decisions the two of us need to make as a group. Three weeks after (Hanneman) died we were back on the road; a lot of stuff was put together in advance, so we’re meeting our contractual obligations, in a sense. We’ve never really had an opportunity to really sit down and discuss what we’re feeling and where we are and where we want to go. Jeff was a big part of the band; some people are just now realizing that, but I’ve always known it. So Kerry and I have a lot of thinking to do, a lot of talking to do and we haven’t been in a place to do that yet.”
Part of the discussion, Araya says, will be the future of some new recordings Slayer began working on while Hanneman — who passed away May 2 from live failure after being sidelined for nearly two years with necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) on his arm — was still alive.
“The new record idea was brought up a few years back,” Araya says. “I had injured my back and wasn’t able to make the recording sessions that they had with Jeff, Kerry and Dave (Lombardo, Slayer’s now ex-drummer) and started to putting ideas together for a new album. Now we’re basically at a point where, ‘What are we gonna do?’ with that stuff. And we won’t know until we talk.”
In the meantime, Araya, King, Exodus guitarist Gary Holt — who’s been filling in for Hanneman since 2011 — and drummer Paul Bostaph are rocking through North America playing an old school Slayer set, focused on material from the group’s 1983 debut, “Show No Mercy,” through 1990’s “Seasons in the Abyss.” Araya says he noted “Show No Mercy’s” 30th anniversary to King earlier this year, which likely inspired the guitarist to propose the old school theme.
“It’s something (King) never really thought about before I mentioned it,” Araya says. “But then he sent me the text and said ‘I’m thinking about doing this old school stuff,’ and I said, ‘Yeah? That’ll go well.’ And it sounds better now — you know what I mean? We’ve got 30 years of practice, so after 30 years of practice, you better sound fuckin’ better, right?”
Slayer continues to pay tribute to Hanneman during its shows, including a backdrop that features the guitarist’s name written out like the Heineken beer logo. At summer festivals with video production the group also showed clips of Hanneman, to a not surprisingly strong response from the crowds.
“When we started back out, it was hard for, like the first week of the tour,” Araya says. “Everything was fine until we would drop the banner; I had a tough time maintaining control at first. I mean, even though he wasn’t part of our live performances for the past two years, there was hope. There was always the possibility and chance he’ll be coming back — there was never any doubt he was coming back from my perspective. So when we got the call (that Hanneman had died) it was like, ‘Holy shit! It’s permanent now.’ And still, every now and then I have to remind myself that he’s not gonna be back. This is how it is. I have to remind myself that he’s not alive anymore. That’s hard.”