Interview: Slayer's Tom Araya Gives Update from the Studio
The following article is from Revolver's April/May 2015 issue. It is available for purchase in our webstore.
We're om kind of the beginning stages of the finishing stages, if that makes any sense,” says Slayer bassist and vocalist Tom Araya of the legendary thrash band’s forthcoming full-length. “We’re doing the mixing and mastering now, but we still need to sit down and figure out the album title, the album cover, the song titles, and the song list. We’ve recorded 13 songs for it; we’ll probably put ten on there, but who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and we’ll put all 13 on there!”
The as-yet-untitled album, the band’s 11th studio LP—and their first for Nuclear Blast—was produced by Terry Date (Pantera, Soundgarden, Korn) over a four-month period at Hollywood’s Henson Studios. “Terry’s been a big part of it,” says Araya. “He’s been the ‘unbiased ears,’ which is what you really want when you’re working with someone, and I think he got some really great performances out of us. It was a pleasure working with him.”
The tracks for the album were primarily recorded by Araya, guitarist Kerry King and drummer Paul Bostaph, the latter of whom rejoined the band in 2013. It’s the first album Slayer has made primarily without the help of guitarist and co-founder Jeff Hanneman—who died of alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver in 2013—and Araya says it was difficult to get used to the absence of his longtime colleague.
“Ever since his passing, it’s been like that—just odd and strange, because he’s never gonna be there again, you know?” he says, with a noticeable sadness in his voice. “Even when we were doing stuff without him while he was still alive, that felt strange. Yeah, I missed him during the process. But the way things turned out, I think he was definitely a part of it, even if he wasn’t there physically.”
Hanneman is physically present on one unnamed track, however. “The whole process of this album started three years ago, when Jeff was still a part of it,” says Araya. “There is one track on there that we recorded with him, that he did play on, which was completely done except we hadn’t finalized the vocals for it. So we were fortunate to have something that he had participated in.”
Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, who filled in on tour for Hanneman during his illness and after his untimely death, was invited to record solos for many of the tracks. “Kerry asked Gary to come in, and he shredded some leads on quite a few songs,” Araya recalls. “He came down and damaged his wrist. I’m serious! Well, he didn’t damage it, but his wrist was pretty sore—that’s what he claimed,” he laughs. “Gary gave it all—and he was a man about it, too!”
Lyrically, Araya says the album will cover “the usual topics—conflict, confrontation, religion. It’s all about the social ills that dominate humankind. It’s a Slayer record, you know what I mean?” he laughs. “It’s gonna be a really, really powerful record, so let everybody know!” DAN EPSTEIN