Slayer: Tom Araya Says He and Kerry King are Dealing with Unfinished “Business Matters”

  • Axl Rosenberg

There are many differences between the sole remaining original members of Slayer, Tom Araya and Kerry King. One pretends to hate religion for theatrical purposes, one actually hates religion; one has hair, the other is bald; and one seems to be lukewarm on the state of Slayer, while one realizes that if Slayer ever finally calls it a day, he’s not gonna have anything to fucking do with himself.

The first person in all of those comparisons, of course, is Araya, who has been hinting at wanting to retire for awhile now, and who has admitted that the band’s most recent album, Repentless, is really only “half of Slayer.” Now, in a new interview with Little Punk People‘s ace reporter Elliot Fullam (bottom of this post), Araya continues to be ambivalent about the possibility of Slayer soldiering on. When asked about the band making more new music, Araya responded (transcript courtesy of Blabbermouth):

“I don’t know. When we started doing this… when I started doing this, I always wanted to be in a band and play music. And then I ended up hooking up with four guys that were like-minded, just like me, and we clicked. And then we just started playing and jamming, and then we started writing our own stuff and jamming. Next thing you know, someone says, ‘Hey, I wanna do a song. I wanna do a record.’ And we just kept doing that. Thirty-five years later, I find myself in a place where I never thought I’d ever be. I never really once thought about ever being where I am. And it’s a business. And that was something that I really enjoyed doing because I loved it, and it slowly somehow turned into a business. It wasn’t about making music, [it was about] the business of making music. So what I’m leading into is that we had Jeff [Hanneman], who passed away a few years back. We never really had our business matters taken care of, as far as the membership and the band and all that stuff. That’s something that me and Kerry [King] are, at the moment, in the middle of getting all that squared away. So as far as the next record, apparently we did record a bunch of songs, and we finished the songs for this album, and there was, like, another six or seven songs. We’ll see. [Laughs]”

Later, when asked if he thinks about Hanneman while performing, Araya said…

“Yeah, yeah, because I look over and I see Gary [Holt] playing, but, yeah, I think about him. Especially when we do songs that me and him co-wrote. Me and him were collaborators — we wrote a lot of songs together, me and Jeff. So there’s a lot of songs that we play where it’s, like… And then this new album [2015’s Repentless], it was kind of a collaboration between me and Kerry, but not. [Laughs] That’s a clue. [Laughs] That’s a clue right there; I just gave you a big clue. But, yeah, I think about him a lot. Especially when we do… ’cause we always end our set with ‘Angel Of Death’, and that’s a tribute to him. So, yeah, I think about him. You just wonder… You always think about how you wish you could have or should have done things different that went on towards the latter period of his life. In hindsight, you always wanna do… you think you should have done more, and that’s how I feel: I feel like we could have, or I should have done more to help him.”

First, let’s discuss Araya’s comment about thinking he should or could have done more to help Hanneman. I think that’s a situation we’ve all been in, whether it was watching a friend struggle with alcohol or drugs or depression or some combination thereof… when someone you care about doesn’t make it through something like that, it’s very natural to feel some level of guilt, to think, “I could have done more to help him.” Is that ever true? We have no way of knowing (which only adds to the level of torture one feels about the whole situation — it’s impossible to definitively resolve without a time machine). But if Araya is still feeling melancholy over the loss of Hanneman, it’s not unthinkable that that grief would ultimately lead to his finally throwing in the towel.

That being said, if your concern is “I sure hope Araya and King keep making music together,” I think both the unspecified “business matters” and quip about Repentless being “a collaboration but not” give greater cause for concern. Araya definitely needs to feel like he’s being properly compensated for his work, and, y’know, it never hurts to enjoy collaborating with your bandmates and feeling proud of the fruit that collaboration bears.

And that being said, I’d like to emphasize, again, that Araya has hinted at packing it in many times before, and he has yet to make good on those threats. So I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself writing another post just like this one in a few years.

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