Slayer: Punk’s Not Dead

August 31st, 1996 | Category: Essays, Interviews

Slayer fans share a common bond few groups of people share. It’s an unspoken love and fear of what these four guys do, and it manifests itself in the oddest ways. For example, I used to have an over-sized Seasons in the Abyss-era post on my wall. A friend of mine came over and upon sight of this large image of Tom Araya, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, and Dave Lombardo, he let out a low growl and threw up the devil sign with both hands. Their recent live home video (Live Intrusion from American Recordings) opens with scenes of a kid carving their logo into his forearm and then lighting it on fire. These are manifestations of exactly the odd dedication that I’m talking about.

Slayer

This and their lyrical content frightens those out of the loop. Though Satan himself is scarcely mentioned anymore, war, death, and violence still get as much attention as they do on the news every night. There are other metal bands, some just as fast, just as evil, and just as loud, but Slayer holds the monopoly on a vast clique of rabid youngsters who want something more human than White Zombie and more metallic than Metallica. Nevermind all that pop-punk crap that’s clogging their short attention spans nowadays.

“I just can’t stand this pop-punk stuff!” exclaims a frustrated Jeff Hanneman, who’s lead guitar antics could crush Billie Joe’s three chords in seconds flat. “I can’t go out and buy any records that I like. There’s nothing that I want to hear.” Jeff, Tom (vocals/bass), Kerry (guitar), and Paul Bostaph (Dave’s replacement on drums when he left just prior to their last record, Divine Intervention) have just finished a punk covers record called Undisputed Attitude that includes tracks from minor Threat, T.S.O.L., D.I., Verbal Abuse, and The Stooges, to name a few. What could be taken as a reaction to the resurgence of punk has actually been brewing for quite a while.

“We’ve been planning this record for a long time,” Jeff says of the project. “It kinda turned out later to be reactionary, but it was planned a long time ago.” In addition to the cover songs, some songs from Jeff’s short-lived side project are included. “it was the summer of 84 or something like that, and I was bored waiting around for Slayer to kick in again ’cause we had some time off, so me and Rocky from Suicidal Tendencies, and our drummer at that time, Dave Lombardo, decided to put together this little punk band called ‘Pap Smear’. We were gonna put this little record out and play some local shows, but by the time we got goin’ on it, Slayer was kickin’ back in. So, when we were doin’ this record [Undisputed Attitude], someone suggested we put a couple of those songs on there too.”

Selection of the other songs came at random. Kerry and Jeff just threw songs out and tried them. The Stooges song, for instance, wasn’t really a favorite. “None of us really listened to The Stooges. I was really into the Sex Pistols and after they broke up, Sid Vicious used to do that song [“I Wanna Be Your Dog”]. Same with the Dr. Know song. We didn’t listen to them either, but both Kerry and I liked that opening riff and we used to play it in practice, so we just decided to learn the whole thing.”

Barkmarket’s Dave Sardy (with whom Slayer worked on their collaboration with Ice T for the Judgement Day soundtrack) produced Undisputed Attitude. Jeff spoke fondly of Dave’s unconventional studio techniques.

“I don’t know what conventional is,” Sardy told me, “I guess that’s why I do things that are ‘unconventional’.” Sardy has the uncanny ability to make anything sound confrontational, but be sure he didn’t have to do much to Slayer to achieve that.

“We like working with him a lot,” Jeff says of Sardy. “He definitely knows how to bring out the best in us.” A quickie video and some European festivals (including a few opening for the newly reuinited Sex Pistols) are in the works to support the record, but Jeff is anxious to get Slayer’s next batch of hell-borne originals to their rabid fans.

“We’ve got about four new songs done already, and we’re trying to finish the record this year so we can get it out early next year,” he says excitedly, as if ready to show these punks who’s boss. Friend and fellow writer Adem Tepedelen recently wrote something to the effect of “Metal isn’t dead, it’s just wounded and pissed off.” In light of the nineties so-called “punk revolution,” truer words were never written. Just ask your local Slayer fan.

[Originally published in the August/September issue of Ride BMX Magazine]

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