THE GENERAL JOURNALS: DIARY OF A FRONTMAN... AND OTHER RAMBLINGS
Still can't believe the Jeff Hanneman from Slayer is dead, things like that just don't happen. Thrashers don't die??!! WTF!!??
I'm not going to sit here and say how him and I were best buds or something, we definitely weren't, I'd barely call us acquaintances, I did 8 tours and over 120 shows with the dude and honestly, I never really got to "know him". I was always closer with Kerry. Jeff was super quiet, really kept to himself, would get rowdy when he was drunk, but was a bit aloof, and seemed annoyed at the people partying around him despite the fact that he himself would be getting hammered.
I can remember some good hangs with him though. The first was in Basel, Switzerland back in November, 1994 when Machine Head was main support to Slayer on the Divine Intervention tour. It was one of those shows were something so random happens it just never leaves you, in this case, the show was sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes and every kid entering the show got 2 free packs of smokes. I've never seen so much smoke in a venue in my life. I remember walking onstage and yelling at our roadie / everything-guy Mike Scum, "DUDE, turn off the fuckin' smoke machine", he said "YOOOOO, it's not the smoke machine bro, it's the cigarettes!" It was damn near impossible to breath onstage. After the show we were hanging backstage and Jeff walked back, we started bitching about the crazy cigarette show, and he invited me back to the dressing room to grab a beer, we sat down and chatted for a while, and then I went all Slayer-nerd on him and started grilling him on what songs he wrote.
Me: "Who wrote Angel Of Death?"
Jeff: "I did"
Me: "Lyrics too?"
Me: "Reign In Blood?"
Me: "Dead Skin Mask?"
Me: "South Of Heaven?"
Me: "Black Magic?"
Jeff: "You know it"
Me: "Hell Awaits?"
On and on it went, that man wrote both the music and lyrics to a large goddamn portion of my favorite Slayer songs. He was a huge influence on my songwriting growing up in particular with arrangements and the bold use of key changes. The one thing Slayer band always had over so many other bands is they were all over the guitar neck when it came to key changes. Leads would be in some of the most random keys ever, but somehow it made it all that much more frantic, and when the chorus kicked back in, BOOM! CRUSHING! Set up perfectly. He was one of the few metal heads I met who never really got into Pantera, he told me he "liked some stuff", but thought they we're "too bluesy at times", and that he "liked more evil notes or sad riffs"
Another good memory was sharing a tour bus on the August 2001 Korean / Japan / Australia tour, it was all fly-dates and hotels, we were sharing crew, tour manager and manager, so we all rode on the bus together to and from the airport to the hotel every day. Sometimes the rides were an hour or two, so you'd just all BS and hang. One time a kid in Australia bum-rushed the bus while we were all sitting in it, hammered after partying one night. He was desperate for autographs and came on the bus screaming (what else?) "SLAAAAAAAAAYYYYYEEEEERRRR!!!" He then saw me and went all, "Oh shit, Robb Flynn, mate I fuckin' LOVE Machine Head, but it's fuckin' SLAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEERRRRR" I looked the fucker right in the eye and slurred, "Oh just FUCK RIGHT OFF!!" Hannamen fell out dying, he laughed for 10 minutes straight, cracked him up, that slightly feminine high pitched giggle that he always did.
Dude backed me when Kerry King and I were beefin all that time long ago, he would come up to me at festivals and would talk, just be normal. He even backed me in Decibel magazine when they asked him about the beef, saying "Robb is a good dude", and that "Kerry was like the girlfriend of the band, always beefin' with someone". I got a good laugh outta that.
The last memory I'll share is from the American leg of the Divine Intervention tour in March 1995. It was Slayer band, Biohazard supporting, and Machine Head opening. We were playing the International Ballroom in Atlanta Georgia. He had been sitting out some of the new songs from "Divine", which was odd to me. We were hanging out in their dressing room before the show, just him and I, and I mustered up the nerve to ask him what the deal with it was. At first he joked that he just "didn't feel like learning them, didn't like 'em, Kerry wrote them", he was chuckling, and then he stopped. He looked down and got serious. He said he'd been having a lot of pain in his wrists, his hands and wrists were going numb all the time, and would go numb during those songs because they were really fast, then he started to cry. It was a startling confession. I offered some awkward feel-good comment, but he just continued to cry, and I decided to sit there in the silence with him for a minute. He gave me a hug, and said "Whoa!", and laughed walked out toward the stage, turned back and said "thanks dude".
It was an intense moment, one of those rare, intense moments you have with someone, let alone with someone from another band.
It made me really respect the dude.
That's the Jeff I'm gonna remember.
To Kerry, Tom, Dave, Paul, Rick Sales Mgmt and Jeff's family, my sincere condolences.