Slayer’s Paul Bostaph talks Jeff Hanneman, ‘Repentless,’ confederate flag controversy

Posted by on July 20, 2015

With Slayer headlining the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest this year and the band releasing Repentless, their first album in six years, on September 11th, it’s safe to say many eyes are on the band. Given that it will be the first album without founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman and first with drummer Paul Bostaph in the band since 2001, it’s safe to say there will be even more scrutiny on it. When we caught up with Bostaph on the Detroit stop of the fest, he said that Hanneman’s absence hangs over the band. He also spoke about his drum routine, what to expect from Repentless, and his thoughts on the confederate flag and  Caitlyn Jenner. We also caught up with Kerry King this past weekend, so know that an interview with him will be coming soon. 


Slayer is going on over 30 years since its inception, what keeps the train rolling after all of these years?

First of all, the fact that we still want to do it and that we are fans. We are fans of heavy metal. Every one of us always wanted to do this as kids and we still have that same passion we did when we first started playing. The only thing that has changed is the band is more popular. Other than that, it’s what we love to do. It’s part of what I am; It’s part of what all of these guys are. It’s not something we can just shut off. I think we will do this until we physically can’t do it anymore.


You have been in and out of the band two times and now you’re back the third time. What’s in the cards for you going forward?

Third time’s the charm. I didn’t step down when Dave wanted to come back. I stepped down, then Dave came back. People get a lot of things wrong. Like online, my birthday is wrong. People were wishing me a happy birthday two days after my birthday happened. So, that’s cool. Rumors are just rumurs and the only thing that really stands true is facts.


What’s in the cards with you going forward? Staying?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ll be here until we are done with it. Hopefully that’s never.


Being with Slayer in the Jeff Hanneman days and now again since he is gone, how has the group dynamic changed?

Pointing out the obvious, Jeff was one of the founding members and one of the main visionaries of the band. In terms of Tom, Kerry and Jeff, all three of their visions together is what you see, this is what Slayer is. Not having Jeff here, it’s definitely changed. It’s changed in many ways. I don’t see him walking in the dressing room. It’s deeper than that. It’s not that easy. Jeff’s not here but Gary is here with Jeff’s blessing. Jeff knew Gary, they were friends. When Jeff struggled with his arm he supported Gary until he came back. The dynamic changed because Jeff’s not here. The question is too hard to answer without being too obvious.


Knowing Jeff & Kerry were the primary writers, how has the writing/recording for Repentless been?

Jeff’s not there. It changes the dynamic in the studio because Jeff’s not there to offer his opinions. For me tracking drums, I always relied on Kerry and Jeff. If you haven’t gotten a reaction out of them, you haven’t done anything good, so don’t even bother asking. Usually when you do something that is special you are going to get their attention, other than that, you’re not doing anything above standard. I learned that working with them in the studio. I worked with Jeff in the studio for a long time up until his passing. I know what Jeff would like now. After all of these years of being with the band he was always in my head when recording. In regards to the mechanics, nothing really changed for me. Kerry always did the basic tracks. I think he’s recorded most of the basic tracks. The process, in terms of the mechanics of recording, hasn’t really changed. Stating the obvious again, Jeff wasn’t there. The things Jeff would bring to the table weren’t there but, thankfully we got to work with him all of those years. In my mind I’m always thinking, ‘what would Jeff do, what would Jeff like?’ because that’s an important part of what this band is and I’m never going to forget that.


Has Gary or Tom stepped in to assist Kerry?

Gary came in and recorded lead tracks. Out of respect to Jeff and his legacy it wasn’t the right time to just come in and start changing everything. Bottom line, we had just lost Jeff. Even though it has been a while now, it’s still fresh. The memory of him won’t go away. Kerry is Slayer too. Kerry busted his ass on this record and he did a great job. The dynamic of what needs to be done in terms of writing hasn’t really changed because Kerry and I are the ones that have always been in the room the most. Jeff would come in and hand you a recording of something with drum machines. He would have the idea and work with you. Kerry on the other hand, I would get the guitar riffs and he would record them on his phone or 8-track and he gives them to me without drums. He will show me what kind of beats he wants here and there. We’ve worked together for so many years. In the beginning I would do what he told me to do. Now I say’ I have this idea, mind if I try this?’ He trusts me enough that he lets me try my ideas first. He knows that if it doesn’t sound good we can always go back to his ideas. Kerry and I have a chemistry of working together and I know how to work with him. Even though we lost somebody who is very important to us, a friend, it’s not like Kerry and I are working without any experience.


Working with Gary Holt in Slayer, was it a familiar feeling having worked with him in Exodus when coming back in to Slayer?

We are both from the San Francisco Bay area. I’ve known Gary through the thrash metal scene there and also working with Exodus I’ve toured with Gary and recorded with him on that record. I know how he plays, he’s awesome. But, I also know him as a person. It’s nothing new to me because I know Gary. What was strange to me was the fact that when you look over to the right side of the stage you are missing somebody who has been there for a long time. That was strange in the beginning of it. Not because Gary was there. I said this in another interview. You lose a friend to death, those things aren’t norma,l but most of the time you can move on with the memory. With us, everything is a reminder of Jeff. I don’t think people quite understand how difficult that was for us to move on.


We’ve heard 3 singles so far. What else can we expect?

Expect a really good Slayer record.


Is there such thing as a bad Slayer record?

No! Not in my opinion. It’s going to be a really aggressive record. It’s dark, It’s punky. The mix is killer and the production is awesome.


You guys are no strangers to using political themes in your songs. How do you guys stay fresh even with the lawsuits and people being offended by the things you play about?

You have to stay true to yourself. Sometimes the truth hurts and that’s the bottom-line. There are some people that live in a box and that’s all they see and when they hear someone else’s opinion they get in an uproar and say how dare you say something I don’t believe in. Well it’s a big friggen’ world out there and there are a lot of different opinions and people live a bunch of different ways. Bottom-line it’s what we are. We aren’t going to change what we are because somebody doesn’t like it.


It’s pretty much what’s happening in the world today. One thing goes wrong and shut the world down. For example, the confederate flag debate.

Well what do they say? Those who forget history, are bound to repeat it. I mean I’m not into it. It’s not my thing to fly that flag. You don’t see the Nazi flag flying. That’s going to be controversial by me saying that. I’m not saying one is worse than the other, I’m just saying maybe the confederate flag stood for something really good to those who are flying the flag but then maybe to the majority of people it does not. Sometimes things in history are going to be questioned and people need to get into an uproar about it. Maybe it educates some people. When controversial things don’t happen, you go home flip on the baseball game and go to bed and that’s the only thing you do, you aren’t really stimulating your brain. There are a lot worse things going on in the world. That’s really the truth. I mean who gives a shit about Bruce Jenner and a fucking sex change. I could give a flying rat fuck about that. What that does, is it numbs my brain and glazes my face over. I’m uninterested. It’s the whole mentality, if you want to fucking distract somebody, just flash a glimmering object in their face and they will be “ooh I want that” and really, something fucked up is happening over there. That’s the media, not all the media, but that’s what we see. People are interested in that bullshit. Sometimes all the people want to do is look over their neighbor’s fence. Those are the kind of people that care about Bruce Jenner’s sex change. You can walk through the supermarket and see the tabloids. Some people pick those up religiously. That’s the way some people want to live. Every time something insignificant is happening there’s something more important that is getting way less press. There was some kind of trade embargo signed; I caught wind of it when all of that was happening. It was something very important economically that was happening under the radar, and only the people that were looking for it saw it.


What can we expect from Slayer after Mayhem?

We have a little time off then we do the Motorboat Cruise then we go to Japan and Hawaii and then we will finish the year off in Europe. I think we will be there for about 7 weeks.


Being a drummer, do you have a specific warm up routine when getting ready for a show?

Everybody’s different but what I do is I have a practice pad drum set. I have weighted aluminum drum sticks, regular drum sticks, 5 lb ankle weights and a metronome. So, an hour and a half sometimes an hour and 15 minutes before I play, I’ll get changed, get my gloves on, wrap my fingers stuff like that. Then I’ll just sit down and slowly start to warm up. I’ll just take my time with it. I build myself up into tempo and power. I don’t start out hitting for power. Most of the time, if you don’t warm up, you are going to be hitting as hard as you can and you will be stiff for half of the set. When I was younger I started to this. I had really bad tendonitis so I had to develop warming up. I practiced my technique, I developed my technique which helped. Sometimes I’ll practice if I have time and I’ll just start messing around. I’m constantly trying to better myself in that hour before I play. If I put two hours in before I play, we’re playing an hour and a half, that’s three and a half hours of quality playing in a day. If you’re going to play live you should really warm up your hands and if you can warm up your feet as well. That’s going to get you to your optimal playing level.


Did you do any training? Or still do? Anything that you are trying to learn now?

It’s not only things that I’m learning, its things that I’m simply not mastering. It might sound good on the stage but I’m not happy with it. I’m trying to first of all, better my command of how I play now. I’m different than when I was younger. I want more dynamics and perfection out of my playing but also I want to start teaching myself different drum beats. It’s hard with the practice pad kit I have because I only have a snare and two bass drums but I’m going to bring an electric kit out. So I’ll start YouTubing different drum beats so I’ll come back here and try it. The idea in the next couple weeks is, I’m going to start working on stuff I don’t know how to play. Nothing to do with thrash metal, but more progressive drum beats because it’s just adds something more interesting in my playing later.


In your bio, it says you bought a drumset instead of a bass. Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you hadn’t bought the drums and you bought the bass instead?

I had thought about that. I’d get a much better view of the audience and I’d have more pictures in the magazines. But, other than that I would’ve spent a lot less money on gear and wouldn’t have to have such a big car. Other than that, if I would’ve been a bass guitar player I might not be sitting here. I would’ve been a great bass guitarist though.


How was a bass guitar more than a drum kit?

Used bass guitars back then were pieces of crap or they were really expensive. I priced out a rig that costs $125 bucks. Mind you, I was 15 years old, I didn’t have a job, and I had a paper route. I was going to save for that but a guy at school had a drum set for sale for $45 that was stacked in a closet. I out bid a guy $5 and got that, got it home, joined a band the same week and never looked back.


Do you have any current non-Slayer side projects?

Not yet. No, I had a project I was doing when I first came back and I just haven’t had time. Right now its 100% Slayer and that’s the way I intend to keep it.


You come out after the show, the bus is gone, but there’s an iPod on the ground with one album on it to listen to while you walk to the next city. What do you pick?

It would have to be something mellow because I would be pretty pissed off. I’d have to say Out of the Blue by Electric Light Orchestra


Do you have anything to shamelessly plug?

My Website paulbostaphdrums.com.

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