Did one spider ruin the future of Slayer? That might be overstating things a bit, but in a recent interview, Kerry King stated that he would be fine continuing on without Jeff Hanneman. Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis (aka flesh eating disease) in early 2011. He’s been undergoing a slow and painful rehabilitation process since, and for the past two years, Exodus’ Gary Holt has been filling in on guitar. In an interview with Metal Obsession, King not only states that he hasn’t really been in touch with the founding guitarist, but he would have no problems with Holt joining the band full time. A few excerpts from the interview, bolded by us for emphasis:
I don’t have an update. I haven’t seen Jeff in forever. He’s always been a recluse, and he’s even been more of a recluse since he’s not going on tour with us. But our manager talks to him from time to time and sees him in L.A. just randomly. But I’m far from L.A., so I’m not in that loop. But I guess he’s just getting better. It’s just one of those things where he can do anything in life. He could be hanging here having a good time with us. He can probably play ‘South Of Heaven’, but he’s not gonna be playing ‘Jihad’, you know what I mean?! So it’s just a muscle memory kind of thing, I guess, at this point.“
I think Gary is in for the long haul. I haven’t really discussed it with him. But he keeps his schedule free when he knows we’re on tour. And I’m pretty sure, if Jeff all of a sudden came back in June, we would probably pay Gary for freeing up his time. I don’t wanna treat somebody that’s bailed us out for two years badly. But if Gary played with us forever? I’m OK with that. But if Jeff got better and said, ‘Hey, man, I’m ready to play,’ and he came to rehearsal and showed us he was good enough, that’s his show.
So essentially, King is putting it all on Hanneman to come back, but it doesn’t seem like he’s all that concerned with whether he does or not. One thing that we’ve really never heard from King is a sense of empathy for the guitar player that he co-founded the band with. Even one sentence about how he’s reached out to him or that he hopes he’s healing up well would go a long way towards showing that he’s not being cold and calculated about the whole guitarist situation.
Elsewhere in the interview, he states that he’s continuing to work on the next Slayer album, stating they’ve got ‘tons of songs’ written. It’ll be interesting to hear what a Slayer album without Hanneman’s input sounds like. As Metal Sucks points out, most of the band’s set list consists of songs that Hanneman wrote. And while the division of labor with the band’s music for the past couple of albums is more equally divided between Hanneman and King, most of the band’s biggest and most enduring songs were written by Hanneman. If the only original members of Slayer on the next album are King and Tom Araya, there might be more than a handful of disillusioned Slayer fans.
UPDATE: In case you are reading this and have not heard, Hanneman passed away on the morning of May 2.