Brian Aberback of New Jersey’s Steppin’ Out magazine recently conducted an interview with SLAYER bassist/vocalist Tom Araya. An excerpt from the chat follows below.
Steppin’ Out: You just started doing press for this tour and know that everyone will be asking about [late SLAYER guitarist] Jeff [Hanneman]. How do you feel talking about everything that’s gone on in the past six months?
Tom Araya: You know you’re going to get those questions whether we decide to do press or not. If you don’t do interviews, no one is aware that you’re doing a tour. It wouldn’t bother me if Kerry [King, guitar] did all the interviews. [laughs] But when I do interviews, I enter them with an open mind and try to answer the questions the best I can.
Steppin’ Out: Did you have any idea that Jeff was seriously ill before he died?
Tom: Nobody ever thought about Jeff passing away. I thought about him getting better and getting back onstage. We’ve been talking about getting back in the studio for the last two years, with Jeff being a part of that. It was something to be continued.
Steppin’ Out: Have you thought about folding the band following his death?
Tom: His death has changed everything. Knowing that Jeff was on the sidelines, I was OK. It was always about, “Jeff is going to come back.” Then he passed away and it was more like, “Why am I doing this now?” It changed my attitude about some things. Someone said, “It’s really great that you decided to tour and move on,” but these tours were scheduled in advance. At the end of this tour, Kerry and I are going to have to sit down and talk as far as how we want to move forward, if we want to move forward. There hasn’t been time for me and Kerry to talk. We’ve been on the road but we haven’t really sat down and talked about it. Jeff and I collaborated a lot, and he offered me the opportunity to write or to collaborate with him. Like I said, there are things we have to discuss to either move forward or just to figure something out.
Steppin’ Out: How tough was it playing the first shows after Jeff‘s death this summer in Europe?
Tom: That was hard. We toured Europe and South America. It got easier, but the first two weeks were rough. The first part of the set was great, the excitement and the roar of the crowd gets you going, but then toward the end of the set, it all starts hitting you. And to top it off, we had the backdrop with the Heineken logo with Hanneman’s name on it come down for the last two songs, “South Of Heaven” and “Angel Of Death”. That didn’t make it any easier at all. The first week or so, I had a tough time trying to sing without losing it. We did two tours in Europe and one in South America. I’m better now, but it’s different. But still, even though I feel the way I feel, I give more than 100 percent. The show is great.