Jeff Hanneman

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Jeff Hanneman
Jeff Hanneman f9e o.jpg
Hanneman in 2009
Background information
Birth nameJeffrey John Hanneman
Born(1964-01-31)January 31, 1964
Oakland, California, U.S.
DiedMay 2, 2013(2013-05-02) (aged 49)
Hemet, California, U.S.
Genres Thrash metal, hardcore punk
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1981–2013
Labels American
Associated acts Slayer

Jeffrey John Hanneman (January 31, 1964 – May 2, 2013) was an American musician, best known as a founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer. Hanneman contributed both lyrical and musical material to every Slayer album up until his death in 2013 and wrote the songs "Raining Blood", "War Ensemble," "South of Heaven," "Seasons in the Abyss," and "Angel of Death," all of which have been played at almost every live Slayer performance after their respective compositions. He had his own signature guitar, the ESP Jeff Hanneman Signature model.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

Slayer American thrash metal band

Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and vocalist and bassist Tom Araya. Slayer's fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Slayer's current lineup comprises King, Araya, drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Hanneman and drummers Dave Lombardo and Jon Dette are former members of the band.

"Raining Blood" is a song by the American thrash metal band Slayer. Written by Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King for the 1986 studio album Reign in Blood, the song's religious concept is about overthrowing Heaven.



Early life

Hanneman was born January 31, 1964 in Oakland, California, and grew up in Long Beach, California in a family containing several war veterans: his father fought in Normandy during World War II and his brothers in Vietnam, making warfare a common conversation topic at the dinner table. War films were popular on TV at the time, and Hanneman often joined his brothers in constructing and coloring tank and plane models. His interest in warfare and military history has been attributed to his upbringing. [1]

Oakland, California City in California, United States

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth most populated city in California, and the 45th largest city in the United States. With a population of 432,897 as of 2019, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; its Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854, which officially made Oakland a city. Oakland is a charter city.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

Long Beach, California City in California, United States

Long Beach is a city on the Pacific Coast of the United States, within the Los Angeles metropolitan area of Southern California. It is the 39th most populous city in the United States and the 7th most populous in California, with a population of 462,257 in 2010. A charter city, it is the second largest city in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and the third in Southern California behind Los Angeles and San Diego.

In a 2009 interview with Decibel magazine, he stated his father is German, but fought for the Allied side in World War II. In the same interview, he also goes into detail of what district of Germany his father and grandparents hail from. His grandfather was fluent in German. [2]

Hanneman was introduced to heavy metal music as a child through his older sister Mary, when she was listening to Black Sabbath at her house. [3] Once he reached high school, he discovered hardcore punk, which had a significant influence on his style and attitude.

Black Sabbath British heavy metal band

Black Sabbath were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham in 1968, by guitarist and main songwriter Tony Iommi, drummer Bill Ward, bassist and main lyricist Geezer Butler and singer Ozzy Osbourne. Black Sabbath are often cited as pioneers of heavy metal music. The band helped define the genre with releases such as Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). The band had multiple line-up changes, with Iommi being the only constant member throughout its history.

Hardcore punk Subgenre of punk rock

Hardcore punk is a punk rock music genre and subculture that originated in the late 1970s. It is generally faster, harder, and more aggressive than other forms of punk rock. Its roots can be traced to earlier punk scenes in San Francisco and Southern California which arose as a reaction against the still predominant hippie cultural climate of the time. It was also inspired by New York punk rock and early proto-punk. New York punk had a harder-edged sound than its San Francisco counterpart, featuring anti-art expressions of masculine anger, energy, and subversive humor. Hardcore punk generally disavows commercialism, the established music industry and "anything similar to the characteristics of mainstream rock" and often addresses social and political topics with "confrontational, politically-charged lyrics."


Hanneman performing live with Slayer at the Fields of Rock (2007) Slayer, The Fields of Rock, 2007.jpg
Hanneman performing live with Slayer at the Fields of Rock (2007)

In 1981 Hanneman, who was working as a telemarketer at the time, met Kerry King, when King was auditioning for a southern rock band called "Ledger". King remembered: "As I was leaving, I saw Jeff just kinda standing around playing guitar, and he was playing stuff that I was into, like Def Leppard's 'Wasted' and AC/DC and Priest". [4] After the try-out session, the two guitarists started talking and playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs. Slayer was born when King asked "Why don't we start our own band?", to which Hanneman replied "...Fuck yeah!". [1]

Kerry King American musician

Kerry Ray King is an American musician, best known as a guitarist and songwriter for the American thrash metal band Slayer. He co-founded the band with Jeff Hanneman in 1981 and has been a member ever since.

Southern rock is a subgenre of rock music and a genre of Americana. It developed in the Southern United States from rock and roll, country music, and blues, and is focused generally on electric guitar and vocals. Although the origin of the term Southern rock is unknown, "many people feel that these important contributors to the development of rock and roll have been minimized in rock's history."

Def Leppard British band

Def Leppard are an English rock band formed in 1977 in Sheffield as part of the new wave of British heavy metal movement. Since 1992, the band has consisted of Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell. This is the band's longest lasting line-up.

Hanneman stated that he was playing guitar for a year by the time he met King and put an effort into improving his skills after watching him play. [5] Hanneman, who was heavily influenced by hardcore punk music, got the other members into the genre, leading Slayer into a faster and more aggressive approach. The band's drummer Dave Lombardo asserted that his hardcore influences pushed him to play faster, [5] contributing to shape his drumming style. [6]

Dave Lombardo Cuban drummer

David Lombardo is a Cuban-American drummer, best known as a co-founding member of American thrash metal band Slayer. Lombardo played drums on nine Slayer albums, including the 1986 album Reign in Blood and the 2006 album Christ Illusion, for which he received critical praise. Lombardo's music career has spanned forty years, during which he has been involved in the production of thirty-five commercial recordings covering a number of genres. He has performed with numerous bands, including Grip Inc., Fantômas, Testament, and Suicidal Tendencies, in addition to Slayer. Lombardo is currently playing drums with Fantômas, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Cross, and the Misfits.

In 1984, Hanneman, Lombardo and Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George had a brief hardcore punk side project called "Pap Smear" – the band had many tracks and was due to start recording when Hanneman was advised to avoid the side project by Slayer's producer, Rick Rubin, who is quoted as saying "Aaaah, don't do it, man – this is the kind of thing that breaks bands up!" [1] and Hanneman took Rubin's advice. Only a demo was recorded, consisting of Hanneman on vocals and bass, Lombardo on drums and George on guitar. Later two of the songs were re-recorded on Slayer's 1996 album Undisputed Attitude . [1]

Illness and death

In early 2011, Hanneman contracted necrotizing fasciitis. Reports linked this illness with a spider bite he claimed to have received while in a friend's hot tub. [7] [8]

In light of his illness and Slayer's upcoming participation in the Australian Soundwave Festival tour that was set to begin on February 26, 2011, the band made the decision to play the dates without Hanneman, and on February 16, 2011, brought on Gary Holt (Exodus) to fill in for him. [9] Pat O'Brien joined as Slayer's temporary second guitarist when Holt left the tour to play with Exodus. [10] In 2012, bandmate Tom Araya announced a recovery from the disease. However, in February 2013, Kerry King revealed that Hanneman was still battling health issues that prevented him from working.

Hanneman died of liver failure on May 2, 2013, in a Southern California hospital near his home. [11] [12] On May 9, 2013, the official cause of death was announced as alcohol-related cirrhosis. Hanneman and his family had apparently been unaware of the extent of the condition until shortly before his death. [13]

Personal life

In 1989, Hanneman married Kathryn in Las Vegas. [14] They had met in 1983 before the release of the debut album Show No Mercy , during a Slayer show in Buena Park, California. [4] The couple had no children and lived in Los Angeles. Kathryn stayed at home when Slayer toured; Hanneman claimed to prefer this, having said that when he came home, she was "all brand new again." Kathryn only toured with the band twice in twenty years.

Hanneman was a reserved person when he was offstage. Unlike the other members, he was very selective in socializing and rarely gave interviews. As vocalist/bassist Araya said: "If he didn't like you, he wouldn't hang with you." [4]

German history

The Knight's Cross Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oakleaves, Swords, and Diamonds.png
The Knight's Cross

Hanneman's interest in German war medals and Nazi Germany was illustrated by many of his lyrics. Those interests in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS began with medals given to him by his father, including some taken from a dead German soldier. [15] His most prized medal was his Knight's Cross, which he had bought from a Slayer fan for $1,000. [15] While touring with Motörhead, Hanneman discovered Motörhead vocalist Lemmy's interest in medals, and the two discussed medal designs, weapons and tactics used by the Wehrmacht. [1]

Hanneman's lyrics for the song "Angel of Death" led to accusations of Slayer being Nazi sympathizers. [16] Hanneman defended himself with "nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he (Josef Mengele) was a bad man, because to me – well, isn't that obvious? I shouldn't have to tell you that." [1] The band has stated numerous times that they are not Nazis and do not condone Nazism. [17]

Influences and style

Hanneman's major influences included hard rock and heavy metal bands like Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, [1] Black Sabbath, [3] Aerosmith [18] and hardcore punk acts such as Wasted Youth, Minor Threat, [19] Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, T.S.O.L., [1] which led to Slayer's 1996 album Undisputed Attitude . Hanneman's and King's dual guitar solos have been called "wildly chaotic," [20] and "twisted genius". [21] South of Heaven featured "more technical" guitar riffs, utilizing the aforementioned tremolo picking and down-picked notes, improving musicianship while retaining a melodic sense. Both Hanneman and King were ranked #10 in Guitar World's "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time."


Hanneman's guitar work had a notable influence on heavy metal music and culture. Musicians such as Robb Flynn [22] (Machine Head), Dino Cazares [22] (Fear Factory, Divine Heresy), Mille Petrozza [23] (Kreator), Andreas Kisser [24] (Sepultura), Dan Lilker [25] (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault), Eric Hoffman [25] (Amon/Deicide), Trevor Peres [25] (Obituary), Mark Morton [26] (Lamb of God) and Kelly Shaefer [25] (Atheist) cited him as an influence on their playing and songwriting. Jeff Walker said that "Hanneman's playing and riff writing and attitude has had a big impact on Carcass". [25] Shavo Odadjian declared that "without Jeff Hanneman, there would be no System of a Down". [27]

John Consterdine of Terrorizer magazine noted: "without Jeff Hanneman, Slayer certainly would not have created some of the most famous riffs in metal, which undoubtedly changed the entire genre". [28] According to Jeff Kitts of Guitar World , he "influenced a generation and changed the course of metal forever". [4] Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse, who considers Hanneman his major influence as a composer, [29] regarded him as "one of the greatest musicians and songwriters in metal" [30] and Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom described him as "one of the fathers of metal". [31]

Alex Skolnick of Testament asserted that he "wrote some of the best riffs of all time" [31] and "he impacted music in such a way that an entire genre will never be the same". [32] According to Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Hanneman is "one of the most underrated writers and underrated players that ever was" [31] while Slash of Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver defined him "the king of thrash/speed metal guitar". [33]

Lyrics and music

Hanneman wrote the music for most of the band's fan favorites, songs such as "Angel of Death", "Raining Blood", "Die by the Sword", "South of Heaven", "War Ensemble", "Postmortem", "Dead Skin Mask" and "Seasons in the Abyss", which have all become staples for live performance at Slayer shows. Hanneman's favorite album was Reign in Blood, and he enjoyed performing the songs "Raining Blood" and "Angel of Death." [1] He contributed lyrics and music to every Slayer album, having formed a music and lyric writing partnership with Araya, which sometimes overshadowed King's creative input. [16]

When writing new material, the band writes the music before the lyrics. [1] Hanneman often composed riffs at his house, using a 24-track and a drum machine and then by gathering opinions from the other band members; King and Lombardo made suggestions of alterations. The band will play the riff to get the basic song structure, and then figure out where the lyrics and solos go. [1] Hanneman stated that writing lyrics and music is a "free for all"; "It's all just whoever comes up with what. Sometimes I'll be more on a roll and I'll have more stuff, same with Kerry – it's whoever's hot, really. Anybody can write anything; if it's good we use it, if not we don't." [1]


Hanneman used a black Gibson Les Paul modified with a Kahler Pro tremolo and a Joe Barden Two/Tone Humbucker bridge pickup in Slayer's early days and through the Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits eras. There are also photos and videos of him playing a natural stain-finished Gibson Explorer during the band's early days. In mid 1985 he began playing B.C. Rich guitars, notably a Rich Bich model he bought off his bandmate Kerry King and subsequently applied various graphics to. His first Bich had a 3x3 headstock, chrome hardware (including the Kahler Pro bridge) and two DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups. He and King can both also be seen with a second set of B.C. Rich's around 1986-1987, which had 6-in-line headstocks, black hardware and DiMarzio pickups. He also used a B.C. Rich Ironbird model more rarely. From 1987, he was seen using a custom made B.C. Rich Gunslinger with similar specs as his '86-'87 era Bich, shortly after he had the pickups replaced with two active EMG 81 humbuckers. In 1988 he began playing the famous Jackson Soloist that he would use constantly as his main guitar for songs played in E-flat tuning until 2001. It was originally shipped to him with passive Jackson pickups (probably a J-50 and J-80) and a JE-1200 mid-boost circuit, but the pickups were soon changed for EMG 81 pickups and the mid-boost circuit was removed as well. Around 1990-1991 Hanneman began using ESP guitars, he mostly used as backup for this Jackson Soloist and other tunings. He had his own signature model made, based on the specs of his original Jackson Soloist. In 2000, Hanneman switched to ESP guitars, which he used exclusively until he stopped touring in early 2011. ESP also gave Hanneman his own signature model (see below), which is still available for purchase. When touring, Hanneman carried six guitars due to the different tunings he utilized. Most albums such as Haunting the Chapel Divine Intervention and World Painted Blood have E-flat tuning. However, albums such as Diabolus in Musica Christ Illusion feature alternate tunings such as Drop B and utilizing seven string guitars. The first album, Show No Mercy, was recorded in standard tuning, while live performances of those songs were played in E-flat since about 1984.

Jeff Hanneman's 3 x 6 stack of Marshall ModeFour guitar cabinets on stage at the Tuska Open Air Metal Festival in 2008. The bottom row are all active with the others being dummies. MarshallStack Slayer.jpg
Jeff Hanneman's 3 × 6 stack of Marshall ModeFour guitar cabinets on stage at the Tuska Open Air Metal Festival in 2008. The bottom row are all active with the others being dummies.





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<i>Reign in Blood</i> 1986 studio album by Slayer

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