Jeff Hanneman (January 31, 1964 - 2nd May 2013) was the guitarist and founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer. Hanneman grew up in Los Angeles in a family of war veterans, leading to his fascination with warfare. When at a friend's house in 1981 Hanneman approached Kerry King, who was trying out for the position as guitarist in a band. The two began playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs, deciding to form their own band.
Hanneman was born in Oakland, California to a family of war veterans; Hanneman's father fought in Normandy during World War II and brothers in Vietnam, often talking about their experiences at dinner. At the time war movies were shown on TV a lot, and Hanneman would join brothers building and coloring tank and plane models, leading to his interest in warfare and history.
In 1981 Kerry King was trying for a position as guitarist in a band. After the try-out session, Hanneman approached King and started talking. The two picked up their guitars and began playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs. King mentioned "Why don't we start our OWN band?", Hanneman replied "…Fuck yeah!". In 1984 Hanneman, Dave Lombardo and Suicidal Tendencies's guitarist Rocky George had a brief punk side project called Pap Smear. The band was about to enter the recording studio until Hanneman received a call from Slayer's producer Rick Rubin stating “Ahhhh, don’t do it, man – this is the kind of thing that breaks bands up!” Hanneman took Rubin's advice later using two of the songs on Slayer's 1996 album Undisputed Attitude.
Hanneman married Kathryn in 1997, whom he met in the early 1980's. While Slayer are on tour Kathryn stays home as Hanneman states when he comes home she's "all brand new again". Kathryn has toured with the band twice in twenty years. They two lived in Los Angeles with no children, forty minutes away from King, and often had BBQ's, watched hockey and socialised.
Hanneman was once a heavy cocaine and pill user in Slayer's early years, with Slayer vocalist Tom Araya. The two decided to one day quit, realizing "this can lead to only death or something, this is going too far"; Araya only smokes marijuana and Hanneman drinks beer. Hanneman's favorite was Heineken lager and he was often seen with the drink backstage and in publicity photos. During The Unholy Alliance Chapter II tour, Hanneman could be seen playing a guitar with a Heineken logo as a custom finish.
Hanneman had an interest in Nazi war medals and Nazi Germany, the subject to much of the lyrics he wrote. People have taken this to be evidence that Hanneman, as well as the rest of Slayer, are Nazis. Hanneman's obsession began when his father, offered him a medal he had taken from a dead Nazi soldier. Hanneman's father later gave more to Hanneman, saying "You want these? I'm gonna throw 'em out if you don't."; his most prized medal was the Knight’s Cross, for which he paid $1000 (USD), off a Slayer fan. While touring with Motörhead, Hanneman found out about Motörhead vocalist Lemmy Kilmister's interest in medals. The two discussed medal designs, weapons and tactics used by the Nazis.
Hanneman wrote the lyrics for the song "Angel of Death", leading to Slayer being accused of Nazi sympathizing. The track details the acts conducted by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. "People often interpret the lyrics" states Hanneman "nothing I put in the lyrics that says necessarily he was a bad man, because to me - well, isn't that obvious? I shouldn't have to tell you that." The band have stated numerous times that they do not condone Nazism and are merely interested in the subject.
Hanneman's interest in music derived from punk-rock music, which led to Slayer's 1996 album Undisputed Attitude. He cites Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, The Exploited, Verbal Abuse, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and T.S.O.L. as bands that have influenced him. Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Schenker from Scorpions influenced his style of play. Yngwie uses the advanced style of play called shredding, which involves tapping and tremolo picking.
Hanneman’s and King’s dual guitar solos have been called “wildly chaotic”, and “twisted genius”. Early albums such as Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood featured a "wailing style" and "demented soloing often mimicking the screams of the songs victims". South of Heaven featured "more technical" riffs utilizing aforementioned tremolo picking and down-picked notes improving musicianship, while retaining a melodic sense.Both Hanneman and King were ranked #10 on Guitar Worlds "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time".
Hanneman wrote the music and lyrics for the songs "South of Heaven", "War Ensemble", "Raining Blood" and "Seasons in the Abyss", all becoming live staples at Slayer shows. Hanneman's favorite album was Reign in Blood, and he always enjoyed performing the songs "Raining Blood" and "Angel of Death". Hanneman contributed lyrics and music to every Slayer album, forming a music and lyric writing partnership with Araya, which can overshadow the creative input of King.
When writing new material the band will write the music before the lyrics. Hanneman would come up with riffs at his house, using a 24-track and drum machine. Hanneman would then show band members the riff, to see what they think; King and Lombardo will often mention if any alterations can be made. The band will play the riff to get the basic song structure, and then figure out where the lyrics and solos go. 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."
Hanneman died of liver failure on the morning of May 2nd 2013. He was recovering from a flesh eating disease contracted after being bitten by a spider. The death was annouced by the band on their official website. He was 49.
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