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When I was 13 years old, I found 3 airplane sized bottles of peppermint schnapps under the sink in my mom’s house. I took them over to a house where a bunch of dirtbags (dirtbags is a term of affection) lived and drank them. Skateboarding home was really hard that night. About an hour after thinking “Man, I’m drunk, this rules!” one of the guys at the house put on a bootlegged VHS of a bunch of live metal bands. It all kind of melted together except for when Dittohead by SLAYER came on.

Even though by that point I had listened to enough ministry and nofx and gwar and metallica and suicidal tendencies to think I had a good handle on what was “fast” or “heavy” this all changed in 2 minutes and 31 seconds. When that cut was over, I asked if we could rewind and watch again. The other dudes in the house all looked at me and grinned. That grin is something only SLAYER fans really ever get. Once you are in you are in. Rob Zombie was once quoted as saying “I never met the guy that was into SLAYER for a summer, I only met the guy that has SLAYER carved into his arm.” I am the latter.

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About 6 months later I got a chance to see SLAYER live. I started the show far enough back from the stage that I felt me and my 14 year old frame would be safe (based on Biohazard‘s opening set). Then the the lights went down and SLAYER launched into Hell Awaits. Even before the fast part, I had been mashed up to the barrier in front of the stage and one of the sleeves on my shirt had been torn clean off. I was terrified and bleeding and sweaty and I was sure that this was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

When Diabolous in Musica came out, almost everyone was pretty bummed. 2 or 3 songs on there were alright, but mostly it sounded like shitty Machinehead. Bitter Peace ruled though. A band of 9 of us piled into a rented van and drove to toronto, by now I was 17 or so. The band was doing a meet and greet at HMV on Yonge. The ride up had been a really smokey boozey one (not the driver though) and I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I met these monsters. The creators of the most evil sounds I have ever heard. I walked up to Tom Araya, he took my copy of Divine Intervention from me, set it and his marker down and shook my hand and said “Hey man, how’s it going?” I think I managed to get out “uuuuaarghh  ggooooohhhdd?” He passed the stuff to Kerry King, who said nothing but had just shaved his head and started growing a beard, then Jeff Hanneman shook my hand and said “Any songs you want to hear tonight dude?” “Uhhhh all of them?” Then he gave me that grin. Paul Bostaph told me to “stay heavy” and I almost cried.

Since then I have seen SLAYER 19 times. Once I saw them with Unearth in Hamilton and then Ottawa the next night and then flew to Vancouver to hang out with friends for 2 weeks, until they played there. Then I went to the show and flew home.

The last time I saw them play with Jeff Hanneman was on the much delayed SLAYER/Megadeth/Testament tour in 2010, where Matt Woo and I woke up at 8 in the morning to go to the box office at the Molson Amphitheatre to make sure our tickets were still valid and to see where we were sitting. We were told they were all still valid, but it was more or less general admission. Paul Miller and Andrew Harris were with us for the show, and in 8 years of knowing Paul Miller, I had never seen him so engaged in a concert. At the show I threw up because I was so excited. No SLAYER fan that heard about this judged me because as one weirdo in the men’s room put it “SLAYER does weird things to you.”

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So Jeff Hannemen died yesterday. Everyone knew it was coming. He was bitten by a spider (so the story goes) 3 years ago and ended up with a flesh eating virus that eventually tore apart his immune system and yesterday he passed away from liver failure. At least that’s what I have gleaned from the whole thing.

I wouldn’t say I am sad, like when MCA or Joe Strummer died, but his riffs were just so instrumental in my life. The way I feel when I’m listening to SLAYER is nothing. It’s the only thing I have ever heard that hits the same frequency that my mind is going all the time. Going to a SLAYER concert is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My friend Alain says that when you are at SLAYER show, the air has a different density to it, you breathe in evil electricity. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but he’s right.

So anyway, I just thought you should know, a member of my favorite band (except for maybe Good Riddance) died yesterday and I hope that everyone that knew him personally is dealing with it as well as could be expected, and I’m going to listen to Reign In Blood all day. Just like every day.

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