Jeff Hanneman

Jeff Hanneman

Hanneman in 2009
Background information
Birth name Jeffrey John Hanneman
Born (1964-01-31)January 31, 1964
Oakland, California, U.S.
Died May 2, 2013(2013-05-02) (aged 49)
Hemet, California, U.S.
Genres Thrash metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1981–2013
Labels American
Associated acts Slayer
Notable instruments
ESP Jeff Hanneman Signature model
Jackson Soloist
B.C. Rich Bich
Gibson Les Paul

Jeffrey John "Jeff" 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 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.


Early life

Hanneman was born January 31, 1964, in Oakland, California, and grew up in Long Beach 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]

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.


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]

Hanneman stated that he was playing guitar "for like a month" 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]

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 "Ahhhh, 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 (guitarist of the band 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, later in February 2013, Kerry King revealed continuing health problems that kept Hanneman 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] Hanneman was a reformed cocaine and pill abuser, much like Araya. They decided to quit when they realized "this can lead to only death or something, this is going too far." Hanneman was a long-time fan of the Oakland Raiders and the Los Angeles Kings.

German history

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 $1000.[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] Early albums, such as Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood, featured a "wailing style" and "demented soloing often mimicking the screams of the song's victims."[20][22] 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 impact on the heavy metal scene. Musicians like Robb Flynn[23] (Machine Head), Dino Cazares[23] (Fear Factory, Divine Heresy), Mille Petrozza[24] (Kreator), Andreas Kisser[25] (Sepultura), Dan Lilker[26] (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault), Eric Hoffman[26] (Deicide, Amon Amarth), Trevor Peres[26] (Obituary), Mark Morton[27] (Lamb of God) and Kelly Shaefer[26] (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".[26] Shavo Odadjian declared that "without Jeff Hanneman, there would be no System of a Down".[28]

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".[29] 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,[30] regarded him as "one of the greatest musicians and songwriters in metal"[31] and Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom described him as "one of the fathers of metal".[32]

Alex Skolnick of Testament asserted that he "wrote some of the best riffs of all-time"[32] and "he impacted music in such a way that an entire genre will never be the same".[33] According to Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour, Hanneman is "one of the most underrated writers and underrated players that ever was"[32] while Slash of Guns n' Roses and Velvet Revolver defined him "the king of thrash/speed metal guitar".[34]

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]


In Slayer's early days, Hanneman used a black Gibson Les Paul modified with a Kahler Pro tremolo and a Joe Barden Two/Tone Humbucker bridge pickup during the Show No Mercy and Hell Awaits era. In mid 1985 he began playing B.C. Rich, notably a Rich Bich model he bought off his band colleague Kerry King, he subsequently applied various graphics to. His first Bich had a 3x3 headstock, chrome hardware (including the Kahler Pro bridge) and the pickups were DiMarzio Super Distortions. He and King can both also be seen with a second set of BC Rich's around 1986-1987, which had 6-in-line headstocks, black hardware and DiMarzio pickups. More rarely he also used a BC Rich Ironbird model. From 1987 he was seen using a custom made BC Rich Gunslinger with similar specs as his '86-'87 era Bich, he shortly after 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 originally shipped to him with passive Jackson pickups (probably a J-50 and J-80) and a JE-1200 mid-boost circuit, but were soon changed for EMG-81 pickups 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. When touring, Hanneman carried six guitars due to the different tunings he utilized. Most albums such as Haunting the ChapelDivine Intervention and World Painted Blood have E-flat tuning. However, albums such as Diabolus in MusicaChrist 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 × 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.





For a more comprehensive list, see Slayer discography.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Davis, Brian (July 26, 2004). "Exclusive! Interview With Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman". KNAC. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  2. "Decibel Magazine". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  3. 1 2 D.X. Ferris, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Continuum, 2008, p.33
  4. 1 2 3 4 "In Tribute: The Complete, Untold Story of Slayer's Jeff Hanneman". August 27, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  5. 1 2 Joel McIver, The Bloody Reign of Slayer, Omnibus Press, 2009
  6. "Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo Remembers His and Jeff Hanneman's Punk Rock Roots". May 9, 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  7. "An open letter to Slayer fans around the world". Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  8. "Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman dies of liver failure after spider bite". CBC News. May 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  9. "SLAYER's HANNEMAN Contracts Acute Infection; Band To Bring in Guest Guitarist". February 12, 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  10. "Cannibal Corpse's Pat O'Brien Will Step in as Slayer's Guest Guitarist". Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  11. "Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman dies". 3 News. May 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  12. Graff, Gary (May 2, 2013). "Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman Dead at 49". Billboard magazine. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  13. "Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman: Official Cause Of Death Revealed – May 9, 2013". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  14. "Kathryn Hanneman- Slayer Guitarist Jeff Hanneman's Wife". May 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  15. 1 2 Lahtinen, Luxi (December 17, 2006). "SLAYER – Jeff Hanneman". Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  16. 1 2 Bennett, J. (August 2006). "Seasons in the Abyss: An exclusive oral history of Slayer". Decibel. Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  17. Cummins, Johnson (2002). "Slayer's Tom Araya on Satanism, serial killers and his lovable kids". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  18. D.X. Ferris, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Continuum, 2008, p.34
  19. "Slayer's Jeff Hanneman Talks About "Raining Blood"". October 7, 2011. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  20. 1 2 Huey, Steve. "Reign in Blood". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  21. Horatio. "Slayer – Reign in Blood review". Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  22. "Slayer – Reign in Blood CD". CD Universe. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  23. 1 2 "Musicians Pay Tribute To Fallen SLAYER Guitarist Jeff Hanneman". May 3, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  24. "KREATOR Frontman Mille Petrozza – "Jeff Hanneman Has Influenced My Playing, Writing and the Way I Listen To Music Forever"". May 7, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  25. "ANDREAS KISSER: 'Without SLAYER, SEPULTURA Would Never Be Possible". Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 "Tribute to Jeff Hanneman (1964–2013)". June 8, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  27. "Jeff Hanneman Dead at 49: World Loses a Giant SLAYER". May 2, 2013. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  28. "Blogs of War: Here's What Happened At The Jeff Hanneman Public Memorial". May 24, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2013.
  29. "Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman dies aged 49". May 3, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  30. "Cannibal Corpse Bassist Alex Webster Pays Tribute To Slayer's Jeff Hanneman". June 3, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  31. "CANNIBAL CORPSE Dedicates Tour To SLAYER's JEFF HANNEMAN". May 27, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  32. 1 2 3 "Phil Anselmo, Corey Taylor + more reflect on Slayer's Jeff Hanneman at Revolver Golden Gods". May 3, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  33. "Remembering Jeff Hanneman: 1964 – 2013". May 6, 2013. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  34. "SLASH Pays Tribute To SLAYER's JEFF HANNEMAN". May 10, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  35. "Jeff Hanneman". Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
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