Exclusive interview with Tom Araya from Slayer
You’re gonna walk in and you’re gonna get beat in the head with the music. That’s what you get from Slayer, you get a kick in the head.”
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hi Tom!
Tom Araya: How are you doing?
W: I’m good, how are you?
TA: I’m good, I’m good. Are you on a speaker phone?
W: Yeah, can you hear me?
TA: Yes, I can hear you. There’s kind of a static, but I can hear you.
W: First of all let me tell you, it’s a real honor to speak to you, since we’ve been following your career for the past 25 years, thank you so much for your time.
TA: Thank you sir, thank you for being a fan, thank you.
W: I am one of the co-hosts of Wikimetal, which is the number one heavy metal podcast in Brazil. So just starting, talking about the beginning of your career, who are the main influences that made you decide to become a bass player?
TA: Wow… Well, the first person that even made me think about playing the bass, or even going in that direction, I would have to give credit to my older brother who started playing guitar and I figured out how to play bass to accompany him.
W: That’s cool. And what were the main influences that Slayer had in the beginning that made you create such an unique sound?
TA: I guess it would have to be… Growing up I always used to listen to hard rock, acid rock in the 60’s, so I really liked hard rock music, so that’s what influenced me to be a rock bass player I guess. Heavy metal would have to be Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, those were the bands I kind of favored, growing up and listening to.
I have a titanium plaque in my neck with 6 screws, so no more head banging for me.”
W: Since you’re one of the very few bands that kept the same member for such a long time, apart from that period when Lombardo had left, but he came back later, what’s the secret for spending so much time with the same people and not going crazy and keeping the same level of energy and quality in your music?
TA: The music itself, the music that we create, that makes the energy we have on stage. As far as being able to hang out with the same guys for 30 years is having to put up with their bullshit. I think the biggest part of being able to get along with the same people is having to put up with their bullshit. If you can put up with their bullshit everything is fine!
W: That’s cool. Just another question, how hard was it for you to tour with different guitarists other than Jeff Hanneman? By the way, how is his health at the moment? Is he playing in Brazil?
TA: What was the first part of that question?
W: How hard was it for you to tour with a different guy other than Jeff Hanneman? Like with Gary Holt? I guess you’ve known him for such a long time, right?
TA: Yes, it’s not easy. It was a very difficult decision to make. But Gary Holt is a really great guitar player and he’s a really good friend and he stepped up and was able to play and do what Jeff does, which is really important.
W: And how is Jeff’s health at the moment?
TA: He’s doing really good. Jeff is in recovery mode, he’s got long ways to go to rehabilitate his arm and heal. But he’s doing good, it’s not gonna be a quick process, it’s gonna be something that’s gonna take some time.
W: So you think Gary Holt will be playing in the Brazilian shows?
TA: I’m not sure yet. I know that we did a show in California where he came out and played two songs with us.
W: Oh, that’s great.
TA: Yeah, he was able to play two songs but he can’t really do an hour and a half of music, his arm starts hurting after a while, so he’s still practicing, and he’s playing his guitar, but he can’t play the amount of time we will be playing. So I’m not sure if he will be coming along.
W: Well, we really hope for the best. And by the way, how’s your health at the moment?
TA: I’m doing really good, my neck surgery went great, I healed up really well, I’m taking care of myself. I plan to take care of myself and hope that I can do what I do without any complications. But I’m doing good, thank you.
W: Did you doctor tell you not to bang your head anymore?
TA: Yeah, that’s a no-no. I can’t do that anymore. I have a titanium plaque in my neck with 6 screws, so no more head banging for me.
W: I’m sure your bass playing and your voice are still the same, right?
TA: Yeah, I’m trying to play a little better and sing a little better.
W: Do you think there is a new wave of metal today? Better ways to promote it, exposure of the bands? Do you think the Big Four event may have helped metal in that way?
TA: Yeah, I think it has. It shows that all four bands have been around for a really long time, you know. Three of the bands have been around for 30 years, so yeah, I think it’s the best thing that can happen to heavy metal is be to put bands together and do what we’re doing because it makes people aware that it’s a viable music. 30 years later and we’re still a viable band, you know what I mean?
Gary Holt is a really great guitar player and he’s a really good friend and he stepped up and was able to play and do what Jeff does, which is really important.”
W: What’s your opinion on these documentaries and reality shows that have been produced about heavy metal like Anvil’s and Lemmy’s documentary and also The Osbournes and the other reality show from VH1, Super Group, what’s your opinion? Do you think that helps metal or do you think that it makes a little caricature of metal?
TA: You know, I think what it does it opens people’s eyes to the world of music, not necessarily metal, but just the world of music in what bands have to go through to do what they do. It’s opened them up to the reality of music. It’s not easy, it’s something that takes a toll on your life and it shows the emotions that go on between four people that get together to do a music group. It opened people’s eyes to the fact that it’s not easy. It’s a very difficult thing to do and to dedicate your whole life to do something with other people and to try to make it work and make it happen. It’s not easy; it’s a really hard life. I think it allowed people to see that it’s not all glamorous. So I think that’s been good. Because people look at musicians and bands and they think “wow, it must be nice” and these shows and movies show that in reality it is not really nice, it’s really hard.
J: Hey guys, sorry to interrupt, we kind of have to wrap it up soon.
W: Ok, can I have two more questions?
W: Ok. If you could chose one song that can really drive you off of your mind when you’re driving your car and this song starts on your ipod on shuffle, what song would that be? That you feel like head banging wherever you are?
TA: Oh, wow. You know, what? In all honesty… Oh, that’s a tough question, man. A good metal song, when it comes on the radio?
W: Yeah, on radio or on your ipod when it’s on the shuffle mode, something that drives you crazy and you feel like banging your head wherever you are, like car, home, or in the shower, wherever.
TA: Oh, man… That’s a tough question, dude. And I’m gonna be biased and I’m gonna say any Slayer song.
W: Any Slayer song, that’s pretty easy. So I’ll be choosing the song, ok? That we will be hearing now on Wikimetal. I’ll be choosing one of my favorites, “Hell Awaits”.
TA: I want to put my foot down and break the law!
The secret to be able to hang out with the same guys for 30 years, is having to put up with their bullshit.”
W: Perfect, man. Just to finish, would you leave a message to all your Brazilian fans and tell us a little bit about your experience in Brazil, your relationship with Brazilian bands, if you know any Brazilian bands? What is your relation with Brazil?
TA: My relationship with Brazil is a very good one. Our sole relationship with Brazilian bands is Sepultura, who are our amazing friends, they are really good guys, an amazing band. And a band that has also been around forever, which is a good thing. And that’s our relationship with Brazilian fans and music. It’s Sepultura.
W: And would you like to leave a message, just to finish, for our Brazilian fans who are looking forward to the shows?
TA: You’re going to get Slayer! You’re gonna walk in and you’re gonna get beat in the head with the music. That’s what you get from Slayer, you get a kick in the head.
W: Thank you so much Mr. Araya, it’s been a real pleasure to speak to you, I’ll be there on your show and who knows, maybe we’ll have a couple of drinks together.
TA: That sounds good, we’ll be seeing you. Take care.
W: Thank you so much.
TA: Bye bye.