Kerry King Reflects How Slayer Changed When Jeff Hanneman Left, Opens Up on His Passing

Slayer co-founder Kerry King looked back on how the thrash metal titans continued without the second part of this guitar-playing duo, Jeff Hanneman.

The beginning of the end of Hanneman’s journey in Slayer was in 2011 when he contracted necrotizing fasciitis, allegedly due to a spider bite. One thing led to another and the band had to replace him with Exodus’ Gary Holt and Cannibal Corpse’s Pat O’Brien. Although returning for select shows, Hanneman was never able to fully recover and he eventually passed away in 2013.

Slayer (with Pat O'Brien) 2011 Budapest, Hungary [Full Rec] [HD]

Reflecting on how things went for Slayer when Jeff had to leave the live lineup in a new interview with Rolling Stone, King said that this was a significant change for the band. For a long time, it was him, Jeff, and frontman Tom Araya calling all the shots, with drummer Paul Bostaph supporting them. When asked whether it was difficult to move on without Hanneman, Kerry replied:

“We always assumed that he’d be able to come back and hopefully join us for more than just the f***ing Big Four show he did. But that didn’t pan out.”

“I think the last year he toured with us was 2010,” the guitarist recalled. “He wanted to come back. And I told him, ‘If you’re not a hundred percent, people are going to know immediately.'”

This was in no way a pleasant discussion to have back then. Jeff was eager to come back. However, as King pointed out, the extent of the damage that his right arm had suffered hindered his ability to perform. He did one final show with Slayer in 2011 as part of the Big Four tour, joining in for two songs. But as Kerry explains, it was supposed to be more.

“We had that conversation before the Big Four when he came back,” he said. “He’d learned four songs. I talked to Tom about it, and I said, ‘Listen, it’s in our best interest and Jeff’s best interest to play two songs because people are going to be so stoked to see him, they’re not going to hear him play anything.'”

Needless to say, Jeff wasn’t super comfortable with the decision:

“So I went to Jeff with this, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, but I learned four songs.’ I said, ‘You are going to be excited, so you’re going to be extra intense, and by the third song, people are going to start realizing that you’re not playing at a hundred percent.'”

“It’s probably the hardest conversation I have had in my life,” King recalled. “I said, ‘That’s how it is, man. I’m doing you a favor.’ And in hindsight, no one ever had anything bad to say about that show because they never had a chance to.

When the interviewer remarked that Slayer’s guitar duo was like “two halves of the same sound,” King replied:

“I think that’s very perceptive. He and I were like the same people. We had a couple of different opinions. But in the early days, it was hard to tell us apart. As we got older, it became more obvious for sure.”

Slayer - The Big Four (Live from Sofia, Bulgaria) (Sonisphere Festival) (Thrash Metal Concert) [HD]

Although we could say that King remains the sole torchbearer of Slayer’s legacy, Hanneman was responsible for writing some of the band’s greatest pieces. More importantly, he made a huge impact on King as a musician. When asked about Jeff’s influence on his work, Kerry said:

“He went through his punk phase, and I never gave punk a chance because I was into great singers like Dio and Halford. Thanks to Jeff, I *got* punk, and I’ve known how to incorporate that in my music ever since.”

As of this moment, Kerry is promoting his newly announced album “From Hell I Rise.” And, as he explained further, there are still these punk influences on this upcoming release.

Jeff Hanneman last slayer performance 🤘

“Even on this record, I got a couple songs I would call punk,” he added. “‘Everything I Hate About You’ is thrashy punk and ‘Two Fists’ is like Eighties groove punk.”

Jeff’s passing at the age of 49 in 2013 was a huge loss for the metal world. Unfortunately, King admits that he didn’t get the chance to say proper goodbyes to his guitar-playing colleague.

“I knew he was in the hospital,” he said. “I knew he was in bad shape, but I didn’t know it was that bad. I was rehearsing with Paul for whatever we were doing, and [my manager] called me one day and said, ‘We lost Jeff.’ I’m like, ‘I didn’t see that coming.'”

Memories of SLAYER's Jeff Hanneman (Metallica, Pantera, Anthrax, Stone Sour, Zakk Wylde and more)

“I thought there would be a point. I mean, he lived only an hour from me, in a direction I never go — which that’s no excuse. But you just don’t know until that finality comes and you’re like, ‘Motherf***er. I wish I went there yesterday.’ But it didn’t happen.”

On February 5, 2024, King released the debut single from his first-ever solo record. The song “Idle Hands” is part of the “From the Hell I Rise” album, which is slated for a May 17 release. Joining Kerry are vocalist Mark Osegueda of Death Angel, Paul Bostaph on drums, Kyle Sanders on bass, and Phil Demmel on guitar. You can check out this first taste of the new album below.

Kerry King - Idle Hands (Official Audio)

Photos: Victoria Morse (Jeff Hanneman f9e o), Narcoticq (Kerry King Kiev 04)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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