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Jeff Hanneman Dying Was Like That Time John Lennon Died, But Worse

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When Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died last week it was like that time John Lennon died, but worse. When Lennon died I was ten years old and although I listened to The Beatles for most of my young life, him dying in 1980 wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I was a kid, I didn’t have any kind of connection to him aside from the melodies he wrote and performed that sounded good to my ears. For guys like me, who spent most of their formative years up until the present in the “metal scene” or “hardcore scene” Jeff Hanneman was a God.

Being a young and naïve teenager, I thought once I got into punk rock and hardcore music I wouldn’t be able to listen to heavy metal music anymore. (the pic of me above, I seem to be okay with Iron Maiden, Rush and The Misfits) At one point I made the switch over to hardcore from metal but that’s a whole other story. I published a fanzine covering hardcore and punk music when I was 14. I had the great fortune of interviewing some of my favorite musicians from the time. These artists were generally always approachable and friendly. My first interview was Keith Morris of Circle Jerks and Black Flag, I interviewed Peter Stahl from Scream, Corrosion of  Conformity, Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat and many others…Around my third issue of the zine I wanted to interview the band Siege. My friend Mark’s cousin Kevin was the singer. As it turns out, Kevin was no longer the singer. The new singer was living in Marblehead. MA and I went to interview him at his house.  (as far as I know they never did any shows with this singer) While there he played me two records: Metallica – Ride the Lightning and Slayer – Hell Awaits. He only had to play me the two opening songs and I was sold. Metallica’s Fight Fire With Fire with it’s pretty acoustic intro that then explodes into the first thrash metal song I ever hear, and then Hell Awaits which as you might know begins with what sounds like a Bosch painting coming alive. Demons speaking backwards, which I quickly discovered was “JOIN US” over and over backwards.

One of the main reasons (along with seeing Cliff Burton wearing a Crimson Ghost Misfits shirt or James Hetfield wearing a Discharge shirt) was Jeff Hanneman. When you saw pictures of Slayer they all looked like typical metal guys, making ugly faces, “throwing up the horns”, etc. but then there was this bleached blonde dude with punk rock stickers all over his guitar. He seemed like the most approachable guy, and he was a fan of the same music I was.

Both Hell Awaits and the EP Haunting the Chapel were on heavy rotation for quite some time as a teenager and then Reign in Blood came out. The band, now signed to Def Jam recorded with Rick Rubin, who had up until then produced LL Cool J, Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys among others. What? Rubin basically took all the reverb out of Slayer, sort of the opposite of what AC/DC did with Back in Black. Instead of sounding like the music was recorded in some cavernous chapel in the deepest level of hell, every instrument was completely up front and dry. The album was a quick twenty-nine minutes. It’s widely regarded as the best thrash metal album of all time.

Jeff Hanneman wrote, in my opinion (and it should be yours) the best Slayer songs. Angel of Death (the “Ace of Spades” of Slayer, yet I’m still not tired of hearing it. Sampled by Public Enemy, which means Spike Lee has heard part of the song Angel of Death by Slayer, not knowing it’s about Josef Mengele!), Post Mortem (my favorite Slayer song), pretty much every song on South of Heaven, most of Seasons in the Abyss, and much more. His songwriting has stayed with me much more than most of my other “favorite” bands. I could probably recite every lyric on Reign in Blood, he was the “quiet” member of the band, his guitar solos, which basically sound like demons being strangled to death stick in your head forever, sort of like the guitar solo in Something by The Beatles. That makes more sense; Hanneman dying was like when George Harrison died but worse.

I Went to Baltimore

As a general rule I like to travel by myself. Having traveling companions always slows you down. For the most part I like to observe things and report back instead of enjoying them with others. Thankfully my travel companions on this trip understand this as I’ve managed to do my own thing for the majority of this trip.

Two of us left early on Thursday morning to come to Baltimore, Maryland for a festival of basically all metal and metal related bands. Four days of music. Loud music. I love this shit. Well, not as much as the kids here toughing it out for every second of it, but I love this music and scene. The drive down was pretty uneventful. I messed up somewhere and missed the Tappan Zee Bridge and ended up pretty much on 95 for the majority of the drive, which is a pretty bland stretch of travel. Maybe because I have done the drive so many times it’s just become a boring background for the trip to somewhere better. Somewhere like Baltimore. Wait, Baltimore? Is this place any good?

Standing alone in crowds at shows, sporting events, anywhere. When people are behind me I imagine they are all watching me. Every single one of them freezes me in my footsteps. The second night there I wanted to turn around and go get a drink and stood there for ten minutes thinking it over until finally turning around, head down, avoiding eye contact and making my way to the bar to get a soda. It’s worse than it ever has been nowadays. Social anxiety. Yesterday I never went to the festival at all, catching a baseball game, and retiring to the room at 7:00, cutting off the outside world. Well, aside from attempting to be funny on the Internet and posting pictures here and there. I did this back home a few weeks ago as well, buying a ticket to see the Bad Brains after looking for months for one, going through some hoops to get one. The night of the show, drove by the venue and realized there was no way I could make it inside there so I just went home and ate the $30 I spent on the ticket. My passion for music, seeing it live, creating it, caring about it in general is pretty low at this point anyway.

Baltimore is indeed pretty good. The architecture here is pretty great. I’m staying in downtown, a mere five-minute walk up and down a hill to the venue. The walk back to the hotel is the only problem as it’s up a hill and I’m in horrible shape.  The other night on the way down to the show, near the venue I saw what looked like half of a joint on the ground. When I left hours later I remembered where it was and picked it up and it turned out to be a rolled cigarette. Well, I figured this out by lighting it and attempting to smoke it and then coughing pretty hard. Yeah I did that. Walking around the city as a white minority is refreshing and makes me feel like I’m in Los Angeles where being a white person you’re also a minority.

Out of however many bands are at this festival I’ve watched about five bands that I am a fan of. Metal fans are a dedicated lot, and the passion and love these kids put into just being metal heads is pretty intense. It reminds me of how it was in the 80’s when I was like that. The two best bands I saw were Eyehategod and Today is the Day, the rest is a blur of “yeah that was cool’s” but nothing I could write a trillion word essay about. I’ve been more interested in taking some photos than writing about music. Tonight is the last night of music and we are heading out tonight, rather than dealing with driving home on Memorial Day from Baltimore to Boston. I can usually do late night drives pretty well, especially if someone is with me. If I never update this blog again, it’s because I fell asleep at the wheel and went over a bridge.

The Toy

Back when I initially started listening to the Grateful Dead, or rather following them, a friend of mine somehow became friends with a man named Dan. My friend used to get all of our tapes from this guy. He was a taper, and the way my friend, (I’ll call him) David, explained him I was kind of scared to meet the guy. Often times, we would get tapes within a week of a show. This sounds crazy in an era when you can get a CD copy of a show you just saw on the way out of the venue. Also, listening to shit on tapes. Come on.

(yes that’s me wearing a “Jamin (sic) With Jerry” shirt)

At one point, David took me over to Dan’s to pick up some tapes. The only reason I remember this guy and story is I recently drove by near where he lived. So we pull up to this small ranch house in Lynn, Massachusetts. David mentioned we were supposed to just “go in”. What David didn’t tell me is we would have to walk through the kitchen and see something horrible. There in a torn old nightgown was a young heavyset woman sitting at a table. Her face gave away that she was either blind, severely retarded or both. She was sitting there picking at a plate that had what looked like what a plate that used to have baked pork chops on it. It was all over her face and hands. Needless to say this was at a time when I was pretty much listening to The Dead and smoking quite a bit of marijuana. I was probably high as a kite when we walked through that kitchen and I’m sure I was probably standing with mouth agape, eyes half shut startled.

We made our way to the basement where Dan would be. My initial impression was he looked kind of like a cliche of a used car dealer…or “Artie Fufkin from Polymer Records”

David had mentioned he was a bit off, and although I am not making fun of OCD here, this guy was out of control. His face up close was all raw and red and clean shaven. I noticed razors around the room randomly so I assumed maybe he was an obsessive shaver. The room was cluttered with piles of papers, little stacks of rubber banded index cards and of course boxes and boxes of Maxell XLII-S blank tapes everywhere. Amongst the clutter on the floor, in the corner of the room was what David and I eventually ended up calling “the toy” It was one of those fake vaginas that you plug into a wall. For the same reason I will probably never fuck a robot, I can’t imagine putting my rock hard cock into something that is plugged into a wall. That’s just me though. Anyway, the discovery of this thing surely brought on some elbow nudging.

When you talked to Dan about the tapes, he was one of the early audiophile type so he would be telling you things that would fly over your head fast like speeding bullet. I remember him being serious about the low end and making sure your levels were down as “Phil will blow your speakers”. Phil Lesh is the bass player for the Grateful Dead, and sure he has probably blown a speaker or two in his time.

Over the next few years we would go by Dan’s after a tour and get tapes of shows we heard were particularly good and that kind of thing. Oh, the index cards…I remember at one point David and I were going to Hartford, CT to see the band and asked him what the best way to go would be. He pulled a stack of those index cards out and flipped through them eventually finding what would be “Hartford Coliseum” with turn by turn directions listed on the card, exact time it would take to get there from his house, miles away, etc.

We eventually lost touch with Dan, and then CD’s happened, and then Jerry died of course so who knows what happened to him. I know he worked in the mental health field and that house he lived in was his parents house but they had died so it was him and his sister. Oh yeah, the porn. How could I forget about the porn?! The porn went hand and hand or perhaps “cock and electrical socket” with “the toy” The porn was kind of the whole point of this story. Also in piles all over the room were video tapes, still in their cases, out of the cases, flattened video cases on the floor and then…eww just thinking about this is making me upset….wadded up tissues all over the place in that room. It was like some sort of Orgasmic Grateful Dead Shaving and High End Audio Tapes Palace of Masturbation this basement room. And that is where this story can probably end I guess.

French People, Hippies and Bourbon

So I went up to upstate NY on Tuesday to see Allman Brothers and Bob Weir because, as much as I love Slayer, Venom and Exodus I am a hippie when it comes down to it. So I get to this hotel up there and I’m walking to the room and this gigantic man in shorts and sandals that looks like a cross between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Oscar Wilde is coming down the hall carrying a box of wine as well as a big jug of wine and muttering in French to his surrounding family trailing behind him. So he already has one strike against him which you can pick out of two:  a) He’s wearing sandals, b) He’s French. I make my way into the room and it looks like every other hotel room I’ve been in. I of course immediately turn on the air conditioning to the highest setting. I go to the desk and pull the chair out and there is some sort of dried up white stuff all over it (hmmm, milk? Liquid Paper? Queso blanco?). I decide it’s best to just push the chair back in and avoid it for the eighteen hours I live here. I survey the rest of the room, figuring out the often complicated configuration of the lights and their respective switches in any hotel or motel you stay in.  Bathroom is pretty small. Also any mirror in a motel or hotel is somehow made to make you look so ugly and disgusting; I’d love to know how they make them like this. Perhaps some weird trick or voodoo that adds fifteen pounds to a person and removes any kind of tan skin from your body. This reminds me, maybe next time I stay in a hotel I’ll grab a skinny black person off the street and have them look in the mirror in my room and see if it turns them into I don’t know…John Candy or Rosie O’Donnell.

I have two or three hours to kill so I put the television on and end up on some Vin Diesel movie that is beyond horrible. He is an undercover cop, he’s a badass, etc. I end up turning it off and read instead. Out in the hall I hear some commotion so I get up and look out the peephole and there is Mr. Philip Seymour Wilde with his family with towels in full on “we’re going out to the pool” mode.  They disappear and now doors start opening and closing out in the hall. That steel lock sound, like what classroom doors sound like, or doors in a very important office building. Literally the two rooms I’m sandwiched between and the room across from me. It’s like some bizarre video game where you keep going in one door but come out another one. This happens for the remainder of my stay at the hotel. With me getting up every third time to see what the hell is going on, running to the peephole only to see a quiet empty hall.  “Chick-chick!”…”chick chick!” every five minutes maybe.

I open the blinds and notice I can see down on the swimming pool, which is now filled with a dozen or so of what I presume are the French people opening and closing the doors as it has briefly stopped. The Oscar Wilde dude is swinging his arms and talking in a very animated manner to a man who looks like a cross between Vladimir Putin and Hunter S. Thompson. Like he was probably some sort of assassin in the French Army. The Oscar Wilde guy is like an inch from Putin’s face, and I can tell his breath probably stinks of shitty wine and rotten cabbage from three stories up. The children are all in the pool while the wives sit in the sun away from each other. They vacate the pool after an hour or so and the doors start opening and closing, with me jumping up each time, and never catching anyone in the hall. It was like when you try to jump on the head of your shadow and you just can’t.

Even though I don’t really drink alcohol, I’ve been enjoying taking a shot or two of hard liquor and that’s it…maybe some wine. I think my experience with beer is over at this point as I never seem to finish one and almost 100% of the time I feel sick if I drink more than two beers.  So while driving to the show I decide that I should find a liquor store and buy two nips of bourbon to drink when I arrive at the venue. There is a huge line of traffic going left into the traffic light in front of the venue, I pass it all on the right heading into downtown Saratoga Springs, and maybe a block up there is a liquor store. There is a woman that looks like a fitness trainer buying about twelve bottles of wine. The transaction takes what seems like about nine minutes. There is Grateful Dead music playing over the speakers of the liquor store, and it’s an audience recording, probably from the early 80’s. The woman behind the counter is wearing a shirt with Jerry on it so she’s obviously hardcore. I find this odd, as Bob Weir is scheduled to go on stage in about fifteen minutes and this woman is trying to figure out how to add these twelve bottles of wine up with a calculator. I have absolutely no idea what kind of booze is out there now. In the last ten years, I’ve maybe been drunk four times, and if someone says “let me buy you a shot” at a show I usually have no idea what it even is. Tequila? Whiskey? Bourbon? Are those the same thing? I have the nine minutes to think about what I want, trying to read the bottles and settle on “Bulleit Bourbon”, the bottles look like medicine bottles from the 1800’s. The tennis instructor lady struggles with her box of wine bottles and I make my way to the counter. “Two of those little bottles of boo-lay bourbon please”. “Bullet?” she replies. Now I think, “did I really just mispronounce that? Why is that spelled like that? That gigantic Oscar Wilde guy is in my head and making me believe everything is French now, great. I pay for my shit and ask the girl if she’s heading over to see “Bobby” (if you’re hardcore you call Bob Weir ‘Bobby’ and people know where you’re coming from). She says “the guy with the tickets was supposed to be here at six so I can leave…but he’s not here yet”. (6:45 and the show begins at 7:00). I say “cutting it close!” and leave.

Since the venue is now on my right I’m able to avoid that whole line of cars turning left and get right to the red light and turn right into the venue…well, a new line of traffic. While sitting in the line of traffic I wonder how I should deal with these bottles of bourbon. Should I park and then just down them one after the other? I pass a sign that says “NO ALCOHOL IN PARK” (the venue is in a giant beautifully wooded state park) and immediately take the bag on my seat and put it under the back seat, and then three minutes later decide I’m 38 years old, by myself and have worried about worse things than getting caught with two sealed nips of bourbon in a bag. I take one out and decide to drink half of it. I’m now “operating a motor vehicle while drinking alcohol”. Since I’m basically sitting in a line of traffic I don’t struggle with the morality of this for one second. Like I’m suddenly going to be completely shit faced and veer out of the traffic jam into an autistic boy. I now get to an area where there are guys directing traffic into the parking lot(s). I am paranoid that one of them may be a police officer who will smell the booze on my breath and I will be arrested in upstate New York. (I’m reminded of the time I was in Lynn driving along the ocean where there is often summer traffic, the state police had horses out and I briefly got scared the horses were trained like police dogs and would smell the marijuana I had hidden in my bag.) I take out a mint that I just bought recently that taste like RASPBERRY ICED TEA. Seriously. I almost think you could have one of these with a meal to substitute the drink and just eat one each time you would normally take a drink they are that good. I get up to the guys, neither of them are police, however there is a man sitting in a “Park Ranger” truck that could bust me so I should be careful. I am thankfully directed to the best place to park at the venue, in one of the grass parking lots. Driving over grass is one of those simple pleasures one can experience from time to time that is akin to I don’t know, watching a puppy roll around on the floor for twenty minutes, or eating a marshmallow. For some reason parking under trees on grass is one of those things for me. I pull into my “space” and as soon as no one is looking finish the contents of the two bottles, and transfer the two joints I rolled into my wallet where nobody will find them. The band has already started as I walk to the concert area. They are okay, nothing special, without Jerry Garcia Bobby is a bit lost. It’s nice that he does some of the Jerry songs and still sounds exactly the same, but something is missing. The song of the night was Creampuff War, which I obviously never saw The Dead play as they only played it seven times, the last being in March of 1967.

In between bands I walk around the park and find a bench. A grimy looking couple in their fifties come over and sits next to me. They are both wasted on who knows what. The conversation of course revolves around being fucked up/getting fucked up, and then they pull out a pair of binoculars. The woman unscrews the cap on the binoculars and drinks whatever is in it, offering me some. I decline and then ask them where they’re from, they are vague with “here and there…all over”.  After I tell them I’m from Massachusetts the guy tries to explain to me where he is from but I have absolutely no idea what he means “Where route sixty-six and one-forty three meet”. Oh there, right. I just say “I’m from Boston” and leave it at that. They decide to go get a beer and I decide to get an ice cream. I see two security guys walking by talking into their little walkie-talkie things heading over to the beer area where apparently a fight has broken out. I casually walk over to a group of security guys struggling with some guy writhing on the ground telling them to leave him alone, etc. Since I am addicted to any kind of “World’s Wildest Police Whatevers” television shows any chance I get to see something like this in person is a bonus. Since I’m carrying a little dish of ice cream with me it can’t really be any better. Also of note, this took place at an area where there is a tiny stage where they probably do poetry readings, or small plays. The mini-stage is surrounded by a dozen or so long benches, so I grab one of those to eat my ice cream and watch this unfold. I showed up a little late as the guy was restrained and cooperative when I sat down. To my left some “in charge” guys are tending to a guy who is explaining “he just came up and punched me in the face”. The guy has blood all over his face, and although I am not eating anything red I decide to leave the area. Nothing to see here.

The Allman Brothers come out and are great as usual. I’m still adjusting to them without Dickie Betts, but eh, not bad. They play a few of my favorite songs and I make my way to various areas of the lawn to watch it. The crowd is a mix of younger people as well as older biker looking men and women. They play the jam Midnight Rider, you know the one…”I got one more silver dollar” and some woman with a mullet says to her dude with the leather vest  “THIS IS THE GREATEST SONG EVER”, I of course totally agree with her, especially the harmony vocals Warren Haynes adds to these newer versions. They start what I assume is the last song of the night so I make a run for the parking lot. It’s dark and desolate out there and there is a girl walking alone way ahead of me so I change my route a little as I would probably be nervous if I saw me coming. I avoid all traffic getting out of the venue and make the thirty minute drive back to the hotel with no problems.

For some reason I decide that after eating at Fuddruckers for lunch (which included jalapeno peppers), drinking two nips of bourbon, eating a little bowl of ice cream and smoking two joints by myself going to Taco Bell would be a good idea. Fast forward to 7:05 AM. Not the best idea I’ve ever had, really.

In the room when I got back I looked in the nightstand drawer to see if there was a map in the yellow pages as I was maybe thinking of going to nearby Lake George in the morning and taking a paddleboat tour or going to the Frankenstein Museum they have there (!). The yellow pages are all cut up with a knife throughout the book. After watching a Chicago/Earth Wind and Fire concert I fall asleep around 3:30 AM.

I am up so early and obviously feel like shit. The air conditioner is on full blast still, so it’s about 50 degrees in the room, I’m surprised I don’t see my breath. I remember the sign advertising the free continental breakfast which usually consists of mini muffins and the worst coffee you can ever have. I walk down there after looking in the trick mirror and now look like someone who drank bourbon, smoked two joints and ate taco bell, but also someone who hasn’t slept in five months.  I make my way down and there is the French Oscar Wilde guy and his family as well as about nine thousand other people with French accents, British accents. Lots of young people around 12 years old in this line. I unsuccessfully toast a bagel in the toaster and make some coffee. I find a table for four that is empty. Soon after a British couple and their son come and sit down with me. All of the boys are wearing ties. Exactly how you imagine young European boys. I finish my bagel and coffee and go back to my room, realizing I need more coffee. I go back down now there are ATHOUSAND people down there, there is an awkwardly tall priest meandering around. I kind of cut the line and make two cups of coffee to bring back to the room. Unfortunately they only have what is basically the worst coffee ever, French Vanilla. Flavored coffee is bad enough as it is, but this could be the worst of them all. I ask the front desk kid where all these folks are from and what they’re doing, just remembering there are two large buses in the parking lot. “They’re from some choir group traveling to Montreal”

My last two hours in the room are spent listening to the Europeans open and close doors, as they are checking out now. I wonder how much of a mess they probably made in their rooms for the cleaning ladies to clean as when I looked out at the pool after the French people left there were drinks left on the tables. As usual I cleaned the room up as best I could, emptied ashtrays, threw any trash out, put the towels in one place, etc. On my way out there was an older cleaning woman in the doorway of the neighboring room wiping her brow as I walked by “It’s so damn hot in there” she says. I reply “Well, I left the air conditioner on in my room; you can go take a break I’m sure no one will notice”. As I walked away I meant to add “Oh, and I did NOT do that to that desk chair” but I didn’t.

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