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heavy metal

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.

Pray For Me, Really?

There’s this place I hang at, this national coffee place. I guess I come in here almost every day. There are a couple of colleges nearby. One of them is a big Christian college; most of the people hanging out in here on a daily basis are students from there. At this point I just assume everyone in here is a Jesus person. Whatever the opposite of one of these people is, I guess I am the opposite. I don’t believe in anything I can’t see or that hasn’t been proven by science. Generally though, I just don’t even think about this stuff at all, and the fact that people study it seriously is beyond me. Perhaps someday something will click with me and I will get it. Regardless, there are thousands of books written about all of this stuff by people far more intelligent than I am so maybe there is something about it. It just doesn’t really interest me, especially as long as baseball and information about the Rolling Stones exists for me to study.

I come in here during the week and write and umm, “work”. I have gotten to know all the people who work here, some of them are also students from that college. Recently a couple of people have started talking to me and ask what I do while in here. Seems a little odd to ask someone what they are doing. What if I worked for the government? What if I was writing poems to my wife who died on September 11th? What if I was some kind of a fucking asshole who didn’t look like I liked being talked to? Actually, I kind of look like that, so it always surprises me when this does happen. I am a mean looking person. Usually when I am by myself I tend to put on some sort of “mean” face so I don’t get strangers talking to me. I especially do this when I am traveling alone. (“THINK YOU’RE GOING TO MOLEST ME AT THIS EMPTY REST AREA? WELL GUESS WHAT I HAVE TATTOOS AND A SCOWL ON. JUST TRY IT!”) But if I am a regular somewhere, I sometimes don’t want to make regular friends with anyone beyond a “hey” You run the risk of conversation starters that are uninteresting or some sort of running joke. I really hate when you have some sort of un-funny running joke with a casual friend or someone in a store you frequent. “HEY THERE HE IS: MR TRIP ON THE SIDEWALK COMING IN THAT ONE TIME! HOW YOU DOING BUDDY? WALK MUCH?! REMEMBER THAT DAY?!”)

A few weeks ago a young man came up to me. I always see him in here with a group of friends, male and female studying. A friendly looking kid, good looking, outgoing and generally someone you would want in the kind of situation where I don’t know…if you just got shot in the neck, this might be the kind of dude you want cradling you on the ground telling you everything will be okay. Also the type of kid you’d want helping to rake leaves in your grandmother’s yard. So I told him I “write…and am also looking for a job” The latter part of this is true to an extent, but I hardly do that while I am in here. Well, sometimes. I asked him what he does and he mentioned he is a student and is studying, etc. Exactly as I imagined. Nice enough guy, and now every time I see him he asks me how the job hunt is going and I ask him how school is going and that’s that. Sometimes he’ll talk about hanging with the guys on the weekend and I wonder what that entails. Presumably not dudes regaling each other with stories about all the pussy they ate the previous weekend around a big pile of coke.

I love heavy metal music. Selected stuff though…I think if I was to label myself as something it would be a metal/punk rock guy which obviously could mean hundreds of things. As much as I love metal and wear heavy metal shirts all the time I don’t listen to it as much as I used to. One thing newer bands have been doing is doing spinoffs of other logos or fonts and adapting their band’s name to them. I’ve now seen two bands use the Boston first album cover. Torche are one of my favorite bands, and although they get thrown into the metal realm I think of them as something beyond metal. I can’t explain it. Last year they were selling t-shirts that were a tribute to of the one of the bands responsible for inventing death metal, the Bay Area band Possessed.

I of course had to have one of these. Aside from loving both bands, the thought of having a shirt with an upside down cross on it seemed like an awesome idea at the time. I even wore this shirt when I drove across country a while back. I literally stopped before I got to the Texas border and put it on. My original plan to wear an Eyehategod shirt the entire time in Texas but it didn’t work out as I couldn’t find it, so this was the next best thing. (Now that I remember that stop, I stopped for three things: to change a windshield wiper because of the amount of bugs I encountered in that first 1500 miles or so of driving, to put that shirt on, and get high on medical marijuana I had taken back from California. In the fifteen or so minutes I was there I literally saw a tumbleweed, a guy in a cowboy hat and a cactus. I was for real in Texas, even if it was just that little piece at the top. The following picture is from that very stop

I got all my shit together and drove on)

I stopped by this coffee place the other night, not to stay though, just a quick stop. I was wearing this upside down cross shirt under my jacket, but you can still kind of tell what is going on. I saw my buddy in here, and waved to him as he was across the place. He got up and came over and started talking to me. Asking about my job hunt, I asked him about Halloween and then briefly wondered to myself if these students even celebrated Halloween, or is it not allowed? Apparently it is allowed. At the end of the conversation as he was walking away he told me he would pray for me for an upcoming job interview and then winked at me. During that whole conversation which was all of maybe seven minutes I kept trying to keep my jacket closed. In a way I can’t imagine anyone would care. I guess if I was a Satanist I wouldn’t be talking to this young man in the first place. I did feel slightly guilty though when he mentioned he would pray for me. I also felt uncomfortable because he winked at me. Winking is one of those things that should only be done under a few circumstances: If you are a creepy dude in 1982 trying to pick up a woman, if you are a grandfather and you just gave your grandson a new baseball mitt or if you are a chick.

As it turned out I got the job, and although I am pretty certain I got the job because my friend recommended me to the owner, I’ll thank my new Jesus friend the next time I see him for “the help” Hopefully I’ll be wearing something nicer.

Oh, here I am with the shirt on

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