Slayer's Jeff Hanneman talks maintaining his right-hand picking speed, Hendrix, the Big Four shows and more in 2010 GW interview

Jeff Hanneman performs onstage with Slayer at the Sonisphere Festival on August 1, 2010 in Knebworth, England
(Image credit: Christie Goodwin/Getty Images)

This edition of Dear Guitar Hero, featuring Slayer's Jeff Hanneman, originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Guitar World. 

He’s a founding member of Slayer and one of the fastest players in thrash. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is…

You guys just played your first-ever show with Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth [at the Sonisphere Festival in Poland]. All the press that’s coming out says everyone is in a good mood, but is everyone really getting along? – Dimitar Kalfin

"Everyone got along great. [Slayer drummer] Dave Lombardo and Lars [Ulrich] were doing their drummer thing together and getting drunk and stuff. And [Dave] Mustaine seemed to be cool, too. I ran into him a couple times and we hung out and talked. I haven’t heard any bad shit from anyone on this tour at all."

You seem to keep pretty private, while Kerry [King] seems to be everywhere. What do you do when you’re not on “Slayer time”? – Rob Wells

"I hang with my woman, and with some friends that have nothing to do with Slayer. I also like to watch sports and go to hockey and football games."

You’ve mentioned in the past that you record stuff that you don’t use with Slayer. What does it sound like, and do you plan to do anything with it in the future? – Mika Jaakonaho

"Every now and then I write something that at the time I feel is not right for Slayer. Then years go by and I find it again, and I’m like, This is cool. Some of the stuff from Seasons in the Abyss I wrote years before we recorded that album. I’ll bring out these old ideas and play them for the guys, and they’re like, 'Fuck, let’s use it.' 

"I have a method of working on music – I’ll get up in the morning and throw down some drums on my drum machine, and then I’ll come back later and try to pop off rhythms to it. Some of it’s cool but too tacky or too melodic or something for Slayer. I’ll probably do something with it after Slayer decide to quit, but I can’t see doing a side project."

Who would you rather share a beer with, Jimi Hendrix or John Lennon, and why? – John McNeil

"I’d say Jimi Hendrix, because I’d like to see what was going on in his head. He had no rules on the guitar, and I’d really like to see what’s going on upstairs."

You’re one of the fastest right-hand pickers in thrash. How can I increase speed and endurance? – Dude

"I’ve been asked this question before, and the only thing I can say is that Kerry and I warm up a lot before we go on. We start, like, an hour before so we can build up our speed in time for the set."

What’s the least metal tune we would find on your iPod? – Aazan Habib

"Probably B-52s. [laughs] I like to go hang at the beach or the pool, and they’re kind of the perfect music for that."

What is the scariest thing you’ve seen a fan do at a Slayer show? – Alonso Loaiza

"Every now and then they get too crazy and headbang on the ground or on the barrier, and knock themselves out. At a recent show, I looked down into the pit and there was this guy just lying there, and he looked totally dead. He might have just passed out from exhaustion, but I never found out."

Do you believe in a spiritual plane, like Satan, God or aliens? Or is this world the only thing out there? – “Genghis” Connors

"I’m pretty much an atheist, so I’d say this world is the only thing we got."

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Brad Angle

Brad is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and video producer. He is the former content director of Revolver magazine and executive editor of Guitar World. His work has appeared in Vice, Guitar Aficionado, Inked and more. He’s also a die-hard Les Paul player who wishes he never sold his 1987 Marshall Silver Jubilee half stack.