‘Slayer Doesn’t Play Funk’ and Other Untold Stories of the Thrash Legends
This week, Loudwire pays tribute to Slayer, who kick off their final tour on May 10 in San Diego. The thrash metal titans took the genre to faster, louder, and creepier places than anyone ever had, and they've influenced scores of extreme metal bands. From dissections of their songs to never-before-told stories, we're celebrating all things Slayer.
Here, we talk to the band's longtime A&R representative at American Recordings, Dino Paredes (he manages A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, and is the General Manager at American Recordings), who shares stories ranging from his first studio session with the band to a poignant story about the late, great Jeff Hanneman.
Back in 1995, Slayer were working on Undisputed Attitude, an album of cover songs by punk and hardcore bands, when American Recordings founder and boss Rick Rubin assigned A&R man Dino Paredes to work with the thrash legends. Paredes, who had played bass in the post-punk band Red Temple Spirits and worked in art direction and A&R for numerous rock and hip-hop groups, went to Hollywood Sound Studios to visit Slayer for the first time, listen to their latest recordings and report back to Rubin. The journey didn’t go exactly as planned.
“I heard some stuff from the session and then I talked with Dave Sardy who was producing the record,” recalls Paredes. “I said, ‘There are some really interesting rhythm patterns here that could be really exciting, but maybe there’s a need for some space because it’s a constant onslaught of sound. Everything is being played by everyone in the band.' And Dave goes, 'Yeah, that’s interesting. Maybe there is some room for the bass to be a little more rhythmic, and maybe Tom doesn’t need to play every single note the guitar plays.' And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what I’m getting at.’”
Sardy returned to the room where Slayer were working and shared Paredes’ ideas with the band members. A few minutes later, he said, “Well, I took your suggestion to them.”
“How did that go?” asked the A&R man hopefully.
“They said, ‘Slayer doesn’t play fuckin’ funk!'”
“Basically, the idea of putting some space into the rhythm pattern was the equivalent of funk to them and it just wasn’t going to fly,” Paredes reveals. “And I think there were some expletives directed at me. ‘Who does the fuckin’ new guy think he is?’ It wasn’t the best initial interaction.”
When Paredes returned to the American Recordings offices, Rubin asked him about the meeting. Paredes replied, “‘Man, I just kind of had a bad interaction with the band. I think I pissed them off.’ And Rick went, ‘Good. Good. Now you have to figure out how you work together.'”
It didn’t take much time for Paredes to realize that Slayer had their own creative vision and knew exactly what they wanted to do the second they picked up their instruments. They didn’t ask for help from anyone outside the band and they rarely followed anyone’s advice.
“These guys play music the way that they want to hear it,” Paredes said. “So, a lot of times, outside opinions and suggestions are going to fall on deaf ears because they know what they’re doing. To work with them, you have to get inside that Slayer mindset. You have to understand what it is they’re trying to do. And then you can have an opinion on it or make a suggestion. But until then, they just didn’t care and it didn’t matter who it was. You could give them advice, but unless you were coming from their perspective it really didn’t matter. That first experience with them shut me up. It put me in my place and it made rethink the situation.”
Over the next 18 years, Paredes worked as Slayer’s A&R representative and served as Executive Producer for three of the band’s releases. During that time, he became tight with all of the band members and interacted with them on both a social and professional level – sometimes at the same time. He chilled with Slayer in the studio, accompanied them to the Grammy Awards in 2007, the year they won Best Metal Performance for “Eyes of the Insane,” and mourned with them after the tragic death of guitarist and songwriter Jeff Hanneman in 2013.
In an informative and entertaining interview, Paredes told Loudwire some of his favorite personal Slayer stories, and, in the process, revealed examples of the band’s tenacity, sense of humor and irreverence.
Another of those stories came from the Undisputed Attitude sessions. "There was a moment when we were doing the record in Hollywood Sound and Tom [Araya] was really going for it. The producer had put two tin cans at the end of a string, like the way kids play 'telephone' because he was after a specific sound. And Tom had to scream so loud to get his voice to carry over the cups and the string. And he sang so hard that he vomited right there on the floor. It was pretty intense, and it wasn’t the first time that happened. The way he sang takes its toll on the body. They sang hard, they played hard. They were the real deal. A lot of bands in that world get revered for being tough and 'metal,' but they’re not living it the way these guys are. Slayer are the real deal."
But even "real deal" metal icons can take a break from the usual garb of t-shirts, jeans, and boots. "There was a new restaurant opening in Los Angeles," Paredes recalls. "I had a friend who was part of the team opening it. Kerry had become friends with my friends and we were all talking about going to this restaurant, a fancy place in Beverly Hills. And Kerry said, 'Well, do I have to wear a jacket or something?' And our friend said, 'Nah, you’re probably okay not wearing a jacket, but you probably can’t walk in wearing the camo, the t-shirt and the boots. You’ll probably have to put something else on.'"
A drastic wardrobe change followed: "Kerry showed up to dinner wearing a black buttoned-down collared shirt and we were just laughing at how proud he was that he had bought this collared shirt, and it was the only one he owned at that time. That became the beginning of these occasional fine dining nights we’d have. And Kerry would always go out shopping after that. His wife called me and went, 'You created a monster. Kerry just bought cufflinks.' It was hilariously funny."
Not that you'd know it from their records, but Paredes reports that the members of Slayer all had great senses of humor. "They were a lot of fun. We were doing some guitar work in Texas a few years ago. It was one of the last things we did together. And we had this local guitar tech come in and be Kerry’s guitar tech in the studio. The guy was a complete super-fan. He was so above and beyond dedicated. And towards the end, Tom or Kerry told the guy he couldn’t talk to them and that he had stepped over the line and needed to be put back in his place. This kid was petrified for half a day. Finally, we just needed to show mercy and let him off the hook. He was freaking out. He was on the verge of a meltdown. It was hilarious. And the poor kid was probably thinking, 'Oh my God, Slayer are going to bite my head off and drink my blood!'"
Speaking of drinking, hanging with Slayer at the bar could be hazardous, as Paredes relates in another story. "They were doing the Donnington Festival and we were staying in this really cool hotel that had this beautiful bar below street level in the cellar. I had been having some disagreements with them about some recording stuff and we weren’t on the best terms at that point, which was rare. We usually got along pretty well. They were drinking these things called The Blood of Christ, and I don’t even know what was in them. But part of our ritual that night to get back on track and be on good ground again involved me drinking a double of triple Blood of Christ. It was so strong that it literally made me fall off my barstool. And they just sat there hysterically laughing. Whatever they told the bartender to put in there, they knew exactly what they were doing, and it just kicked my ass. And then, of course, we stayed up drinking hours later."
Paredes grows somber, though, when the discussion veers to the late Jeff Hanneman's final performance with the band. "I loved Jeff. He was near and dear to me in many ways and when Jeff got sick and all the stuff went down it was clearly difficult for him to play. They were doing the Big 4 performances [with Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax]. They had done the ones in Europe and then they were going to play the show in Indio, California at the Coachella site. And Gary [Holt] had been in the band for a while at that point [as Jeff’s replacement]. Jeff came to the show and the idea was that he would come out and do a song with the band onstage. The whole day was tense; we were all wondering if it was going to happen. We all saw the scars on Jeff’s arms and his thigh. He was looking pretty bad. We could tell he was having a pretty hard time but we didn’t know how close [he was] to dying at that point. During the show, Jeff was starring [at the stage] and we could tell he was going to do it."
"The plan was that he would come out for the encore and they would play 'Angel of Death.' Jeff had on his leather pants and a long sleeved black t-shirt. He was really self-conscious at that point about how his right arm looked. It had been decimated by the surgeries, the amount of skin he lost, and the skin grafts. It was pretty intense looking. So, we’re all standing there and it gets to that time that Jeff is going to walk out. They’re bringing a guitar over to him. And right before he walks up he stops and takes a moment and he tells his guitar tech or his friend to pull the sleeve of his shirt and tear it off. And then he went out there and played with his arm completely exposed. It was an amazing thing to see. I mean, he struggled, but fans loved it. And the fact that he was that bold to go out there and go, 'Okay, I know this is horrible. I’m super self-conscious about it. But I’m going to go out there and show it for what it is.' That was pretty amazing. We just sat there and went, 'Wow.' That’s gutsy, but that’s Jeff and that’s one of the best memories I’ll ever have – when they played together for the last time and he did it that way."
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.