Kerry King: Jeff Hanneman “wanted nothing more than to come back” to Slayer before his death

Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King on stage together
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Slayer legend Kerry King has opened up on the death and legacy of his former bandmate and fellow Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

Speaking to Metal Hammer ten years after Hanneman passed away at the age of 49 due to liver failure, King reveals that hearing the news of his friend's death was particularly shocking as he seemed to have turned a corner following years of health battles.

“It’s crazy because he was actually getting better,” Kerry says. “Personally, I think that had he gone forward for a couple more weeks and not been drinking, maybe he would have gotten back to where he needed to be to do an entire Slayer show again. We always thought he would come back. It just never materialised.”

Earlier in the interview, King explains that Hanneman - who had sat out numerous Slayer tours after suffering from alcohol-related health issues and a progressive arthritis problem, as well as contracting flesh-eating skin disease necrotizing fasciitis from a spider bite in 2011 - was keen to return to Slayer before his death. Sadly, his worsening physical abilities provided a road block.

“He wanted nothing more than to come back and be onstage and perform,” says Kerry. “And he was progressing, but not far enough to where he could nail the fast stuff. We were like, ‘Listen dude. Everyone wants you to be playing with us, but we gotta have you performing at the level that everybody’s used to seeing you at.’”

Hanneman did make one final appearance with Slayer in 2011 to play two songs in Indio, California, but was never able to regain enough momentum to rejoin the band full time.

Pick up the latest issue of Metal Hammer to read more on Hanneman's career. 

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.