By MIKE CHAIKEN
When Slayer went into the studio to record what would become its upcoming release “Repentless,” drummer Paul Bostaph said the band had one goal.
“We wanted to make a proper Slayer record,” said Paul, calling from Milwaukee on a travel day for the band, which is headlining this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. The tour drops into Hartford July 19.
Although making a “proper” Slayer record doesn’t seem like a tall order, since, after all they are Slayer, consider what the iconic thrash metal band has been going through the past few years.
Drummer Dave Lombardo left the band for the third time, necessitating Paul’s reunion with the band (he had been in the group from 1992-2001 when Lombardo had taken a previous break from the band).
More importantly, the band lost founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died following a two year illness. His place was taken by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt (a former band mate of Paul’s).
Losing Jeff, said Paul, “was hard on all of us.”
That meant that it wasn’t “business as usual” for the group, which still includes founding members guitarist Kerry King and bassist/ vocalist Tom Araya, said Paul.
However, even though Jeff wasn’t there in the studio with the band physically, Paul said his presence was definitely felt. Many times as they wrote and played for the album, Jeff’s influence musically could be felt in how they approached the songs. Paul said he had written with Jeff many times and had internalized Jeff’s approaches from having collaborated previously.
“You draw from past experiences to benefit the present to make it better,” said Paul.
Even when Paul was away from Slayer, he said he still felt Jeff’s influences as a songwriter.
Although Paul was reluctant to speculate on fans’ reactions to the new record, Paul felt it was a worthy addition to the Slayer canon. “It’s a Slayer record and I think it’s going to hold its own.”
“Repentless” is not due for release until Sept 11 on the band’s new label Nuclear Blast. But Mayhem fans are getting a taste of the record as Slayer makes its way through the country.
“Right now we’re doing three songs from the new record, ‘Repentless,’ ‘When Stillness Comes,’ and ‘Implodes.’”
“It’s going down really well,” said Paul of the new songs.
Slayer is marking its second outing with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, having toured in 2012, serving as the penultimate band of the night behind Slipknot. This time, Slayer are the headliners.
For Paul, who had not yet rejoined the band in 2012, this is his first foray into the tour.
“It’s a blast,” said Paul. “All of the Mayhem crew are super cool. It’s a fun festival.”
“Repentless” will be Slayer’s 11th album and the band has been around for over 30 years.
To still be a fan favorite, and headlining Mayhem Festival after more than three decades as a band, Paul said, “It’s an impressive badge of honor.”
As well as being a member of Slayer, Paul said he had been a fan of the band before even joining the group.
So when Slayer asked him to return to the drum kit to take over again for Lombardo, Paul said his first thought was “absolutely yes… When I got the phone call, there was no hesitation.”
Paul said not many musicians get the opportunity to play for a band like Slayer. And to get the opportunity not just once, but twice in a career, was a blessing.
This time around, Paul has a buddy from the Bay Area joining him on stage with Slayer, his former Exodus bandmate Gary Holt.
“It’s another rare opportunity,” said Paul of the chance to play with Gary again. “It was awesome and an incredible honor.” Gary’s guitar playing, said Paul, “is the definition of heavy.”
Beyond the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, Paul said Slayer’s first task will be to take a month off. It then joins Motörhead’s Motörboat cruise with Motorhead, Hatebreed, Exodus, and others. Than the band is off to Japan before finishing the year off with a tour in Europe.
The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, with headliners Slayer, plays the Xfinity Theater in Hartford on July 19. Doors open at 1 p.m. For more information, go to LiveNation.com, RockstarMayhemFest.com, or Slayer.net
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN