Jeff Hanneman, guitarist and founding member of SLAYER, was hospitalized late last month where he underwent emergency surgery on his right arm after contracting a serious infection, according to his bandmates Kerry King, Tom Araya and Dave Lombardo.
While Hanneman's doctors were not able to definitively identify the infection's origin, they diagnosed necrotizing fasciitis, and indicated it likely was rooted in a spider bite. The guitarist is now recuperating at home, has already begun the process of subsequent medical procedures including skin grafts, and is expected to make a full recovery.
In light of this situation and SLAYER's upcoming participation in the Australian Soundwave Festival tour that is set to kick off on February 26, the band has made the tough decision to play the dates without Hanneman, and will bring on a guest guitarist to fill in for him until such time as he has fully recuperated and is ready to return to the lineup. The band will announce details about the guest guitarist shortly.
"Jeff is our brother, we've all been friends and together as a band for almost 30 years," said Araya, "so we just want him to completely recover as soon as possible."
"After everything that happened last year," King added, "we all agreed that we just can't let our fans down again," referring to Araya's severe back and neck pain that prompted his January 2010 surgery, unfortunately leading to the band's postponement or cancellation of numerous shows in 2009 and 2010. "Jeff is totally on board with this decision, so we will tour as planned. At this point, we can't pinpoint exactly what day he'll be back, but he'll be back as soon as he possibly can. And we can't wait for Jeff to get better and get his ass back on the road."
In a recent interview with Australia's Loud magazine, King was asked why he thinks SLAYER has outlasted so many other artists. "Well, the front three people never changed, and I think that's important," he replied. "You've gotta have a nucleus of people where you never wonder who is going to be onstage. As far as a band thing, I think that's important. I don't mean that as a shot on MEGADETH, but at the end of the day, MEGADETH is Dave Mustaine and that's it. It's whoever Dave decides to play with on this record."
He continued, "Could you imagine watching SLAYER without me, Jeff or Tom? It just couldn't happen! That's something to be said there, 'cause we're all irreplaceable.
"The last few years I've noticed people in bands are almost interchangeable. I've seen some of my friends stay home because their wives were going to have a baby and they'd have somebody replace them when they play live, and I think… how can you fuckin' do that?"
According to WebMD, necrotizing fasciitis is an infection caused by bacteria. It can destroy skin, fat, and the tissue covering the muscles. The disease sometimes is called "flesh-eating" bacteria. When it occurs on the genitals, it is called Fournier gangrene.