Mark Workman, a successful lighting designer and tour manager in the music business for thirty years and author of the recently published book "One For The Road:
How To Be A Music Tour Manager", conducted an interview with SLAYER guitar tech Johnny Araya for the Road Crew Books web site. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Road Crew Books: Your brother, Tom Araya, is the singer/bassist for the legendary thrash metal band SLAYER, and you've worked as Tom's guitar tech for most of his career. Did you start your career with SLAYER and were you there from the band's inception?
Johnny Araya: Yes, I started my career with SLAYER way back in 1983. I'd hang out in the garage and watch the guys practice. They were always practicing and writing; and since I was always around, they'd let me come along and help schlep gear. I was 13 years old and ordering beer at Gazzari's and The Roxy. When we started the "Reign In Blood" tour, I knew it was big time. I had to step up my game. We had a semi and carrying full production. We had a professional drum tech for Dave [Lombardo], a professional guitar tech for Kerry [King], and me taking care of Tom and Jeff [Hanneman, guitar]. I was not a professional guitar tech.
Road Crew Books: What do you consider to be the hardest part of your job as a guitar tech for SLAYER?
Johnny Araya: The hardest part of my job is making sure that Tom's stage tea is not too hot. They are the best guys to work for. Sometimes I forget to hit the mute switch on his rig. I've missed the "Seasons In The Abyss" cue a couple of times.
Road Crew Books: Do you ever perform any other jobs on the road such as tour manager, production manager or stage manager?
Johnny Araya: Well, Kerry's tech, Warren Lee, and Lombardo's tech, Norm Costa, and I sometimes do the occasional production/stage manager takeover. It's only when local production is subpar. Being the production manager for SLAYER is a tough gig, but I'm happy with what I do because I do a great job, and my job is to make sure that Tom is happy with his gear.
Road Crew Books: You've also worked as the guitar tech for SLAYER's lead guitarist, Jeff Hanneman. Do you think he'll ever play live with SLAYER again or just continue to write new music with the band?
Johnny Araya: That's a tough one. Jeff wrote some of the most memorable SLAYER songs ever. Jeff and Tom's songs have been nominated for Grammys. What!? It's safe to say that SLAYER needs Jeff. Jeff and Kerry wrote great songs together. Dave, Jeff, Tom and Kerry recorded some of the best metal albums of all time together. It'd be wonderful if they could do that again.
Road Crew Books: Thrash bands have always been considered the black sheep of the music business; why do you think SLAYER has endured through numerous musical trends and continues to grow in popularity for thirty years when the music business has pretty much been dropped on its ass?
Johnny Araya: I think it's because they've never strayed from their roots. They've been true to metal and true to themselves. They have a very loyal following. People may think otherwise, and those people are also known as idiots, but these dudes have never been in it for the money. They've never tried to write a catchy tune to get that hit single played on the radio.
Read the entire interview at the Road Crew Books web site.