Tom Araya Explained

Tom Araya
Birth Name:Tomás Enrique Araya
Born:6 June 1961
Viña del Mar, Chile[1]
Origin:South Gate, California
Instrument:Bass, Vocals
Genre:Thrash metal, heavy metal, speed metal
Occupation:Musician, songwriter
Years Active:1981 - present
Associated Acts:Slayer
Notable Instruments:ESP Tom Araya Bass Guitar Model

Tom Araya (born Tomás Enrique Araya June 6, 1961 in Viña del Mar, Chile[1]) is the Chilean American bassist and vocalist of the American thrash metal band Slayer. Araya's family moved to the United States in 1966, and at the age of eight Araya started playing bass guitar, performing renditions of songs by the Beatles and The Rolling Stones with his older brother.

Araya was employed as a respiratory therapist in the early 1980s, and used his earnings to finance Slayer's debut album Show No Mercy. Much of Araya's lyrical content is about serial killers, a subject he finds interesting, first making his lyrical contribution 1985's Hell Awaits with the track "At Dawn They Sleep".


Araya was born in Viña del Mar, Chile as the fourth child in a family of nine. At the age of five, his family moved to South Gate, California. Rumors circulating the internet state he left because of political unrest; Araya denied this claim, stating that "that happened in ‘71 and we were already in the United States by that time."[2]

Araya's older brother played the guitar, leading Araya to pick up the bass at the age of eight. The two played Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, inspiring his musical interest.[2] In the early 1980s, Araya's eldest sister suggested he enroll as a respiratory therapist. Araya's father stated he either find a job or enroll in the course. Araya enrolled in a two year technical course, learning about air mixture ratios, drawing blood, and how to intubate.[2]

In 1981 Araya was approached by Kerry King, who asked Araya to join his band Slayer. Araya accepted, using his earnings as a respiratory therapist to finance the band's 1983 debut album Show No Mercy.[3] Araya requested that the hospital allow him time off for Slayer's first European tour in 1984, Araya was denied; “We need you to come in today.” They’d call me at 5:00 in the morning and wake my ass up, "Someone’s not coming in, we need you to come in to work." After a month of not turning up to work the hospital stated they would fire him; Araya replied "Well, I guess I’m fired."[2]

Slayer was headlining the ill-fated 1991 "Clash of the Titans" tour, with Megadeth, Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies (with Alice in Chains as openers). Backstage, Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine proceeded to tell Araya that he "Liked it when Tom was sucking his dick." Araya rebutted by calling him a "washed-up homo".[4] The exchange of words resulted in a long running feud between the bands. Araya became friends with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, which lead to Araya's guest appearance on the track "Iron Gland", from the 1992 album Dirt. "I just screamed on it. Jerry asked me to come in and scream, “I am Iron Gland!” and that was it."

Araya resides in Buffalo, Texas on a ranch with his wife and two children.[5] He helps his wife Sandra run the farm, including looking after five cows and chickens, and often sings country songs to help keep his "singing chops up".[6] Araya and his wife are fans of scary movie remakes; such as The Amityville Horror and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The two allow their children to watch the movies, making clear it's just a movie as one will ask “Is this real?”[7] In 2006 Araya underwent gall bladder surgery, which made alterations to The Unholy Alliance tour. Originally set to launch on June 6, the tour was postponed to June 13. Araya was also unable to finish the vocals for a song entitled "Final Six", which was to be included on Slayer's 2006 album Christ Illusion,[8] the song was later released on the CD/DVD version of Christ Illusion. Araya took his children on the tour stating it is "kind of cool to expose them at such a young age. My first concert, I was, like, 18."


Araya commented about the misconception of the band labeled as Satan worshipers, "Yeah, yeah I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions towards the band, but next to that just the fact that we’re normal." If guitarist King writes a good song, Araya puts his beliefs aside, "I'm not one that's going to go, 'This sucks because it's contrary to my beliefs.' To me it's more like 'this is really good stuff. You're going to piss people off with this.'"[9]

In an interview, Araya believes that "...Christ came and taught us about love, about doing unto others. That was his preach: Accept each other for who we are. Live peacefully, and love one another." When asked if he believed in God, replied "I believe in a supreme being, yeah. But He's an all-loving God."[10] Araya explained that he has a "really strong belief system," and Slayer's words and images will "never interfere with what I believe and how I feel.... People are not in good shape to where they have to question their own belief system because of a book or a story somebody wrote, or a Slayer song."[9] Tom Araya also appeared in Sam Dunn's documentary , and was asked about his religious background, to which he commented "Catholic." He was also asked "God Hates Us All, How does it fit in?" To which Araya replied "God doesn't hate. [But] it's a great fucking title."


Araya’s interest in serial killers inspires much of his lyrical themes, including the songs titled “213” about Jeffrey Dahmer & "Dead Skin Mask" about Ed Gein[11] [12] "Why? I’m trying to see where these guys are coming from so maybe I’ll understand. It’s always kind of intrigued me…”[2]

Araya wrote the lyrics for the Grammy winning song "Eyes of the Insane" from Slayer’s 2006 album Christ Illusion. The lyrics were inspired through an article in the Texas Monthly about the casualties of war, and soldiers experiences in having a tough time coping with physical and psychological trauma. Araya states “At points in their tour of Iraq, they need help and the military tends to ignore that, they kind of brush it under the mat and hopes it goes away. They try to make everything seem hunky dory and fine and dandy, when in actuality there is a lot of shit going on that people can’t handle. There’s a lot of soldiers coming home with mental anguish. And the sad part is, we heard about post-traumatic stress after Vietnam and the first Gulf War and the military seems to want to wipe the slate clean with every new war. It’s fucked up.”[13]


Araya is endorsed by Ampeg amplifiers[14] and ESP-guitars which are currently marketing Tom Araya signature basses.[15]

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Rockaxis - Interview with Tom Araya . Keko Paralta Casanova. 2008-02-25.
  2. Web site: Exclusive! Interview with Slayer vocalist/ bassist Tom Araya. Brian, Davis. 2005-01-04. 2007-01-26.
  3. Web site: Live chat with Tom Araya of Slayer. 2007-01-27.
  4. Web site: Clash of the Titans. Kuipers, Dean. Rockmetal. 2007-01-18.
  5. Web site: A feel-good, family side to Slayer's heavy-metal assault. Nailen, Dan. The Salt Lake Tribune. 2007-01-25. 2007-01-28.
  6. Web site: Slayer attracts a new generation of fans. Glessner, David. 2006-06-22. 2007-01-30.
  7. Web site: LiveDaily Interview: Tom Araya of Slayer. Gargano, Paul. 2007-01-25. 2007-01-28.
  8. Web site: Slayer Frontman Undergoes Gallbladder Surgery, Band Reschedule Early 'Unholy Alliance' Dates. 2006-05-10. 2007-01-09.
  9. Web site: Slayer likes bad-boy image. Feniak, Jenny. 2007-01-26.
  10. Web site: Westword interview with Tom Araya. La Briola, John. 2007-01-26.
  11. Web site: Slayer. Stannard, Joe. Plan B. 2007-01-26.
  12. Web site: Jeffrey Dahmer. 2007-01-30.
  13. Web site: Songs About God and Satan - Part 2: An Interview With Slayer's Tom Araya. Atkinson, Peter. 2006-05-03. 2007-01-26.