Tom Araya

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Tom Araya
Slayer - Tom Araya.jpg
Tom Araya live with Slayer
Background information
Birth name Tomás Enrique Araya Díaz
Also known as Tom Araya
Born (1961-06-06) June 6, 1961 (age 53)
Viña del Mar, Chile
Genres Thrash metal
Occupation(s) Musician, singer, songwriter, bassist
Instruments Bass, vocals
Years active 1981 – present
Labels American, Def Jam, Metal Blade, Nuclear Blast
Associated acts Slayer, Alice in Chains, Soulfly
Notable instruments
ESP Tom Araya Signature Model

Tomás Enrique "Tom" Araya Díaz (born June 6, 1961 in Viña del Mar, Chile)[1] is a Chilean-American musician, best known as the bassist and vocalist of the American thrash metal band Slayer. Araya is ranked fifty-eighth by Hit Parader on their list of the 100 Greatest Metal Vocalists of All Time.

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; his first lyrical contribution was the vampire-themed track "At Dawn They Sleep" from 1985's Hell Awaits.


Early life and career[edit]

Araya's family moved to the US when he was 5. He grew up in Maywood, California, in what he described as "a bad neighborhood that was pretty gang-oriented."[2] His older brother, Cisco, played the guitar. This inspired Araya to pick up the bass at age eight. The two played Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, which he would later cite as an influence on his own music.[3]

In the early 1980s, Araya's eldest sister suggested he enroll in a program to become certified as a respiratory therapist. Araya's father insisted 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.[3]

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.[4] Araya requested time off of work at the hospital that employed him for Slayer's first European tour in 1984 and was denied; "'We need you to come in today.' They'd call me at 5:00 in the morning and wake me, 'Someone's not coming in, we need you to come in to work.'" After a month of sporadic attendance, his employers threatened termination; Araya replied "Well, I guess I'm fired."[3]

In 2006, Araya underwent gall bladder surgery, which disrupted 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; later released on the special edition of the album.[5] Araya brought his children on the tour stating "it's kind of cool to expose them at such a young age. My first concert, I was, like, 17."[6] "We [Slayer] have been fortunate- fortunate enough to have lasted as long as we have because a lot of bands don't last that long."

On January 7, 2010, Slayer announced on its official website that back surgery had been scheduled for Tom Araya and that the planned tour would be canceled through April of that year. The website assured fans that the "Slayer camp working hard to reschedule dates for later this year." Araya is known for his aggressive style of headbanging and began experiencing back problems while the band was on tour in Australia/New Zealand/Japan in October 2009. Araya had an Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. On March 12, 2010, Metal Hammer magazine published an interview with Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo about Tom Araya's recovery in which Lombardo stated that "He's recovering extremely quickly and really well. He is just moving forward and doing all the treatments and post operation stuff that he has to go through. He's doing good."[7] On May 20, 2010, Slayer confirmed that they would play two songs on TV for Jimmy Kimmel Live![8] As a result of his surgery, Araya has significantly tempered his once aggressive on-stage movement and headbanging; now remaining relatively still during performances. On June 3, 2011, Araya received the keys to the city of his birth, Viña del Mar, Chile.[9]

In 2014, Araya made a cameo in the heavy metal horror film "Hairmetal Shotgun Zombie Massacre: The Movie," directed by Joshua Allan Vargas.


Tom Araya at Nova Rock 2014

Araya's interest in serial killers serves as inspiration for many of his lyrics, including the songs titled "213" about Jeffrey Dahmer and "Dead Skin Mask" about Ed Gein.[10][11] "I'm trying to see where these guys are coming from so maybe I'll understand. It's always kind of intrigued me…"[3]

Araya wrote the lyrics for the Grammy winning song "Eyes of the Insane" from Slayer's 2006 album Christ Illusion. The lyrics were inspired by an article in the Texas Monthly about the casualties of war and the experiences of soldiers 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 stuff 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."[12]

Personal life[edit]

Araya has a brother, Johnny Araya, who plays bass in the melodic death metal band Thine Eyes Bleed. He also roadies for Slayer from time to time.

Araya resides in Buffalo, Texas where he owns a ranch with his wife Sandra Araya and two children, daughter Ariel Asa Araya (b. May 11, 1996) and son Tomas Enrique Araya, Jr. (b. June 14, 1999).[6] He and his wife run a family farm that includes five cows and a chicken coop. Tom reports that he sings country songs to help keep his "singing chops up."[13] Araya and his wife enjoy horror films such as The Amityville Horror and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The two allow their children to watch horror films, but make it clear to them that it is just a movie when they ask "Is this real?"[14]


In an interview, Araya expressed his belief 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, he replied "I believe in a supreme being, yeah. But He's an all-loving God."[15] 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."[16]

Araya commented about the misconception of the band labeled as Satan worshippers, "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.'"[16]

Guest appearances[edit]

"Hairmetal Shotgun Zombie Massacre: The Movie" (November 2014)


Tom Araya playing ESP signature bass in 2012.

Araya endorses Marshall amplifiers and ESP-guitars which are currently marketing Tom Araya signature basses.[17] He was one of the first bass players to have a signature ESP bass series.


  1. ^ Keko Paralta Casanova. "Rockaxis – Interview with Tom Araya" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  2. ^ "Slayer's metal music gains popularity". Austin American-Statesman. 1991-09-05. Retrieved 2010-07-22.
  3. ^ a b c d Brian, Davis (September 7, 2001). "Exclusive! Interview with Slayer vocalist/ bassist Tom Araya". Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Live chat with Tom Araya of Slayer". Archived from the original on May 9, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-27. 
  5. ^ "Slayer Frontman Undergoes Gallbladder Surgery, Band Reschedule Early 'Unholy Alliance' Dates". May 10, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-09. 
  6. ^ a b Nailen, Dan (2008-75-19). "A feel-good, family side to Slayer's heavy-metal assault". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2007-01-28.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ (March 12, 2010). "Dave Lombardo: "Tom Araya Is Recovering Extremely Quickly". Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  8. ^ (May 20, 2010). "Jimmy Kimmel Tonight". Retrieved 2010-05-27. 
  9. ^ (June 6, 2011). "Tom Araya Receives Keys to the city of Vina del Mar". Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  10. ^ Stannard, Joe. "Interview with Slayer". Plan B. Frances Morgan. Archived from the original on December 17, 2006. Retrieved June 15, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Jeffrey Dahmer". Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  12. ^ Atkinson, Peter (May 3, 2006). "Songs About God and Satan – Part 2: An Interview With Slayer's Tom Araya". Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  13. ^ Glessner, David (1999-99-88). "Slayer attracts a new generation of fans". Archived from the original on 2008-88-88. Retrieved 2007-01-30.  Check date values in: |date=, |archivedate= (help)
  14. ^ Gargano, Paul (January 25, 2007). "LiveDaily Interview: Tom Araya of Slayer". Archived from the original on February 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-28. 
  15. ^ La Briola, John. "Westword interview with Tom Araya". Archived from the original on August 3, 2004. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  16. ^ a b Feniak, Jenny. "Slayer likes bad-boy image". Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  17. ^ "The ESP Guitar Company :: Tom Araya Signature Series". Archived from the original on November 2, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 

External links[edit]