Slayer have helped define, popularise and elevate the genre of thrash metal since their formation in 1981. At the heart of that sound is Tom Araya’s heavy, driving bass sound and lead vocals. This week we look at the equipment he uses to achieve that iconic sound.
TOM ARAYA ESP SIGNATURE
Araya keeps things simple and usually sticks to the one guitar throughout the band’s shows. He plays the signature models that ESP Guitars have been making for him since the late 1990s. These precision style basses have active EMG humbucker pickups with an alder body and an ebony fretboard. He is also known to sometimes use a pair of passive single-coils pickups.
OTHER SIGNATURE MODELS
Araya requested an updated version of his signature bass, and wanted to ensure that the price was kept at an affordable level for the everyday fan, so ESP blended the Araya model with their popular and distinctively curved FRX Series. Araya now often plays the Tom Araya FRX, the TA-604 FRX, and the TA-204 FRX. The guitars are solid alder with a three-piece maple neck construction and an ebony fretboard.
Watch Araya talk about the signature basses in the video below.
Early on Araya used a Marshall Lemmy Kilmister Signature 1992 LEM Super Bass stack. This was an extremely limited edition 2008 replica of the Motörhead bassist’s 1976 head.
“We were rehearsing for some live shows and I couldn’t believe how good those amps sounded,” said Araya to Bass Guitar Magazine. “Kerry told me they only made so many and then stopped making them. He even called up Marshall [to ask about them] for me – but there was no way, they were all gone. That amp is where most of my sound comes from, rather than the bass, though what you hear on the record might sometimes be a mixture of different amps dialled in together. It has that piano-like ‘dong!’ to it. That’s the sound I like, clean and crisp with that low-end piano boom.”
Araya now uses stock Marshall VBA400 amp heads with eight 6550 tubes. “I use a standard Marshall bass head, which is a really good head,” said Araya to Guitar World. “And they made me a couple of cabinets that sound really cool. But yeah, I just use a standard rig. It’s not hopped up; it’s not the ‘Tom model.’ It’s just a Marshall bass amp, which sounds awesome.”
“Yeah, I just use Marshall stock heads. There's nothing really special about them,” he said to Premier Guitar. “(I like) the brightness and punch. I didn't use Marshall all the time. They made some cabinets for me; better than the cabinets I had and they sounded great. We asked them if they would send me some heads and they sent me the heads. My brother dialed in the tones that I like. This is what I got.”
Araya uses a dbx 160A compressor/limiter, which is always on.
Araya uses standard Jim Dunlop Heavy .050–.110 strings on all his basses.