Tomás Enrique “Tom” Araya Díaz (born June 6, 1961) was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, but his family moved to the US when he was five. He grew up in Maywood, California, in what he described as “a bad neighborhood that was pretty gang-oriented.” 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.
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.
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. Araya requested time off of work at the Brotman Medical Center 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.”
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. 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. “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 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.” On May 20, 2010, Slayer confirmed that they would play two songs on TV for Jimmy Kimmel Live! 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.
In 2014, Araya made a cameo in the heavy metal horror film Hairmetal Shotgun Zombie Massacre: The Movie, directed by Joshua Allan Vargas.
Click Here to check out his interview with ESP Guitars.
Click Here to see his signature guitar on GearSource.
The imposing bassist, songwriter and vocalist of thrash metal legends Slayer, Tom Araya commands the entire stage. His signature basses are characterized by a sleek body shape and colossal tone, and embody Slayers aggressive and unforgiving sound.
- The ESP Tom Araya Signature Series Bass has an Alder Body with a Maple Neck and Ebony Fingerboard
- This Signature Series guitar comes with a Gotoh 404BO-4 Bridge and Gotoh Tuners
- It has a 35″ Scale with Neck-Thru Construction, Thin-U Neck Contour and 24 Extra Jumbo Frets
- The Pickups are Active EMG-35DC (b/n)
- The Controls are Vol/Bal/Tone
- Hardshell Case Model