The history of metal is littered with famous musicians’ side projects. Many eventually see the light of day in some form, but others remain lost in the mists of time, unheard by few except those who were involved.
Pap Smear falls in the latter camp. This short-lived 80s hardcore punk band is obscure even by unreleased side project standards, especially considering it features two original members of Slayer – namely guitarist Jeff Hanneman and drummer Dave Lombardo. So what’s the story?
The seeds of Pap Smear were sewn when Hanneman discovered the early 80s underground hardcore scene and went all for it. Speaking to Metal Hammer, Lombardo recalled his bandmate’s overnight conversion.
“Jeff shows up to rehearsal with a shaved head: ‘I’m punk now!’” the drummer said. “He brought all this music with him: Black Flag, TSOL, Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks.”
Lombardo and his bandmates were impressed. “‘What rock have I been under? This is fantastic!’ It was a big turning point,” said the drummer.
In 1984, Hanneman and Lombardo decided to form their own punk band. Dubbing themselves Pap Smear, they enlisted Rocky George, guitarist with Venice Beach hardcore rabble-rousers Suicidal Tendencies, and began making a racket in Slayer’s rehearsal room.
“We were very close friends with Suicidal Tendencies at the time,” Lombardo explained. “We used to go see them a lot, and then we became friends with the band. Jeff really loved Rocky George’s style and his feel – the soul he had when he played.”
Hanneman himself swapped the guitar for bass. “I’m sure at the time he would have developed into an amazing bass player if he’d kept at it,” said Lombardo.
The final piece of the Pap Smear puzzle was vocalist Joey Hanneman, a kid who happened to be in the right place at the right time. “He used to hang out at rehearsal and I used to go surfing with him,” said Lombardo. “His name was Joey Fuchs, but he kind of looked like Jeff – blond hair. So he said, ‘Fuck yeah, I’ll just be Joey Hanneman instead of Joey Fuchs, and I’ll pretend to be Hanneman’s brother.”
Despite Hanneman and Lombardo’s enthusiasm for punk rock, Pap Smear never made it our of the rehearsal room. “We wrote probably five, six pieces of music, but we never played a live show,” said Lombardo. “It was just a bunch of guys hanging out in a garage waiting for the rest of the band to show up.”
Four of those songs, Living Just To Die, D.D.A.M.M. (aka Drunk Drivers Against Mad Mothers), Abretions Asshole and Can’t Stand You, appeared on a demo tape whose total running time comes to just four minutes. Inevitably, the demo has appeared on YouTube – it’s rough as hell, but it fuses the spite and aggression of early 80s hardcore with Slayer’s metallic sharpness.
Hanneman apparently planned to record a full Pap Smear album, but was dissuaded by producer Rick Rubin, who began working with the band on 1986’s Reign In Blood album. The guitarist later claimed Rubin told him: “Ahhhh, don’t do it, man – this is the kind of thing that breaks bands up!” Lombardo told Metal Hammer he shared Rubin’s concerns: “I feel our focus was Slayer and Pap Smear was kind of taking us away.”
Two Pap Smear songs, D.D.A.M.M and Can’t Stand You, were eventually re-recorded by Slayer for their 1996 punk covers album, Undisputed Attitude, but the original demo remains unreleased. And with Hanneman’s death in 2013, Pap Smear remain a brief but intriguing footnote in metal history.