Friday, July 24, 2020

Obituary - Steve Hanford

On Thursday 21 May 2020, Steven Hanford (also known as Thee Slayer Hippy), best known as the drummer in Portland based band POISON IDEA, passed away.  He was aged 50. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Hanford was born in Walla Walla, Washington in 1969 before moving to Portland with his family at the age of two. He was playing drums by the age of eight - the same age he allegedly started smoking pot. After playing in a few bands (including Portland’s MAYHEM), he joined POISON IDEA at the tender age of 15, making his recording debut two years later with the album ‘War All The Time’ which not only featured Hanford’s drumming but was also produced by the then-teen.
Come 1990, ‘Feel The Darkness’ heralded what is arguably the greatest of all POISON IDEA albums featuring classics like ‘Taken By Surprise’ and the monumental ‘Just To Get Away’. Again, Hanford produced, this time with aid of the band. It was with this album that the band’s reputation for excess became legendary, with Hanford not being left behind!
Following another intense album in 1993’s ‘We Must Burn’, the band split.  Hanford soon formed a new band, GIFT, with POISON IDEA’s vocalist Jerry A, which released a single album in ‘Multum In Parva’.
He also lended his production skills to albums by Portland post-Hardcore band HEATMISER and indie two-piece CARDINAL.
His addiction, both to drugs and alcohol, lead to a failed suicide attempt and to him spending over seven years in jail (at Oregon State Penitentiary and then Pendleton Correctional Facility) following a succession of pharmacy robberies.  This was in October 2008 and followed an abortive attempt at rehab in which private information was made public by one of the staff.  It wasn’t exactly wasted time though as Hanford joined various inmates and apparently recorded 13 albums with various bands, including two on which he sang lead vocals. 
On release, he collaborated with fellow inmate Sam Redding who started a music programme at Pendleton, on a BLUE OYSTER CULT tribute record and in 2016 went on tour as a hired sticksman with Chicago doomsters, SKULL. More importantly, he stayed clean following his release.  
Coming right up to date, Hanford’s latest project, FETISH, released its debut album ‘World Eater’ in 2019 and included ex-POISON IDEA members, Eric Olsen and Brandon Bentley.
A mere month after that album’s release saw Hanford join THE ACCUSED AD as touring drummer and produce Nick Oliveri;s MONDO GENERATOR’s latest ‘Fuck It’.

It’s kind of a tragedy that I saw POISON IDEA just twice - once at the London Astoria in, I think, 1994. I’m pretty sure the ball of flying hair behind the drumkit was Hanford - surely sounded like it! The second time was several years later at the Highbury Garage - around five years later I guess.
A truly stunning drummer with a fine ear for sound quality, hence his production credits.