Welcome to the fun Palace - Jeff Water's speaks out about the new album.
There is no question about, Jeff Waters is the best Canadian guitar shredder out there, and with his band Annihilator been on the scene since the 80's Jeff has come a long way with the band. Like every band they all have line-up changes and Annihilator are no exception to the masses. With the band playing along the way with such acts like Judas Priest, Pantera, Onslaught, Jeff has built up a good reputation along the way and with 12 back catalogue CDs this really does say a lot for the band. The band recently signed and released their new album 'Annihilator' through Earache Records to which the album has been receiving positive reviews world-wide. Jeff Waters chats to me about the new album (briefly) and about the the struggle over the years with 1 of Canada's finest acts along side Anvil, Voi- Vod and Sacrifice to name a few. Here is what he had to say.
So Jeff it's a pleasure speaking to you again, last time we met was on the tour with Seven Witches, and that's some time ago! So let's start by asking you what you have been up too over the last few years, a little introduction.
"Yeah Jason, nice to speak to you again, it's been a while. Well we haven't played in the UK for some time now, we've done the odd live shows here and there and a tour with Travium but that's really it. Last tie we did a real tour of the UK was in 94 with some Magazines like Kerrang and others went from traditional Heavy Metal to new stuff, and it also happened in North America we had a deal with Roadrunner records and we had 3 albums with them at that point. For our 3rd album we moved to Sony records and in 93 metal was not cool in North America because it had got so big in the 80s it just disappeared that bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana pretty much killed it. You really can't blame those guys, it's not their fault and it was going to happen anyway and things happen in cycles that metal was just so big and so rich and so much money with bands selling out arena's so that is were it finally came to an end. I think now it has come back in the last few years. It made bands like Testament, Exodus, us and Slayer struggle too and with Slayer they struggled too, even to a point were they were playing arena's to smaller clubs & small halls in the 90's and they never stopped playing they just kept on going so they kept the fire going. I think after the 90's it was a dark and depressive time for a lot of bands, but not for me, I signed to Music For Nation (MFN) Metallica's old label in 94 and I recorded 3 albums with them and I think 'King Of The Kill' was a massive album for me in Japan and parts of Europe. (ED: Didn't you play most of the instruments on those records?) yeah pretty much that were on MFN and what was weird for me was the fact that in 93 Roadrunner said that if you don't want to play like Pantera or Sepultura or Biohazard and change your name and image you will drop your band and everybody else. It wasn't only just Roadrunner, it was all the labels who were doing this, and any band with the word 'Metal' in their bio was dropped and you had bands like Over Kill, Motorhead, Pantera, Slayer, Exodus and us we all kept going and a dozen other bands that was pretty much it. A lot of the band sin the 90's either lost their deals or cut their hairs short and got real jobs. Like I said I had a lot of success, I was dropped by Roadrunner and I thought it was the end of the world and thought it was time for another job and I really didn't want to play another style of music. I have no regrets with Roadrunner, they did a lot for me, even a support slot with Judas Priest in 91 and when the times changed the label do too. They also did a great job of adapting to the metal been out and they helped to create the new metal thing to which is a good and a bad thing, which was great for the label. For me it was a very short period were I thought it was all over and I had to think what I was going to do next, maybe a producer or mixer.
At one point I was also managing myself and there was no middle man taking any of my money and I had made a lot of mistakes as I didn't go to business school and they only way to learn is to try and see what fuck ups you do or don't do. You can be an experienced manager & still make mistakes and so it's better to learn about the business. You have to make money or you can't survive!!"
Moving on, from the old line-up's you had, do you still keep in touch with any of them and what are they doing now?
"Yeah I do keep in touch with some of them. Annihilators career started as me wanting a band and realizing the guys that I had at the beginning just wanted to look good and going to parties with their girlfriends and metal clubs. I wanted to do that but I also realized when i was young that you also have to learn your instruments and practice hard and I spent many years not going out and partying and not having a girlfriend and I would stay in my room playing the guitar. My schooling was from all the great players like Angus Young, Steve Vai, Rudi Schenker, Eddie Van Halen, Kerry King, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine etc... staying at home and learning to play some of their songs and I took some lessons very early on and when it was time to make a demo my band was nowhere to be found and they weren't even interested in getting better as musicians. They just wanted to party and look good like a musician. So in the end I ended up playing the guitars, the bass and even the vocals as well as write the songs and the drum parts and mix it onto a 4 track demo. So that is how Annihilator continued up until the last 8 years, so basically it's me with a singer and I hire a drummer for the albums & live I have to hire a bassist and another guitar player. In the last 8 yrs it has become the Jeff Waters and Dave Pattern's Annihilator because I have found a real partner in the band who is not just a hired singer who is also our guitar player and song writer which is really cool as I have a 50% of the band right now. (ED: How old is David? He looks pretty young?) Well I was born February 13th 1966 and he was born February 13th 1976. I do talk to have of my old band members and the other half I really don't have any feelings for, and there were only 2-3 guys that I actually had to fire, let go because of heavy drugs or alcohol and on the outside to people who are new to Annihilator say I must be hard to work with, which is not true and I hire the guys to do the jobs and when they are done they go off and play with another band or get married & have kids. I do like to work with talented and different musicians which gives you a lot of inspiration and a lot of ideas and it never gets boring as you always have more ideas. For me Dave and me it has been 8yrs since we have been playing in Annihilator together and we have come to a point were we would pick a bass player or drummer on tour and now it's Dave who is also doing that job. We pay them and make them work hard and we let them have fun if they work hard, travel the world and eat good food & have some fun."
Lets talk about the Roadrunner Re-United live DVD, how did the ideas for you to play on that live DVD come about?
"That is funny, it was about half a decade ago and I got a call from Rob Flynn from Machine Head and he said he was doing a thing for Roadrunner were we have a lot of previous members of Roadrunner who are doing a project for an anniversary DVD and asked if I would like to play on a few song? To which I said 'Yes' and I had met Rob before and I thought it would be a lot of fun so I went to San Francisco and I went into the studio with Rob and a engineer and did a couple of guitar solo very quickly and had a lot of fun and then said goodbye and then flew home, that was pretty much it. Doing the live DVD was awesome, working with Joey from Slipknot, Tim Owens, Roy from Stone Sour is an awesome drummer (ED: I agree after watching the King Diamond stuff), there was some awesome musicians on that DVD live. It was a n eye opening for me as I had not even noticed that I had influenced so many of those musicians there, and the 1st thing I did was walk into the food area and there was about 20-30 famous musicians in there and I saw them out of the corner of my eye but I got really nervous but then again I thought that most of them wouldn't even know who I was. So, in the end they all starred at me and it was Matt from Trivium that came up to me and broke the ice and said 'Hey ur Jeff Waters from Annihilator', and then other bands came up to me and I said 'You know of my band? (Laughing). Later on other bands like Knickle Back to Dave Mustain, Marty Friedman and Dave Elfson would day we are huge fans of your work."
Going back to the bands early material, which are your favourite albums and why? Any least favourite ones?
Well my favourites are, 'Never,Neverland' is my all time favourite which no Annihilator fan can argue with, just because its the best album. 'Alice In Hell' is not my 2nd favourite but it would be if you put it in the historical context because without that album there would not be another Annihilator album. My 2nd favourite album is called 'Schizodelux' and then 'Kill Of The Kill'. As for least favourite well there is a few, I think the album 'Remains' is a pretty good album but it was a more of a depressing time for me in 97 and it was the end of my MFN deal and a year after that it was the worst time for metal ever, other than Pantera. Metal was just done, and my life is Heavy Metal, and when the scene went to hell in the 90's I had the opportunity to change my name, my music and to do other thing I just thought I could never do that. I almost gave up but I decided to use a drum machine and try something a little different more like a solo type project and I think if I used a real drummer on that record instead of a drum machine I might of changed a little bit. I guess 2 yrs after that the fire came back and the amazing Randy Rampage came back to sing for an album which was called 'Criteria For A Black Widow' the band has been going up ever since."
OK Jeff how did you hook up with Earache Records. I really didn't think you would of signed to such an extreme label, what with them having acts like Deicide & bands in the past like Morbid Angel & Napalm Death etc...
"Well we had some bad luck with the last album which was called 'Metal' and it had some great musicians as guests on that album like Jeff Lomis (Nevermore), which was released through SPV, and we had some great tours ahead with such bands like Trivium and Iced Earth and headlined festivals like Sweden Rock. Everything back then was great for us, and at the beginning of the Trivium tour everything stopped with no records in the stores, no interviews no promotion and at that point I knew there was a very big problem going on and we finished the tours. After which we knew we had to get out of the deal as we knew something was wrong and we gave SPV a live DVD and asked if we could get out of our deal if we gave you that DVD for free and they agreed. After when we signed the deal with to get out of the contract a week after that they announced they were going bankrupt. They were a fantastic label for many years and they had a massive catalogue for Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues etc... and I guess they got mismanaged and went under. Lucky for me I got out of that deal just before it all happened and I took my time writing the new album and looked for a new record company. I had the choice of either going for a bigger label or smaller label that made me a good offer or go to the top with a indie metal label that would offer me a good deal, a label who would work the streets kind of speak and knew about metal music and Dan from Earache is a big fan of my band and not just the extreme bands and it seemed like a good vibe and good choice to sign to them. I think we did the right thing as we had a gut feeling about it and a good move about the whole thing."
How long is the deal with Earache and are you happy with the way they are promoting you?
"So far things are going great and for me I have to delivery a good album & I am pretty sure we have done that right now. They have me over here in Europe for many weeks doing press and so far its looking good. I've been told that the new album is the best album in the last 15yrs so I will see what happens there. I think it is up to the journalists first if they like it. (ED: Check out my review please Jeff, I feel it is the most aggressive album you have done in a long time) yeah I will do, I think the aggression comes from the singer and the sound of the album, as well as the production and I think the 1st 3 songs are pretty thrashy and the rest is pretty much more slower stuff. I think that Dave's singing really does kick you in your teeth, and if you listen to some of the guitar solos I think there is a few screaming guitar solos but a lot of them are very melodic it's almost like the melodic 80's metal vibe."
How long did it take to record the album and are you happy with the end results?
"Yeah I'm very happy with the end results, I feel that the recording was very relaxing and there was no pressure to get it done with dead lines. It took me a year to get the new deal put into place and I thought that in that time I would relax and do the best record I can. What I usually do it take time off from the writing and recording and go see a great band live like Slayer and get back into right after the show, things like that inspire me."
Who writes the lyrics and music between Dave and you? Do you both work together? What songs on the new album stand out for you and why?
"Well I usually write lyrics and music and when Dave comes to my studio to record I save a couple of songs for him that he likes for him to work on at night on his breaks at his house he will write the lyrics to some of the songs on his own. I have told him in the past that he can write the whole album on his own if he wishes to do so but he feels better just doing a few I think. I like the 1st song that Dave wrote, I like the 1st line to the song. It's called 'Coward', it just simply says 'Listen up you bastards I have something to say', which makes me laugh. It's a little like the Judas Priest song 'Rapid Fire', 'Pounding the world like a battering ram', it's awesome!! I also like 'The Trend' and 'Betrayed' Trend because it starts off like a band form the 80s and then it modernizes itself as the songs goes through and it is so hard to play, it's insane!! I like a challenge, because it really makes you work hard and you get a real sweat on trying to play the song. I think the song 'Betrayed' is more of a mid tempo song with 80% Annihilator and 10% Slayer & 10% Testament, like a little bit of my influences creeping through on that song."
So what are you future plans for Annihilator, are you playing the UK, and any festivals this summer?
"I think we will be the biggest boy band ever (laughing) in the history of the world playing everywhere. I hope to play the UK sometime very soon and also some festivals too."
Well Jeff thanks for doing the interview, good luck with the future of the band, do you have anything to say before we come to a close?
"Yeah check out the album, we hope you like and and check us out on the internet as there is plenty of stuff about us on there. Nice chatting again Jason, good luck with the webzine."
Thanx to Earache for setting the interview up.