INTERVIEW AND LIVE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
TRANSCRPTION BY NEIL BATTY
Canadian thrash band Annihilator is the lifework of guitarist Jeff Waters, who founded the band in
Although you have done several tours in Europe in past years itï¿½s been a while since youï¿½ve been in Finland or even in Scandinavia. If I remember right, the last time was in 1991 when you were supporting Judas Priest with Pantera?
Youï¿½re right. This is our eighteenth tour of Europe and weï¿½ve been touring every year in Europe but we havenï¿½t been to Scandinavia or the UK for about, well the last time I was in Scandinavia was 1991. Corey from Trivium was cool to call me up and ask us to support them on their tour which was really cool because they are a hot band so to speak and get a lot of press. They are selling a lot of records. A lot more than Annihilator are selling right now. But the cool thing for me was Corey said ï¿½Hey, you wanna come along to the Scandinavia and UK tour?ï¿½ because originally we were gonna do the rest of Europe with them but they did us a huge favour and brought us to the places that we havenï¿½t been popular at, which was amazing. We have just done three weeks in the UK playing to 5000 people a night. All 15 ï¿½ 20 year old kids, so it was a really good thing for Annihilator thatï¿½s for sure!
When you last time played in UK?
The UK was 1993 or 1995 I think maybe a few shows a little later on but not a real tour.
Like you mentioned earlier you have now reached a whole new audience who havenï¿½t heard about Annihilator before, right?
Well, even just in the UK the three weeks we just did there a record company called about a week or two weeks after the tour started and said ï¿½Guess what? Your record sales now are going up and all the stores and chains are ordering your CDsï¿½ not just out new CD ï¿½Metalï¿½ but a lot of our catalogue. So, yeah, itï¿½s exactly what Corey said would happen and heï¿½s right. We owe him a lot of gratitude from our band! Itï¿½s really cool.
This is the best possible promo you can have?
Do you have any plans to tour anywhere else apart from Europe after this Trivium tour?
We are going to do Japan and Australia, different parts of Asia in the summer. Maybe a few festivals in Europe but our plan is just to be a support act until 2008. Maybe by April 2008 then turn around and headline a few shows, do a headline tour in Europe and then try to come back and play some clubs here in Scandinavia.
Whoa, you are coming back to Scandinavia?
This time for sure. Headlining! Probably some smaller places but still we would be able to play our own set. Iï¿½m happy doing this type of tour but if we can come back and headline thatï¿½s great.
I just remember that actually you did play in Scandinavia in last year when you took part in ï¿½Rock the Boatï¿½ cruiseï¿½
I already forgot that, wow!!! First of all for me and my singer Dave we were more excited by playing with The Haunted! Because we are big fans of The Haunted and we are big Slayer fans, a lot of fun and a lot of cool people.
METAL FOR LIFE
Speaking about your new album ï¿½Metalï¿½, you have a lotï¿½s of interesting names as your guests there. Where did you get an idea to ask such names as Alexi Laiho and Michael Amott to play in your album?
The whole ï¿½Metalï¿½ thing was around for years. Back in the nineties where bands had to get a website, Annihilator.com was taken so I though Ok, Annihilator, everybody asks what type of metal do we play and we say, well a bit of Thrash a bit of Speed metal, some melodic stuff, progressive metal, whatever kind of metal we play, we play a little bit of all of it. So I say, I dunno I guess were metal. I said that back in the nineties and itï¿½s always been Annihilatormetal.com. So itï¿½s always been there every time I look at the website. Then after the record was about 90% finished, Corey from Trivium and Michael Amott from Arch Enemy gave me a call on the same day and one of them, I think it was Corey said ï¿½If the albums not finished can I play a solo on it?ï¿½ Thatï¿½s a pretty bold and aggressive thing to say, I mean I could call up Alexi Laiho and say ï¿½Hey Alexi, can I play on the new Children of Bodom album?ï¿½ I would expect Alexi to be a little bit like ï¿½Errrrrr, not sure.ï¿½
That would sound like ï¿½Can I be with your wife?ï¿½ ï¿½laughsï¿½
Well, there you go! But I said yeah right away and I talked to Michael the same day, so I thought Fuck it, Coreyï¿½s on, might as well ask Michael and he said yes right away. I thought this is too easy, so I called Alexi from Children of Bodom and he said ï¿½Fuck yeah!ï¿½ actually I think he said ï¿½Hell, yeah motherfucker!ï¿½ Just that week I thought, well this might be cool to have an album full of people who like Annihilators music because I spent my whole career telling Journalists and through my music its obvious that I like Priest and Maiden and Exodus and Slayer and AC/DC. You can hear that in the music. Iï¿½ve been waving a flag for my favourite metal bands for 20 years! Itï¿½s a cool idea to have some of the newer guys to come on and say ï¿½Hey, we like Annihilator also.ï¿½ Plus itï¿½s an honour for me, I keep singling out Alexi because heï¿½s coming down tonight to jam with us. But to have a guitar player like that play with you, itï¿½s amazing.
So for this album, did musicians contact you or did you contact them?
No, No. After that first day talking to Michael and Corey I just made a short list of the people I knew that play guitar.
Were there any players you would have wanted to be on the album but they never made it for reason or another?
No, I just kept the list to people that I knew, friends, because there was this one morning where I thought ï¿½Hey maybe I can call Halford or K K Downing or maybe even Kerry King.ï¿½ I know these people but we are not great friends, we say hi and go to their shows but not really good friends. I thought we could get some really big names, then my girlfriend told me ï¿½Donï¿½t fucking do that!ï¿½ Just stick to the people you know because if you try to get these really big people its going to look obvious that you are only doing it to sell records. The only guy was Mustaine. Him and I have been trying to get together and even write just one song, so he said yeah he would be honoured. But he had some problem on the Gigantour when he was gonna come to my studio and play but he couldnï¿½t do it. Thatï¿½s the only guy who couldnï¿½t do it.
One interesting and perhaps the most unexpected guests on this Annihilator album is Danko Jones. He has been a friend of yours for a long time?
Iï¿½ve known him for a while. Heï¿½s from Toronto, Canada and Iï¿½m from Ottowa, Canada which is very close. I go to Toronto to see a lot of concerts so I know him from there. He was playing a show with his band in my city Ottawa, so the next day we went to breakfast and I said we had one song left on our new record that had no lyrics and no singing. While I was sitting there talking to him I though it would be cool to get him to sing on it because heï¿½s not from a metal band, heï¿½s not a metal singer but heï¿½s a real hard rock, Guns and Roses punk type of singer and front man. But the thing about Danko and the reason I asked him to is because he writes columns for magazines here in Scandinavia but mainly in Germany and other countries that are Heavy Metal columns, heï¿½s a huge huge metal fan. His favourite bands are Arch Enemy and Slayer so thatï¿½s how he fits really well into the record. Heï¿½s a big metal fan!
Actually I think that ï¿½Couple Suicideï¿½ isone of the best tracks on the new album?
When you take Annihilators music, a more melodic song, and you put Danko Jones on there with Angela Gossow, phew! I knew right away, looking at it on paper that it would be a good song!
One more thing about ï¿½Metalï¿½ ï¿½ You have now grown your hair back and overall the whole band is looking very 80ï¿½s thrash band, does that reveal that youï¿½re now back in ï¿½Metalï¿½ in relation to everything?
Not really, every time I try to grow my hair long it gets to that point where it sticks out and I just cut it short again! I finally thought I had to get over it and grow my hair long again. No, itï¿½s not connected!
TEN YEARS IN HELL AND SOME MORE
Last year you released Annihilatorï¿½s first ever DVD, ï¿½Ten years in Hellï¿½ which offers a great review of Annihilators past career but whatï¿½s the reason that you skip over many years on that DVD?
We missed a few years in the middle because we couldnï¿½t use some of the footage. Thereï¿½s two guys in there, Randy Black, drummer we had for ï¿½Set The World On Fireï¿½ tour and ï¿½King Of The Killï¿½ and ï¿½Refresh The Demon.ï¿½ He came back and did ï¿½Double Live Annihilationï¿½ and ï¿½Waking the Furyï¿½, amazing drummer. Then there was Joe Comeau who was a singer on a couple of out records, ï¿½Carnival Diablosï¿½ and ï¿½Waking the Furyï¿½ and ï¿½Double Live Annihilationï¿½. Those two guys are a really important part of the history of our band but they both refused. They wanted a lot of money and there isnï¿½t a lot of money in old metal DVDï¿½s! Itï¿½s not exactly a gold mine! So I explained that this DVD is for the fans, youï¿½re an important part of the history but they both said no, they wanted money, a lot of money!
Yeah, it is. I had a lot of footage for that ï¿½Ten Years in Hellï¿½ DVD, we had to take out over 50% of the DVD footage because they were in it. Good footage!
Speaking about Joe Comeau, is it okay if we talk some more about him?
Tell something about his background and how did he ended up being in Annihilator in a first place?
He was one of the guitar players in Overkill and we toured with Overkill in the year 2000 a two or three month tour of Europe. We also did Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia Moscow, Romania. He went from being the guitar player in Overkill to singing in Annihilator. A lot of the guys I get are like that especially singers. Our first singer who did an album called ï¿½Alice in Hellï¿½ was Randy Rampage and he was a punk rock bass player!
Ray Hartman, Russel Berquist, Joe Comeau, Jeff and Dave Davis
I know about Randyï¿½s background ï¿½laughsï¿½ but going back to Joe, I read from some magazine that he actually offered himself to come and sing for you?
Yeah, our singer Randy Rampage, in 2000 at the end of that tour with OverKill he really did some crazy things, so bad that he had to leave the bus because he had dangerous problems with drugs. We had to let him go but we still had a few shows left so Joe came and said ï¿½Fuck, Iï¿½ll sing!ï¿½ Heï¿½s a guitar player, he doesnï¿½t look like a singer, how is he going to sing? So I sang the rest of the tour and went home but he kept calling and emailing saying ï¿½Hey, listen. I am a singer!ï¿½ He sent me a CD of a thing he had done in a previous band called ï¿½Liege Lordï¿½ many years ago. I realised he had a good attitude and wanted to do it, so I though we could try it and see if it works. It worked great! He has a great 80ï¿½s metal voice. Heï¿½s a great singer.
Your first release with Joe, ï¿½Carnival Diablosï¿½, was a brilliant album but ï¿½Waking the Furyï¿½, the next album was even better, with Randy Black back in the band. On that album thereï¿½s some of the fastest drumming than any other Annihilator album?
I agree. Some of the best drumming on an Annihilator album is ï¿½Waking the Furyï¿½ with Randy. You know Randy is one of the most accurate drummers in metal world. Sometimes he played like a drum machine and actually sometimes people thought that it was machine not Randy playing drums. He was great, on the other hand Ray Hartman was a very good drummer too. He was very different to Randy because he was playing more with feeling. If you listen "Carnival Diablos" you can hear what I mean about Ray’s playing, that’s him at his best!
Well after two great studio albums you released a double live album called ï¿½Double Live Annihilationï¿½ with that line up, but then it was Joeï¿½s turn to leave.Would you tell what really happened between two of you then?
He left around 2003 I canï¿½t remember exactly when but he left and we got Dave Padden and started doing festivals, its coming up to 5 years with Dave. A long time for an Annihilator singer!
But what were the reasons why Joe left?
I have kind of agreed with him to keep that quiet for his benefit, so I donï¿½t talk about thatï¿½
THE NEW BEGINNING
After Joe was gone you find your current singer Dave Padden. Tell us how you find him?
I met him in Vancouver where I lived in early 2003 and the same thing, he was not a singer he was a guitar player! I heard him singing a few songs, Annihilator songs, so I said lets do it. It was a good decision for me. Then we did the ï¿½All For Youï¿½ album and that was it.
When Dave first joined he got a lot of criticism, did you notice that and what do you think was the reason for that?
We always get criticised when we change! Whenever we make any changes to singers or styles! But the album sold really well and did well for us. We toured with Judas Priest for a while their reunited tour. One of the mistakes I made was on the chorus of the song. ï¿½All For Youï¿½ was a very, some people call it Nu Metal which I think is very strangeï¿½Yeah, it was stupid on my part to put that song on the album first and call the album that and we did a video for it. That was a mistake because we had a lot of other songs that should have had a video or been first on the album. We put a lot of pressure on that one song, probably the wrong song to say ï¿½Hey, hereï¿½s Annihilator!ï¿½ With the internet and everything, itï¿½s first impressions. There are a lot of good CDs out there and journalists and fans donï¿½t have time to listen to 1000 CDs, so you hear the first song and if you donï¿½t like the first song, forget it, Iï¿½m not going to listen to the rest of the CD!
How do you like the video of ï¿½All For Youï¿½?
Itï¿½s ok. It was low budget, we just did it and went on tour, we donï¿½t really think too much about it. These things happen fast, you get on a plane, do a video, fly home, done! Forget about it! Hope it works out.
The next album was ï¿½Schizo Deluxeï¿½. I would say its kind of a sister album to ï¿½All For Youï¿½. Would you agree with that?
Itï¿½s like a heavier version and the vocals on ï¿½Schizo Deluxeï¿½ are the best vocals on any Annihilator album, its one of my favourite CDs actually.
Mike Mangini, Jeff, Dave Padden, Corran Murphy and Sandor De Bretan
Mike Mangini, who now played drums for ï¿½Metalï¿½, originally joined Annihilator in 1993 and he did album ï¿½Set the World on Fireï¿½ with you before he decided to leave and join Extreme. How did he come to join the band back then?
When he joined the band he was a friend of our guitar player Neil Goldberg. Neil was in Berkley music college in Boston and so was Mike Mangini, Neil kept telling me about this great drummer, heï¿½s going to be famous! Yeah, ok! So we auditioned him and he was in the band after he played about 5 seconds! I knew he was amazing but I knew I could also lose him very quickly because I knew another band would take him, heï¿½s so good! And of course Nuno Bettencourt came down and saw him and bang, heï¿½s gone! That was it but weï¿½ve always kept in touch and been friends since then. He came back for ï¿½All For Youï¿½ and heï¿½s back for ï¿½Metalï¿½ itï¿½s an honour for me to play with a guy like that, a genius. Heï¿½s the Eddie Van Halen of drums.
Speaking of drumming, in the very early days of Annihilator you played drums by yourself. Do you still play drums?
No I canï¿½t physically play. Thereï¿½s a lot of practice and muscles involved but I can air drum really good! I can program drums and what I do with my albums, even with Mangini, is I program a drum machine with the beats that I think work well and then someone like Mike Mangini would take that and say ï¿½Yeah, thatï¿½s a good oneï¿½ or ï¿½No, I think I could change that and make it better.ï¿½ I just let him do what he wants with it.
Mike doing his drum clinic in Finland
Mike was last year in Finland doing drum clinics and he said that he is really proud of his work with Annihilator!
Iï¿½m proud to have him on our records ï¿½laughsï¿½
Tell something about the birth of song ï¿½Brain Danceï¿½. Itï¿½s really weird and unusual song in every aspect but itï¿½s still my favourite on ï¿½Set The World On Fireï¿½!
Yeah, that was a crazy one! Thatï¿½s the first record I did sober but itï¿½s a pretty crazy song, I donï¿½t think I could ever do something like that again. I donï¿½t know how I wrote that song. If I could do that again I would do it. Itï¿½s a very cool song! Itï¿½s got very Alice Cooperï¿½s verses and Annihilator choruses then the middle of it is psychologically crazy!
Hmmmï¿½I would even say that it sounds like System of A Down a little bit in positive wayï¿½?
Yeah, you are right ï¿½laughsï¿½. I never thought about it like that but there is a little ï¿½Systemï¿½ in the middle! Bit Alice Cooper too, crazy stuff!
Do you know what Aaron Randall, who sings on ï¿½Set the World on Fireï¿½, is doing these days?
Oh, drugs? No I donï¿½t know! Heï¿½s been out of music for ten years; I talked to him a couple of months ago. Heï¿½s a great singer. I donï¿½t know why he didnï¿½t keep going.
I actually like his band ï¿½Speedï¿½…
Yeah, thatï¿½s his band. His vocals got really good on that one.
For me he sounds kind of like Sebastian Bach on that album?
Yeah, actually he really liked Sebastian Bach back in the day ï¿½laughsï¿½
Jeff, Neil Goldgerg, Wayne Darley, Aaron Randall and Mike Mangini
HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KING AND MEGADETH
In 2002 you did a tour with Savatage, how did that came about?
I have known Chris Caffery, the guitar player for a lot of years and I guess their guitar player Al Pitrelli couldnï¿½t do the tour for the whole summer. So he called me up and asked if I would like to play with Savatage for the summer. So I asked them to send me the songs I had to learn and then Iï¿½m in! I didnï¿½t care about money, I know they would pay me well but that didnï¿½t matter, I just loved to do the gig for the experience and honour of playing with them.
Youï¿½re a fan of Savatage?
Yeah, oh yeah! I was a huge fan back in the early nineties you know? So I asked when the rehearsals start and he told me next week! What? That was a really difficult gig for me to do. It was about 10 days and nights, instead of taking showers I would take a bath every day because I could take my CD player in the bathroom to hear the music 24 hours a day. At night I would have the music on while Iï¿½m sleeping! There were so many songs to learn. Jon Oliva asked me to learn almost 40 songs in one week. So I really went crazy, but when I got to rehearsal Jon Oliva says ï¿½Oh were just fucking with you, were only playing about 14 songs!ï¿½ So I didnï¿½t like that but heï¿½s the boss and Iï¿½m the employee, so I did my job. 40 fucking Savatage songs, when I only had to learn 14!
Which songs were the hardest ones to learn?
Oh, I donï¿½t know, I canï¿½t remember the songs now, it was a lot of songs! The one I liked to play the most was ï¿½Hall of the Mountain Kingï¿½ of course!
Tell something about your relationship with Dave Mustaine. I mean, itï¿½s not a secret that in early 90ï¿½s you did audition for Megadeth but you also did another attempt in 2001, right?
Thereï¿½s a lot of rumours that I donï¿½t say anything about because the more you donï¿½t talk the more people make up stories, good press! Dave and I have been friends for years, it started in 1989 when I was touring with Testament with the album ï¿½Alice in Hellï¿½ our first record and he just called me up in a hotel room and said ï¿½Hey listen, its Dave Mustaine. I have your Alice in Hell record and I really like the song Crystal Ann and Alice in Hell and I like your guitar playing, would you like to come down and audition?ï¿½ Not join the band, audition for the band! He had Dimebag Darrell, Marty Friedman and me auditioning and the right guy got the job. Dimebag stayed with Pantera and I stayed with Annihilator. The right guy got the job because ï¿½Rust in Peaceï¿½ is one of the best records ever! We have a funny history because when Megadeth were recording ï¿½The System Has Failedï¿½ I heard from someone who works with them that maybe they might need me on the album. That never happened. Then Dave called me for the touring of ï¿½The System Has Failedï¿½ and asked me to be in the band. At that point I didnï¿½t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing, to work with Dave would be a lot of fun but I know what heï¿½s like and I know what its like to be the leader of a band. I know what I expect from the musicians in my band, what I need them to do and how to act and be professional. So I knew exactly what Dave would want, similar to the gig with Savatage, I knew exactly what Jon Oliva would want his guitar player to do, be quiet, learn the songs and be professional and do his job. So that didnï¿½t work out, he went with the Drover brothers and that was a good thing for them. Thatï¿½s it! I talk to them all the time, have dinner with them, we always joke that someday we should get together and record some songs!
BITS AND PIECES
The ï¿½Remainsï¿½ album, wasnï¿½t that first supposed to be your solo album?
No, I just got lazy and didnï¿½t use a drummer! I should have used a drummer; it would have been a bit more metal! I donï¿½t know why I did that but thatï¿½s the only mistake I did on that record. I got a whole lot of studio gear right around the time of that album, keyboards, drum computers, at the time they were very new and expensive but now they are just cheap crappy things! So I was playing around with those for a couple of months, you know when you are in the studio and you just donï¿½t come out! You start to get into a different world and you create all this stuff using drum computers, I just left it. I donï¿½t need a drummer! It should have been a solo project though!
How busy you are with your own WATERï¿½S STUDIO?
Yeah, sometimes Iï¿½m really busy. Iï¿½m trying to keep it so that the only work Iï¿½m doing in there, besides Annihilator, is just mixing other bands CDï¿½s. Because I just have too much work in there to do, busy with Annihilator stuff too. But if thereï¿½s bands that want me to mix even their demos, sometimes Iï¿½ll do that. I like helping out younger bands that are really good but donï¿½t have good opportunities. Greek bands and Spanish bands that are playing some really good metal but they just cant get out of their country so if I can help them or do a demo for them, sometimes even for free, depends on the band! If I can help them out then yeah, Ill try and do that.
Jeff, thanks for your time and see you again when youï¿½re doing your headliner tour in Scandinavia!!
Maybe next time Iï¿½ll still be supporting other bands! Not sure yet!
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