Next month Annihilator will release their 10th studio album called “All For You”. Furthermore Jeff Waters and Co will also release an EP. Jeff is on promotion tour for the new album and I have a talk with him in Roermond (The Netherlands).
Martien: This is your tenth studio album and your thirteenth Annihilator album; the line-up is almost completely different on every album, why is that?
Jeff:Yeah, I have had lots of line-ups over the years. Actually you could call this new album almost a solo-project; it is my job. I have to run the band and when somebody leaves I have to find another guy to fit into the band. You know, it is just as in business, somebody leaves or gets fired and another one joins the club. Mostly it is about money. I did not want to loose Randy Black, our drummer, but he left to join Primal Fear. They offered him more money and I could not give him any more money, so he left. Other guys leave because they cannot travel that much because they have got wives and/or children to take care off. I could not do this without the help of my parents. Well, you know musicians leave Annihilator for various reasons; I have to find a better one. So, the new drummer will be Mike Mangini, who also played on “ Set The World On Fire”(1993); he is a genius drummer by the way…
Martien: Are you perhaps a difficult guy to work with??
Jeff:No, maybe during the first two albums. I was a really heavy drinker then and that made me a complete asshole; it was just a big party for all of us back then. When we tour nowadays we sometimes make good money and then everybody is happy, and sometimes an album does not do as well as we expected it to do and then we have to borrow money to get there and then I loose guys. You know, everybody needs money to make a living and I do not have a secret pot of gold hidden somewhere to give to the guys.
Martien: The double live album really sold well.
Jeff:Absolutely, I really think that was a great live album, we did our last live album in 1990, so it was about time to do another one and we had the perfect line-up for it, so…
Martien: “All For You” was your first studio album with new singer Dave Padden, are you satisfied with his work?
Jeff:You bet, slightly, ha ha ha.. The whole CD for me was a surprise because it was written in a time when I was really pissed off personally, for me my life is always up, up ,up or down, down, down, there is no middle for me and there was the question if Annihilator was going to continue, should we keep going, or not? I took up all these negative things and especially in psychology I took a lot of personal problems and instead of drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs, yelling at my son, just taking it in different ways, I channelled it all and I put it into writing songs. This was like a sort of therapy, now when I finished this record and it is done, I am relaxed and happy and it is all gone. If I listen back to the CD now, there is a love song on it for a girl friend of mine, a song I wrote for my son, about feeling guilty of the mistakes I made and how it passes on to him; a song I wanted him to hear when he gets older. There is a lot of anger on this record. This album is for 100% my creation; I did not have any co-writers on it. I had a lot I wanted to say, part of the record was, excuse me for being rude, fuck you, to some people.
Martien: The song Dr.Psycho is such a great, weird song, is it not?
Jeff:Yeah, many styles on the record, as you can hear. Trash metal, technical metal, crazy stuff that does not make sense, silly voices, serious songs, personal stuff….
Martien: Demon Dance is very “funny” ?
Jeff:That really is a special one. Actually that one is about me, my life, but not in a serious way. It is more fun, basically this song deals with how my life and career, the record business and all of my personal life is high, high, high or low, low, low. Maybe it is a problem I have, but as I said before, there is no middle for me. But if all is calm, then all hell breaks loose, for better or worse. This song is my little way of showing that everything always goes up and down.
Martien: There are two ballads on the album, why?
Jeff:I really do not know, it just happened. You are right it is rather strange for Annihilator to put two ballads on an album. There is however another record where I did this; namely 11 years ago on “Set The World On Fire”. Back then it was just an issue of more money and a bigger label, they asked me can you write some melodic stuff and I said okay, so that is how that came about.
Martien: Did you ever regret making that rather “commercial” album?
Jeff:No, because I think that when I had lost fans because of that album, maybe so, but it was not. That album became very big for us in Asia and Japan, that kept us going, financially. We went over there and made lots of money and that made up for the fact that the sales in Europe went down a little bit. This new record could, this may sound strange , have been our third record actually. After “Alice In Hell” and “Never, Neverland”, because it has some roots in it from the early silly Annihilator stuff and the technical guitar playing. I have injured my hand during the recording of this new CD, I strained some muscles; the song “Demon Dance” fucked up my hand, ha ha ha Anyway I am getting too old to play thrash metal, I am 38 now and I have got maybe 10 years to go. Imagine being in a band called Annihilator when you are 50 years old!!! Seriously, the new album fits in very well in the third place as far as we are speaking about Annihilator classics or famous song material; the first one is really a trash classic and the second one was a huge seller. You can enjoy diversity, lots of styles, soft, hard, aggressive and even an instrumental one. But you can only do so much on one CD; 10 songs is enough, you cannot say more. Well, I could have put 20 tracks on this one or even 30, but you have to get it done in time. The more time you take, sometimes good or bad, the more you start to hesitate. I almost rushed this album, not because of a dead line, but I wanted to get it done and get on with my life, you know. In fact I had to give up one of my most powerful songs for this album called “ Weapon X”. It was a short brutal song, meant to be the opener for the album, but the record company told me I had to write some extra songs for an EP; my fault! So I had to sacrifice my favourite song to put on the EP, which is a good thing, because if people like that song they want to buy the record as well, ha ha ha.
Martien: Do you still enjoy the music business after all these years?
Jeff:Oh yeah, the business part is tough, not if you are Metallica or even Slayer, then you have got money, but at my level you do not have that kind of cash. We do very well, but we do not play for 50,000 people as a headliner, we play anywhere for 200 till 2,000. And from Canada it is expensive to fly over and that can be frustrating some times. The frustrating part is I want to play in lots of different countries, but financially that is very difficult to do. The business is frustrating because if you understand how it works you can just play music that you like and of course you feel that you want more attention and that more people listen to your music, but it does not work like that. You cannot make them listen unless you have money, if I had millions of dollars to put into it then I can make people listen to Annihilator. But I cannot do that and that can be frustrating sometimes. It is hard to convince record companies to put money into your music, to promote you. We are not a new band, we do not play radio songs and we do not sell millions of CDs.
Martien: The title track is also the single?
Jeff:In the States they wanted a video from “All For You”, All-American style. That song gets a lot of reactions, which is strange to me, because it is a ballad; it is a love song.
Martien: Is that a radio song then?
Jeff:Yeah, but not with the band name Annihilator, ha ha ha…. I do it for myself, I try to survive, keep going. Annihilator has never been a way for me to make money; making money is the second reason why I have become a rock musician. The first reason is to have fun, be happy, to travel and meet people, that is interesting.
Martien: Some people still consider Annihilator as the Kings of trash, is that a compliment?
Jeff:Anything nice is good, sometimes bad stuff is good, but we are not a trash band. They are right about one thing, we have 2 to 5 songs on every album that you could call trash metal, but we also have so many other influences, you know. Like e.g. commercial metal, trash metal, power metal, death metal, AC/DC, Slayer, Scorpions, everything; so I call it heavy metal When I look at heavy metal I see it differently, I see everything from The Sweet to Saxon to Slayer, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Accept, Priest, Metallica, you know what I mean. So everything is fine by me as long as they do not label us death metal!!
Martien: Then you would need another singer…
Jeff:No, Dave could do anything!!
Martien: When will you be on tour and where?
Jeff:In September and October we will play in Asia and in November we are planning to do Europe. I made the decision to do no t ours in the summer, no festivals. But when people heard the advance stuff of the new album, people started to phone me and ask me if I want to play on that and that festival. You know, normally we have to fight for that and now we get several offers. My dad used to say: “Jeff, you’ve got horse shoes up your ass”. Horse shoes is of course for good luck and I hope they do not come out yet so I will stay lucky for a couple of years. I have been asked to play on the Dynamo festival this year with Slayer and may be we are gong to tour with Judas Priest, but nothing is certain so far.
Martien: Last question: who’s your guitar “idol”?
Jeff:You know I really like guys that play rhythm guitar, I listened to the Bay Area bands and really enjoyed their killer riffs and the guitar picking by e.g. Kirk Hammet and James Hetfield or the AC/DC stuff. There is a lot of anger in that sort of guitar playing and I really liked that, I was never into Vai, Satriani or Malmsteen. I got my first guitar when I was 7 and my parents offered me the choice: ice hockey or music, and they stood behind me all the way. So I chose music and I wanted to be in a band, that was my dream and it came true. I was really lucky, still am, and I worked my ass off of course.
Interview by Martien Koolen for RockUnited.Com