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Hello Marion, Jeff Waters here.
Hello Jeff! How are you? Do you have a good time in Hannover?
How are you? Yeah, it's great, nice and relaxing, get to talk to a lot of people and eat some good food.
I'm fine. Please excuse, my English isn't perfect but I'll try my best. First I would like to say thank you very much for this interview. Let's start...
Okay, my German is much worse.
A lot happened in the last months – you recorded a new album and Annihilator got a new Live-Line-Up. Dave Padden left the band, your ex-bass player Cam Dixon is back. Guitarrist Aaron Homma is the new one in the team and drummer Mike Harshaw is „the old one“. With this guys you will rock the festival stages in July and August. And the singer of Annihilator is now – Jeff Waters. How does it feel to be the lead singer again? Do the songs get an other intensity in this way for you?
It's not what I wanna to do at 49 years old. *laughs* People who know the Annihilator history know I sing on King Of The Kill, Refresh The Demon and Remains, three albums, 95-97. King Of The Kill was a very successful record. But if I listen back to the singing on that album I think it was saved because the music and the songs were very good Heavy Metal songs and people like the songs. The singing was okay, but it had a lot of things in it that I was not happy with when I listen back. So I never wanna to hear those songs again because I wasn't a singer all my life, I was a guitar player. So when we had success with King Of The Kill we were lithely - Bon Jovi would have a song called Bed Of Roses and Annihilator would have the song Only Be Lonely, which was at the Japanese only version of King Of The Kill, and the song King Of The Kill, those songs would be up on the charts with Bon Jovi and Mr. Big. It was a crazy time because I didn't know if Annihilator was going to continue, I thought people wouldn't like my singing and then we have our biggest album in Japan, what the fuck is going on. *laughs* In Europe we had a very successful tour for that and it sold a lot of records in Europe. I went home after this and I shook my head and said “I can't believe that people like it”. I mean, I was trying the best I could but I just had no confidence. My voice had some things in it, they were just not so good, like cliché things, anyway. But I was happy we did it but I wanted to get a singer and I did it and continue the career.
Dave Padden is been with me for 11 or 12 years as singer and maybe about either 9 years on guitar live as well. So when he left... partly it was a surprise and a shock but when I look back it was something that was maybe for years coming because I said: “is it something I can do, that you are not happy with, more money or something that you need from me”. He said: “no, it has nothing to do with the band, nothing to do with Annihilator or the music. I just don't have energy to get on the planes and keep touring and come to your house to do the records for two-three weeks”. He is just not into it and I said: “oh why not, what's wrong?” He said “woooah, I just wanna be home”. I know Dave for a long time and when he said that, he means it's personal and it has nothing to do with Annihilator. So I was happy, that I wasn't the problem or we weren't the problem. And he needs to go get happy, there's no point for him being a singer of a band and he's not happy, right? I thought: okay. You know, I talk to him every couple of weeks. He asked me how it's going and I think he misses it a little bit now but it was the right decision for him. It turns out it was a good one for us because Dave is an amazing singer, he' s got an incredible voice but the one thing missing for a long time is really the feel. If you're not happy about something or you're not into something, you can't be a singer. You gonna be exited and you have to be loving what you're doing.
So I looked for other singers and after 2-3 weeks I said: “näää, I'm just gonna do it myself”. But this time I'm not going to sing now, I'm not gonna go into the studio and do the record. I'm going to take vocal lessons I'm gonna go back and study what I hate about my voice and get rid of those things and find out maybe there's one or two good things about my voice and work on those. And that's what I did, you know, working on my voice for months before I even started the singing in the studio. So now I'm at a point, where I can listen to the record Suicide Society and I'm happy. *laughs* There you go!
Your 15th studio album called Suicide Society will be released in Germany on September 18th 2015, through UDR Music. Congratulation - it´s a damn good CD! You wrote and sang the songs, you played the guitars and also the bass guitar, you was the producer and the engineer, you did the mix and the mastering.
*laughs* Is that all?
I hope I forgot nothing *laughs* How long does the recordings and the other works for this CD take (all in all)?
If I was working 5 days a week 9 o'clock to 5 o'clock like a normal job, it probably take me 4 and a half months or 4 months to do this. Maybe a little less, maybe... 4 months is a good number and that's from the very first writing to the mastering is all finished. But the thing is... because I do so many jobs I have to take time off between this jobs. So I finish writing and recording, then I will take a few weeks off before I even start to think about the engineer part, where you fix things up and you get rid of noises and buzzing, just things you don't like about the technical side. That takes a few weeks, it's called editing and cleaning up. Then I take a break for a week because for the mastering your ears have to be fresh and my ears are not fresh then after 3-4 months of Annihilator every day. I take a break and then mix the record, come back and I mix it again a second time, fix things and then I say “okay that's enough”, even if there are problems or things I don't really like, that's enough, because I could spend a year doing it. I stop myself, take a break and then I do the mastering and then we're done. So I said about a 4 months process but somehow it squeezes up to about five months.
Your music is a fascinating mixture of several Rock & Metal styles. I'm also very impressed by your voice and your different vocal styles. Annihilator 2015 sounds fresh and smashing. 9 varying tracks and every single one touches me with its special atmosphere. Let's talk about two of my favorites...
I think you should be writing the biography in a review for a record company because that sounds too good.
Thank you. I will write all my thoughts about the album in a review, but it's hard for me to write in English, so it will be in German.
You did a good job, your English is very good.
My No. 1 is Snap. I really love it, especially the strophes, the hot groove, the spirit and the little bit craziness. Could you please tell us a bit more about this song? Where did you find the inspiration for this damn cool combination?
I think musically it comes from... I'd say two or three different areas. I mean musically it's the simplest easiest song I've ever written for Annihilator. It's very simple to play which is gonna make a lot of young guitar players happy because then they can play an Annihilator song. *laughs* Musically speaking it's a beat that we haven't used, it's a very slow beat, which is not normal for us. There is one small section that comes up three times in the song that has almost like a little Rammstein vibe in it and then there's the verses sort remind me of early Annihilator meets sort of like … aaaah... Ozzy kind. You know, this is definitely a mixture of different bands in all the songs, all my influences you can hear.
Take Track 2, it's called My Revenge, I mean when I hear that, I go right to 1985, right round when Master Of Puppets came out and I go “yes that's 1985 right there”, you know? Then in the middle of that song My Revenge it goes into like Set The World On Fire era Annihilator style meets Guns 'N Roses. All this combinations happening. But Snap is the one song in a whole catalogue of songs – we have over 160 songs - and Snap is the only song I think, that is not similar, not the same as any other Annihilator song. That is a new thing for me. Funniest thing is that the record company UDR and distributor Warner said their favourite songs are Snap and Suicide Society. Those two songs are the ones that are different as all the other ones I wrote in the past.
My second favourite is Suicide Society...
There you go. I've been doing quite a few interviews, talking to the record company, the video company, the distributor, talking to all this people and most of them say Snap and Suicide Society. *laughs*
I think, it's obvious why the record company said, we need to do videos for Snap and Suicide Society.
It's a good decision...
I think so.
Suicide Society is fast, hard, rough, with meaningful lyrics. I like songs that invite me to reflect... What are the lyrics about in Suicide Society, what is the story behind it?
Many people written about this subject and when I was going to write it I thought it has to make sense with the music, because it's just another song about the human race being bad to each other and being bad to the earth. So it's a song subject that has been done so many times I didn't want to do it unless I can put my own stamp, my own Annihilator/Waters stamp. It had to be good. It's basically the dark side of the human race, in history, in the past and today, everything from corrupt politicians to co-operations polluting the earth, getting away with making and promoting all these drugs, prescription drugs that nobody needs. We don't need most of the anti-depression drugs, we don't need them, they make it worse or they have too bad side effects. Pesticides in the food, all this chemicals in most of our food, the water is going to hell, radiation from phones, the terrorism, extreme religion, guns... It just all starting to finally get out of control and now we're not really even talking about the biggest problem which is destroying the earth.
I can't write about that when I'm 22 years old, but now I'm 49, now you start to realize: ok, well, you are now in the second half of your life already. You start thinking “what the fuck are we doing to each other and to the earth, it's just ridiculous”. The only good thing about this is the last line of the song where I say we're running out of time, but we can't wait any longer. In that line it means there is a chance to change a lot of the bad things we've done to each other and to the earth, to the environment. I don't know how to change it, I'd be a terrible politician. I don't know enough about this things but I do know that there must be a way to fix a lot of the problems in the world and we can do it but I don't know if we're gonna do it. It becomes just another song, another cliché subject to write about but I hope I've turned it into a really fucking cool song and if somebody reads the lyrics really actually think about what it is saying.
I'm 52 and I completely agree with you. I hope, the people listen to this song and reflect about its lyrics.
You know, everybody says you have to recycle your garbage and you have to put the plastic in this container and then the paper in here. You should make little changes to save a little bit of water. All this things that they tell us to do, it makes us feel like we're doing something to help the environment. The reality is, it's only a small small percentage of recycling the humans do to fix the problem. It's not going to help... we can feel that we're doing something good by recycling our bottles and our paper. But it has to be done on a political level, it has to be done in the court system, it has to be done with legislation, it has to be done to stop co-operations from doing everything they're doing and it has to be done on the huge worldwide scale and the problem is of course that the world is usually run by money and co-operations.
We might feel like we can contributing and helping a little bit. Some of us really have some good intentions but nothing is gonna change. It's gonna all just go to hell. As we as a world put the leaders in place and sort this mess out of the very top. I mean, it's great that we live our life. In Canada too, it's a very nice country with a pretty good government, very good way of life, beautiful nature and all the stuff. But we are very ignorant when it comes to what happens in the rest of the world with terrorism and poverty, things like that. We just don't know what's going on everywhere else. We'll live a good life in Canada until it starts to really go bad, then we will gonna be in shock. Anyway, okay, there you go. *laughs*
You talked about the videoclips – did you shoot one or both of them yet?
Yeah, we were called three weeks ago, the distributor Warner and the record company UDR said “we need a video for Snap and we need a video for Suicide Society and we want you guys get on a plane in two weeks and get over here and do it”. I was very happy and surprised that the record companies were very interested. That's a strange thing because that doesn't always happen. And then we got to the video shoot in Eastern part of Germany and we thought, ok it's gonna be 4-5 people and a couple of cameras, it will be low budget thing. We got there and it was 14 people with all modern equipment, three different camera people and three different sets of cameras. It was not a big budget but I mean for today's Metal music economy it was more than I ever thought Annihilator would get for music videos and not one video, two! Now I had a meeting at the office last week and they said they wanna do a third video. *laughs* And I'm like: juhuuuhuu *laughs*, I can be in MTV, sexy 49 old singer, front-man, star and I can be famous now and drive a Cadillac. And then I'm gonna go and buy all of David Lee Roth clothes from 1979... maybe not, maybe that's not gonna work. *laughs*
Do you know at which date the first video clip will be released?
I don't think, it's a big deal. I believe they're gonna release it right at Wacken, when we play at Wacken.
We listen to great melodies and very brilliant guitar parts. Your creativity is really impressing. Were the longer instrumental parts previously been written down exactly note by note as they are now, or did they develop while recording, during some kind of jam session?
No, no jam session. The way I write the records ever since 1993, maybe 1994, so for 21 years I've been basically just using a drum machine for years. Now they have a computer software program for the guitar players to jam along with the drummer, like a real drummer playing a beat and it's a program by company called Toontracks and it's called Superior Drummer 2. Basically you open that up in your studio computer and you can pick between different great drummers, Dirk from Soilwork or Ian Haugland or a guy still was in Rob Zombie's band. All these drummers have put together a lot of beats, you got hundreds of drum beats in there. I just pick one that I like, then I jam to it and then I recorded the guitar part, the riff. I keep doing this over and over again for a few months and when I'm finished I have 300-400-500 riffs. Then I invite a few friends over to tell me if the riffs are good or if they suck. If they are not good and everybody says that sucks we delete that. *laughs* So when it's all done, I've got all this hopefully really good riffs and I put them together, play the bass on it, arrange the song, drums/bass/guitars and maybe some solos. Then I write the lyrics once I've made a demo of the music. That's all done, the music is done and recorded, then I bring the demo upstairs to the living room or outside on the deck or something and then alright. That's it, for each song, one at a time, you're not going back once you' ve done the music, you do the lyrics and then you do the singing and finished.
Thank you for all this infos. I don't play any instrument, I have never been in a recording studio and it's really very interesting for me to hear how you work in the studio.
A lot of bands do it differently of course. They get a main writer, maybe it's the guitar player, he will go a lot of times in the studio with the drummer or maybe with the drummer and the bass player and then they'll jam, just like old school, get up and jam. With Annihilator I haven't done that really since the early 90s.
In autumn you will go on „Europe In The Blood“ tour. Will there be a DVD, recorded during these concerts?
I don't know, it's a tough one. It's gonna take me a few weeks of playing live and singing to get good like better on the guitar and singing, to get used to it again. It's gonna take some time and it also takes time for the band always to get tight. Most bands don't walk on stage and the first or second or third concert you can record a DVD. Usually they have to tour for a whole month or something before they get tight and really get comfortable with moving on stage and playing really good. So I think maybe on the headline tour we might but I don't think so. I think it's gonna be more something we do maybe at a festival or just playing for one show somewhere and film it.
How many guitars do you own, how many of them do you take with you on tour?
We have two guitar players always, on festivals we only bring three guitars in total. But that's not three for me and three for the other guitar player. That's I have one, the other guitar player has one and then we have a third guitar, that's a back up, a spare, in case one of our guitars break or a string breaks. On real tours we probably have about three each, so that will be six guitars would come with us on that. I could take lots more, just for fun and change guitars and bring twenty but that's just no point. I only use two and then you can just use one as a back up, you know? The back up guitar can be the guitar that sits in the dressing room and you can warm up in the day time and practice if you want or not want. And I own... uff... I think over 230 guitars.
Oh my God, unbelievable...
It sounds like a lot but when you think of a mechanic, somebody who fixes cars, for the professional mechanics that is their career and they are working in good jobs, working on Mercedes cars, BMW or Audio and something here. For those mechanics they have the top of the line, the best tools and equipment and those tools can cost a fortune like so much money. But that's what their job is so they try to have a lot of tools to use and a lot of good ones. For me I don't need many, like I said what I need is the most three guitars to tour and I need about five instruments for the studio, I need a bass guitar, a classical guitar, an acoustic guitar, a rhythm electric guitar and a lead electric guitar. So I really need five to do a record and three to do a headline tour and two to do a festival.
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
Oooh just, people who have never heard of Annihilator: in the internet you can audition and listen to songs on iTunes or illegal downloads, on YouTube or whatever the hell it is, you have a way to listen to songs. I think this is a time, when the big bands - the Slayers, the Judas Priests, the Iron Maidens, the AC/DCs and the Metallicas - a lot of those bands... you know their careers aren't gonna continue for 30 more years and my career isn't gonna go 30 more years. *laughs* I think it's really a good time to support or at least listen to the bands that are gone to be “the old guys” next which is gonna be Exodus, Testament, Overkill, Annihilator... you know that level and type of bands. That's like the second Thrash generation. Myself as a fan, I buy - if they are send from one of my friends in the bands, great, but a lot of times I just go and buy it or especially download at iTunes. I get the new Testament, the new Exodus, the new Overkill, just because that makes me feel like I'm supporting the real Thrash and Metal bands, that have been around for a long time, that should be in the Big 4 but do not. They deserve it now because they are coming up with some of their best records they've ever done. They are on fire. Testament's latest record has been incredible and Overkill, especially Overkill on the last record. These guys and I hate to say it but I think Annihilator has shown with 15 albums we are here for the long run and I think we're doing it because we love the music and we're honest about it and I think you should support those bands.
I don't like downloads, I'm a collector and I will buy the album. I like to say thanks for your time and thanks for Suicide Society – it's really fantastic.
Thank you. Maybe I'll see you on one of the shows in October or something in Germany.
None of your concerts is close to my hometown, but perhaps we can make it to Luxemburg. We wish you and the band all the best, much success with the CD and lots of fun on tour!
Thank you very very much. I hope to meet you sometimes, thank you, byebye.
Bandphoto: ©2015 by UDR Music
Live-Photos Jeff Waters: ©2010 by Hans Clijnk