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Interview with Jeff Waters, Annihilator | FESTIVALPHOTO

Interview with Jeff Waters, Annihilator


Ant from Festivalphoto and Sheila from Planetmosh spoke with Jeff Waters from Annihilator to talk about the new album, Feast, which is due to be released in August and more. The first half of the interview is here for you to read, and the second part is on Planetmosh (link at the end of this interview).

Festivalphoto: First of all, how did you enjoy the Golden Gods last night? Late night partying?

Jeff: It was great, first time there. The award show kind of things I've never really been to. I was invited to the one in L.A and didn't go, and some other Metallica thing, and I just never went to these things. I don't know why but today is the first day of three weeks of press and they auggested I come in a day early and go to the awards show, so I thought I'd try it, and I had a blast, seeing a lot of people I know from over the years, musicians backstage and some press people. What did we see... One Motorhead song - that's all I saw of the bands because there was so much fun talking going on backstage. I wanted to see Airbourne because I've never seen them live, and I love ACDC, so that was my goal, one of the things I was looking forward to, but I talked to Corey from Slipknot right the way through the Airbourne set so I missed them. We saw one song of Motorhead's from the balcony, then we were so tired and I've seen Motorhead like 103 times so it was a case of 'Cool I'll listen to it from the bar'. They're one of my favourite bands, but the talking was the most fun.

Festivalphoto: With so many musicians there, there must have been plenty you knew.

Jeff: There's a couple there that stood out, like Corey. I talk to him whenever I see him, in Canada and stuff, we've been friends for a while, but Duff McKagan and Jason Newsted, they were highlights because of things we had in common.

Festivalphoto: Your 14th studio album, Feast is due to be released in late August. Where did the title come from?

Jeff: Good question, I'm not sure where it came from. I think I was just scrolling through the dictionary or thesaurus looking for words. I was trying to think of one word for the album title and that's tough. I hit feast and went 'wait, look at the album cover', it's a bunch of cliche zombie people. Feasting, eating, zombies eating on the cover, that's cool. I checke on google and there was one band with an album caleld that around 20 years ago, but no metal band has come up with that as a title - or at least I couldn't find one, so there's originality right there. It suited the cover, but basically no more thought than that, just scrolling through the thesaurus for a one word title.

Festivalphoto: It's more original though than calling your album by the numbers - tenth album as 'Ten'

Jeff: ...Or Thirteen. I had the best one though - in 2007, I did an album called Metal, so I win for that one.

Festivalphoto: Can you tell us a bit about the song writing process for the album? who writes? separate/together? on road or sit down to write?

Jeff: With this one we had some time, it's been the longest gap between records in our hisotry I guess, so there was time to not sit down and say 'it has to be delivered to the label by this time, so I have this much time to write' which is usually what happens, and usually I'm prepared with all these guitar riffs that I've put on tape and at the end of a year or two I've got a pile of riffs. I then sit down and weed out the ones that I think aren't very good. Then I call in two or three friends, metal fans, and one who used to be in a band called Exciter - he was the drummer/singer, Dan Beehler, and I call these guys in and get them to listen to the riffs. They sit down and honestly say which ones they like, and I throw away the ones they don't like (unless there's one I really like), and I let them go through the riffs, so at the end of this you've got a load of riffs that you've got 2 or 3 people plus myself liking, so you know it can't be that bad. You can't really go too far wrong if you're starting with great guitar riffs, so from that point on I listen to the riffs and decide 'That sounds like a verse to sing on, that one sounds like a chorus, and that's a riff for a solo', so I categorise them on the computer ito solo,verse,chorus and I literally just take these things and I don't sit down and write a song from start to finish. I just start with a verse and go through the riffs and say 'ok I like that one', then I find one that will fit with. It's a weird way of working but if you at least have the guitar riffs and the groove to it they don't suck. Maybe some songs are better than others, some not so good, some in the middle, some awesome but you can't sort of argue that the guitar riff's aren't neat. A weird way of doing it maybe.

Festivalphoto: It may be weird but it obviously works or you wouldn't still be going after 25+ years.

Jeff: I get credit for some songs - you know the comments you get, "Oh that's a genius way you put these four riffs together", and I'm like "yeah, cut and paste". It's like a puzzle really.

Festivalphoto: What are your inspirations for writing the lyrics?

Jeff: Life really. I've written the whole thing which is something like 160 songs if you look at our catalogue, you've got everying really - We've got song's about life, things on tv or in the newspaper, personal issues of myself or friends, just hte ups and downs of life. If you have a bad relationship with a manager or label, someone in the industry, or something you're angry about this is a perfest way to get it out really, and then you try and keep it general so you don't narrow in on that person, but it's a good way to get out aggresssion over things you're frustrated with, and that's always metal, and if you're enjoying life and stuff then sometimes you write a ballad. I'm Canadian, so we've got some silly humour in some of the songs too.

Festivalphoto: You've played around the world, so must have played some great venues and some really bad ones. Are there any stories of bad venues you can share with us?

Jeff: Not in Europe, not even in the UK, we've been pretty lucky. We just came from South America a couple of days ago, and that was brutal, part of that was the travelling. Some of the venues just don't have money, whereas some in say Buenos Aires are nice venues and good equipment. You can't at our level, and most metal band's level, you can't fly down there with all your amplifiers and stuff, so its all provided locally, and with a lot of the cities and countries in South America, you get what you get. You try to ask for this and that and try to make sure it's there, but literally our drummer walked into one venue and saw the two bass drums - one was from one drum kit and one from another, so for a drummer that's a big deal, a cut and paste drumkit. Amplifiers may say Marshall and they are Marshall but they've been heavily used for years and the tubes are worn down and they sound like crap - you get that a lot. The power in a lot of the venues is not only buzzing, but they have bad grounding problems, so we actually had to cancel one show as it was dangerous to play. What happens is you go through that stress and complaining, because you want to sound good for the fans, but once you get over that gear thing and start playing, you realise what it's all for because you see the kids and realise they're really into it and know all the words, and then you just forget about the crappy gear you've got, and sound that you know is going to end up on youtube with people saying it's horrible. You just do it - Destruction, Kreator, everybody does it down there. So those venues would definitely be the worst from the technical aspect.

Festivalphoto: You're often described as the biggest selling metal band from Canada. What's the Canadian metal scene like? What other Canadian bands would you recommend people to check out?

Jeff: That's because we're really old that we've got that title. The Canadian scene wasn't really there for us. When we got our first record deal it was with Roadrunner but we had to go outside our own country, to New York and Holland and sign deals there. There are a lot of bands in Canada that are well known everywhere and talented - Celine Dion, Brian Adams, Devin Townsend, Rush, all these big bands from Canada, but for a lot of Canadian bands, the system is that a lot of the press and the labels want to be the ones discovering you, signing you, making you famous, and if you've already gone outside Canada and you come back in 6 months later they're not interested. I remember with our first interview, the only reason they wanted to do interviews with us was Roadrunner in the US was forcing them to do it, other than that they were just not interested. They only want to be the ones that made you famous, so we got lumped into that one with a lot of other bands and if I'd signed a deal with a Canadian label instead then we'd probably be well known and supported inside Canada but we'd have been shit out of luck everywhere else. There are guys like Danko Jones, Devin Townsend, Annihilator, well not so much Annihilator - we've had this huge rise in the last two years, I don't know what happened, but now we play venues there and sell them out - we played the MTL festival, 35000 people, but previous to that, like Danko Jones and Devin Townsend we were well known around the world and some of us sell really big ticket numbers - Danko and Devin can go to Germany and play to a load of people, but mostly just play to 100 or 200 people in Canada. For me Devin Townsend is a genius - there's no other way to describe the guy, and he and I have had lots of talks and joke about "I went to this club and played to this many people". He's like "I did this acoustic tour and played in Northern Ontario to like 40 people, and some of them were my friends and relatives, and then I get on a plane and I'm going to play in front of 6000 people in Europe". That's Canada for you - they do support their own, IF they get their hand in first. That's why bands like Crash Test Dummies, Barenaked ladies, Sum 41, all these bands were smart - they got out of Canada and got so big that Canada had to recognise them. Metal and my band is never going to have that success. The good thing for me is about not having success. I put a positive spin on it, and the best way is to say If I did have success like that I'd have a hectic life, whereas now with Europe and Asia earning me a living, I have time off - I can take a month or two to be a lazy bum or to mix another bands albums, take my time writing, that sort of thing.

Festivalphoto: It must be important really - if you work constantly and don't take a break then people burn out.

Jeff: Yeah, combine that with booze or drugs or general crappy health, I don't exercise anymore, I should be, I smoke a bit - quit for 14 years but started up again last year, I don't drink anymore (15 years now), don't do drugs, and with time off I get lazy at home. I see friends in other bands just killing themselves, putting a record out and doing almost two years on tour, and I get it because business-wise and popularity-wise they have to. They have a tour manager, a lawyer, an accountant, the record company's putting in the money, there's 5 or more guys in the band and I see why you have to go for that long, just to make rent for some of these guys, but I'm so lucky that I haven't had to do that - that would be burn out for sure.

Festivalphoto: Thankyou very much for your time.

You can listen to the second part of the interview over on Planetmosh where Sheila talked to Jeff about the tracks on the album

Writer: Anthony May
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