We are very honored to present you the interview that Jeff Waters, Annihilator's frontman, gave to Rock Overdose and to Konstantinos Sotirelis. Waters talked about many issues, such as the band's past and future and gave a few details about their upcoming album! Enjoy!
You may here the interview on the player below:
Rock Overdose: Hey Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Waters: Hey Konstantinos! Is that you?
Rock Overdose: Yeah!
Jeff Waters: Alright. How’s it going?
Rock Overdose: Very good! How are you?
Jeff Waters: Good, good, good!
Rock Overdose: So, please tell me how are things on the Annihilator side these days.
Jeff Waters: I don’t know… The last couple of years have been the busiest in our whole career, I think. So, it’s going really good. There are a lot of different things going on with Annihilator, the DVD/Blu-Ray package release and the last studio album. Lots of touring… Two tours in Europe for our album. We finally got to go to Greece, Athens and Thessaloniki. Lots of guitar clinics… Just became back from the Revolver Music Awards. Tons of stuff and we’re making a new record. Quite a busy time…
Rock Overdose: Yeah, very busy time! So, did you enjoy the shows in Greece?
Jeff Waters: Oh, yeah! We did two tours in Europe for the “Suicide Society” record, one last year in… Fall and this year in Fall, October and November. And we started off the tour this time a couple of shows in Greece. Then, we did the rest of Europe. We ended in Moscow… St. Petersburg, Russia. The beginning and the end of the tour were actually the highlights for us. It was great!
Rock Overdose: What was the fans’ reaction in this tour?
Jeff Waters: I don’t know… They always seem good. [Laughs] It’s been a long, long time since we came off a tour and said, ‘Well, that didn’t go very well’. I mean, things have been going very well since 2007, slowly going better. And then, 2013, we did a record called “Feast” and we did much, much better and, then, “Suicide Society” (2015) did much better. The live crowd is… It depends on the country. In general, yeah, we’re getting asked to do more shows and festivals now.
Rock Overdose: So, you have a new release in January, a compilation album called “Triple Threat”. Do you want to tell us a few details about this release?
Jeff Waters: Yeah, it’s three DVDs, with some audio CDs. It’s a 3-DVD release, with three completely different things on it. And Blu-Ray. I guess it’s also one big Blu-Ray disc. It’s just simply three separate ideas we had last year; to do a fan package where one of the DVDs would be like a mini-documentary about life here at my house and studio, the town I live in and what it’s like here, and what the band does when we’re rehearsing in our free time. Also, answering fan questions, fans sent in videos. Lots of cool things. We‘ve got a lot of music-industry people talking about things on there. So, I wanted to make it like a mini-documentary – maybe an hour, or an hour and fifteen minutes long – that was not boring, that was kind of very interesting and fans would think it’s a cool idea for a disc. Also, we filmed one of the shows in the summer or fall, and we decided on the Bang Your Head! Festival in Germany. That’s the whole set in Bang Your Head!, raw and live. Then, the third disc is really special for us: a live acoustic set we did with five people, two session musicians and three of the members from Annihilator. So, five of us doing some of the older acoustic songs.
Rock Overdose: Is it difficult to turn the Annihilator songs into acoustic ones?
Jeff Waters: No, I mean, if you take… The songs that we picked, basically, were either ballads or they were very soft, you know, commercial-style metal, almost ballads. Basically, we’ve taken the drums off, softening things. Instead of putting electric guitars, we put classic or acoustic guitars in there, without the drums, just making it softer. That was actually easy to do. It was very difficult to play and even more difficult for five guys to play live in one take. It was very difficult for us.
Rock Overdose: Your latest album, "Suicide Society", was released one and a half year ago. Do you have any plans for a new one?
Jeff Waters: Yeah! Well, right now we have this DVD, "Triple Threat", coming out and people think that I'm very busy with this release, but that was already finished months ago and our tour finished and now I go to studio and try to make a better record.
Rock Overdose: Could you give us a few details or it’s too early to know?
Jeff Waters: You know, it's too early to know but the only thing I want to make sure is, there are two things I want to do or not do on this one. The last record, you could really hear my influences, you can hear in my voice the Hetfield and Mustaine, so I let my voice, that's because I'm a big fan of them, and a couple of songs like "My Revenge" and another one, sounded very much like Metallica and even Megadeth on another song. So, that's more the fan part of Jeff Waters coming out in the music, so, the next one I want to do more Waters' vocals, Waters' style again, cause i remember that "Alison Hell", "Never Neverland" and "King of the Kill" were probably the most original sounding, that really sounded like me, like Annihilator. So I want go back, a little bit to that. And the other thing I want to do is, on "Suicide Society" I really wanted to make the choruses very very catchy. That means you hear it once and you remember it. This time I'm not going to try this. I'm going to say that even if it's a scream or something heavy, I'm not going to change and make it commercial and melodic and catchy. I'm just going to write the song and that's how I worked the early days. I didn’t really worry about how easy it was to sing the chorus or for people to raise their fists and go, ‘Hey!’. I think I’m just gonna forget about that and just write it. Even if that means it’s heavy.
Rock Overdose: I see. How do you feel about having all the leading vocals duties on all the tracks once again?
Jeff Waters: It’s not what I was planning on doing. This is the fourth CD I’m singing on. It was ‘95, ’96, ’97. Each one, every year, it was “King Of The Kill”, “Refresh The Demon” and “Remains” and, now, “Suicide Society” in 2015. I simply had to sing on it because my partner in Annihilator, singer/ guitarist Dave Padden, quit very last minute on the last record. I finished all the music in the studio and I sang on all the songs, which I always do; singing all the songs to give a demo CD to Dave, to sing. It turned out he had some personal issues back where he lived. It didn’t have to do with Annihilator, or the money or me. It was something back where he lived and he resigned, he just had to quit the band. He couldn’t commit to the touring. He couldn’t tour anymore. So, for a very short time period, a couple of days, I thought Annihilator might be finished or maybe it’s time to stop. And, then, after a couple of days, I realized, ‘Fuck no! This is my life and I love it! I have another great record ready to go. Let’s find another singer!’. And, after a couple of weeks of looking for a singer, I said, ‘Fuck it! I’m doing it!’. You know, I was like, ‘I am gonna do this!’.
Rock Overdose: I think that was the best solution.
Jeff Waters: Well, I mean, there’s always gonna be a better singer. I’m not the greatest singer, for sure. With “Suicide Society”, the album was ready to go and we had deadlines for the release. I knew I would do a good job, maybe not a great job, but a good one and I knew I could challenge myself to try to learn to play guitar live again. But I knew it would be a lot of work. So, I said, ‘You know what?’ There was not a lot of thinking about it, I just said, ‘I am fucking doing it and that’s it’. There was no fight. I said, ‘I’m gonna do this’. Again, there’s always gonna be the question of… ‘Oh, are you gonna find another singer, somebody better?’ And I would say, ‘You know what? Unless Stu Block from Iced Earth or Rob Halford from Judas Priest want to join, uh-uh, I’m just gonna do it myself’.
Rock Overdose: Great! Why do you think that the band has seen so many members?
Jeff Waters: Oh, you know, right from the very beginning, in 1984 – the end of 1984 – I started the band with a guy named John Bates. He’s still a good friend of mine. He co-wrote the lyrics for things, like “Alice In Hell” and “King Of The Kill” and a couple of great other songs, like “Welcome To Your Death”, and a couple more, for sure. But John and I realized we were good together as writing partners and the beginning… Annihilator were born and we were trying to find a drummer and a bass player. That worked for a year, but after time I realized that the bass player and the drummer had other things to do and they couldn’t show up to rehearse... I wasn’t like that. I wanted to do this for my life. So, I learned how to play the bass, how to play the drums. I learned how to record, like, and engineer. And I wanted to know these things so I didn’t have to rely on anybody else. So, we would go in the studio with “Alice In Hell” (1989) and I would find musicians for the touring. Then, I had to find a singer and a drummer. I already had the drums done and wrote the lyrics for most of it. I played the bass on all the Annihilator CDs, except for two songs, I think. And most of the guitars and other stuff… There have been other guitar players coming in solo or doing that thing. Generally, I pretty much do everything: produce, mix, master, engineer... So it became… It’s basically 51% of solo project and 49% of band. When you see us in a live concert, we are a band. Behind the scenes, it’s the Waters’ thing. You know?
Rock Overdose: I see.
Jeff Waters: It was never… You know, I was talking to Dave Mustaine two nights ago about this… Some things are the same and some things are different between Megadeth and Annihilator. In my case, I knew right from the beginning that it was gonna be, uh… That I would be hiring musicians. I knew that right from the beginning. I tried to keep a band together, but I realized it’s gonna be my thing.
Rock Overdose: I see. So, do you think that, after 15 albums and so many years on the road, Annihilator are able to give more new things to the fans and to metal music? If you can keep doing this for, say, 10 years…
Jeff Waters: I think, as far as the live concerts go, a lot of people like to come and see our show because I don’t say the big rockstar things to the crowd. I just talk normally and make silly comments. We have fun. It’s like a rehearsal, almost. So, I think all the fans that come to our shows have a lot of fun, so that’s an important thing. If they weren’t having fun, then people wouldn’t come to our shows and, then, there wouldn’t be any point in touring. So, for the touring end, we are doing better than we have for the most of our career. That’s an easy one to decide. Musically, it’s different, because when you’re the main songwriter for 25, 30 years and you’re also a big fan of thrash and heavy metal, it’s very difficult for me to write music and not be influenced by… You know… For example, I just heard a really cool, new Testament song last night. I can’t remember what the name of it was, but I wanna download that on iTunes now, because it was killer. But, here’s the problem: I won’t listen to that until I’ve finished my record because I am a fan of Testament, and Exodus, and Slayer, and AC/DC, and Van Halen, and – you know – all these bands. And if I listen, for example, the new Metallica, if I listen to that every day, then my writing is gonna sound like that. I have to be very careful. Another example: I’ve heard Metallica, I’ve heard Testament, but only once, pretty well but I’ve heard the albums only once. Most of it was online, but when I’m done with the record, then I’m gonna download all that stuff and listen to it. [Laughs]
Rock Overdose: Did you like their new records, Metallica and Testament’s?
Jeff Waters: Oh, yeah! Of course!
Rock Overdose: So, a friend of mine told me to ask you which guitarists are your influences.
Jeff Waters: That’s just too many… if you listen to Annihilator’s CDs from the beginning, you can hear a hundred different guitar players in the influences. Anything from… That’s just too general a question to ask Jeff Waters. That works for a lot of guitar players. You can ask that question, because some of them won’t admit that they have any influences, you know... But they have many... For me, it’s just too many to list. You can hear it in our music. There’s Maiden, Priest, Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Anthrax… Everybody! Everybody’s in there.
Rock Overdose: How do you feel about being one of the most influential and most respected guitars in metal history?
Jeff Waters: I’m just one of many guitar players, who are playing metal and are good, I guess. I can give you a list of fifty guitar players who are great. But, it’s good to have… I think that my style is interesting to some people because of the way I put together all of my different influences and make them Waters-Annihilator style. But you know where that comes from. It comes from all the great bands that I listen to. I’m just a small piece, a guitar player in the metal world, just doing my part to keep playing metal music.
Rock Overdose: I see. Would you like to close this interview by sending a message to the Greek fans?
Jeff Waters: It took us a while to get back to Greece and we were so honored to go to Thessaloniki and Athens again. It was a blast, so we gotta make sure that it doesn’t take us many years to get back. Maybe 2018, we come back again.
Rock Overdose: Great! Thanks so much for this interview!
Jeff Waters: Thanks! Maybe I’ll see you again some time.
Rock Overdose: Of course!
Jeff Waters: We’ll talk, maybe on the next record or tour or something. Bye bye!
For the Rock Overdose Webzine,
Interview: Konstantinos Sotirelis
Tapescript: Stergios Gkoutsidis