While promoting their new record “Feast“, to be released in August, Jeff Waters also came to Paris and here’s what we asked him !
Hi Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Waters (vocals/guitar) : Exhausted but happy.
Looks like we’re the last of the day
J : That’s the happy part. (laugh)
So your new record will be released in August. It looks like you kept it as a secret. Obviously, a new album was coming, but there weren’t really information about it. How went the process around this new one?
J : Last CD we did was in 2010 and we didn’t start writing any song until middle of January 2013. Dave Padden decided “you know what? Let’s be very busy in this time but no writing” and I said “okay, sounds good”. Because the idea was, we could do another CD, put it out in 2011 and it might be the same as the last one or a little bit better or not as good, we just didn’t want to do that anymore. We just take time, doing a lot of touring and festivals with Annihilator, guitar clinics for Gibson and Epiphone, playing at 7000 Tons of Metal, I mastered and produced CDs. We just got really busy and then in January “well, let’s do it”. Dave flew to Ottawa and he was right because we had, drinking too much coffee, that feeling for three months. This is the quickest Annihilator CD.
Will you do it again?
J : No, too long. Maybe two years.
What did inspire you for the songwriting? Isn’t difficult to innovate after thirteenth album?
J : Yeah it’s hard to innovate at all. The thing is, with me I have done what many bands do when you have fourteenth records. Of course you’re repeating a lot of things, it’s normal. Slayers, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, we all do the same thing. Sometimes we have great songs, great albums; sometimes okay/good; sometimes not so good. You can’t be perfect every time. You can have great “Back In Black”, “The Number Of The Beast”, “Killers”, “Screaming For Vengeance” or “Painkiller”, you can’t do that all the time; if we did we’ll be all rich and famous and Gods, it’s impossible. That’s why the break was go for us, it changed something, but I think, what comes out of the record didn’t came from the time off, that was just being into it, excited. The music is still stuff coming out from many years ago. There’s a ballad in there, the kind of music is like to write; a punkish/Guns N’Roses/Roses Tattoo-ish hard rock song, with Danko Jones singing. Dave and I “let’s get Danko to do that”. We haven’t change anything and we haven’t change style, we just maybe brought back some older styles again. But then there are two things dropped in the album that are new: one was the little intro for the song “No Surrender”, I don’t know with, I never bought a (Red Hot) Chili Peppers album but there’s a little seconds of funky.
With the bass!
J : With the bass and the funky guitar and I went “Chili Peppers?” Flea and the drummer are great, the band is great, I just never bought the records but somewhere I heard it, maybe in a DVD or live, one of my brain cells had a funky flash and that’s what came out. The third song ”Smear Campaign”, we were touring about three weeks in South America and Dave looked at me and said, he was listening to the album for the first time, “Smear Campaign, were you listening to St Anger last year?” and I said “No, I don’t have that CD”, “You don’t like it?” “I never really listened to that one, but I did watch the DVD” and something in there that I liked went in a brain cell and popped on the main riff of “Smear Campaign”. Things happened and Dave goes like “that sounds like Slayer, or Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc.” I’m a big fan, any originality that I have kind of come from everybody else, so that’s just the way it is.
If you had to pick up three songs, which ones and why?
J : Number one: “No Way Out”. I like the groove of the bass and drums, but it’s still like… Exodus got a song called “Toxic Waltz” many years ago, and this song doesn’t sound anything like that but there’s a feeling in that song of thrash metal meets groove; Testament got a song “Trial By Fire” same thing, a bass and drum groove and heavy guitars going on. I think I got my own version of that, no influences of those bands but that feeling in “No Way Out” and the lyrics were about United States’ court case, a trial, of a girl that was from January to April, the same time that my album has been written; on the TV every day, live court. My fiancée and I we got obsessed with that, we watched 6 hours every day and at night time you watch the replays. We really got addicted to this trial it was really terrible. She sliced her ex-boyfriend’s throat, shot him in the head and stabbed him 29 times. She got convicted of first degree murder but because she’s so crazy, sick, she got lawyers, playing with the legal system and now she’s still convicted of first degree murder but now there’s still more court coming, so it’s frustrating watching it, it makes you wanna take revenge; because you’re angry at the system, at the person; it’s a little bit crazy but I’m very proud about that song.
Is she the character on the cover?
J : Nope. So that was my preferred one with the ballad “Perfect Angel Eyes”, if you read the lyrics obviously you’ll see I’m in love and usually everybody has that kind of moment sometime, I just got to write it in the song, put all the listeners through torture, hell, listening to my personal relationship feelings. And then, “Smear Campaign”, the third song.
What can expect the fans about it? Old school thrash metal Annihilator style?
J : Typical Annihilator, thrash metal, a bit of speed metal, lots of heavy metal and a tiny piece of different types of music thrown in there.
What are you planning around this new release? There’ll be a Euro tour, and then? Will we see you next year at Hellfest maybe?
J : I would say yes because we’ve talked with Hellfest this couple of years but they already had the line-up, whatever it was. But we played in 2010, we got a very good reaction and I think now there’re good things; the sales of the last three CDs went up but I think France is a big part of that too, very slowly sales are going up and I think now Hellfest has to take us back, we hope, it’s an amazing festival, fantastic; one of the best ones, we like Wacken, Sweden Rock, Masters Of Rock and Hellfest.
You’re a good friend of Alexi Laiho from CoB. Did you listen to his new record?
J : I haven’t. I heard one song, like journalist’s and then you have to comment and I heard one song but he hasn’t sent me the CD yet, so I think that I actually have to buy it, pay my money. He asked me to do play a solo on a cover song he did, probably a bonus track or something. I just sent the solo by email; maybe on the Japanese release.
What about your Devil Drive Overdrive pedal? Is it the Jeff Waters’ style in it, to get the same sound as you do?
J : Some of it yeah, because my favorite pedal that I used was called the BOSS OD1 and was available only in the 80s and there was three models made. After that, they kind of had the same pedals but it was never the same. So there’s lot of guitar players out there, old school players that contacted me and offering thousand dollars to sell one of my pedals. But the problem is, I never sold them, I have three of them, with electronics the circuit boards, even if they just sit somewhere, for 30 years, the parts just get old and the sound changes. I got a company in Montreal, to copy my pedal which is not my pedal, a BOSS pedal making it a little bit better and they said “ok but we also want to make a switch that makes more modern sound” that a lot of players like, I said “ok, so one of the switches bypasses everything and it’s just that sound of Annihilator’s records for many years” and with the other one, they can do what they want, more sound more style. But it’s great; it’s a good thing for me, because now I have a pedal that will not fall apart. It’s cool.
Which advice could you give to guitarist that wants to play some of your music?
J : Well, I think you’ll have to learn with your left hand, to put your hand in a classical guitar position. When you’re looking at me playing guitar, you don’t want to see my thumb, it’s behind the neck and the right hand is just practice, lots of practice like: Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, James Hetfield and Gary Holt from Exodus, done, you’re good.
Because, even your easy tracks are hard to play, very exhausting.
J : Yeah, it’s exhausting to me too. The one good thing about having my own studio is that I don’t have to play the whole song at one take. I can just do the first minute and stop, stand up, stretch my arm, have a coffee and then start again the next part. For live that’s difficult, I have to practice a lot and get my muscles back and then spend a lot of time practicing.
And what about a young band that wants to do music, which advice could you give them?
J : Don’t do drugs, watch your drinking of alcohol and make sure you don’t have a problem with it because one of the biggest issues now, record companies want your publishing, merchandise rights, tour profits, they want all of you. You have to have your brain clear and learn about the music business and it’s really difficult for young bands because they don’t have any experience in it so you will have to always ask questions and the best thing to do is to ask people what they have done before. If you have a manager, a guy come to you and say “hey I’m a manager, I love your music, you’re the best, you’re the greatest blablabla” don’t listen! Ask what he’s done before as a manager and he has never done anything: walk away right away, that’s number one rule. If a record company wants to sign you, you say “which bands are on your record company?” and if you’ve never heard of them: walk away. If you heard of them, use your email and ask the other bands, are they happy? Are they making any money? If they’re not: walk away. You have to be strong, you don’t have to be an asshole, you just have to be strong. I can look people in the eyes, shake their hands, smile and be very nice to them and polite, even though I know they rip me off or trying to steal or being dishonest. It’s the booze and drugs, learn about the business and musically, listen to many artist, many styles, just don’t listen to one band or two, don’t learn to be a shredder, learn how to write a song and play rhythm. Nobody cares about, except Malmsteen, Satriani, Steve Vai all that, but just listen to Malcolm Young from AC/DC and don’t laugh when your friends say “he plays three chords” because Malcolm Young is one of the best songwriter of all time and sold the biggest album of all time “Back In Black”, he wrote it and he is one of the tidiest, most influential studio guitar players. Every musician, Mike Mangini from Dream Theater/Annihilator/Steve Vai, AC/DC beat is the number one thing to learn as a drummer, perfectly to a computer, to perfection then you’ll play Mike Mangini and Portnoy, then you could do all the fun part. But if you can’t play an AC/DC beat, you can never work in a studio as a drummer, you can’t get a job as a drummer – I got lots of advice, don’t I? (Laughs) – You have to keep your head clear, listen to a lot of music and ask to anyone, what they have done and if they have done anything, run, right, even if it means you don’t have a record deal, just run away, it’s the best that you can do.
Which bands did you listen to recently? Did you listen to Black Sabbath’s new album?
J : Well I only heard the first single “God Is Dead?” I liked it. Ok there’s Ozzy, he’s singing and it’s Ozzy. We’ve heard Ozzy for so long but one thing I felt was “wow, I haven’t heard Tony Iommi in so long”. Hearing his riffs, the first thing that came up was: Pantera, Down, you just listen to the riffing, Metallica, Tony Iommi inspired us all, definitely.
Is there something that you’d love to change in your career if you have the possibility to?
J (Showing the packet) : Cigarettes are bad but other than that no. I quit drinking fourteen years ago but I was also lucky because I had a lot of fun doing my crazy stupid things; but I never hurt anyone so, my liver maybe, but I had fun, so I don’t regret that because I didn’t cause any damage to people or myself. Maybe six or eight years ago I’d say the lineup changes things were, maybe, supposed to be like that. We have fans all over the world, each one of them liking different albums and if that wasn’t the case, I’d be unhappy as a songwriter, but we have fourteen CDs now and still going up, youhou! (laugh)
Finally, we are “RockYourLife!”, so as a conclusion, what rocks your life?
J : Rocks my life, what is “rocks my life”? Food! Food is bad for you but good food! Movies, (whispering) sex with my woman; what else do I like? Obviously watching the court case, (laugh), actually I like watching the legal system’s work, TV. I’m pretty fucking boring outside of music because the things I like is music, going to concerts, going backstage to meet people, going to music store looking for some equipment, boring shit. The concerts are fun but music computers: boring, but I like computer and studio work, so mostly music.
You know, Kobi from Orphaned Land said hummus.
J : Oh yeah! Tadziki, hummus and peter bread! I gotcha there!
J : A good one!
Website : annihilatormetal.com