I was very inexperienced in leading interviews. Most of the interviews before, I had someone with me or prepared my questions with a more senior interviewer. This was one of my first solo interviews and my English was even worse then my confidence that day. I did break the ice with bringing him some tulips and he figured he never received flowers at an interview before. Jeff was amazingly patient and helpful and made this 30 minute interview super pleasant, informative and with a bit of joking he put me at ease the whole time, which made sure I would not abandon the idea of writing for magazines at that time. The transcribing afterwards however was another kettle of fish all together and I am not sure if I ever submitted the interview, just sent the mp3 or just lost the transcript. Anyhow, if you are curious about a naive little me and one of the biggest thrash musicians of my time, I present:
Dutch Tulips Love Canadian Metal Musicians
Nadja Meyer Ok… the most burning questions are probably still what happened with you and Joe!
Jeff Waters Joe and I decided to keep the reasons personal. Coz some reasons were his which had nothing to do with me or Annihilator and we just agreed to not talk about it. I actually don’t know what he is doing now; I just emailed him a few months ago and he was busy. I think he recorded an album with someone … I guess it was Jack from Seven Witches. Additional he got a home business, which keeps him quite occupied. It is not music… something else! That’s the same with our bass player Russ! He has his own home business in Vancouver.
Nadja Meyer So that’s why he quit Annihilator?
Jeff Waters: Oh, it had lots of reasons. He makes a lot of money in his job, so if Annihilator has very good times then it pays good money for everybody and if it doesn’t work that well and on the concerts are not enough people then it doesn’t pay at all. So sometimes guys end up leaving because of money.
Nadja Meyer It’s actually an understandable but bad reason to leave a band!
Jeff Waters Our last drummer Randy Black left the band as well for money; there is no other reason. He is an amazing drummer and he is on a lot of our records. But it is like that. If there is another band coming along and thinks “Hey if I pay him a lot of money then he maybe will come and join my band” So Randy left his friends from Rebellion and Annihilator to play in Primal Fear, the German Metal band. Just because they pay him more money! Some people don’t worry about that and just do it mostly for the music and of course money too. But sometimes it is different and the money is more important to some people. But that is normal. That’s fine. It’s like in every other job like a record company or a factory, where you leave for a better offer.
Nadja Meyer Ok… but I think music should have more to do with the feeling and the heart, than with money.
Jeff Waters That’s true. But with Annihilator, for example, is it not a five man band. It’s more a solo project. It is like a band when we tour, coz it’s five guys trying to do the best job we can. But when we do not tour it’s the writing and the business and the studio stuff. That’s mostly all my part. With the new record, I wrote all the songs for example.
Nadja Meyer Lyrics and everything?!
Jeff Waters Yes! That’s the first record I wrote everything! Ahem I’m changing the subject, aren’t I?!
Nadja Meyer Yes, but never mind. You are already answering questions I planned for later, so just go ahead! *laughter*
Jeff Waters Oh… Please keep asking me. I have this bad habit of someone asking me one thing and I will cover with my answer five different areas.
Nadja Meyer Never mind! Makes my job easier and I have not to ask too many questions. Anyway… you have to go to a music fair tomorrow. What you gonna do there and what do you expect?
Jeff Waters I have no idea what to expect from that. Sorry!
Nadja Meyer Never mind! Got enough other questions. So… people think you expect too much from your musicians and that’s a reason as well why they are leaving. Did something like that happen as well?
Jeff Waters Never! Out of the million members I had … *smile* No! You know, all the people I got into Annihilator have been incredibly talented musicians. They just left me for the same reasons as in a normal Job. Let me just try to think about different cases. Mike Mangini, our old drummer. He got offered extremely more money! Our old guitar player Neil Golferd left to Journey. Who else left?! Randy Rampage – Drugs and Alcohol! He is still a friend and still a great guy though! Randy Black – Money! Russel Bergquist – Home business, money, beautiful Dutch wife. He met her at an Annihilator tour ’99. Anyway, you see. There is even a joke around in the music business. “If you need a good musician, just go to an Annihilator show and pick the guy!”
Nadja Meyer How does it make you feel, that they leave you and your project for a bit more money?
Jeff Waters It is normal!
Nadja Meyer Ok… but with Annihilator it seems pretty extreme!
Jeff Waters Not really! Coz if you see a theme! I own a studio and a whole lot of time in this studio myself. I shut the window and put some candles on and sit there with a coffee or something. And I’m by myself with no one else and it’s just a little drum computer and my guitar and I just write the songs. And when I co-write some lyrics with other people, it’s not because I have to, it’s because I want to write with some other musicians. Otherwise, my songs just get very boring with time. And then the next job is to find a band and go on tour. And sometimes I call up a guy and he can’t do it for some reason, so he says that he maybe can do it next time. I had a lot of musicians leave the band and come back; Gene, Randy Black, D.D., a lot of guys would leave, the reason I’ll get them back later or something. If someone is not available, then I go find someone else. There are allots of good musicians, they would like to play.
Actually, if I think about it, a lot of it comes down to money too.
Because if you have money, more money… – you have a big, big bag of gold, so you can keep guys longer, then if you have a little bag. A lot of it is money. If Annihilator would be a band with 3 guys which started the band together, it is a partnership and then it’s different. But this is always been my little demo solo project and then I have to go and on the second hand I have to find a band.
Nadja Meyer Some people call you because of all this a kind of dictator or egoistic, do you think that’s true in a way or what you think about that?
Jeff Waters It’s a solo kind of thing. Dave Mustaine is doing it the same way. Dave had once a vision and he got musicians in the band and they are very important musicians like his bass player, you know? He’s in the band for a quiet long time and could be a partner, but at least he is very important for Mustaine because he is around from the beginning. But we know it is Mustaine’s band, so the people said he is a dictator and all this kind of stuff. But it is a solo project, he wrote the songs, I mean he has other great musicians, Marty Friedman and Holland and all these other guys, but he needed those people to play live and have good shows and even to call right songs, but it is his baby just like Metallica is who’s baby? It’s Lars and James…
Nadja Meyer Or like Savatage…its Olivia…
Jeff Waters Olivia and maybe his brothers…that’s the way, but with Annihilator it’s not two its just one. ACDC – Angus & Malcolm with Brian Johnson now…
Nadja Meyer So, how did you find your new crew, where did you dig them up?
Jeff Waters I don’t know, the bass player is from… I found him a little while ago… Rob Falzarano, it’s a drummer of a Band of Mike Mangini.
Nadja Meyer .. and is one of his pupils, isn’t he?
Jeff Waters Mangini said: get this guy he’s good…
Nadja Meyer He was right?
Jeff Waters Oh, he is great! But Mangini might do some live shows with us too. And we might shoot a DVD in fall. I call to get him to come out. Then we have two drummers
Nadja Meyer You really know what comes as next question don’t you *both laughing* So… Should I ever have heard about your new Bass player Sandor de Bretan?
Jeff Waters Uh… You got all the names of the guys! Good work! No. Ottawa is a big city, but certainly not a very big city for musicians. It is very closed and isolated from the music business. So there are just those bands like Backward Exciter, which have been around in the 80s and Annihilator and Alanis Morisette and I can’t think of any other artist. It is really easy for a good musician who stays in Ottawa to get no career. So he’s been trying very hard but didn’t understand that he had to leave Ottawa to find something else.
Nadja Meyer How did you find him?
Jeff Waters I know him for … ähmm… When I started Annihilator back in 1984 I saw him play in another band. That’s 20 years ago. 20 Years….
Nadja Meyer That’s quite a time ago. I was 2 at that time….
Jeff Waters Wow… *both starts thinking for a second*
Nadja Meyer Never mind….
Jeff Waters Hey… 20 years ago… it’s my anniversary than. 20 years – 10 Albums …
Nadja Meyer Ok… let’s go then to the newest CD. I heard about the song Weapon X which is on the single, but not on the Album I’ve received. Tell me about it.
Jeff Waters It should have been the first song on the record, but I fucked up and didn’t listen to the record company. And instead of writing 13 songs so we have some bonus tracks I wrote the whole album with 11 songs and took my calculator and “ 60 minutes… that’s an album” So the record company said that you have to take a ‘heavy’ song from your CD which we going to sacrifice for an EP in April.
Nadja Meyer So you actually did not know about the EP?
Jeff Waters Yes, they told me, but I didn’t listen. Next time I will listen to them. So I had to sacrifice one ‘heavy’ song for the EP that is not on the main CD and I told them to take my favourite song from the record and I tell all the fans that they have to get the EP for that one song. It doesn’t sound the same but it is our version of Metallica’s Battery. It is a song where you feel to beat somebody up or punch the wall or something…*laughs*
Nadja Meyer There is some more bonus material on this EP?
Jeff Waters There are some live videos songs… I don’t know what they are either… which songs. But they got recorded last year in Germany. And some other bonus material. And of course Weapon X. I would only buy that CD for Weapon X. Forget the other stuff! That one song makes the whole CD.
Nadja Meyer I gotta admit: I was pretty impressed about the actual album. I unfortunately just couldn’t spin it often, since I just received it yesterday. I listen to it just this morning on way to work. I really like the mixture of hard stuff and ballades.
Jeff Waters Yes! A lot of people say that. It goes from extreme thrash to a love song, so it’s all types of metal. There is some real anger in there. That is the most personal record I’ve ever done. Where about 7/8 of the stuff is directly related to my person.
Nadja Meyer I already thought so
Jeff Waters There is a lot of anger in that stuff. Every songwriter or musician usually says that but this album was kinda therapy for me. Like a drug or a lot of beer, or to see a doctor who helps you with the mind-stuff. That’s what the record was to me. First, you analyse your problem then get away from it and then write a record over it. If I wouldn’t have made this CD I would have a lot of problems. But now I finished it and it is like coming out of a 6-month therapy – seeing a doctor. You know… laying on a couch … So that’s what the record is for me.
Nadja Meyer What’s the deal about that funny song Daemon Dance?
Jeff Waters It is kind of silly and crazy. That’s the song that wrecked my hand and might have ended my music career. We’ll see when I get home. The guitar picking on this song is the fastest I ever have done on a record. And when I finished the song I had to take off for a week, because of the muscles, my wrist and my thumb. After that week off I finished the rest of the stuff which is a bit slower. And then *starts counting on his finger the month* I stopped 5-month playing guitar. So… 5 months no guitar and then I go up to my hotel room – just today – and I turn the key *makes the movement and a strange noise*
Nadja Meyer … And overstretched maybe?
Jeff Waters That happens once in I don’t know. I usually never practice. I don’t practice now for 15 years. I only practice for a tour, before and in rehearsal. And if I write a CD I just pick it up and start writing the CD. So I’m in practice when I record. So I don’t have the problem many guitar players have when they play 8 hours a day and their muscles have problems. But I did something on the CD where it happened and I hope I can fix it.
Nadja Meyer Of course, I hope that too… Do you normally warm-up, or what you are doing. I mean it is extreme playing.
Jeff Waters On tour, I usually warm up before. But I’m really bad about that. I wake up in the morning, drink my coffee and go down in the studio and *makes guitar noises* It’s all about writing songs….
Nadja Meyer Well there we are already close to my next question: You already agreed that some of your lyrics are autobiographically…
Jeff Waters Yes.
Nadja Meyer You wrote a ballad for Joachim Cans’ solo-album, “Forever Ends”, can you tell me more about how that came about it.
Jeff Waters I saw Joachim on the Bang Your Head Festival. He was playing there. And I was playing there too, and he said he was doing a solo project and he asked me if I would like to write the songs and do the guitar parts on his CD. And I Said “Yeah sounds cool!” and we got home and I was too busy with Annihilator CD and couldn’t play the guitar on his album, but I asked him “can I still write you a song?!” So I and a partner wrote him a ballad and he liked it. Well, it is a very different style of song for his album. It is almost like an American Ballad. An American, sad pop ballad. He changed it into a European, Scandinavian 80’s metal ballad. He made the song into something much different and he did a great job on that.
Nadja Meyer Now we will change to a more general part, since you already answered most of my questions, even without having to ask them.
Jeff Waters Uh… I’m Sorry! I’m talking too much.
Nadja Meyer Don’t be. That’s pretty good! What would you say Annihilator is most famous for? Beside the Line-Up changes.
Jeff Waters Famous…äh… Without the Line-Up changes?! Never, Neverland
[mfn]Never, Neverland is the second album by heavy metal band Annihilator. It was released on September 12, 1990 under the label Roadrunner.[/mfn]
and tight rhythm guitar playing.
Nadja Meyer Would you say, you had a lot of influence on today’s metal? I mean, you are pretty long in the business and all…
Jeff Waters No, I don’t think we are a big influence. But a little influence, because the cool thing is, I had some bands in the US like “Nickelback” who asks “Would you like to be guest at our show”. And I’m like “Oh, All right”, since I don’t know these people. And then I get to the show and find out that they are fans of the first four records. And that I was an influence sometimes in certain things. And I never heard of it and then the guys from “Three Doors Down” would show me apart from “Crystal End” (Alice In Hell) that influenced their ballad “Dream About you“ or something. It is a big ballad – Huge! And he said that this was sort of influenced by “Crystal End”, which is an Annihilator Instrumental. And it was just a very small influence, but he said that this part was from there. “Wow!” and then two guys from “Nickelback” are Annihilator fans and invited me as a guest on my birthday to a sold-out concert. And I was a bit nervous, coz it was a sold-out and cameras. I brought my son along and the drummer from the band called “Exciter”, he is a friend of mine and we went to see “Nickelback” backstage before the show and I was nervous to meet them, but they also to meet me.
I walked out of there with a smile for two days. I went home like “This is cool” So that’s the good part. There is just different artist that are not heavy metal. Well, Judas Priest asked us to go on tour with them this summer. We are not confirmed, but it is an honour to get asked. And things like that… it is amazing! And Joachim asks me to play the guitar on his album and not just one song, but the whole album. Or I had contact with the guy from Halfords band: “Metal” Mike [mfn] Mike Chlasciak [/mfn] You know him?
Nadja Meyer Not personal.
Jeff Waters Well, I sometimes receive emails from people I don’t even know. It’s funny, sometimes you have a bad night or something when you don’t feel that good and I had that especially last year, I had sometimes e-mails like “Hi! My name is blablabla, I got your e-mail address from a roadie and I wanted to say hello and nice to meet you…I like your playing or stuff like that” and that are famous musician most of the time.
And the next two or three days I’m like *smiles stupidly happy*
Or well… Savatage…
Nadja Meyer Yea right, how was it to play with Savatage? It was a tight practising schedule!
Jeff Waters Yes, I needed to learn a lot of songs in a short time.
Nadja Meyer Was it for two shows?
Jeff Waters No, five or seven. And the songs where not very hard to play, but when you have to learn many many songs that you haven’t heard before….
Nadja Meyer It’s difficult to commit them to memory I imagine.
Jeff WatersYes, even if it’s something easy like AC DC you need to commit it to memory. But then Chris Caffrey were bad to me. I talked with Chris Caffrey. I said okay “when do we tour?”- “In two weeks!” Okay, okay, then I knew I had to stop everything. And just listen to Savatage all day. I always take a shower at home every day. But what I did when Chris Caffrey called me?! I had to take baths every day! I didn’t take showers because I wanted to have to blast the the radio while I was having a bath and listen to the songs. So I would sit in the bath for like 45 minutes and listen to a set. but the mean thing Chris did to me; He gave me a list of about 40 Savatage Songs or so.
Nadja Meyer Thats really nasty of him. Isn’t that a bit much?
Jeff Waters I didn’t want to say that. I mean these are festival shows and 40 songs in two weeks. “Come on! That’s not fair! You’re only going to play 10 songs in a festival. Can you please give me a list?“ But I didn’t want to say that because I thought maybe they were testing me to see if I would be a good permanent member.
Nadja Meyer Would you have done that?
Jeff Waters *just gives an unreadable look* If I said anything to them about 40 songs.…I didn’t want to seem like I was going to cause a problem.
Nadja Meyer I get that. Or look like you are lazy I suppose.
Jeff Waters Yea, so I just said, email me the songs and I’ll learn them. And so I was working on about 40 songs. Then I’d only heard about 3 songs in Canada. That’s it. So I had to learn 37 new songs. I stopped everything in my life and had baths every day. And that’s all I did. I walked around with a Walkman – like a Radio – and then finally, I think five days before rehearsal Chris finally told me that there was only about 20 songs to learn so I think he was just testing.
Nadja Meyer Did you like their stuff? Or was it punishment to listen to 40 songs on repeat?
Jeff Waters No, it was good because if they ever need a temporary guitar player again I know a lot of their songs now. * both laugh *
Nadja Meyer True. What other bands would you like to play with for once?
Jeff Waters Slayer, Metallica, AC/DC, Priest and Maiden. *gives it another thought* Yea, those. There’s a lot of bands I like besides the 80s metal but but they come and go.
Nadja Meyer So you prefer to stick with the classics. I get that.
We are at the end of our time and I would like to play an association game with you. You know, like therapists do?! *both grinning* I give you 10 words and you say whats on your mind. Is that OK?
Jeff Waters Justshort answers?
Nadja Meyer Yes, exactly. Lets start: Schizophrenic
Jeff Waters Annihilator music
Nadja Meyer Refrigerator
Jeff Waters First thing comes to mind? *nadja nods encouraging* Stake, potatoes and corn.
Nadja Meyer Okay. Family.
Jeff Waters Alex
Nadja Meyer Thats your son? * Jeff nods with a smile* Tour life.
Jeff Waters Injury. pain, pain. * both laugh*
Nadja Meyer Long hair.
Jeff Waters All gone.
Nadja Meyer Unfortunately! Alice
Jeff Waters *started to get a far away look and with a little melancholy* I wonder what she looks like now. The real Alice – the girl that did the first Alice in Hell Video. Cuz she was very young when she did that. I haven’t seen her since then. She must have been like 12 years old or something when she did the cover for Alice in Hell and the video.
Nadja Meyer *ecited* There is a video video. I will try and find it!
Jeff Waters Yes! Well, I’m working on a DVD because we’ve never done a video or DVD ever. Annihilator actually has eight promotional videos and Japan and Canada and the States have seen, them but most of them haven’t been played in Europe. Which is crazy, because Europe is where we filmed most of the records. There’s eight videos and I’m just getting permission to use some of them that are owned by Sony and Roadrunner Records. We’re going to put on it the Alice in Hell video, Stonewall, Fun Palace, Set the world on fire, 21, these are from different albums. So 21, Only be lonely, a ballad – Scheisse – whats the other one…King of the kill and then something from the Refresh the demon CD called “Syn. Kill 1”. Two songs from that album. So that’s eight. And we want to put all eight of them on a DVD and then do just different footage, home videos and stuff. From 1989 to 1999. So I think we’re gonna call it “Annihilator 10 years in hell”..
Nadja Meyer Perfect! Okay, next word, Canada.
Jeff Waters best country in the world.
Nadja Meyer Copies in the net like mp3
Jeff Waters Good for young beginning bands, terrible for big bands and they kill the middle bands like Annihilator.
Nadja Meyer Aliens.
Jeff Waters Aliens? *looks questioning and gets a nod* Oh, there’s lots of them! There’s gonna be lots out there somewhere!
Nadja Meyer Famous last words!
Jeff Waters What did I just say? *sounding surprised by himself* There’s going to be lots of aliens out there somewhere. There has to be! There has to be one more then only people in the universe! *quietly* We can’t be the only people here, that would be crazy.
Nadja Meyer *sheepish* I’m not doubting that. I meant any famous last words to end this interview with.
Jeff Waters *belly laughs* I think the famous last words were this alien thing. Pretty famous enough other than that I hope to see everybody on tour. And you got to buy this record because it’s the third best Annihilator CD ever done.
Nadja Meyer I agree!.
Jeff Waters It really is to me. This is the logical next record after Never Neverland for the band. It just took me 14 years to do it!