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Jeff Waters (Annihilator)

Interview with Jeff Waters from Annihilator
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 21 June 2004, 12:24 PM

Annihilator's new album, ”All For You, is an album which like all the other Annihilator albums, is something different. Who's responsible for this ever to be changing course in the band's history? It's none other than one of the craziest (and friendliest) guys in Heavy Metal, Jeff Waters! Jeff spoke to me about the Music Industry (concerning piracy), himself (some interesting facts) and a bit about his new album. Unfortunately this is ¾ of the Interview since the last bit was answered via e-mail and well, my computer was damaged and I'm waiting for Waters to re-send me the remaining answers. Enjoy!

Since we’re an online Magazine I’d like to ask you if you consider Mp3s to be a bad thing for the record labels and the artists. Do you feel that it’s fair to have young people dragged to court by multi-national record labels for downloading music from the Internet?

That part, I don’t know much, I mean about the dragging to court part. As far as the record companies go, well…I have no sympathy for the record companies, starting in the 90’s…I remember in the good old days – 60’s, 70’s, 80’s – people would find bands, to develop the bands. They would look at the bands with a plan of maybe a three-album idea, the future for the next four or five years and then you’d eventually get great records, with 5-8 classic songs in a record. In Heavy Metal you’d get bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Scorpions; all the bands would come out with records like for example look at Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden! Maybe there’s a couple of songs that each person might not like but that is one hell of a full record! You also look at Defenders Of The Faith and Screaming For Vengeance by Judas Priest or British Steele….you look at these things and you look at all these bands…and the record companies signed these bands for the future, not for today. So anyway, we all know the story, basically 99% of the companies sign these bands now to have one or two hits and a single and that’s it. That’s in the commercial and Pop industry mostly but hey it’s the same damn thing in a lot of the Metal business. If you want a Metal band to have money put into you, you better have a couple of hit single Metal songs or else forget it. But – I don’t give a shit about record companies – as far as the Mp3s, I’ve got an opinion. For the small bands, the mp3s and the Internet is great cause they got all this free publicity all across the world and simply anybody can hear them!

They get online promotion!

Yeah, exactly, they get promotion and if the band’s people get online all the time and work really hard to promote it…they get heard whereas in other circumstances they’d never ever get heard!

I remember when I was doing my demos for my Annihilator thing, I was copying every day and every night for two months my demos and mailing them for five dollars, fiver Euros – whatever -. I’d send those demos to fanzines in Europe and I’d wait for like two weeks to get a reaction back, that they got the cassette!

Man, the anxiety!

You can’t imagine! \[Laughs] So it’s a great thing for new bands. Now, for the big bands I don’t care, if they’re making some millions of dollars and they’re loosing a million, that’s not my problem! \[Laughs]

Wouldn’t that bother you? I mean, if you were them…

If I was making this shitload of money…are you kidding? \[Laughs]

How would you feel if you learnt that a kid from a nearby block had downloaded your whole new album?

I don’t have anything to say about that except my third thing was in the middle, with bands like Annihilator and that’s where it hurts us. Where a band like Metallica…they put their live concerts on the internet, selling them for something like five or ten bucks – you can download the concert a couple of days after the show – cool for them; millions of fans will go to their site and buy their stuff but for bands in the middle – and that’s not just Annihilator size but bands a little bigger or a little smaller – that kills us cause we don’t get the record sales and therefore we have problems keeping our record deals and tour support and promotion. And so, you know, it’s hard to keep your record deals when you’re not selling the records; we don’t need the promotion, we need the sales! What happens with Mp3s is people will surf the net, listen to Annihilator and they’ll eventually buy it or not…but we don’t need that kind of promotion, we need the sales. It’s about surviving, right? Companies cannot give us enough money to record if we’re not selling anything.

It’s great for the beginning bands and for the big bands who anyway are making a lot of money but as I said, it’s killing the bands in the middle. Big bands should consider themselves very lucky…\[Laughs]

Or…very rich! \[Laughs]

Yeah, well I guess Metallica did the court stuff and the principle of the thing is right. It is theft. If you write the song and somebody steals it…

You’re entitled to sew him for downloading your music?

…It’s stealing so yes, you are, you should be. It’s not reality though. Reality is that the movie industry was a lot smarter than the record industry. The movie industry saw this coming a long time ago and they took steps to protect their DVDs.

Whenever I’ll go together with my son to shop stuff, I’ll buy him an ice-cream and a cool t-shirt or a video game and I’ll buy myself a DVD. I don’t buy CDs anymore. Why buy a CD when you’ve got your DVD special features, your extra footage, interviews and the audio’s got a better sound…surround sound! \[Laughs]

So the movie industry thought ahead and realized what was going on and the record companies are now paying the price for their fuck-ups in the 90’s. And hey, there’s nothing I can do about it, the record business has to learn what to do next. They got to use their brains and what they’re talented at and ways to sell their records and make their money!

Anyway, bottom line is that for Annihilator to be here after ten studio records, it’s a miracle! \[Laughs]

Don’t you feel you deserve to be here? \[Laughs]

No, I mean there’s got to be a reason! Cause economically it shouldn’t have been possible! \[Laughs] Believe it or not the economics of Annihilator are bad! We’re here since ’89 and I’ve put out 10 records…Everyday when I wake up I go wow! \[Laughs]

Does Jeff Waters read online Magazines and answer to fans’ e-mails a lot?

Oh yeah! I’m all over our website, Pretty much I’m in there everyday no matter where I am in the world, I’ll just pop in there to make sure people don’t think too many bad things about me! \[Laughs] Oh well…I delete them and I just keep all the good people in there, you know! \[Laughs]

You’re not the kind of artist who’d have other people answer his e-mail right?

No and that’s why we’ve got a lot of people go to our website. And I’ve also got these guys going who’s that guy who says his name’s Jeffrey B. Waters and why doesn’t the real Jeff Waters ever come on the screen?! \[Laughs] And I’m like dude look at me, I’ve got like 2.000 posts on there!

I think that’s cool, I think that’s one thing of the Internet that’s great. It’s a thing a lot of musicians don’t do and it’s wrong because if you care about your fans and if you care about your business going you owe it to them to get on the Internet, on your website and talk to people!

Yesterday for example, first thing I did when I woke up – before I even had breakfast – was to turn my laptop on and answer a few e-mails!

Wow Jeff, I don’t even do that! \[Laughs]

I do because I’ve got my fans over there. Some bands don’t even do that; they’ve got their website and they never go there.

From Alice In Hell (1989) to All For You (2004) it’s been 15 years. How different do you feel as a musician now compared to back then?

Everything changes for me. I mean, some things remain the same but mostly everything changes. My actual playing and practicing is different. When I started and on the first couple of records, I was a guitar player that would play 8 hours a day and stay inside and not really talk to a lot of people. I’ve evolved to a point now where I don’t ever pick up a guitar unless I’m writing a song for a record or rehearsing for a tour. I actually had not played guitar since the end of October 2003, all the way up to two weeks ago. Half a year I went without playing guitar.

How do you manage to stay in form?

Well I don’t. I think it has to do with the fact that when I was a teenager and in my early twenties I had done some much practicing that I got to the point where I didn’t want to get better and better at it. I just said ok, I’m good enough at the lead solos, now I want to learn more about how to write songs, I want to learn more about working in a studio, producing, engineering, playing with computers and equipment and I lost a lot of the fun in practicing. You know the drive I want to be better and better and I want to be a guitar God, that wasn’t me. For example, I like Eddie Van Halen, not for his solos but for his songs! It’s Ac / Dc for me because I lobe Angus but I’m also into Ac / Dc because of Malcolm Young. And all the bands like Metallica, Exodus, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden…I’m into them not because of their lead guitar play but for their songs, for the whole thing! I never wanted to be a guitar God. Maybe if I sat 10 hours a day up until now, I’d probably be able to do Ritchie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen stuff etc…you know like Jeff Waters is going to be on the G3 tour, you know \[Laughs]

Well, your guitar riffs have always been awesome.

Yeah but you know, I am the kind of person who wants to get out of his house, see the world, go to places! I never wanted to stay inside and play the guitar all day long to become a guitar machine. I know that there are musicians who do that, they stay in all day, everyday and practice; they go to a hotel – they practice, they go on tour – they practice. That’s cool but it’s definitely not me. They feel like doing it so it’s great, cause that’s what they want to do.

I don’t think I’ve actually learned a new scale or a new speed thing since 1990…


Yeah. Nothing I’m doing is new as far as technically what my fingers can do. I’ve reached a point where I say I’m good enough now, it’s time to start writing songs and to enjoy life! \[Laughs]

Is there anything you regret doing in the past? Like for example a cooperation or a song or something?

No. Everything sort of happened for a good reason you know. Even like losing some really good musicians. Like musicians come and go, other get married, have babies, can’t go on tour or whatever but it’s always for a good reason. Like when I lost Randy Black, he went to Primal Fear because they offered him a lot of money and that was good for Randy. Even though he said goodbye and I said oh no, now what am I going to do? because he was a great drummer. And I somehow turned that into Mike Mangini which whoever knows who Mangini is…

How can someone not know that he’s played the drums for Steve Vai?

Exactly. I went from a very good drummer, to a great drummer! So that’s the story of my career, changes have been the reason why I’m around. Some people say oh changes are bad, changes are bad, changes are bad!, they hear the new album and they still go oh it’s another change. A big German magazine guy wrote too much change, they’ve been changing all the time.

The cool thing for me about this record and doing all these Interviews and going on press tours is that for the first time in my whole 10 CDs, there’s two groups now.

If someone spots a weak point in one of my albums, which a lot do, I’ll go back and I’ll say yeah, he’s right or even Alice In Hell – classic thrash album, well yeah, you’re right. I can tell you all the negatives and positives. People are smart and a lot of what they’re saying is right and I listen to that and I go yeah, that’s true, they were right.

You’ve got a clear consciousness.

Yeah, you got to step back for a while, it’s not like a big ego thing. I’m not writing Reign in Blood or Number of The Beast or anything like that. I’m not that guy, I’m not the one who’ll write a record that’ll sell ten million copies. But this record (All For You) is really different because I get two groups finally. I get a group out of it going what is this guy doing? He’s got a love song, a thrash song and a little bit of nu metal in there? It sounds interesting! – this group’s mostly press people. It’s all the countries except Germany. The other group’s…Germany. They are the opposite, there are people there who really seem to hate the new album.

Only in Germany?

Yes. Isn’t it weird? A lot of people there do appreciate our songs and our new efforts but especially the older press guys, they’re more conservative, they want to hear a classic thrash album out of the 80’s. They want us to do Alice In Hell again or I don’t know… The problem with Annihilator (for them) is that every one of our albums is a change \[Laughs]. If it’s not a singer change, it’s going to be a guitar change or a production change or a new song writing. Some records like Criteria For A Black Widow are pure Thrash Metal with Thrash singing and almost no notes or melodies in the singing…and the next moment you’ve got King Of The Kill which is an 80’s melodic thing with some ballads on it!

It’s pretty cool this time though you know cause it’s not like everyone’s talking about the new Annihilator record and then they’ll just forget about it. \[Laughs] Theylove it or they hate it, there’s no one in the middle! You can stick in the middle and be my first person who says he’s in the middle! \[Laughs]

Actually I am somewhere in the middle! \[Laughs]

Man that’s normal, I’ve got like CDs in my collection from bands like Judas Priest, Slayer, Iron Maiden and I don’t like every one of their records, I don’t like all their songs.

That’s logical.

For sure! There are of course albums which you simply can’t say a single word about them like Number Of The Beast. These are albums that make you think you’ll never achieve anything like that. Not even the guys in those bands didn’t imagine their albums would become that great. It just comes up in you head and you do it. You can’t fabricate that.

You just go for it, just go for music and do it.

Yeah! I even had songs which I considered shitty songs and then I realized that they were classics. Whenever I hear them now I go wow, I did that? \[Laughs]. And then some are in the middle, some are just good.

Jeff do we still have time for a couple of more questions?

Well, actually we’ve only got one minute left till my next live radio interview! This is my tenth Interview and each one’s about 30 minutes. I should have told you that man, I’m sorry but you can send me the rest of the questions to my e-mail!

Sure thing. Let’s try and answer anything we can now \[Laughs]. Here it goes…Touring with Judas Priest!

Actually we just shot a video clip in Vancouver a couple of days ago. It’ll come out hopefully in the end of May and then we’re going to tour with Judas Priest!

Must be a fascinating thing to be touring with Judas Priest.

Amazing! It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Ok Jeff, I’ll leave you now so that you carry on with your Radio Interview. It’s been a real pleasure and I hope to hear from you soon!

I’ll send the rest of the answers via e-mail. It was a pleasure talking to you too. Take care man!


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