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A Feast Of Metal: An Exclusive Interview With Jeff Waters Of ANNIHILATOR - Part II

By Rob McNees, Vinyl Aficionado
Sunday, October 27, 2013 @ 3:26 PM

On Feast: "The whole album came together and we feel lucky in the fact that everything came together like it did. Good cover artist, good label, good musicians. There you go, I'm happy. I can't complain about a damn thing right now."

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Okay Pure Rockers! Here's Part II Of Rob McNees's awesome interview with ANNIHILATOR's Jeff Waters! In case you missed Part I, you can check it out right HERE.

The discussion continues.......

KNAC.COM: I've had many discussions with multitudes of musicians and again, I'll bring up Jack Frost because he doesn't drink anymore either. He has a healthy lifestyle and he eats right. But you know, when you're on tour, what are you supposed to do? You go from town to town, you ride the bus or van, unload, soundcheck, play your gig and then the whole thing starts all over again. You ride for hours till you get to the next town. Partying, alot of the times is from a lack of something better to do. It's a little different now with the internet but it's still mostly the same.

WATERS: When I started with this, the booze was always there. And then when I really started going we'd be sharing buses with PANTERA or Priest or these different bands, you just knew there'd be alot of shit going on in those early days. And I kind of justified how much I drank with, "I don't do drugs. Drugs are bad and if I get caught I can maybe never go to Japan or never go to Europe or not be let in The States if I get caught and get a record for it". So I just drank. I never looked down on people who did drugs but I would proudly say I don't do it. Yet I would go home at nighttime every single night for 4 years and pound back 15 or so beers. So in a way I'm glad it happened that way because I never killed anybody in an accident or did anything nasty like that. I didn't get liver disease or anything but it actually saved my ass. When everyone else was sitting around doing cocaine, because there was a lot of coke around, it helped me sail right thru. The original members of ANNIHILATOR, I can't exactly say who from the first few line-ups but out of probably about 8 guys from those first two albums and the touring for it, at least 3 guys have some serious near-death problems and some others with some very serious problems. Alot of people didn't make it out of those times to approach their 50's in ok health, you know? And that's another thing: just because you want to be in a band and like people like Slash, and guys like that were doing herion and it was part of their public image and all the drinking and drugs, the reality of it is as you get older and you take a look at what's going on with these people right now and you go, "Holy shit"! There's a few people who squeaked by and got lucky but look at Slash for instance. He has a pacemaker, he doesnt do that crap anymore. The PANTERA guys. Phil has been wrestling with those demons for so long. Now he has the back problems and the medications and all. And Dime. I knew Dime, too, and we stayed in contact once and awhile and towards the end he was very bloated and he didn't look very good. And everyone knows that Rex, he's having some health issues as well. Right?

KNAC.COM: Right.

WATERS: It goes on and on. All my buddies I used to tour with or are friends with or just know, it's happened to. Zakk had to quit, for health reasons. For whatever reasons they were, sometimes you just sense it and know it's not what it was when we were younger. It's not a way you're going to last a long time in the music business. Unfortunately, sometimes people come along in the music business and totally break that rule and keep going and go nuts like Ozzy and still have success. He has TV shows and tours and everything but the odds are, that if you continue to do that shit you're never going to have a career at it lasting very long.

KNAC.COM: For one, I think Ozzy is an oddity of science. But the fact of the matter is when I hear him talk, I dont understand what he's saying 75% of the time I'll be honest with you. And I try. (laughs)

WATERS: You know what? I think it really depends. Sometimes I'll hear him in an interview and he's clear as day. And you can get him. But then sometimes you'll see him on one of his 'What did he say'? days and you just don't know. If you can believe what you read or hear he came out recently and talked about his, and I don't know if it was during the recording of the new Sabbath album or not, but he was back on this and taking that. If you catch him on a sober time I think he's pretty clear but when it's back to the booze and the drugs that it can definitely effect your speech I'm sure. (laughs) I mean, Lemmy's still going. He's still going. Barely. We just did the Wacken festival a day before they played but we had to leave before he came on. And he's having some tough times and stuff. These guys are legends and it's amazing they've lived so long and put out such good music and done what they've done and they're still touring. But you know, I was just pointing out that we've all had our problems. On the road it's different. I've had my problems but everyone's road is a little different. When I quit drinking, all of a sudden, you get depressed. And it's like a testament to what you were saying, there's nothing to do to fill the time when your touring and traveling to fill that void of not drinking. It's just the shits to be away from your family for months. There are alot of things you can do, you just have to get thru the sober part, finding stuff to do, and after awhile you get used to it and start thinking, "Hey, I can go for a fucking walk somewhere in a new town or go to a resteraunt or play soccer outside the tour bus with the guys in the band". There are things to do to fill that need. We used to just go to bars and strip clubs like all the bands used to seem to do but there are other things in life.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, unfortunalely its called growing up. Sometimes it's not so much fun but sometimes it has it's own rewards.

WATERS: You know I don't excersise. I should. I'm on and off smoking cigerattes. I don't smoke dope. I don't do any drugs. And I don't drink. BUT, I'm not that healthy of a guy. I don't exersise. I eat like a pig lots of times. I go up and down in weight. But I figure, if you can survive this long in the music business and you're not drinking or abusing drugs then what the hell, you've survived.

KNAC.COM: Well, you're doing rather well, you're running your own show, the Captain of your own ship, I don't think that anybody can ask for anything more than that.

WATERS: True, and I get the creative freedom to just make the music I like. Sometimes you know, it's not the greatest. You look back at your own stuff if you want to be honest and go, "Hey, there's 2 or 3 really good songs on that album". Then you stop yourself and go, "Why wasn't there 10 good songs??" You know? At the time when you write them they're your babies and you think they're all good. But if you're honest a little later you can look back and think Shit! I missed that song or I missed that album, and that was a crappy one, I could have done a better job or I could have put some better songs on there. You can't judge that at the time you're making it cuz you're in love with what you're doing. There's ups & downs, hits and misses with your songs and with the artistic end of it. And then you have the business end of it. We had a record that came out in 2005 called Schizo Deluxe, and my singer, guitar player, partner Dave and I thought that was probably the best record we would ever do together between the 2 of us. And then the president of the record company died in a car crash before it was ever released. And, of course he had a wife and kids and the whole thing was just depressing and sad. It was a mess. So we moved on to another record company and watched what we thought was one of our best albums just go down the toilet. So other things are out of your control, too. We were signed to SPV Records. You ever heard of them?

KNAC.COM: Yes. SPV in Germany.

WATERS: 25 years strong. Massive, massive Hard Rock & Heavy Metal label. They had everybody on there. MOTORHEAD, SAXON, KREATOR. They had Rock stuff, Blues. They had it all. They were a fixture. They were a staple of Rock in Germany for labels. We signed with them. In 2007 we put out a record. We did some touring, some really good touring, and at the end of the tour we were wondering why our record wasn't in the stores in England. We got tipped off by the label that they were going bankrupt and applying for bankruptcy. So it was like 2 albums in a row, here we are with 2 damn good records and great tours but then all these label problems. So alot of this shit is just out of your hands, you know? But again, some things I've written, songs I've done have ended up quite simply not as good as other ones. That's why some records were not as popular, sales would go down. But since 2007 everything has gone up so I'm just lucky as hell.

KNAC.COM: So, that kinda brings us to your new album Feast. And we'll touch on that in a moment, but as an added bonus on the deluxe edition on your new album you go back and do some of the older songs with Dave, whose really been the only mainstay in the band. He's been with you now for what, about a decade?

WATERS: Yeah, a little over 10 years now. We revisted some old songs. I never really wanted to do something like that myself, but I have the EXODUS, TESTAMENT, SCORPIONS re-recordings and I love alot of those things but sometimes you think "Why did you touch the classics??" "Why did you say in that interview that it's better than the original?" And I've read that stuff and thought Oh My God, nothing touches the original! I get what your trying to say and what your wanting, but it's not right. And I didn't want to re-record my old stuff. But Dave had a good idea to re-record the stuff, not like a best of, but songs we play or want to play live from the past. And I go ok, but there's no way I'm gonna charge money for that. Maybe as a free bonus CD or a free download from the record company or something and that's exactly what happened. Yeah, and we said we'd never say that we're gonna approach or think that they're as good as the original but they're pretty damn close. (laughs) So it was kinda fun.

KNAC.COM: Ok, so let's get to that new album, Feast. The first thing that caught my eye was of course, the artwork, which I think is just absolutely outstanding! Especially since I'm a huge fan of the TV show The Walking Dead.

WATERS: You know what, our last record, 2010, was the 2nd of three records that started going up for us, the other being 2007. The one from 2010 was self-titled. And it had a zombie on the thing, which I thought was pretty cool. It was like Linda Blair from The Exorcist meets the undead meets Alison Hell, our little character we've had for years. And then that was done. I wanted to move on to something different. But the artist just loved that. And he said he had something that would be great for your the cover. And I saw it and said, "Aww, please no". I said it nicely, you know, no more zombies please. (laughs) I was sick of all this Walking Dead stuff and zombies everywhere. Our last record had that. I said can you send something different. But he said, "No, trust me on this. When I send it I want you to really look at it". So I got it. And it was good, it was pretty good. But it was missing something, it looked too cartoonish. So I got a friend of mine whose a model in Spain and asked her if she wouldn't mind doing a shoot as a zombie. So she sent it back and the artist put the real person in the picture. Which actually looks like a man in the picture but she's a model. (laughs) But anyway, she made it perfect because it combined the realism of her with the cartoony background. Then the label came up with the brilliant idea to make it 3-D with the new 3-D technology so when you actually see the bonus stuff with the 2 cd's it looks like you could put your thumb right thru the cd cover. It's pretty amazing. So sometimes like I said, artistically when you write a song it's hit or miss, and I think with this album the combination of the timing of this release with no other major releases coming out is good. I think Metal fans are kind of starving for stuff right now. SLAYER is kinda in limbo waiting to write a new record and EXODUS is kinda question marky because Gary Holt is with SLAYER. And METALLICA is in-between records. And ANTHRAX, who don't have a new record out right now, you know? You've got some other guys working on some stuff but basically there's a little lull in there and so I think we're coming out at the right time, we've got a cool cover, we did a pretty good job on the record. We were kinda hungry on this one. We took 3 years off before we started to write on this record to try to get some fire back in the thing. We wanted to see if that would kick us in the ass and it did. Not 3 years off but 3 years off from writing. We did a shitload of touring, festivals & cruises, guitar clinics, mixing & mastering in my studio, so we kept busy. The whole album came together and we feel lucky in the fact that everything came together like it did. Good cover artist, good label, good musicians. There you go, I'm happy. I can't complain about a damn thing right now.

KNAC.COM: I think that's a good spot to be in. So tell us a little bit more about the new album than what you just told us. You took a couple of years off of writing, you were doing other things like mixing, etc. And I do want to touch on something...my wife and I got married almost 3 years ago and of course with jobs and kids and whatnot we weren't able to take a honeymoon. So this year we finally got to take a honeymoon so we took a cruise. It just so happens it was a little cruise called 70,000 Tons of Metal.

WATERS: Ohhh, did I say hi to you on that thing?

KNAC.COM: Well, here's the deal. I need to explain to people who don't know. This guy named Jeff Waters does this nightly all-star jam where they play whatever they feel like playing, cover songs or whatever, with members of the 40 odd bands who are also playing on the cruise. First, how did you get that gig?

WATERS: ANNIHILATOR played on that cruise before, I guess the 2nd version of it, I think the one you & I were on was the 3rd?

KNAC.COM: I think it was the 4th.

WATERS: Ok, well after playing there I literally got off that boat and had the time of my life and the way my mind works is I realized that ANNIHILATOR couldn't get back on that boat to play for at least 1 or 2 more of the next few years if at all, so within 24 hours I came up with this scheme. "Wait a minute, here's my way back on the boat". I talked to Andy whose a good buddy of mine, he runs the cruise, and asked him, "What if we did a thing where we get in the Karaoke lounge, get a couple dozen musicians together who are playing on the cruise and pre-organize or arrange a jam session"? And the 1st time I did it it was like just throw everything up there and go but this year when we did it it was a little bit more planned out. You had Doro playing with Mille from KREATOR singing "Breaking the Law" and like Christina from LACUNA COIL came out and did "Bark at the Moon" with me and then the other 25 musicians we're doing other songs. It was a match of really good guys, Victor from Rage, I mean everybody was up there. The SUBWAY TO SALLY guys. It was the perfect way to work my way back on the boat, get paid, get a free room on the cruise and have fun. Me and my fiancee' go on that every year now and I put on that jam.

KNAC.COM: You know the unfortunate thing for ME, is that all the bands are still playing at the same time your doing this so, you know there's so much shit going on on this cruise at the same time you gotta try to pick & choose who you see and what you do. It was almost frustrating for me because there's so much to do, there's so much going on. There's always a couple bands playing around the same time, you also have to work in food, sleep. It's just crazy.

WATERS: Yeah, that's funny because we had this little short list of bands we wanted to see but with only 4 days on that cruise plus the 2 jam days that kept us busy, we would almost find ourself running to watch a band and then realize "Oh shit, we just missed another band on the pool deck that we wanted to see on our list". And it should've been so clear, because every morning they put out a schedule with the bands playing that day on it and any idiot should be able to go "Let's see this band at this time and that band here" and just carry the schedule around in your pocket. But like you said, when there's food and sleep and all these bands and talking and meeting people, there's the sun , there's basketball, there's the Karaoke thing, it's like you almost have ADHD. It's like you just cannot focus on anything on that boat. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Yeah, it's hard. I lost a full day because I'm a vinyl collector and I have like 6, 7000 albums, 7", 10", all of it. I took all my covers to try and get them all signed so basically I didn't do anything 1 full day but stand in line to meet the bands and get my covers signed.

WATERS: That's great. I liked it too because it's like 95% of the bands come and just hang out. You have a few that hide away because they just socially can't deal with that and I understand that too. You get some guys who are just plastered out of their brains on there but the majority of the guys are just so approachable cuz they realize that Hey, these are our fans. And sometimes little cruises like that give a few guys a kick in the ass because they realize the reason that your here with your career is because of the people on that boat. Because of people like that. So drop your hang-up and just talk to them. I spent every moment I could meeting people and talking and it was a lot of fun.

KNAC.COM: I would think by now any band that takes that cruise should pretty much figure out that if you don't really like hanging out, you don't really like talking to people and meeting fans then that's probably not the place you need to be cuz that's what's gonna happen. (laughs)

WATERS: When I first started talking to Andy about the show what most managers and bands did at the beginning, I think alot of us had concerns like, "Wait a sec, that's gonna be weird". For example, if I go to Europe to a festival or something I'd just be crushed because 1 person would recognize you and then 2, and then 50, 100, 300 people. There would literally be a surge on you and you'd be screwed. So that was one huge thing people worried about initally. Bands ask me all the time "What's it like on there? Is there like lots of security"? And I tell them, "Dude, when you get on there you don't have to worry about anything. The fans are just people. They see many, many rock stars on that boat. They're respectful, they're not jumping on you or trying to grab you. They don't try to force you into a picture by putting their arm around you and slamming your neck into a wall". This is a real casual thing. So when bands come on they are hesitant but right after their first trip they want to go back. (laughs) It's great!

KNAC.COM: It was great! For example, we sat down for breakfast and Andi Deris from HELLOWEEN and Steve Unger from METAL CHURCH sat down at the table with us and we just started yapping together like it was nothing. I mean, normally when is THAT gonna happen?

WATERS: Yeah, it's amazing. That's awesome. I was talking to the MEGADETH guys and the SLAYER guys and you kinda get the feeling that there's no way in hell that they'd go on that cruise even if the money was there to get them to play just because it's a little much for them. But I think the mid-level bands like ANNIHILATOR, OVERKILL, EXODUS, you get TESTAMENT, these bands. They are right at home on these cruises. They don't have any of those worries, they just fit. I try and convince some of these bands, it's like "You gotta just do it".

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I don't see the SLAYER guys doing it for sure. Tom Araya has changed quite a bit. I knew those guys way back on their first tour. They were driving around in Tom's Camaro, John Araya was driving around behind them in a U-Haul truck. But's he's a completely different cat now. Kerry is approachable backstage I guess but he's not the kinda guy whose just gonna walk out and hang out with people and stuff. That's just not the way they're built.

WATERS: Yeah, I think that there's like 2 levels up there. One is you're use to that rock star thing and that can be a positive and a negative. Rock stars as you know can be total assholes, you know "Hey, I'm a big Rock Star, lookit me". But you can be a nice guy and be a Rock Star too. But the other side to that is when people get older, you know the older you get USUALLY enjoy talking to people and shaking hands and saying thank you, thank you. I appreciate it. But I can see why guys who are very well known would never do stuff like that. It just makes total sense. But on the other hand I think people like Kerry King would love it. He loves being around people and "Hey, there's Kerry King". You Know? But yeah, It would be too much of a mob scene for some of those guys. I loved it. I just walked through that place unrecognized and having my fun. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Yeah, it was unfortunate that like I said I didn't get to catch but a couple of songs the whole time you were doing it because there was so much other stuff going on. And alot of the bands that were on there, like we were talking about earlier, they don't tour America because they can't make any money at it. There's a small pocket of people in every town that will come out but a band from Europe can't play for 75 or so people and make any money. Do you know what I mean?

WATERS: Yeah, it's weird, eh? Some of these bands, I see some of the stats on the news sites. I remember one from a few years ago, maybe 4 or 5 years ago I think and I don't remember all the bands that were on it but it was like KILLSWITCH ENGAGE and MACHINE HEAD and LAMB OF GOD and TRIVIUM, and they all went out on this 4 or 5 band package. And I remember talking to Corey from TRIVIUM and he was saying, "Dude, can you imagine this back in the day when ANNIHILATOR was big or reasonably big in the States", that's not really the right words but he said it that way, "if the bands were charting on Billboard and one was debuting at #5, and the other band was #2 and the other was #12, you'd be playing stadiums". But now they're fighting and arguing over the one shitty shower room at the venue where they're playing for 980 people. And this is like 3 or 4 Billboard charting bands on a U.S. tour. And I was shaking my head thinking, "Dammit, I hope this comes back soon".

KNAC.COM: It's unfortunate that America has always been this cliqueish kinda place musicially. You've always have the hardcore fans and they're a constant but there's no such thing as radio stations anymore. Satellite radio plays heavy music but there's not alot of promotion over here for the underground.

WATERS: Well, speaking of, thanks to the internet giving access to all the kids there has been a resurgence of Metal. Also with all the online radio and press it's opened the door wide open for people, who if they REALLY want to know and don't want to have that 'follow the sheep' mentality and told that this band is heavy and so then the kids are yeah, that's heavy. Ok, this is not a slam because I know these guys, but take DISTURBED or KORN. They got told that they were heavy. But because of the internet the kids could listen and go 'wait, that's not heavy. TESTAMENT is heavy. EXODUS is heavy. SLAYER is heavy. You know, the internet has given them access to discover other bands. When people started discovering bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST around 2001 or something, for bands like SUM 41 or BLINK 182, SUM 41 were wearing British Steel and Maiden shirts in their videos and these young kids saw that and went, "who's that"? And they could look on the internet and find this band called IRON MAIDEN. Then 2001, 2002, 2003 rolled around and I think the younger kids were asking Who's this? And discovering the legends. The Priests, the Maidens. And years later it's now to the point where the discover the TESTAMENTs, the OVERKILLSs, the EXODUSes, the ANNIHILATORs, KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, and really get on there and find the history of Metal and not just look at The Big 4, the big bands. They've been able to find the history of this genre, even though The Big 4 were starting it. There were alot of bands that just carried on all the way thru without stopping.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, true.

WATERS: (interrupts) Shit, I had another interview like 5 minutes ago. (laughs) Sorry about that. Go ahead, finish what you were saying.

KNAC.COM: Ok, I'll hurry. What I was gonna say is, I don't want to make it all doom and gloom, but when bands do get to come over here, in the old days a U.S. Tour was 20-30 dates, and now they come over for maybe 5 or 6 dates and that's the U.S. Tour.

WATERS: Yeah, for sure. They only way I can concieve of us coming back and doing some stuff was if Mustaine brought us back here. Cuz we're talking to the MEGADETH boys about doing a MEGADETH/ANNIHILATOR tour in Europe. But saying listen, we'll do that but would you be so kind to help us out in The States because that would be a fantastic thing for us! But I can't see the label willing to say Hey guys, get in a van. I would be "Ugh, really"? If I was 23 and drinking maybe I could do that but.. (laughs). Do you know what I mean?

KNAC.COM: As a matter of fact, MEGADETH is playing a few dates opening for IRON MAIDEN in the U.S.

WATERS: Wow. Fantastic. Listen, I've gotta go, I've got to call this dude at 10. I think it's another Live thing or sumthin'.

KNAC.COM: Ok, sorry. Well then let me give you the floor quickly to talk or mention anything you'd like. You have a new album out Feast.

WATERS: I think I've filled up about 10 hours if you want to insert questions into every paragraph. (laughs) Well, anybody who needs some Metal, you have the beauty of the internet to find if the new ANNIHILATOR CD is any good or not. You can audition it on the internet. If ya like it, then buy it. If ya don't like it, then don't. That's the beauty of the internet. I do that with the bands I like. But you know what? I could tell you it's one of our better records cuz it is, but that doesn't mean shit. If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't. AT LEAST give it a listen. I think you'll like it.

KNAC.COM: Sounds good Jeff. I hope everyone gives it a spin. And I'm looking on Nuclear Blast Germany's website and see that Feast is available on vinyl for all of us Waxhounds.

WATERS: Oh really? Nice. I hope we get over and play in The States sometime soon and meet you again, maybe on the boat or hopefully a tour next year. It's been a long time.

KNAC.COM: Sounds great, or if you ever get back to Galveston again look us up.

WATERS: Yeah, absolutely! Definately! Keep in touch. Thanks again.

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