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ANNIHILATOR (JEFF WATERS)

YOU MADE A POST ON THE INTERNET ALMOST TWO YEARS AGO IN WHICH YOU SAID THAT YOUR NEXT ALBUM WILL BE THE OUTSTANDING ANNIHILATOR ALBUM OF THE PAST DECADE… Oh, I always try. (laughs) It’s like something you do and a lot of times as an artist, when you write a song or a record, a lot of times you get really… You know, sometimes you have more inspiration than other times. I think in my case – and a lot of musicians I know feel the same way – when you actually write a song or a record, you feel: it’s the best thing you ever did, you know. Usually it takes you anywhere from three months to a year after you finished it to look back and see what you’ve done. And then you really have a different opinion. Cause I think, almost every artist, when they do something they think it’s great. They think it’s good, they’re happy, it’s an accomplishment, they got through it and they created something. But I guess when you look back it’s a different story. EXACTLY! AS YOU JUST PUT IT – EVERY ARTIST CLAIMS THAT THEIR LATEST OUTPUT IS THE GREATEST STUFF THEY’VE EVER WRITTEN. BUT YOU HAD THE GUTS TO SAY THAT, TWO YEARS BEFORE YOU EVEN STARTED WRITING “PSYCHO DELUXE”… Yeah. I mean, sometimes you just get all high or excited about what you’re doing at the time. And for me, I gotta watch what I say because every time you say: “Oh, this is the best album I ever did! The best one on in ten years or twenty years or whatever it is..:” It sets yourself up sometimes for a fall. I mean, I learned that, too. Sometimes I open my mouth and I say things like that, at the moment you feel really positive about something. And not that it necessarily turns into a negative, but sometimes it’s not as good as you really thought it was. In my case a lot of times I don’t need other people to tell me that something wasn’t that good I did or something. Because I have my sort of classic songs – that I still think are really good songs, are really excellent songs – and then I have songs that I think are ok, average good, and then I have some songs that I go back and think: “Ooh, Jeez… I should have written some different songs. Those were weak!” I think that happens with every band on every album. If I just take my favourite groups like MAIDEN, PRIEST, AC/DC and SLAYER, things like that – if you look at all their albums, there is obvious classics that stick out. Like SLAYER has their “Reign in blood” and MAIDEN has “Number of the beast” and “Powerslave”. You know, all these bands have these albums that are just a little greater than others. So, I think you just can’t write classic or masterpieces or paint masterpieces. You can’t do it every single time. But when you actually create the stuff, most of us think it’s the best thing we ever did. WHAT IF SOMEONE DOESN’T AGREE WITH YOU, IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU: “HMM, JEFF… THIS IS OK STUFF BUT PRETTY FAR FROM GREATNESS!” – DO YOU TAKE CRITICISM FROM ANYONE ELSE? Only if it makes sense to me. Everybody has got their own opinion. But if someone said “This album sucked!” and it was our biggest-selling record then I sort of say: “Mmhm… ok!” (laughs), but I know it’s probably not right. But most of the time, with ANNIHILATOR… I guess, you could call it a problem: the positive thing is the negative thing. We’ve got a couple of different groups of fans that like ANNIHILATOR. We got one group that like albums like “Alice in Hell” and “Never Neverland”, “Criteria for a black widow”. And those are albums that I’ve done that are like thrash metal, and speed, and fast and all based around rhythm guitar-riffs. But they don’t like any of the melodic stuff. They just like the thrash stuff. And then we have fans that like albums like “Set the world on fire”, “King of the kill”, “All for you”, which have more melody and even have some ballads on them, acoustic instrumental things. And they don’t like the noisy thrash stuff that we’ve done. So, no matter what I do I get in trouble for it. But that doesn’t excuse bad albums or lazy writing or anything like that at all. We just got different groups. Sometimes you please the one and you disappoint the other, you know what I mean? And that kind of comes from my background of liking everything from pop music to hardcore, everything from SLAYER to JUDAS PRIEST to stuff you hear on the radio. I don’t mind listening to radio. I have a recording studio and I produce records, so I listen to everything from pop to like pure thrash metal. I mean; I play classical guitar and a bit of jazz. You mix all these hundreds of heavy metal influences together and one guy is writing the songs. YOU’RE INTO JAZZ JAM-SESSIONS?! No, I’m not really good at playing jazz. I don’t really listen to much, but when I was younger I took two or three years of it. So, just a little jazz, and a little classical. ONE QUESTION JUST POPPED INTO MY MIND WHEN YOU SAID THAT: IS THERE ANY GUITAR-STYLE YOU CANNOT PLAY? Well, I don’t know. I think, it’s probably: as long as it’s born inside you, you know, the musical talent, I think you can probably do most of what you want. If you’ve got the genes, if your parents are both musicians or something like that, and you really have it in you – not just me – but anybody with that talent born in them, I’m sure they can work on it and do almost anything. But there’s a lot of things I look at, a lot of different guitar-styles and different guitar-players where I just shake my head and go: “Wow! How did he do that?” But I do know the answer. I know how Yngwie Malmsteen plays the way he does. You know, it was called, whatever, fourteen hours a day of good practising and practising the right things that made him what he is. And just everybody, I mean, all these guys are amazing guitar-players I can hear and go like: “Woah… that’s incredible!” But I don’t kind of aspire to know how to do all that stuff. There is no time in your life, there’s not many hours in the day that you can just sit in your room and play guitar and do nothing but play. RIGHT. LET’S STICK WITH THAT FOR A SECOND – IS THERE ANY GUITAR-PLAYER IN THE WORLD YOU LOOK UP TO? LET’S SAY, YOUR TOP THREE? Oh, many, many, many. That’s only like half a hour. Three is even tough but I’ll try it. Can I say the names real fast? Because I’m probably gonna name ‘em all… SURE! I like guitar-players for different reasons. Guys like Angus Young for his stage guitar and his blues guitar lead-playing. Malcolm Young because he’s just an amazing writer and he plays so perfectly tight with his simple riffs, and he’s an amazing song-writer. Randy Rhoads. Eddie Van Halen – Eddie was a big one for me. Even when I don’t sound anything like him and I don’t really play hammer-ons and a lot of the styles that he did. I just thought he was like my number one idol or perfect guitar-player. Because while a lot of guitar kids, where he was on the covers of all the guitar magazines for twenty years and everybody was trying to learn his solos and stuff, I was deciding to learn his rhythm guitar to see how he writes his songs. I mean, I could never write songs like Eddie Van Halen, as good as that or at that level. But he had everything. He wasn’t just a lead guitar-player who was famous for his solos. Some of his early albums, the first four that he did, were just unbelievable rhythm guitar-playing. It was just incredible. Randy Rhoads was an amazing player. And for rhythm guitar-playing: the guys in METALLICA and EXODUS, MAIDEN and PRIEST were huge influences for me. BACK TO THE ALBUM… WOULD YOU SAY THAT “SCHIZO DELUXE” APPEALS MORE TO THE DEDICATED THRASH METAL FANS? I was trying to write an album to come out and say: “This is definitely my worst album I’ve ever done!”, so that now it turns out to be the best one. No, I think it was… The only thing I planned before I went into writing the record was that I thought: “Ok, this time I’ll probably leave the two ballads or acoustical melodic things on the record!” And I said: “OK, just to avoid any conflict here, I’m just gonna leave the one or two I would normally put on and just leave them off!” I didn’t sit down and said: “Oh, I’M gonna write a really heavy album!” A few things made this new record sound a little heavier than it really is. Our singer now is more comfortable, he’s more used to working with me in the studio, and he’s getting his own voice. The last record we did he had many styles, because him and I were not sure what to do with his new voice. And on this one he just kept is simple. He like heavier music anyways, so the vocals seem a little heavier than usual, because Dave, our singer, he’s got more experience and he knows what he wants to do this time. Also the drumming on this one is a lot heavier. You can just tell that the new drummer is just banging away really hard on the drums this time. Cause we’ve always had great drummers, but this guy is unbelievable. And what else made it heavier? Also the production. This is the first album in a long time, in about fifteen years, where I let somebody else mix the record, because I was just getting tired of mixing my own records and be brain-dead, you know, like just completely overworked at the end of the recording, to mix it myself. And I said this album, to me it sounded really good and I wanted to make sure that somebody else came in and made it better. And rather than me just saving it, I wanted somebody else to come in and make it really good. So, the mix makes it a lot heavier, too. WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE TYPICAL ANNIHILATOR TRADEMARKS THAT ATTRACT NEW FANS? Well, I think they get confused right away. Because they hear a band, and then they see that there’s been about one million musicians in the band from the beginning. And then they are like: “Wait a minute, what’s happening?” But, no… ANNIHILATOR has it sort of trademark guitar-riffs and sounds and, you know, ways what the singer says and thinks things, lyrically and stuff. That’s because I produce all the vocals with these guys and I write almost all the vocal stuff and lyrics, so.. It’s kind of got my stamp on it, even if it’s a new singer. But it is kind of confusing for new fans. They wonder what is going on here. (laughs). WELL, I HAD SOME FUNNY EXPERIENCES WITH YOUR LINE-UP-CHANGES IN THE PAST AS WELL. I DID TWO ANNIHILATOR INTERVIEWS AND BOTH TIMES MY BACK-THEN INTERVIEW-PARTNERS WERE OUT OF THE BAND WITHIN A WEEK… I SAW THAT MIKE MANGINI IS STILL MENTIONED IN THE LINE-UP FOR “SCHIZO DELUXE”? What I do is – for those who don’t really follow us – with new people. Pretty much on every album I’ve done, I write almost all the stuff: music and lyrics and vocals. Sometimes I co-write lyrics with other singers. Basically, when ANNIHILATOR record happens it’s just me, this Waters guy on guitars and bass, producing and engineering the stuff. I hire a drummer to do the actual record – not to be in the band and tour – just to do the record. And then I have a singer, and I try to keep that guy as long as I can, basically. And that’s how the records are done. And once I finish a record, and it’s all mixed and mastered, the cover is done, and I go on these press trips and talk about the record, I usually get home from the press trips and I’m thinking about touring and that’s… if I get tours together then I pull out a little black book that’s got names of some every incredible musicians, and I call them up and say: “Do you wanna do a tour?” So, it’s really a solo project, of course, but it’s built under a band name. So, sometimes, yeah, I’ve had a lot of musicians over the years because that’s the way we work it in the band. I’ve got a new website coming out next month, it’s www.annihilatormetal.com. I spent a lot of money and time – it’s not up, yet, but next month it’s up – trying to make this like a really top metal-site to go to. And one of the things I had to do was write a biography of the history of the members in the band. It took me three days and nights, 26 pages, and 26 musicians. And I was shocked, I was like: “Wow – that’s incredible!” At the end I said: “for those of you who think I’m a real dictator or asshole, or whatever it is, just so you know – I only fired four of these guys!” (laughs) So, all the rest left to have either babies and families or joined other bands. I’ve had guys leaving my band to join much bigger bands and get paid a lot more money than I pay. So, Mike Mangini who left to join EXTREME and Steve Vai and stuff like that years ago. But no, I just hire the guys for the studio and I try to keep the singer. HMM… NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GETTING A STEADY LINE-UP TOGETHER? OR DO YOU ACTUALLY LIKE TO BE THE MAN FOR EVERYTHING? No, no. It’s kind of like my baby, you know. Even from the early days, I would sit there with a little four-track machine, and the reason I started doing things myself – this is as early as 1985 – was because I remember having a four-track and trying to get the bass-player to come over and do the bass tracks. But he had this girl he was chasing, so he could never make the time to come over for a few hours to work and recording some bass. So I just figure, ok, I’m gonna borrow a bass-guitar and play the bass. So, the next time I got another bass-player, I tried to get that guy to play, and it was just a nightmare of getting him to actually come and find the time and do the work. So really early on I developed that philosophy, this ideal that… Well, everybody knows this, I don’t know what the expression is in German, but I’m sure it’s the same… IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE THE RIGHT WAY, YOU GOTTA DO IT YOURSELF! You got it! Well, that’s not true with everything or every musician. It just became something I said: “You know, if I’m gonna mess up my career and do a terrible job or a great job, I’d like to be as responsible for it as possible!” So, I mean, I just learned how to play bass. AND YOU SANG… Well, at one point I sang for like three albums which was… I thought it was an absolute career suicide when I did my first record singing. I thought: “What am I doing?! I’m not a singer!” OH, COME ON… “KING OF THE KILL” WAS ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST HITS. I did not have a clue that was gonna happen. (laughs) I thought that was probably the last album I’d do, and it ended up in Japan and Asia and parts of Europe, and it ended up being a huge hit for me. But, I mean, that was luck. (laughs) But, you know, I just gotta develop that philosophy. And the thing is, for new fans that’s confusing, of course. That’s why I wanna get this website up so I can explain all this stuff, so that people after fifteen, twenty years can figure it out. It might also be one of the reasons why I’m still around. This is my eleventh studio record. While some people are confused by the line-up changes, and if they don’t know much about me personally or about the band they might think: “My God – this guy is a severe dictator or whatever!” But it might be a positive thing for us, because I think having all these different – sometimes different singers, sometimes different styles of production and song-writing styles – I think that might be why we’re still going, because it’s something different. It may not be the best or the most incredible thing out there, but it’s something different and interesting. If you don’t like one CD, you might like the next one. You know, it’s that kinda thing. ACTUALLY, I JUST BROUGHT UP “KING OF THE KILL” – WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU WROTE THE OPENING RIFF FOR “DRIVE”? Yeah, I was exactly thinking “King of the kill”. WELL, NO SHIT… You picked that out, did you? No, I don’t think there is anybody – I’ve been doing this interview stuff for a couple of days – and that’s gotta be the most popular question, except for: “Oh, do you still have the same line-up?!”, except for that one. The question is… I mean, that’s kinda cool, because it shows people know that “King of the kill”-song pretty good. I just did that for about twenty seconds in the beginning of that song to… I don’t know, just for fun. Just to see if people would think: “Oh, he’s going into “King of the kill”, part two. It sounds just like the song!” Then It’s breaking into a real thrash song, so… WELL, I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT AS A METAL DJ I TRIED OUT THE EXACT SAME THING LAST WEEK: PUTTING ON THE FIRST 12 SECONDS OF “DRIVE”, BLENDING INTO “KING OF THE KILL” AFTER THE FIRST BEAT – JUST TO SEE THE CONFUSED FACES OF THE CROWD. WORKS FINE! Yeah, it’s a very catchy riff. It seems like a lot of people liked that riff. So I just said: “Ok, start it out, make people think it’s part two!” SINCE WE’RE SPEAKING OF HITS HERE, “ALICE IN HELL” IS PROBABLY THE BEST-KNOWN SONG OF ANNIHILATOR. HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT THAT SONG GOT TOO MUCH ATTENTION, THAT IT’S A PAIN IN THE ASS THAT ANNIHILATOR IS ALWAYS BEING ASSOCIATED WITH THAT SINGLE SONG? I think, it was a good thing, because if I’m looking back at the history, that was the song that really got us going and got us our deal pretty well, and got Roadrunner really interested in promoting us. And that’s the song that got us in the door, but it became… You know, that album was a pretty good guitar-based thrash/ speed metal record. There were a lot of good bands at that time that were doing that, but I added a bit more technical guitar-playing in it. And, while most guitar-players that were technical and had a lot of guitar-playing experience, they were doing more the solo-guitar stuff, and they were doing most of the instrumental kinda guitar-playing I was doing more thrash metal and mixed in some pretty good guitar with it. But the next record after that was even bigger, “Never Neverland” was the big one for us. I don’t think it was because of “Alice in hell”: “Alice in hell” got us in the door, but I mean, from a lot of people I’ve talked to you find out “Alice in hell” was the popular one that kids remember. If they only heard one song, they remember “Alice in hell”. But our big one was “Never Neverland”, and I think “King of the kill” was almost up there. But I think, people remember “Alice in hell” because back in `89 when that came out, of course heavy metal was at the peak. It was just huge. And when heavy metal sort of left us around `92 I think it was, around `92-`93 it just went out. 99% of all the heavy metal bands lost their deals and broke up and all that kind of stuff. I think, the masses that had heard “Alice in hell” – and there’s millions back then that have heard it, not that all of them bought the albums, but they heard it – so when that song faded away you can almost say that to some kid on the street that are in their late twenties. And they know that song, they don’t know anything else. They don’t know about the ten albums that came out after that, you know. That was just when metal was big, so everybody knew about it. It was on MTV and people had heard that song. But no, we’ve been lucky enough, I’ve been really lucky to be one of the few bands that was able to keep going through the nineties and just survive. Basically survival mode for over ten years, and just keep putting records out, you know. Just didn’t get the big push that bands did in the eighties. LATELY, YOU WERE ALSO INVOLVED IN THE ROADRUNNER ALL STAR SESSION PROJECT. WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPRESSING THING ABOUT WORKING WITH 56 OTHER QUITE WELL-RESPECTED ARTISTS? Well, I kinda had a really simple and easy job. A lot of those guys had harder jobs where they were doing a lot of songs, or they were doing all the vocal tracks, or doing the writing and stuff. I was just asked: “Do you wanna do some guitar-solos!”, which is funny, because I’m more of a rhythm guitar-player. Even though I play solos, I’m kinda used to just playing rhythm. And solo was something I’ve been doing just to fill in the space. (laughs) You know, what I mean sometimes? So I simply just came down and did a few solos. It was not a big job for me. And it was a nice occasion to go down to San Francisco. (chuckles) I was great, and Flynn was a really nice guy. So, I had a lot of fun to do that. I think, I was only there for four or five hours, just hanging out and playing some solos, and flew back the next day. No big stories or nothing, just a nice relaxing time. LAST QUESTION: THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST UNDER-RATED ALBUM? That just didn’t seem to get much attention, you mean? YES. OR BEING BASHED BECAUSE THE SOUND WAS A BIT… DIFFICULT TO GET USED TO, LIKE FOR INSTANCE “WAKING THE FURY”? Oh, I don’t think that one was really under-rated. It was a good album, it just had, to a lot of people, a really annoying guitar-sound. (laughs) So… I think one called, let me see… I think “King of the kill”, but that one did alright. Hmm… one called “Refresh the demon”. I think that one was pretty good. And I thing “Remains” was the one that ended up getting slammed, because that was my weakest album as far as effort or how hard I was trying to do it. You know, that one was out in `97, and that was more… I didn’t really see too much light at the end of the tunnel for heavy metal. I was just not really inspired, so I just did it. So it wasn’t a 100% passionate thing I was making. Yeah, it was tough to get through the nineties, really. The reality is, it was very tough to even just survive through there. Now in the last couple of years it got a lot life coming back, and a lot of adrenaline and energy coming back, especially on the new one. It’s just getting back more on track, so to speak. ANY PLANS FOR TOURING GERMANY WITHIN THE NEXT MONTHS? We ‘re gonna try and see that we can something in the new year. Yeah, for sure, this is gonna be a good album to play live, so. WOULD LOVE TO HEAR SOME OF THE NEW MATERIAL LIVE… (laughs) We probably can’t do it. Some of these songs are pretty hard to play. So… YOU’LL DEAL WITH IT… THANKS A LOT FOR THE INTERVIEW, JEFF. Thank you, Steffi! Uhm… can I ask you a silly question? SURE!? My album is not even out ’til November. Did the label mention anything about holding off on…? Well, we didn’t really talk about the new album much, did we?! UHM… ACTUALLY, THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW ALBUM QUESTIONS. BUT THE THING IS: WHEN YOU TALK TO SOMEONE WITH A HISTORY LIKE YOU… AND YOU TOTALLY PUT ME OFF WHEN YOU BROUGHT UP THE “MOST POPULAR QUESTIONS THAT EVERYONE ASKS”. I’ DON’T LIKE TO PLAY THE “STANDARD QUESTION-GAME”… Sorry, it wasn’t on purpose. OK, THEN… HERE WE GO WITH THE STANDARDS: ANYONE YOU REFER TO WITH THE ALBUM TITLE “SCHIZO DELUXE”? OBVIOUSLY NOT TO YOURSELF, BECAUSE YOU’RE A VERY DOWN-TO-EARTH GUY… No. That’s just a nick-name that ended up being given to the fans on our website. So, I kinda wanted to do something related to them to say “thanks”. And I think “Deluxe” means, they’ll be happy. That’s what the title really means. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG ON THE ALBUM AND WHY? SEE, NOW YOU’RE GETTING ALL THE STANDARDS NOW… BUT YOU ASKED FOR IT! I think, I got four: one called “Maximum Satan”, one called “Like father, like gun”, “Drive” and “Warbird”. WERE ALL THE SONGS WRITTEN IN THE SAME VEIN? I REALIZED, ESPECIALLY THE MOOD OF THE SONGS IS ALTERNATING AND VERY DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER SOMETIMES. We just take one song at a time, and then we completely take a long break and then go into the next song. There was probably one song a day, for the vocals at least. You sort of get into a different mindset, you know. You think about it actually before you start. You think about: does this call for a really heavy part for the vocals or lighter part. You just plan it out, it saves you a little bit of time later. And sometimes you think you got it planned, and you sing it, and it doesn’t sound right, and you have to mix it and change it. But usually at this point you have a good idea way before. Sometimes when I write the music I already know what I’m gonna be putting over. YOU LEFT THE MIX TO MR. CHRIS COLDRICK, WHO IS NOT THAT FAMOUS IN THE PRODUCER WORLD. He’s more of a hardrock/ pop guy from Canada. So, it’s not an Andy Sneap thrash metal guy. I kinda wanted to get somebody that was local and close to me, that I could sort of keep an eye on it just to make sure he’s on the right direction, you know. But I also didn’t want a messy thrash sound. I wanted more of a clear sound, so you could hear all the instruments very clearly. So that kinda worked to my advantage with that guy. AND YOU ALSO SAID BEFOREHAND THAT THERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST DIFFICULT BASS AND GUITAR PARTS YOU EVER PLAYED ON THE ALBUM. WHICH SONGS OR WHICH SOLOS WOULD THOSE PARTICULARLY BE? For guitar and bass I would probably say the second song “Drive”. But there is probably about four or five songs on there that got some pretty cool solo stuff. WELL, ENOUGH FOR THE STANDARDS NOW! ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE INTERVIEW – AND HOPE TO SEE YOU ON TOUR SOON!

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