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It's a day and a half after the presidential election, and we still don't know who won . At this point, the country is stunned by these events, not yet bored and frustrated like we would quickly become. It was still fresh, like watching some horrible, governmental train wreck. We were all still enjoying the rubbernecking. In the midst of this I met Annihilator guitarist Jeff Waters at his ultramodern midtown Manhattan hotel for a previously scheduled Metal Update chat. Truly ludicrous events were unspooling on CNN in real time. So we had to talk about that for a minute, before we got down to the business of discussing the forthcoming 'Carnival Diablos'.

METAL UPDATE: Watching last night's presidential election returns was morbidly fascinating. As a Canadian, what was your impression?

JEFF WATERS: It sure is easy for someone from another country to watch CNN about what's going on in another country and to form opinions on it. But, as I found out just from talking to some New Yorkers, just going out and talking to some people, we don't know what the real sides are, the real issues are. We just see the glorified, phoney speeches on the TV. But we also wonder, "what a choice?" You've got two guys who to me act like they're just phoneys, and they're saying lots of stupid stuff we wouldn't fall for in Canada. But then I realized, once I got here, that people aren't stupid here, they realize that's the political show side, but underneath that most people know what the real issues are. And I couldn't even begin to understand that, and most people up there couldn't either.

MU: The pure political chaos is almost amusing.

JW: It sure is entertainment. Everybody talks about it - it is entertainment, but it obviously is a serious issue. Even to Canadians, because, of course, we look to the United States for many favors and for much defense.

MU: Is there a Canadian take on whether a Republican or Democratic president is better for Canada?

JW: On two different levels. First, on a the really, really educated level, and the business people level, people who really seem to know the politics. It seems, from reading the press in Canada, Bush seems to be the choice amongst that group. And it seems that for the average working people who don't know as much about politics, or many women and more family oriented individuals who aren't as much into the politics, of course they are going to go for the more "family" guy, Gore. That's initially what I thought too up there. I thought, to me, not knowing anything about the politics, I just got a take on doing things for the rich, having the father who was the president, and the oil companies . . . all that kind of shit. The money, etc. I got a negative impression of Bush and a positive impression of Gore. But as time went on, and we watched the stuff on the TV and stuff, we started thinking, maybe not. Maybe Bush would be the guy. I don't know that much about it. When we started this, I was thinking Gore, but now I'm more for Bush.

MU: Did you also take note of the fact that Hilliary Clinton is now also a Senator from New York?

JW: Yeah and I found it kinda neat that the First Lady will also be Senator Clinton. I think there will be a couple of weeks there where she'll be the Senator and her husband will still be the President.

MU: Do Canadians generally think this is just one big soap opera?

JW: Yeah but if you saw Canadian politics you guys would laugh and get entertainment out of it too. You see our guys and they're just like amateur, wanna-be U.S. politicians. We've got a French Canadian guy in there, Jean Cretien. Canadians are a lot more laid back about things, and I think Cretien seems to be doing a good job. The amount of people into politics, percentage-wise, is way higher in the United States. Canadians are a lot more laid back and - you guys have a little more responsibility as a country. You're international policemen. In a sense. And, to Canada, you guys are - obviously we like to be our own country, but need the States as friends, too. (laughs)

MU: Anyway, you've been in New York for a couple of days now, right, and checked out last night's Ranger game. Are you a big hockey guy?

JW: No. I used to be. I used to play hockey for about ten years. But then I basically heard 'Back in Black' and that was it for for my hockey career. I knew what I wanted to do after that. But just to be in Madison Square Garden, number one, which I hear all bands want to play, and now, of course, I want to play there.


MU: Now that you are on Sanctuary maybe you have a chance. Maiden and Halford played there this summer. You can dream.

JW: Yeah, you can dream and you are about 1% closer to the possibility. We've done some pretty good tours overseas, consistently, since 1989. And I guess the highlight of my career so far would be touring with bands like Judas Priest and stuff. Thanks to them, we got to play in arenas every night. That was just a dream come true.

MU: Let's catch people up on what's happening with Annihilator. You lost Randy Rampage.

JW: That was the kinda thing where I was writing all the music for that last record, and it really sort of had that older, early Annihilator style to it, so I figured I'd call my old drummer up, who did the first two albums, and he was into it. We got together -- we're good friends and all that -- and suggested getting Randy back, and we just laughed about that. 'Cause Randy is a real hardcore partyin', drinkin' guy and everything that goes with it. And against advice from everybody I knew in the world, including family, friends, record company and management, I tried to get Randy back. Once he was back, our old label Roadrunner records, who we were signed to during those years, they wanted the album. 'Cause they thought "Wow! Heavy metal reunion!" That sort of thing. I went along with that, and it was working pretty good. Our singer at the end of the tour got a little crazy - crazy most nights, but there was one night at the very end of the tour that he just went nuts. He's actually a really nice, kind guy - not a violent bone in his body. But that one night at the end of the tour, he got very violent and started swinging at anybody. And we were really pissed off and angry. I was more pissed off at myself. Why did I do this with him in the first place? And, "Oh Jesus, here we go again. Another lineup, singer change. That looks really good. I think it's over with now." So there was a little period where I thought it was finished. It went from "we're on the right track again, our sales are going back up over there again," to boom! "We lost a singer."

MU: You said you were on Roadrunner for 'Criteria'?

JW: (pauses) Yeah.

MU: But not here, in the United States, right?

JW: Oh yeah, right. Roadrunner for the world, minus North America.

MU: Roadrunner is a very different entity here in the United States.

JW: Oh yeah, Slipknot and all these. . .

MU: What do you think of that stuff?

JW: That stuff does fantastic here. But obviously, the sort of eighties style of metal, while it didn't die out here with the fans and completely disappear, the mainstream and all the press and the videos and that stuff, obviously, went out around 1993 or so. But I guess the new metal came in. After the Pearl Jams, there was Sepultura and Pantera. Metal got really hardcore in that 1993 era.

MU: Where did you guys fit in with that?

JW: We didn't. (laughs)

MU: Who are your musical peers right now?

JW: 80's metal.

MU: That's derogatory. You're not an oldies act, are you Jeff?

JW: No, we're not an oldies act, but we're not a new act either. For years I'd meet musicians (or read in articles) who would say "we're original, we're the coolest thing going, you've got to check us out," and in a sense, you can understand they're proud of what they are doing. But I've always been sort of the opposite. I've always said "Annihilator aren't all that original." It's not that we're coming up with a new sound, a new style, or anything. All we're doing is a different twist on all my favorite bands of the eighties. It's the kind of music I like the best. I haven't been able to get away from it. I haven't got into the new styles of music. Limp Bizkit - there's some great bands out there, but I'm not really into it. There's only so much music you can actually take in and listen to. Especially if you're in a band, you're doing music for a living. You don't usually want to hear too much music when you've finished your own tours.

MU: You're right, I shouldn't make it that hard for you to explain. Of course you have that sound. But if you say "we're an eighties metal band," it's almost like, "it's over, now we'll just continue to play for the core group of fans as they inevitably continue to dwindle."

JW: Ironically, that's why we're still around. A lot of U.S. fans that shifted their musical taste got older and tried listening to different things. I meet a lot of people on tour and through email from the States and Canada that go "Annihilator? That's that 'Allison Hell' band, right?" And I wrote that song sixteen years ago. And it came out eleven or twelve years ago. A lot of people have the mistaken impression that we had albums out a long time ago and now we're making a comeback. In a sense, it is a bit of a shot at one, I guess. From '93 to '99 there were no Annihilator records here, and barely even on import. They were too expensive for people to want to buy. But at the same time, over in Europe, this type of metal, eighties metal, did not go out completely. It went out a fair amount but not like it did in Canada and the United States. I was lucky enough to still get record deals and still go on tour. Just to be able to do that from Canada, and to be able to afford to go over and break even and make some money over there, in that down time for metal, I feel I was pretty lucky. Now, it's making a big comeback over there and I just happen to have been there the whole time. The European press are starting to see that, I think, and going, "hey, this guy's has been around for a while now. Now it's coming back."


MU: I'd like to believe it's coming back in the U.S. as well.

JW: Some day it will. Might come back a little different because of younger bands doing that same kind of thing. But eventually you'll get a lot of bands saying, "yeah, that Motley Crue and that Priest and that Ozzy and that Kiss" - I guess Ozzy's an exception. He can still keep doing it, I guess.

MU: Did the Randy Rampage return spawn any kind of increased sales and renewed interest in the band, or was it no different than any other Annihilator record?

JW: I think the reality was that sales went up due to the record company realizing that if they hyped it up more with this "return to early Annihilator" and "with the original singer! With the original drummer!", they realized that they could . . . they put money into it and promoted it better.

MU: How many people out there who wouldn't have bought the new Annihilator record are all of the sudden interested just because Randy Rampage was on the record?

JW: I don't think - I don't think that many people thought "wow, that Randy Rampage was a good singer." I don't think it was that. I just think it was a good album for its time, as a whole.

MU: I heard a rumor you were, at one point, going to join Megadeth. Was there ever any truth to that?

JW: Well, back in '89, Mustaine called me up while I was on tour with Testament, here in the states. He asked me not to join - a lot of people get that confused - he asked me to come down and audition. Diamond Darrell, Marty Friedman and Jeff Waters were the three guitarists that he asked to come down. I had my first record out at the time, it was doing really well, and I just wanted to do my own thing. But it was a hell of an honor. They picked the right guy with Marty Friedman, anyway. Then, last year we toured with Overkill in Europe for about two months. It was just a weird time. I was trying to make this tour for 'Criteria' go. We were having a great tour with Overkill, and I got two real offers from two pretty big bands to come out and join their band as a touring act or join in the studio near the end of their recording or whatever. And there was a rumor about Megadeth asking me again. Turns out it was Al Pitrelli, the Savatage guy, who got the gig. If he had turned that down, apparently I was going to get a call.

MU: Who were the two big bands who asked you to join?

JW: One I was asked not to mention because I'm in the same sort of circles as them and it would be an insult, they'd be pissed off at me. The other one, I guess I don't want to mention . . . out of respect. Then I get accused because I won't say the band. Some people, especially European press would say, "you're just making the stuff up." I can't win. I can't give out who it was, but. . . Basically, if I was in the frame of mind I was in the month after Randy Rampage left, after the end of our tour, if the offers came in then, I probably would have taken one. 'Cause I was so pissed off at not being able to keep something together, consistently.

MU: Would you have taken the Megadeth gig if Pitrelli had said no?

JW: Oh that. Yeah. That would have been different. 'Cause I know he has cleaned his act up. I know at the time he called me up in 1989, he was admittedly screwed up on drugs, booze and different substances. And I was a real drunk back then. I've quit drinking for quite a long time, but back then it would have been quite a little horror story. Now, of course, he's apparently cleaned up his act. He's got a family, he's got kids and he's obviously learned a lot about the business. He's probably grown up as a person a lot. I have. I don't drink. It might have been great. I probably would have really considered that and said "hey, this will be fun." Fine, you get a good paycheck every month, but it would be fun. It would be something to do that you could do as long as you wanted to, and then go "yeah, I did it."

MU: What do you think of Overkill?

JW: None of the guys in Overkill had an Annihilator CD.

MU: They didn't know who you were?

JW: They'd heard of us. And we'd actually played a show with them in 1993 in Switzerland. We were just thrown together for that one show. We had been on different tours, and we both played a show with Savatage. Savatage opened, Overkill was in the middle, and we were at the headliner slot. It's real funny 'cause Chris from Savatage is one of my good friends now, he just took me to the game last night and we had a great time. But the funny story is that, back then, Savatage played first and got a good reaction. Overkill came on with a big, huge stage show. Ramps. Huge Marshall stacks like five things high, awesome light show, and they were really good. They got a good reaction. Then we came on, and we had nothin'. One Marshall cabinet. And, believe it or not, it's the truth. People went nuts. We were all worried because we didn't have this big stage and stuff. They went nuts and loved it. I remember the Overkill guys took off right away. As soon as they saw the reaction they were like, "Fuck, we're outta here. What did we do this for?" It was like, "who were these Canadian guys." None of the bands knew who we were. I knew Overkill and Savatage. So that was the first meeting. And, ironically, six-seven years later, I'm touring with Overkill in Europe, getting along great, having a great time and the Savatage guy takes me to my first NHL game. Basically, neither band, Overkill or Annihilator had each other's CD's. On the tour, they had their fans and we had our fans. That was the kinda neat thing. There weren't many fans that liked Overkill that liked Annihilator, and vice-versa. So it made for a good tour.

MU: I wouldn't be surprised to see that bill sometime here in the states.

JW: We're managed by the same people over in Europe and we're on the same label in Europe. . .

MU: . . .and in the United States.

JW: They're on Sanctuary in the states?

MU: Yeah. They just put out a record.

JW: That's right, CMC . . .

MU: Anyway, let's talk about 'Carnival Diablos.' I love the riffs.

JW: Riffs, riffs riffs. (laughs)

MU: What drives you to keep making music like that. Is it passion for the music? Are you making the records that you, yourself would want to hear?

JW: Yeah, in a way. In a way, I'm pretty hard on myself. I'm not on a level where I'm writing 'Back In Black' or 'Reign in Blood'. I'm not at that level with my music, but my records have five or six songs that I look back a year or two later and say, "yeah, those are good songs."

MU: When 'Alice in Hell' came out, I remember the press touting you guys as "Canada's answer to Metallica."

JW: Yeah. Of course metal was much, much bigger then than it is now and that was probably one of the few records I've had where most every song on the record is good. It totals up to a classic album like 'Back in Black', 'Number of the Beast', 'Diary of a Madman'. Certain CD's stand out where every song is killer. You've gotta be a very unique band or talent to be able to do that. And I haven't done that yet.

MU: Are you psyched about the new record?

JW: Totally psyched. Yeah.

MU: How do you think it relates to your back catalogue?

JW: Well, I'm mostly psyched about this one because of Joe, our singer.

MU: Joe was in Overkill for. . .

JW: . . . seven years. My music - not necessarily all the records, but a lot of Annihilator records - if you took all the vocals away and just had music, you'd hear that there's a lot going on. There's lots of changes and variety. There's a thrash part, a death part, a speed part, a slow part a ballad-ish part. Tiny bit of blues in some stuff. There is a fair amount of versatility in the music. On this new record we've got an AC/DC -style, we've got a Priest -ish sort of song. We've got a Maiden -ish part in another song.


MU: Give me an example.

JW: There's a song called "Time Bomb," which is a really heavy, slow, pounding song. You gotta move, you gotta bang your head up and down. When that comes in all you hear is power but when Joe comes in you go "ahhh old Priest." You hear this old Halford, aggressive stuff. There's songs like "After the War" where all of the sudden, in the middle of the song, there comes this total Iron Maiden influence. Then there's a song called 'Carnival Diablos' which has a Michael Schenker-ish solo. There's just all these different . . . "Shallow Grave" is a super tribute to AC/DC, in a way. There's a million influences. I could go through each song and give you ten influences which came into each one.

MU: But you didn't include the DVD-style commentary track this time like you did for 'Criteria'!

JW: Sometimes I put them in, sometimes I don't. This time, I basically just forgot. When you get on the computer and you try to remember what stuff you're supposed to type up to put in your email, to put in your booklet . . . . OK, I need lyrics and credits. And then when it is all sort of coming down to the wire, I just completely forgot. I should have put a comment in.

MU: Do you plan to tour the U.S. this time?

JW: This time, yeah.

MU: For sure?

JW: I'm not sure about anything. Every time I say something it never happens. (laughs)

MU: Is Joe doing something with Overkill?

JW: They couldn't find a replacement guitar player and they got a three-week gig supporting Halford overseas.

MU: Great gig.

JW: Yeah, that's a good gig for them, for sure. It does both bands good. But anyway, they couldn't find another guitar player, so Bobby and Joe said "hey, since Annihilator is doing nothing until at least January, can he go out for three weeks." And I'm like, of course he can. Go for it. Have fun. I'd go out and do it if you didn't want to. (laughs)

MU: I know nothing is solidified, but are you thinking at all about what kind of tour you might do? As a headliner? Perhaps a package tour?

JW: It's almost like scripts you get pitched at you. I get sent things like "February 12-March 27 tour in Europe with so-and-so band!" Fortunately I hooked up with a good manager overseas, so I don't have to worry about that anymore. I just get to kick back and let him do the work. It's great. I love it. I might live a few years longer now.


Review of Annihilator 'Carnival Diablos'

Review of Annihilator 'Criteria for a Black Widow'



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