FeaturesAnnihilator - Prepare for the Feast Part I

Annihilator – Prepare for the Feast Part I

Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to talk a lot of musicians. Rarely do I find someone who has been in the industry as a signed musician since 1989 with such enthusiasm, thankfulness, and pride in the genre of metal as guitarist Jeff Waters. Annihilator, to most old-school thrash fans in North America are best known for their first two albums Alice in Hell and Never, Neverland – but others in the world are well-aware of this band’s lengthy discography throughout the 90’s to today.

The release of their new album Feast hopefully will resurrect their career in North America as they continue to capture a new generation of fans thirsting for heavy riffs, potent grooves, and fluid, melodic solos. Speaking to Jeff amidst the chainsaws in the background taking down trees from an earlier storm, this was one of the more engaging and revealing conversations I’ve ever had the pleasure to be part of. Enjoy and seek out their discography to catch up on some great metal…

Dead Rhetoric: Your 14th studio album Feast is another strong Annihilator album, filled with a wide sonic palate of tracks. Do you have a specific gameplan going in with each record, especially now that you’ve formed a great partnership with vocalist/guitarist Dave Padden?

Jeff Waters: Not really, of all the records that we’ve really done there was only one record that I kind of planned out in the beginning of the process when you are writing out the songs, the dates you are going to record, and that was back in 1992-93 with an album called Set The World On Fire. We bumped up from Roadrunner to Sony and it was a weird time, 1992-93, that was about the time when metal and thrash metal almost died. We basically thought we like more commercial and melodic metal stuff as well as just the thrash stuff so we decided to pull off some more melodic songs. That’s about the only one, otherwise we just get into the studio and do our thing, block out what the label really wants so we sort of just do our own thing.

Dead Rhetoric: Outside of the expected heads down speed work in a track like “Deadlock,” what impressed me most about the album is a lot of the quieter, more introspective songs like “Perfect Angel Eyes” and the 8:30 epic closer “One Falls, Two Rise.” What is it like in 2013 to create fresh ideas and execute them in enough of a way to be special and endearing to a world of Annihilator fans?

Waters: A lot of the stuff I do, and I don’t mind admitting it, is really 95% coming from other bands when I was listening to them as a teenager in the 1980’s. Everything from heavy metal, which could be classical, to blues, to ballads, to the traditional stuff- mixed with the thrash stuff I grew up on. The first albums from Exodus, Anthrax, Slayer, Testament, Overkill, Destruction, Kreator – I got a mix of that so we are not a pure fast, aggressive, angry band and we aren’t just a melodic band, we are kind of a cross between.

Basically most of the stuff I am doing is just coming from past stuff; we aren’t ground breaking in terms of creating a new sound. As much as I would love to BS, it’s a fine line to how you put these influences together, that becomes original. A lot of the stuff you mentioned, and the songs that you mentioned, it is simply just my interpretation of the hundreds of albums I listened to and it comes out in this year and time. You are just trying to do the best you can at what comes out, you can’t force it. There are bands like Slayer and AC/DC that have their cool formula and sound of their guitars, drums, singing, and riffing- those are two of my top five favorite bands. I just go in there and do whatever the hell I want, and I come up stuff – it could be 80’s traditional thrash, or heavy metal. And how you are able to put it together with the new sounds you can get in studios, maybe that gives it a little more of our Annihilator sound so to speak.

Dead Rhetoric: What are your favorite memories concerning Annihilator when it comes to the decades of the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s?

Waters: The 80’s was just fantastic, because you know metal was at its peak. There was more of everything: more fans, more promoters, more venues, more t-shirts, more energy, more money. It was at a successful peak commercially before the crash. It was great, you could have bands that are now playing theaters and clubs and halls that could play arenas. It was a big time, and everywhere you went there was metal- every school, every shopping mall. It was basically the second biggest form of music at the time. I was a kid so it was exciting, I was partying and it was a blast.

And then the 90’s came along, and it was tough. You had the near extinction of the music in North America, but Europe really survived and it’s been alive and well there for so long. That was a tough fight for a lot of the 1990’s, but I became used to that struggle. I found more jobs in the music business to support Annihilator for almost nine years. I am proud that I kept going through that, kept releasing records and touring overseas when it would have been easier to jump to something else and make more money with less stress or personal hardship. The 2000’s came through…in 2007 for us is when we saw our record sales go up for Metal, with the self-titled album in 2010 the sales went up again, and our latest album Feast so far is outdoing them all, at least within the last 15 years. For me it has been going up and up, when a lot of our friends are saying their sales are going down and down. It’s the best time ever right now, I’m 47 years old with 14 records and yet we are still making a living at this without depending solely on North America.

This is awesome to still be making metal at my age and playing in front of a lot of people. It’s very neat now that I’ve been able to talk to more North American people and press and they are interested in what we are doing now. I had a kid and his mother died of cancer, so I was a single father in the mid-1990’s. It was good for me to be out of North America because I wasn’t playing the kind of music that many people there were into, the mainstream, no one would sign us. I couldn’t tour there and tour Europe/ Japan, plus raise my son. We are getting the hint from Canadian and American fans that they would like to see Annihilator live, this is the first release we’ve had in a long time there so we are trying to get things going.