Annihilator – The Demented Check In Part 2

Monday, 13th November 2017

Read Part I HERE.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe Canadian metal has gained more respect and admiration over the decades, and what qualities do you see as distinctive in comparison to say Europe, the United States, or the Far East?

Waters: We’ve always had this weird thing when it comes to any music, Canada felt geographically sandwiched between two areas- the UK and the United States. And that’s not just in metal- we had the Bay Area scene to look to, the New York scene- but the UK was a big factor on the Canadian music scene too. We got both sides of the borders so to speak. We have this unique perspective of what we were getting hit with on the video channels and what we were given here. That spawns bands that are different- Rush, Devin Townsend, Voivod, Danko Jones- into the pop area, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Barenaked Ladies, Crash Test Dummies. We don’t have a big population and we don’t have a lot of bands to offer, but the majority of the ones we do have to offer are different. We are pulling from both sides equally. There was also the German influence of the Scorpions, Accept, Kreator, Destruction – Rammstein would come in later.

If you also look at the history of speed and thrash metal, there are three bands that some of us in Canada, us older farts know, that I think a lot of people in the world… there’s not a lot of people that realize Exciter, Razor, and Anvil’s first two albums were out early, and slightly before the Big Four or Big Five with Exodus. The young Lars Ulrich would be up front watching Anvil in San Francisco, you had Exciter who had albums like Heavy Metal Maniac and Violence and Force, and their support act was Megadeth – they were aiming to take out Metallica but that didn’t happen. They were very influential on what happened in the states and that early thrash scene- they just didn’t have the management, the bands would break up, they signed to Canadian labels for the most part and the business part would get screwed up for them. That was a big part of Canadian metal history- the Anvil movie sort of touched upon it, watching this band and realizing they were around back then. You are proud if you are Canadian of where these acts came from, so I’m always waving the flag for these Canadian metal bands.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the recent cross country Canadian headlining tour run for Annihilator – do you believe it was important to hit secondary markets beyond the major cities, and what were the highlights?

Waters: Yes, it was like suicide financially and no label was backing us so to speak. There was no demand, no tour agencies wanted to book this or talk about touring our own country. When you went to the record stores locally, you would see some very not well-known bands from Germany stocked with three CD’s and their own name section, and you almost never see Annihilator albums in there. Wait a minute- we are from here. But I know why, because we haven’t toured here, or signed a horrible record deal to slave away in the United States and Canada to be known or have a chance to be known at least. I really had to do this personally – to say I did it, finally. And number two it was for the fans out there that had been wanting us to do this. I anticipated it was going to be a not very well received tour and we were going to lose a ton of money- financially I had x amount of money I had to lose. We did the opposite- we came back and made money off the tour, which was not even the goal. We did a month here in Canada- we did a couple of small clubs, hometown thing, some big theaters in Winnepeg, pretty cool places in Vancouver and Victoria- there were a lot of great venues and amazing crowds. It was nice to be able to see that people wanted to see us, and it made the shows better. Now I just have to get into the states, that’s the big one.

Dead Rhetoric: Which record(s) of Annihilator from the 2000’s forward do you believe have resonated best for you- and how difficult is it even a headlining situation to pick out a set list at this point?

Waters: The last question first. When I started singing in 2015 again for the Suicide Society album, once that album was done I went on my computer and looked at the lyric websites to copy all the titles of our songs. If I could sing it or not- I put them in the yes or no piles. And then there was a forget it pile- which turned out to be 40% of the catalog. Thankfully we have a lot of songs and a lot of albums, so that wasn’t too much of a big deal. When I was able to sort of sing the main songs we have to play, that was okay. And out of the pile of yes songs, which ones of those can I not play guitar and sing at the same time? That cut another 20% off that (laughs). When you do songs in the studio and you have a singer in the band, you aren’t too concerned with how difficult the guitar riff is when you are singing. Going back to the songs other singers sang, we had a 20% hit rate of what I could pull off. Lucky for me, the main songs are “King of the Kill”, “Set the World on Fire”, and “Alison Hell”, and I can sing those decently, and we are alright.

The favorite one in the mid-years I guess I call them, would be in 2005, and that was one of our two records that almost was never really heard. It was called Schizo Deluxe. It had what I always think is my best guitar sound and our singer did his best job on there- plus some of the most difficult to play guitar riffing on there. I’ve been fighting to get back there for years. For that one, the record company boss of AFM Records, before the record was out he tragically died in a car crash, and left a wife and two small kids. When something traumatic and horrible happens like that, an album is the least concern with the people at the label. And even with us, we realized the album was going to not be out there in that situation. We were bummed out on two fronts- losing the record company president and the other side because we knew we did one of our best records and we were probably not going to have people really hear it. Thankfully with YouTube you can hear it right now! (laughs)

Dead Rhetoric: If you were given the chance to teach a high school or college course about any subject in music, what would you teach and why?

Waters: I give lots of advice, I love to yap and talk, and I’ve been through a lot of things personally. I find when people ask me for advice, younger musicians, they seem they want the advice but when you are young, I could have had James Hetfield tell me the things I needed to do right, but you hear the advice right in front of you, ignore it, do your own thing, make those mistakes and then 30 years later you realize you totally messed up. If you have a friend that’s a manager, 99.9% of the time you need to go with somebody that’s done something. Have they managed a band before? Talk to the other band- are they happy with that manager? There’s some common sense stuff about this. Now that social media is here, the internet, and now that the business of music is shattered compared to the early days financially, you have to be very on the ball and willing to learn many different things about the business, music, to survive and make a career out of it. Which is pay your bills, pay your rent, and be able to continue to do this without having another job to go to that takes you away from your music.

You have to have your brain really clear for a career. It’s great to smoke weed and drink, (but) if you are doing more of that than of the other things, you won’t have a chance of making a career. In the older days, you could get screwed up, but if you were talented enough you would get pushed into the studio and on tour and people would throw money into you. You could at least survive until you were not doing well and then they would drop you like a rock, and left with nothing most of the time. Nowadays, you don’t even get a chance to get up there and make more than a couple of records- because you aren’t focusing on all these outside business things to keep you surviving.

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