Thrashing Through Canada: Interview With Annihilator

Annihilator Annihilator

On June 29th, Ottawa thrash legends Annihilator will be performing at Café Campus here in Montreal. And what is so special about this show, you ask? Well, for one, this particular gig will be part of a cross-Canada tour for the band, who has not had a full-fledged Canadian tour in over 20 years. In addition, Annihilator will be taking our very own Montrealers, Mutank along with them, for their very first-ever tour. I managed to get hold of Jeff Waters, the madman behind Annihilator, to discuss the intricacies of their upcoming tour, as well as the side-effects of having metal on the brain day-in and day-out.

KL (Kyle Lapointe): So Jeff, how do you approach touring Canada after over 20 years?

JW (Jeff Waters): Well, first I go and look at what the biggest Kiss concert was ever and realize that’s not what’s gonna happen for us. (laughs). I’m quite happy to be finally playing in Canada. We’ve played some one-off tours in the last while, like Heavy MTL for example, but it’s always been a bit of a warm-up before we head back to Europe, Japan or South America. Most bands try to tour Canada or the states once they have some label support, but we really haven’t had that, and we really haven’t been able to get back into the North American market for a long time. It’s good to finally say, “Screw it,” and bypass corporate stuff and pick up the phone and do it myself. It’s our country; it’s what I had to do. We’ve been flying the Canadian flag across the world for a long time.

KL: Do you find there’s a different feeling that comes with playing shows close to home? Does Montreal count as close to home?

JW: It’s not so much different; it just feels different on my end. The crowds here might be smaller than overseas, but the ways they behave are the same, so to speak. My fiancée and I are in Montreal all the time to see shows. We live just outside of Ottawa and it’s a good excuse to get out of a pretty conservative dumb old boring city, musically and everything-wise. I went to see Testament the other day at Metropolis in Montreal and I was just going out back for a cigarette by the busses, and of course I get a fancy pass. I forget that people actually know me here… Hordes of people were waiting to get Testament’s autograph and then they saw me. I hear, “Jeff Waters! Jeff Waters!” And I think, “Oh shit, somebody knows me here.” It’s the same people as anywhere else we go. They’re metalheads. It’s a family, right?

KL: It’s great you guys get so much love in Europe. What do you think it is about metal that makes it enjoyable across cultures and languages, so much so that a Canadian band like you guys can play at Wacken for tens of thousands of people no sweat?

JW: From my personal experience with this band, we sort of left the North American scene completely around ’93 when 80 percent of traditional heavy metal and thrash bands were getting dumped off of labels. It was not the kind of music that was in; in fact it was the opposite. Our label guy at the time said, “Unless you’re gonna change the name of your band and play anything like Pantera, Biohazard or Sepultura, we can’t keep you. Some bands actually changed their names and tried different styles. Vio-Lence changed to Machine Head.

It’s not like North Americans right now are saying, “Annihilator Sucks, Annihilator sucks.” That would mean at least they heard us. It’s more like, “Who’s Annihilator?” In North America people still come up to us and ask us, “Is this your second album?” I have to tell them it’s our sixteenth one. It’s really nice to have a following in Europe though. Now the Canadian tour will be a total bonus to everything.

KL: So you guys are heading coast to shining coast?

JW: I just kind of took out a map and said, “Drive the bus, here we go.” I literally called up all the promoters I knew about, and didn’t expect to be hit with twenty something venues, and we only had enough time in that slot to do thirteen or fourteen, I think. So, we basically stop once we get to Quebec City and Montreal and then turn around and do a few Cornwall shows, then we’re off to Europe. By the time we got some East Coast offers, it was “Maybe on our next run.” Maybe we’ll start in the East next time.

KL: Having metal music be such an integral part of your life, do you find the time to listen to other styles of music, or does it just take over the brain?

JW: It takes over the ears, mainly.

As far as other music goes, I used to listen to anything from pop to hard rock to a bit of blues. But none of that in my CD player now. I put on XM radio in the car. That’s about the only time I listen to music. The brain gets kind of overloaded otherwise. If you get too much in there, it’s gonna influence you too much and you’re gonna start repeating yourself and subliminally ripping off people who you like.

KL: Do you think you’ve ever accidentally ripped someone off?

JW: Absolutely, all the time (laughs).

I can go to any Annihilator CD and pick out a hundred influences on a record. I could narrow it down to maybe three or four that are really close.

KL: There’s got to be a difference between an influence and a rip-off.

JW: A rip-off is if you sit down and think, “I like that riff, I’m gonna write that riff and change it up a tiny bit and put it on my record.” That’s different from what I do. Sometimes I’ll write a song and nobody tells me. My friends and family don’t tell me, “Dude, that sounds EXACTLY like that band.” On the last record there was a song called “Snap” and I got hammered in Europe for the opening riff sounding like the Rammstein song “Ich Tu Dir Weh.” The funny thing is I’ve released an album called Schizo Deluxe, out years before that song was made. There’s a song called “Like Father, Like Gun” on there. And the riff is similar on that record, too.

KL: So you ripped off yourself and Rammstein did too?

JW: I got a great comment from over there: “I’m sure you’re well aware, but just because bands are bigger than other bands, doesn’t mean they don’t listen to each other’s music.” That can tell you something there.

KL: And my final question is a doozie. Are you prepared?

JW: Oh I’m prepared.

KL: If you had to eat a puppy, how would you go about it?

JW: A puppy?

KL: Yes.

JW: I never would, because I have two puppies. Simon and Tessa. Why on earth, unless it was your religion or your culture would you ever eat a puppy? If you eat a puppy you have issues.

Check out Annihilator and Mutank at Cafe Campus on June 29 in Montreal. 8 p.m. $29.50. Tickets HERE.