ANNIHILATOR - Twisted Mister
November 10, 2017, a month ago
Let me put something in perspective here. I’ve been in this business for well over 30 years and have been (devilishly) blessed and fortunate to have built a ton of relationships, and among them are a select few that I truly treasure and have an incredible bond with. Pretty surreal given the fact that I, like you, grew up on these bands and the truth is, yours truly wouldn’t be sitting here typing without their influence. The bands that built BraveWords, as it were. But this is where things get a bit awkward. I was recently invited to Annihilator mainman Jeff Waters’ home just outside of Ottawa for a two-day session getting a bit ‘demented’ about the band’s new album. When we finally sat down for the (in)formal interview he looked at me and said, ‘I can’t do this. You aren’t just some Joe Blow journalist.’ So after a cocktail and smoke break (me drink, Jeff smoke), we finally decided that he needed to pretend that I was some foreign correspondent that he was Skyping with. A total stranger. So after getting over that hump, you will see a more personal, in-depth interview with one of the greatest guitar players on the planet. A true Canadian musical treasure who manages to hold as much power with his microphone as he does wielding his axe. The ultimate combination for annihilation as For The Demented is yet another thrashter-piece from the Canucklehead. The metallic juices continue to flow through Waters’ veins, and For The Demented hits a nerve and touches upon many facets of the human psyche, so the title can be interpreted in numerous ways. Not so much a concept record, but concepts each and every human being encounter daily to various degrees. But there is one twisted treasure on the album that sticks out sharply and will no doubt have fans holding their flames in one hand and a butcher knife in the other! So if any anything, For The Demented, tugs at the heart strings as Annihilator add another magnum opus to a catalog unmatched in this country. And alas, metal health will drive you mad!
BraveWords: How does Jeff Waters keep Annihilator fresh and relevant 30-plus years into your career?
“Donuts, donuts,” Waters begins in his usual fun-loving and fro-licking manner. “That's not easy any year. Obviously when you're the main writer and it's your baby, for almost 30 years, maybe even more. Definitely more than 30 years. I started this thing with a friend of mine call John Bates from Ottawa. He co-wrote seven or eight songs including ‘King Of The Kill” and some of the ‘Alison Hell’ lyrics with me. And that was in December 1984, so technically speaking, you are looking at almost 33 years. But with all these 40th and 50th anniversaries of bands, I don't mind 30 and a bit. That's OK. In the early days of most painters, musicians, poets, whatever, the very early days are learning what you are doing, figuring it out. And pretty early on after that, that's when people start developing their own style. Especially in metal music, having the most inspiration in life, following all the bands you love. When you are younger, it is 100% full time on the brain, I want to play guitar or I want to listen to metal, or whatever it is. Usually in the beginning of a bands career, at least the first couple of records minimum, that's sort of the peak I guess. You have rare exceptions like Judas Priest for example, who can go through so many classic records. Not just one or two, but like half a dozen at least - then wind up 14 albums into their career with Painkiller. Glenn Tipton changed his guitar style. Their new drummer, Scott Travis started getting him into this guy by the name of Paul Gilbert of course, then all of a sudden you see Tipton, who is a blues guitarist and who helped create heavy metal soloing, all of a sudden he turns into a bit of a Paul Gilbert student. You could tell Glenn must've just sat in his room, even after 13 records. Anyway, in my case it's even more difficult because I don't have other writing partners there with me all the time, like Iron Maiden would have with a (Steve) Harris and a (Adrian) Smith for example. So for me it's always a struggle, because the early years were easy, because that's when you’re most hungry. You're the most into it and then things in life start to take over as you get older. Everything from health issues, personal tragedies, girlfriends, wives, divorces, kids. All the ups and downs. All these different things start to come into play, and I'm not necessarily saying that all these pertain to me. Some of those things for sure. It's also the state of the music industry and how your style of music fits in there to start with because obviously if you're not selling records and doing well, your finances go down and band members might start to leave. All these can be factors, as you know. In my case musically speaking, I’m always asked what are my influences, who are my favourite guitar players, my favourite bands. I can give you a list of my favourite top 50 guitar players right now off the top of my head. Or my 50 bands. I've always had the inspiration of being a big fan of heavy metal, hard rock and thrash metal. But when you do this for so long and you're the main guy so to speak, it's easy to repeat yourself or pull from your previous stuff. Not that you are getting lazy, but the inspiration can definitely drift, and if you have to schedule the writing, the inspiration has to come. Sometimes I let the metal fan in me take over the professional side in the songwriting process and I wind up like the last record, Suicide Society - although it did really well for us and the record company was very happy. Sales went up overseas for us but it was also the most unoriginal Jeff Waters songwriting of my career. But I didn't care, I loved it. I was writing riffs and thinking to myself, ‘that sounds a lot like Slayer.’ Sometimes in my past my filter would be on - ‘fuck, I can’t do that cuz it’s obviously too close to what I was influenced by…’ Then, the last record I just said screw it, intentionally. If Slayer came up with that riff I'd like that. ‘Suicide Society’, the title track is actually one of my favourite songs over the last couple records, and you definitely hear that I'm a Mustaine fan, both guitar and vocals. And there’s a ‘Battery’/‘Damage Inc.’ kind of song called ‘My Revenge’. And I knew it was there when I was writing it, but I just didn’t filter myself like I usually would.”
I realized right after we finished Suicide Society, I wanted to do the total opposite for the next record. Not try to recapture the past or copy Never Neverland, Alice In Hell, Set The World On Fire or King Of The Kill. I could never do that, it would never work. It was so long ago and a different time in my life. I have a lot of inspiration from the 18 months of touring Suicide Society. I toured with a lot of bands, some amazing ones that I was a fan of when I was younger and still am. So the inspiration was there, but I told myself that I had to go back and find what it was about the demos and the first four records that we did. We had four successful records in different parts of the world, with four different singers and line-ups too. And I realized - and you know what it was? I had less fanboy in me at the time and more focusing on trying to develop my own style out of all these influences. I'm not an original guitar player. When people say they recognize - ‘oh, that must be an Annihilator or Waters riff’ - that just comes from how I put together all these different influences. I'm definitely not a 100% original guy at all. So I couldn't clone the early stuff, I never thought I could. But I went back to trying to be Waters, instead of Waters the metal fan, basically. I had to sit back and go, ‘the bottom line is, an outside set of ears clearly is the number one way around decades of doing it all myself.’ The best thing was to find someone else. So I started thinking about an outside producer. Not songwriter, but a producer to come in. A lot of times producers, if you like them, take over and direct you. You see Metallica footage from the studio for decades now, not necessarily taking over. You see Lars and James taking over, but we always see a producer, clearly with Bob Rock, guiding them exactly where a producer wanted them to go. In my case, I didn't have a huge budget and it would be a disaster to try to change all these types of different things I've been doing for years and that might be quite the problem - not to mention spending a lot of money trying. So I thought, ‘what if I get somebody in here to just simply sit with me at the very beginning stages as I'm writing and say yes or no? But it has to be somebody that knows old school Megadeth, Annihilator, Exodus, Slayer, Testament, Razor, early Exciter. Somebody from that era who knows that kind of music, I can also accept some newer stuff or whatever. Mix it together. Just somebody to keep me on the right track. So I talked to my bass player Rich (Hinks). We have done a lot of touring and we were supposed to take four or five months off. We finished touring in December of 2016 and it took two weeks before I was back in full mode. No vacation, forget it. I want to get going on this, so no break from any of this and I was totally inspired to do the record. But I didn't want to start it without somebody sitting with me basically and giving me advice. So, I shocked Rich and said ‘I know we were planning on a vacation, but would you like to jump on a plane and come back to Ottawa and shack up with me for a month.’ It wasn't actually to write the album. And I said I would give him a writing credit. So in other words, Rich and I would be credited with writing the music, but clearly I would've done everything and he would be a yes or no guy, which I still needed. It turned out to be quite different. I played him about 100 riffs, that I'd written over the last year or two, which is how I write. I picked the best ones and I deleted the other ones. If I have 30 good leftover riffs, I put them together and try to write songs with them. If we had 100 or so, by the first four days, Rich and I had deleted 99 of them. And I was a little bit scared, because I realized I was hitting delete so much that it wasn't working. But that's what the previous bunch of Annihilator records were. Just good enough riffs, with the occasional really good riff in there. So on the Feast album we did - the last one with Dave Padden - there were one or two really good songs, but the rest of them were just good enough for an album. I couldn't crack that nut for years. I always seem to have one or two really good songs on an album. Occasionally on four or five records, I get a pretty good general record, but there's always those one or two songs that saved the album from being not that good. So I wiped out all those riffs and looked at Rich and said ‘oh, no’. It kind of scared me, because I was starting from scratch. And he grabbed a bass and he grabbed a guitar, I grabbed a bass and a guitar. We had four stands, two of us with two chairs and we just sat in that room (from the patio setting, we are literally ten feet from his home studio) and started from zero. And he co-wrote it with me, he didn't just sit there. There were times when I went to get a coffee, because I just want to get out of the studio, and I learned really quickly the longer that I stayed up for a coffee, he will be right in there writing. And 50% of the time I would come back down after 15 minutes and I would say ‘holy crap you found the part for the song.’ Anyway, that's how I knew I needed to get help with a set of fresh ears, to up the quality of the album. When you're actually writing this shit, you think you got 10 great songs. You could be three months later and you go ‘Ewwww, there's only seven, and I should've written a better three.’ A year later you can go right back down to one, two or three good songs, and that’s just the way it is as an artist. You can be dishonest as an artist and lie to yourself that everything is great, but that's obviously not true. Even with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or AC/DC. They have their Back In Blacks, but they only have one of them. Maiden has one, The Number Of The Beast.”
BraveWords: Not that we ever see too much of a Jeff Waters ego, but where did that natural ego go when you brought someone else to help you write this new record?
Waters: “I don't know Rich that well, because he's only been in the band for two years. And you just know people from sharing a bus, touring and playing together. It's always in a playing and touring mode. A lot of times you catch onto personal things in conversations, but that's not what you do all the time. You aren’t there to be best buddies and friends, you were there to get along and have fun and do your job. All I needed was a guy that didn't mind if I had 51% of the say first of all. If I have to overrule I'm going to overrule something, and that's just the way it is. But he already knew that. He had been on the record aside from his band (Aeon Zen) before and he knew that we had 15 records and have been doing this for decades. So he wasn't trying to equal anything, so immediately that puts me at ease, because I’m not trying to combat anyone and fight for the place in the partnership. The other thing is that he's a quiet guy, which is great, because all I do is yap and annoy people. I just talk and talk and talk. Everybody knows that. The other side of it is that he's got a classic, thrash metal background. Plus he's a math metalhead, he likes Meshuggah, a lot of the Scandinavian metal from the past 15 years that takes extreme talent and knowledge to pic and play. He's knowledgeable, he's quiet, he listens and he’s smart. So I put all that together and went, ‘this could be the guy who could put up with me and actually just sit there. When he speaks you're going to respect him and listen to what he has to say.”
BraveWords: So he came in as the listener, but you became the listener.
Waters: “As he would write his riffs, and I’d say, ‘hey, that’s good’, which let the door right open and it became more of a partnership. Coming over, and having to criticize it and guide me, turned into co-writing the whole album with me. And when we were done, I said ‘are you going to stay?’ I had to do the lyrics, the vocals and all that. And he was like, ‘I don't think you need me here.’ That wasn't his kind of thing. I will tell you exactly how it went in one sentence. I played a riff sometime at the beginning of our writing session and I looked up at him and I remember him looking back up at me and he says ‘Slayer’ in a very serious voice. And I remember putting my head back down and just starting over again. It was like ‘very clearly Slayer, fuck off and do a Waters.’ But I finally got the riff right, he said ‘that’s Waters right there.’ We were talking about me in the third person while I'm sitting there. And what he meant was that it was more of a riff he thought was Annihilator. It doesn't mean you have thrash or go back to the roots. Clearly that is in some of the songs. I think what it does, it gets you back to what people liked with those first four albums and the demos. The first four records weren’t thrash. Alison Hell was a bit of technical thrash at the time, but the first track was called ‘Crystal Ann’ and it was classical guitar. And the hit was not a thrash song, but it was a commercially heavy metal song called ‘Alison Hell’. And the only heavy part of the song was the chorus that had a really slow guitar riff, which was like a Gary Holt-style.”
BraveWords: And angry vocals…
Waters: “And (Randy Rampage) was even more of a punk vocalist like DOA. He was the bass player in DOA for a couple of years actually. So it was a punkish growl. I was into the Dead Kennedys, GBH, all that stuff back in the ‘80s in high school. But he really couldn't hit notes. That's not what Randy Rampage was about. He was about a show and a style. And that’s the same with Coburn Pharr, the second guy. And that's why the second album is so big, because we had a guy who wasn't necessarily a great singer, but nobody sounded like him. Dickinson, Dio and Halford; those guys are different. They are trained but they are also phenomenal singers. Mainly to the street person who is not into metal, when they hear Halford screaming, a lot of people don't understand how talented that is. But they know the sound and they know that that's the guy from Judas Priest.”
BraveWords: Two of the strongest songs (‘Pieces Of You’ and Phantom Asylum’) on the new record are far from the Annihilator standard fare and exude plenty of daring harmonies. And you’ve put on your country hat for the latter.
Waters: “Yeah there's something neat about that song. We were able to fuck around getting different sounds, but making sure that they fit into a metal song. The cowboy western effect in that song just fit. It had to fit and sometimes you get lucky. Weeks or months after you finish a song sometimes you think that it didn't work. And sometimes you think ‘whoa, that did work.’
BraveWords: Strangely enough ‘Pieces Of You’ is going to be a highlight of the set.
Waters: “Yes, in our headlining set. But I certainly have to learn how to sing better on that one.”
BraveWords: Your singing is incredible on this record. It is remarkable that you were known as this guitar god, but at the same time you’ve really honed your voice.
Waters: “Except for health and cigarettes and everything else, when the singer doesn't pull off what's on the album, people clearly see that. When I'm pulling off songs from the older singers, there's no way I'm going to live up to what they were doing, because they were dedicated singers with no guitar strapped onto them. And a lot of them were singers for a decade or two and they had great voices. So I'm a guitar player turned guitar player-singer, so it's difficult to do a lot of the older songs. In the studio you can use all the computer tricks to fix your voice like Auto-Tune. If you don't say the letter ’s’ at the end of a word properly, you could literally cut and paste that ’s’ back in. After all these years producing singers, there are so many tricks that you can do in any kind of music to make a singer's voice sound better than they are. In my case, it was more confidence and practice, and how long I've been doing it. Because in the studio I can roll the tape and pull off the full lines or the full verses on some of the last two albums we’ve done, without screwing around with things. But to get the feel of the stuff, you can tell when it's been fucked with. I'm not pretty fucking confident with what I'm doing vocally now. I've got it in my head. There's nobody in there when I'm singing. Just me, there are no nerves. The other side of that is, you might not see that live at all, you see me struggling just to hit the notes. It's a completely different ballgame when you get in front of people. But now more than ever in my life I can really appreciate Hetfield and Mustaine, how they can do what they are doing. Mustaine especially. What James does - and he's brilliant at it - he’s like Glenn Tipton from Priest. When they write songs and rhythms, they make the guitar one note when the guy is singing. So very simple. So when Halford is singing the lyrics, Tipton is usually playing one note and the millisecond that Halford is done singing, bang, the riff comes in. Mustaine is different. He fucks everything up and he will write a complex guitar riff and sing over top of it. He's at the top of the pile for playing and singing at the same time. He’s the best at that. Dave Padden, our old singer and guitar player live hated me for that because I would just write it and say ‘here you go, sing it. Now you have to learn it live.’ And now I know what he meant. I had a real problem with Suicide Society, playing and singing it live, because my guitars were doing one thing and my voice something different. Oh my confidence is up in the studio and I think that came across with the singing on the new record. Now it's going to be a good couple of years before I get my shit together as a singer live.”
BraveWords: What legendary singer is going through your head when you're actually doing the vocals by yourself.
Waters: “The people that I sing in the shower or the car with are Layne Stayley, Ozzy, Hetfield and Mustaine. Those are my guys. So those four are my inspirations, but not necessarily my favourite singers; they are the ones that I can sing along with. My favourites are Roth and Halford, but they are tied since they are two different kinds of music and attitudes. And of course you’ve got the Dios, the Dickinsons and the Freddie Mercurys. On the new record, you are going to hear Mustaine-isms on there. We're never going to get that out and I would never want to kill that out of my system because that's what I grew up on and that's what I love. But there is a limit to what you should be allowed to do as an artist without calling it a cover song. So my filter was on when I was doing my vocals. And I think it's back to Waters singing the demos. Waters singing on the Phantasmagoria demo and others that people didn’t hear that were sent to the record companies. I sang on those first two records on the demo tapes and sent them to record companies in ’86, ’87 and ’88. Some people hear me sing stuff from Alison Hell and Criteria For A Black Widow and say, ‘that sounds totally like Randy Rampage.’ Three years before I met Randy Rampage, I had done demos singing all that stuff to the record companies. And when we met Rampage we said, ‘here are the demos, sing like this.’ So basically on the new album, I tried to get back to an album called King Of The Kill, Refresh The Demon and the demos, because I sang on all those.”
BraveWords: To get a bit more serious, let’s talk about the underlying theme of mental health. There are three or four songs on For The Demented that deal with it.
Waters: “That wasn't the target. The target on this one was, when I heard the demo of all the music written, and Rich went back to England, I said ‘yeah, it’s pretty crazy stuff.’ Some songs are still typically Annihilator, but there are different styles and grooves on other ones. So when I thought it was crazy, I didn't mean it in the way of being schizophrenic, I just thought it just went all over the map with certain vibes. And with the sound of the production and the singing, you can tie that all in so they don't all sound extremely different. So I thought this was a bit crazy, so let me write the lyrics about the human mind, because I seem to be doing that a lot in my career anyway, whether it's the loss of a family member, personal issues, depression. States that I see people around me going through. Finally I have a theme on my record where every song can relate to the human mind. The title track ‘For The Demented’, there are two subjects in my mind, although they both came together for one song. The second meaning of demented in the dictionary is crazy, wild, out of society’s norm, different. That was the demented I was aiming for - to send a simple message like ‘if you have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), bipolar, or depression or whatever. You may just want to be able to dress different. The typical Twisted Sister cliché, ‘We’re Not Going To Take’. We are the rebels. It's for anybody who just wants to be different. The people who are different are often the ones that change the world and do incredibly creative things. People with autism do the most amazing things. You can go through the whole scope of everything, from just being different and weird, being from an abusive family or an alcoholic family. Or having mental illness. You see these people doing the most amazing things in life. That's what I meant for half of the song. The other story, is that I went to see a respected doctor in 2006. I was a single father and my son was under 10 and I could tell that he was having problems. His mother had died of cancer. He was having issues, I was having issues. I wanted to be a better parent. So I went and paid $300 an hour to see a family psychologist. And she was supposed to be a very well respected lady. I went for quite a few sessions, and she happily took my money. I thought I was doing the right thing, but after five or six sessions when I thought things were going well, she made a snide comment about my black shirts and the music that I was playing and my career choice of being in a band. It was one of those comments that just came out of nowhere. It was right between the eyes. I was like, ‘whoa, did you just say that?’ So if you read the lyrics for ‘For The Demented’, you can see I’m basically saying ‘fuck you. You took all my money and all my intention was to get myself help as a parent and my son better.’ It was time to grow up according to her. Be normal and stop being abnormal. So that kind of fit in with the theme. So I described both of those stories in the lyrics.
And there’s another song called ‘All Not There’. My son and I both have ADHD, which course means in our case, when you say something to us - unless we are completely interested in it - it's very hard for us to remember or even hear it. When I was younger, the only thing that I could focus on was music. The worst thing I could focus on was math. If I saw numbers, I would get a headache in five minutes. I had to act up or I just had to leave. There was something wrong. But the extreme opposite was music class. It was like a magnet, I could sit there for 10 hours and listen to Elton John’s Greatest Hits album - ’Saturday Night Is Alright For Fighting’. I can listen to that record 50 times in a row and I probably did. Sweet’s Desolation Blvd. and the first Kiss albums. Black Sabbath and it all snowballed from there. As you can tell right now with ADHD, I'm rambling and I can't even stay on focus. Music was almost the only thing that stabilized me and to this day that's what it's doing. Anybody that has any of these issues, you're not different, you're not weird, you just gotta find your path on how you can do something good and manage things. As you know most actors, painters and musicians, they are a different breed. A lot of creative people often come from broken homes, addiction, the whole bloody spectrum of fucked up-ness. There a few songs and they're saying that it's totally normal to be he fucked up or to have issues. And you can still do freaking good at what you are doing. And screw anybody that thinks you are a screw up because you want to play in a metal band.”
BraveWords: Talk about influences on the record, because on the outro to lead-off track “Twisted Lobotomy”, I hear one of your biggest icons of all time.
Waters: “Oh yeah that was totally intentional. Because the pictures that you took of my studio pedal board (watch for an intimate Waters photo gallery soon!) show Van Halen pedals. In 2005, I discovered the guitar pedal by Dunlop and Van Halen did a line of Flanger Pedals and Phaser Pedals. I picked those up just before Schizo Deluxe. And what I had found was the secret weapon for the lead guitar for metal. This Phaser Pedal has this sound and a frequency on it and it sweeps around the frequency, that happens to be where the guitar pic hits the strings. You hear a loud picking sound from a guitar player, that's an actual frequency, and Van Halen figured out where that frequency is and put it into his pedal. So it switched around that frequency in the middle, and brings it up. It's almost like if you play really well, it will bring up your playing to sound way better and clearer and picked really cleanly. And if you play sloppy even a little bit, it emphasizes the shittiness or the sloppiness. So with that pedal, you have to play really clearly and well, otherwise it doesn't work too well. It basically makes you sound better than you are. He's also famous for a lot of his songs having a Flanger. That's his second pedal. On Fair Warning or Women And Children First, he's got these things at the end of the song where the band just hits one note and he hits that pedal and the pedal makes all these crazy noises, but he’s not actually playing anything, he just hitting one or two notes. That's his sound, and I haven't heard that on very many records, only his. So I thought ‘all I have to do is hit the note and hit his pedal and immediately it sounds like Van Halen. The best guitar player that has ever lived.”
BraveWords: What does Women And Children First mean to you?
Waters: “In my band living room down here, that's the only record that stuck in my little wall unit. Fair Warning was incredible, and obviously the first one was groundbreaking with Roth and Eddie hitting the world. And with Van Halen II giving us ‘Beautiful Girls’ and ‘Somebody Get Me A Doctor’ and all these classics. But there was something about Women And Children First, it was massively brutal attitude meets aggression, meets a party. You listen to ‘Romeo Delight’, and you have to listen to what time this came out. ‘Romeo Delight’ is the most brutal song from that era. Eddie would do an interview with one of the big guitar magazines and hundreds of thousands of guitar players would stand in line at record and bookstores, because Van Halen would reveal secrets of everything. What he ate for breakfast, what he warms up to, what strings he uses. What tuning, what effects. How does he play this and that. And everyone in the world of music, whether they liked it or not, was fixated on this guy. Of course then there was Diver Down and the commercially successful 1984, ‘Jump’, ‘Panama’ and all that stuff. I think musicians of all kinds, whether they like it or not, were just blown away with this guy. So I was standing in line in Ottawa, waiting for the guitar magazine to come out, so I can read the six page interview with Eddie Van Halen. Women And Children First was just that one record that hit me. And the cover was a big part of that too. It was a green cover and it was a photo of the band posing for a record cover shot and instead of blowing that photo up to the full size of the LP, they cropped it so it was a third the size of the record and everything around it was a dark green. I would stare at that picture for hours and think that is the coolest shot ever. The only other album that rivals that is Sweet’s Desolation Boulevard, which absolutely stunning. Along with Kiss Alive II and the big booklet that came with it. You opened up that double album and you saw the dragons and the fire and all the gold staging. Those three covers were really influential.”
BraveWords: Let’s talk about your relationship with Exciter’s Dan Beehler and him making guest appearances. Before the Big Four, there was a Big Three hailing from Canada. Namely Anvil, Exciter and Razor, who certainly don’t get enough credit. And when it comes to Beehler, you’ve got this great voice; and by the way, he’s playing the drums at the same time! Is that even possible?
Waters: “I thought that only happens with the Eagles and Don Henley (laughs). Yeah, you saw my studio hallway, there are some Dan Beehler donated posters from back in the day. He gave me some really classic posters when bands like Manowar and them would be special guests on a Motörhead tour. Or Megadeth would support Exciter. There was a tour of Europe where Metallica was going to support Exciter. So there was that time when Canada had Anvil, Razor and Exciter and forget everybody else. We all know Voivod was one of the most original bands ever, but that was later. And we all know Devin Townsend is a genius. And we’ve got Rush, but at that time in this kind of music we had Anvil, Razor and Exciter. Forget the Anvil movie. Forget later times in those bands, you just look at their first couple of records. To me, and I think this is kind of a historical fact, the first two records from each of those bands were super classics, and super influential on more than just the Big Four. Not just because the Anvil movie had famous guys come in and were quoted, it was just a movie. I would like to talk in a movie about a band that I like. But forgetting all that shit, the first two records from each of them, I think they generally pre-date the Big Four stuff and they are more around the Venom time. You had Venom coming out touring South America with Exciter. They aren’t the Big Four, because they had the sales and commerciality of how big these bands were. And they got the Big Four right. I always argued that it should've been a Big Five with Exodus. Exodus was not a band that came out after like Testament or Death Angel. Exodus were there. You know who was is in Exodus and went to Metallica (Kirk Hammett). So, to me it’s always a Big Five. Regardless of that, we had the Big Three and a lot of Canadians don't realize that and when people heard of Anvil, the majority think it’s about the movie. On Metal On Metal, you also had ‘Mothra’, ‘666’. And you also had this amazing first album by Anvil called Hard N’ Heavy. You had two guys singing (Lips and Dave Allison). When I moved back to Ottawa from Vancouver in 2003, I was now coming back to the city not as an unknown musician, but one that had some pretty decent success in Europe and other places. And I thought Dan Beehler. I went to high school with him, but I really didn't talk to him because he was a couple of years older. I would sneak in and listen to some of their rehearsals in a local house in the east end of Ottawa. I got caught by John Ricci hearing them and got shooed away one day. So I looked up Dan Beehler and him and I hit it off right away and since 2005 we've been friends and he was over here a couple of days ago. So one of the first things I said when I met him was ‘I’m working on a new Annihilator record, do me a huge favour and come in and sing some back up vocals.’ And I think all the albums that we've done since 2005 he's appeared on.”
BraveWords: What do you think is more difficult to do, playing guitar and singing or playing the drums and singing?
Waters: “Well, it depends what you're playing on the guitar. If it’s simplified right when you're singing, then it’s definitely going to be the guitar because you are standing stationary and you aren’t really exerting a hell of a lot. If it’s a Mustaine and your hands are going crazy and you are singing, that's a one in a million, so forget about it. That is super difficult for most people other than Dave Mustaine and a few others in the business of music. But physically in metal as you know, to be a drummer is a young man's game. The older guys have to be in shape and had to have been playing for years, otherwise they'd sit behind the kit for the first time in a decade and have a heart attack. That's a health stamina thing. Look at (Dave) Lombardo. If somebody sat down to do what he did for an hour and a half set and they hadn’t played drums before, their heart would explode. That's not a scientific fact, because his heart rate is so fine-tuned to be able to play that stuff. I’d say for rock, it would be easier to play the drums and sing. Metal, that’s a different one. But Dan did the same thing, he would keep everything pretty simple when he was screaming and singing. After he's done singing he would come in with the more difficult stuff.”
BraveWords: And I know Dave Carlo means a lot to you in terms of inspiration.
Waters: “Oh yeah. I got to play with Razor twice last year and meeting Dave Carlo was unbelievable. We have a song called ‘Phantasmagoria’ and lots of other ones from the early days on our albums, and they are either Gary Holt or Dave Carlo influenced. There is a lot of Carlo and Holt influence in what I do at different times of my career. We played the Calgary Metalfest and we did something in Waterloo with them. I'll never forget in Calgary when I was invited to play one of my favourite songs called ‘Cut Throat’. I know I sound like a dick, but I'm trying to compare this. I can stand in front of 100,000 people and talk and still be a little bit nervous, but can play and pull it off without shitting my pants. When I had to play ‘Cut Throat’, my tech was trying to calm me down ten minutes before the song. Because it was in the middle of the set and I had to wait side stage before the song came on and I had to plug my guitar in really quickly. I was shaking and I was nervous and I ended up shying away from Dave Carlo because he was on the other side of the stage. I was almost too nervous to go near the guy. I crapped when I turned around and Mike (Campagnolo) the bass player was there; I was a big fan of his as well. So here I am playing ‘Cut Throat’ with Mike and Dave - and yes Sheepdog (Stace McLaren) and M-Bro (Mike Embro) weren’t there and that’s half the band - but they were kicking ass! As much as I miss Sheepdog, they are kicking ass as much now as they did back then.”