Annihilator’s Jeff Waters is getting into the “old hard-rock stuff” again



By Steve Newton

Despite the fact that this city is home to Annihilator—one of the most promising young bands in metal—Vancouver has yet to prove itself as a world-class heavy metal town. Aside from Annihilator, there hasn’t been a successful metal recording act out of this city since Kick Axe set up shop here in ’83 and went gold with its debut album, Vices.

But that fact didn’t stop Annihilator guitarist/songwriter Jeff Waters from moving here from Ottawa in ’87 and giving it his best shot.

“In Ottawa and Vancouver, as I found out when I came out, there wasn’t much of a metal scene happening and a lot of heavy-metal musicians, compared to other places in the world,” says Waters. “But when I came out to Vancouver my goal was to build a band around me of guys that were not just into the thrash-metal scene like a lot of musicians in New York and San Francisco are, I wanted guys that that could do different stuff—like anywhere from Queen to Saga to Rush to Aerosmith. You know–versatile musicians, that’s what I’m tryin’ to spit out. And I found them easily, because there’s so many bar bands in Vancouver with musicians that have the potential—but they’re playing cover tunes. They have that mentality where they think that’s gonna make them famous and they’ll be discovered or something.

“But it was great for me ’cause I came out here and I got one of the best bass players [Wayne Darley] I’ve ever seen, and I’ve got a great rhythm guitar player [Dave Scott Davis]. And our drummer Ray [Hartmann] is definitely one of the best drummers I’ve seen. Definitely.”

Waters’ enthusiasm for the talents of his hand-picked band-mates—and their resulting metal noise—is not without its backers. Across the Atlantic, Annihilator is one of the hottest metal acts around; they consistently tear up the charts in the European metal fanzines. Britain’s heavy metal bible, Kerrang!, recently gave the band’s new album, Never, Neverland, a four-K review (five is tops), and proclaimed that Annihilator “will become one of the biggest thrash groups in the world”. And the band is still numb from the terrific reaction it got during its second European tour earlier this year.

“That was a blast!” claims Waters. “We were headlining there and drawing anywhere from, you know, 500 people to 2,000, so for us that was really quite an experience. We went there last year as a support act and we did pretty well, but when you go over there as a headliner and you’re gettin’ all the people there that know your songs, and you get a crowd singing the chorus to your songs so that singer found himself puttin’ down his mike half the time and giving it to someone in the crowd and just letting the crowd sing a lot of the parts.”

Currently on a whirlwind U.S. tour, Waters called the Georgia Straight last week from New Orleans, during a stopover between gigs in Texas and Florida.

He explained how, after a couple of years of classical and jazz lessons, he picked up the rock bug from bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kiss, Aerosmith, and Sweet.

“That’s from my hard-rock days,” says the 24-year-old Waters, whose interests later turned toward thrash metal. “Then I shifted when I was about 19, 18, and started listening to the first albums by Metallica and Slayer and Anthrax and Exodus, all their first albums. That’s what turned me into this direction of music. And now I find myself shying away from that and getting into the old hard-rock stuff again.”

Annihilator’s move to more of a melodic hard-rock sound is subtly evident on the new album, although the group still retains the thrashy edge so prominent on its debut Alice in Hell album of 1988. Never, Neverland is the first Annihilator record to feature former Omen vocalist Coburn Pharr, who replaced one-time D.O.A. member Randy Rampage last year.

The new LP—which Kerrang! describes as “a real chest-burster of an album”—was recorded at Vancouver Studios, and co-produced by Waters and Glen Robinson, whose previous engineering credits include Voivod, the Cult, and Queensryche. As a matter of fact, Annihilator shared the Vancouver Studio facilities with Seattle hard-rock kings Queensryche while the latter was making its current album, the chart-busting Empire.

“We had some vicious pool tournaments with those guys,” says Waters, adding that—while local studios like Mushroom and Little Mountain have higher profiles—Vancouver Studios proved ideal for his band. He says he’d like to make the next Annihilator album there as well.

“Little Mountain’s for the bands that want to spend the millions and have the millions to spend,” says Waters. “I don’t think I’d ever want to waste a lot of money like that unless I had to for tax purposes.”

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