18 May Annihilator’s Jeff Waters on his Canada Tour, Career Longevity and Keeping It Versatile
“Canada is a beautiful country,” says Jeff Waters’ friendly voice over the phone. Though his band was formed in Ottawa in the 1980s, this will be Annihilator’s first headline tour here in over 20 years.
In the early days, there was money flowing in the metal industry, and the musicians teenaged Jeff found were really good. However, the serious musician life isn’t for everyone, and the band’s core figure would soon start learning other instruments to fill in the holes left by some of the less-committed. After releasing 3 successful records and the worldwide touring that followed each release, Jeff eventually made the step into investing in his own recording studio, built in 1994 and moved from Vancouver to Ottawa in 2003 – basic audio engineering being something he advises all bands try to learn. While he strongly believes that everybody’s got their own path, when he teaches at his Gibson/Epiphone guitar clinics, the number one piece of advice he gives to young musicians is “if you want a career, you gotta really keep your head clear. […] The industry is so much smaller, and you have to learn about the business, so you don’t get screwed… as much.” Jeff credits his career longevity “learning other jobs, staying mentally un-altered and listening to many different styles of music.”
While Annihilator has been signed to worldwide renowned record labels since 1989, Jeff Waters has done and still does all the engineering, producing, mixing and mastering on Annihilator’s releases. “Sometimes it works out great and other times, it’s easy to get burnt out from taking on some many of the roles; but I love it!” In fact, he refused to listen to the new albums of his favorite bands while writing his latest record: “As a fan of many bands, if I listen to them, they easily slip into my own songwriting; a double-edged sword”.
Annihilator was fortunate in that their first album, Alice In Hell, was a smash hit, and “took us all over the world, right away.” While the metal scene in North America has its ups and downs, their formidable fan base from around the world has stayed constant. “Traditionally, metal fans in Europe have always been a bit more open to more aggressive types of music, and every summer weekend, they have a few dozen hard rock/metal music festivals.” One thing Jeff noticed over the years is that, in Europe, there isn’t so much dictation of what’s good as they have across the pond. “Fans will listen to new music and question what they like more.” The band’s sound is sometimes so versatile that “it frequently loses one type of fan but then gains another. “Because we have so many albums, they usually come back to check out the next one.” However, artistically, “it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Jeff describes Annihilator’s upcoming Canadian tour as “almost like a super-energetic rehearsal with 250-1000 metal friends.” They will be playing clubs and small theatres; much smaller venues in their home country than overseas; “I was hoping there’d be a good time to come back here to tour but we haven’t really had the opportunities.” After years of focusing on Europe, South America, Japan and other territories, Jeff took it upon himself to pick up the phone and call Canadian venues directly, bypassing booking agents entirely. Because Canada is a much bigger country with its cities further apart than in Europe, Jeff had his doubts about the financial aspect working out on this tour: “Without the support of a label here, tour agency, etc…, I knew that I would end up covering the excessive costs on this one. So I was pleasantly surprised when we had such an enthusiastic response from venues and promoters… We broke even before we even started the tour! That is a testament to underground music and its supporters here! We can’t wait to play to our Canadian fans and to making some new ones!