While much of the metal world was focused on the Bay Area thrash scene in the early 80s, Canada quietly built its own weapon in the form of guitarist Jeff Waters and his band Annihilator. Waters, who over the years has also served as the band’s vocalist, bassist, drum programmer, producer, mixer, and principal songwriter, founded the band in 1984. It would take five years before the world would hear the band’s debut, Allison Hell, but that record and its subsequent follow-up, Never, Neverland the highest selling metal band in Canada. This fall Waters and Annihilator will release studio album number 15, Suicide Society. This week we connected with Waters to talk about the new record, and why he seldom plays in North America.
This year marks the start of the band’s fourth decade, a sobering moment for Waters who has been Annihilator’s sole original member since inception. Suicide Society marks the first time since the 90s that Jeff is once again serving as the band’s lead vocalist. Waters handled lead vocal duties on the band’s King of the Kill, Refresh the Demon, and Remains records in the mid-90s. But last winter longtime vocalist Dave Padden chose to walk away after a dozen years in the band, and Jeff had a quandary on his hands.
“The last four years [Dave] was sort of losing interest,” shared Waters, on his former singer’s departure. “I didn’t discuss it with him because I was sort of scared of losing the guy, but then he hit me with a bomb right before he was supposed to fly in and record this record. He just said ‘Hey, I’m sorry but it’s my time to bow out now. I just don’t want to do the traveling.’ So I started the album off in panic mode. I mean the album was done. The writing was done and the recording the music, but it was kind of like, now what? I looked around for other singers–couldn’t find what I was hoping for.”
Ultimately, after no small amount of soul searching, Waters decided to take over vocal duties again, but this time he decided to take it more seriously that he did the first time around.
“I’m 49 here, and we’re talking I’m going to be the lead singer, guitar player/frontman. You gotta be kidding? So I went in and said do I find a singer or do I take this as a challenge. I haven’t had a lot of challenge musically in years in the sense that when we tour I just walk on stage and play the same songs I’ve been playing for sometimes 15-20-25 years. It’s a blast, but there’s no real challenge in that. It’s just fun. Which is great. That’s the way it should be. But the singing I said, I’m not gonna sing on this now. I’m going to take a few months of vocals lessons and get rid of the things I don’t like about my voice from the past and then lookk at my strengths. My strengths, I was thinking well what do I sing in the shower. What do I almost sound good at, and it was Layne Staley, Ozzy Osbourne, Dave Mustaine, and James Hetfield. That’s it. That’s what you’re getting vocally on the record. I don’t think there’s much else except some Jeff Waters in the past.”
During the 30 minute interview which you can listen to in the video above, Waters also talks about creating the new record and his lyrical direction. He also talks about why his band has seldom played in his home country and the US as well as his hopes that those tides are turning thanks to the internet. Lastly, Jeff shares his thoughts on some of rocks last “perfect” albums. Suicide Society will be released September 18 through UDR Music.
If you are a fan of Megadeth, Overkill, and Metallica but are unfamiliar with Annihilator, this would be the perfect time to check them out.