Annihilator will publish a new album in January, a release that comes as a package featuring the three discs. "Triple Thread" is its name and Markus' Heavy Music Blog had the chance to get some more insights from bandleader Jeff Waters.
Markus’ Heavy Music Blog: Hello Jeff. Good to talk to you again. How are you?
Jeff Waters: I’m good, thanks for asking.
MHMB: You came back recently from touring through Europe for a couple of weeks. How was it?
Jeff: Right. I think it’s a week or so that I’m back, slowly getting rid of the jetlag. We started off with a couple of shows in Greece, which was amazing. We continued with some more shows in Central Europe for a month and finished off with some gigs in Russia last week.
MHMB: Let’s have a look into the near future with Annihilator releasing a new record. Actually it’s a package, with the first disc containing acoustic versions of different Annihilator songs. So, the question is how the idea came up for doing an acoustic Annihilator record.
Jeff: Since the “King of the Kill” album back in 1994 I always wanted to do such an acoustic thing, but it wasn’t the right time since metal was at an all-time low in those days. Nobody was really interested at that time in listening to acoustic versions of Annihilator songs. After the band sort of rebounded with “Metal”, record sales went up again and since we gained a lot of new fans at that time an acoustic album didn’t make sense either. These fans discovered what we were doing at the time, not knowing the stuff from the 80’s. The whole acoustic thing got more attention again in 2012 when I bought Van Halen’s “Different Kind of Truth”. There were four songs the guys did as a sort of low budget video clips in black & white filmed in Eddie’s studio. When I saw that I loved it. The guys seemed to have so much fun doing it and I thought that I have to do this now. Not necessarily in the same style, but in a way of getting good musicians together including a guy that can sing lead vocals to help me with the songs I can’t sing. However, there were some concerns about an Annihilator acoustic album not selling very well. This led to the idea of recording a live concert and we got very lucky since Bang Your Head planned to film Twisted Sister at the 2016 festival edition. The whole thing ended up in the guys filming the Annihilator show while testing out everything for the filming of Twisted Sister. By putting together all these pieces we all of a sudden had a great fan package including a live show, an acoustic studio set and some sequences of Annihilator’s home base in Ontario.
MHMB: How did you pick the songs for the acoustic album?
Jeff: We ended up in being five guys going through the old Annihilator catalogue and picking some of the favourite songs I wanted to do. If you think back to the first two albums, “Alice in Hell” and “Never, Neverland”, those were real thrash metal records, which means that there wasn’t any chance to do acoustic versions. Things became a bit more diverse, melodic and commercial with “Set the World on Fire” and “King of the Kill”. We figured 10-12 songs would be it. We picked the songs that either I liked or that I thought the fans would like or that Mark and myself could do together when it comes to the vocals. Those were the three criteria for us to choose the songs that ended up on the acoustic disc. What was more stressful than I thought was the recording. We didn’t want to overdub anything and cheat. We said that it has to be live and it has to be one take. For some of the songs the first take was great while for some others we needed maybe 5-10 takes. In the end of it we all agreed that the recording was 5% fun and 95% hell [laughing]. However, the 5% fun was worth everything.
MHMB: How easy or difficult was it to re-arrange the songs? I could imagine that tunes like “Phoenix Rising” was a bit easier than something like “Snake in the Grass”. So, was it a big effort to translate these songs into acoustic versions?
Jeff: Actually it was very easy. With the described way of choosing songs and considering that music is your job this kind of work isn’t difficult.
MHMB: How easy was it to work together with Mark and Pat since they aren’t part of Annihilator?
Jeff: Mark is a well-known singer who was already a back-up studio singer for so many artists. He also sang on songs like “Phoenix Rising”, “Perfect Angel Eyes” and some of the ballads. In that sense he was easy to figure out and I just asked him if he could do this with me. The more interesting clashes were with Pat. He is more into country and slide guitar. The only thing I have in common with him is a little bit of blues and a lot of Eddie Van Halen. Pat is more into jamming. Aaron instead is a lot into death metal and also more a perfectionist while Rich is more into math metal. In the end we are five guys with totally different backgrounds and that was the really interesting thing for me.
MHMB: Would you think about adding one or two of these acoustic versions to a live set in the near future?
Jeff: We did it together with Dave Padden, I think it was back in 2010, even though it was done with electric guitars. To do something like that with acoustic guitars you need to have more of a budget. You need an extra crew member, you have to have more guitars and you have to ship more guitars. In the end you have to bring at least 5 more guitars with you, plus additional equipment like microphones to do some acoustic stuff. So it’s not easy and cheap to do an acoustic set as part of a tour. And on the other hand, Annihilator is probably not a big enough band for it to make any sense for promoters to have us do a smaller ‘acoustic only’ tour, even though I would love to do it.
MHMB: Jeff, it was great talking to you. Thanks for giving us more insight when it comes to “Triple Threat” and thanks for spending some time with Markus’ Heavy Music Blog.
Jeff: You’re welcome and thanks for having me.