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Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with Jeff Waters of Annihilator from 2006

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

Congratulations on your 11th Annihilator disk.
Getting there, right? I have to say, if there is a plus to this, not plus, I haven't been in the states really since '93 with an album called Set the World on Fire. And that was sort of the end, right at the end of traditional metal for most of the world, especially in the states and Canada. It's weird because somehow I managed to disappear from North America and learn about the business, learn about the studio and recording, and learn about the business of this stuff and I ended up making more money. I don't mean it in a silly way because I'm not rich or nothin', but making more money and having more sales in a time when metal was completely almost gone, the traditional stuff, and not even being around in North America and not playing a gig here since '93, in my home country Canada or the states. We just had that success in Europe and in Asia that kept us going all these years. The thing is, it's very strange for North Americans, I'm not talking about the US, I'm talking about North America, even my home country doesn't hear anything from my band which some people may be happy about (laughs) but it's been the kind of thing where there are so many reasons why. One, in the '90s when the metal thing died, if you didn't convert in the early '90s over to the Pantera/Biohazard/Sepultura style, at the time they called it "hardcore metal", if you weren't going that direction, your metal band lost your deal and you cut your hair short and got other jobs or you made music for TV or movies. But in my case, I dropped from the face of the earth in North America in '93 and I put out a record. Those first two records sold really, really well for me on Roadrunner, then the last one on Roadrunner-Sony, Set the World on Fire, I made my only conscious effort to sort of target the sound and the style of a record I kind of thought I had to do to survive. I went melodic. I thought metal would go more melodic and commercial sounding. And bang, lost my deal, Pantera became one of the biggest bands in the world, and I learned a lesson. But I was really lucky that I actually got dropped by Roadrunner, understandably, which let me out of a long, long, long term 7 album deal. I could have still been signed to this label at this point. Even if I hadn't done records, I still would have owed them all these records, if I ever would have wanted to play with my Annihilator band again. They dropped me out of there and for a while I was a little depressed. Within about a year, year and a half of being dropped off there, I wound up learning how to get my own record deals and doing different types of deals called "instead of signing your life away, you do licensing deals." I did that in Japan and Europe and I learned what the word "publishing" means, which a lot of musicians still don't know what it is. They just think it's something you sign and you get an advance. A lot of guys don't even pay attention like I did, about what that means. I got a publishing deal from Japan, publishing deal from Europe, a record deal from Japan, and a record deal from Europe. I wound up in '94 buying a house, couple of cars, and building a studio. And this is just something absolutely insane when I look back because I was with Roadrunner all those years and I had 2 really big selling records and I never made a dime. It wasn't Roadrunner's fault, I was just signed to a really bad management deal where the money was mismanaged and disappeared. So I went from disappearing to having a really successful career and doing very well at it. Being Happy and having fun overseas but in '94-'95, I had a kid. This is real deep; I'll try to get over this. This just explains what's been going on with us. I had a kid in the summer of '95 and the mother ended up leaving really quickly after he was born; a year and a half after he was born. So I was kind of sitting here with a nice house, a studio, a little baby, and me. That was it. You just don't go put the baby to sleep and go on a 3 month tour, you know what I mean. So it was kind of at the point where I had to make a decision. What do I do here? I consciously decided I would not go back to the states of my home country of Canada to tour with my band because I would not be able to look after my son. I decided, I think I can go to Europe and Japan a few times a year and have someone take care of my son. Family was coming in, flying from where they live and helping me just to stay in this career and make a living just doing what I enjoy doing. I didn't really want to get a normal 9 to 5 job. I was able to do it in different areas of music and stuff, but I just wanted to see if I can play metal; do what I'm doin'. It somehow worked. I ended up being a single dad, going overseas, and being Mr. Wanna-Be-Rockstar over in Japan and Europe. I was making a bit of money, having a lot of fun, and doing some pretty decent albums. I just could not do North America because that would mean the other half of the year that I'm free away from the Annihilator Europe stuff, I would have to get in a van or bus and travel across Canada and the states. And everyone knows how big this continent is and how many gigs there are in the states. Labels don't really want to sign you unless you're willing to go down there, sit in that bus, and work. You know, work, sell your record, and get down there. So a lot of US folks and Canadian folks sort of thought I snubbed them over the years and they didn't hear from us after '93. We were gone. There was no real internet in '93-'94. It didn't really start becoming popular until the end of the '90s. So people just thought we disappeared here. Even in my own country, in my own city, people were like "Annihilator, wasn't that a band? Alice in Hell back in '89?" I ended up just selling tons of records overseas. I'm on my 11th one and people are figuring out that "hey, this guy has had a band for the last 15 years and 11 records." A lot of people think I've had 3 or 2 which is completely understandable. Nobody knew what we were doing. We never played here. We never put any records out; they were on import. People see line-up changes and they start wondering "what the hell is this band all about here?" They're supposed to be a band but the singers seem to change often. There's different line-ups.
MSJ: Now the internet is out there and you have all the bios on your site. It explains it all.
Yeah, but that's only been up for 3 weeks. I spent a long time writing up the 20 pages of member history, trying to explain how it worked. Really, for the North American people, a lot of people, understandably, see the name Annihilator and think "it must be a thrash band" and then they hear a ballad, and then "wait a minute, this isn't the same singer that I heard on the other album." "These guys change line-ups" and "how come they haven't toured here?" It's easy to figure out on the net or word of mouth, if you're a North American that a) Waters must be a complete dictator a**hole, who fires his people all the time with this huge ego, or b) he doesn't care about his own country or the states and maybe he just wants money. You can go through a whole list of rumors and stuff but now the bio is up and we're getting some attention here from some people on the internet. The buzz sort of thing is going around on my new record. It seems to be coming over here a lot now. I'm starting to do interviews with you, people from the states, and Canada. I wasn't doing that since 1992-93. But now that people are going to the website, checking it out, they're sitting here going "oh, I get it, it's a solo project. The guy has a singer and he hires a drummer in the studio, and Waters plays all the instruments, plays the rhythms, the leads, the solos, he plays all the bass on the Annihilator records, and he writes almost everything. Ah, I see, it's a solo project and then he goes on tour and hires band members." The people start figuring out and going "oh, I'll give it a chance now and give it a listen." It's kind of neat watching it all transpire. This isn't intended to show off or be egotistical but just as en example. I can go over to a shopping mall in Germany and kids will come up and they'll see me as like a Mustaine or something; somebody who they know and "oh, I like your records and I've seen your concerts at festivals." It's just normal. You can go over there, the record sales may differ but people will know Jeff Waters, the name, and if they don't know me or the music, they know "oh, he's supposed to be a musician, guitar player, he's supposed to be good." That kind of stuff. I've got a reputation. Then we come here to North America. If I booked a tour right now, we would be lucky to get, in some places, 50 people to see us, depending on where it was. It's really cool because I wasn't staying away for any reason other than it's the only thing I could do. I couldn't come back here and play. There was just no way to do it with my son and with the things that were gong on; the schedule and all that kind of stuff. It's cool now because, on my website, to watch all these new people come into my website "hey, I'm new here, never really honestly heard much about your band but now that I've heard the clips, saw all the cool fans on the site, saw the video clips, heard the audio clips." People are just starting to discover the band. It's funny because I'm on my 11th studio CD right now.
MSJ: If there was a new fan of Annihilator but really didn't know what you're all about, from your perspective, which release really captures the essence of the band?
Do you mean like somebody who maybe heard the first couple of albums and hasn't heard anything else?
MSJ: Someone who may have not heard any of them all the way through.
I'd say it's kind of tough to take one because with the different singers and the different styles. I've got everything from little bits of classical, jazz, and blues, all the way to death, thrash punk, and speed metal; and pop ballads. I've got everything in there, even some progressive instrumentals on some albums. That's a tough one. I'd have to say just close your eyes and pick one.
MSJ: Well, your new one, Schizo Deluxe, you said that you were going for a 100% thrash album. Why did you go in that direction?
Well, that was a dumb comment I made because, to me, thrash is like Exodus and bands like that. Exodus' last album was a great thrash album and that's thrash metal. Sometimes I open my mouth and say stupid things like I'm sure lots of people do who drink too much coffee. Annihilator is not a thrash band. We're a heavy metal band and we've got a lot of thrash influences in there but if you said "this is Annihilator, check this out", most records I usually have a ballad or an instrumental on there, and it you put those on, you could almost make a complete entire record up of our more melodic songs. You would never think that this would be a band called Annihilator. Some songs have classical guitar pieces. You wouldn't even think it's a rock band. The majority of the stuff is based on all kinds of metal; the bay area thrash, the Canadian thrash scene in the '80s, the British wave, the German wave, and so many different styles. I'm a fan of everything from Slayer to George Michael. I hate to say that but it's true. I do most of the songwriting. On the last couple of records, I wrote everything, played all the bass, and all the guitars. When you're a fan of all these different types of music, it's all coming out in your music. If you're having a bad, depressing day, you might end up writing a depressing song or a confused song musically. If you're pissed off at somebody who's tried to rip you off or a business thing, somebody cuts you off in the car when you're driving, I can channel that into a thrash metal song and aggression into the music. But I'm like most writers. Some of them can't admit to this, with my old age of 39, I finally can admit some of my flaws. I think, when most writers, or painters, or when anyone writes something or creates something, you're so excited about it at the moment because it's cool. When you're creating something, it's like "whoa, it's great." No matter how crappy it is, it's something you've done and you like it. Sometimes artists create something and for the rest of their lives, they think it's the best thing in the world. I've learned the art of looking back on it at a later date, whether it's a month, 6 months, a year, and kind of seeing it for what it really is. Hey that was a good song but it wasn't a classic tune. I can look back at my stuff and go "I've had a couple of these quote classic metal songs especially over in Europe that have been around for a while. Even on my last record and a couple before it, I had a couple of tunes over there that people really like. But then again, I can look at some of the songs and go "geez, that was a cheesy title; the lyrics are bad" or "that song was not happenin'." And I've got stuff in between. I'm not saying these bands have great and shitty stuff; sometimes it's a hit or miss. You're gonna get an Annihilator record where all the pieces are right and sometimes you're going to get one that's not as inspired. Maybe the production or my mix wasn't as good or the singer wasn't the right guy for these songs. You've got all these things so to pick an album is tough because I might pick an album that you might think is a weaker one. When you look at AC/DC, I don't see 10 Back in Blacks. I don't see 10 Reign In Bloods by Slayer. I don't see 10 Number of the Beasts by Maiden. I don't see 10 of these classic albums coming out of everybody all the time. It's not possible; you can't do it. So out of Annihilator's 11 records, I personally would have favorites, and some that I wish I had done completely different or written better songs for. You've got to look at it that way. You can't sit here and say "wow, I'm great and I'm so good." You'll never learn anything and never progress. You just look like an idiot. You have to work with what you've got and I'm just talkin' about musicians. What you've got going in your personal life affects everything; how much money you have to do the record and how much hope you have that your record is going to get promoted and done right. There's so many different factors like personal problems that can influence your actual writing, your recording, and your sound. It's not just a case of a bunch of musicians get together, write a song, and go into the studio. It's not like that. The Exodus guy - I'm kind of proud of watching him, although he's probably a couple of years older than me. Exodus was a big influence on me in the early years. I've watched this Exodus dude go through getting great reviews in the last month on his new record and you look at that and go "hey, I got something in common with this guy." He had a really good band back in the '80s and he had some really good records. The first 3 records he did were pretty damn classic records to me but he doesn't have one single musician from those days. He's the main guy in the band right now and he's still kickin' a**. And the press are noticing that and instead of killing him and slamming him for being the only original member, maybe saying something negative about the tunes, they're praising the guy and raising him up and saying "good job," "great thrash album" and "maybe thrash album of the year." That's pretty cool because it could have gone a completely different way for that guy; being the only guy in Exodus from the beginning. He turned out to have a critically acclaimed thrash album in 2005.
MSJ: You got to participate in the Roadrunner Anniversary CD. How did that come about?
Well, it's funny because I think there's 24 guys in there and about 3 have heard of Annihilator. I met Rob Flynn when he was finishing a Machine Head world tour last Christmas. Just before Christmas, I was on my way, with my son, to my girlfriend's in Germany for Christmas. We were standing in the customs line and he was on his way back to San Francisco. I'm on my way to Hanover and he's standing right behind me in the line going through customs, passport control. He's right behind me and my kid. You go around the corner and you glance at the person. He's got this freakin' earring through nose. He looks like a metal fan from hell or he's been to a festival or something. I'm going "I know this guy from somewhere." I go "whoa, it that Rob Flynn. It can't be. I thought Rob Flynn was 7 feet tall and really mean and this guy seems really calm and nice." I'm looking at him and he's keeps staring at me and it's one of those things where finally someone had to say something cause you look like you're about to leap over and give each other a kiss. So I look over at him and go "are you Rob Flynn?" and he goes "yeah, are you in Annihilator?" It was the funniest thing because you think maybe he recognized me. I recognized him from magazine covers and I'd seen Machine Head in concert once but I thought it's cool that he recognized me. Then I realized, I look down and I'm wearing an Annihilator t-shirt. We just had lunch, said goodbye, and exchanged e-mail addresses. Then I get a call from him many, many months later, out of the blue, and he said "hey, do you want to come play some solos?" and Monty Connor from Roadrunner in New York who signed Annihilator, that was the first band he ever signed to Roadrunner, called me up and said "get down here, it'll be a lot of fun." So I went and had a mini-vacation in beautiful San Francisco, played some solos, and didn't have to write anything, didn't have to produce anything, play rhythm guitar, or nothing. I just came down and soloed, which isn't my gig; it's not the thing I do. I'm not one of those shredder guys that play solos. I happen to do that with Annihilator so they called me up for that. It was a blast. I guess I got on a DVD and all of a sudden all these people in the states are going "who's that Waters guy?" It ended up being a really cool little publicity thing to all the kids that love Machine Head and Slipknot and Fear Factory. I guess I didn't sell to a lot of these people, kids, and fans of nu-metal. To me, it's new metal. It's a newer school of metal than what I'm used to. All these nu-metal people see the DVD and go "holy s**t, who's this Annihilator band?"
MSJ: Is there going to be any more music coming from Waters and Flynn?
I sure would love to. I've been a Machine Head fan for a few years. I told him "hey, you ever want to jam, let's do it. You ever need a player, I'm in." It's just fun with these guys. I don't need to go out and get gigs or nothing. I'm busy as hell with my own life. But when you meet a player or someone like Mustaine or Flynn, something draws you to play with them in a way. That's the type of guy I want to play a great song with. A lot of quote popular or famous musicians that I know, I don't want to play with all of them. It's cool to meet them and some of them are really nice guys but there is a short list of guys I would like to write or do a project with. Rob Flynn would be on that list for sure.
MSJ: How did you get involved with the Exciter reissues?
Dan Beehler and Allan Johnson, the original guys; 2 of the 3 original guys. They are from Ottawa and I grew up there as a teenager. They were one of the first Canadian bands that I got into right away. My first year in high school, which would be grade 9 here, was the last year of grade 12 for a guy named Dan Beehler. He had just started in Exciter and he was walking around the school hall with the jean jacket, cut off sleeves, and a leather jacket with a big Exciter patch. I had always been like "cool" with the big Exciter patch on the back but he also had Judas Priest, Maiden, and Dio on the sleeves. I'll never forget that. I'd be this little, short-haired, greasy zit kid walking down the hall seeing this long-haired, big, huge guy, metal guy, who everyone in school thought was a rock star. I would be like "wow, that's so cool." So I would go sneak into clubs to go see them. I saw them when they supported Black Sabbath on an emergency gig in Ottawa and I went to see that just to see Exciter. So anyway, I just moved back to Ottawa after a few years, I was 17 years in Vancouver, and I looked him up. I just looked him up basically. I figured, well, I might as well use my heavy metal celebrity status to phone up these guys and say "hi." And we became good friends and had some good talks with them about their records; who had them, what label. Some of them, they didn't even know. It was so long ago, they just assumed they signed their life away and on some of them, they did. But I have been lucky, despite my North American reputation of being an a**hole. I have a lot of friends in bands, in record companies, and press. I called some labels and I tracked down 6 of their records and literally got back the rights to almost all of their records. Labels were literally giving me the records back. It's not as friendly as that. It was more of a simple friendly conversation of "so you have the Exciter records. Which ones do you have? Where have you been sending the statements every 6 months for the last 15 years?" It just became pretty clear that none of these labels had lived up to a lot of the commitments but they did have lifetime deals. So I just made them a deal. I said "give me the records back and we'll call it even." So I ended up shocking the guys in the band by getting them 5 or 6 of their records back. Then there was a question of where in the hell are the masters? A lot of them, they didn't even have the masters for. They were gone. So literally, a couple of them I had to take Beehler's collection LP and buy and rent the top of the line turntable, needle, conversion systems, and convert it into the computer to master it. I de-clicked it with the software that takes away the clicks, pops, and hiss. I ended up just getting that whole thing together, getting the rights back, and getting a deal for the whole thing with Megaforce out of New York. Of course, the guys were happy because they got a pile of money for it, they got their records back, and they sounded good. They sounded better; reissued with some more photos. It's not a big seller but it's the kind of thing a lot of metal fans from the '80s are going to appreciate. Some new ones will like it too. They, along with the Anvil guys, were very big influences on some of the big names we know out of the '80s, but never seem to get the credit. When people ask me "who are your favorite players and who are your influences?" a lot of guys will clam up and not say a word because they don't want to admit they borrow or get influenced by people. They want to pretend they're original. While some people didn't think Anvil or Exciter are great bands, some people do. They influenced a lot of those guys that came out that we know as the big 4 or 5. Those 2 bands had an impact in some way. The drummer from Anvil had a big impact on a few drummers. Exciter would headline and Megadeth would be the support act, so that would tell you how important Exciter were at the time.
MSJ: You worked in all sides of the music business from writing, producing, etc. What advice would you give a new musician who is looking to make music his or her career?
There are too many pieces of advice to give. There are so many areas of advice. I would say stay away from hard drugs; that would be number one. Seriously, if you get into that, forget your career. Stay away from smoking cigarettes because you're going to die of lung cancer. Give me a more specific one?
MSJ: Is there one life lesson that made a difference to your band and career?
It sounds goofy but I would say, no matter what your mood is, what your problems are, other people's problems are, or what they've done to you, it doesn't matter. Be nice and try to deal with things calm; be a good person. The reason I say that is because that covers a lot of things. Part of the reason why I really don't have enemies or people who try to say bad things or cause me problems, well, I do have a couple, the reason I'm still going, and this is advice for musicians, is it doesn't matter what you think of another musician, press person, or anybody, if you act like a jerk or ego rock star, you have to cherish each relationship because it might come back to haunt you, first of all. It always does. You might need that person in some way, and I don't mean that in some self using sort of way. Your reputation is important. If I had acted like a complete a**hole, like some of the rumors over here have been, there is no way I could have put 11 records out, been friends with a lot of these quote rock stars, being able to call up record companies and get albums back, and call promoters and say "can we play your festival this week?" Sure come on over; you want to come over for dinner? You know what I mean? For business wise, for your music and for your band, don't be an asshole because it's going to come back to haunt you. For how you are as a person, in your life, when you get older, you don't want to look back and say "oh boy was I ever a son of a bitch." So I think that is one of the reasons I'm still around because I haven't p***ed off too many people and a lot of people said "you're Jeff Waters? I thought you were 7 feet tall and a complete a**hole." Then they find out I'm 5'10", slightly overweight, and I'm a goofy, immature Canadian who tries to make friends and be happy and goofy and silly and have fun. Your reputation is everything. I don't really care what people think if they don't know me and say stupid things, or bad, uneducated things. Those people I don't care about. So anyway, just try to be a nice person or not be a jerk. It doesn't matter if you can play guitar fast, slow, good or bad, or write great songs. It doesn't matter if you sell 10 million records. Look at Nickelback. They sold 12 million records. I know those guys, the bass player really well, and you know, they are not a**holes. They wouldn't have survived this long. They have been number one in Canada and the states on their new record. If they had been complete a**holes, they wouldn't have been number one. Just try to be cool with everybody even if they try to screw you over and they're a**holes. Don't fall to that level and swing back, and do all that kind of stuff. Just bite your tongue and go on and do what you do.
MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
Oh, good call. That's a good one. I've got a lot of CDs that I listen to once in a while but they're mostly '80s. I bought that Priest record. I could have asked them for it but instead I would support them and buy the record. I got the Exciter remasters for free. I really don't know. I can't remember but it will pop up as soon as I hang up the phone.
MSJ: What would be a musical guilty pleasure that fans would be surprised to find out that you listen to?
There was a time that I used to listen to a record by Michael Jackson called History or something like that. There were a couple of George Michael albums, years ago in the mid the early '90s, that were just killer records. But then I'll listen to Slayer the next minute. Sweet's Desolation Boulevard. There was a band called Sweet that had a couple of commercial hits but some of their heavy stuff was unbelievable. You remember, they had "Fox on the Run" but they had some heavy, heavy s**t on some of their records. A lot of stuff I'm forced to listen to. My kid's favorite band is Green Day and my girlfriend's favorite band is H.I.M. The reason I can't answer that question about which CD did you just buy is because I forgot to mention, I've got a recording studio. For the last 12 years, with Annihilator stuff and other little side things going, I end up spending most of the day, like a normal job, in the studio making music. When you come back from that, the last thing you want to do is listen to music for the rest of the night. Think about it. If you sat in your car and listened to music for 8 hours, your ears would be fried. I come up and spend time with my girlfriend and my kid and I don't listen to any other music. In the car when I'm going somewhere or I got a night off, I crank up Back in Black or some Slayer or Priest record. My kid puts me through Green Day and she puts me though H.I.M. I get barraged with that once in a while.
MSJ: When was the last time you were in Chicago?
Possibly the shows we did in the states and Canada. It's not Waters dissing the states for 12 years, he's dissing his own country too (laughs). '93 was the last touring we did in North America, period. I don't know if we did Chicago on that one.
MSJ: Are there any plans to tour the states with Schizo Deluxe?
This time, my deal with this company in Germany called AFM Records, we had an album called Double Live Annihilation in 2003, in 2004, they had the All for You record, and in 2005, they got Schizo Deluxe. And that was the end of the deal. So what they did for the states, nothing to do with me, they licensed it out through a company called Locomotive who put it in the stores. I'm finishing with that deal now but my record has just barely been out a couple of days. So I'm going to be trying to put together touring and stuff. I called a bunch of my American friends and said "hey, listen guys, can you do me a favor. Want to bring me out as a support act on your tour? Give me a deal so I can afford to do it." I say that jokingly but just calling up some favors from people I know.
MSJ: Ask Rob Flynn. Machine Head always tours the states.
Yeah. I guess he'll be working on a new album and stuff later. Yeah, there's lots of guys. I was talking to Mustaine the other day and he's thinking about a possible Gigantour 2 or whatever. Things like that; just talking about it. That would be a cool thing to do. There are other bands and other options too. It's nice to have options, Jesus, most bands at my stage would have to get in a van and starve for 6 months. Then again, it does not mean anybody would like the music I'm doing so just to have the opportunity to be able to ask some of these guys "would you take me out?" is incredible.
MSJ: How do you choose a set list?
You try not to pick the songs that you think suck, number one. You rule those out. You thought they were great, brilliant, genius work when you did them but then you look back and you go "oh my God, this wasn't as good as I thought." Then you take the obvious ones that you like and write them down. Then you take the other list, the one that the fans say they want to hear, those are usually the title tracks or the videos, and then it's not that hard. Sometimes you get, depending on the year that you're doing this on the line-up, there are some singers I've had that can't sing melodically and they're pure punk or thrash metal types of guys. That rules out all the melodic songs. It's not as hard as you think. There must be 120 songs in the Annihilator catalog right now. Geez, did I just say that; 120. Want to hear a cool story. I was at the Priest concert here, with Anthrax, backing them up. That was a couple of weeks ago. I hung out with K.K. for a while after the show. Hung out in the dressing room, talking about life and stuff; different things. We see each other once in a while touring with them or on the road. I'm hanging out. Talking with him and he goes "Jeff, this one album you got coming out now, how many records is that now?" Well, studio records would be 11. Technically, it's the 19th commercial release that's been in the stores. You have the singles with 3 tracks, live records, compilations or best of's, and that kind of stuff, but 19 I think. He looks at me like "19?" Well, yeah. I looked at him and said "how many does Priest have out?" I remember in '91, the Painkiller tour, Halford would always introduce the fact that the song "Painkiller" was off of the 14th heavy metal album. I figured they must have 20 by now because that was only in '91. He goes "I think we're around 19 or so." Then he sort of realized what was being said. It sort of clicked between both of us. Our eyes locked and he looked at me and I think we were thinking the same thing. "You mean to tell me, I'm 53 and your 39, and you have the same amount of records I have." I went "oh, geez." I was almost embarrassed. I hope I didn't insult him. He laughed because he's around that number of records and I am around that number of records. Technically, I'm in my 30s still and he's in his 50s. I drove home from that in a daze. I kind of kept thinking about that. Jesus, 11th f**kin' record. The dream of any musician is to get a band, put out a record, and get a record deal. That was the dream of every musician I knew. "To get a record deal" was the most common thing you would hear. It was the one dream I had, and when it happened, it really was a case of "now what happens?" I really did think maybe I might be lucky to get a second record. When my singer left, he left at the end of the Testament tour, he went back to his day job because he was going to lose a good job that he had. We were stuck, after our first record, in the states after the Testament tour going "now what?" We just had our first record and apparently, according to the sales figures and Roadrunner, we had a hit album for our style of music. Now what? So we got another singer and I did a second album. Whoa, we got 2! That one sold way more. Then we were touring with Judas Priest and Pantera on this Painkiller tour. Then we did a huge headline tour of Europe and did some touring the states for that, So where do you go from there? If your goal is to get one record, then all of a sudden you're at this stage. Now what? From there it just wouldn't stop. No matter what record came out, anything negative that happened, something really positive happened. Like "horseshoes up my a**" my dad would call it.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
Priest/Anthrax. Two weeks ago.
MSJ: What was the one before that?
I saw a lot over in Europe. When we play festivals, when we have a day off, we check out other bands. I guess I would have to say Nickelback.
MSJ: What is your favorite Spinal Tap moment?
The usual. Driving on your tour bus, you look out the back window and the wheels are falling off your gear trailer; watching your gear go all over the highway. It sounds like a cliché but it happens all the time. Long story short, some tour managers or tour agent decides you have to cut all the budgets so all the money he saves can go into his pocket. They end up getting an illegal trailer that's too small. That doesn't allow you to carry enough weight and they stuff the thing so full that the axle or the wheels break off. Your gear ends up all over the highway. That's a normal one. That is a Spinal Tap moment and that happens to almost every band. The RV has rolled over. That was a good one. That was in Romania. We were with, if I remember this right, Nevermore in 2001. While we were sleeping, the bus went off the road and was tilted almost completely sideways. They had to get a couple of tow trucks to come pick us up. It was in a huge mud field and we went right off the edge. I had a big Wacken Festival, which is a big German festival, story. In 2002, I was playing in a band called Savatage. They needed a guy to fill in for Al Pitrelli, who left the band or couldn't make the tour or whatever. So they called me up short notice and I said "yeah, let's do it." I think it was their last tour they did too. I guess I was on the last tour. So we did this really cool festival stuff. It was great for me because in certain territories, Savatage are very big, like Germany. We played this Wacken Festival, co-headlining with Dickinson, his solo thing. 40,000 people went crazy for this Savatage band. I'm thinking "wow, this is awesome!" I was just loving every second of this. I played for 40,000 people before but not 40,000 people to see my band. It was always, we had a great reaction, but playing to 5,000 or 2,000. Never 40,000 to see Annihilator. Sp playing for them, at that gig, was amazing. I really wanted to do well and Dickinson was there and everyone was at the side of the stage; VIP's and these famous people. I thought this was cool; I'm in the Savatage band. Easy gig for me to play. Well, my wireless unit screws up. So for the first 2 songs, my guitar is not working. The tech just went all crazy and didn't know what he was doing. He was just panicking, just like I was. So for the first song or two, forget it. Then my amplifier screwed up so they had to switch amplifiers. That killed another song or two. Then my cable, because I couldn't use my wireless system for my guitar, they plugged in a normal cable like in the old days, got caught in the stage itself and not only ripped the cable out so your couldn't hear the playing, it ripped the whole electronics out of the guitar. I was running and it was completely wrapped around a piece of metal so it ripped the whole thing out of the guitar. Broke the whole thing off. So not only was the guitar done, the cable was done too. They couldn't find another cable for the guitar. They threw me the back up guitar but it was tuned for a completely different song so I went out there for the 5th or 6th song and playing with the wrong guitar out of tune. So I stopped, walked off, and sat there and almost cried. It's not really Spinal Tap but it was if you saw me out there.
MSJ: Everybody has heard of the Megadeth audition. Have you been asked to join any other bands?
There's been talk but I would feel stupid saying it because it gets around and everybody is going to ask that person "So you almost had Waters in the band?" But a couple of people. It's an honor to get asked. I definitely could have been in another band doing something, making a steady paycheck, and not having the stresses of having your own band. I would love to work with other musicians. I would love to work with Halford. Reality is, I won't get to, and I have my own thing that I focus on anyway. There have been tempting offers but unless Slayer came and said "hey, we need a guitar player", I would drop everything and be there in 5 minutes.
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