Tales from a Metalhead: Chapter 18: Betrayed (Like a Rat!)

Tales from a Metalhead logo

This chapter is part of a book called Tales from a Metalhead written by Metal Express Radio’s President Stig G. Nordahl. The chapters will be posted one at the time and you can find them all here.

Picture of Jeff Waters from Annihilator
Jeff Waters and Stig at Bang Your Head!!!

Annihilator’s debut album Alice In Hell was a breath of fresh air in the Thrash Metal scene when it was released back in 1989. I wasn’t the biggest Thrash Metal fan back then, but I really dug Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax , Testament and Artillery. I have never been much into Slayer who has been a huge influence on axeman Jeff Waters. That is funny enough since Annihilator after all turned out to be one of my favorite bands. Jeff told me once he had a hard time writing new material since everything ended up sounding like Slayer. Speaking of inspirations, I have never been much of a guitar player myself, but I made some demos with a band in the early 90s. One of the tracks had “The Box” as the working title, because it was highly inspired by the Annihilator track from the King of the Kill album.

I became an instant fan of Annihilator when I heard their first single “Alison Hell.” Yes, the album is called Alice In Hell, but the title track (if you can actually call it that) is “Alison Hell.” The girl in the song is named Alison while the album title is a play on “Alice In Wonderland.” I taped the music video from MTV on a VHS. Before the music video, there was an interview with Jeff and singer Randy Rampage. At the end of the interview the band introduced the video. Jeff exclaimed; “Remember, it’s a true story!” The song is actually based on a true story about a girl who thinks she is being terrorized by an evil spirit, in Montreal in the early ’80s. The track is not a typical Thrash Metal song, but a brilliant and a bit different Metal son

Annihilator guitar pick

g. It was the song that convinced me to buy the album. I believe it was only available on import back then. There are some pure Thrash Metal tracks on the album as well of course. “Welcome To Your Death” is an ass-kicking thrasher. What really stands out is Jeff’s playful technical way of shredding on the guitar. I have followed the band closely ever since the debut.

When the sophomore album Never Neverland was released in 1990 I received the promo CD. They had a new singer, Coburn Pharr from the band Omen.

Just like the debut this one was brilliant, or as a matter of fact, even better! I played the hell out of it on my radio show at the time. On the subsequent tour I got to see the band live for the very first time. Annihilator was on tour with Judas Priest and Pantera. It was a perfect bill! That was an eventful day which you can read about in the previous chapter. The second guitarist in Annihilator had quit in the middle of the tour so Jeff had to do all the guitar parts alone. Nemo problemo. The guy is a machine!

The third album Set the World on Fire was more melodic, but it’s also among my favorites. Once again they had a new singer, which almost seemed to be tradition by now. It became

Picture in a picture, the first one

obvious that Jeff WAS Annihilator and that the rest of the musicians were just coming and going. I used the opening part from the title track as the intro for my FM radio show for many years. I hope you received the royalties Jeff!

It was always interesting to check out the lineup for the new albums. On the fourth album, Kill of the Kill, Jeff took the mic stand himself for the first time. It worked out really well! As a big fan I don’t know why I didn’t interview the band during the early days. Maybe the Norwegian label didn’t support the albums well enough. Nevertheless, I was never asked to do an interview back then.

The first interview I did with Jeff (as far I as I can remember) was when Remains was released in 1997. It was the first Annihilator album I didn’t care much for. Maybe it‘s not bad, but it had a more industrial sound and included a drum machine as well. I haven’t found the recording of the interview yet, but I remember two things clearly; I didn’t dare tell Jeff straight out that I didn’t like the album and that he called in an hour early while the studio was occupied. It‘s not always easy with different time zones. I guess the label screwed up, but luckily we managed to do the interview an hour later. We actually have an Annihilator station ID from that interview on rotation …or maybe from a later phone interview I have forgotten about. I think maybe I did a phone interview when the album “Criteria for a Black Widow”. Hopefully it is still on a HD or tape somewhere.

EDIT: the interview for Remains showed up on a lost tape! Listen to it here:

I have talked to Jeff many times and at some point we started taking pictures of ourselves holding a printed picture that we took together last time we met. We did that several times so it ended up being a picture in a picture in a picture etc., but in the end the first pictures got so small so there was no point keeping at it. It was silly and funny. My idea, but Jeff is a good sport.

Here is the interview done during the tour supporting the album Annihilator 13 years later.

My SSL console in the early 90s
Jeff’s SSL console at Watersound Studios

When we entered the digital age we invested in a crème de la crème sound console from Solid State Logic at my work. It was state of the art and a huge investment. We were the first customers to buy the console so I was pictured in lots of ads looking proud next to the sound board. One of these ads was in an international mag called “MixMag”. A few days later I received an email from Jeff. “Ooooooaaaaa, you got yourself a SSL console???” He always wanted one and I know he finally got one in the end.

Waking the Fury straight from the source

There were some hard times for the industry when file sharing started. The labels did everything they could to avoid promos being shared. They added voice overs in the middle of tracks, faded the music for a second in the middle, cut the tracks into multiple tracks that were a couple of seconds each or just put half a track on the CD. Some CDs were encrypted and impossible to rip. Of course we couldn’t use any of these on the radio and it was really annoying to listen to. I actually lost track of some bands during this time. I emailed Jeff about the forthcoming album Waking the Fury and told him that we couldn’t play it if the promo was screwed. Jeff actually sent an advanced CD copy in the mail. It was a great gesture which I highly appreciated!

I met up with Jeff one time at the Bang Your Head!!! festival in Germany. He was not there to play with Annihilator, but with Savatage! It was kind of weird to see him playing with another favorite band of mine. He was a hired gun and they couldn’t afford to keep him on for very long, but it was a very interesting combo. Jeff did a great job of course.

By pure luck I was told that Jeff was doing a guitar clinic in a guitar shop in Oslo at one point. I went there to see him shred and tell stories. It was great fun as we could challenge him to play riffs from his back catalog so I asked him to play the opening break from “Sixes and Sevens”. It was obviously a long time since he played, but he revealed that the pattern is just the reverse from another lead on the same record. Funny! I cannot remember which track though. I had planned to say hi after he was done, but in the middle of shredding like hell he suddenly stopped, pointed at me and said; “Hey, I know you. You are Stig Nordahl, right?” I showed him the horns and he kept on shredding. We both went to see In Flames playing in Oslo that night. Not together though.

Picture in a picture in a picture

I have seen Annihilator numerous times through the years. It’s an excellent live band! I always go to see them If I can. One time I had booked tickets for the Rock the Boat cruise; a two day festival on the sea between Norway and Denmark. Later Annihilator published their touring dates. They were going to play in Oslo while I was on the boat. Disaster! I checked the dates for the tour and noticed the band playing in Denmark the day before the Oslo show. So I flew to Copenhagen on Thursday, caught Annihilator playing at Frysehuset, and flew back to Oslo the day after. I then took the train from the airport to the harbor and jumped on the ship back to Denmark for more shows and parties. The Annihilator show was brilliant as always and a great kick start for a three day long party.

It’s always an advantage that the artist knows you. I asked for an interview before another show in Oslo. Jeff didn’t do interviews that day, but he looked through the list of requests. “I know that guy, I can do one interview”. Cool beans! We hung out in Jeff’s wardrobe backstage while he was warming up by playing Anvil and AC/DC on his guitar.

Another time we were even closer to show time. I believe Annihilator supported Trivium on that tour. The band had been out getting a bite to eat, got back late and had probably forgotten about the interview. I stayed put waiting as always. I got the interview, but had to do it while Jeff was stretching out backstage before the show. I actually think you can hear that in the interview. Jeff is probably the artist I have been waiting for the most. Another time when the band was playing Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, we had planned to record a Guest DJ Show. I was waiting at the venue after the soundcheck and it took forever. When he finally got out he told me to keep distance because he had the flu and didn’t want me to get it as well. No big deal, the most important thing is that the show goes on and it did, in good Annihilator tradition.

Picture in a picture in a…. End of that story!

Looking through my old recordings I found one interview I had done with another (ex-)member of the band. That was a phone interview with Joe Comeau who sang on two studio albums, Carnival Diablos and Waking the Fury. We still have a station ID on rotation with him saying “Hi, this is Joe Comeau from Annihilator!” It has been about 18 years since he was a member of the band. Well, let’s call it historic documentation.

Jeff is still belting out quality Thrash Metal records. My favorite tracks are too many to mention. In 2010, the album simply called Annihilator was released. Me and my friends were listening to it during the long drive from Oslo to Sweden Rock Festival that year. We ended up getting a hang up on the chorus from the track “Betrayed” which goes: “Betrayed…. Like a rat!” You won’t believe how many Metal tracks you can fit those words into the chorus of if you try hard enough. Have a go! Yes, it was a long drive…

Paying homage to the band at Sweden Rock in 2014 with my buddy Ronny

Here is the playlist from the show where I did my first (and lost) Annihilator interview when the Remains album was released Playlist Remains

I will also recommend this excellent written interview that my colleague Mick Burgess did with Jeff in his new studio in the UK. It’s a great read!

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  • Stig G. Nordahl

    Stig is the founder and the president of Metal Express Radio, based out of Oslo, Norway. He has been around doing Metal radio since the mid-eighties. In fact, running Metal Express Radio takes almost all of his time. Is it worth it...? "Most times, yes," Stig says. "My philosophy is to try to give all Metal releases a fair chance to get promoted in one way or another. As you can imagine, it can be an arduous task to listen through about 20 albums every week! Still, I know we have the best METAL dedicated radio on this planet, and that is a reward in and of itself. I hope one day the whole Metal community can and will make listening to Metal Express Radio part of their daily rituals! Yeah, right..."

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