Van Halen’s “Romeo Delight” has been covered by Canadian melodic thrash metal pioneers, Annihilator. The track comes off Annihilator’s 13th (self-titled) album, which released today (May 25th) in Europe.
RadioMetal.com spoke with Annihilator’s founder and guitarist, Jeff Waters, about covering “Romeo Delight:”
At the end of the record, there’s a cover of VAN HALEN’s “Romeo Delight”. It’s quite a surprising choice for a thrash metal band. Actually, not a lot of bands would risk covering VAN HALEN mainly because of Eddie’s incredible guitar skills… Was it the challenge that motivated you in covering this song?
Jeff Waters: I wasn’t planning to pick a song because I liked it, but because it had changed my career, or my guitar playing, or my musical direction or something. That album from VAN HALEN, Women And Children First, in 1980, had a big influence on my guitar playing career. Actually, “Romeo Delight” was a very heavy song in 1980. Of course nowadays we see it as a party rock song with David Lee Roth and great guitar playing, but back in 1980, it was considered a very heavy and aggressive song. That turned me on to bands like JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH and IRON MAIDEN. That song was very influential for me, and that’s why I covered it. I was trying to do a cover song of the best guitar player in history, but I wasn’t worried. I’m such a fan, I love Eddie and I love his playing, so it was a lot of fun to try it.
Your guitar sound seems different on this cover song compared to the rest of the record. Were you trying to get closer to the classic VAN HALEN sound? Actually, you’re even using the phaser effect VAN HALEN’s well known for using…
What Eddie did in 1980 was use only one guitar. Usually, you put one guitar in the right speaker, and one in the left speaker; but Eddie only had one. I tried to copy that idea, that production style. I also used the same pedals he was using. I collect VAN HALEN things, like shoes and guitars and pedals, everything. I just tried to have fun doing this, the whole thing was fun. [Jeff Waters has been a longtime customer of Van Halen Store!]
It sounds like you really had a blast while doing this cover! How come you did so few cover songs before in your career? The only one I can recall is a JUDAS PRIEST song…
We never had anything on our official CDs, but we had JUDAS PRIEST’s “Hell Bent For Leather” as a bonus on our Set The World On Fire LP in 1993. We also did an AC/DC cover for a live album. This is the first one that’s on an official album, and it was cool to do it. It’s probably the last one I’m gonna do on an ANNIHILATOR CD. Someday, when I get really old, maybe I’ll do a cover album or something, but not now. “Romeo Delight” meant a lot to me and it was a lot of fun.
When listening to ANNIHILATOR’s albums, and especially this new one, we can really hear that you put a lot of creativity not only in your solos but also in the rhythm parts. This is also something which is particularly striking in VAN HALEN’s songs. In this regard, could we say that you’re somehow the VAN HALEN of thrash metal?
If I said yes, I’d look like an asshole! But the one similarity is that VAN HALEN was very good at rhythm guitar playing, songwriting and guitar solos. I think in my own way, in my own style of music, I’m good at writing songs, playing rhythm guitar and doing solos. Same thing with Michael Amott. Not all guitar players have all three of those qualities, many have only two. For example, Hetfield is a great songwriter and rhythm player, but he’s not a solo shredder. Glen Tipton is the best example of all these qualities: he writes great songs and shreds on guitar and is great at rhythm playing. But there are not many people that do these three things very well. So yeah, maybe there’s a little comparison!