by Christopher Lee
Obituary, the word is synonymous with death, and Florida's death metal legends have been synonymous with creating and pioneering the primitive, groove heavy death metal style they are known for, over the course of 3 decades and 9 studio albums! Crypt Magazine recently talked with soft spoken, but hard hitting drummer Donald Tardy via telephone about their latest slab of pain, "Inked In Blood" released through Relapse Records! Consider this your "death notice", read on as we discuss their recipe for success, that makes "Inked In Blood" a bloody mess! Prepare for a long interview, they just might writing YOUR Obituary before it's done!?
Crypt: Hello Donald, OK let's get started, so Obituary funded the whole record with the help of your fans through a Kickstarter campaign, and I was under the impression, that judging from your past history with record labels, you guys were doing this entirely yourselves, so how did you wind up working with Relapse Records?
Donald: Well I mean obviously, it is a whole different ballgame when you try to release an album worldwide on your own, compared to, recording, producing it, mixing it and pressing it yourself and getting it ready. Ya know, we went through every avenue and we thought about it, we tried everything we possibly could to figure it out, the important thing was we were able to do this record on our own with crowd funding and now we simply use Relapse as an engine to get the album distributed throughout the world and to allow them with their team to do the marketing campaign for us to properly put this album out there in the stores. So, it was a monster of task, what we simply did with all the orders from the Kickstarter fans, and all the goodies that those dudes got, we've been doing that for the past few weeks, packing up everybody's orders, and that alone was a monster for the band! Ya know, like I said, when we first attempted it, we always dream big, we think outside the box, and we were praying and hoping that it was a possibility that a band could release an album on their own. But, once studying it and researching and figuring out, really what it takes to start from ground one, to think you are gonna get that kind of airplane off the ground, it just wasn't feasible, and Relapse saw exactly what we did with getting the album completed on our own, and having it mastered, and produced and ready to go, literally, where they just knew what their role was in this and it was a partnership. It's not a band that signed to a record label, its 2 companies as partners, splitting costs and splitting profits on the album. It is the most effective way and the most um, realistic way that obituary could possibly do it without just going with a typical, like every other record label that came at us, what they wanted to do for us, with a typical "sign the contract" multi-album deal, for what? After we worked so hard on what we did!
Crypt: Obituary is in my opinion the "AC/DC of death metal", you always know what you are going to get, so how does the song writing process work for the band? Does it start with Trevor Peres (guitar) coming with a riff and you two just jamming it out? What do you do?
Donald: Yeah, you know, we've always had the same process from day one, and it STILL stays that way, which is me and Trevor in a room together and my brother, just creating an idea, whether its a drumbeat, or Trevor bringing a riff to it, and we just work, it's a strange process that we can do almost entire albums over the course of a year or a couple of years
and have almost all the songs completed without really ever hearing John's voice or what he's gonna do during the song, we know what parts of the song he's gonna sing, cause he always lets us know where he's thinking and what he's thinking, but, we don't ever rehearse as a band with vocals. So it's a pretty weird process, but it is a super cool idea when we can go into the studio to lay the tracks down and then when John's ready, we get to actually, finally hear it for the first time, and it's a weird feeling cause it's almost like you are a fan, cause although you know where he's probably gonna sing, you don't know WHAT he's gonna sing, so allot of times, my jaw is on the ground in the studio when he starts cause I get to hear it for the first time like a fan would!
Crypt: Of course! cause your still a fan of your band!
Donald: Yeah, lol, and it is man, we are fans of music, but ya know, music has become so extreme, and so technical, and drummers that run circles around me, they have the technical aspect of it, but I don't think allot of the bands have the "heartbeat" feel that Obituary still somehow finds with each other and I think that's whats keeping things special with Obituary, for Obituary fans, we know what we're supposed to be doing I guess would be the word, because its a brand name that is bigger than just one band member and we say that very seriously and we are very honored to still know that people worship Obituary, so when we write a song or an album, we're doing that simply to make those fans happy that they're picking up an Obituary album!
Crypt: And allot of what is missing now is the songwriting, allot of these newer bands can play super fast or technical, but I would rather take the band who has limited ability per se, but has the atmosphere, feeling, and gets the point across! Sometime less is more!
Donald: Yeah, and that's really our rule on this planet, Obituary is NOT gonna play the most technical style, we're not supposed to! We'll will leave that for the other 16,000 bands out there playing that stuff. We are happy with our style of music, which is that dark, mid-tempo, groovy solid sound! I am not the most technical drummer, never have I ever claimed to be in fact, I'm very basic of a drummer, but I'm very confident as Obituary style songs, and I think that's what really stands out when fans hear new music from Obituary, is that, like you said it is "the AC/DC of death metal"! They know what they're expecting and their wanting that, I think!? And, we're proud of that, we're proud to stick with a style we're pretty good at and we're happy with that!
Crypt:You should be, I put on "The End Complete" the other day, still one of the best in death metal period! that riff, the atmosphere, I always loved the riff that comes in at the 2:42 mark and that groove, totally insane! So do you feel that Obituary as legends and pioneers of this music do you feel the band still gets the respect it deserves for being pioneers?
Donald: I think so, I mean, we have been on this roller coaster for a long time, 3 decades as a band, we're not needing people to pat us on the back anymore, um, I think our legend is there I think it will always be there, long after we're dead and I think we all know that!? We're also not diva dudes, we don't really care if people don't consider us one of the first, or one of the biggest, or one of the best! Again, we don't look for a pat on the back, we do just do what we like to do man! We write riffs that we think are heavy and we write songs we think our fans are gonna love, and that's it! We don't worry too much about what other bands are doing, or what other record labels are thinking, or what fans, besides Obituary fans, are really wanting! Obituary fans are looking for what they get, their happy with Obituary albums, and we are very proud to still deliver those style songs!
Crypt: Have you and your brother (John Tardy, vocals) after doing this almost 30 years, ever butted heads over the direction of the band or business decisions?
Donald: Every day! Multiple times a day, lol! It is a business and there are always decisions having to be made and not always do you agree on it! But, ya know, we're brothers the next morning we wake up, or the next time we see each other, that's long forgotten! But that's just the way business is, it's like family and business in one and of course as anyone who has brothers and sisters, there's gonna be arguments and anyone who owns a business knows that with business partners, there's gonna be arguments, but um, it's all good! It's a good thing when you are arguing over whats the most effective way to write a song or to get the CD out there or to promote or to set up the tour, it just means we're busy moving forward and we're innovating! Again, we're all best of friends and brothers in this band, and thats a blessing!
Crypt: And how long have you known Trevor Peres?
Donald: Since I was eleven, 1981 I met him, and we've been friends ever since! We started writing our first songs in 83'/84', We went into the studio in 84' as teenagers and did our first demo tape!
Crypt: So what are your favorite songs off the new record, cause I think the ones that really stand out with Kenny's guitar playing that add a whole new element, "Within A Dying Breed", "Back On Top", and "Inked In Blood"!
Donald: Yeah well those are good picks, it's tough because I'm in love with this album, we worked our dicks off to write these songs and because it was a three and a half year process of writing, each song definitely has its own vibe. That's hard for bands to do on albums nowadays I think, and I'm glad it took us as long as it did. I don't know "Out Of Blood", I love that song "Within A Dying Breed" I think is sick, love that one too, but again, if a friend walked in that I had not seen in a long time and says "play me one of your favorite songs off the album" I would just say "ya know what? throw a dartboard"! Throw a dart at the names and whatever dart hits it, I would be happy to play them cause I'm proud of all the songs!
Crypt: Who came up with the idea for the cover artwork?
Donald: The cover was Andreas Marshall, our German artist, we were deep in the writing and the beginning of the recording stage of the album. So of course we started thinking "ok, song titles, album titles" like we always do, we wait until the last minute with that kind of shit. We started looking at John's lyric sheets and he started bringing up ideas of what some of his lyrics are a few of them came up and one of them was "Inked In Blood"! So, I was e-mailing with Andreas and I said "ya know, the band's kind of excited that the album could be called "Inked In Blood" and he replied to me and said "I have a brilliant, idea" so the minute he told me that I said "just roll with it, do what you gotta do", he sent a pencil sketch at first, I think my brother and Trevor both said 'wow! Its almost so not Obituary that I don't know if I like it", and I said "dude he said its gonna be fucking brilliant, let him go with it" so we took that chance and we told him "no matter what, good, bad or ugly, we'll pay you" and he's not cheap, but he's the best in the world in my opinion and dude, when he delivered that album cover we all shit ourselves! We were like "oh my god dude, that is undeniably just brutal"!
Crypt: As for as your brother's vocals, it's always seemed like he uses his
more like an instrument, there's always been rumors that there are a
few specified lyrics for each song and the rest is just random screams
and words, making him one of the best and instantly recognizable! Do you
know the lyrics or do you just let him do his thing?
no, those first couple of albums, I don't know what the fuck he's
talking about! but ya know, like the rest of the band members, I think
he progressed on every album and he's better at what he does now, than
he's ever been. And I think on this album, I think its fair to say there
are absolute lyrics and words, and song lyrics to this album but he
chooses to keep those in his notebook and keep them to himself and not
print them on albums and he actually hides them from the band members as
well! So, we're no different than the rest of the world when it comes
to John's lyrics, there is a lyric sheet its just that we don't get to
have our hands on it! LOL!
Crypt: What is your favorite Obituary album?
Oh god, "Inked In Blood", and I know fans are gonna hate to hear that
cause they want me to say "Slowly We Rot" or "Cause Of Death"! Um, the
truth is, I HATE listening to "Cause Of Death", I think its a great
album, I think the songwriting at that age we were pretty fuckin' good
at what we did, but to listen to that album from start to finish, for
me, knowing that its triggered bass drums and snare, I hate it! I hate
the feel of it, I can't stand it, and I don't mean that in a bad way,
it's just, if anyone ever hung out with musicians, they know that
sometimes, we are our biggest critics, like I said, don't get me wrong,
those are killer songs and we still play allot of those songs live, and
they are killer, but just that production, that album, without Allen
(West) on the album, nothing against James Murphy, its tough for me to
listen to that album nowadays! And I know fans don't want to hear that,
but, to answer your question, I don't know man, I think
"Inked In Blood" is by far, one of the most powerful, monster albums we've ever even considered writing!
Crypt: And with the record finished, is there anything you wish could have been done differently?
No man! We consciously went into this album knowing we were not gonna
try too hard We were not gonna bring modern technology into it, we did
that when technology first changed on us and I just touched on that with
the "Cause Of Death" album! I knew going into this album that I wanted
just this drumset, with microphones on it and that's it! No post
editing, no triggered bass drums, no sound replacing the toms or the
snare, not even "gating" the tom mics, we left all the "bleed through"
on the entire album! Now I don't mean that's probably the correct thing
to do, in fact its not the most properly recorded album, but it is death
metal, it is Obituary, and it is very true to what it sounded like when
we were putting the albums down on tape, cause that is my drum kit with
nothing done to it, there are no triggers or sound replacements or
editing after the fact! And I'm very proud of that!
the original bands who worked with RoadRunner Records back in the day,
seem to have horror stories, whether Toxik or Immolation, do you have
any that stand out?
Donald: Yeah, I mean, I think the world
knows, if they have read any Obituary interviews in the last 25 years,
they know that RoadRunner had us sign as 16 year old kids and we signed
our lives away! They own everything, they own the rights even when back
then there was no such thing as a CD, not to mention internet, there
weren't even CD's when we first signed in 86' or 87', so its pretty
amazing that they were that clever and sneaky enough to add "clauses" in
the contracts which state shit like "future media" to where through out
the history of time they own those records, and the band has no rights
on all those releases, re-releases, remasters, double albums, all that
shit they've been doing for the last 15 years. That's nothing that has
to do with us, nor do we want any part of that kind of stuff so, it just
sucks, it sucks that teenagers were taken advantage of! Obituary is not
the only band, most RoadRunner bands that signed back then have
nightmare stories! That's all I really want to say about it, it's just a
bitter taste in band members mouths all around the world probably!
Crypt: Ok, here is something I do called "The Last Time", when was the last time you:
Read the obituaries?
Donald: Man! Um, a year ago? I don't read the newspaper! LOL!
Attended a funeral?
Donald: I am proud to say, its been a long time! 15 years ago?
Saw Allen West?
Donald: I saw him actually about a year ago...
Told someone to "drop dead"?
Was recognized around town?
Donald: Ha Ha! Last night!
Last show you went to?
Donald: Last show I went to? God damn! I guess it was Exodus
here in Tampa!
So you played with Andrew W.K. for a number of years, his "I Get Wet"
record is incredible, how did you wind up working with him and what was
it like getting a taste of the rockstar life with huge tours and MTV
Donald: It was totally cool man, Andrew wrote me a
letter in pencil, before he was even signed to a record label, and he
just said "Obituary is one of my favorite bands, and your my favorite
drummer, would you consider doing this with me"? So it went from just
contact to where I helped him put all those members in the band, and
next thing you know, it wentfrom zero to a 1000 mph with gold records
and playing on Saturday Night Live and everything else! So that was
quite the experience, it was a blast, it was totally cool to see it
explode like it did, and be a part of that!
Crypt: I remember
seeing Obituary touring in support of "Cause Of Death" opening for a
very young Sepultura on the "Beneath The Remains" tour with Sadus in
Miami, any crazy stories from that tour?
Donald: Um, the one I
remember, and I can't remember what town it was, it was so hot in the
club and that the soundboard was up in like a balcony, so I was watching
Sepultura on stage up in soundboard with their sound guy. And it was so
hot in there, I remember Max (Cavalera) passed out, on stage! And right
when he dropped, I looked towards his sound guy to tell him "holy shit,
did you see..." and as I'm trying to tell him this, HE fell, and passed
out at the same time as Max! That was pretty sick, 2 soldiers down at
the same time!
Crypt: What do you want fans to get out of listening to "Inked In Blood" and who have been the biggest influences on the band?
I guess that's a 2 part, all I want people to do when they listen to
this album is enjoy music! Ya know, social media and everyone having an
opinion and thinking they need to give an opinion, is driving us all
crazy I think!? So, I think the smart ones avoid even reading it and the
rest of we still read it because we just have to and it just drives me
crazy that everyone has an opinion whether its "I love that album" or
"you guys suck", "this songs great", "this song sucks"! Music is there
for people to enjoy and I think most of us know that, but allot of
people forget that music was made to enjoy! So I just want people to put
the album on and enjoy it like we did as a kids, like when I put on
"Holy Diver" every song was there to enjoy, not for me to pick it apart
and say "well, Stand Up And Shout is great, but Rainbow In The Dark is
boring" and you tell all your friends that, but you would have to write
'em a letter, nowadays everyone can post an opinion and they think need
to and it drives everybody crazy in my opinion! So that's one part, the
next part of it is, musically we found our niche at a very young age and
we were influenced first by just heavy, Black Sabbath type music, Ozzy,
local metal, like Savatage and then all of a sudden of course Celtic
Frost, Venom, and Slayer entered our lives, and still to this day, I
think you feel a little bit of all of that in our music, along with most
bands on the planet, that have that vibe, that are death metal! I think
Celtic Frost, Venom, and Slayer were the big influences that really
made us want to do what we do!
Crypt:Good choices! Those are 3 of the all time greatest for metal period!
Donald: Yeah, lol! And the three obvious answers, but what do you want
to say? I mean obviously, the first thing I freaked out on was long
before death metal, I was playing drums as a 7 year old, so for me, it
was Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, and then I discovered Black
Sabbath. I was totally into southern rock first, and that's what made me
want to become a drummer, and then when I heard the "Holy Diver" album,
that was it for me,I was like "this is what I want to do on drums"! And
I still strive to sound like Vinnie Appice as much as I can!
Crypt: Donald, thank you for speaking with us, best of luck with the record
and any parting words for our readers?
This is gonna be a very busy future for Obituary and Obituary fans,
this album has been a long time waiting, they deserve it and I really
hope the enjoy it! The Obituary.cc website has all the confirmed dates
and every day we are confirming more stuff, so we hope that they stay
in touch with us most importantly come find us on the road!
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