From their 1989 brutal Death/Gore debut, ‘Slowly We Rot‘ to their most recent self-titled opus in 2017, there is no hesitation in acknowledging their outstanding contribution to Extreme music, regardless of what side of the Death metal fence you choose to stand.
Despite the bands’ busy online activity since last October, they have found themselves in a unique situation with regards to finding a balance between their early material and the new music which they are currently in the process of writing.
Co-founding member and drummer Donald Tardy aka ‘DT‘ leads us around the bands’ practice space/man-cave via a Zoom call, as he excitedly talks about their experience in revisiting 1992’s ‘The End Complete‘, which they just performed in its entirety for a special ticketed Livestream event, as well as hinting at a project that is currently underway documenting the bands’ roots as Xexutioner to the present day. Find out more below…
OD – Let’s start with the recent live streams that you guys have been doing. It certainly looks like you’ve all been enjoying the whole process. How difficult was the decision with the setlist, as there’s just so much to choose from?
DT – Well, we are just so happy to be bringing so much joy to people right now. Especially during this horrible time, we’re all experiencing. Regarding the setlist…well, we used to bicker about what we wanted in the setlist many years ago, but over time the band pretty much allows me to choose what I think is going to be amazing to perform.
Myself and my brother, [John Tardy, vocals] are have become the decision-makers when it comes to the setlist, thanks to the rest of the guys trusting us [Laughing].
We’ve done a few live streams now and my whole approach to the live streams was to not be repetitive. When we prepare for performing live, it’s usually for a tour or a festival so we have one setlist that pretty much stays the same for whatever the duration of the dates, and we’ll play those songs each night.
With these streams, we did ‘Slowly We Rot‘ and ‘Cause of Death‘ already last year back in ESI Studios, then we moved to our own Obituary studio for the third stream event and we looked at all the fans picks we knew that it wasn’t just about the songs that we were comfortable with it was about learning to play songs again that we had not performed live for ages, and in some cases never performed live. All that as well as having to practice ‘The End Complete‘ again, so as you can imagine, that’s a lot of songs to get through! [Laughing]
We really wanted to challenge ourselves and not repeat anything that we had performed in the past and that included songs that Ken [Andrews, Guitars] and Terry [Butler, Bass] have never played. And it was SUPER fun! It kicked so much ass!
OD – Speaking of which you just performed, ‘The End Complete’ in full, and as you mentioned it’s in chronological order to the last live stream you did back in October with ‘Cause…‘, so, is it a good assumption that more live streams will follow with you guys performing each album in its entirety?
DT – We took on this challenge to keep busy and also as a task; to honour our history. Trust me, it’s not been easy to re-learn drum patterns from 30-years ago when I was a much younger man. [Laughing]. It makes it really cool for fans to see us perform these old songs…that stuff was written when we were in our teens!
Our decision to do these albums came from us just sitting at home and taking a long hard look at the music industry. We make our living from this industry and we wanted to do something to pay the bills and also to keep our minds healthy and have a goal to work towards during this really weird time we’re all living in. So, to answer your question, we’re just gonna keep going while all of this is going on.
OD – It looks like you’ve had a lot of fun with the streams. Despite the pandemic, can you see yourselves doing things like this when things begin to open up again and touring can take place?
DT – We love performing, we are all really great friends and we just figured this is a great way to bring fans into the studio with us. When this pandemic is a little more contained and we can return to live shows, we will still do these special live streams because we know now that the formula works.
If we’re home for half a year writing a new album, we can now say hello to our fans and let them see a little bit more than they usually would. In some ways, it’s been a blessing that we figured out that we can make this type of thing work and who knows what it will lead to down the line?
OD – One of the recent streams included the guys from Power Trip [see below]. Tell us how that all came about?
DT – They have been great friends of ours since we toured the US together back in 2017. They could not be a nicer bunch of guys. They told us that they were thinking about taking some time out and visiting Florida and we might be there during one of your Livestreams, and my brother, John didn’t even think twice and invited them to come over and check it out.
Of course, one thing led to another and we wanted to pay tribute to Riley [Gale, former Power Trip vocalist that sadly passed away in August 2020] and hopefully tune some Death Metal who may not have heard Power Trip before into their music as well as celebrate how incredibly awesome Riley was a frontman, a lyricist and overall person.
OD – When you have to go back and re-learn an album from 29-years ago, does that rake up any ideas for new material?
DT – Yes, absolutely! It’s been a really interesting exercise. As a drummer, I’ve really experienced that old creative juice. The new songs that we’re working on are 100% Obituay through and through but they have some of that ‘old-school‘ Florida Death Metal vibe and that’s just been something that’s naturally happened from spending so much time breaking down the early stuff we were writing all those years ago.
It’s been an amazing learning experience if anything. Trust me, the new stuff is just killer. This is going to be a very big album for us.
OD – Of all the tracks that you had to get familiar with again was there any, in particular, that was a pain in the ass?
DT – All of them!! [Laughing] Some of them were… I guess challenging. We had to bust out the old cassette and go through ‘The End End Compete‘ song by song. It was so funny to see Ken, the newest dude in the band, had to really go deep and learn all of those songs for the very first time.
He was looking up old footage of us performing those tracks and going over each song again and again. It was really fun watching Ken then teaching Trevor [Peres, guitars] these songs from 29-years ago and Trevor was like: “Damn, I really did it that way?” [Laughing]
OD – Okay, let’s get a studio report on what’s been happening with new material. Where are you with the new album?
DT – The reality is doing an album for fans is unreal but not being able to tour is a huge part of it for us. It’s how we make our living. With so much care and money that goes into creating an album, then the sales are nowhere like they used to be, thanks to everybody streaming these days.
An album is really a humungous billboard for a world tour and basically, we’re just waiting until things start to open up again before we take the next step. If we can’t play live to support the cost of making an album then we’re just gonna have to wait until we can, if you know what I mean.
Looking at it positively, there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccinations finally beginning to make some kind of a difference but we’re just gonna keep working as much as we can until we are ready to hit that studio.
We’ve been taking our time writing the new material and have put them on the back burner to concentrate on the Livestream stuff but now that we’ve all of that out of the way, we’re back in the headspace of all of our new material and if all goes to plan with the vaccines and tours starting to get booked etc. we’re looking at 2022 for the new Obituary LP.
We’re still figuratively hand-cuffed as a touring band and we can’t essentially get out there to earn our living. We’re gonna be in this situation, probably until Halloween and until then and when things start to gradually open, then we’re gonna make our move to recording the album.
I know some fans will be like: “Why don’t you just release the album now?” and what they don’t understand is we’ve been a band for a long time and the most excited is when a new album comes out and we get on that tour bus to the first show and all the new material is fresh in our minds but the financial strain of doing that is a lot so we have to be wise with the timing on this album, especially with everything that’s going on right now.
OD – Having started back in ’85, Obituary will be turning 40-years old in 4 years time. If you could do anything to mark the occasion, what would it be?
DT – The easy answer for me to give, which is a wish and not a promise, is that if we’re all still alive on this planet, we will be doing this until we physically can’t. We have the best fun in this band. We’re the very best of friends and we want to continue to do this for as long as we possibly can. We had a few lose conversations about when we hit the 40th anniversary but nothing’s set in stone just yet.
OD – Have there ever been any discussion about releasing an official book/documentary on the bands’ history?
DT – That’s a great question and I can’t tell any secrets, but yeah, everybody will have something to see in a very short period of time that they are gonna want to own. I can’t give away anything just yet but all I can say is, something really cool is on the way!
OD – Will we see it this year?
DT – Right now, I can say it’s gonna be 2022! It’s gonna cover the very first day of Obituary’s beginning to the present day. It’s gonna tell everything about us and fans are gonna go wild for it when it’s finally released. My lips are sealed! [Laughing]
OD – The last time you graced our shores was with Slayer back in 2018, for their farewell tour. Now, as far as tours go, that was epic and historical do you have any personal memories from that tour that had a big impact on you?
DT – Two memories come to mind. So, that show you’re talking about was in Dublin and I remember it being the first date of that tour for us and the area was huge! There were so many people there and we really played well that night.
I have to say, the guys in Slayer and all their crew, Tom [Araya] and Kerry [King] were the nicest guys, as was their management, crew etc. Actually, that goes for all the bands. Lamb of God and Anthrax, everybody was just so genuine and treated us like one of their own. We really appreciated that and it just made the whole tour.
Slayer gave us full reign of their PA every night and it was just the most incredible to have been on and all of us here in Obituary are so grateful for that experience. I’ll never forget those shows. Incredible.
OD – When you look back in the whole explosion of the Death Metal scene to where things are today, do you feel that the genre is still represented well or do you feel that it’s become a little bit diluted and lost its true essence?
DT – I guess so. I always get weirded out with trying to compare what we were doing back when we started to other bands and what they are doing today. We are such a unit and keep things really simple. I’ve never worried about what’s going on around the world in any kind of genre or scene when we are writing.
We are lost in what we are doing and that’s the way we’ve always been. We just go for it, crack a beer and what comes out, just comes out.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I just concentrate on all things Obituary and am oblivious to what else is happening in the Death Metal sphere. [Laughing]
OD – What albums have been keeping you company over the last year?
DT – Yeah, we all listen to all kinds of stuff but for me, Corrosion of Conformity over the last ten years of my life has really been what I love. Reed Mullen’s [1966-2020 R.I.P] drumming… if anyone out there is not familiar with C.O.C, let me tell you, it’s the most masterful songwriting you’ll hear since Soundgarden. It’s beyond me, as a drummer, to understand what Reed was doing when he was behind that kit.
He was simplistic, smooth and just had this unbelievable flow, yet masterful, solid, sure and calm with his songwriting. And like myself he didn’t play at a million miles an hour, he just put in what was needed. Album after album is just fantastic. It’s taken me the last decade to see just how important Reed was to that band and how much of an incredible drummer he was.
OD – Can you share a favourite music video from back in the early MTV days that you would like to share?
DT – I’d have to say, ‘I Wanna Rock‘ from Twisted Sister. It just puts a smile on my face. They just want to entertain and that’s just what they did for all those many years. We can relate to that now more than ever. We can’t wait to get back out there
and perform live.
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