Obituary - Interview
Death metal legends Obituary don't need any further introduction here, I guess. With "Dying Of Everything" they just released their 11th full-length album (read review here) and did some touring in Europe lately. I had the honor to chat with drummer Donald Tardy via Zoom while he was sitting on the tour bus in Bilbao – it was a very cool and funny interview. Enjoy reading!
Hi Donald, how are you doing? Thank you very much for taking time for the interview!
Hey good morning! I'm doing very well. The tour is about halfway through so there are probably 12 or 13 shows into the tour so everything's fine. The band is back in shape (laughs) and I'm feeling good about ourselves.
So where are you at the moment?
We're in Bilbao, Spain right now.
Cool, hopefully the weather is a little bit better than here in Germany right now…
Yeah, it's actually nice. The sun finally popped up today so all the bands were conjugated against the wall of the venue where the sun is beating down so they're all soaking in the sun right now.
The sun still exists, that's good to hear… You just released your 11th album with Obituary. Are you surprised that after all these years this kind of music is still alive and successful? I remember that so many people said in the early years that this trend is gonna cease again soon.
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. We would have never thought of a 32 year career and this many albums but honestly it seems that metal is more relevant than ever. The fans are showing up and enjoying themselves. Maybe they've been waiting long enough with the pandemic to finally leave their homes and become a part of the heavy metal live show. But it's also a cool scene that people our age that have been seeing us for 30 years but also the younger fans are showing up. We've seen 20-year- old fans in the crowd and even younger than that. That's a great feeling for bands to see young fans still carrying on this tradition.
On the new album the songs are pretty different from each other – from some fast neck breakers like 'Barely Alive' to some typical groovy tracks like 'Torn Apart' to some almost doomy songs like 'Be Warned'. Did you start the songwriting with the intention to write such a diverse album?
We did not set out to try such a diverse album but with the pandemic we had plenty of time to see what was already written from a couple of years ago to take our time because we were home just to keep writing. But maybe also because during the pandemic we performed the first three albums in their entirety so the band had to go and do their homework and relearn all the songs and practice them and then perform for those live streams. So some of those old-school vibes came back into play with the writing of some of these songs but I think the main thing is that we had so much time to look at the songs we we had already ready to go for the album and then when we knew we were home we pretty much dissected things and put them under the microscope and just made sure these songs were as good as they could possibly be.
The production is pretty raw and unpolished – this is quite unusual for a big band like you are. Why did you decide to produce it that way?
I think we've learned. Every time we enter the studio you hope that you learn from the last studio experience. Obituary is one thing good at – that is our live performances, so when we were ready to mix this album with our engineer Joe Cincotta we basically just told him to not try to do too much. I love my snare drum, the guitar tones are exactly what we wanted so it really made things easy for Joe. We wanted that raw feeling but we also trusted him. That's why we hired him to bring the magic that he brings. He just gets great tones on all the production and just makes it so crushing sound. We have a good chemistry right now. The last three releases we have done this way where my brother and I are the ones that kind of engineered the rig at home and we simply recorded the songs and then we sent it to Joe at his studio.
What about that cryptic title "Dying Of Everything"? Can you explain that a little bit more?
It just was a title that fits. We are all humans, not just music industry and not just Obituary. We all just experienced something totally strange with that microscopic thing that was killing hundreds of thousands of people and we were pummeled with so much information about vaccinations and boosters, Omicron variants and all of this shit, masks, social distancing…it just seemed like you couldn't walk out of your front door of your house without feeling that you are gonna breathe something in that's gonna kill you. Everything else kills us in this world with whatever is going on (laughs). So it just was a title that fit perfectly and it was our decision to use it.
In the past you didn't have any real lyrics but only some fragments, this changed within the years of course. What are your lyrics about nowadays? Songs like 'War' or 'Weaponize The Hate' appear to be quite political in these times….
I don't wanna speak for my brother when it comes to his lyrics but I've heard him during his interviews and he's like the rest of us. When you try to attempt another song or another attempt at the studio you hope to get better. You hope to become better as an individual song writer or lyricist for him. It's just progression over the years and over the decades of just becoming a better songwriter and lyricist. We are the last band to be political, it's more about just the feeling of that song that maybe he feels. When Trevor and I are writing a riff he something pops in his head and he seems written down something on his lyric sheet and he kinda goes for it. We are definitely not the dudes to preach for the world, song titles sometimes get overanalyzed. Naming a song 'War' has nothing to do with anything else than the feeling of that riff in his mind.
In retrospect, which Obituary album is in your opinion the strongest one, which one might have been better?
Good question but it's tough to ask a band member (laughs). You should ask fans that question! As the writer of the music you're only as good as the last song you wrote in my opinion. We could not be more of this new album. It's a powerful album and it's the most well-rounded record that we've ever done and I think it should be that way because again: every time you attempt something you hope to get better. As the drummer I can only hope that I am better than on the last album. All pistons are firing with this engine of Obituary right now. We're a tight unit as a band, we're family and songwriting we just found magic on this album. So I couldn't be more proud of this. Fans are always gonna say the Slowly We Rot and Cause Of Death are the best albums and I can understand why because if you start asking me about Slayer I probably couldn't name the two last albums but I definitely can say "Show No Mercy", "Hell Awaits" and "Reign In Blood" are all that I want. I think they are the best albums.
In 'War' you have this little unusual country music-like riff. I know that your older brother had a lot of influence on you, listening to some more rock stuff…is that some kind of homage?
Yeh, it's not. Again, we had enough time to listen to the songs when we thought they were finished but we knew we were home. We were stuck on with the pandemic so when you put a song away and you come back a couple of weeks later and listen to it, you kind of analyze it. You say "what can we do to make some of these songs better if that's possible?". It was this song that I knew that I wanted to have a bridge part that has four long drum fills – for Obituary long – and I felt it just needed to take a break, it needed to take a breath, and it just needed something to just happen. So we did. We unplugged Trevor's guitar, we stuck the microphone right to the strings of the guitar and not the amplifier and we just had him play that riff a few times. I told him: "just play it like when you're tuning your string, don't chop hard, just play it casually". We did that and we dropped it in the song. All three of us, me, my brother and Trever were all like "sick, this is so awesome!". It's such a small little thing we did but more and more journalists are asking about that part than the rest of the record which is just goes the show. Just little things like that that we had the luxury to listen to the songs and make them as good as the song can be really helped.
Paul from Cannibal Corpse has started a 70s hard rock band called "Umbilicus" – could you imagine doing such a project which has not anything to do with death metal, too? I know you played drums in Andrew W.K. and had a guest drumming with Roadkiller…..
No, I mean John and I did an album together – Tardy Brothers – "Bloodline"- it was something we did because we have our studio and we love writing music together. It's fun to explore a little bit different than just pure death metal and Obituary metal for me anyway. But this is my full-time gig that keeps us very busy. I love other styles of music but I'm really a metal drummer. As much as I love southern rock, I don't see myself trying to start a band just because I like that style of music. (laughs). Never say never but at this point thankfully Obituary is keeping us extremely busy.
So will there be another Tardy Brothers album in the future?
Yes, there will be. Again, we're busy enough with Obituary right now but we're always coming up with cool ideas and there several Tardy Brothers songs that we have been working on over the years but when the time is right…we're in no hurry. We're having a good time especially with Obituary and as much touring as well as the new album going, that's really our main focus.
You are currently on tour with some bands that also have nothing to do with real death metal – Trivium, Heaven Shall Burn and Malevolence. How are the reactions in the audience and how is the mood between the bands?
That's a deliberate choice of ours because we knew that the new album was coming out and we very easily could have put together a four or five death metal band package but that was a very calculated decision because we wanted to be in front of fans that maybe have never seen Obituary. Hopefully they enjoy it and hopefully they pick up the new album and become new fans and friends of Obituary. There's plenty of time to get a death metal package and a headline tour for Obituary for the support of the new album and that's in the works now. But this was just like when we did the Amon Amarth – US tour. Those were heavy metal fans but not necessarily Obituary fans so we were hoping to gain new fans and same thing with tour. It's going very well for us.
Last of all, a personal question – what is your personal favorite band and album?
Well, I can't get to roam away from southern rock. Nothing gets me more excited than you put on The Outlaws or Lynyrd Skynyrd or some Molly Hatchet. But I was stuck on an island by myself forever I would have to bring Ronnie James Dio because he is the greatest and it would be the "Holy Diver" album. I'm most into that and do almost every day of my life because I like Vinnie Appice's drumming so much. I would be content with a case of beer and "Holy Diver" on an island (laughs).
Dying Of Everything
Ten Thousand Ways To Die
Inked In Blood
Live Xecution - Party San 2008
Left To Die
Frozen In Time
Back From The Dead
The End Complete
Cause Of Death
Slowly We Rot
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