Obituary interview (03/2016)
|Conducted by:||D.T. Metal (in person)|
Obituary - a band which needs no introduction. I recently had the pleasure to sit down with drummer Donald Tardy and we briefly talked about a new album, the possibilities of a new video and about the death metal scene in general. But we also talked a whole lot about the organization and every aspect of the newest and brightest star of metal Festivals in the US: the first edition of Florida Metal Fest.
Birgit: You guys are about half-way through the tour; how has it been going so far?
Donald: It's been great. I think it's a dream for the fans to finally have these two bands (ed. Obituary and Cannibal Corpse) finally touring again after 22 years. The capacity has been full, the fans are excited; good package - great line-up.
B: Very true. It's just too bad that Abysmal Dawn isn't here today since they once again had van troubles.
Don: Yes; I think it's the third time already on this tour.
B: You mentioned in an interview that while playing new songs is great, the fans go nuts when you play the 'oldies and goodies'. How hard is it to put a set-list together due to your vast catalogue, and does it matter if you are supporting or are the headliner?
Donald: It matters if we are supporting or headlining. For this tour we have a 45 minute set, so you are talking about maybe 12 songs; and Obituary has 12 albums. It is a little bit tough. I think every band is excited about their new album and wants to push that onto their fans, but the classic songs are what people are waiting to hear. We had to do a little bit of research to figure out on what we really need to play, what works. Bottom line, we said: let's just play a set we know is crushing and is worthy of this tour.
B: 2014's Inked In Blood was financed with a Kickstarter campaign; is that something you might do again for the next one?
Donald: I don't think so. It was fun when we were watching the campaign go on. But then when we realized that we had to package over 900 packages and get them in the mail to people while we were still trying to finish an album; it was a complete nightmare. But the fans, they got some really cool shit from us, but I don't know if the band would be prepared to do that again. (laughs) It was a lot of work.
B: Speaking of new album; do you already have material for a new one?
Donald: Yay, we got some new riffs and a couple of new songs. But for God sakes, we are in no hurry for a new release. Obituary does not release albums every year, or every other year, and we are not afraid to just wait a little bit and enjoy our last one.
The planet is very big to try to see every corner of it and we are still working on, you know, the Pacific Rim, South America, Summer Time Festivals again this year in Europe; all that good stuff. But when we are at home we are writing, we are preparing for another release.
B: So do you write while at home or also while on the road?
Donald: We do jot down riffs while on tour. We never really get too serious about writing a new song while on the road. But every now and then a riff pops into someone's head and we are like: oh god - don't forget that; bring that one home. (laughs)
B: You really didn't do that many music video in your career, but the one for "Violence" was just the best shit ever. Are there plans on doing more of those since this one got a really good response?
Donald: Yes, there is a plan, but we don't know when and how we want to do it. What we do know is that we are over the whole idea of a production where you sit in front of a huge camera production team and you act like you are playing. We are over that. Obituary doesn't need to be doing that; I think it's corny. It was fun in the 80's or 90's, but it just isn't us. We are not about lip-syncing and screaming into a $100,000 camera just to try to make a music video.
It's either going to be like the cartoon was or… there will be no band member faking a performance. I would rather perform for the camera and make a video for the song, but really perform it.
I don't know. Everyone liked the ("Violence") video so much; why wouldn't we do another one? But it took the guy a long time, about a half a year, to do it, so we need to get on the move if we are going to make another one. Balázs Gróf, that guy busted his ass, and he really worked hard and took every thought we had and he made it perfect, he really did. Each character is so… you look at Trevor or Ken, they look… everything about them is just great. (laughs)
B: I am a bit old school, and in regards to the genre at whole, death metal for me means Possessed, Death, Master, and in the later years, you guys and so forth. With all the different sub-genres nowadays, do you think it is too much, too overwhelming and sort of dilutes the death metal genre as a whole?
Donald: A little bit I guess. You have to expect it to happen though. I mean when music gets popular, whether it is metal or country or rap, it gets flooded with so many artists, or so called artists. (laughs) But you can't blame them; everybody wants to be a part of the 'cool scene' and the Record Labels don't help neither by signing every band on the planet; that for sure doesn't help the matter.
It is expected to see that many (sub-genres), that big of a surge in the metal scene, because death metal did become very popular, and it was awesome; and still is. I mean the bands are great, the people are great in the metal world compared to some other genres, and the fans are very devoted and loyal. It's a good thing. But (in regards to the sub-genres), you just have to deal with it and don't let yourself be bothered by it.
B: How about the culture of death metal fans: male/female ratio, the age of the audience or the etiquette in the mosh pit. Have you noticed changes over the years and does it change depending on which country you play in?
Donald: I don't know; I think it hasn't changed all that much. I think if you play a show in the heart of New York City you will see some violent shows, but if you play Tampa, just like in the early 90's even though there were tons of people coming out, it wasn't that violent. More of a brotherhood; people enjoying themselves and not letting anyone get hurt - in general.
In certain countries, you just have to expect a lot of violence and in others you have very quiet crowds with just mellow people. It always seemed too have been that way and still is that way.
B: We had so many deaths in the music community as of late; even you guys close to home (Obituary - Ex-Bassist Passed Away). We don't get any younger and since you have been doing this for a long time, what would be a deciding factor to hang it up and enjoy the 'fruits of your labor' and spend more time with family and friends?
Donald: For me as a drummer, it's about health; can I physically still do it well. Because you can't half-ass death metal drumming. And if you do, people realize that. I think this would be the only tipping point. I don't care about age or anything else. I think if I feel good and am playing well then I will continue to do it. I think this is pretty much the same with all of Obituary's band members. As long as you are having fun and feel good.
B: True, if you don't have fun, why do it. Ok, now let's talk about Florida Metal Fest, which just happened the end of January. An idea by you and your brother; so how long did it take you guys to organize this from start to finish and what are your afterthoughts on the event?
Donald: It was amazing that we even pulled it off. I mean, we are just two musicians that don't have any money and were lucky enough to have a business partner to help us fund it.
I think the years of us playing festivals, being invited to festivals and watching how festivals are run gave us a good inside. The good ones, you don't even think about because they run so well, they are organized and they are awesome. When it's a nightmare, you know it every second that you have to be on that premises. And this was a huge thing for me and my brother. We wanted it to be world class - starting with when the bands land at the airport… not just some idiot picking them up in a taxi cab, and not just some idiot taking care of them backstage, no half-ass backstage, no half-ass stage or half-ass production. We took it very serious and just used our experience.
Back to your questions - I don't know how long it took us; it wasn't long at all. We were thinking about it a year prior, but by the time we put the hammer down and actually started reaching out to the bands, and landing bands, it couldn't have been a 6 month process that we were excited about the first couple of bands. But then of course the waiting game started… when you just wait for a band and the management to say: yay, well, we will get back with you. Now I know why promoters lose their hair. (laughs) You are relying on that band because you love that band, and you know that they will be a good part of the festival and you want it to happen. But you do start looking at your watch and think; wow - when do we have to make a move here and have to go and find Plan B? (laughs)
We are learning a lot, in hindsight we could have done better, but I think we did a pretty damn good job with the event; for the fans that showed up to watch it and for the bands we landed and were a part of it. I think everyone had a good experience and for that, I give ourselves a B+. Next year it will definitely be…we learned real quick and we know what to do even better next year.
B: Do you guys want to keep the Festival death metal, extreme metal or style specific?
Donald: No. There was a reason why we called it Florida METAL Fest. You know… I'm in a death metal band, but I love metal; I love music. That's why Corrosion Of Conformity was a part of the first one, because I wanted everyone to realize that Obituary might be a part of this thing and organizing it, but it's not about death metal. I wanted fans around the United States and around the World to realize that; it's not about death metal, it is about metal and about having a great event with metal music. COC was a big part of just showing people that it's not about death metal… when we invited them and they heard the line-up, they were like: wooh. (laughs)
I am a huge COC fan and I wanted them to headline it; I wanted them to be the main attraction. They kinda came to us and even Pepper said: man, you sure you don't want to put us in there (line-up) a little bit earlier? (laughs)
Obituary is not a headlining band for a humungous festival, we knew that, but we also knew that we are… we are Florida metal. All our fans and friends are there and they respect that and if we headline most people will stay to the end. We made it a special ending, on purpose, so - it is about metal, not just death metal. Next year it will be about extreme metal - some 'true' death metal fans might get bummed out when they see what we are trying for, but then again - it is about METAL music, not one specific genre. I don't want it to be. I want death metal bands to be a part of it every year, but I want flavor, I want spice, I want cool stuff that I get to experience when I get to play at Graspop or Wacken or Hellfest.
You know, when you play Hellfest… you got Obituary but then you also got ZZ Top on stage - it's unbelievable. I don't think we will ever get to that size of course (with Florida Metal Fest), but we can have that kind of flavor. I also think that the Tampa Bay Area would really enjoy that - whether they know it or not. (laughs) It's such a beautiful part of the world and I think people will enjoy some vacation time. Anyone coming from Germany or other parts of Europe; central Florida is a great part of the world to come to.
B: This leads to my next question. The festival was the weekend before the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise - was this planned to attract the 70K crowd or did it just work out like that?
Donald: This was planned. I mean, we are fans of that whole idea that people come from around the world to get on a boat leaving out of Miami (ed. now Fort Lauderdale). But we also noticed that now it leaves on a Wednesday (ed. instead of Monday), and everyone is coming in earlier to enjoy themselves a couple of days prior. So we thought, if people are coming in, why don't we have an event that they can come to in Tampa on a Saturday night before heading down to Miami. Hopefully it catches on. It would be super cool if it would become an annual thing where people from around the world come to party with us.
B: You mentioned earlier that you wanted to end the Festival with special event - and special it really turned out. Was it planned that "The Mountain King" himself is going to be on stage with you guys?
Jon Oliva on stage with Obituary
picture used with permission; copyrighted and taken by Eus Straver - Metal-Experience.com
Donald: (laughs) It was OUR plan, but he doesn't make things at all easy, because he is so… whatever the word is: he is untouchable - he is The Mountain King.
Jon respects Obituary, he loves the Tardy brothers, and he knows how much we worship Savatage; and we do. Obituary is probably… I know, speaking for every band member of mine, that we are the biggest Savatage fans on the planet. We bleed it, we still listen to it every day, even when we warm up for our shows.
So yes, it was planned, we begged him and it came all the way down to the wire. That's why we didn't advertise it. At first we thought it's a great selling point for people to say: well now I am coming, but then we realized - it's The Mountain King, he might not show up, because he said: I will try to do it with you - he didn't say: yes, I will be there - for sure. (laughs) So we said: you know what, it will be the cherry on the cake if it happens; and thank god, he did come and do it with us.
B: So awesome that it worked out in the end. Now, you guys named one of the stages Criss Oliva and the other Chuck Schuldiner. Do you plan on keeping the names or mixing it up?
Donald: We are going to keep it that way. Those are two dudes… obviously Chuck was the godfather; he started Florida death metal, he is, was, why we are who we are. And Criss Oliva, again, he is our hero. He was one of the best guitar players I ever witnessed and I am proud that I was able to watch him live and be a part of that Central Florida scene; again with Savatage. So yes, it will always be those two stages, because it's what we love and respect.
B: Great. And to wrap things up - the last words belong to you to your fans.
Donald: We are very down to earth dudes. I think people, whoever gets to meet us, know that. We don't rely on leather pants and boots and make-up. We are who we are and we let the music do the talking. I think the fans are the ones who catch on to that and I think they appreciate Obituary for who we are. They love our music even though we are not afraid to smile and laugh while on stage; it is about entertainment after all.
So to the fans: we are super proud to have fans… still… and they are the most devoted fans on the planet. You look at this style of music and metal fans are very, very devoted to the bands they love. Without them, what would we be doing? We would be … me and Trevor would be still be jamming, but we would be in a garage playing to nothing. I would still love playing drums every day, but there is nothing better than performing in front of people who love your music.
We thank the fans for that.
Posted on 12.03.2016 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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