Interview: Obituary

Here’s to 34 years and who knows how many more coming up because we're still feeling good and having a damn good time!

Obituary are without doubt a legendary band when it comes to not just the death metal genre in which they have played a major part since they first emerged from the Florida swamplands, but in heavy metal and extreme music in general. From their debut album Slowly We Rot onwards, Obituary have been simply unstoppable with their guttural grooves and heaviness. Dying From Everything, the brilliant latest album from the band continues this and Gavin Brown had the pleasure to catch up with Obituary drummer Donald Tardy while on tour in Barcelona to talk about the new album, tales from the road and Obituary’s undisputed legacy as a classic metal band.

E&D: Your new album Dying Of Everything has just been released. What has the reaction to the album been like so far?     

Donald: So positive. I mean, it’s so awesome because we tucked it away for two years and that was agonising, but now that it’s out, just to hear the positive reactions of the fans and the interviews and all the journalists, it seems like everyone’s digging the new album, and that’s a great feeling.

E&D: It’s been six years since the last Obituary album. Do you feel reenergised for this record?

Donald: Yeah, it’s one of those things where nobody knew what the hell was going to happen when the world got shut down. We were sitting at home but it gave us a chance to work on the new album. Now that now that we’re back out, we’ve already done 120 or 130 shows in America, so we are firing on all cylinders right now and to be back in Europe, it’s awesome. There’s nothing better than than being on tour.

E&D: Is Dying Of Everything a reflection of the chaos that’s gone on in the world over the past few years?

Donald: I mean, we didn’t set out to say that with the state of the world when we were writing the album. The last thing we care about is song titles or album titles, the riffs and the songs are the important thing but it just fitted and we agreed on the title. It’s just one of those things where it’s a title that every individual when they read it, and they see the album, they just know what just happened on this planet. It allows each and every person to take their own perspective of what they what they read into it.

E&D: You’ve previously stated that the album has been done for some time before its release. How did the recording go and was it frustrating waiting before bringing the album out?

Donald: Yeah, I mean, we took a lot of time with the riffs and the creation, creating the songs, but you know, it did go all the way down to the wire when it came to recording this album and getting it finished, getting it mastered and then once it was tucked away, we were doing our live streams, we were staying busy but thinking how are you going to pay the bills? How are we going to stay focused as a band? How are we going to still practice and stay busy, and that’s really what we did.

E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the striking album cover for Dying Of Everything?

Donald: Yeah, it was by chance, which is amazing that it happened this way. It’s sad and amazing at the same time, because our German artist Andreas Marschall, he wasn’t available at the time that we needed to start selecting what we want and what artists we were going to use. So of course, what are you going to do besides look at what our artists are out there, and Mariusz Lewandowski was the artists that when we saw the artwork and his style, and the oil painting that he did, we knew it was going to be a different album cover than than normal. When I reached out to him, it was great that he was aware of Obituary, he was super excited that we selected him to be a part of it. He was eager to contribute, so we had a couple conversations over the internet, and he got what he needed from us. We allowed him to do what he does so well, and just go for it and we knew he was going to deliver something cool, but when we saw the final product, my jaw hit the ground. I mean, it’s absolute masterpiece in my opinion, it’s just brilliant. Then of course, sadly he passed away right afterwards, so it was sad we never got to meet him in person and shake his hand and thank him, but the good thing is he was a part of the album, he knew we were thrilled to call that the next album cover for Obituary and that’s important.


E&D: The book Turned Inside Out: The Story Of Obituary was realised last year. How was it telling the story of the band in a book and have you want to do that for a while?

Donald: I wouldn’t have ever wanted to do it! But luckily, David the writer was super knowledgeable about the history of Obituary and that made things really easy, because he already knew what he needed to make a great story about Obituary so the conversations were really natural and he made things really simple for each band member and having multiple conversations with all of us with him to get what he needed. I would never want to do it again though! Thank God, there’s only one biography of your career, and not once a year, but it was cool. It was very cool doing it with David and without him, I don’t think it would have been a great process.

E&D: How was it looking back over the band’s career?

Donald: Yeah, it was cool. Again, with his conversations with us and bringing up some old thoughts and memories. It definitely was a trip down memory lane for us and we went all the way back to where we were young teenagers, just learning our way and wanting to be a heavy metal band and learning from the Tampa scene and the music that we grew up on. It was really cool going back that far and remembering some of those stories.

E&D: You’re on tour in Europe at the moment with Trivium, Heaven Shall Burn and Malevolence. How’s the tour going and what are some of the highlights been so far?

Donald: Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s been a long time since we’ve been over here. This was a calculated decision for a tour like this with the new album out. We wanted to get in front of new fans and new eyeballs and Trivium and Heaven Shall Burn fans are definitely heavy metal fans, but I’m not sure how familiar they are with Obituary. So we took it as a challenge and it’s been great. The Malevolence guys could not be nicer people and just an absolutely shredding band. We’re just having a blast, and it is just a really good tour to be on right now.

E&D: Have you been playing a lot of songs from from the new album and have they been going down well?

Donald: Yeah, that’s the challenge because I know, as the songwriter of the the band, the band would love to play more new ones, but we’re doing two right now, but that’s because of minutes on stage, If we played all new songs, fans would probably throw bottles at us because they want to hear some of the classics and the older ones. It’s a good mix of the good old ones and some new ones.

E&D: Is it hard picking the setlist, considering how many songs you’ve got to choose from?

Donald: Yeah, you can imagine the challenge of our set time onstage and the amount of albums we have now and the number the number of songs we’ve written in our career. To say it’s challenging is the understatement of the decade, near impossible is an easier way to put it. It was a selected setlist knowing we were going to be in front of fans that necessarily don’t know who you were so we wanted some of the really groovy not too fast, not too crazy songs. I think it’s an amazing setlist that we have right now.

E&D: You’re also doing a headline show in London during the tour on February 23rd, what can UK fans expect from from that show?

Donald: That one we’re getting excited about because that is literally just for us to get over and celebrate with our with our British fans. We haven’t been to England in a long time, and this will be a celebration of Dying Of Everything and many new songs. Then of course, we’re going to be pulling out the old ones that everyone’s going to be waiting for. We’re looking forward to it and with the amount of pre sales that’s going on right now, it looks like London is ready for war because it is going to be an absolutely slam packed show for us and what we’re doing at the soundcheck now is we’re starting to practice some of these brand new songs that we haven’t even been on playing on stage. So we’re preparing for London and the Electric Ballroom is going to explode on February 23rd.

E&D: You mentioned your recent US tour earlier. It was with Amon Amarth, Carcass and Cattle Decapitation. How did that tour go?

Donald: That was a dream tour, is probably a good way to put it. We have known both Carcass and Amon Amarth for many years and had toured with them both already before so we knew what we were getting into and again they could not be nicer human beings and just really good friends. That makes for an amazing tour, and also how awesome Amon Amarth are and the production that they put on for their fans was incredible to watch every night. The bonus is Carcass is one of my favourite bands, so to be able to watch Jeff Walker and Bill Steer on stage every night was just the icing on the cake.

E&D: How was the experience of supporting Slayer on their final ever tour? That must have been incredible!

Donald: Yeah, it was! It feels like a lifetime ago, but it was a lifelong dream. You know, we have been a band for over three decades, and I’ve been a fan of Slayer for four decades, so it was agonising for the reality that we might not ever get a chance to play shows and do a tour with them. Then, the very last second of the last inning of the baseball game, we finally got the call that we’re going to tour with Slayer, and it couldn’t have been more awesome for us. They didn’t have to but they treated us like family when it came to every aspect of the tour, just their crew, their whole camp. They treated Obituary very well and that’s memories that will stick with me forever.

E&D: Obituary have toured with so many varied bands as well, from Exodus, Prong and Municipal Waste to Agnostic Front and Black Label Society. Do you love playing with bands with different styles of heavy music, much like the tour you are on now?

Donald: Yeah, after so many decades of performing and being on extreme tours, tours to go on the one with Black Label Society for example, which is not death metal fans at all. I love the challenge! I love extreme tours where all the fans in the building are death metal fans, but it’s also those tours where people are walking in with the attitude of who is this Florida band? What is Florida death metal? Who is this Obituary band?! Then four songs into it, you see them kind of nodding their head a little bit and by the end of our set, they’re into it, that’s a killer feeling. You take each tour on its own, one by one and you perform, you play your ass off every night and you hope that the people that took the time to come in and listen to Obituary, you hope they enjoy it. We’ve been getting some great reactions on the last few tours that we’ve done.

E&D: How was the Deathcrusher tour you did with Carcass, Napalm Death, Voivod and Herod back in 2015? I caught the show in Bristol and it was an amazing show!

Donald: That was an awesome tour, you can remember only so many performances, in my brain anyway! It seems like the delete button hits but the one thing that you don’t ever forget is the camaraderie, and on that tour, it was pretty amazing to have Obituary, Napalm and Voivod on the same bus together. It was just awesome. I mean, you talk about a lifetime of memories, just being able to have beers with each other, every show but also on the days off, where you’re just hanging out and talking life and everybody knows how long we’ve known Napalm. They’ve been one of my first friends in the music industry, and still are great friends with all those guys. It was an awesome tour and we were lucky to be a part of it.

E&D: What are your live plans after this tour and have you got any festival appearances locked in yet?

Donald: Yeah, we’re so busy, the schedule now is already being pencilled in and booked through 2024 already. We go home and recharge for a couple months after this tour, actually we’re only home for thirty days! Then we head out on our headlining American tour in April/May, and then we then we come home and have to recharge again obviously, but then we do make it over to the August summer festivals. We’re booking those now. it’ll be an August/September this year. Next year  is when we’ll hit the June/July festivals. It’s amazing when you start planning as a band with your booking agents how far in advance you have to like literally think and remember and pencil in and slide this one this way because Australia now wants us to tour. It’s just amazing that you’re thinking 18 months away, but talking about it like it’s tomorrow because time just flies when it comes to the schedule.

E&D: That must be refreshing and feel good after the the uncertainty of the past few years to be able to do that? 

Donald: Yeah, and it is, it’s an awesome feeling, knowing that you’re going to be busy, the demand is there and we’re just feeling good and kicking ass right now. With that said, though, any day could be someone’s last day on the planet so we also are not afraid to celebrate life and just have a good time, each and every night because you know, life is short. It’s  great to be busy and have demand, but we also know that you got to live today, like there’s no tomorrow, in a responsible way but definitely don’t be afraid to have a good time!

E&D: You brought out live albums of the livestream gigs you did for the Slowly We Rot and Cause of Death albums. How was the experience of doing those?

Donald: Amazing, I can’t believe the reaction we got from the live albums. When we did the livestreams, the company that invited us to do them and showed us what a livestream was, we were lucky enough to have such an amazing console and it being multitracked on a Pro Tools rig, plus we had our live engineer there, so the recordings came out so killer. That was the reason we decided to make them live albums because they were multitracked. We were able to go back and mix it and make sure it sounded great, and the reactions of the fans, they loved it because of course, it wasn’t just the music industry, everyone’s world was turned upside down with the pandemic so to have two classic albums performed live with all the mistakes and broken drumsticks and dropped sticks and broken strings. We didn’t try and polish it. We didn’t go back and fix anything. If you hear mistakes. It’s because it was live, and that’s that’s a pretty cool concept.

E&D: Have you had thoughts about doing the same for your other albums?

Donald: Yeah, I mean, we did another livestream after that, where we performed the entire The End Complete album. After that, of course, now the world’s opening up and Obituary are super busy but when the day comes and we’re home and we got a bug up our ass and we want to do World Demise, I think it’d be an amazing livestream for fans, because that is a great album that is now going on three decades since it was released. I would love that challenge because I think that’s a killer album.

E&D: Would it be something you would want to do next year for its 30th anniversary?

Donald: Yeah, you know, it’s in the back of our mind, how can we do it? How would we like to celebrate it? Of course, a livestream is a good way to do it, so everyone around the world at that time, at that moment can capture World Demise with us if we perform the entire thing live over the Internet.

E&D: What have been some of the proudest moments from the history of Obituary for you so far?

Donald: It’s a good question, because Obituary have been a band such a long time but the one thing that there is no question of that the entire band is proud of is just that we are still best friends. We are in an industry that is not easy at all, so just to keep a straight mind and a positive attitude is a super challenge for every band. So the proudest thing I think is that we are still genuinely having a good time. That’s why when you see us smiling on stage, it’s not fake smiles and just knowing that what we’re doing, we wanted to do even as children, we wanted to be a rock band and we’re still doing it and we’re doing it well.

E&D: What is it like for Obituary to be referred to a classic metal band, not even a classic death metal band, but classic metal band and still be doing it for all these years?

Donald: Yeah, that’s a cool feeling because I remember back when just the first two albums were out and there was so many categories, and we were being pushed into being called a death metal band, but I knew we were just a heavy metal band. We were writing grooves and there was funk to it. There wasn’t just straight blast beats and 1000 mile an hour drumming, there was some groove to that. There’s young bands that are now following in our footsteps. It’s just very cool. I feel very humbled and super proud of that, and again, man, here’s to 34 years and who knows how many more coming up because we’re still feeling good and having a damn good time!

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