One of those bands that ignore the phrase “following a trend”, for the sake of doing what they feel and what they’ve always loved. Loyal to the old school US death metal, Florida’s legendary OBITUARY (one of the writer’s favorites), have just released their new self-titled album in mid-March. Metalpaths was given the chance a couple of weeks before that to have a phone chat with the one and only John Tardy. So without further ado, this is what was said during that phone call. The sentence day is upon us…
Good afternoon John! We’re expecting your brand new, self-titled record on 17th of March (the interview conducted before the release of the album). This is going to be the tenth in your entire career. What do you guys think now that the record is done? How have the fans reacted to “Turned To Stone” and “Sentence Day”?
(laughs) So far it’s been pretty great man! We picked two great songs and made two cool videos to go along with them. So of course the reactions to those two songs have been pretty good. Can’t wait to get that album out for everybody and give them the full taste of it, because there are so many good songs on this record. Really excited about it, it’s our tenth record. And we’re ready to go man, that’s for sure.
Whose idea was that collage-type video for “Sentence Day”?
Well, that was our idea basically, and the guys from Relapse wanted to help to make it a real thing. We just sent them a whole bunch of photos and stuff like that. It was just a fun song and it turned out to be a great song to go along with a video like that and really have fun. We always get asked to do videos and stuff, and we so much do NOT want to do a video where we’re staring and we’re trying to play and there’s something on it. Just trying to do something crazy, shows a lot of character for us really. We wanted to do something like that, so that video seemed pretty good for us.
Prior to the release of “Obituary”, we had the “Ten Thousand Ways To Die” EP and “No” flexi single via Decibel magazine, as appetizers so to speak. You seem to like keeping fans busy till the full-length comes out. “Ten Thousand Ways To Die” also appears on the full-length’s tracklisting. Why were those tracks selected?
You know, it’s been almost 2 years since the “Inked In Blood” record. And we had some songs we were kinda sitting on, almost since it was done. And we’ve come to decide on what we’ll do with those songs “hold them or just put them on a new record” or whatever. but so much time was coming in between. You know, we just put these songs out, and when we did this US tour we had recordings every night. And when we got back we mixed a couple songs, and we just loved them so much, that we thought it was a great idea to have 10 songs from 10 different cities in America. So it’s cool, and also the two songs to bridge the gap between the two albums. And also we have a couple of videos coming out, there’s another video coming out soon (“Turned To Stone” lyric video) prior to the release of the album in conjunction with that Kreator tour in America. It’s been after a year since we’ve done a gig, I hope that people go and hopefully it’s getting their juices flowing for the new record. And I can’t wait to get it out there.
Was there anything done differently compared to your previous album “Inked In Blood”? Or do you guys have a stable way of working on new material after 28 years in the business?
It’s kinda status quo. I mean, we’re kinda cavemen and primitive in all ways, so we haven’t changed much over the years (laughs). We kinda do things the same way. You know, it’s a decent amount of time between releases, sometimes it was 5 or 6 years. “Back From The Dead” and “Frozen In Time” was the longest time between Obituary records. But we don’t sit there thinking “every other year we gotta do an album, EP or whatever that might be”. It’s just more when we feel like doing it, like on this particular record we started working almost a year and a half, putting songs together. And then, after we had a handful of songs written and stuff, and then we got pulled away and did a tour, to take a break from writing. And we got back home, kinda go back in there to do some more writing. So, it was a break between the songswriting, which I think helps the diversity in some of the songs. Like I said, lots of good songs in there, so lots of cool stuff to do there. As for the writing, I know a lot of small bands nowadays that’s just a small room using ProTools. Someone can be in California, someone can be in Germany, someone can be in Japan for that matter sitting and writing music and send tracks back and forth and do that. We always get together, we have our studio in Florida, sit there, relax, have a few beers, we just get in there and start jamming. Music comes out and that’s how we do all that writing.
Is that your favorite part of Obituary? Or do you enjoy the road more?
Well, that’s tough to say. I mean, the studio is fun, writing music is fun, getting a shitfaced drive home is fun, certainly not my house. But, you know, one of the things that I’m the most grateful about our career, is that we travel in so many different countries all over the world. And most of the time, we get to meet so many cool people from different places, cool bands that we’ve toured with and stuff like that. Those two things are so different that, it’s kinda hard to compare them. So both of them, make our lives and our careers so fun and so exciting to do.
The upcoming album is your first self-titled album, with a very simple artwork, just the classic logo. For some bands, it’s either a statement or a fresh start in their career. But what’s the case for Obituary?
I don’t think there’s a single meaning to it. We kinda just liked the simple artwork and the simple logo. We kinda had a concept with the logo, Andreas (Marschall) always turns it into something really cool. It’s kind of like a re-take on our older logo. But just with the finish that he put on, the metal finish and the faces all over it, we just loved the way it stood out on a “Black Album” cover all by itself. It just screams classic Obituary. Which is what we believe fits this album, it’s classic Obituary through and through. And also there’s so many great songs on this record that it’s kinda hard for any of us to pick one. And I didn’t really think it at the time, but now, that I started doing interviews and people pointing out that it is our tenth album, it was just another thing that re-affirmed that this should be our self-titled album. So, everything worked out pretty good, and I think the music’s going to stand out more than anything else around it.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing lyrics?
You know, it really goes back to day one when we started this thing. We were always a heavy band. We were after this sound and this guitar and as big as we want to make drums, I’ve always kinda tried to make my voice kinda fit in with that music. So I try to turn myself into a voice that really sounds good. Now because everything sounds heavy, I’m kinda stuck in the way having to come up with something a little more angry, a little more morbid to sing about. It has got to be something heavy and in content. That’s kind of what it is. We’re not some sort of diabolical band, we’re not a satanic band or something like that, it’s just not us. So a lot of what I write about, it’s just kinda stuff that comes to my head while I’m singing. This music has so much energy and so much power, so I just want to go with all that. And, really, the longer I’ve been doing this, it’s more of a challenge for me to come up with some cool lyrics. And it’s kinda cool cause we did the “Turned To Stone” lyric video, which is the first time someone’s ever published my lyrics. That’s kinda cool and different for us, it is for me. There’s actually no huge meaning I’m trying to get across, it’s more like stuff that’s cool things to say and go along with the music.
Are there any bands or albums do you always go back to in search of inspiration?
I guess not really. I mean I’ve got my favorite singers, Jon Oliva from Savatage is probably my favorite singer. I just think he’s the greatest singer ever. Donald and I did a festival here in Florida and had Jon come up the stage and sing with us and we played some Savatage songs, and it was great for the whole band, cause we respect him so much. It was a little bit crazy. That was a lifetime of inspiration on my behalf (laughs). I’ve never heard quite anything like that in my life.
You have the Decibel tour with Kreator, Midnight and Horrendous in April. Taking into account that Horrendous are a fresh death metal band, what are your thoughts on the death metal scene today, as one of its originators?
Man, I often say a lot of times that we have to restart back over again (laughs). But the thing is, there are so many bands out there, trying to come up with something new and original. We were really fortunate early on when we started, not that we originated metal per say or anything, this happened with so many bands going back to Black Sabbath and of course some heavier bands. So, especially here in Florida, when we first started, and early bands like us, Deicide, Morbid Angel etc. were coming out, some people were freaked out by the stuff that was coming out, especially with the music there. So, any band out there starting now, it’s tough, you’ve got a long list of bands coming out over the years, coming up with something fresh and new. Even the bands that I like the most, are the bands that stand out, original bands, the AC/DC’s of the world, who when you hear them, you just know who it is right off the bat. So, it’s harder for younger bands. And it’s usually not something you can practice or do, it’s just about getting a group of guys together, how they jell, how they get together and the sound that is born, is not something that bands can sit and change as you will. So, it’s one of those natural things that has to occur for you to have a super successful band.
Do you think that there are fresh bands out there that stand out in the genre?
I’m not sure. I haven’t heard much of Horrendous to make a comment about their music per say. There hasn’t been any new bands that I’ve come across that I’ve been listening a lot to. When I listen to music it’s usually just older stuff, my old Celtic Frost and Hellhammer records and Possessed and Venom and stuff like that (laughs). So that’s just kinda my world, a dinosaur in my own world.
The bands of your generation in US death metal get closer to 3 decades of playing death metal: Obituary, Morbid Angel, Autopsy, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Deicide, Incantation and so on. What keeps you guys going after all those years?
(laughs) I know for us, the music keeps us young. We don’t take ourselves seriously, we take our music super seriously. We truly like to go out and have a great time with our music, and I think that shows on stage. We’re not some band that comes out there and gets all serious on somebody. We just go out there in t-shirts and jeans, drink a couple of beers and just have a great time and fun with the crowd and roll with it like that.
John, it’s been 5 years already since your last visit to Greece with Exodus, Heathen and Morgoth, a country that you’re really popular in. What are your memories from the last time you played in Greece?
It’s been a while since we’ve played in Greece right? I’ve always remembered great shows in Greece, we’re really having a good time there, it’s a beautiful place, love going there. It’s just a shame that we haven’t got back more. I’ve seen some of the offers and you guys have gone through a lot of tours not coming there, I think some economic reasons and some of the offers are that a lot of bands and tours have a tough time going there. But that’s just my opinion, maybe I’m not correct about it. That’s a real shame cause it’s a really fun place to go.
Apart from the Decibel tour in spring, what are the future plans for Obituary?
A whole bunch, we have a lot stuff going on! We’re filming the “Ten Thousand Ways To Die” video, and all of the videos coming out prior to the release of the album. The Kreator tour in America is going to be huge for us, it’s going to be a great way to kick off the release of this record. We going back and forth to Europe 3 or 4 times this year doing festivals. Lots of cool gigs, Hellfest being confirmed. That’s going to be a blast. And then we’re going to South America and go for a full tour there. And we’re currently working on a full year European tour to support the new record. So we’re hoping we’ll get to a lot of countries there, I hope that Greece is something that we get over and do. We’re trying to have some shows in far east, Australia and things like that, so hopefully there might be an opportunity for us to pop in and do a couple of shows there as well. We’ve already booking shows up to 2018 right now to support this new record.
That was about it John, thanks so much for your time, it’s been a huge honor! The final words are yours!
Ah John I think you summed up most of the stuff there. It’s so hard to say how excited we are for the new record and how we’re ready to go! Greece is the place we haven’t been for a while and we want to go man. It’s a fun place to go and we’re hoping it gets on our schedule of things to do, to get out there and see you guys once again. Until then, we hope that the new music holds you over for a while.