Obituary has come a long way as a Death Metal outfit, over the last few decades. Hailing from Florida, USA alongside many acts such as Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, Atheist, here am speaking to one of the most iconic drummers in the world, Donald Tardy of OBITUARY.
Q. Obituary is one of the earliest and pioneering death metal band and also one of the most commercially successful death metal bands. How does it feel to be one of the founding members of such a legendary band?
Donald: It is an honor to be a part of such an elite group of bands that changed the face of metal on this planet. It’s crazy to think obituary has been around for three decades now and we are having more fun than ever. We don’t take it for granted and we know we are very lucky and privileged to be able to do this for a living. In 1985 when we were just teenagers writing music we had no idea the impact we would have on the metal world. It’s something that is still hard to absorb but I am damn proud to be a part of this.
Q. It’s also very difficult to survive a band for such a long time. How have you managed to do so?
Donald: I think the main thing is that we are best of friends. It obviously doesn’t hurt to have my brother in the band, and Trevor and I have known each other since we were just kids. I’m sure there’s a lot of bands out there that still tour and put out records and do it because it is a way to make a living but we are very fortunate to have such close relationships together and still have so much fun writing and performing songs together and it is so much more than just being on stage together, it’s off the stage and everything that happens behind the scenes with travel and living that really takes it’s toll so again we are very lucky we get a long so well. Not too many bands that have more fun than Obituary before, during and after the show.
Q. Like Swedish and Finnish death metal, US death metal is one of the largest death metal scenes in the world. In the US, Floridian Death Metal scene is huge consisting of some death metal giants like Death, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Malevolent Creation, Nocturnus, Cynic, Atheist and many more. What do you think is the reason behind so many death metal bands coming out of Florida during your early days?
Donald: I have been asked that question many many times over the last 25 years and there is no real answer I don’t believe. It’s just a freak coincidence that that many bands came out of the Central Florida area and were as good as we were. Maybe the competition pushed us to be better but I really don’t know how it happened. Maybe it was in the swamp water..??
It was a very cool thing to be a part of although at such a young age I didn’t really understand what was happening at that time. Looking back now it is amazing that the bands that came out of Tampa started such an amazing style of music and opened doors for the rest of the bands around the world.
Q. During your Xecutioner days, you used to play thrash metal. What made you change your style to death metal after you renamed your band to ‘Obituary’?
Donald: As like most bands, when we first started we were just playing the style of music that we loved. There weren’t very many categories of metal except metal and from a very early Time we were influenced by Tampa bands like Nasty Savage, Savatage and of course Metallica, Slayer, Venom and HellHammer but there really was no such thing as death metal in 1985. It was only after we began writing more songs after the executioner demos that we got heavier and John’s voice changed to become what it is now. It was not planned it’s just something that happened to the band as we progressed and learned who we were. Now a days there are so many different categories of metal it’s confusing to an old man like me. Obituary never put themselves in a category, other writers and fans maybe did but we always just considered ourselves Florida metal with the Obituary style that it is. I don’t think much about categories I just know that I like obituaries mid-tempo, groovy, solid metal style and I am proud to keep it going in the future.
Q. What were your earlier influences? What influenced you to play metal?
Donald: Again when I first started playing drums and becoming interested in music there was no such thing as death metal in fact it was before Metallica and before Venom that my influence came early on as a drummer with bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Stevie Ray Vaughan. I would say my main influence though came from the Holy Diver album and Vinnie Appice’s drumming. It was that album that made me believe and want to be a metal drummer so I took my early influences from Led Zeppelin and added it to everything I wanted to be. I think you can hear those influences on the new album and I am very proud to be even close to a category as those two drummers.
Q. What do you think of current metal scene? How do you compare today’s metal scene with the scene during your earlier days?
Donald: The abilities in today’s modern drummer’s is just amazing. They are doing things now that we never thought of 30 years ago. With that said, music is still written the same way and has the same effect on the fans. There are so many bands doing so many styles it’s hard to keep up with for me, I appreciate what bands are doing and am glad to see them all going for it like we did as a young band. Today’s scene is not that much different than it was three decades ago. Fans love the bands they follow and the bands need the fans to exist and to be able to do what we love to do, release albums go on tour. I am still a fan of the old metal that I grew up to. I enjoy listening to modern metal and hearing what drummers are doing these days but my old Slayer, Venom and Celtic Frost albums are still the ones I turn to when I’m ready to jam some music.
Q. I feel one of the main reasons which made Obituary stand out among other death metal bands during your earlier days is your drumming which is heavy, crushing and groovy. What were your drumming influences?
Donald: Thank you very much. My influences were from Led Zeppelin’s Jon Bonham and Dio’s Vinnie Appice. Two of the most solid drummers to ever live and still my favorite two of all time although I have to say King diamond‘s first few albums with Mickey Dee were incredible and still give me goosebumps listening to his style which I love so much.
Q. ‘Cause of death’ and ‘Slowly we rot’ are two revolutionary death metal albums which made Obituary the legends they are today. Do you think, in the future, you will ever be able to top those releases?
Donald: I know that is not a tricky question but one that with an answer that just might make fans unhappy. Those albums were incredible for the year they were released but I believe we get better every album. I am more excited about my drumming on Inked In Blood and I believe the song writing is the best we have ever done. I understand that fans will not be leave, understand, or agree with that statement but again a band is only as good as the last song they wrote and the songs on the new album I believe are some of our best. I am not taking away from the first two albums, I know they wore his stork albums and recordings and understand why and how fans love them as much as they do. It was History in the making…
Q. Which is your favourite album production-wise?
Donald: I like the production on World Demise along with Darkest Day and I am very excited about the production of Inked in Blood as it was recorded by ourselves and might not be the perfect production I still think it sounds very real and not over produced or over mixed. We really had a good time recording and mixing this out ourselves and though it might not be the best sounding album we love it and are so glad the fans are digging it as well.
Q. You released ‘Inked in blood’ last year. How was the overall reception of the album?
Donald: The reception from the new album has been more positive than nearly any other album of ours. The fans really seem to love it and that makes us very proud because we worked so hard for so many years on the songs and could not be more excited about the final product. Fans waited nearly 5 years for this album and we are so glad they are supporting us and buying it because it is a well known fact that not everybody buys albums any more they just decide to listen to it on-line for free so for the people that actually bought it, thank you very much. We really appreciate you guys.
Q. The new album features your new guitarist, Kenny Andrews and bassist, Terry Butler. How has been the experience working with them so far?
Donald: Terry has been a friend of ours for 30 years and it is so cool having him in the band now. He is a true professional, great bassist and all around amazing guy Who I am very proud to call one of my best friends.
Ken is also one of my best friends who is a local Florida metalhead that has been around the scene for many many years and is very proud to be a part of Obituary. His guitar style is like James Murphy meets Allen West and the blend could not fit Obituary any better. What he pulled off on this new album makes me so proud because I saw how bad he wanted to do something great and I really think he made this album better than it would have been. He is also a very easy-going dude who’s always in a good mood and always ready to shred when we have a show or practice. They are the last two pieces to this puzzle and we are looking forward to many many years of metal together.
Q. You were long time signed with Roadrunner records, followed by Candlelight records and for your new album, you have worked with Relapse records. How has been the experience working with three giant record labels?
Donald: We are very glad to be partnered with Relapse. Like most bands our past relationships with record labels was not always fun for the band or the band members so to have a record label that is as excited as the band, we see that (Relapse) wants to be a part of this and we are excited about the future with them.
Q. You did an ‘Inked in blood’ European tour and currently you are doing a Brazilian tour followed by Neurotic deathfest and Maryland deathfest. Any plans on doing an Indian tour?
Donald: India is one of very few places we have not made it to. I really would love to visit and perform in India. Hopefully with this new album and a world tour we will finally make it there. We know we have many many fans in India and cannot wait to meet them.
Q. Any last words for your fans?
Donald: 5 last words: Go Buy Inked In Blood!
Q. Thanks a lot for taking some time out and doing this interview.
Donald: Thanks and Cheers!
Aumkar Lele (Metaljesus Magazine)
Metaljesus Magazine – Heavy Metal Magazine