Floridian death metal exponents Obituary have the rare of distinction of being one of the few who get credit for creating the genre of death metal. And after more than thirty years, they’re still at it and having more fun than ever. Here’s my chat with Donald Tardy, drummer and founding member of the band.
Alright, so what’s going on? “‘We just finished sound check of the first show of this East Coast Rotting Run that we’re doing, and it’s pretty interesting, because obviously we committed to the Cause of Death album for Australia, Japan and New Zealand, but we committed to Slowly We Rot on this run. And if anybody thought it would be easy to re-learn thirty-year old songs, they’re crazy. We must be out of our minds for accepting this offer! So that’s what we’re doing — we got eleven shows left of this tour for the East Coast of America that we’re doing right now before we head back home and prepare for Australia”.
When does the Australia tour start? “The Australia tour is like early January — I think we have to fly out on the sixth to make it there. We have two Japanese dates first which is, like, the tenth and eleventh of January then we head to Australia and New Zealand”.
You recently participated in the first leg of Slayer’s farewell tour, right? “‘I don’t know what leg it was, but it was the European run of like twenty six shows with them. And it was amazing!’
What are your thoughts on Slayer calling it a day? “Oh man, good for them! I mean, If the bank account says you can call quits – then fuckin-a! [laughs]”
How was the vibe on the tour? Heavy, sombre? Was there a different tone, or was it still just Slayer? “Oh no – they could not have been kinder or nicer to us; the band, the crew – everybody. It was an amazing experience. I’m super glad we were invited, and we were super privileged to get to do it. And it was nothing but good times, you know? We were in Europe with them for twenty five or twenty six shows and playing arenas — I mean, how much better can it get? Who would have thought, Slayer, would play an arena back in 85, 86 or 87 when they were still just a band like the rest of us? Again we were lucky — we were lucky to do it, and they couldn’t have been more kind to Obituary. There is a very genuine appreciation that we have for them, because we didn’t know what to expect going into it. It was super cool!”
Do you guys ever think about your own retirement? “Well, the fact of the matter is: half of the time Trevor (Peres, guitars) and I won’t know how we’re even going to pay rent next fucking month – there’s no retirement plan for us. I’ll retire when I’m dead! [laughs]. And honestly, we’re having too much fucking fun as band – we have a blast, we’re genuinely good friends. We have such a good time on stage – it’s all we’ve known for thirty years, and it’s really the only thing I’m good at.’
You recently released a single, A Dying World, in August 2019 (Relapse Records) – will there be a new album? Or does recording albums even make sense these days? “It’s a good question – and even just you’re approach to asking is exactly the answer. I don’t think albums are really important anymore – we love writing music, and again, we’re such good friends, so we will definitely do another album. But I just don’t know if, in the future, it’s that necessary. We have so many songs and so many classic records. We are writing music and there will definitely be another album, but after that? I mean, we can write ten more new albums, but let’s face it: people want to hear Chopped in Half, they want to hear Slowly We Rot, We Don’t Care, The End Complete. All the old songs are really the bread and butter of the band when it comes to touring, so you know, I think an album every two years is – irrelevant, maybe? But you always want it to be badass and there’s no question we still have fun writing. And I think the last album shows that we are still putting out a quality product — and again we have a good time doing it. So we are definitely thinking of a new album, we’re just not in a hurry”.
You went viral with those cartoons for Violence and then 10,000 Ways to Die – are we going to see many more of those? “‘I don’t know man. Part of the band loves it so much we want to do a whole fucking cartoon series [laughs]. But the other reality is, you don’t want to overwhelm everybody and make it to where it’s like ‘oh, here’s another one. We love doing it – I mean, Lord knows, to make a music video and not have to go out on site and fake like you’re playing guitar or playing drums in the woods somewhere with a film crew – we just know we don’t want that anymore. So the cartoon thing, we knew if we committed to it with the cartoonist – we knew that it was going to be on our terms”.
Tardy goes on to explain how it started when cartoonist Balázs Gróf approached them with the idea: “He made a ten second sample of what he thought would be cool when we first met him and his art is exactly what we wanted – that two dimensional, nothing fancy but well done vibe. We told him we wanted to do it, but said to him, ‘I’m telling you right now we don’t it’s not going to be blood and gore, dark and creepy – we want it to be Scooby Doo meets Fat Albert and the Gang. He couldn’t believe it, he’s like ‘really? What are your fans going to think?’ and I knew right off the bat, I said, ‘The fans are going to love it! They know that Obituary are light-hearted guys, we’re not afraid to have a good time, we’re not afraid to smile on stage, we’re not all in black leather pants and boots – we’re just not those guys – we’re Florida boys. And in the metal world I think it was a refreshing thing for people to see”.
Shortly after Abbath wrapped a tour with Obituary, he had to check into rehab. Do you feel partly to blame? “I blame it on Trevor [laughs]. It seems like over the past decades, every now and then a band that tours with us have so much fucking fun with us that their next tour they either break up, or members quit, or they just – we’ll hear from them a year later and their like, ‘I don’t understand. No tour has been any fun – we had so much with you guys, barbecuing, this and that, and partying, then we get on these other tours and it’s all business. But poor Abbath, I don’t know what happened, but we sure had a good time with him and he had a good time with us. I don’t want to think it was our fault – but I think half of it is our fault [laughs]”.
Last question: are you still rescuing cats? “I do, man. I take care of homeless cats in Tampa right around my neighbourhood. I’ve been doing it for about sixteen years. My goal is to try and stop the overpopulation problem by trap, neuter, return [TNR] and getting them vaccinated. I got a big heart, I love them and I take care of my colony. Each night before dinner, I’ll take a little trip and go feed all my colonies for a couple of hours”.
Catch Obituary on their upcoming Australasian tour with support from Wormrot:
14/01/20 – Adelaide – Lions Art Factory*
15/01/20 – Perth – Badlands
16/01/20 – Brisbane – Woolly Mammoth
17/01/20 – Sydney – Crowbar
18/01/20 – Melbourne – Max Watts
19/01/20 – Hobart – Altar