Finally I got the chance to see Obituary after several years and to speak with Donald Tardy. The first time I saw them was during their first European tour in 1990 with Demolition Hammer and Morgoth. Since then I saw them several times, but the best memories I have of Obituary live are from the gig at the Tivoli on the 5th of September 1990. In the year 2005 Obituary is back again with a new album ?Frozen in Time? and playing at several festivals this summer. I guess further introduction is not necessary.
Hello Donald, how are you doing?
I am doing good, thank you.
After several years Obituary has had some re-animation and came back from the near dead. How does it feel to be a live again?
It feels probably like a bear that hibernates. It feels like a creature that just awoke again. We are just as big and strong as we were, mentally and physically. It?s really exciting being together again.
So you can start were you ended with Obituary or do you have to work a lot harder again?
We love working so it’s not work for us, it?s exciting that we have this much demand. Having said that, we are definitely starting where we left off. Because just like the album we have been gone for many years but nothing changed with the mental stability and the song writing capabilities of this band. So the ten songs on this album came together quick, very naturally and easily. And then we practiced them again and again, for almost three months, before we entered the studio. So, as a band we felt right in line.
You still had the same vibe as you had back in those days?
I think that everybody kind of learned even more now. We are ten years older now and as songwriters much better. It’s just incredible how these songs came together.
But still the same influences of Celtic Frost and HellHammer
And are there some new influences?
Honestly, no. And for myself, no. Because I lived for so many years on the road with Obituary, listening and recording albums and hearing bands every night and loving that. But when I go back to Florida, I go home and stay away from music completely. I might put on some old Slayer, old Lynnard Skynnard or old Led Zeppelin but I don’t go buy new stuff. I have only stuff from when I was on tour and stuff that people gave to me. But in general, when I am at home writing music, I stay away from outside influences.
Are you surprised by the fact that the response is so overwhelming?
I am! I didn’t expect that. It has been almost seven years, I guess since we’ve been around. So I didn’t know what to think seven years ago when we stopped. It was a good time to take a break for us. Then it was a good time, even now I realise that was a good thing we did. We got away from the scene for ourselves a little bit, because mentally it’s draining after being twelve years on the road. Mentally it was great, but for the music scene I think it had to do that full circle. Now you see Slayer and Iron Maiden on tour and a lot of bands are still drawing attention to kids. So, Obituary is one of the heaviest, so I want them to experience it so I am really glad that we are able to do this.
So, you are feeling a little bit like the grandparents of Floridian deathmetal?
I am and it’s an honour and it also aches. My bones have been on tour for twenty years now. My wrist defiantly feels like the grandfather of metal.
Being a metal grandfather, you still do the same things as in the early days of Obituary or is it more professional?
It’s just as focused, because even as twenty-years old we were very focused on the live show, the equipment, what the kids get to hear and see meaning backdrops and all our paintings. That was very important even back then when we were twenty, even though we might be drinking more or something. It’s more physically demanding to be 36 years old and ready to play a deathmetal show of eighteen songs. It’s like going into a heavy weight-boxing match. You have to be prepared. It’s ok after one or two shows, but only one show is hard. Having to perform perfect with only one change
How are you going to do that when you are on tour for several weeks?
That’s easier. Once you have done three, four, five shows you feel more in shape and you’re ready to go. But to fly all day yesterday and land and play tonight at ten o’clock it’s though. So, all water, no beer.
You might have noticed that the scene has changed in those years that Obituary was more dead then alive. How do you see nowadays deathmetal scene?
I see it coming back. I see the flames a little hotter right now then it was for the last six or seven years. I don’t think it really has to do or it might have to do with what is going to happen. But I don’t think that Obituary came back for any reason except for we are great friends and we love writing music together. So it’s exciting we came back and the scene is raging again. We are ready to put on a great show and enjoy this new album. I love it. It’s my favourite album yet.
Better then the debut album?
O man, it’s such a good album!
Since you came more or less back with Obituary, is their a band you would like to see back again on the road?
You know, not really because my recent heroes just died. To think that I will never see Darrell Abbott and Pantera again, Chuck Schuldiner, I can’t believe that you’ll never hear another Chuck song. Me, when you say that, it makes me think that because they were friends of mine, but they are heroes. They were two guys that were absolute incredible.
That brings me to a personal question. You are 36 years old and becoming older. Death is a real part of life that you can’t deny and can’t escape. How does it feel playing in a death metal band?
Playing music is what I have always done since I was 9 years old and have been beating on the pots and pans at home in the kitchen. I lived music all my life, so it’s not just about metal or death metal or whatever. It’s playing music. A lot of times at home nowadays, what I like doing is putting on a Led Zeppelin and my headphones and playing to John Bonham, because John Bonham is no longer alive. But I can close my eyes and play with it and almost imagine that he is been playing on stage. Enjoying, still someone that’s gone these days.
But to go back to the question, you know, I don’t worry or fear death. Maybe everybody hopes that you have a long, healthy live. A lot of people die at twenty years old like Randy Rhoads. I hope that I physically have the capability to play drums for twenty more years. Life will always be about music to me, when it’s playing drums physically or still writing music and writing songs.
Does it matter that it lyrically is all about death, besides the some social critically parts.
Maybe to others bands, but with Obituary we are always focused on music, we don’t print lyrics. There is not really anything being told, said or learned through Obituary’s lyrics. We realise that it’s about music and it’s about as being as heavy and extreme as we can. And that’s why with John’s vocals there are lyrics and there are statements and sayings, but we don’t write about anything ’cause it’s not about subjects.
Do you think that the audience is waiting for a band like Obituary again?
I do! I think they are waiting, because I have been waiting. Now that I have to get to do a few shows and a few tours I see their reactions in their eyes and I can tell it’s like looking at finding an old friend. You know, if you haven’t seen someone in five years and you see your friend and get to shake his hand, it’s exciting. To those kids it’s like “I can’t believe they have a show in my town”. So, a lot of people that are 25 years and younger, might have been too young to see us, especially in America ’cause you have to be 21 years old. Many young people that haven’t seen us then, but now that they are 25 years or so, then all the 30 ones and plus. They are waiting to see their old friends. They are lik “Man, I saw them in 1995 and I have been waiting”.
I have been waiting too, to see this kind of bands to play again or to come back. I really like this kind of music, because I think that nowadays deathmetal, especially the American style of deathmetal, doesn?t have the vibe.
It doesn’t have hard feeling and meaning to me. Sometimes it?s heavy and sometimes it’s really fast, and heavy and fast or fast and heavy but nothing like new Obituary. New Obituary has pure sweat, meaning, just pouring ourselves into songs but very, very Obituary alike, very basic in your face, groovy songs. Groovy, just heavy mid-tempo groovy songs. And they are, the whole album is full with them.
Is there a deeper layer on the title of the new album?
There is and it’s obvious. It?s a creature that went away and that didn’t die. It simply got frozen and when you?re frozen in time, when you come back nothing changed, time stops. And that?s the case with our song writing abilities and just the way it feels again. It feels like 1995 when you listen to this new album. It sounds like we should be touring with, you know, Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death and Death. It seems that should be the package, it?s a good feeling, a good feeling album.
Speaking about touring. Nowadays it is like five or six bands instead of two or three as it was in those days. What do you prefer if you come back to Europe for a club tour?
Ideally, I prefer less so I can play more ’cause we have six albums now plus the 70 songs or so. So, to only play for an hour that’s only like maybe two or three songs of each album and that’s hard. I want to play something of everything, so we need an hour and 45 minutes you know. Hopefully we do a little bit of both I would like to put a package together that is amazing for the kids. For the dollar amount it may be not 20 euro but it might be 40 euro to get in or maybe 35 euro to get in, but it is going to be something big, maybe Obituary, Napalm Death, Deicide and somebody. On the other hand, I would love to come with just Obituary, focus on smaller clubs like tonight with 400, 500 people. We like to play with maybe just one band with us, so we can play a longer show and give kids something of every album.
That the kids can know the better meaning of Obituary, as you can play longer?
Yeah, I think so. The kids can feel it, it might be the first time that they ever see it, for a lot of people.
Don’t you think that the old bands block the upcoming new bands with the touring for example?
I honestly don’t know ’cause Obituary has been gone. I haven?t focused on what the scene was like and how it has decreased or increased or how tours have gone. So with us it’s a rebirth. This is a true, new meaning of what we can do now we have the power to do what we want. We don’t worry about anything except setting up tours that are well promoted and the right time of the year for the kids to have money, cause this time of the year with the festivals and so, these type of shows are very hard for kids. How much was the Dynamo festival? 50 Euro (but with some great bands, M.), but when you got there you’re out of money cause you spend 50 or more euro on a t-shirt and a hot-dog or a hamburger (M. and beer!!). So, it’s like you’re out of money, you spend 100 euros. Everybody there spends like 100 euros that day.
For the same price you can go to Fuck the Commerce. How do you look back on that event?
I never knew anything about it. I never knew the promoters ’till then. They are very nice guys and treated us well. I was privileged to play because afterwards I realised what it meant and it was not high dollar, it was about giving the kids something for a low dollar price.
I was surprised by the fact that the new album is recorded in the Red Room studio and not at the Morrisound.
It was the engineer from Morrisound, Marc Prator who did ‘Cause of Death’, ‘The End Complete’ and ‘World Demise’ and he worked at Morrisound with Scott together for like ten years. So, now Mark has his own little studio and it’s this time of the world that big studios ask big dollars an hour, for like Morrisound it’s like a 100 euro an hour maybe. The reality nowadays is you can get great recordings at smaller studios for one third, maybe like 30 euro an hour. So, it’s not that you try to save money and loose sound. It?s the reality that pro-tools you don’t need a board like the size of a bar. You don?t need a huge studio anymore. The mane thing that I realized, ’cause we’ve done five albums before this one, is that the best way to make a record is to be prepared, to physically play the song great. If you’re performing good, it’s so easy to mix. So what Obituary did: we went to a small studio and set up the drums and got the greatest sound we could for a full day. And then when we recorded, I recorded this, I recorded the whole album, I recorded five songs in two hours. The next day I finished the record. And the guitarists did it for two days, they did their guitars. We did this album in one quarter of the amount of money that we ever have spend on an album.
But then of course, we recorded for only five days with drums for two days, guitars for two days, and John for two days and then we went to Morrisound and that’s where we mixed it and that took us ten days.
I was also surprised that Scott Burns produced the album because I had heard that he is no longer active within the music business.
He is not active anymore, but he is a good friend of ours. We did four records with him. He is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer football fan and we are Miami Dolphin fans, so we always talk on the phone and still see each other a the football games. We were gone so long, that when we talked to Scott about us doing something, he was excited just by the idea of doing it.
And we realised that it was the excitement that Scott brings, that truly, that just makes the band feel like being home again.
So, he still had the vibe he had back in those days?
And with Mark, because Mark is the engineer and runs the board. Scott is there for his ear and imagination and stays with us. Guitars used to sound like this, but maybe then Scott would go over there and turn the board and fix some stuff. Fact, that?s the first thing he did. Scott came in and he’s like ‘Let’s work with the guitars a little bit’, because we were already got set up and got the sounds and then Scott came in and he messed with the board a little bit and got some sounds and then we recorded it. And the same with the mix. Scott just came in and gave us ideas, told us what he thought what was sounding good and was honest about what he didn’t like.
Well, our time is almost over there. When your time is there, how would you like to be remembered?
I just wanna be remembered as a drummer, not only a drummer in a good band but a good drummer that truly wanted to play and perform perfect for people when they see me live, or at practice or on the album. I want to be remembered as for Obituary but also just hope that I can be remembered for a great drummer that loved playing well, you know.
And the last words would be?
Frozen In Time.