In-depth Interview With Obituary Drummer Donald Tardy

By Andrew Bansal

Florida death metal legends Obituary have embarked on the ‘Carnival Of Death’ tour, which is their first North American headlining run in more than three years. Out with them as support acts are the reunited Broken Hope, along with Decrepit Birth, Jungle Rot and Encrust. This is also the band’s first tour in these parts as a four-piece. In addition, they are also writing a follow-up to their latest release “Darkest Day”, which came out in 2009. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to drummer Donald Tardy to talk in detail about this tour, the fan-submitted set list, and plans for the next album, among other things. After talking with him, I was inspired to learn how to play the drums. Read the conversation below, and visit the Obituary facebook page for more info.

After a long time, you’re about to do your first full North American headline tour. You must be pretty excited about it.

Absolutely! We’ve done a handful of shows in North America here and there, but this is the the first full tour in many years. So yeah man, we’re excited about it. I think it’s a pretty cool package because obviously Broken Hope have been gone for a while, so it gives fans a chance to see hopefully a couple of bands they haven’t seen in a long time but have been following for many years. So, it should turn out to be a pretty cool show for people to see, I think. It has been a while since we’ve been to some of these cities, so we’re excited about that. I’m not sure how the metal scene is around some parts of the country. Obviously back in the early 90s, mid-90s it was an amazing scene, and then it seemed to have died down a little bit and spread out because of a number of reasons. There are so many bands on the scene now, and it may be difficult to pay attention to everybody. So I’m looking forward to seeing how the turnout is in some of the cities, and it should be a good testament to see exactly where the death metal fans are, and how badly they want to see live music still.

Yeah, exactly. I was going to ask, Broken Hope is reuniting after a decade. That must be also good for you because I’m sure they’ll bring in some people who would have been waiting to see them.

Yeah, absolutely. Any time there’s a band that was followed like they were have been gone for a decade, I think it’s a great complement to this package with Obituary, because we have been gone in some parts of the country and Canada for a long time also. So it is the perfect scenario for fans to be able to see a show that they have never seen before.

In terms of the set list, you’ve asked fans to submit their choice of songs on your social networks. Were the results exactly like what you were expecting, or were you surprised by some of their demands?

Well, I’d like to say we were surprised, but when you’re talking about the first three albums they are such classic albums that it really didn’t matter what songs the fans suggested, because in our minds it was the same songs we were wanting to play anyway. So, it is a classic set list, it is amazing. We’ve been practicing it in the days leading up to the tour, and I’ll tell you man, it was a real challenge for the band to re-learn and re-remember these songs from 20-25 years ago. And I have to say the set list is awesome for the fans that are into the old-school stuff, and we haven’t played some of these songs in 15 years, and some of them we’ve never played on stage. So, it’s going to be a real treat for the people that show up to these shows to see Obituary perform these songs.

That’s awesome to hear. Have you stuck to pretty much what they submitted, or did you change some of it?

We listened to everybody’s suggestions in their emails, facebook posts and tweets. A majority of it were the songs we as the band wanted to play anyway, so we are doing our best to play the songs that people are asking. Not very often do bands do that. I don’t think bands like to admit that, but a lot of times it’s a pre-determined thing with the band, specially with some band members. They just know what they want to play live off what albums, and their hit songs, or however you want to say it. But with this set list we truly went into it with a positive, open-minded attitude of, ‘Let’s go for it!’ These might not be the ideal songs for us to pull off live. We seriously might end up having a couple of mistakes on stage, but for God’s sakes man, we’ve been a band now for 26 years. If we’re going to get timid and back off with the ideas of what songs are going to be hard live and stay away from them for any apparent reason, I think we’re stupid. So we simply said, we’re picking the songs that we want to play on stage and those we think the fans want to hear, which might not necessarily be the songs we think we can play. So in advance we’re apologizing right off the bat that if there’s some mistakes it’s because this is very new to us (laughs). We did avoid some of the songs in the past because they are hard. Quite frankly, some of the songs are very hard for my brother to pull off live because back in the day when we weren’t as experienced as we are now, the creativity was always in his mind. It didn’t matter how we get it done. When you’re in the studio you can overdub, you can layer vocals on top of each other, and that’s how John created some amazing stuff on albums. We had to stay away from those songs live, simply because of what I just said. But now we’re just going to go for it, we’re going to do the best job we possibly can, and if kids hear a mistake, or they hear a different version because it is on stage, they’ll know it’s simply because we had to move it around a little bit to make it work live. Once they hear it, I think people are going to appreciate that.

That’s interesting, man. So do you think this is one of those tours where you’ll improve with every show and get tighter performing those songs?

No question. It’s going to take this first run to really hone our skills in on some of these songs. We wouldn’t perform them if we didn’t love them. The main thing we want to do is kick ass with these songs and really, really put them down in front of people and blow them away. So we’re trying our best. Right out the gate at the first show in September in Orlando, we want to absolutely destroy right then and there. I can only imagine in 3, 4 or 5 shows from then it will probably be a little more comfortable on stage, but there’s no question we’re coming out right off the bat trying to knock people out.

Coming to the next album, I guess it should be out some time soon. What’s the update on that?

It’s really exciting time for us right now. We are writing and recording some of the rough tracks to get our minds set with the album. The main thing we’re realizing is, we’re really in no hurry. We don’t want to rush things. We’re at a point of our career right now where anything rushed doesn’t make sense. A fan would love an album tomorrow if we had it, but the fact is we’ve been very busy this year, and although we have a lot of material, we’re still going to take our time with making sure these songs are exactly the way we want them before we hit the record button. So we’ll be listening to the songs we already have, re-recording some of the stuff, and really get a true recording come Christmas time and the beginning of the year. I think the idea would be to go with the songs we’re extremely happy with, and the target date would be early next year or early summer time next year to have this album released.

As you said earlier, these days there are so many extreme metal bands going around. Do you ever look at what they are doing to kind of see where you stand?

The fuse is already lit, and you can’t put it out now. Even when we were young, I don’t think we ever really looked around to see what other people were doing to see what we need to be doing. I appreciate the new metal music, specially when it’s good. But with Obituary, we know what we are, we’re very comfortable in our own skins, and specially when it comes to writing songs, the only thing we’re thinking about is what music we like, and what Obituary fans want to hear when it comes to an Obituary album. So there is a ton of good music out there, but we know what we want to do. We believe in our skills and creativity, and that’s what the fans really want. The last thing we would want to do is try to change just because other styles of music are changing. So, it is an exciting time to see what’s going on in the world of music and to know that Obituary is always going to be there as those godfathers of true, mid-tempo, groove metal that’s not trying too hard but it’s definitely throwing down and showing people how to keep it simple and keep it heavy.

Yeah you’re right, I know Obituary hasn’t changed their music, but personally do you think you’ve changed or improved as a musician over the years?

I think we’ve kept to a straight arrow. It’s important for us to do that. It’s always fun to create and step outside your box, but with Obituary it’s more than just the four band members. It’s more than what we believe in. It’s about the whole planet of people that love Obituary. You’re always going to have the people that say, ‘Oh, this band’s next record is going to be the same as their last one’. Some people will always say that, but the important thing is the majority of the people buy Obituary albums because they want Obituary. You buy a Slayer album knowing what it’s going to be, as someone who worships Slayer. If they were to change, who knows what we would do besides cry and be mad. The main thing with Slayer is, they’re the best band in the world because they are Slayer. They don’t need to change. They are my favorite band on the planet and I know what I’m getting when I buy a Slayer album. And I think Obituary is that same way. Everybody knows what our style is, we know what we’re good at, we know what John’s voice needs, we know the style of songs he’s good at singing, and we keep it that way. Some dude in Indiana or some guy in India, when he goes and picks up an Obituary, they’re buying it because they love Obituary. We never want to change that.

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