Formed in 1984 (under the name Xecutioner at the time) Obituary are on the Mount Rushmore of death metal alongside Death, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and Morbid Angel, carving out their own bloody niche by adding grindingly slow grooves to the traditional death metal blast, and, boasting one of the most instantly identifiable vocalists in the scene. One wonders if back in ’84 they had any idea of the impact they would have on the metal scene. Metal As Fuck caught up with drummer Don Tardy during Obituary’s short break before embarking on the North American leg of their 2012 Carnival Of Death Tour to get the low-down.
‘Actually, this is (singer) John Tardy. Don did an interview for me earlier today, so I’m covering one of his.’ I cross out the ‘what kind of drumsticks do you like to play with?’ questions and compliment him on his punctuality, calling me at the exact minute of when the interview was scheduled, ‘Well, when your last name is Tardy, you sort of have to [laughs].’ He seems to enjoy the irony. One of the things I think psychologists should look into is the phenomena where, some of the nicest, most approachable musicians you can encounter are the ones that play the angriest, most aggressive and extreme music out there. With the inverse being true, that would mean artists that are on the safe, easy-listening side are jerks. Yeah, I’m talking to you, John Mayer.
‘We were kids… just happy to be bashing around in the garage until my Mom would come in to tell Trevor Peres (guitars) that he had to go home, because it was time for dinner.’ says John, describing the beginnings of Obituary. A group of teenagers, blissfully unaware they were playing a key role in the development of metal’s most extreme sub-genre. ‘We had most of the Slowly We Rot album recorded, mainly just for our own listening pleasure, then Roadrunner came along and wanted to put it out, which was a surprise in itself. We weren’t really thinking about going the whole nine yards at the time.’ On the overall impact they ultimately had on the scene, he explains, ‘the weird thing is, it wasn’t until around the time we put out Frozen In Time that it became apparent to us. We had taken about five or six years off before we did that record and we just started getting bigger bands like Lamb Of God and Slipknot telling us the impact we had on them.’
Speaking of Lamb Of God, there’s that little situation with Randy Blythe [this interview was conducted before Randy Blyth’s release], ‘It’s pretty terrible. We did the Grasspop festival where we joined them on stage and played Redneck Stomp then just a couple of days later we heard he was arrested and it sucks. Unfortunately, all we can do is, pretty much, hope for the best.’ Is that situation going to be something that affects how live shows will be approached when Obituary hits the road? ‘You know, every time a kid jumps on stage it goes through your mind, especially since the whole Dimebag situation. Generally, they just want a hug from a band member or something like that, but, it goes through your mind every time as to what their intentions are. And it could be just as simple as helping the kid off the stage back into the crowd and they trip up and smack their head on a guardrail. You know? But as far changing what we do, probably not much since we’re not really playing the same type of places as Lamb Of God. We just hope that, if someone does get up on stage there are proper security measures in place so that doesn’t happen.’
Obituary is touring for the first time as a four-piece, so what happened with Ralph Santolla? Did someone accidentally hear some material from Millenium? ‘[chuckles] It’s a tough situation with Ralph, because we all like him. If we were to meet up to hang out, that wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately for Ralph, his drinking and lifestyle affected what Obituary was trying to do. So we had to just make that tough decision to let him go.’ A much more finessed response than what Glen Benton (Deicide) said about him in recent interviews, ‘Man, I don’t even want to know [laughing]. Like I said, we all like Ralph, but he had plenty of opportunities with Deicide, and with us. But, I’m not just sitting here slamming him, you know?’ He continues, ‘We’re actually having a great time with just Trevor. We got him running through a couple of different amps that he switches between and gives him the sound of two guitars. We haven’t had any complaints or emails from fans that are missing two guitar players up there.’
Obituary are currently working on their ninth studio album which will be tentatively released through Century Media. Will this be recorded as a four-piece? ‘Probably not – as much as Trevor would like that. I’m not a hundred percent sure what we’re going to do, but we’ve had other players come in and do leads ever since Cause Of Death when we brought James Murphy, who is an awesome player, but listening back, some of those leads might be a little out of place. You know, he had only heard the songs a couple of times before recording the leads. So, I’m still not sure what approach we’re going to go with. We just want to make sure we do what’s right for Obituary.’ The direction looks like it promises to be pure Obituary. ‘I can tell you that we have at least three songs that are pretty much done and they’re just, fucking crushing. It’s unbelievably heavy and groovy stuff.’
John Tardy is known as one of death metal’s most unique sounding front men and it’s rumored in the early days of the band, he was essentially making up his own vocabulary. ‘I really have no idea other than we were just in high school. We would just get together, and rather than learn other peoples tunes we would just come up with our own tunes. That will change later on as I got more into writing lyrics, but back then, you’re just jamming, and in trying to come up with whatever fits, sometimes it would just end up being a growl… it’s ridiculous! [laughs].’
Catch Obituary on their North American tour starting September, 8 2012