March 2, 2017 Interview – John Tardy of Obituary
When the astute Metal fan thinks of American Death Metal, chances are one of the first bands which come to mind are Obituary. Right up there with other genre legends such as Cannibal Corpse, Death, Deicide, and Morbid Angel, one would be hard-pressed to find a band as important to the American Death Metal scene as Obituary.
With roots that run over three decades deep, Obituary reign from the potent Floridian scene that emerged during the 1980s as dished out such epic records including 1980’s Slowly We Rot, 1990’s Cause of Death, and best seller, 1992’s The End Complete.
Still finding inspiration all these years later, Obituary are set to return with their tenth studio album, the eponymous self-titled effort on March 17, 2017 via Relapse Records. Also preparing for a North American tour with the likes of Kreator, the Floridian Death Metal heroes are gearing up for one hell of a year. Recently we caught up with founding Vocalist John Tardy to talk the history of Obituary, their ability to keep the band going, the work behind the new music, having fun, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – With a history dating back over three decades now, Obituary are one of the pioneers of American Death Metal. Remaining extremely consistent over the years, the band continue to be a powerful force. First tell us, what has this ride been like for you?
John Tardy – It has been awesome, it really has been fun. You are kind of looking at a band who really didn’t plan on doing their first album. We were so young and in high school. We didn’t really think of anything very far, as most young kids don’t. We never planned on doing that first album, so being able to do it as long as we have, and to have the success we have, it is awesome, there is no doubt about that.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be surreal, especially since you began so young. As stated, Obituary are unquestionably an influential force in American Death Metal. Coming from a state like Florida that included Death, Morbid Angel, and Decide to name a few, what do you think made the Floridian Death Metal scene so potent?
John Tardy – That is a tough question. The first thing I could say, it is really cool to see the bands that came out of this area, bands like Cannibal Corpse and Decide who are still having success and are relevant to this day. I am kind of proud the little scene that has held on and done so well over the years. As to why it happened? I am not exactly sure to be honest with you. As young kids, we started with Savatage early stuff kind of guiding us into doing what we do. Even though our music evolved to something heavier than what those guys kind of did, they definitely are the ones who kind of got us started doing what we do. There was a little sense of competition as well. We were growing up seeing bands like Massacre and Death early in the day, maybe it pushed you a little bit harder to come across a little bit better. That could have had something to do with it, but know for us, we don’t try to over think or do things. Exactly why it happened, it kind of is one of those things I guess.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. Speaking of touring, Obituary did so rather restlessly through much of the ’80s and 90’s, and as a result took a much deserved break in 1997. What inspired the band’s reformation in 2003?
John Tardy – I read a couple of things through the years which said we broke up or something, which was not really the case, that never happened. Like you said, we decided to take some time off to just get away from it. We have never been a band that feels like we have to do an album every other year or tour whenever. We have no schedule that we keep, we are kind of like, when we feel like doing something, we do it.
I know there have been a couple of albums where we have an extensive break. I think that is good and healthy for a band, it is nice to take a step back, get away from things, spread out, do other things, and then get back into it when you are ready.
We never did break up, it was just one of things where we decided to take a break. It just felt like it was natural, we would still hang out together and do things, we just didn’t feel like we had to get out there. We just didn’t feel like writing or touring or anything. We just all became busy doing other things, it was just kind of one day we were all just hanging out and just felt like doing it again. We hopped on, started writing, and that was all it took for us to get back into it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it is healthy to take breaks. It seems in the grind of the music industry, the typical album cycles are every 2-3 years. Sometimes music does not flow this way, sometimes it takes time to develop.
John Tardy – There is no doubt. That is kind of one of the cool things about the album we just did. Some of the songs we started writing over a year ago or so. We then kind of got busy doing other things, then we came back to it, and actually wrote more songs 6 months ago or so. Even that little bit of time gives it room to breath. To me, there are at least a handful of songs on this album that sound real different from each other. There is a little bit of variety there. Even taking a short break off can mean a lot. To take a step back, you look at bands, we spend weeks together on buses together in close quarters, you are with each other everyday, you are backstage, there are not many places you can go. You are with each other a lot, so it is nice to take a step back from that, just being able to do what you want, do other things, and get back to it when you want to.
We took a long break before Frozen In Time (2005) and before Back from the Dead (1997). The new album is now 2 years since Inked in Blood, that is a pretty good time. You don’t want to do too much, you don’t want to overextend yourself. We do a lot of touring, but we don’t just tour non-stop. We put albums out sometimes every year, every other year, or every 5 years, we like to keep people guessing.
CrypticRock.com – This new album, much like Inked in Blood, is brutal, yet has an excellent variation of melody as well. This will be your second full-length album with Terry Butler and Kenny Andrews a part of the fold. How important have their additions been to the band?
John Tardy – First and foremost, one of the most important things is to have a happy band. We get along so well as a band right now, we are just firing on all cylinders, having a good time, and just crushing things. I have known Terry before I was in Obituary, that is how long I have known him. Even before he was in Massacre. That is kind of how it all started, we have known him for that long. He has just been such a close friend over the years, it kind of feels like he has been with us all the time.
Kenny is another person we have known a long time. He would go on the road and do some guitar teching for us, he filled in on bass guitar on a couple of runs. I know when things kind of ended with Ralph, I don’t even think we had a conversation of what we were going to do, it was just kind of “Kenny is going to come over and start doing it.” It all just fell into place and we went for it. With that said, Kenny has done such a great job. He is one of those dudes that when we play old songs that he didn’t write, he likes to go back and play leads as close as he can to the way the original person did it. I think that goes into his style of what he did on the new album.
It is some technical stuff, a lot of bar stuff, a bit of harmony, I think he did a nice job of mixing it up and keeping a good Obituary feeling in doing it. We also wrote two songs with Kenny on this album, that was kind of fun because he had not done a whole lot of songwriting. Even I have not done a lot of songwriting with anyone other than my band members for a long time. It was a little bit new for us, but to get a couple of Kenny’s songs on there was fun.
CrypticRock.com – It seems to have worked well, there is a nice balance of styles on the album.
John Tardy – I think it takes balance. I am one who doesn’t want to hear the same thing over and over again. Obituary is what it is. Sometimes people will ask us if we feel like we are painted in a corner, it is not really that, we are really happy what we do as a band and our style. It just kind of comes out naturally that way where it always seems to sound like Obituary. With that, if you can throw in something that can make it a little bit different or unique, it keeps things fresh.
I am kind of amazed when we first sit down writing and I think “How is this going to come out, we have written a lot of songs” (laughs). It is cool, you just get going when you hear the first couple of rhythms and you are jamming. You couple across cool rhythms and as soon as Trevor and Donald start something when they messing around, words and phrases just come into my head. I tell them keep going, but that is what keeps us going, those moments, when you first hear those songs, it is a lot of fun for us.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, it has to remain fun, otherwise, what is the point of doing it all?
John Tardy – Yes, it is like beating a dead horse then. There are some bands that we run into on the road, I won’t mention any names, but I look at them and see them and think why are you guys doing it? You look like you are having an absolute terrible time with yourself. I just don’t get it, because that is not us. If we are not having fun doing it, we will find something else to do. We like to have a lot of fun with what we do.
CrypticRock.com – No question. The album was in fact recorded in your home studio down in Tampa, Florida. From your years of experience, how does working from a home studio differ opposed to other locations?
John Tardy – I think about how much things have changed over the years, there is no question it has. All the albums that we recorded when we were younger we recorded right here in Tampa. We were fortunate to have a great studio, Morrisound Recording.
After several albums there, we did try and go down to Miami and record Back from the Dead at Criteria Recording. We used a few different producers over the years and it used to be fun when you were younger not having anything to do and sitting at a big fancy studio, hang out, doing all these records, it was cool. Nowadays, it fits us so well to have a studio here at my house when we track and record. If I want to go at 10 o’clock in the morning and sing for 5 minutes I can. If it is 10 o’clock at night and I want to sit there for 2 hours by myself, I can do that too; the flexibility is what is the coolest.
We invested a small amount of time and money where we could get set up so we can track real well. We do like to wrap it up at the end of the day and head it off to a producer who really knows what they are doing and let them put it together. I think our guy Joe Cincotta up in New York did a great job of putting the new album together. I think it is probably our best sounding album.
CypticRock.com – It certainly is a very tight sounding album. In regards to your vocals, you probably have one of the most unique voices in Death Metal. How do you keep your voice in shape?
John Tardy – There are really no secrets to that, I have just been doing it a long time. It is just one of those things you have to know how to work yourself in and you have to kind of start off a little easy. Right now, we have been home a couple of months before we leave for the next tour, and when I get home, I don’t do a whole lot of singing.
When we are getting ready to leave, I will start and start singing at half voice, or half volume if you will. I will then slowly kind of build it up day after day and strengthen it. It is important to build that strength before you start that tour, the last thing you want to do is go balls-out the first night and mess something up. You start off nice and slow, build it up, and take your time.
If you have a big run, you sometimes have to not hit it as many times as you like, but you have 21 shows to do in 30 days. Something has to give here (laughs). It is just knowing how much and how hard to push it. Especially on the road when you have a long tour. The only thing I can think of after done singing for the night is just kind of get by yourself, be quiet, and don’t use your voice during the day time helps out. Save it all for the stage and another time if you will.
CrypticRock.com – That is good advice. The band is actually set to kick off a killer tour with Kreator on the new album’s release day. The tour will run through mid-April. How excited are you for this upcoming run?
John Tardy – I think it is going to be great. Kreator is just a great classic band who has been around a long time who is still doing things right and good for themselves. We have never toured with them so it is going to be new and fun for us to hang out with those guys. I am dying, it feels like we have been done with this album for a while. I’m ready to get this thing out. We just know that as soon as we hit the road the album is coming out and our fans can start listening to it. I am just looking forward to some good shows in America with Kreator. We are getting excited, we have all been home for a while and are getting antsy, we are a little cooped up and ready to go.
CrypticRock.com – It really is a great teaming, Kreator is a fantastic Metal band. It is kind of surprising this has not happened until now, after all these years.
John Tardy – Yes, it is kind of surprising because it is right up our alley to tour with a band like them. We sometimes do that, we just got to tour Europe with Exodus. I have never really met any of those guys let alone play any shows with them. That could not have gone any better, we absolutely love those guys. We had such a blast and got along so well with them, we are going to try and set up more shows with Exodus. I am looking forward to the start of the tour with Kreator.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent to hear. The tour winds down in New York City so it should be a blast.
John Tardy – Madball actually has a Hardcore festival in New York and he called us up and says, “Do you guys want to come play my festival, I know it is a Hardcore festival, but these guys love Obituary, so you guys gotta do it.” So we are trying to hook up and maybe make an appearance on Madball’s festival there in New York. I think that would be fun, I love the Hardcore fans and bands we have toured with like Sick of it All. We might be playing his festival, so we will see if we can get that worked out.
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic, well that is something to keep a look out for. My last question for you is pertaining to films. CrypticRock covers a broad range of music and movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites?
John Tardy – (laughs) You would kind of think because of the music we play that we watch a lot of Horror movies, but I am not a huge Horror movie fan. There are some classics out there like Friday the 13th (1980) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), those are just classic movies. Almost like the music I listen to, when I do decide to put some music on, I reach for old Possessed and Venom albums. I like to watch the older films also. Those are two classics that you have to see.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed completely. Did you happen to see George A. Romero’s follow-up film 1985’s Day of the Dead?
John Tardy – That was pretty good also, they even did a decent job with the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004), but it is just one of those things with remakes I am just not a huge fan of. Why go to that when you can go back to the original?