"Anything that doesn't eat you today is saving you for
AN INTERVIEW WITH OBITUARY
by Richard Karsmakers
Some time ago I started writing for an international semi-
underground magazine by the name of Avalanche. It's a very
ambitious magazine and the editorial staff (consisting of 4
people, one of them being me) is very optimistic and thinks the
magazine will have a circulation of 10,000 copies by the end of
1995. For now, however, this gives me the opportunity to review
more music, to go to more concerts and to interview more bands.
Obituary was one of the bands to perform at Wâldrock, July 9th
1994. I remember thinking after having finished the previous
issue of ST NEWS, "I hope I'll be in a position to do some more
cool interviews, with Obituary and Dream Theater or Rush or
something like that." Well, some others came along and I still
have some wishes left, but at least now I could have a go at
Obituary, one of my favourite bands ever since getting into touch
with them around, say, winter 1990.
The day was progressing. It had rained some time earlier but the
whole rest of the day seemed to promise dry and sunny weather. I
roamed backstage most of the time when no interesting band was
playing, an act I believe we refer to as "vipping". 'Backstage'
is actually far too ornamental a word for the mess behind the
large stage, off limits to the general audience. Basically it was
a farmer's backyard filled with parked cars, Trans Am Trucking
vehicles and tour vans, between which some people kicked around a
soccer ball and other ambled around nervously in search of
something or other. Rather deep trenches had formed themselves
where heavy trucks had ploughed through the sodden earth - a
perfect place to sprain your ankle.
Anathema had finished playing and Skintrade was due to appear
next. After downing another beer for courage I started talking to
some official-looking people, asking them whether perhaps they
were aware of Obituary having arrived already. This band was not
scheduled to appear on stage until somewhat late in the evening
but, as chance would have it, they had already arrived.
I was guided into a large shack. It was quite cool, on the
contrary to outside, where it was sometimes a bit stuffy. Half of
the ramshackle building, most of its windows broken, was occupied
by stacks of hay, and there were even a few chickens that
scattered away as we walked through. A bit further down
provisional walls had been made of ropes and hanging sheets. All
bands had their dressing rooms here, with the exception of Gwar
(they were housed in a special army tent at the other side of the
backstage area). Band name labels identified these dressings
rooms, and as one sheet was flapped open I was ushered into the
Obituary dressing room. Mitch of Napalm Death (who does a project
together with some member of Obituary, called Meat Hook Sheet I
believe) was talking with some of the guys. I had trouble
recognizing them. All long hair has been gathered in ponytails
and stuck under baseball caps, and Frank Watkins (bass) had cut
off most of his hair altogether. Trevor Peres (rhythm guitar)
didn't look his usual evil stage self and John Tardy (vocals)
looked altogether too small, too normal.
I was introduced to Donald Tardy, drummer, and we were guided to
a van outside where we could commence the interview in relative
peace and quiet. I was sweating quite profusedly, what with there
being no breeze in the van to cool me down and there being enough
sun to do some proper heating. With the Skintrade soundcheck in
the background I started the interview with my usual first
question, the usual mixture of interview interest and "Brain
Replacement Utility" event/birthday database research.
Well, Donald, what's your place and date of birth, and do you
know that of any of the others?
Donald: Miami, Florida, January 28th 1970. My brother was born
in the same place, Miami, Florida, on March 15th 1968.
Before you were in Obituary the band was called Xecutioner. But
what did you do before that?
Donald: Um...I was a junior highschool student. I was very young
at the age we actually started the band, 1983 was when we first
started it as Xecutioner. I was 13 years old, so I was still
going to school and basically being a young kid. We were all very
young at the time when we met. We were just kids, friends hanging
around, that wanted to be in a band.
Why was the name changed?
Donald: Because when we were gonna release our album there was
already a band from Boston called Executioner, from Boston,
Massachusetts. We knew we had to change it before we did the
first album, so that's why we thought of an appropriate name. And
at the time that was Obituary.
What can you tell us about the forthcoming album, "World
Donald: The new album has 12 songs. It was produced by Obituary
and Scott Burns and help-mixed by my live sound man, Big Shirt
(?, ED.). So it's a combination of these that brought the
production together. I was pretty excited about the new album
because we've gone through a lot of shit, I think, using
Morrisound every time, if you're familiar with it, if not, it's
just a basic...we were...you know this is our fourth album using
Morrisound and Scott Burns and a lot of people on the last album
said they think we should have changed to try and make maybe a
better album. We're really confident in our decision of going
into Morrisound. We knew we had 12 songs for the new album, we
went in there, we had quite a few different things ideas-wise, we
had some samples that we have going throughout the songs, some
songs that we wrote just for the samples, em, just a little
different in, how can you say, in the song style, in the writing
of the songs, there's maybe just a twist, a little more groove to
the music and maybe just not so fast, maybe not a million-mile-
an-hour bass drum but still songs that are very heavy but [that]
are very easy to listen to for everybody in the crowd.
Around this time the chauffeur of the bus, who had been eating
his luncheon and not distracting us at all, is been joined by
another guy who promptly starts discussing things with the man in
Frisian. Instead of entering a discussion starting off with "Hey,
would you mind? We're doing an interview here," I continue.
Does the new album sound more 'live', what with your live man
being involved in the mix?
Donald: The album was recorded a little bit more 'live', I
think, because for one thing we didn't sample the snare drum and
the toms and shit like we did on one of our albums. We did play
live; I played my drums live in the studio, and the way we miked
it has a lot of philosophy on what would sound good live. And we
took that to the studio and really used that to the best of our
ability to get a better production, I think, doing it that way.
Scott Burns is almost like a sixth member of the band. What did
he contribute to the album?
Donald: He brought us the confidence that, even if we don't know
how to run a computer or sampler, you know, the machine we bought
to just go beyond death metal, em, he convinced us that as long
as we make up the ideas in our brains that him and his assistant
is gonna get this out of our brains and into the board the way we
want it. And I think that was important for the band because a
lot of bands have an idea but can't really explain it to a
producer that they're not friends with or not close to or that
they can't really relate to. And it was really important for
Obituary on this album to stick with what they were feeling
comfortable with, because it is our most important album, our
fourth and biggest album that we're gonna release, so, em, it was
a decision of staying with Scott because we're definitely
comfortable [with him] and wanted to feel comfortable with this
Was it recorded with the same line-up as your previous album,
"The End Complete"?
Donald: Yup. Same band members (Donald Tardy drums, John Tardy
vocals, Frank Watkins bass, Allen West lead guitar, Trever Peres
rhythm guitar, ED.).
Why is the album this much delayed?
Donald: I think a combination of things. A very small portion
of it was, I guess the recording and the preparation for the
album took maybe 3, 4, 6 months more than we had actually
anticipated. But even bigger than that, the band's been done with
it for 4 months. It could have been released already. The whole
key to it, I think, is timing. They're waiting for the perfect
time to release it, not only for what other bands are releasing
but also, when Obituary is gonna be here the album is there, so
we're definitely on tour at the time of the hottest part of the
album, which is gonna be the first three months of sales. And we
really wanted the time to tour. It comes out in the United States
in perfect timing when we're there, and in Europe. That's the
delay now, the label knows when it is the best time to release
What bands influence you most?
Donald: The band as a whole, I think, is not influenced by other
music that we think...that we think is good enough to put in our
music. We don't look at bands and say, "Man, this band's getting
big, we need to kinda do something like this." We've been
together for 10 years, and we have a very unique writing style
from day one since we've been writing, and we've always stuck to
that, which is listening to music which has actually nothing to
do with our band and when we come down to write our own music. We
listen to anything from rap to house music, techno, em, acid
rock, country music. I listen to a wide variety of music, but one
of the varieties I wouldn't say would be a heavy metal or a death
metal band when I'm at home listening to my stereo, or in the bus
listening to headphones. I stay away from it because I'm doing it
all year long, I hear it every day of my life when I'm on the
road. I can't say that a band that's real heavy is influencing me
for the last album or is gonna influence me for writing songs for
the new album. I think the thing that influences us has something
to do with music but it's things like this, when we get to come
to a festival and play with bands we've never played with before,
play in front of some kids we've never played in front of before,
and hope that these kids are going to enjoy Obituary. That's an
influence for Obituary as a whole, to really keep their eyes and
minds set on being influenced in the right way to write new
music, I think.
What with Morbid Angel, Death and Obituary all sortof coming
from Florida, is this state seething with death metal bands?
Donald: No, I believe people here and people in the United
States that don't live in Florida get that concept that there's a
million bands and a million people and a million fans and a
million...em...whatever for death metal and the whole scene, but
Florida is very laid back, the population is mainly, em, there
are young kids that are getting into it and there are more kids
than compared to 2 or 3 years ago that are getting into it, but
it's just like any other part of the world. It got flooded in the
last few years, with the scene, I think any place, including
here, has blown up. There's a million bands, there's a million
fans, and right now it's an important part, you know, to all
these bands when they realise that they don't make it on one
album. They write another album but it's hard to write 2 or 3
good albums. So, it's important right now for Obituary to realise
that we have a good album, get out on the road, and wait for all
these millions of bands to fade out and let the kids really
concentrate on us.
It struck me as a terribly arrogant thing to say, but Donald's
entire disposition makes it evident he doesn't mean it like that.
There's no smug grin, no feeling of superiority here, just a
matter-of-fact statement without the intent of weight. I continue
with a question about the bass player on their debut album,
Daniel Tucker. There was a story going around about the man
disappearing altogether for months and retrieved much later,
totally confused. What was true about that story?
Donald: Nothing, that's a bunch of hype for the band, we were
just making a joke. Daniel just didn't fit the band and he wasn't
very responsible. He wouldn't show up for a couple of practises,
or he wouldn't, you know, contribute. It obviously wasn't going
to work. The rumour just started like any other, but there's not
much to be said about it, you know. He was a bass player that
filled the spot until we found Frank.
OK then, who is your favourite drummer?
Donald: It's hard to say. I guess, I mean, for me being
impressed by somebody it would have to be Vinnie Paul. He's a big
influence on me individually. Actually not songwriting-wise,
because I don't think Obituary and Pantera have any musical...em
...you can't say either has been influenced by the other
musically, but for me being a musician and seeing how perfect of
a drummer he is, how disciplined his feet are, and his legs, how
determined he is...
At this moment Skintrade starts playing. Donald closes a van
window, thinks for a while where he was, then continues.
Donald: I would guess, I mean, there's a lot of drummers, I'm
not the type of drummer to buy a thousand videos and watch all
these drummers, like Steve Smith, and...em...just a million
drummers. I don't do that. I'm into bands, I'm into the live
scene, I'm into amateur people that are getting better and better
every day - like myself, like Igor from Sepultura, like Vinnie.
They don't consider us a professional. I mean, *I* don't consider
myself a professional. I consider myself a professional musician
and a business man, but I don't consider myself to be the perfect
type. So I'm influenced by anybody that impresses me. I think the
whole key is being open to anything. I'd listen to anything -
jazz, country, acid rock, as long as the drummer's impressive I
respect that person in every way.
What's your favourite book?
Donald: I don't read (smiles). I just drum.
(Preparing him for a "fave film" question) But you do go and see
films, do you?
Donald: To tell you the truth, we were home for a year and one
month and I didn't see one video or one film. I didn't see
anything. I think the last movie I saw was "The Fugitive", that
was on video.
But you do eat I suppose. So what's your favourite food?
Donald: I would say Italian, I'd have to say some kind of pasta,
I just like something that's easy to eat. I don't like
fingerpicking food, I don't like dealing, you know, with seafood
that you have to pick bones out of, fish, I just like to pick up
a big spoon or a fork and just chew it, whether it's Chili, or
something easy to eat. I like all food.
What's your fave drink?
Donald: (Thinks for a while) Beer. Any beer.
And what's your favourite Obituary song?
Donald: (Thinks for a while, there are obviously a few) Probably
"Solid State", that's off the new album. We're gonna play it
The record company executive who introduced me to the band opens
the door to the van, requesting us to relocate. It had to be used
to pick up another band. We move to a spot behind another van,
hopefully as much out of reach of Skintrade as possible (which
isn't too much anyway). For some reason or other, this location
also forms the start of the last section of the interview, the
"words to react to" section.
Donald: A man who's got a lot of shit to deal with and who I
personally don't think is the man for the job. He's just like
anybody in politics; he's looking out for himself and that's just
about it. Any way he can, to suck up, to kiss ass to anybody, he
will. But when it comes down to what he does for the earth and
what he does for the people, what he does for the United States,
is just as bad if not worse than what the basic public does,
financially, for the United States. I don't like to say the word
"idiot", but I don't care for the man at all.
Donald: One of my best friends.
Donald: Not enough. Too much shit. They need more real music.
I'd be happy with an hour of something like "Headbanger's Ball" a
Roadrunner (their record company, at least for Europe).
Donald: Doing the job for now (grins). We're not actually
looking out for another deal, we would like to see one but
Roadrunner does us OK. They're doing the job right now for us and
I think to bring Obituary to the next level what it's gonna take
is a major label and getting a major scene. Sepultura just signed
a Sony record deal. We've just played three shows with them and I
heard their manager tell them they had the word that they went
gold in Australia. Kids are opening up and it's very important
that they understand that Obituary is a serious band that will be
around for many more albums.
Donald: Very, very...em...very, very cool thing for the kids.
Not all death metal but also other music that at least the kids
can relate to.
Last, would you like to reveal something with regard to
Obituary's future projects?
Donald: This album will come out in the United States as an EP
one month before the release. Three songs, one song of which is a
bonus track. There's 13 songs for the album but there's only 12
on the album. So one of them is a bonus track for the EP. In
Europe, after that album comes out, a 7" is gonna be released
with that song, so that's something in the making. Also this
year, hopefully within the end of '94 and recording through '95,
by the end of '95 I would like to see Obituary with sufficient
stuff that we're gonna put out live, maybe a live album or a live
video. It's a wish, but reality is that Obituary *is* gonna
release something live. We're not sure what it's gonne be, if
it's gonna be an album release or whether it's gonna be a home
video to see us live. There's definitely going to be something
live released from Obituary. Probably "best live stuff of
Obituary around the world" or something. If my live sound man has
enough time with the board and he's got enough good shows we've
got a lot to pick through. We've recorded some stuff, but this
year we're gonna concentrate on some really good recordings, to
really seriously do a live album, not an album that you're going
to have to clean up, redo the solos, or re-sing it. It's gonna be
completely live. If I drop a stick and it hits the drums you're
gonna hear it, if my brother's voice cracks you'll hear it, if
Big Al (Allen West, ED.) fucks up a little in the solo you'll
hear it, because Obituary I think is a very good live band and
that's what we want to put out.
That signifies the end of the interview. We walk back to the
dressing room ("dressing bunch-of-blankets-held-up-with-ropes")
because I had told Donald I had a few questions for John too, if
he didn't mind. And, of course, I had some of my CD liners to
sign (as well as some that friends had quickly inserted in my
Just outside the dressing room, I get the chance to ask John the
questions. It's quite a bit closer to the stage so there's a
bloody racket, basically. I find it extraordinary that his voice
is totally normal. Barney's voice (the singer of Napalm Death) is
totally knackered, but John's isn't.
Say, John, do you use vocal effects?
John: For the most part none, nothing. Any effects you hear on
the record or live are just obvious, well, delays or whatever.
I had read that many parts of Obituary lyrics are not true
lyrics as such, but more a case of using the voice as an
instrument. How does he go about that? And is a song different
each time he sings it?
John: No, it's always the same. It's sortof a language I kinda
developed of my own, so if I run out of words that don't sound
right I'd just make up one that sounds right.
Will the next album have a lyric sheet?
I thank John who sits down to sign the collected CD booklets
with the others. Quickly I ask Trevor a question. I had often
tried to play along with Obituary on my guitar, only to find out
their guitars are tuned lower. How low?
Trevor: We're down-tuned to D (that's a full note down, ED.).
I went back outside after waiting for the guys to finish the CD
booklets. They were never in the same room all at the same time
so I didn't get them to do a group photograph with the "ST NEWS -
The Atari ST Disk Magazine" T-shirt. Just prior to them having to
be on stage, however, a lot later that day, I succeeded with that
My next task - apart from actually checking out Gorefest,
Napalm Death and Obituary playing - was to locate and interview
none other than Gwar, probably one of the most illustrious bands
in the world. I was quite nervous about that, but this can all be
read in another article in ST NEWS.
SELECTED OBITUARY DISCOGRAPHY
"Slowly We Rot" (Roadracer 1989)
"Cause of Death" (Roadracer 1990)
"The End Complete" (Roadracer 1992)
"World Demise" (Roadracer 1994)
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.