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Interview

Obituary Drummer Don Tardy Reveals Details Behind Long-Awaited New Album, "Inked In Blood"

Photo of Obituary

Band Photo: Obituary (?)

Obituary's brand new album "Inked In Blood" is almost here! In fact, the 3-decades-old death metal quintet and Relapse Records will release it on October 28th. Recently, Metalunderground.com had the unique opportunity of visiting the band's compound at Tampa's Redneck Studios, and listened some of the mixes for this long awaited recording.

This is Obituary's first full-length since 2009's "Darkest Day" and it definitely sounds like a concoction of some of the band's most characteristic trademarks. Without a doubt, songs like "Violence" and "Inked In Blood" deliver the goods via their lethal combination of doomy soundscapes, sudden attacks of vicious speed and infectious grooves— all garnished by John Tardy's imposing vocal style.

Taking a break from the arduous mixing process, the band's co-founder/drummer, Don Tardy, talked with us about this new self-produced material, the decision to self-finance the recording with the help of fans, and what's in store for Obituary's immediate future.

Oscuro: It’s been 5 years since 2009’s “Darkest Day.” Why did it take you so long to produce another album?

Don Tardy: I don’t know why. First, we were very busy with touring for our previous album “Darkest Day” and then... I just think that now we are not 20 years old anymore. Everybody has children, families, so I think that when we were done with touring, everyone just went back to normal life and enjoyed their children and families a little bit. Then, we really just made sure that we took our time writing these new songs.

We were in no rush, we had no expectations, and we really just wanted to have fun with the process: we wrote a song, we would listen to it, make changes, think about it, listen to it, and make changes, so it was just a long process. Then, of course, 2 years ago we came with the idea of the classic Obituary set list so that took us on the road and we were very busy again, playing the classic set list, so the album got delayed a little bit longer. The good thing is that it is finished. We are very proud of this record.

Oscuro: The album keeps intact that signature Obituary sound, catchy, rich on hooks and grooves, both doomy and occasionally fast... Was the development of that sound something that came out natural or was it intentionally crafted?

Don Tardy: It was completely natural. The sound was simply because my drum style, meaning how I play the drums, the volume that I play, the influence I grew up to, that brought the style of Obituary, that mid tempo, groovy type stuff. The sound, guitar-wise, was totally natural because [guitarist] Trevor Peres, from the very beginning used a Fender Stratocaster and a Marshall head and he’s never changed. So, it’s not like we worked for years on getting our sound, the sound came naturally because of the instruments that Trevor plays, and just my style of drumming. So it was very easy, it was easy to work on.

Oscuro: On "Inked In Blood" you (Don) are basically in charge of all the production and mixing with some input from the band. It’s probably a grueling process to record and then listen to the music once and once again, especially during the mix... Any comment about it?

Don Tardy: I was always the person that during the mixes of all our albums was there every second. I love the process. I don’t care if you have to listen to the same song 50 times in one day, because that’s the way mixing is. It’s just something that I love to do, and so it was an easy decision, we knew that we could produce and record great sounding songs. It doesn't take a million dollar studio anymore and I think that a lot of bands on this planet are realizing that and are doing the same thing that we are. This is nothing out of the ordinary.

Oscuro: This is more than ever, a product 100% crafted by Obituary. It sounds very organic and it seems you have total confidence in your ability as producers... Is it intimidating not having someone else at your side helping you with the whole recording process?

Don Tardy: We are very confident with our performance on this record. If by chance, the end result is not the greatest sounding album, we are OK with that because we are not trying something different. The most important thing is that these songs are not too complicated. It’s easy to produce these songs because the drum beat is a mid tempo good, groovy, solid drumbeat. It’s not a thousand miles an hour, if it was maybe we would brought in an engineer to help us. There was no sound replacing, there was no triggering, this is all microphones around the drum kit and we are very proud of that because this is the way we did it in the beginning. We are not afraid to record albums this way like we did back in the day, the way Led Zeppelin did it, the way Black Sabbath did it, the way Xecutioner recordings were back in the day.

Oscuro: Last year you raised more than $60.000 via the Kickstarter campaign you did in order to finance the new album. That amount was about 50.000 more than what the band was originally hoping to raise. Such success was a sort of your ultimate statement as independent musicians... From where it came the idea of taking the crowd-funding route?

Don Tardy: It’s not something that we thought we had to do. It’s something that was there and available and again, we are not a band afraid of trying things so we tried it and it worked and it helped us record this album.

The challenging part of that Kickstarter is to deal with some of the people that were a part of it and let them understand that, as they learned very quickly, albums take a long time to make. Some of them are OK with it and are patient and understand and some fans just never knew that part of the industry. I think they expected an album the next day or the next week. They saw a part of the music world that maybe they don’t like which is once an album is written it takes a long time for the band to practice it and to fix some of the songs and then prepare for the studio and then the recording. Just tracking the songs is a long process, and then mixing the songs is even more tedious. So, it’s a good year, year and a half of your life of writing the songs, making them a little bit better, practicing the songs, then tracking them, then mixing them.

Oscuro: The fact that you didn't have to deal with limited studio time or the pressure from a record label while recording, probably made the difference, especially in the quality of the finished product. Right?

Don Tardy: That makes a huge difference. For instance, when I was performing on the album, when I had to lay the drum tracks down, some days you just don’t have it. Some days you think it’s gonna be great or it’s just the song that’s giving you the challenge or you are struggling. In another studio, when you are paying 100 dollars an hour, you panic and you say, “I have to, I have to get this song done, I have to get going.” Here, it could be 10:00 o’clock in the morning and I can say, “I don’t feel it today,” and I don’t worry about it. Or it could be 11:00 o’clock at night and I could go "John (Tardy), I’m coming over and I’m going to record one of the songs because I feel like it.” So, it is a completely luxury, no pressure, totally easygoing and... what a blast! We had so much fun recording it this way because there's no time restrains.

Also, mixing takes months if you have the time which we did. We've been taking our time with it and I think that this is a very organic sounding album because we have taken the time to make it sound that way.

Oscuro: The foundation of Obituary has always been you, your brother John on vocals and Trevor Peres on guitars. In which ways the playing style of the newest members, Terry Butler and Kenny Andrews have impacted the sound of this new record?

Don Tardy: I think that when musicians are happy in life I think they perform well. Terry is amazing, he’s a great bass player obviously or he would not be in the amount of bands he was but more importantly, he looks out for us, so he brought that piece of the puzzle and again, like I said, he’s a super nice guy.

Kenny is an amazing shredder and in his solos, he takes time. He’s been a fan of Obituary from the beginning and the main thing that he did was that he studied what Obituary was early on. He saw what [guitarist] James Murphy brought to Obituary on the “Cause of Death” record, and how it changed it a little bit and opened it up. Ken studied James’ solos and he wanted to be a part of that. Ken's natural soloing is a lot like [former guitarist] Allen's, so it seems like Ken brought a little bit of Allen West-meets-James Murphy and he probably doesn’t even know he did that, but he did and it fits better than I ever imagined.

Oscuro: Can you comment about Andreas Marschall's bloody cover art?

Don Tardy: It’s very classic, just a very basic, nothing special but a classic Obituary logo... Andreas did the “End Complete”, “Frozen in Time”, the “Left to Die” EP, “Xecutioner’s Return” and “Darkest day.” So yes, Andreas is our main guy, and he did another wonderful piece. I think the fans are gonna love it. “Xecutioner’s Return” and “Darkest Day” covers were these big epic paintings and battles and blood and dragons and shit, and this time we just realized the band’s logo and the music speak for itself.

Oscuro: Despite being a self-funded effort, the album will be distributed by Relapse Records. Why did you choose them among the other labels that were probably very interested?

Don Tardy: Because we don’t need a record label, we need metalhead partners. We need dudes that believe in us, that have the means of distributing the album. We don’t need the biggest record label in the world where we're one of their smaller bands, we wanted to be the biggest band on the label where they are freaking out because they have Obituary! They’ve put the hook on the big fish, they have us. They’re excited about it, they’ve proved it, and they came here to Florida and literally showed us that they’re ready to bleed for Obituary. They’re gonna do everything they can to push this thing and the business deal that we cut with them is very good for the band members.

Oscuro: Are there any touring plans in support of the album?

Don Tardy: We are going to be busier than ever. We are going to focus on America which is an amazing tour. I’m confident enough that I can tell you that the plan's gonna be an American tour for 7 weeks, the first half is Obituary and Carcass, the second half is Obituary, Massacre and Death to All, all the way across America and Canada. And then, January/February we’ll do a full European tour.

Oscuro: Is "Inked In Blood" Obituary’s last stand? Do you think you have more in store for the future?

Don Tardy: This is the beginning. This is just the beginning. With Butler and Kenny in the band, we are having more fun than we have ever had. Songs are going to flow out of us like diarrhea out of your ass! Now that the band is this solid we are already creating new songs for the future. I mean, you are gonna have no choice but to have another new album from Obituary because we are having too much fun!

Oscuro's avatar

Ramon Martos Garcia proudly writes for Metal Underground.com, PureGrainAudio.com and other metal/rock related websites. He's the owner of an indie record label and runs a site about Metal album covers, And Justice for Art.

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