Florida’s death metal legacy is untouchable. We’ve waxed romantic upon its impact before, and are now delighted to take you deeper into the belly of the beast, with one of the genre’s greatest practitioners at the helm. Obituary as we know them have been holding it down since 1988, when they shed previous monikers Executioner/Xecutioner and came together under the banner of death. Since then, they’ve released scores of quality records (including a handful of absolute classics that any hesher worth his or her salt should make a point to own) and taken their murderously slow, low-slung death grooves and vocalist John Tardy’s inimitable yowl across the globe. Now, on May 18, they’ll be making a very special appearance near their home turf in South Florida. We chatted with drummer Donald Tardy about the band’s upcoming European tour, their love for their home state, and kitties.
Salty Eggs: You guys will be playing a special one-off gig with Massacre and more on May 18, right before kicking off your European tour. What’s the story behind this show?
Tardy: Not too much behind the Miami show. We will be headed to Europe for the festival season and our five-week tour, so this show is really just for us to keep up with our chops. I like to call these cobweb shows – get one under our belt to brush off the cobwebs. Should be a super cool show with Massacre and Hellwitch. We are gonna pack a bunch of friends in the cars and have a blast down in South Florida.
By now, your hometown and Florida gigs must be pretty insane affairs; I’d kill to see Obituary throw down on your home turf! Is there anything you do differently at local shows? What’s the atmosphere like? I’d imagine it’s almost familial at this point.
As much as we like playing Tampa shows, they sure do turn into a real pain in the ass because everyone wants on the guest list and everyone wants to hang out and talk to you about old times. We get a lot of the “remember me, man?” people, which is always entertaining with my short-term/long-term memory loss. Hate to sound like a non-people person but it does get overwhelming nowadays at Tampa shows and I’ll admit it, I’m not the biggest people person in the first place. I’ll take animals over people any day.
Florida death metal is an institution, and Obituary are one of its most crucial pillars. You’ve all seen a lot by now – seen bands and trends come and go, witnessed the rise of new blood and fall of some of the old guard’s battalions. What is your take on the current state of Florida death? Are there any bands who are really kicking ass right now? Perdition Temple are one of my favorites from the new scene.
Yeah they are bad ass. Reminds me of old Morbid Angel meets old Death with a bit of Possessed in there. I really like some of the old dudes that are still throwing it down as well. SinGod is Curtis Beeson from Nasty Savage, I dig them, and Mike Browning [original Morbid Angel drummer/singer] has his band After Death which is always entertaining live. Good stuff. There is also a band, Forged with Blood that are pretty badass that I’m a fan of. I hope to get them into our studio this summer and help them record their new album.
What do you love most about your home state? Florida’s got such an interesting, diverse population, and is of course absolutely beautiful, which makes it even more intriguing to see what kind of music has come crawling out of the swamps. Do you think your locale had much to do with the way the band has developed?
Florida is what I am very proud to call home. Too humid for some people but I am a reptile and love it hot. After traveling around the planet and around all of America I am very happy to call Tampa home. You can have the cities like New York City and Chicago. I’ll gladly stay right here in the swamp. I think the reason there were so many great bands coming out of central Florida at the same moment was pure coincidence. Once established, I think bands realized that there was a handful of killer bands in the area and if you had even a slight chance to stick with the big dogs you had to set the bar higher and higher. Chuck [Schuldiner] was the main musician that set such a high standard of metal excellence with Death that it immediately made everyone strive to be better and find their style and master it. Obituary was lucky because we found our style and it was different than the others bands. Seems everyone was going faster and more technical but we just loved throwing down the mid-tempo, head nodding, groovy riffs, and of course my brother’s voice was unlike anyone.
Obituary have been alive and brutally kicking through damn near every obstacle since the eighties, and you’ve traveled the world over spreading the sickness and delighting your legions of fans. It must have been a wild ride, and you’re still hauling ass! What’s the difference between playing in Obituary now and back then? What keeps this band exciting and fun for you?
It has been an amazing journey so far and we are having more fun writing and performing now than ever before. There is not that much different now than back in the day except less people in the crowd in the US. We still draw a pretty good following throughout Europe and other parts of the globe but American fans I think have too much going on in their lives with the Internet, Playstation and everything they are doing. … They need a real kick in the Metal Ass! I’m hoping that we will be the foot that does the kicking. My brother and I are trying our hardest to put a package of bands together that will blow them away when it happens. We’ll keep you guys posted at www.obituary.cc and at Unation.com/obituary (coming soon) If we make this happen, fans around America are in for a real treat, and I believe they need it and deserve it. Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen!!
What do you guys do when you’re not on tour or recording? I know you are very involved with animal rescue; do you guys support any other charities or public works?
I am very involved in cat rescue here in Tampa. My girlfriend and I take care of over 20 colonies and 150 homeless cats everyday. Our main objective is to prevent more breeding and help to control the overpopulation problem in our area. All our colony cats go through a TNR program (Trap Neuter Return) to get them spayed/neutered and vaccinated, then we provide them with food and water every evening. It is something we are very passionate about and believe in. Other than that I’m a pretty normal dude on my time off, enjoying sports and music. Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Orlando Magic fan …
What are you working on right now? Trouble must be brewing – it’s been three years since Darkest Day was unleashed. When can we expect to see a new album? Are you planning any more North American shows?
We are working on and are very excited about a new album. Not sure when we will release it. We are in no hurry but I can tell you that we have three new songs we are recording right now and they are awesome! I could not be more excited about the new material. Very very Obituary-like, but I am challenging myself drum-wise and really going for it on this record for sure. We will probably release a single or maybe even an EP to keep fans happy for now, then we will release when we are ready and the time is right.
Vinyl has seen a massive resurgence in popularity in recent years, and physical media is still holding strong against the digital wave. What’s your opinion on all this? Do you prefer to consume music in a physical or digital format?
I think it is super cool that vinyl is coming back. I’m a fan of the idea and I can see me breaking the old turntable here in the future. What a great vibe it was back in the day when you would keep listening to an album on vinyl and check out the artwork, lyrics, and the whole packaging. I miss that for sure. There’s nothing like that feeling back when I would listen to music with my brothers and Trevor on vinyl. (Dio, Black Sabbath, Savatage, Venom, Slayer …) Awesome!
Do you still keep in touch with the other members of the old-school Florida scene?
I still see a lot of the old dudes around town and at shows. I was hanging with Steve from Deicide last night at the Brass Mug in Tampa. Always a good time seeing old friends for sure.
What are you listening to nowadays?
Slayer’s World Painted Blood and Lamb of God’s Resolution are in my cd player in my truck right now. I found a band from France called BeNighted that are sick. Some of the sickest drumming I’ve heard. Of course I’m a creature of old ways: Savatage, Nasty Savage, Reign In Blood, Holy Diver, King Diamond, along with my Southern rock idols … Lynyrd Skynyrd, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, and of course Stevie Ray Vaughn. They are alway very close to my ears.
Obituary. With Massacre, Hellwitch, and Thrash or Die. 8 p.m. Friday, May 18 at Grand Central, 697 N Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is $22 in advance, $25 day of show; age 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277, or visit grandcentralmiami.com.