Interview with Donald Tardy (Obituary, Tardy Brothers) on Obituary’s new album ‘Inked in Blood’
Interview for Metalegion Magazine by Estelle on the 21st of January 2015
Sure. Holy Diver would be the first one because it’s the best album in the world. It is the best drumming record I have ever experienced, it is still my favorite drum album. Another one would be Led Zeppelin II because of John Bonham – as I was a child John Bonham really showed me how rock ‘n’ roll music or heavy metal doesn’t need to be the most technical as long as the drummer plays very solid – and John Bonham was just one of the best drummers in the world.
And then, I guess Psycroptic’s latest album (The Inherited Repression, 2012 – ed.). I think they are an incredible band that is so technical and the drummer does things that I could only dream of doing because he’s so fast. (laughs)
If you could start your whole career in Obituary again, would you do anything differently?
Your new album, Inked in Blood was released in October 2014. What was the main goal you wanted to achieve with releasing it?
The main thing we wanted to do is make sure that it sounded like Obituary and that the songs were written in the Obituary style – and that’s an obvious answer, but that was the main goal, to make sure that it was a true Obituary album. And then along with that came making sure that when we recorded the album we stayed true to what recording albums used to be and kept it very old school. We did not use too much modern technology with the recording, we only used microphones and instruments so we did not do any sound replacing or triggering of bass drums or anything, we kept it very very true to what we used to do back in the day – so those were the two main goals.
You recorded the album in your own studio called RedNeck. How was the recording or writing session different from any of your previous albums’?
The main thing was that it was relaxing and it was enjoyable. In my career I’ve always experienced that sometimes the studio can be a bit intimidating and a bit nerve-racking for band members. And because we practiced at the studio, we would live at the studio, we were always there – it made things very easy-going and it made it actually fun. It’s not often you can use the word ‘fun’ while recording songs because sometimes it really is nerve-racking, but the own studio made it very enjoyable for the band members.
Some people still seem to be quite suspicious in connection with your Kickstarter campaign and the fact that you were planning to put the album out completely yourselves and when it came to distributing it, you made a partnership with Relapse. What would you say to these people?
Well, if people are confused they can simply see how much money was raised and the amount of awards that Obituary had, because everybody that contributed got what they wanted which was the t-shirts, the hats and the albums and everything we gave. So it is very obvious how much money was spent on all the material, to buy all the hats and the t-shirts; along with the amount of money that we needed to actually record, mix, produce, master the record – we got the album cover paid for at the same time, so that was just a portion of the amount of money that is needed to actually release an album on your own. Hundreds of thousands of dollars go into marketing campaigns and to literally print the vinyl and print the CDs and distribute them around the world. It’s hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars; with the amount of money we raised we were able to record the entire album AND pay for the material needed for the Kickstarter campaign. But if anyone does research they can look at how expensive it is to truly do an album on your own. To get a distribution deal with the company and the thing that you are going to put it in every record store in the world takes much much more money than what Obituary raised. We tried to do it, we looked into it but it simply was too expensive to actually pull it off. That’s why we partnered with a record label – we simply used the record label to distribute and to print the actual physical CDs and that’s what Relapse did for us.
Could you choose one or two songs from Inked in Blood and explain what they mean to you, how they were made or what they are about?
I’m super proud of every song so I could talk about any of the songs on the album but a couple little stories are: The first song on Inked in Blood was one of the last ones we wrote for the album and when I recorded it drum-wise, I’m proud to say I did it in one try. One take, we call it. You know usually you can get almost through a song and you mess up, you have to back up a little bit and the engineer can fix the end of the song with you – and on the first song on the album I did it in my first try. (raises his hands, looks around proudly then laughs) I’m very proud of that.
Also, Inked in Blood is the title track, it’s one of those songs where when we first wrote it, I didn’t know if the song was complete, I didn’t know how good of a song it was until it was recorded and now that we’re playing it live it’s one of my favorite songs on the album. So it went from my least favorite to almost my favorite song.
‘Visions in My Head’ was the first track to be released from the new album in August. Do you think it was the catchiest one?
Yeah, it was. It was an obvious choice. At the minute we wrote it, it only took me and Trevor maybe five or ten minutes and we knew that the song was going to be the first one released. There was a strange feeling we had, we knew it was very catchy and very simple. When we recorded it, all the record label people, all my friends, everyone that came in contact with ‘Visions’ – we knew that was the one that stuck out. And so we knew to grab the world’s attention we wanted to grab a catchy song that isn’t the heaviest song on the album, but it definitely grabs your attention and it has all the pieces to a good song. It has a middle part, it has a great solo and it has a terrific ending.
I’ve read in some of your recent interviews that you guys were listening to Obituary’s old albums in order to get the same kind of sound and vibe for Inked in Blood as for the earlier ones. Is it because you didn’t really want to risk much and didn’t want to distance yourselves from something that seems to work?
Actually we didn’t listen to the old albums to try and get the sound, we were in the process of writing the new album for many years. We took three or four years writing the new songs and at the same time we were invited to play a classic setlist. So when we were recording, we took a break from recording the new songs and we had to listen to the old songs to re-learn them because we had an offer to come and play at a festival, but they wanted songs only off of the first three. So I had to go back and listen to the old ones to re-learn the songs, not the production but I had to go and really re-learn because they were twenty years old. (laughs) So I think what happened was, we went and played at the festival and played all the old songs and when we came home we kept writing new material – and I think whether we knew it or not, re-learning the old songs gave us some really cool ideas that brought back that old Obituary sound. And we didn’t deliberately do that but there was definitely some influence from the old stuff by having to re-learn some of the old ones while writing new songs.
Do you bother reading critics on the new album or Obituary in general?
I don’t mind reading, I know you’ll never make everybody happy. I think Obituary fans love the new album and that’s all I care about. If you read everything you’re going to find people that cry and complain and bitch about things – and they’re allowed to, it’s freedom of speech.
If we can talk about a next album, do you plan to record and distribute it in the same way as Inked in Blood?
I think the partnership that we have right now with Relapse makes a lot of sense because the band is able now with their fan support to record albums completely on our own – and nobody does that. In the history of rock ‘n’ roll bands write records and they tell the record label “we’re finished writing the album, we need to borrow money to go into the studio and record”, and the record label says “okay, here’s X amount of money, we will pay ourselves back when the album comes out before the band sees any money”. This time with Obituary we actually did it on our own with the support of our fans so it is a really good chemistry and solution that we found here because the band pays for the album, the record label pays for the printing of the CDs and the distribution around the world and the marketing campaign. So we both put the same amount of effort and time into the recording and then we’re a partnership so we split the profit – so it’s working out very well for Obituary right now. We’re very happy.
What was your greatest fear in connection with Obituary throughout all the years?
God, there was never fear. You’re always going to get fans that will listen to your music and compare you, whether they think it’s great or they are okay with it or they think it should be something different or that’s just not what they want. But I never let that bring fear into me because I have a very good ability of playing drums, I know what I do well and I know that I’m doing the right thing for Obituary’s style of music. So I don’t bring fear into it, because again I think there are many, many, many metalheads that love Obituary and love my drumming; and that’s enough for me, I don’t need to win everyone’s heart. (laughs)
Or bodies, because we’re getting old so the only thing that’s going to change is maybe the tempo of songs in the future because I can no longer play fast. But seriously, Obituary is so solid right now and I’m very proud to say that with the addition of Kenny Andrews and Terry Butler in the band we are a very tight band right now. We’re very close friends, there’s a hundred percent respect with and for each other and we are having so much fun. That’s what is amazing about it, I know there are bands that are successful and can do it for a living but not all the band members get along – but they make it work because it’s a business and they can go and make money. Obituary right now is very lucky because we’re making a living doing it but we love each other, we are having so much damn fun on stage every night. It’s a wonderful feeling. So that’s the main thing that I’m very proud to see in the future. I know for a fact, this is a very tight band right now and we’re best of friends.
You’re like a family, literally.
We are, yeah. (laughs) I’ve known Trevor since I was eleven years old so he’s like a brother to me as well. We’re just very excited about the future and it’s very exciting for Obituary fans too because more music is being created and the future is looking really bright now for all of us.
That’s great to hear. Okay Donald, thank you so much for the interview, I’m also really excited about the show tonight!
It will be a treat tonight! We also learned songs tonight, a couple for this tour especially that we had to go back and re-learn. We also brought some now in from the “Don’t Care” album because we want to play other stuff. It sounds really good. So yeah, I’m very excited about it too.