Kyle McGinn of Dead Rhetoric recently conducted an interview with vocalist John Tardy of Florida death metal veterans OBITUARY. A few excerpts follow below.
Dead Rhetoric: Thirty years and ten albums in, what are the challenges that come about with playing death metal?
John: "The amount of money that you make! [Laughs] My wife tells me all the time, 'Why don't you guys play country music?' Nah, it's great. Donald [Tardy, drums], Trevor [Peres, guitar], and I have been around from the very beginning — back in high school, just coming home and playing in the garage and writing songs, not even planning on doing that first album. I just never really even dreamed about it lasting this long, especially playing this type of music. It's been a great trip and I wouldn't trade it for anything. We've gotten to see a lot of the world and meet a lot of cool people and it's been a fun ride, that's for sure."
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think OBITUARY stands out even more today in the field of death metal, regardless of being pioneers and legends, because the emphasis is on groove, not speed or being over-the-top technical?
John: "Maybe. That fast, blasting death metal is not super my style either, which is obvious, given what we play. There's nothing wrong with going fast, you know that, but I think that going fast and slowing it way down — all that meaty stuff between, all that groove stuff in between that can really get a crowd going — I think that's one of the things that sets OBITUARY apart a little bit. We are pretty steady with what we do. We have been the same type of people in the same kind of music for a long time. Sometimes it takes that amount of time for people to really do that. It's been great to see people that saw us twenty-five years ago, and introduce us to their son or friend and say, they like you too. I think we are bridging that generation gap a little bit and that's kind of a good thing to see also."
Dead Rhetoric: As involved as you have been with the genre over your life, what makes a death metal lifer?
John: "I don't know, there probably has to be something a little bit wrong with you. [Laughs] It's awesome — I'm probably going to make up some of these numbers, but I'm willing to bet that metal fans, like OBITUARY fans, will buy more vinyl and more CDs than any other fanbase in percentage of their sales, as opposed to digital. Metal fans love to get their hands on stuff. They like to support and like to go out and do that; percentage-wise, I really think they do that more than other types of music do. It's cool — I have lots of friends of mine that don't listen to this kind of music. I always tell them that I can remember that there was a fight at one of our shows. I just can't remember it. They might think — they hear the music and see what the fans look like or see the mosh pit and say, 'Oh, man.' But I honestly cannot tell you the last time I saw an actual fight at one of our shows. Because that's not the nature of metal fans. It's so much the opposite of what they actually are — they are very cool and laid back, they love to get into the music yes, but that's it. Show up and have a good time. It's a fun crowd to be around, that's for sure."
Dead Rhetoric: As a band that has changed labels several times and crowdfunded, how do you feel the industry has changed since your beginnings?
John: "Man, that's a tough one. Everything has changed so much. Bands have to tour a whole hell of a lot more than they used to, because they don't sell nearly what they used to. That completely transforms what the record label wants to do for you. We got real fortunate with the crowdfunding thing and trying to do the album on our own. We figured out real quick that distribution is not something that you can do on your own. It's not going to happen. You can't show up with an album in the back of your car and go to someone and say, 'Can you get these out for us?' They are going to shut the door and say they don't know what you are talking about. They like cataloging music, and there's a sorts of deals, and it's a complicated thing. When we met the Relapse [Records] guys, they were just cool. They said, 'Hey look, whatever you guys want, we are here for you. We love you guys and we'll work with you in any way that you [want].' What the Kickstarter thing allowed us to do was to maintain complete ownership and control of the music and everything we do. Relapse just allows us to use their distribution machine, and because they are all so cool and we get along so well with them, they help us with the marketing. That's the other big thing. You could do it [marketing] but it would take up so much of your time. It's near impossible — you could do it, but the distribution was impossible."
OBITUARY's self-titled, tenth studio album will be released on March 17 via Relapse.
Photo credit: Ester Segarra