Obituary - You Can't Kill What's Already Dead

Interview with: Trevor Peres and Donald Tardy

By Joe Who?

They came from the past, stuck around for a decade, went into hibernation, awoke from an eight year sleep, and returned stronger than ever. My brief, yet simple perspective, if somewhat abstract on point of view, as to what happened to arguably one of the most recognizable sounding, and legendary bands of all time - Obituary.

The Tampa Florida based death metal icons started out in the early eighties under the moniker Xecutioner, eventuallychanging their name to Obituary in the late eighties after they signed with Roadrunner Records. Their debut album, ("Slowly We Rot" - 89) and collaboration with producer Scott Burns, was the start of a long line of consistent albums that would solidify their stature in the underground as one of Florida's premier death metal attractions.

"The Obituary Sound" that the team perfected set them apart from their contemporaries and put them in a league of their own. Their brand of death / thrash chug-a-thons had this raw / primal feel, with a basic less-is-more approach that was so fulfilling, it left you craving for more.Their slow creepy mid tempo build ups made you chew your finger nails down to the bone while waiting in anticipation for the audio carnage that was about to ensue...absolutely brilliant. Last but certainly not least, those terrifying, agonizing, brutal vocals of John Tardy that could make your skin crawl, fit the music like a glove, and were extremely effective.

Following the success of "Slowly We Rot", the band went through some lineup changes when original bassist Daniel Tucker, and guitarist Allan West decided to leave the band.They were quickly replaced with bassist Frank Watkins, and guitarist James Murphy.The second full length album - "Cause Of Death" (90) was soon released, and proved to be their most accomplished work to date. To this day, the album is still considered one of the most monumental death metal albums ever recorded. After touring in support of the album, James Murphy announced he was leaving the band, opening the door once again for original guitarist Allan West to return. The lineup from this point on stayed intact, (although Allan moonlighted as Six Feet Under's guitarist on their first two albums - "Haunted" 95, and "Warpath" 97...) and released three more studio albums. ("The End Complete" 92, "World Demise" 94, and "Back From The Dead" 97 tespectively...) By the end of the touring cycle for their "Back From The Dead" album, the band decided to take some much needed time off. Days, weeks, months, and years went by without any word or news on whatever happened to the band. Did Obituary break up?

Fast forward about six years. (2003...) We all learned that some of the members of Obituary were in new bands. Allan West was in Lowbrow, (following his departure from SFU in 97...) Trevor Peres had his band Catastrophic, and Donald Tardy was touring with Andrew WK, but what really made things interesting were reports of John Tardy and Frank Watkins (both M.I.A ' S since 97...) being invited on stage to play some Obituary songs with Andrew WK and Donald Tardy at an Ozzfest appearance. Was Obituary going to reunite? Fast forward two more years. (2005...) Not only were the rumors correct, the band even started playing shows again, and released a new album last year entitled - "Frozen In Time".

I had a chance to sit down and talk with guitarist Trevor Peres and drummer Donald Tardy, (In two seperate interviews, but I combined them into one...) when they made a headlining tour stop in Milwaukee Wisconsin, on September 14th 2005. With twenty years of quality Florida death metal created, their watches set back to the present, and a final album with Roadrunner Records out now, is this "The End Complete"? Will their legacy continue? Read on to find out the answers to these questions, and a lot more...

Wormwood Chronicles: Well, first of all, Welcome back. Good to see you guys back on the scene after all these years.

Donald Tardy: Yeah, seven years is a long time, but for Obituary, it was like the blink of an eye. It dosen't feel like we've been gone very long. I can't believe it's already been almost eight years!

WC: The last time I remember seeing Obituary live was 97 or 98, on the "Back From The Dead" tour, in Schaumberg, Illinois at a club called Jackhammers. Do you remember that show?

Trevor Peres: Oh, yeah...

DT: Yeah, I remember that. People were climbing the fence right? It's the place that's not even a club anymore...

WC: Yeah, I was just gonna say, that club isn't even there anymore, they tore the place down...

DT: Yeah, man, I remember there was a chain link fence, and a pole going across, and kids were swingin' from it!

TP: Yeah, that's crazy. I remember that night too, there was an inch of ice on the ground, it sucked.

WC: Do you remember who the opening bands were on that show? I'm drawing a blank.

TP: I don't know who played that night, basically we had local bands, and regional bands, so it was different bands every night. We thought it would be cool for those people, you know?

(On a side note here...I found the ticket stub in my collection, to my surprise! The show were talking about here was on December 12, 1997, and the opening bands were; Godsize, Disinter, ILbread, November's Doom, and Black Circle...Joe Who?)

WC: I heard John (Tardy - vocals...) had to fly in for that show. What was the reason for that?

DT: I honestly don't know what the reason was. You know, it's weird, because it's been so many years, I can't remember what John was doing...if he just finished getting married, or if he was just coming for the begining of the tour? I can't remember, but yeah, he had a flight to Chicago, and everything got delayed. He was supposed to be there (at the club Jackhammers...) at two in the afternoon, then it was, Oh, he's gonna be here at four, then he's gonna be here at six, and then he's in the cab, and we're waiting and waiting, and he literally didn't show up until right before we were supposed to go on. We were like - What are we gonna do? And then the cab finally showed up.

TP: Yeah, he couldn't do that whole entire tour. He wanted to do that Chicago show really bad, because he knew it was going to be a good show. There was a couple of shows after that he did, but he missed a few shows. So we had Keith Devito (From Pyrexia and Catastrophic...) sing for us.

WC: Now that your back with Obituary, will you be doing any more albums with Catastrophic?

TP: Yeah, actually just a few months ago, we released an Europe only. It's called - "Born Into Bondage". We have a whole album recorded, and we're trying to shop it to labels right now, and trying to find a label to be on.

WC: Oh, ok, so it won't be on Metal Blade then...

TP: No. The other guys are trying to get people to listen to it. I've been so busy, it's hard for me to try. We did a little tour actually...Let's see, begining of spring, this year (2005...) in Europe.

WC: Donald, durning Obituary's down time, you were playing with Andrew WK. How did you get involved with him?

DT: He was a metal head, a young kid, nineteen years old, and he wrote me a letter. I guess he was getting signed to a record label, and he didn't know what else to do. So he just wrote me a letter and said - I need a drummer, you're my favorite drummer, and I love Obituary, but it's different music than Obituary...

WC: Is he from Florida?

DT: No, he's from New York, he's originally from Detroit.

WC: How did that work out when you guys had to rehearse and stuff? Did you drive or fly up to New York? Or did he come down to Florida?

DT: Well, what happened was, Andrew wrote me a letter, and when I decided to be in the band with him on the first record, the "Party Hard" album, I flew to Califorina with him, and we recorded the album out there. Then of course the reality hit, because Andrew did the album by himself. He plays guitar, and sings, but he still didn't have a band. He was like - "I need a a band", so I wound up putting his band together for him with all my Florida connections. So Andrew's band was a bunch of Florida guys.

We worked together for three years, and I did four hundred shows with Andrew, in twenty different countries all around the world. I played Japan five times with him, I went to Taiwan, Australia, I went everywhere. It's funny, you say - Did you drive to New York? It's like - No, I created a band for him, and it was very successful. The album went gold here (In the U.S...) and also in Japan. So it was a huge project I put together. You know, that album sold maybe five times more than what Obituary sells. It was on Island / Def Jam, a major record label.

WC: I read that Obituary never really broke up all these years, but what was the reason for the long break?

DT: Just the life style. Being in a band is a weird life style. Everyone thinks it's like a holiday, and that you're always jamming music, but it's not like that, you're on stage for one hour a day, and you have twenty three hours...there's thirteen people on this bus, (Obituary and Napalm Death were both sharing the same tour bus...) so you can imagine when there's eight people in this room, (refering to the back of the bus little lounge area, where we conducted the interview...) and you try to live like this for twenty three hours a day. It's crazy, it's like being in the military. I always think about what it would be like to be on a submarine, because you can't go anywhere. (Laughs) You're confined to space, breathing area, bathroom, you know...that kind of stuff. You have a tiny little bunk...there's one right there, (points to one of the bunks...) that's what people sleep in. (After seeing one of the bunks, I would describe them as very compact, cramped, sleeping quarters that didn't look very comfortable...Joe Who?)

TP: I think mainly just to find our selves as human beings. I mean, we had been doing albums and touring for almost ten years at that point, some of us were nineteen, twenty years old, when we first started touring. We never lived a normal life just as normal everyday people. So it was kind of nice not to do anything for awhile. Some of us got married, some of us have babies now and stuff like that.

WC: What initially got the ball rolling for Obituary to start again?

DT: Just all of us being friends still. I mean, that's why we said it was never us breaking up. We just simply got away from the scene for awhile, but we remained friends. We always talked, saw each other, hung out, watched know? The easy part was getting back together, it was going to happen eventually. So friendship is what made it come back together.

TP: I think it was just the timing, it was weird. Donald called me one day, and said him and Allan (West - guitar...) were jammin' a little bit, and asked me if I'd be interested in playing with them again. They had called me before, and we talked about it, but I wasn't ready, and I don't think everybody was ready prior to two years before that even, but when he called me, and we started talking about stuff, it all kind of made sense to get back together. It was like - Hey, why not? People were interested in us playing again, so we were like - Hell, yeah, let's do it! Everybody that was a part of Obituary was into the idea, and that was the only way we knew we would start again, was if everybody wanted to do it.

WC: I heard that when Donald was touring with Andrew WK, there was a show in Florida, and he invited you guys to come up on stage and jam with him. Did this play a part in helping you guys deceide to reform Obituary also?

TP: Yeah, I think so. Frank (Watkins - bass...) is from the Miami area, and Donald was playing Ozzfest in Miamai with Andrew WK. John wanted to go to the show, because there wasn't an Ozzfest in Tampa that year. So he went down there, and it just kind of happened. Frank and John jumped on stage, and they did a couple Obituary songs. I think Andrew played guitar or something...I don't know, I wasn't there, I don't know what happened. That was about a year and a half prior to us really getting back together, you know...but, yeah, that probably spawned some interest for people, and it probably sparked some interest for John, and I'm sure for Frank it did too. (Laughs) Donald was already playing, so he was into it, you know?

WC: After the news was released that Obituary reunited at Ozzfest, did you guys receive a ton of requests from promoters asking to bring you onto their metal festivals?

TP: Um, they always called us, every year I would get asked to do shows. From the whole time we were down, it was pretty much once a year, to a couple times a year. People would go - Hey, if you ever get back together, and you ever wanna do a show...kind of a on going thing, you know? Every time I was in Europe with Catastrophic, the promoter would ask me - When you get back with Obituary, call me, you know what I mean? Every time. So it was always ongoing. Then we got offered a couple festivals at the begining of last year, (2004...) and that's when Donald called me, and we all started talking about it, because I got a call from a promoter, and I was like - Dude, maybe we should do it now.

WC: You guys have a brand new album out right now entitled - "Frozen In Time". To me it's the perfect title, because it sounds like you guys never went anywhere, it still has the classic Obituary sound. Can you tell me about the making of this album? How long did it take to make? When did you start working on it? Was it after you got back together, and started doing shows again?

DT: Yeah, after we did some shows, we started writing right away, and it felt natural. We wrote for about half a year, then once we had ten songs, we just practiced them for like, four or five months, just once a day, you know...playing those ten songs, thinking about it, and playing them the next day. Every time you do that, every month, you get a little bit better, you start learning certain things, and we were more prepared going into the studio. We recorded the album in four days.

TP: I had all kinds of ideas, because I was with Catastrophic writing, you know...stuff that I was writing might have been Catastrophic music, if we didn't start Obituary again, but yeah, we pretty much started last year, (2004...) and then went into the studio at the end of February, early March of 2005.

WC: How would you compare this latest recording experience with your previous ones? You said it felt natural, but was it kind of rusty at first, being that Obituary hasn't recorded an album in awhile?

DT: No, not at all, it was way more prepared. It's kind of like saying, after making five years of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, if you had to make another one, even though you haven't made one in five years, that you made so many in those years, you wouldn't be nervous to make another peanut butter sandwich, you'd probably be better at it, because you're a little bit older, and you know exactly how to fold the bread! With Obituary after five albums...I mean the fifth one going in there doing another album, we knew exactly what we had to do, we had to be prepared, and when the individual performs good, it's easy to mix. I mean if I play the drums perfect, or as perfect as I can, it's so easy to mix that. So that's the philosophy that we realize as veterans of recording so many albums, it's all about playing good. Actually I think that's the magic with Obituary live too, when you play tight...every kid goes - Man, why does it sound so good? Because we've been doing it for nineteen years. (Laughs)

TP: The recording process was natural for me. For myself, I had recorded a couple of things durning that down time too, and we've been doing it for so long, it's kind of the same. This time though, it was a digital recording, which is something Obituary never did before, which was cool. It was kind of nice to go digital. I mean the sound is still there obviously...

WC: Definitely, tight sound, razor sharp guitars...

TP: Yeah, heavy shit, no tone, no quality lost...

WC: So back in the old days, you guys liked to keep your sound in Analog?

TP: Oh, yeah. We were into the the two inch, (reel recording tape...) even when people were already using the pro-tools. We were like - Nah, we wanna do two inch, keep it analog, you know? This time around, it made so much edit stuff now, it's like...(snaps his fingers...) it's amazing how fast you can edit stuff.

WC: Speaking of production, you guys reunited with producer Scott Burns on the new album. How did this come about? What's he been up to these days? I haven't seen him produce too much stuff lately.

DT: Yeah, he got away from the scene. The same time we left, Scott did too. He produced so many records that most people don't realize...he did all my records with me, and probably fifty other albums in those few years. I mean, think about it...not ten albums, or twenty albums, but imagine producing fifty albums in a few years. Can you imagine going to's not an eight hour day, when you go into the studio it's incredible how long you'll stay, and you'll make yourself stay awake. Sixteen hour days are easy. So for Scott to go and just do album, after album, after album, after album...I think he was just ready to get away from it, so he did.

He has a wife and two children, he learned computers, and he works for a big company now. We're still friends with him, that's how the reunited Scott Burns thing came about, because we're still friends, we talk, and he still realizes how much we love the chemistry that we had with him. It was just a simple question - Scott, do you wanna do the record? Yes, done deal.

TP: Yeah, it just kind of made sense. Scott didn't really work on the whole album with us, he came in, gave us some pointers, helped durning the mix, and was there to give his opinion. Mark Prator was the main engineer. I mean we (the band...) always have the main input for Obituary, but it just made sense to bring Scott in for our first new album in eight years. It was almost like the team again, you know what I mean?, because Mark Prator was there too durning those days. Scott was pretty happy with the way it turned out, he loved it actually.

WC: Were there any songs left over from the "Frozen In Time" recording sessions that didn't get used?

TP: No, we used everything...

WC: So it was ten songs written, ten songs recorded, done...

TP: Yeah, we just wrote ten, because we wanted to hurry up, and get something out, and we didn't want to spend too much time writing extra material...

DT: It's not that there wasn't anything left over, we knew we were done with the tenth song, we said - "There's an album, we're finished", but because the music was coming so easily to us, and every time me and Big AL (Allen West - guitars...) jammed, or practiced, something new came out. So we still have ideas right now for a new release in the future.

TP: What's cool is we're gonna start writing again, in fact, we already have some ideas. Actually there was nothing recorded, but Allan already had a song going...I think it's finished, and I had partial songs started, that we didn't even worry about using. So there are a couple of songs done, and a couple being created, but we're gonna really try to get back together, and just write a bunch of new shit.

WC: Which would you say is harder to capture? 1. A good live performance? or 2. A good take in the studio when your recording?

TP: I don't know, that's a good question. That's hard to say...maybe the recording, because you're fucking analyzing the song to death, and it's the hardest thing to get perfect. When you play live, the little mistakes, you know...little ones that you can't barely hear, don't make a difference, but when you're recording, you'll be like - Oh, shit, what was that? So probably a recording.

DT: I'd say studio. For most bands...I think a good producer can help a band a lot, but if the band is great, then you get great albums. Most of the time when you listen to know, they mixed it, and it sounds ok, but it's a little bit different when you try to write a good song, and to write a good song means having to write a good album. So albums are way more challenging, but I think Obituary is at our best when we play live. We've been together long enough , compared to other bands, and I think we really have the live song wise, it's clear, it's really loud, and heavy, but it's totally audible, and you can hear what's going on.

WC: Ok, that last question, to pun one of your classics, is "Turned Inside Out", Which do you enjoy more? 1. Recording? or 2. Touring?

TP: Probably touring. Recording to me is so monotonous and boring. I mean, it's great when you're done, and you have this great album finished, it's cool, but the whole process is a lot of work. It's not that it's hard work, like physical work, but it's just a lot of sitting around, and listening to your self, over and over.After awhile, you just wanna blow the machine up. (Laughs)

DT: I love them both. Recording happens so quickly. I mean I literally recorded this album in three days. When we started recording...the first day that we hit record, I recorded half the album in two hours, I did five songs the first day on this album. You won't really hear too many bands say that...usually it takes six weeks for bands to record albums, and we did it in a weekend! So there's not much recording time, but the pressure is on, there's pressure to play well, and to do a great album, but it's over just like that. (Snaps his fingers) With a tour, you get to play sixteen songs every night, and you can do that twenty times in a row. So the love of playing music for friends, and people is much more appealing live, because you get to do it, more and more, and more.The studio is like having to study for a know it's gonna be over in one hour, but it's the most important, nerve racking thing.

WC: Donald, you have a song on the new album called - "Slow Death", with a cool tribal drum sound going on.How did that one come about? Was Sepultura an influence for it?

DT: I just made it up. (Laughs) Just like any song, I'm a song writer, that's what I do, I come up with ideas, so that was just an idea, and we did it live, you know? I think if you go back far enough, you can actually hear those beats in Obituary music because a song off "Slowly We Rot" that I wrote back in 1987 has that same feel, and the song "World Demise" has kind of a tribal feel too. So we've been our own kind of marching band, we do whatever we feel is cool, and not what other bands are trying to do. "Slow Death" was just a cool idea, you know?

WC: What is your opinion of the death metal scene now, compared to when you started out? or left off?

TP: I don't know. I don't think it's as popular as it was fourteen years ago, you know what I mean? Other than that musically, you still have some of the same heavy shit. Cannibal Corpse is still around, Deicide, Morbid Angel, so you still have a lot of the core bands still here, you know...the proper straight up death metal stuff, and Napalm Death have been around for a fuckin' life time. (Laughs)

DT: I think it's similar. I think the early ninties were really the peak of what was going on, and then it really thinned out, and by 1997, you were not playing in front of a thousand people, instead you were playing in front of like two hundred. So I think the scene right now is closer to what the early nineties was like...literally ten years ago is what it feels like now. It's come full circle, because when you look at it, Iron Maiden is touring, and Slayer is touring, it's unbelieveable that there's still this love for extreme music. So I think it's very similar to what was going on when we left the scene.

WC: Do you feel that when black metal started gaining momentum in the ninties, this may have caused people to stray from the death metal scene?

DT: I never focus on anything else, I'm not a fan of going and buying other metal records. As a song writer, and as a drummer, I'm kind of a weirdo, I don't listen to too much music, other than stuff I grew up to, which is southern rock. I never paid attention to the black metal scene, or what's going on, so honestly, that's a question I can't really answer. There's a trillion bands in the world, and I think that's awesome! I think everyone should be in a band.

WC: I read on the computer some reports that Allan West is going to quit the band after this tour. Is this true?or just a rumor?

DT: It was all a rumor.

TP: (Laughs) That was an instant rumor on the internet, that might have true for five seconds. (Laughs) You know what I
mean? No, it was nothing, it was just a rumor.

WC: What would you say is Obituary's secret for longevity, in terms of staying strong all these years?

DT: Friendship, man. 60%, or 70%, or 80% of all marriages now don't even last, you know...and this is a huge marriage. We see each other more than we see our wives and girlfriends, when you think about it. If a band can't get along, you immediately realize how much it's not fun if you're not friends, you know? I don't know if you watch NFL but, it's just like two team mates that can't get along. So that's the whole key to stay a band, is to be happy, and to be happy, you have to have a good relationship.

TP: Probably a lot of luck. (Laughs) Well, we enjoy playing music obviously, and that's why we didn't play for awhile, because like I said before, we wanted to find ourselves, and whatnot, but as a unit, we work really well together. There's a good chemistry that's amongst us, when it comes down to creating, being together, and doing shit, and I think a lot of the good bands always have that chemistry.

WC: Do you have any good road stories, or Spinal Tap moments from any tours you've done past or present?

DT: No, nor have I ever seen Spinal Tap...

TP: (Trevors cell phone rings...) Yeah, right now, there's a phone ringing! Hold on a minute. (Answers phone call...)

WC: You never saw Spinal Tap? (Mandatory viewing for every rock band!--Nigel Mality)

DT: No...

WC: Dude, it's a classic!

DT: I honestly know what the movie is, but I never sat down and watched it. We've done a thousand shows as a band, there's been many stories, but that's all band history, that's our little baby to keep, you know?

TP: Sorry, Ok, what was the question again?

WC: Any good road stories? or Spinal Tap moments?

TP: I don't know, we're not that crazy of a band to be honest, we're pretty mellow on tour. I mean, there's been crazy moments, you know...people getting drunk and acting crazier than hell, diving off stages and shit. I remember one time, we were in fuckin' Germany...what the hell town was that? I can't remember, we were on tour with Crowbar, and it was a smaller town, but it was a good show there. They always have eight hundred to a thousand people at those shows. So it was a pretty big show...

WC: Was it a festival?

TP: No, just a tour, and it was the last show of the tour too. I forgot the name of that town, we play there a lot, every time we tour, we always make sure to play that gig. Anyway I remember that night...usually I drink a few beers before we play and I'm good, but that night, me and Frank were drinking Jack Danniels, and we got totally ripped. I was so buzzed that I was trying to tune my guitar and I forgot I had a locking nut on it. If you know anything about a guitar, when you try to tune it with the tuning key up here, (top of's the knob on the headstock of the guitar where the string is wrapped...) it literally won't tune. I'm sitting there all fucked up, going what the fuck? I threw it down, grabed another guitar, and did it twice! It was so fuckin' funny. Who else was on that tour? Shit, was it Entombed? No, fuck, I can't remember, one of the other bands got so ripped that same night, because it was the last day of the tour, puked everywhere back stage. I remember waking up the next day, and I had it all over me! I sat in it or something...I don't know, you're so wasted, you don't know what you're doing. It was pretty funny though...blackout night, and then when you wake up the next day, your like - Damn, what happened? (Laughs)

WC: Alright, here's the million dollar question - Is this just a one time reunion?Or are you guys back for good this time?

TP: Well, as long as our backs don't break us. (Laughs) No, like I said before, we plan on writing in November and we want to put out a record next year as soon as we can, or as long as the labels and the people want us to be here.

DT: We're back. "For Good"...those are some tough words. We're back, and we're happy, and there's already ideas for what we're gonna do for the next record. So it's not a one-off by far. This is to stay for awhile.

WC: I wanted to discuss your future plans. "Frozen In Time", is your last album for Roadrunner Records. Do you plan on resigning with them? or Are you guys going to explore your options? Will there be any plans to release a DVD?

DT: Yes, yes, and yes, the future is huge for us. Roadrunner is no that we gave them this record, we're free agents. So we're gonna shop every option that we can for our selves...

TP: Yeah, we're definitely exploring our options right now. We've even gone over the idea of doing it ourselves, as our own label, because we think we know what needs to be done for our band. I have some marketing background...we all do a little bit naturally, because we play in a band, and everyone in a band is trying to market themselves usually. We discussed that, talked about seeing other labels, and we're gonna just see what's happening out there, you know...we're not 100% sure yet. I'm sure the second we start talking to people, stuff will finalize, and we'll figure out what we're gonna do, and like I said, we'll put out the new album as soon as we can next year. (2006)

DT: And there will be a DVD absolutely.

WC: From this tour?

DT: Well, no, not from this tour, down the line, there's gonna be a dvd, because Obituary has never had an official dvd. I have so much footage since 1986 of when we were kids, with these crazy flames on stage burning roofs of clubs back in the day, when we weren't even allowed to be in clubs yet. I have really crazy dvd ideas, that we're probably gonna make into a three part dvd of over the years, because it's twenty years of metal now that we've been creating. So yeah, there definitely will be a dvd.

WC: Thank you so much for your time. Do you have any final words for your fans out there?

DT: "Frozen In Time" is out, please go buy it. It's worth every penny!

TP: (Does a death metal growl, just like John Tardy!...Laughs) Um, I hope everyone likes "Frozen In Time" and shit. Check us out when we play live, and buy our two of them! (Laughs)

Roadrunner Records Website

Obituary's Official Website