Obituary is an American death metal band formed in October 1984 in Tampa, Florida. Initially called Executioner, the band changed their name to Xecutioner in 1986 to avoid confusion with the thrash metal band Executioner from Boston, and then changed their name once again to Obituary in 1988. The band’s current lineup consists of vocalist John Tardy, drummer Donald Tardy, rhythm guitarist Trevor Peres, bassist Terry Butler, and lead guitarist Kenny Andrews. Obituary has gone through several lineup changes, with the Tardy brothers and Peres being the only constant members. The band was a fundamental act in the development of death metal music and is one of the most successful death metal bands of all time. To date, Obituary has released ten studio albums, and with the exception of their 1997–2003 split, they continue to perform live around the world.
Recently departed from Roadrunner Records, Grim Magazine took the opportunity to catch up with Obituary on their West Coast tour.
Grim Magazine: After the end of the band’s long-running association with Roadrunner Records, do you feel that you are better off without them or are you just looking for a label that can market you a little bit better?
Frank: I definitely feel that we’re better off without them. They haven’t at all done anything really for us. You kind of really look at our history from the beginning, they marketed us, they put us out there for people to get us, but then we kind of grabbed a fanbase and took it to as high of a level as we could take it – to get it to the next level, we’d have to play with other bands, get a little more advertising, a little bit more promotion – they weren’t really willing to do that, so after time, we felt like they weren’t family to us and that’s really what you need to have in a record label. They’ve got to be there to support you, they’ve got to be fans of the band – to me, Roadrunner really wasn’t a fan of ours; they were a fan of the fact that we were a part of their history and anything to kind of promote that, they were totally well into with us, but as far as just us trying to carry on as a band, they didn’t really seem to give a rat’s ass.
Grim Magazine: Okay; I’ve got some quotes from their VP of A&R, Monte Connor… this one was from the book “Sounds of the Beast,” so it’s an older quote – “with Obituary, whether we spent twenty-thousand dollars promoting something or two-hundred-thousand dollars promoting, we’d sell the same amount of records.”
Frank: Figures. (laughs)
Grim Magazine: And now here’s one that I got a kick out of – he said that their band had no song lyrics and that Y’all were just growling along (to the music). You’d think that the guy who was promoting the band would know a little bit better.
Frank: Yeah, you’d think. Exactly. But that was the relationship we had with them; it was just like they sort of felt the vibe with us and it picked up right off the bat and if they’d just kept with us, pushed us… it’s like they’d forgot about us once the Nirvana thing kicked in and they were trying to sign Grunge bands and then trying to do metalcore and then trying to jump on every bandwagon that was out there, we were just a death metal band straight through and we probably should have signed with a death metal label that would only put out that kind of music back in the day and we would have done better as a band and we would have been probably mentally better as a band. A lot of the reasons why we decided to take a break was because of all the crap we had to deal with through the record label – everything we would do would go back to “well, it’s because we’re not making shit on the records, so now we really can’t do a lot of touring because we’re not making good money on the road, but if we were making good money on the record, at least to tour, would make it worth, you know, the fact to just get out there.” It’s a whole evolving cycle. Hopefully, now we’re opening up a whole new door with something different.
Grim Magazine: Do you want to talk about any record labels you’re looking at in particular, or is that just something for later on down the road?
Frank: We talked… pretty much every record label that’s out there in the metal world we’ve talked to or talked to somebody that’s affiliated with it, so we’ve definitely got our feelers out there. We want to step back and look at “who do we feel comfortable working with?” right off the bat. We want to really get a vibe from somebody and really see that they’re going to be behind us, because what’s to say we can’t do it ourselves? You know, Slowly We Rot Records. And as Monte said, we’re going to sell as many records as we’re going to sell, it’s just that’s the genre we’re in. But maybe when we’re selling thirty-thousand records, but we’re making ten bucks a record, then yeah, it’s making sense to us, not giving that money to some idiot that has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.
Grim Magazine: Words that make me feel warm inside. (laughter) Okay, continuing with that – when can we expect a new album, do you have any songs written?
Frank: We have a lot of riffs and that’s kind of like how we go through stuff; we have a lot of different ideas. The cool thing about today is that you can record everything you’re doing very simply; everything in our jam room is already set up so that as soon as somebody does something, you can record it. So by having that, it helps us out a lot. When we’re done with the European stuff we’ve got coming up in June, that’s when we’re going to kind of sit back for a good five or six months, at least up until December, and just put everything together and create, I’m hoping, the best Obituary album we’ve ever done.
Grim Magazine: Okay, what are your expectations for the Northwest Death Metal Fest tomorrow?
Frank: Well, I think it’s going to be hectic, probably. (laughs) But it should be a killer show – there’s going to be a lot of bands on there and we haven’t played in Seattle since 1995 or something like that; it was a long, long time ago. But I do remember every time we go to Seattle, it’s mayhem. I think we’ll have a good time.
Grim Magazine: Alright; one thing I’ve always noticed – the artwork from the “Cause of Death” album shares a lot with some of the H.P. Lovecraft paperbacks. Is that something you licensed from the books or was it done originally for you?
Frank: We worked a deal with the artist, actually; we just went directly through the artist. It was just really one record, “Cause of Death,” that was Michael Whelan, had the artwork. Roadrunner found this guy and found a bunch of his pieces and they submitted them to us and we looked at them and said: “wow, I really like this one.” There was like a cockroach or something in the picture and we wanted that removed, but other than that, the picture, to us, was perfect. So I really didn’t read any of the H.P. Lovecraft books, so we weren’t really into that, just the art.
Grim Magazine: Alright, as you guys are one of the godfathers of the American death metal scene, what do you think about the genre today? I know this is probably a question you guys get asked a lot, but I just figured I’d throw it out there.
Frank: To be honest, there’s not a lot that I listen to today of new death metal bands that I can say that has really changed it for me. If I’m going to pick something up, I’m going to buy the new Bolt Thrower record or Unleashed or the classic heavy hitters from back in the day. I’ve not really heard anybody lately that I fully think can claim to be a true death metal band.
Grim Magazine: So a lot of generic crap out there?
Frank: Pretty much from what I’ve seen. I mean, there’s a few bands I could probably saw; like we played in Phoenix called A Job For A Cowboy – they’re kind of grind-core, but they definitely had some heavy death metal breakdowns. There are other bands that are doing well now that maybe when we were around weren’t doing too well like Cryptopsy is pretty good. They’ve been around for a while, though, so it’s hard to really say that they’re new and groundbreaking or anything. I hear a lot of good death metal in bands, but it’s a mixture – like this band we’re playing with tonight, Dead To Fall, they have death metal parts, but then they also have a lot of melodic, kinda thrashy parts and stuff that I can’t really say is straight-up death metal. You see a lot of that in bands today. Not to say that they’re not good, but it’s just that I don’t see one out there that I can say “that is a true death metal band.”
Grim Magazine: Okay, we’ve got one last question that was submitted by one of our readers and that is… do you think it sucks that Limp Bizkit is the most famous band from Jacksonville?
Frank: No! Lynyrd Skynyrd. (laughter) If that’s the case that Limp Bizkit is the most, yeah it does suck, big time. (laughs)
Grim Magazine: That’s all I have for you, thank you very much!
Frank: Awesome man, thanks!
(1989) Obituary – Slowly We Rot
(1990) Obituary – Cause of Death
(1992) Obituary – The End Complete
(1994) Obituary – World Demise
(1997) Obituary – Back from the Dead
(2005) Obituary – Frozen in Time
(2007) Obituary – Xecutioner’s Return
(2009) Obituary – Darkest Day
(2014) Obituary – Inked in Blood
(2017) Obituary – Obituary
With: Frank Watkins (bass)
Interview Date: May 27, 2006
Years Active: 1984–1997, 2003–present
Genre: Death Metal
Website: Official Website
Label: Relapse, Roadrunner, Candlelight
Origin: United States
Reviewed by: Grim Magazine
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