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Obituary - Setting a New Standard Part I

By: Mike Sloan

Vintage Obituary, circa 1990...

Blistering.com: You say you only sell about a third of the records you used to. Do you think it’s the economy or the internet piracy?

Oh, it’s the internet. People are listening to everybody’s albums on YouTube for free. You can’t blame them, though. It used to bother and frustrate me but not anymore. I used to get mad and frustrated because as a musician and someone who created an album of music that I love, and it bummed me out that people don’t own [the] Darkest Day album but I see what the deal is. The future is the future. Everybody is going to do what they do. They go home, flip on their laptop, pop on their headphones and jam to an album. I do it, too. But what we’re going to do with Obituary – because like I’ve said we have the name, logo, etc. – we have some power here. We are a “legendary” band – ugh… I hate that word [laughs]. But since we are a “legendary” band, we are going to enter the realm of entertaining people through the internet and through our website.

We are going to go back to the old days of what 38 Special used to do, what Aerosmith and Metallica used to do, which is a fan club. But we’re not going to do a fan club through the mail, but through email. It will be an online membership to see cool, live events in our studio, on tour, special shows, band practices. You’re going to be able to see the band perform the new album and how we record it, all from becoming a member. Say you become a member for like $15 or something. Why not just give our album away for free? What’s the point? Albums don’t sell anyway. That might be a weird way of looking at it but that’s how my brain is going and I see a way where we can still be a functioning band and be okay financially. If we can get people to go to our website because it’s so fun to be there and there’s so much entertainment and cool events, we’re going to go for this.

We’re still going to put out an album in 2013 and put in the Best Buys of the world if we can. But my thoughts, fears and expectations is that we’re still going to sell what we’ve been selling, which isn’t as much. While we used to sell about 100,000 records, we only sell about 30,000 now. I’d much rather have hundreds of thousands of people join the club and give like $5 or something and be able to see us in Florida at practice or having a barbeque or something. We can do all sorts of cool stuff for our fans, like do something cool at 5 p.m. Germany time for our German fans and then something else at 5 p.m. U.S. time for the U.S. fans. Stuff like that. I don’t know if many of our fans know, but we own our own studio; we’ve done our last three albums there. We have an amazing idea to run the ProTools program and rig it so it will sound just like we sound and perform the songs live for people to watch for pay-per-view events in the studio.

Blistering.com: It’s similar to how the video game industry has evolved over the years. I’m not sure how dialed in you are with that industry.

I am not [chuckles]. Not at all.

Blistering.com: The way the industry has gone, many of the companies wind up folding because they spend millions upon millions of dollars on big-budget games. If those games don’t sell well, the companies just squandered everything and often go bankrupt. What’s been happening is that some smaller developers have made games and gave them away free or dirt cheap, but offer the opportunity for players to buy downloadable content throughout the course of the game. The DLC is very inexpensive but it adds up and these smaller companies are now making hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a very intelligent maneuver to adapt to the changing climates of the economy and your way of thinking is inadvertently parallel to that.

Yeah, exactly! That’s a very good comparison and it’s a smart way of doing things now. I totally believe in this and I think fans would love it. Obituary fans, Cannibal Corpse fans, Slayer fans… everybody would love it. The site is called www.Unation.com and by the end of this year, by around November, it will be ready. It’s sick, man. We’re going to do live events on the internet. You can pay a few bucks to watch my brother do the vocals for the new album for like 20 minutes. We are going to film and document everything that goes into the new record. We’re going to demonstrate everything that goes into the recording of the new record; that’s what we’re doing right now. Hopefully in the next few months we’ll start throwing things up there.

So, rather than waiting a full year to pay $15 for a new record, why not pay only a few bucks every few months or so to see something really cool. How cool would it be if we invited someone like George [Fisher] from Cannibal Corpse to swing by our studio and sing some songs with us? We can broadcast that for all of our fans to see. That’d be so cool for the fans so why not do it? People would think it’s cool as shit to see George sing “Slowly We Rot” in our studio. That’s what we’re hoping for.

Blistering.com: That’s a really great idea. If it works well, hopefully more bands will follow suit. If it’s successful, more bands would do it and the entire metal community could come together more and hopefully the bands can begin to earn the kind of money they deserve.

Yep. That’s the idea. We are very fortunate and the founder of Unation.com was fortunate to meet me and started talking about this. He saw that we’ve been around for 27 years and we have thousands upon thousands of album sales under our belt and reportedly millions of fans worldwide. So he made me a part of his Unation.com website to help get eyeballs to his site. The site is incredible, man, and I want the fans who read this to go there and check it out. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this and what fan wouldn’t want to see their favorite bands doing stuff like this?

Blistering.com: Yeah it’s a terrific idea because, as “uncool” or “un-metal” this might sound, this is a great business plan. Whether people like it or not, you guys need to earn a living and make money. It’s not selling out or becoming non-metal if you become very successful monetarily. I never understood that line of thinking.

Exactly. If we stood still and didn’t evolve as a band…well, musically we don’t want to evolve too much because we are Obituary. But it we stood still and did nothing, we wouldn’t evolve as a band. If we stood around and watched other bands do this instead of having goals and dreams and trying this, we’d be stupid not to. That’s my mindset. This new website and the new album we are working on, it’s going to be super cool.

Blistering.com: Several of your metal brethren have sold hundreds of thousands or millions of albums worldwide and became quite successful. Cradle of Filth, for instance, comes to mind. I mention them because they started with nothing, became extremely successful by metal standards, yet suddenly became “sellouts” or “not metal anymore” in the eyes of many fans and some media because of their success. When you hear and read this mentality, what goes through head?

I think it’s stupid. If I’m an outsider and I look at it from a completely biased, outside vision, if Cradle of Filth can do what they do and literally keep that many people entertained and put out that many quality-sounding records no matter if it’s your style of music or not, the production that those dudes put on, I love it. I think it’s incredible. It’s the dream of any band member to be able to sell that many records or to sell that many tickets and put on those productions, or even do what Slayer and Slipknot do. I dream that. Obituary has always been an underground band and we’ve been invited to play many big festivals, but we’ve never played big tours because of our name. I envy people who can write Grammy-nominated albums and do big tours like Lamb of God. They’re one of my favorite bands in the world and people seem to either really love them or hate them. It freaks me out. If you’d just listen to their albums without trying to have some sort of label applied to them, it’s some of the most incredible shredding guitars and drumming I’ve ever heard.

Blistering.com: Speaking of Lamb of God, what are your thoughts on what Randy Blythe had to go through by being stuck in the Czech prison for all those weeks?

If you know the facts, I don’t understand how it’s not illegal what they did to him. He posted bail twice, almost a half million of his own dollars, and he still sat in a ten-by-ten cell with another guy. All this because of what happened and when you look at the film of the incident, all he did was defend himself against a guy running onstage and coming right at him. The security guards helped that kid off the stage multiple times by any way they deemed fit and it was sad that Randy was even a part of that. He was hired to perform at that club and the security was hired to keep the fans from running onto the stage. The fan’s job is to stay off the stage and I don’t see how you can blame the musician.

Part II of Sloan's chat with Donald will run Tuesday, October 23.

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