It goes without saying that Obituary has been around for a long time. One of the de facto pioneers of arguably the greatest scene in metal history, Obituary have always done things their own way. With such classics as Slowly We Rot, The End Complete and World Demise, the Floridian legends are one of the most influential and unique bands death metal has ever seen.
But itís not easy being a musician, even if youíre in a band with such a history and fanbase as Obituary. With sagging album sales and fewer attendees at death metal concerts these days, itís quite difficult to earn an honest living doing what you love. However, the members of Obituary are able to coalesce sound business acumen with their passion for crushing, pulverizing death metal and what the dudes have in store for their fans is something unheard of for a metal act.
Obituaryís plans for the next 12 months will bend the rules of what is deemed ďthe normĒ for metal standards and if they can pull off what they have planned, not only will they be known as one of the forefathers of an entire collective scene but perhaps also as blazers of a new type of trail for other metal musicians for decades to come.
Blistering.com recently caught up with drummer and co-founder Donald Tardy just before their current US tour kicked off and talked about the fetal stages of Obituaryís next full-length album (slated for release in 2013), the perils of touring and how they plan on turning the way metal bands operate upside downÖ
Blistering.com: You are about to embark on the Carnival of Death Tour with Broken Hope, Jungle Rot, Encrust and Decrepit Birth. What are your thoughts on the tourís lineup and how exactly did that tour all come together?
Donald Tardy: It came together by chance, really. Obituary was still considering doing some shows here in America because weíre right in the middle of writing a new record, but weíre definitely not going to release it until summertime next year. So, we had some time to go do some shows and Broken Hope happened to be reuniting. We realized it was a cool package because Obituary does not go through the United States often enough and with Broken Hope, itís been 12 years or something like that since theyíve toured America. I think itís a good sale because people loved that band back in the day and itís been a long time since theyíve done something. I think itís going to be a super special occasion for us to do something together on the same night. I think itís going to be pretty cool.
Blistering.com: Are you going the full-scale tour bus route or are you going the old school way of packing up everything in vans?
Tardy: We are going to be in the tour bus together. But Ė we will be piling in the bunks together [laughs].
Blistering.com: You arenít coming through Las Vegas, though. Can you explain to the readers why cities are often bypassed when bands are on tour? Fans might not know this, but itís not always the bandsí decision to skip over a city, correct?
Tardy: Correct. We simply go where the shows take us. We donít really have a say in the matter. When a company comes to Obituary and says theyíre going to pay us an X dollar amount per night and they take care of the expenses like the bands, the tour, the travel, the fuel, the venues, etc., Obituary goes with that contract. It wasnít our decision to make these cities the only cities, but it is what it is when it comes to the routing of the tour. Well, at least this tour.
Itís sad, though, because I really like Vegas. Obituary has only played there, I think, twice in 20 years. I remember back in the day that it was cool little scene. I do remember going there in the late Ď90s and I think the promoter lost money. Maybe he didnít promote it right or there just werenít enough people there for him to make his money back. Unfortunately sometimes a cityís history plays games with booking agents. The bands donít care; weíll go play anywhere for the fans. The fans deserve it in a small city just as much as a city where weíll sell 700 or more tickets in a venue. Itís business, man, and unfortunately with todayís economy and the fuel cost, it requires a lot of money to trek across the country and Canada. Itís ridiculous how expensive it is. Literally all the money that is made at the door goes to the cost of fuel just so we can get to the next city. It really is a monster when you have that many people, and fuel, going across America. For all of the kids that show up to our shows, weíre just not Slipknot or Lamb of God where we can sell literally thousands of tickets each night on a tour. Business is business when it comes to fuel costs and all of that stuff.
Blistering.com: Thatís one thing that many a fan tends to not understand and that it is a business. Regardless of the fact that youíre artists and you do what you love. But if youíre going to hemorrhage money, itís not smart; you canít do that. Itís not like Obituary, or any other death metal band for that matter, is Lady GaGa who sells millions upon millions of records. You guys do need to eat. If you go to a venue and only 50 people show up, it not only hurts you but also the support bands.
Tardy: Since weíre talking about business, hopefully the fans can become a bit more educated about it. When youíre talking about Obituary, yes, we ask for a certain dollar amount per night. If a promoter within a certain town agrees to bring us in, he has to guarantee that heíll pay us that certain dollar amount. If he loses, it will look bad for us if only 200 hundred show up but he needed, say, 400 people to show up just to break even. The next time we come through town heíll tell us thanks but no thanks because he lost money on us last time. Thatís why we beg our fans to really come out and support the show, even if itís a couple hoursí drive and a bunch of people can pile into a car. Please do that because itís worth it; we only play shows in America once in a while. We also want the promoters to make their money back. Itís sad but true.
Blistering.com: Is it easier for Obituary to tour nowadays because you have a legacy and a big name?
Tardy: Thatís a good question and thereís logic behind what the answer is. Itís easier nowadays, or more convenient I should say, for Obituary to book whatever we want because of the name, the logo, the history, etc. But the reality is that itís actually not as easy today as it was 15, 20 years ago to do shows because for whatever reason, only half of the people show up to our shows that used to and only one-third of the people buy our records. The band still struggles and we still tour, but itís only to half the capacity that it used to. The fuel costs are higher and the album sales arenít making us any money. So to answer your question, itís actually very difficult to tour. Obituary is very lucky because we have the logo, the name, and the history so weíll always be able to do shows. But the reality is that itís more of a struggle to tour as a band now than back in the day because of the costs and compared to how many people are buying our records today to 15 years ago.