Obituary – Keeping Things GroovySunday, 26th October 2014
2014 has been a good year for classic death metal. We’ve had albums from bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Entombed (well, Entombed A.D.), and now we’ve come to the latest album from Florida’s Obituary. Inked in Blood has been a lot time coming. 2009’s Darkest Day was the last output we had seen from the veteran band, who fired off three albums in a fairly quick fashion after their return to the fold in 2005, with Frozen in Time. Last year, they took to the crowdfunding circuit to gain the funds to record what would become Inked in Blood, with a very successful campaign, netting the band over $60,000.
Now, listening to the end result of Inked in Blood, it’s clear the wait was worth it. The album has all the classic hallmarks of Obituary, and it’s clear that the band’s patience in songwriting and sculpting the album at their own pace has really brought forth their best effort in years. With the album two weeks away at the time of this interview, guitarist Trevor Peres was more than willing to discuss all matters of the band’s absence, the Kickstarter campaign, and the band’s lasting impact.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been a long time since Darkest Day was released. Any reason for the length of the break between albums?
Trevor Peres: Nothing specifically. We weren’t really in a huge rush. I was writing music for the new album literally five years ago. It was a slow process and we had no timeline, so when we really got down into writing, it took about a year. We did a lot of stuff with the arrangements. I think it shows with the album, the songs turned out pretty killer.
Dead Rhetoric: This was the first album with Terry Butler and Kenny Andrews, do you feel that they brought anything extra to the album?
Peres: They didn’t do any of the writing, but Kenny was playing leads all over the place and Terry has some bass skills, but they bring to the band a fourth and fifth member that make us a solid group of people, which is good. We’ve been friends with Terry for 27 years and Kenny for 18 years so we’ve been friends for a long time and it’s a great thing to have them with us. Kenny is a hell of a guitar player and Terry is a solid bass player, and we have a good time together. It’s the first time in the history of the band that no one smokes cigarettes! Kenny did some great stuff on the album too leadwise, some of his style is a combination of what Allen [West] and some of the other players we’ve had in the band did.
Dead Rhetoric: The artwork was done once again by Andreas Marshall; is he considered a sixth member of the band at this point?
Peres: I never really thought about it that way. We were actually talking to Michael Whelan who did Cause of Death a few years ago about doing something but he’s so busy. But I’m glad this time, as I said from the get-go I don’t want dragons and shit on the album; let’s do something different. For the last three albums there’s been some sort of dragon theme or something. We did have something drawn up with an old version of the logo with a dragon as the T and it was kind of ancient looking, and we’ll probably end up using it some other time.
We had Andreas sketch this idea that I came up with. I was talking about song titles with John and we were talking about “Inked in Blood” and we thought it would be a cool name, for an album title. I had a vision of a picture of our logo carved into someone’s chest like a tattoo and we took it to Andreas Marshall and he took it to the next level. I didn’t say anything about a torso with limbs missing and I thought “wow that’s kind of brutal,” but it’s hard to tell with a pencil sketch how brutal it will be. At first, John and I were like, “it’s almost too extreme for Obituary.” We all have kids and we are in our mid-forties and approaching 50; we’re like old men, but everyone loved it. It’s our first album in five years; we’ve never done anything that crazy looking, so it was like “why the hell not.” It’s probably my favorite piece that Andreas has done for us.
Dead Rhetoric: About the Kickstarter, when you decided to do that route, did you think it would be as successful as it was?
Peres: Nah. We did some research on Kickstarter and the whole idea of doing it. Before this, I had never heard of crowdfunding. I’m kind of the tech guy but I’m not into the social media that much. But we set it low purposely; we figured we should hit $10,000 with our name out there the way it is. I think Sepultura tried for $100,000 and they only got 40 or 50 thousand. We looked at that and some other stuff and decided to shoot low; it went much further than we thought; we never expected to hit $60,000. It’s funny you asked because we are now fulfilling the orders and shipping everything out this week. It was cool; definitely a strange way to raise money instead of going to a label and asking for an advance. Basically that’s what it ended up doing for us. We were able to record and have a master for an album in our hand ready.
We were going to go through RED Distribution and do it ourselves 100% and hire third parties to manage and administrate for us and do all of the radio PR and Internet marketing, and then we talked to Relapse. They said they could do all of that and use the same people, and we split the costs down the middle, and in theory, we could make more money per unit sold. It was like, why not do that? What’s cool is that instead of having to dish out all of the pressing and marketing upfront, we are splitting the cost and we decided on a budget. And they [Relapse] are a machine; they’ve been doing this for 25 years.
Dead Rhetoric: That was actually one of the things I was going to ask was why you decided to go through Relapse when you already had everything done on your own.
Peres: We literally had the papers for RED Distribution in front of us ready to sign. We had been talking to a few labels, even before the Kickstarter. During the Kickstarter we decided to do it all on our own, we researched it and we could have done it. But Relapse had came to us with an idea and before we signed with RED, we decided that it [signing with Relapse] was going to be a better thing. It made more sense, and we are using all of the same people anyway. We are just using them [Relapse] to help organize it all. The Kickstarter gave us the ability to do that.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any upsides or downsides to having total control over the album due to the Kickstarter being so successful?
Peres: It was definitely an upside because that’s what we wanted. We wanted to be able to control it. We’ve been doing this for so long; our first album came out in 1989 and I was twenty. I’m 45 now so twenty-five years we’ve been doing this and it’s about time we had some kind of say so. It is our business, it’s our art and our blood, sweat, and tears. What’s cool about Relapse is that we have a bunch of good guys that are totally down with it just like we are. It’s awesome; why couldn’t we have that with labels in the past. With Roadrunner for the first few albums, they were up on it but then they started signing other bands like Fear Factory and Machine Head, and then they signed Slipknot. Once they had [Nickelback] and they sold like 10 million records, all the metal was done! And I don’t blame them, but take a little bit of that money and maybe help us a little better. We weren’t asking for a million dollar advertising campaign, just freaking put us on some better shows. I think that some of these bands, like Sepultura, could be a little bit higher up, closer to Slayer stature, if they were pushed correctly. Relapse is busting their ass, and they are doing what they can to let everyone know about the album, which is cool.
Dead Rhetoric: When you hear an Obituary song, you know it’s Obituary. How do you work within that framework to write new songs without repeating yourself?
Peres: That’s impossible [laughs]. Every riff in the world has been used over and over again at the end of the day. Same with drum beats. We just do what we do and try to make up big groovy moments and if you think about it, all the songs, it’s all kind of the same stuff. Whether it’s pop, metal, rock, blues; it’s just one big giant thing and everyone is getting their little piece of it out there. We have our own sound and no one does it really. We can come up with some good songs, and that’s part of the reason we haven’t tried to put out an album every year. We did put out three in a six-year period when we came back, which is still longer than most bands. Most bands put out an album every year and a half. This time, we decided we wouldn’t be done until we were totally satisfied. We tried to make each song the best song it could be, instead of throwing shit together. And I feel that way; you listen to a song, you say “that sounds badass” and then the next one kicks in and you think “that sounds badass too.” When we were doing this, I was playing songs on my way home and was thinking every one of those songs were fucking badass, and they feel that way.
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