Hi Trevor, the last time I spoke with the band was in 2014 for the release of your ‘Inked In Blood’ album. The band had really high expectations at that time, so what did that album do for the band?
I think it was a very exciting album for us musically as we have spent a lot of time creating it. It took us about four years from the initial song writing, polishing up the original songs and recording it, so musically and creatively the album turned out really great for us. Not only the songs but also the album cover was great, we were working with our new label Relapse Records which really work hard for bands like us as they know how to promote bands really well, so the total package worked out really well.
The last couple of years you’ve been touring quite a lot in the European territory, so the fans were really treated to lots of Obituary shows. Why did you decide to tour so extensively for the ‘Inked In Blood’ record?
There was just a big demand for us to play these amount of shows. We got offers left and right, we did a European tour with Carcass, we did a European tour with Exodus, we did American tours with Carcass and Cannibal Corpse and we did all of the festivals two years in a row. The demand for us was pretty high so we just rolled with it.
With the very busy tour schedule in mind, I was kind of surprised that you found the time to write new material for this meanwhile tenth full-length studio album. How hard was it to prepare yourselves for this new release?
We knew we had to do something new because we had our agent and our promotors asking for a new record and I guess it was indeed about time to actually do one. More than a year ago I had already written some new guitar rhythms and riffs for news songs, although at that time they were more recordings of separate ideas. Back in the late spring of last year we had a little bit of downtime before we went to Europe for the festivals, so I got back in the studio putting more ideas together with Donald and try to write stuff as much as we could. We had about a three week period in between some of the festivals, so I went back to the US and got about nine songs finished, while also Kenny had written and finished a couple of tracks. We recorded demos of these tunes, so when we went back to Europe the foundation for the new album was already in place. When we came back from the festival season we basically went through all of the songs just one more time and made sure we were happy with them before we actually started recording them.
As kind of an appetizer you released the EP ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’, which contained two new songs and lots of live-material, which really gave the fans value for money?
That was kind of just a built-up for the new album and we have placed the title track on the album as well. During the Cannibal Corpse tour Joe Cincotta who mixed our album was doing our live sound engineering and he brought a recording system with him. So we recorded a bunch of sets, like probably twenty shows, just for fun. Both ‘Loathe’ and ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ were actually already written and recorded for the ‘Inked In Blood’ album. We decided to finish them up and the idea was born to release these as an EP with some of the live material that we had recorded during the tour. Relapse was very much into the idea using the two songs as a teaser for the new album and adding a bunch of live tunes to make it really interesting for the fans. We got everything mixed before the summer of last year and it gave us actually a piece of product for the Exodus tour and to help advertising and marketing the new album.
You chose to only use ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ from the EP, so why didn’t you also place ‘Loathe’ on there as well?
Well, we wanted to keep the ‘Ten Thousand Ways To Die’ EP somewhat special, so we kept ‘Loathe’ only on there as a unique piece of media.
The new album sounds really classic Obituary. Was that also the reason why you used the band name as the album title, to make some kind of a statement?
The main reason why we made it a self-titled album was because of the artwork. We were going over some song titles to use one of them as a possible album title and we were looking at the artwork at the same time. We knew that we were going to use the new logo on a black background to keep things simple and then the idea came up to just name the album ‘Obituary’. It fits perfect and it keeps it simple, so that’s why we did it.
The artwork was done by Andreas Marshall, who’s responsible for a lot of your album covers. Why do you form such a winning combination?
We started working with him on our third album ‘The End Complete’ and we always like his art, besides the fact that he’s also a really nice person. He’s easy to work with, we give him ideas and he just feeds off of it. He thinks in the same vein as we do and therefore we kept the collaboration going.
The record only lasts about thirty-three minutes, but that isn’t disturbing at all. Despite of this, why didn’t you opt to add more material on the new record as it has been three years since ‘Inked In Blood’?
We were kind of pressed for time and I had some other ideas that I didn’t use. The songs that we recorded just “felt like an album” if you know what I mean. It felt finished and adding more material to it would provide no extra added value. We don’t really care how long an album lasts minute-wise as quality is more important than quantity in our opinion.
On the digipack version the bonus track ‘No Hope’ is added. Why didn’t you place this one on the regular disc as well?
That’s kind of a record label thing, they always seem to like releasing different versions of an album. For me ‘No Hope’ is not a bonus track as I really love the song, but it is what it is…the record label decides in these matters.
What are in your opinion the biggest differences and/or improvements when comparing ‘Obituary’ to its predecessor ‘Inked In Blood’?
First and foremost the mix, the production of it is a little better. Musically it’s still what we’ve always done, straight up Obituary, and the songs are really catchy which we fed off of the ‘Inked In Blood’ album because that one seemed to be really catchy as well.
What are typical ingredients that have to be present in an Obituary song before you decide to record it on an album?
It’s not really a conscious thing, we just try to write some heavy ass riffs, something that stands for what we do as a band. It has to be classic Obituary, heavy, catchy, groovy and recognizable riffs.
The music is written by Donald, Ken and you, but how does this collaboration actually work? How does the song writing process look like?
Most of the times I write the riffs at home, bring them to the studio and show them to Donald who starts playing some drums over it. Sometimes we’ll be together in the studio and do some improvisations together which can lead to actual song ideas. We have a recording system in the studio so every idea that we come up with is recorded for later use. We then revisit these recordings later on and slowly but surely these separate ideas are combined into actual songs. The most important is that we don’t try to force things, but everything has to come natural.
How important is Ken in this process as he’s relatively speaking still the new kid on the block?
I wrote nine songs of the new album, while Ken took care of the other two tracks. He works with Donald in kind of the same way as I do, exchanging ideas and turning these into a real song. He took some work of my shoulders this time…hahaha. On a more serious note, he does some great work on the leads and he really knows where the song needs a lead section.
What are your own expectations from this tenth Obituary album?
For us it’s all about enjoying ourselves with playing music. There are a lot of people that like metal in general and there are a lot of fans that like Obituary in particular, but for us it’s still about the fun to perform for a packed audience that’s going wild on the material you play for them. As long as the people like what we do and go nuts on our music, we will keep on doing what we have been doing all our lives. It’s not about record sales, it’s about enjoying people with your music!
You released two video clips for the songs ‘Sentence Day’ and ‘Turned To Stone’. Why did you choose these songs for the videos and how important is a video nowadays for a band like Obituary?
Obviously there’s no Headbanger’s Ball anymore on MTV, no kind of media outlet like that anymore. We did the videos because then you’ve got something to look at on YouTube, which is now the most important media outlet for music videos. We wanted to tease people with the new songs and ‘Sentence Day’ is just a fun song to do, but furthermore I don’t really have an idea why we picked these two songs in particular. Probably we or maybe Relapse thought that they would be a good representation of the new material on the ‘Obituary’ album.
It has been about twenty-eight years ago that your debut album ‘Slowly We Rot’ saw the light of day. Did you every think that you would still be active in the game anno 2017?
Absolutely not, I had no idea. I remember the day in 1989 that we got the first vinyl copies of our debut album and we were absolutely stunned. I was nineteen years old back then and to hold your debut album in your own hands really meant something for me as still being a teenager. Back then we had no clue on how long this adventure was going to last, but hey…we’re still around and maybe even stronger than ever.
That’s true because in fact it seems that the band is more popular nowadays than ever before. Why did the interest in the band grow during the last couple of years according to you?
I guess there are not too many bands around that style-wise do what we do. Our sound, our style of death metal is kind of different as many other death metal bands play much faster and more technical than we do. So we probably stand out a bit more and we sound a bit more unique which may be attractive for the audience. Also Relapse is helping us big-time by pushing the band and doing great marketing for us, so that might also have helped to reach more people with our music.
You’ve also experienced some setbacks though as in October of 2015 your brilliant and very sympathetic bass player Frank Watkins died of cancer. Was it hard for the band to recover from this tremendous blow?
Terry was already in the band when Frank died and we’ve known Terry already from the early ages, we’re like family. It was rough when Frank left the band and when he got sick it was pretty sad. You don’t want to see somebody like that die, but life goes on...you can’t stick in that situation forever.
With Terry and Kenny in the band it’s probably the best Obituary line-up ever?
Kenny is the perfect match for us, we’ve known him for probably twenty-two years already. We’ve been friends for a long time already and he used to be a guitar technician for our band. While Frank’s wife was pregnant, Kenny played bass with us for a short European tour and when the open spot was there it was quite obvious for us that Kenny would be the man to fill it. He fits with us perfectly both musically as well as from a personality standpoint.
The busy touring schedule and the intensive shows are quite demanding for the band. Do you notice at times that you’re not as physically fit any more as in your younger years? How long can you still keep doing this?
I can definitely tell and feel that I’m older as I’ve had some issues with my lower back for the last ten years. Physically I’m in better shape today as I was ten years ago, because I’ve started to do this exercise routine and watching my food intake and stuff like that. I really try to balance the fuckin’ madness! You have to exercise at this age otherwise you will not be able to continue the intensive touring that we do.
As you’ve been around for such a long period already and as you’ve been one of the most influential death metal bands around, isn’t it about time to create an Obituary documentary?
We have so much material like backstage videos, photos and live shows. It’s kind of ironic that you ask me this because yesterday we were talking about exactly this idea, to do a documentary or a book or something. We got so much material, that we could easily do a DVD and a book together, so it may happen something in the future but definitely not this year.
You’re touring the US in March together with Kreator, but what’s going to happen after that on the touring front?
We got a bunch of things on the plate as we have something like seventeen summer festivals booked after the Kreator tour. Possibly there’s going to be a Pacific Rim and South America run after the summer, while we’re looking at a European run in the November and December time-frame. We got an offer from a American band which I can’t name yet for a European tour for about twenty-eight shows or so.
Which bands that you have never toured with but would like to share the stage with in the future?
We played festivals with probably every band in the whole world, from Black Sabbath to Slayer, from Iron Maiden to Celtic Frost. I would really love to do a full tour however with Slayer as Obituary and Slayer would be a sick tour package! Two extreme bands that are quite different but still fit together, that would be totally amazing…
You’re already in the death metal scene for over three decades, but what have been your personal highlights and also lowpoints during that thirty year journey?
Lowpoints were probably the periods that we didn’t play together for a number of years, that really sucked! Highlights include some of the festivals that we’ve done like the Wacken festival where you play for a sea of people who go wild because of the music you play. It’s also nice that during these big festivals you get to share the stage with bands like Judas Priest and that you can drink a beer with these guys backstage. You get to play shows with your heroes, which you never expected to do when we started this band.
What are some of the dreams that you and the band still have nowadays? Is there something that you didn’t accomplish yet that you would like to see happening in the (near) future?
I would love to be rich…hahaha…because whether people know it or not, we don’t make much money. It is what it is when you play extreme metal, but I would love to be able to be financially secured and not worry too much about these kind of things. It isn’t going to happen with Obituary, but you asked about dreams…
And if you’re extremely rich, you can even become the president of the United States. So what do you think about Donald Trump being your president now?
To be honest, it doesn’t bother me. I think people are taking things way too extreme, while I think to give the guy a chance and see what he can do. He needs to be a little bit more politically correct at times, but he’s democratically chosen so let’s just sit back and see what happens.
Okay Trevor, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
Not really, I think we covered quite some ground. I hope that everybody likes the new album and the funny videos that we created. Furthermore I hope that a lot of fans will come to our shows when we are back in Europe again!