Hello, everyone! We are bringing back our popular Artist Spotlight series this afternoon for a one of a kind look at the world of death metal. I know not every person who stumbles across this post will love metal, but I think there is something within the content of this interview that can help any artist on the rise.
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The economics of the modern music industry have made it increasingly difficult for artists of all sizes to find labels willing to take a risk on releasing new music. Even the most seasoned professionals often struggle to lock down the money needed to create an album without agreeing to a longterm contract that hinders their ability to profit in the future. Some struggle so long that they eventually give in and sign away the future of their career, while others find a way to make DIY work for them. This is a story about the latter.
For the better part of the last thirty years, the name Obituary has been synonymous with the North American death metal movement. Founded as Executioner in 1984, the group released a number of influential albums before going on hiatus in 1997. They returned in 2003 with a renewed passion for pushing the envelope, and in the years since have delivered numerous hard-hitting releases. Their latest, Inked In Blood, was funded through Kickstarter in late 2013 and produced entirely be the band. Relapse Records is releasing the album October 27, and earlier today we had the opportunity to speak with guitarist Kenny Andrews about the album creation process.
This interview is a unique one, and that’s not only due to the fact we are talking about the death metal genre. Kenny is the newest member of Obituary, having joined in 2012, and his perspective on life in music is one that can be hard to find in the business today. He’s very much a newcomer to the world of death metal, yet the band that he appears in is often regarded as one of the genre’s greatest acts (of all time). In the interview below he talks about joining a band with such a notable legacy, as well as his first experience with the group in the studio. We even talk about touring.
If you would like to learn more about Kenny’s adventures in Obituary, make sure you follow the band on Twitter. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.
H: Hello, Kenny. How are you doing today?
K: I’m great! Thanks for asking.
H: Where are you speaking from?
K: I’m calling from Orlando, Florida right now. We’re supposed to get a cold front that will drop the temperature to the low 80s (laughs), but it’s hard to complain.
H: Oh, nice. It’s not that warm here.
J: You’re from Boston, right? I’m from the Cape. Hyannis, to be specific. I moved down here in the early 1980s.
H: The reason we’re speaking today is because Obituary’s ninth studio album, Inked In Blood, hits stores later this month through our friends at Relapse Records. I know it has been a few years since Obituary last put out an album, so how does it feel to be on the verge of sharing this project with fans?
K: We’re all really excited about it, man. I’m the newest member here, but I’ve known them for many years. Being a part of the group now and being on the verge of putting out this record is pretty crazy, but also very, very exciting.
H: There are a few things I want to cover today, but let’s stick with the new album for now. When did you begin work on this record? I know you launched a Kickstarter to fund its creation in 2013, but my guess is that the songs themselves have been in development a little bit longer.
K: We had some rough demos at that point. The guys definitely had the music down, but we were still learning how to put everything together. Then I had to leave for a guitar tech gig, which delayed us a bit, but we got back on track not long after that. We launched the Kickstarter in August 2013, and that project gave us everything we needed to record and create the record. It was a slow process at first, but thanks to our fans everything worked out.
H: How does the band prefer to write?
K: Trevor has the riffs, and Donald is the one whom he jams. They get together and figure out songs, then John adds lyrics. Me being the new guy, I kind of came in after the songs were created and contributed a few solos. That’s my contribution to this record.
H: I mentioned the Kickstarter a minute ago and I’d like to talk about it again. When you launched the campaign, Obituary was without a label. Did you initially plan to release the album yourselves?
K: That’s a question for John and Donald more than me, but I do think that is what they had in mind initially. Their relationship with their previous label, Candlelight, was a total train wreck. When they left, I think they wanted to take control into their own hands and do an album on their own terms. Kickstarter provided a way to make that happen, but when you start discussing distribution and things like that there were a lot more questions to answer. Relapse provided a solution, and so far our partnership has been great.
H: I follow.
K: Yea, the Kickstarter was created so that we could fund the creation of the album. Getting it to our fans was a completely different obstacle, and luckily the team at Relapse were willing to work with us to find a solution.
H: Speaking of Kickstarter, I noticed on your various social media channels that you have been working on fulfilling the rewards. How’s that going?
K: Oh yea. I think we had over 900 people support us, and once again we’re doing a DIY approach to filling those rewards. It has taken a little longer than we expected, but it’s all good. We knew everyone we hungry for this material, and now we are on the verge of being able to share it with them.
H: Inked In Blood is your first album with Obituary. I know you’ve been friendly with the members for a long time, but what was it like entering the studio to actually record this project? How did it feel to step into the ring with them, so to say.
K: It was incredibly surreal. I’ve known all the members for a while, Donald especially, but when it came time for Obituary and I did those first few tours I really began to understand the impact they have had on the metal scene. We traveled to Europe for a festival of some kind, and there were so many people there, each singing along to songs I didn’t realize were staples in the scene. It was overwhelming. Just being able to do that was incredible, but then you add the studio element and it becomes even wilder. I was very nervous to participate, partially because I never thought I would have an opportunity like this, but it worked out and it’s been great.
I was not a death metal guy for a long time in life. I get it now. The guys I play with are the coolest people ever. We have never had a problem in all the time I’ve known them.
H: I noticed that the band is credited as the producer for this record. What made you decide to handle production on your own this time around?
K: Yea, they definitely used an outside producer for Frozen In Time. They have produced their own music in the past however, and I think they thought the best way to remain unique was to handle everything ourselves. A lot of the new metal stuff, even though it sounds great, all sounds kind of the same. Everyone is using the same tools to produce their record, but part of what makes Obituary great is the group’s sound, and by handling production ourselves we can ensure we create the record we want. They know how it should sound. It’s their baby. If we delivered a super polished record it wouldn’t sound like Obituary, you know?
H: Definitely. It probably helps that you have your own studio as well. Can you tell us about that?
K: Yea, we have a small studio on John Tardy’s property. We run pro tools and have a pretty great setup. We record and rehearse in that space. It gives us the freedom to enter the space and relax. We’re not in someone else’s studio, paying thousands per song or session to make music. We have the freedom to do whatever we want at a pace that works for us. If we don’t feel like we can create on a particular day, we don’t. That may be why it took us a little longer to get this record out, but we just want to cover our bases and make sure we produce the best record we possibly can. Its been five years since our last record and we wanted to be sure it was as good as it could be.
H: I want to touch on your tour plans before we run out of time. The album drops on October 27 and the very next day you set off on tour with Carcass, correct?
K: Yes, it’s going to be a very exciting week. We’re doing a show this Saturday in Tampa, then next friday we fly to Mexico City to perform at a major festival. The following Monday we fly to Tucson, the album drops on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the tour begins.
H: Have you been on the road a lot this year?
K: We did a metal cruise earlier this year, a few small runs, and series of festivals over in Europe. There’s a lot more in our future.
H: You have a large body of work to choose from when picking a set list. How many new songs can fans expect to hear on this tour?
K: I’m not sure. We have three new songs we have been playing live since summer, so we’ll do those, but we will also incorporate some other tracks as well. We’re direct support, so we only have 45-minutes to work with and a lot of material to try and highlight.
H: Great. Well I know you have a number of interviews this week, so I will not keep you much longer. Before we go however, I do want to ask you about your longevity in music. Part of what we do is focused on inspiring future industry leaders, and I was wondering if you had any advice to offer musicians about creating a career in music today?
K: I’ll be 46 in November. I’ve been playing since I was 12 and this is all I ever wanted to do. As far as making it happen, obviously things happened a bit later for me, but it happened nonetheless. The key for young musicians is to keep on playing. When learning an instrument, there is no end. You also do not want to be narrow minded. It’s such a gamble to try and land a deal with a specific type of band. Be open. If you love music and your instrument then you will love any promising opportunities that come your way. You can make a name for yourself, but you have to do it right. Take your time, learn your instrument, and no matter what – stick with it. Have fun. I’ve been at this for a long time, but I still feel like a sixteen year old metalhead. You know why? Because I have a blast playing music. Keep an open mind and try to have a good time.
H: Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me, Ken. The new record is great and I wish you all the luck in the world with your support efforts.
K: Thank you!