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Obituary Interview

A Conversation With Guitarist Trevor Peres




Candlelight Records/Tim Hubbard
Death metal pioneers Obituary have been back together for a few years and their latest CD is Xecutioner’s Return, which finds the band reinvigorated and hitting on all cylinders. There has been a lineup change. Longtime guitarist Allen West has been replaced by Ralph Santolla (Deicide). The band isn’t sure yet if it is a temporary or permanent change. I spoke with Obituary guitarist Trevor Peres about the new album, West’s status, and how things have been since their reunion.

Chad Bowar: You played some European festivals this summer. How were they?
Trevor Peres: They were cool. We did a festival and some one-off shows on our own. We did the Waldrock in Holland. It was awesome. We got to play with Celtic Frost, Destruction, Testament, Vader. The festival the last couple of years has been weak as far as attendance so they downscaled the outdoor venue. The place was completely packed. There were about 25,000 people there and they were expecting more like 15,000.

How did Ralph Santolla come to join the band as your new guitarist?
We’ve known Ralph for probably 20 years. He’s from Tampa, and he’s been a musician playing with bands in the area forever. He had been with Deicide. We did some shows in Mexico with those guys. We were without Allen at the time and were a four piece playing live. Ralph left Deicide for reasons I’m not really sure of, and then we called him and asked him to put down some solos on the album. He did that, and one thing led to another.

How did the two of you mesh musically as guitarists?
He’s a totally cool guy. He’s a practical joker and loves to have a good time, which is good because that’s how we are. We are pretty lighthearted people. We don’t like to be serious all the time. We’ve done a few shows with him so far and it was great. We had a good time playing with him on stage. As far as him recording with us, the album was already written and recorded. He came in and put some solos down. I put a few down, too. It was actually the first time I’ve played solos for Obituary, so that was fun. There are a couple parts where he and I go back and forth, like Henneman and King from Slayer or something (laughs).

Is Ralph a permanent member of the band, or is he just filling in for Allen?
Right now he is a member of the band. Allen obviously has his problems and he’s in prison right now for the next eight months or so. I think he’s supposed to get out in February 2008. We’re not even sure about that. We never wanted Allen to leave in the first place, but he had some problems going on.

How has the band’s sound evolved from your last album to Xecutioner’s Return?
We haven’t changed our sound much, ever. I think it’s more produced sounding now than our first couple albums. But as far as guitar tones, I haven’t changed anything since day one. I think the songwriting is a little more upbeat on this album compared to the last one. It’s a little more energetic. On the other hand, there’s a song that’s probably the doomiest, heavy song we’ve ever written.

For those not familiar with your history, explain the album title.
The initial idea came from the cover. Andreas Marshall did some pencil sketches for us. We had him change a couple little things and he painted it. It looked like a futuristic creature with a big sword that would cut your head off. Somebody suggested “The Executioner Returns” or something to that effect. I simplified it to Xecutioner’s Return. It feeds off our old name, since we were originally called Xecutioner. We changed the name when we signed with Roadrunner, because there was a band from Massacusetts with the same name. They didn’t want us to be confused with that band, so we changed it to Obituary. We decided to bring back the old name, because it’s a fresh start for us. We’re off Roadrunner now. Our contract ended last album. I think the vibe of the music is more old than it’s ever been. It sounds more like our older stuff.

This is your second album since reuniting a few years ago. What’s different this time around?
We’ve always been pretty close. Donald (Tardy, the band's drummer) and I have known each other since 1980. We’ve been friends forever and grew up in the same neighborhood. We used to hang out all the time. When we split up we were all getting older. We had been playing music and that’s all we knew. Since I was 19 I was on the road touring and putting out albums. I didn’t know reality from fantasy. Our whole life after high school was playing music and we didn’t really work normal jobs. A couple of us were getting married and having kids, and it was just a good time for us to take a break. We didn’t say we were done, we just didn’t do anything. It was mutual without saying anything. We were all passing 30, so it was a needed break. As humans we were trying to find ourselves in life.

Now it’s great, because all took our break, got married and had kids. We lived normal lives and worked and realized how much it sucked. You work no matter what you do, but playing music is a little more fun and you get to call the shots more when you work for yourself. Donald called me a few years in a row and I wasn’t ready yet. One day in 2004 I thought it was finally time, so we got back together. We’re a little more mature now and we all want the same thing. We’re on the same page.

Were you surprised by all the interest and excitement your reunion generated?
That was part of the thing that got us back together. There were people all the time calling us about festivals and asking us to get back together. When we finally decided to, there were a couple of pretty good offers on the table for shows, and it seemed like the timing was right. Then everything started flowing from there. I played in a band called Catastrophic I created during our time off. I played a little here and there. I did a couple tours in Europe with bands that Obituary had influenced. I didn’t realize how much of an influence the band was on musicians. I started realizing that during the break when I was touring with Catastrophic. It was cool to come back and we heard it even more.

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