Michigan metallers The Black Dahlia Murder contradict any out-dated and unfair metal stereotypes. Consistent, honest and with a refreshing sense of humour, the band has enjoyed a healthy career. Having just released sixth studio album, ‘Everblack’ Killyourstereo.com sits down with frontman Trevor Strnad to the album, the strong possibility of a return to Australia and family members reactions to the group’s lyrics.
Hey Trevor, thanks for doing the interview today.
No problems at all.
How’s Warped Tour going so far?
It’s pretty cool man. We are pretty much out there to play in front of some new, unsuspecting victims. We are definitely the heaviest, most frightening band of the lot. It has been interesting man – it has been fun. The shows have been really fun [and] good turnouts.
That was the thing I was going to ask – being the heaviest band on the bill, how have the audiences received The Black Dahlia Murder?
Pretty good man. There are some people that I think get stuck into seeing us. They are upfront waiting for whoever is going to come on and then the show comes on and they’re stuck. I see some people freaking out and some people laugh because they’ve never heard anything like it, and they are just blown away. There have been all kinds of reactions it has been cool though. We’ve had a lot of kids come up to us and be like, “hey, I just heard of you guys before” or “I’ve never heard a lick of your music until today and I thought it was really cool.” It’s [almost] like mission accomplished and that’s the goal. That’s why we chose an odd-ball tour instead of Mayhem or something that would be more comfortable for us.
You premiered the video clip for ‘Goat of Departure’. Once again, it’s another fun, almost tongue-in-cheek type of video. How much say do you get when it comes time to create the themes and ideas behind the video clip?
The video is almost looked at as a necessary evil. We are not the band that thinks we are good looking or thinks that how we look is a selling point of the band, but photos and videos and things like that are a necessary evil because people want to see what you look like. That’s pretty much how we started acting like idiots and it carried over to the videos. Usually we have a really tight budget so it’s like whatever you can pull out of your ass for a video is how it goes (laughs). People have just responded so positively to just the weird approach we take to things and that’s how ‘Goat of Departure’ [came about]. We booked a small show in Detroit and played on the floor for the performance part and Brian [Eschbach, guitar] had the other ideas that put the thing together – Slash, Abe Lincoln, the ape, the goat, it’s just a bunch of nonsense, but definitely Black Dahlia style.
I know across the career I’ve seen you guys always like to have fun and have that sense of humour. How important is that, in a business that can be as hard as the music industry to keep a sense of humour?
It is hard at times. I prefer to stay away from some of the business aspects because I don’t want it to kill the fun of music and especially metal for me. A lot of the number crunching and dirty work is done by Brian , who is the other original member. He has been the “dude”, the boss man this whole time. I focus on the fun stuff – the t-shirts, cool artwork and stuff like that. We have a good marriage in that way I guess. But, keeping a sense of humour is integral to staying alive on tour because it’s not glamorous out here man. It’s dirty, there are disgusting toilets, it’s sweaty, early mornings and late nights, it’s really tiring. A sense of humour is necessary. I don’t think we could have someone in the band if we felt they didn’t fit in with that outgoing personality that the band has. Part of it is for our own sanity, so we’ll get along and have a good time. We have a lot of laughs out there.
And, then part of that is what we want to project now. We are known for having a sense of humour. I think it has made us stand out. We are a serious band, we take our music very, very seriously, but just that approach and having fun, I think it has made us stand out to people. To us, it didn’t seem like it was any different than the ‘big four’ guys. They wore the regular clothes on stage and they liked punk. They had punk stickers all over their guitars and they weren’t afraid to wear influences on their sleeves even if they weren’t metal. Now it seems like people want for you to be categorised so cut and dry. It’s like bucking the stereotypes within the death metal scene. I used to look at it like, “these are my people, I can’t wait to just be surrounded in death metal.” Now, it’s like, they look at me and I have short hair and they make judgements about me or they look at us in the magazines next to Killswitch Engage and they make judgements about us. It is just like high school all over again. I thought I was getting away from it, but death metal has rules of its own.
Before you were mentioning how when you get new members in the band it’s important to you have that chemistry and they fit in. With this album, you changed your whole rhythm section – you and Brian being the only original members left. How much impact did this have when it came time to write and record this album?
It’s cool man. They were ready to go. [They were] well-practiced, professional guys [and] they had the energy. Alan [Cassidy, drums], being young – he’s 23 – this was the first proper full-length record he has recorded on. So he is just brimming with potential and he’s so damn good already, it’s just exciting to see what it going to happen with him. Max [Lavelle, bass] is just killer on stage. Killer stage presence. He brought a really tough bass sound to the fold, something a little more over-driven, which helps us make that wall of guitar sound. It has been a good adjustment. If anything, we just wanted to get the record out so we could shut people up that were sceptical. This band has been Brian and I before Bart [Williams] was here, before Shannon [Lucas] was here – they aren’t original members. They were here for a long time, but we are going to keep going. If they want to go home and have a normal life then go ahead, but my mission has not changed and neither has Brian’s. The success of the band has afforded us to look out of Michigan because it’s such a small scene there – it’s pretty well dried up as far as looking for professional musicians go. We’ve got guys from all over the place now. Like I said, the success of the band has afforded us to do that. There’s more incentive for people to want to sacrifice to be here because of all the success we’ve had in comparison to the early years.
When you talk about the success and the more opportunities, getting to come down and play Australia [is an example]. Last time you were here was for Soundwave, what was your favourite experience from that festival?
The actual sets I guess were the best part. Just tonnes of people coming to check us out. It was fun man. Australia is beautiful, I love it out there. Being on a plane with almost every band on the tour (laughs). That was a funny experience. There were only a few civilians on the flight and they were being absolutely terrorised by 20 drunken bands on one flight (laughs). There were a lot of good memories, it was a lot of fun.
Speaking of Australia, are there any plans to come back for this album cycle?
Yeah, we should be back, I can’t give any details yet because we are still hammering it out and they’ll kick my ass (laughs), but we are definitely coming back. The plans are being formulated right as we speak actually. Soon enough man we should be announcing what is going on. We will be coming back to Oz, which is very cool!
Before when you were touching on metal and you were talking about stereotypes, as you said, you like to buck the trend and have fun. I know you’ve been doing this for a while, but what does the family and close friends think when they see the album come out and there are titles like, ‘Phantom Limb Masturbation’?
My mum won’t read my lyrics at all. I kind of exposed her to enough death metal when I was a kid, so she got afraid of it already. Now that I’m writing stuff like that she doesn’t want anything to do with it (laughs). She is proud of me and comes to shows sometimes – she is still involved. But, she doesn’t want to know what kind of perverted, crazy crap her son can come up with (laughs). That’s kind of funny (laughs). The family have been really supportive [though] man, it has been cool. I think they are all just happy that their weird sons have blossomed into strapping young lads and doing something with themselves, because I imagine like me, the other guys were weird introverts during the whole school thing [too]. This has definitely been the best chapter of my life for sure. It has been my most confortable chapter, just being totally immersed in the metal world, it has been an awesome change.
Speaking on metal has an impact, I know you’ve got a Carcass tattoo on your arm. Back when they came out they were the pioneers with their provocative lyrics. Are there any bands in 2013 that have just come out that you think are really pushing the boundaries with that provocativeness?
It is hard, especially lyrically to break new ground. Because the race in death metal is who can be the most frightening, who can be the most gory? All that stuff has been beaten into the ground. If you are really familiar with death metal, you are totally numb to dead babies and everything that has to do with that type of stuff, you know what I mean (laughs). Really, I look to old death metal for influence. The songs and topics are just, for the most part, tried and true death metal classic stuff that I just like as a fan. Grave is a big influence, Carcass like you said. Grave was the first band I saw that had that necrophilia song, but not just fucking the dead, but you’re in love with the dead and I thought that was so creepy and had a real impact on me. I’ve done a lot of songs like that – relationships that transcend death in some way. I try to take what has been done and what I like and try to do it in my own way, and put my own spin on things. I just have fun with it. I love to write, I love death metal, I love trying to represent what I like about death metal that has come in the past. Because I feel we get a lot of young kids checking us out. We’ve been a gateway band for a lot of kids to get into extreme metal, so we just to shoot as straight as we can and try to bring everything we love about it [the genre] to the fold, from the cover art to the lyrics to the songs themselves. It is mostly influenced by early to mid-90’s death metal.
Just then how you were saying you enjoy writing and before you were saying how being in the band has been one of the best periods of your, I remember a few years back one of our other writers did an interview with you and you mentioned how if you weren’t doing music maybe something like music journalism would interest you. Do you still have interests to jump on this side of the fence?
I’ve thought about doing a podcast just to try and expose some underground bands I like because I’m like a rain man for death metal pretty much – always checking out every band. It’s kind of overboard (laughs). I thought I’d do something cool and give back a little and do a podcast, just to show people what’s out there. Especially our fans, who are so young and open to new things, and haven’t really been exposed to a lot of what the underground has to offer. I’ve thought about doing that. As far as journalism goes I’m not quite sure? When I finishing college and crap that was what I was going to go for because it had to be some musically because that was the only thing I was passionate about. I just thought I’d apply my writing skills to try and get into some kind of magazine. Because it had to be metal or forget about it, that’s all I care about. When the band got signed it was perfect. It was the perfect reason to leave the real world behind (laughs). It couldn’t have come at a better time because I was so not into entering the normal world. I didn’t really see where I was going to fit in there. So, this has been a great-prolonged adolescence I guess you could say (laughs).
Obviously you know quite a bit about death metal and metal in general from being in a band, but also from just being a fan in itself. Are there any areas of the genre that you think still needs improvement?
I want to see brutal death metal go from the basement to a tour circuit. I think the demand is there. I think there are enough bands. I think they can take a few cues from hardcore in the way of doing it at the grassroots level, playing at people’s houses and stuff like that. I think in a way death metal can learn a bit more about community from the hardcore scene – printing shirts for cheap, helping each other out. I want so much more for death metal than for it to be just locked away in someone’s basement.
Down here there is a bit of a crossover between hardcore and metal. There’s a lot more fans coming to metal shows. Have you noticed that over in the states?
Definitely. I think the crowd is vastly a young crowd. I think metal in the states (and worldwide), it goes through phases of popularity. Right now, it’s at a boil again. It’s kind of mirroring the early 90’s when Obituary were selling 200,000 copies. People are turning towards extremity and I think young kids are, I don’t know, frustrated with their lives or frustrated with normalcy and all the bullshit that is shoved down their throats. I think death metal is just the perfect escape.
Were there any final words you wanted to pass on to readers before I let you go?
Just like I said, we’ve got something that is brewing. I can’t quite announce it yet, but soon enough we’ll be out there and we’ll be back to Oz to kick up some dust.
Awesome. Thanks for the interview today. I’ve been listening to album on repeat for the last week or so and really enjoying it. I look forward to having you guys back in Australia soon.
Right on man. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for the coverage, we appreciate it.
Have a good day Trevor.