Dust off that crusty battle-jacket and get those horns up, because everyone’s favourite melodic death metal sensation The Black Dahlia Murder are heading back to Australia, and if the last few tours have been any indication, shit is about to get messy!
Speaking with frontman, demonic shrieker and lifetime death metal enthusiast Trevor Strnad in the weeks leading up to this May tour, we manage to discuss all manner of subjects including; his favourite live tracks off the excellent ‘Abysmal’ record, obligatory member shuffles, the not-so-secret business behind the recording off their highly-anticipated eighth studio album and, of course, President Trump’s stupid fucking face. Oh, and this quite frankly brutal Australian tour that’s happening next month. Something would be very wrong if that didn’t come up in our chat.
Hi Trevor! How are you doing?
I’m good. I’m just chillin’ here, we’re in the studio right now actually, unbeknownst to many people.
Awesome. I actually caught wind of that, from reading your column as The Obituarist for Metal Injection the other day, and you were talking about writing lyrics for the eighth album. So, I figured you guys were in the studio for that at least.
Yeah, well done! (Laughs.) It’s true man, and it isn’t for a while yet. I’ll sing around the end of April, but I think we’re starting guitars today and obviously, the drums have just been wrapped up.
That’s cool, and I was going to ask some questions around the new record today, so I might just jump into those right now. So, what’s it about Trevor? What is TBDM going to be doing on your upcoming album?
Oh, you know… it’s definitely a ‘macabre-steeped’ album, as they usually are from us.
Lots of classic death metal themes in there. Lots of violent stuff, of course. Yeah man, I think it’s definitely a Black Dahlia Murder album.
That’s good to hear Trevor. Now, as far as influences go, something that I’ve talked about before with a bunch of other bands over the last few months, has been the current political climate in the U.S. Has that factored in to your writing at all, that sense of animosity and anger that’s being expressed right now in a multitude of different ways?
I actually wrapped my stuff up before he [Donald J. ‘S-A-D’ Trump] became president. And yeah, you know… it sucks… for sure (laughs). I’ll let you know that much man. I haven’t recorded my vocals yet, so maybe I could put some stink on them there? I’ll just think about Trump, and who knows what I’ll do…
Sure. Just get a picture of his ugly fucking head, and stick it up in the booth as some form of ‘in-your-face visualisation’.
Maybe I’ll just spray tan myself, and do my hair like Trump’s, and get in the mirror and just freak myself out.
That’s it. Get in there for mic warm-ups, and be like “CHY-NA, CHY-NA, CHY-NA.”
It’ll help you get in the mood dude. Trust me. Now, the reason for our chat today is because TBDM are coming back to Australia in May, and this time around your bringing along The Faceless and Putrid Pile. How excited are you to bring that line up Down Under?
It’s definitely a good one man. We’re old friends with The Faceless, and we’ve done many tours with them now. And Putrid Pile, I know. I’ve known Shaun [LaCanne] since the very early days of this band, we played a couple of festivals together and stuff. So, I’m definitely looking forward to being on the same plane every day with that moustache (laughs). And Whoretopsy is on the bill too, which is awesome. They’re a great addition to have, and I imagine they’re going to draw some people, as a pretty freakin’ awesome Australian band.
Do you think there’s a benefit to tailoring a tour package into a diverse, mixed-bill line-up like this one, and not having four bands that sound exactly the same?
Yeah, I think there’s certain advantages and disadvantages to it. And look, we’ve done it before, for sure. We’re always trying to have – or at least, when we have control of our bill – try to mix it up a bit. But I like weird bills man. There are people who like all kinds of stuff, and all sorts of combinations of different genres. I think it’s cool man. Especially when you have brutal bands on the bill, getting them in front of more ears always makes me happy.
Absolutely. For me, I love when there’s a stupidly heavy band playing, where some people might not know them or expect them in any way, and there’s always that one guy in the crowd, who just loses his shit and is completely overcome with the aggression and energy of a heavy band. Seeing people get lost in the music is sick!
Yeah man, that what I want to see too. I want to be surrounded with awesome bands, I want to help out bands that I think are awesome. Brutal death metal is definitely one of my favourite genres, and I feel like it’s so slept-on, especially by ‘metal media’ and metal journalism and shit. So, you know, being able to tour with someone like Disentomb over here is awesome. They don’t need us; they’re like the biggest thing going in brutal death metal, but getting them in front of new people’s ears is exciting for me.
Do you think then Trevor, that that’s one of the benefits of TBDM being in the position you’re currently in? I mean, you guys are essentially old hands when it comes to death metal: you’re currently working on your eighth album, you’ve been a band for almost 20 years. Is there an obligation there for TBDM to bring in those younger bands, and push them to the front and help get them going as well?
Oh, yeah man. I wish I could more of it. I wish I had more opportunities to take bands that I truly, really like out. I do feel a responsibility, but just to death metal itself, because it’s given me so much in my life, that I’ll take any opportunity to wear another band’s shirt, to speak about another band, to take another band out on tour. All because, you know, people did the same thing for us. And like I said, death metal is my main source of happiness in life. So, to get anyone tuned-in to the hidden world of death metal feels awesome.
Speaking of your latest record, ‘Abysmal,’ which has been out since September 2015. Personally, it was one of my favourite records of that year and is still one of my favourite TBDM albums. What are your favourite tracks off ‘Abysmal’ to play live Trevor, and which ones tend to get the crowd fired up?
Well, you know there’s still a lot of the record that we haven’t touched live. Which is a shame, and in time, I hope that we will get around to some of those deeper cuts. But as far as what we’ve played from the record, ‘Abysmal’ [title track] is cool live, and ‘Threat Level No. 3’ is cool live too. Actually, that song is by far the hardest one that we have in our back catalogue, for sure. It’s just so rapid-fire vocally, and it’s a nightmare, but it’s cool. You feel very accomplished when you’ve played that song. You get to the end, and you’re like ‘Oh, good’ (laughs). ‘We got that one down.’ ‘Receipt,’ the opening song, has been very cool too and I really enjoy playing that song live. The vibe really comes across, and I see people singing along to the chorus too, so that’s awesome.
Will Aussie audiences get to hear any of the new material in the works, from the upcoming eighth album you mentioned before?
A couple of people have been asking, but I just don’t know yet. We honestly haven’t even though that far ahead yet. So, I can’t say either way. Personally, I’d like it, but I’m just one of five votes, you know? (Laughs.)
That’s fair enough Trevor. It probably depends on how many beers you have, right?
Yeah, but we’ll make sure we get that quota met, that’s for sure.
Very good! Now the band has recently had another member shuffle, where you brought Brandon [Ellis] into the team on lead guitar, replacing Ryan [Knight] as a long-serving guitarist, who was with the band for your last four records. This is something I wanted to touch on, and at this point, it almost feels like an obligatory thing for TBDM. Looking at your Wikipedia page entry – and I’m not entirely sure if I can trust that or not – it looks like you’ve had a total of 11 different members rotate through the band since 2001. With yourself and Brian [Eschbach, rhythm guitar/backing vocals] as the only remaining original members, how does that work in terms of a group dynamic? How do you keep the core of the band intact, and still keep it ‘TBDM’?
You know, it’s hard. And it’s just as hard as it’s ever been, but now we approach it in such a more professional way than we used to. When Ryan told us that he was going to quit, he said, “BUT, I can still tour for a year and a half.” So, you know, he was trying to be as kind to us as possible, and so we had so much time to prepare for the next phase of the band. Basically, he left on the most amicable terms that you possibly could. He helped us through every phase of that, and he picked Brandon out as his successor, which was awesome. It was a really big favour for us, and he [Brandon] was in a really big list of guys that we would have reached out to anyway.
So, when that whole thing started, Brandon basically had about a year of time where he knew he was coming into the fold. He wasn’t ‘in the band’ per se yet, but we know that he was going to be on the road with us, and he had so much time to prepare and perfect things. So, by the time he walked on stage with us, it felt completely seamless. And he’s been with us for a while, but we’ve kept it really low key, as we usually do when we change members because people just get so up in arms with us. And I think it has to do with the DVD’s we put out. People might watch those repeatedly, and get personally attached to these different characters in the band. So, in a way, it’s a catch-22 to make something like that: you want them to get to know the line-up, to get to know the people, but then it could change and nip you in the butt.
But Brandon’s been awesome man, and he’s been with us so long that it doesn’t even seem that new to me at all. He’s great lie, and I think he’s kind of lit a fire under the rest of our asses on stage, being the youngest and being so full of energy. But also, with what he’s brought to the table with this new album… Initially, we thought that Brian was going to write the whole album, as he did with the first three records. But Brandon expressed that he really wanted to try and write some songs, and he did; he wrote a lot of them, almost half the record. So really, the entire role that Ryan left has been filled, by having another force come in. So, it’s an exciting time for us, and I’m really excited for people to hear his music. He’s been in a lot of professional bands, but this will be the first time that anything he’s written, are getting into people’s ears. He’s an incredible musician, and we’re just lucky to have him. My biggest fear with him, is that he’s so damn good, that he’s going to end up playing with Pink or something (laughs). And I wouldn’t even be mad with that because he deserves it. He’s worked so fucking hard at playing guitar and he’s so incredible at it at age 24; that’s downright shocking!
That’s completely understandable. Lastly, to wrap up, I mentioned your Obituarist column for Metal Injection at the start of the interview, and I’ve definitely picked up some great heavy records based off of your suggestions, so what are you listening to right now that has you fired up Trevor?
Ah man, right now for me, I’m listening to the new Obituary and Immolation records: back to back, all the time. And pretty soon, I’ll probably end up listening to both at the same time. That’s how much I like them. And it’s got me in this weird, suspended tenth-grade feeling, where I’m really excited about both of those bands again. I’ve always loved them, but I feel like these two records are their best records since the 90’s for both parties. So, it’s an exciting time for old school fans I think. There’s also this band called Time Walk, and they’re kind of like Bolt Thrower meets Hatebreed.
Wow, that sounds sick.
Dude, it really is.
I kind of feel obligated now that I have you on the phone, to pass on my own suggestions. And while they’re certainly not death metal, I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the new Power Trip and Pallbearer records.
Man, Power Trip are amazing! We did a brief tour with them over here with Napalm Death, and I think they’re one of the best things going right now. People are so friggin’ stoked on them. They’re doing so well for themselves, it’s awesome.
Damn right! Well, that’s the end of my interview slot. I just wanted to say thank you for taking time out with me today Trevor, and we’ll see you on the tour!
Thank you Owen! Thanks a lot for having me dude, I appreciate it.
The Black Dahlia Murder are touring nationally in May, with The Faceless, Putrid Pile, Whoretopsy and Unravel. You can find the locations and dates listed below, and tickets are available from Soundworks Touring here.