A band that really doesn’t show signs of slowing down, The Black Dahlia Murder has risen through the ranks to become a common name in today’s death metal scene. I was fortunate enough to take a few moments of vocalist Trevor Strnad’s time to speak about the new album, growing as a band, and what it takes to get noticed in an industry so ready to sweep you under the rug.
You guys last visited Australia last year for Soundwave, is there anything you’re looking forward to doing once you’re back in the country?
I think I’m really looking forward to just being back in a club scenario over there because the last two times we were out, we were at Soundwave. Club gigs are more in our comfort zone, I guess, and being able to play a longer set for the fans is going to be cool. The last time it left a kind of weird taste in my mouth because it just didn’t work out so well for us. There were a lot of technical problems, getting up on stage on time every day was often difficult because the equipment would get lost in the trucks. Just a lot of bullshit that really made it hard. It was kind of a mess for us. I’ll be glad to leave it in the past and just be back in control of everything, just have a normal tour you know? Especially now that we’ve got Psycroptic aboard, which is awesome if you ask me; I’m pretty stoked.
Yeah, absolutely. I toured with Psycroptic last year and can assure you that they run a tight ship. You’ll have a great tour for sure. The Black Dahlia Murder have been around for a while now, do you get treated to certain luxuries that you didn’t have access to in the past? Special riders, individual dressing rooms and the like?
Dressing rooms not so much; it’s pretty much just the standard room. Sometimes the rooms have gotten bigger over the years; there’s a bigger budget for riders and the budget to record has gotten bigger over the years which has been cool. Also the budget for artwork has increased a lot — in the early days I wanted to use all the awesome artists and have paintings and stuff but it was really expensive. In the early days we were doing a lot of our t-shirts and stuff ourselves and they looked fucking terrible, man! Looking back, it’s nice to be able to afford all the finer things in death metal life, you know?
Looking back on how far you have come as a band, how you guys are practically a staple in modern death metal, are you happy with the things that you’ve accomplished in the time that you’ve been together and the direction that you are heading in?
Oh yeah, man! It’s gone beyond my wildest dreams. I mean, all I wanted to do was make one real album that was on a real label, that people could buy, and it’s gone so, so, so far beyond that. I just… I love every second of it. We definitely don’t take it for granted. The two of us, Brian (Eschbach) and I, being the original members, we’ve seen this thing grow from nothing. It’s amazing to us and it still excites me to make new music and conquer territories. I feel like there’s tonnes of life left in this band and tonnes of ground to cover yet. Even though we are getting a little bit older – I was just talking about this, how we’re not the new kids on the block anymore, you know? People used to be like “Wow they’re so young!” but now we’re old farts and some of the people coming to our shows; they’re half our age.
You guys have been touring your last album, Everblack for some time now, do you have any new songs under your belts?
Oh yeah, we’ve been in a secret laboratory pretty much since we’ve been off. We stopped touring last November, and then began writing album number seven. At the moment we’re putting the finishing touches on the mix so it should be out around the end of August. I don’t really know if we’re going to touch on any of the new stuff while we’re out there, but ideally I’d like to. We’re pretty excited man, just to have something going on. This is the longest we’ve ever taken off since 2013 when we left for tour. I’m ready to get back out there; I’m re-energised. We needed it bad man. We toured so much and played so many shows, I think we needed some time to get back to reality and try to maintain a normal life for a minute. We’ve got all this new material now and we’ve got new tours lined up — everything is looking good man. We’re really excited.
I’m really excited for you! So can you tell me who’ve you’ve gone with to do this new album?
We’ve stuck with the Audiohammer guys again. We’ve been going to them since mixing Nocturnal there. We’re working with Mark Lewis this time, which was mainly influenced by hearing the new Cannibal Corpse record that he did. I just thought it sounded so freakin’ huge, which is exactly what they needed. It’s the best sounding Cannibal Corpse record, I think, there’s ever been. We were like “Well, we know what we’ve got to do. We’ve gotta go to Mark and see what he can do and it’s been awesome, man! There was him and Bart, our old bass player. He was also co-engineering things – he recorded the drums and a lot of the guitars and stuff. We did everything here in the States which was nice for us to kinda have them come here instead of taking all of us out to somewhere. It was really relaxed, man; by now we’ve been in the studio so many times that it’s not as intimidating as it once was. I remember in the early records, just shitting my pants, you know [laughs]? You learn and grow, and now I really like the process of being in the studio. I think it’s interesting and cool. It’s fun to make something from the ground up that’s just solely yours and your bands’.
So this new album, how does it stand up to the stuff that you’ve done in the past? Is it better, would you say?
I think so. I think, really, if it wasn’t, If we didn’t think it was better then we should probably hang it up. Also I think we’re probably the only band that will admit – Listen, if we can’t write a better record than the last one we did; we’re just not going to do it, you know? I think there’s still room to grow. I think it’s kind of going down the same evolutionary path that we started on with Ritual and then kind of expanded on with Everblack. There’s a bigger variety of material, there are more dynamics in the songs, catchier choruses, lots of little subtle things. We’ve incorporated different instruments and samples in an attempt to really make things more interesting for the listener and keep people excited.
I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic. My favorite album is actually Deflorate — it’s been on constant rotation in my car for as long as I can remember, but I’m super excited for new material from you guys.
Awesome, man. I’m glad to hear that. That’s not everyone’s favorite TBDM record so I’m glad to hear you’re liking that one.
Being a musician myself, I feel as though the music I listen to on a day-to-day basis affects the music that I write. Kind of like the human body; if you nourish it with a healthy diet it thrives, but if you eat terribly your health can suffer. How do you stay inspired as a full-time touring band, where it would be so easy to become oversaturated with music?
The band has gotten so big, you know. It’s gotten bigger than we ever imagined. I listen to the underground a lot, I listen to new bands all the time. I’m always checking out new stuff, new sounds, and I do think that influence trickles into the band and I think everybody in the band is incorporating new stuff that they like. We’re definitely exposed to so much music when we’re out. Between the other bands we’re playing with, the festivals, all the bands that the young kids like. I prefer keeping my ear on the underground – there are so many bands that I think should be where we are that just didn’t have the same luck and didn’t have the same circumstances. I love the underground and I love death metal still, it still keeps me feeling like I’m 15 even though I’m 34.
Do you think that is a case of luck and just being found by someone who has connections or is there something else to it?
I think there’s a lot of luck. We never said we were an original band – what we do is a cocktail of what we like, we’ve always stated that. I think it’s a lot to do with being at the right time, in the right place, with the right weirdos, you know? I think us looking weird and kind of being misfits, as far as what is expected of a death metal band’s appearance, has also helped us stick out and appeal to people. Being outspoken also helps, I think. Once they got a look of us, they were like “Literally ANYONE can play in a band.” [laughs] I think we made it more approachable for people, more human. We’re a voice for the nerd in the music world out there, that’s for sure.
That’s great [laughs]. Alright, we’re unfortunately running out of time so we’ll have to come to a close. Without naming anyone, I’ve personally seen a lot of vocalist who tour through Australia having issues with their voice, whether it be due to improper technique or that they fall ill. How do you manage to tour so heavily and maintain your vocal ability, and has there been a point where you’ve had to pull out of a show due to illness or the like?
Uh no, not really. There has been a couple of times where I’ve felt embarrassed to play, because I was sick or something, and have wanted to pull out but we have this pact where you literally have to have your arm cut off or something to that degree to cancel a show. I have played some shows that I am less than proud of where I was under the weather but our thing is to always plow through it instead of pussin’ out. I’m glad that we’ve stuck to our guns. I’ve had issues; sore throats, bronchitis — shit happens, man. Especially if you’re on tour as much as we are. I mean, we’ve toured through flu seasons. Really, the best advice I can give is to not stress too much. Don’t worry too much about it; if you’re keeping yourself up at night, that’s going to make it even worse. The best thing for you is sleep, and not beat yourself up if things aren’t going right.
Yeah, absolutely. That can really kill the vibe of a show if everyone is stressed and tense as well.
Yeah, i don’t like to have those kinds of obstacles. I would prefer to be in full health at all times but what can you do?
It’s been a pleasure talking to you Trevor, thank you very much for time. I hope you have a great tour in Australia!
Thanks a lot, dude. Thanks for the press, I appreciate it!
The Black Dahlia Murder will be touring through Australia in June. Keep an eye out for my photos from the Brisbane dates in the coming month!