Power of Metal.dk Interview

Interview with
Trevor Strnad - The Black Dahlia Murder, November 2013

M: I’ve got quite a fair few questions for you. I tried not to ask you the boring ones about the new stuff basically. So, first thing. I don’t have a bunch of questions about Everblack. Of course I understand that you would want to talk about it, so anything that you want to say about it just go ahead seriously because I have got more of a general kind of questions rather than specifically about Everblack and of course you’ve just finished your promotional cycle so a lot of the questions have been answered.

T: Right, yeah I understand man. I think it’s been going pretty well and you know the fans seem to be embracing it, and that’s what we’re excited the most about. The reviews have been hit and miss. But really what’s important is the fans’ satisfaction and that they seem really excited. We tried to do something that embodied what we consider to be all the quintessential things about The Black Dahlia Murder. The sound had something new, something old. We wanted to excite the long-time fans there and it seems like we hit a chord that they liked, so we’re happy about that for now.

M: Before Everblack came out, you had some naysayers and doubters, and I’m quoting you from an interview here. They asked whether you guys still had the might and the power. You told me that the reactions have been good from the fans, hit and miss from the reviews, but how do you feel about the rumours now?

T: I think that they’ve quelled quite a bit. I understand why people have those doubts with two lineup changes in one album cycle. Shannon and Bart are also on the DVD and I think that let our fans become attached to that certain lineup. They get to watch the DVD, see us joking around, having a good time, and that’s the lineup they imagine in their heads. So that thing turned out to be a double-edged sword. It was great to get the people to feel like they know us, but now that there’s member changes there’s been some kind of backlash. We just needed the album to come out so that they could hear the new guys and be, like, ‘well these guys rule too’ and I think that’s pretty much what’s happened. It’s that they just like the album so much, that they’re embracing the new guys on that face value, which is what we knew would happen and what we hoped would happen.

For us it’s been great. The new guys are awesome ‘cos they’re bringing a new energy into the band and it’s been fun man. Especially with Alan on drums. He’s just so young and just so excited to be here, and now we’re all old you know. I’m 32, so it’s like we get to live vicariously through Alan’s excitement and just try to teach him everything and show him everything that’s cool out there in the world. He’s definitely been fun.

M: I was actually going to ask you about that because your drummer is quite a bit younger than the rest of you. Has that had any adverse effects at all?

T: Nah, I think if anything it’s been advantageous because he’s young, he’s just so excited about touring and going everywhere and doing everything and that’s what we need right now. We have a lot of touring coming up, we have a lot of stuff to do and we need everybody just to be tunnel vision on this thing. If anything, he’s a little green but the rest of us have been touring for a long time... 10 years over here for me and the same with Max. So there are some things he doesn’t know sometimes, that are kinda funny and we’re like ‘Aw, that’s cute! He doesn’t even know what he’s doing.’, but for the most part he’s just gone above and beyond what has been required.

Just for him to have gotten this far and be on the record, he had to do so much friggin’ homework man. He was at home playing drums 10 hours a day. He didn’t have a lot of time to relax and write his stuff for the album, and learn the stuff for the album because we are on a very tight schedule. And there was a time when we didn’t know who was gonna play on it or who was gonna be in the band, it was getting pretty close to when we should’ve had it all figured out. I’m just happy it came out the way it did, even though it was a high pressure situation there for a minute.

But like I said man, Alan... he’s really killer. He’s a really good drummer, he seems like he’s getting better every day. The more shows we play, the more experience he has with us. I think it’s just a growing process, and that’s the way it is with every new member coming in. It takes us some time and then we just start to really flourish together. So I think the most exciting stuff is yet to come from him, because we’ve barely seen what he can do on that album and I think really with the next one he’s gonna really come into his own. I think he’s gonna be a drummer people are gonna be talking about eventually which is what we want. We never imagined that Shannon was gonna become such a household name of extreme drumming. He was definitely awesome and it was a huge thing for us too. We’re hoping we’re getting Alan in the that same spotlight and I think he definitely deserves it. He’s really good.

M: Well he is in the hot seat and your drummers have gained notoriety throughout the years.

T: Yeah, for spontaneously combusting like Spinal Tap drummers!

M: Well, partly. But also, like you said, because Shannon was such an unbelievable talent.

T: Yeah, we have a reputation for that. That’s just the expectation that we have: that we’re gonna be able to deliver the same show every single night, and it is a lot of work, especially the drum seat man. It’s an olympic dedication to be able to play an hour and 15 minutes worth of blast beats and stuff. We just always held that standard, that kind of psychotic anal-retentiveness I guess.

M: Right. So, you’re heading on the road with Skeletonwitch, Fallujah and more on October. What are you doing till then?

T: We have a brief European tour with a few dates around the mainland, a little bit in Scandinavia, couple of UK dates. That’s coming up shortly. We leave next Tuesday for that actually. It’s gonna be us, Aborted, Revocation… going around Europe. It should be pretty cool man. I definitely like those two bands a lot. The new Revocation album is freakin’ awesome. I just saw those guys a couple weeks ago, at a Summer Slaughter here in Detroit when they came through, and they just destroyed the whole place and got me even more excited for the tour. I think those guys are really cool. Aborted are long-time friends of ours. We’ve toured with them a couple of times and they basically have a whole new lineup except for Sven, so I’ll have to sort of meet everyone again. We toured with them but we didn’t tour with these specific guys, but I’m sure they’re all cool and the new Aborted stuff has been awesome. I got to sing on that last one a little bit, so maybe we play that song.

M: Back to home, back to the studio. How are The Black Dahlia Murder songs customarily written? What’s your usual recording process? I understand you guys do as much work as possible yourselves, right?

T: Yeah, pretty much man. Usually it usually starts as a demo that’s high quality. A total Pro Tools demo with fake drums from Drumkit From Hell that sound pretty damn cool. Usually it’s Brian and Ryan who would write the songs at home in their own privacy, and by the time we hear them they have bass, they have both guitars, they have the drums program. It sounds pretty awesome compared to what we used to do back in the day. We used to go to practice and try to write together in person. Everybody would be like, ‘alright, play a riff’, and everybody’s got a cool riff. Sometimes it worked, most of the time it was really just frustrating and stuff. So switching to this writing mode where the guys just go into their secret laboratory and work on things has been more fruitful.

Also having Ryan team up with Brian, and having two guys write has been pretty much exciting and has helped move things a lot faster. He’s somebody that we trust entirely and knows what to do with our sound, knows what we sound like and the influences we do. He’s like the perfect member for this band, having him have so much output in the last couple years with us has been really exciting. Half of Ritual is his album and he wrote half of Everblack, so it’s an exciting era...

We start out as a demo and by the time I get it, it sounds pretty damn good. So I get to sit around in my underwear and write a song to it. I usually do it at my computer. No one’s bothering me... just hanging out. I like writing for the band. It’s really exciting for me and I definitely get a kick out of that aspect of things. Especially now, having a  reputation of having terrifying lyrics or lyrics that make people uncomfortable. So that just makes me want to push it even further every time. I look forward to that but, yeah, pretty much the songwriting is split 50-50 between those guys. There’ll be a little bit of tweaking back and forth, where Ryan would get Brian’s song and would be like, ‘hey man we should do this right here’. But for the most part that’s how it works. It’s really not too complicated. The roles have been established now.

M: I get you completely. Basically, just an aside, my band… we did the exact same thing. For years we tried to write in a practice space and then we realized it was just a waste of time. Write the stuff at home, bring it in a format we can all already understand what we have to play and then we’ll work on them.

T: Right. That’s really been the best thing, that once we had the demo you can really understand what you’re supposed to be playing on and that’s really made the big difference. We started doing the demo process this way because when we were looking for Shannon -- before we had him --  after Miasma we started writing this album with no drummer and we basically had to learn Pro Tools just for that reason. So that we could still keep the music coming and still have the demos coming, and really just the switch to that kind of quality I think was a big jump. All of a sudden you can really hear what Brian’s ideas were, completely fleshed out and just starting with things, starting with a high-quality beginning and then… it’s just really elevated the songwriting and what the guys are capable of. Once Ryan came to the full, it just totally lifted the stress off Brian because for a while, for a couple of albums, he had to write pretty much everything and that was hard work and a lot of pressure. It’s definitely good to have this big creative pool now.

M: You mentioned lyrics. I was going to ask you about that. So, The Black Dahlia Murder couples morbid lyrics with a superb sense of humor. How did that marriage happen? Is it just an extension of who you guys are, or is there more to it? Did you see a gap in the world of Metal that needed filling, basically?

T: No, I never really expected that our personality was gonna come into play and be one of the attributing factors. I thought that we would just make the records, people would say ‘oh these guys are a cool death metal band’ and then check it out or whatever. But it’s gone so differently than that.

A lot of people took one short look at us, with short hair and we were in a magazine next to Killswitch Engage, and made a lot of assumptions of what we were gonna sound like. The whole personality thing in the band started to creep in when we had to do more interviews and we had to do more photos and stuff like that. As soon as they started taking photos of us we were like, well, I guess this is kinda a necessary evil. We are not cool looking, but I guess they wanted to know what we look like. So we were just like, whatever, stick your middle finger up. We’re just having fun, just being idiots and really the thing with the photos and the videos was just kind of a middle finger to that necessity I guess.

We want our band to go as far as it can and we want new people to find us, so of course we want to make a video. But we don’t want to play long to the song, we don’t want to do typical stuff I guess. And really, to make a video that’s worth a shit costs a lot of money and I don’t think that the production value that we need to make the kinda video that the songs actually deserve: with a storyline and characters and the effects and stuff, it’s just never gonna happen at the level we need it. We will never have the budget to make that Madonna two million dollar video, which would be amazing if metal had that kind of budget. Can you imagine the behemoth videos we would see?

So it’s like a Catch-22. But I guess the whole thing is like the ‘Heartburn’ tattoo. I never saw that coming either, that people would be like ‘Oh, there’s the guy with the the Heartburn tattoo’. It’s just all these little things added up and made us stand out. I think being an outspoken character too has helped. I’ve always got something to say about something.

We just never predicted that there was this hole I guess in the genre. The people we look to for influence on how you should carry yourself... it was all the Big Four. We’re looking at Metallica, they had misfit shirts and they liked punk, and you look at Megadeth they liked Dead Kennedys and Sex Pistols, and they always had punk shirts on. It seems like now people are so uptight about genres. If you’re gonna be a metalhead you have to be such a metalhead that’s over the top. You have to define everything about you in this way or you’re not a metalhead. Really, we’re just dudes wearing t-shirts and jeans, or shorts, I guess. Maybe we took that from Anthrax. They were always the worst dressed of the four I think. They just didn’t give a shit. They were a good time band, Anthrax always had a good sense of humor. So I guess it’s like a return to that, that was where we got that from.

Just be yourself, go do it. Show the stuff that you like, the influences you have… And we have influences all over the map from parkour to punk. We were never ashamed about that. So it’s just ‘take us as we are’ is pretty much what we were saying.

M: Okay. From Unhallowed to Everblack. What’s your personal view on The Black Dahlia Murder’s progression?

T: You know, I think the statement is still the same. I think that we set out to be a band that was brutal and melodic and catchy. We’ve always had in our mind that we would have kind of a concise, shorter song that just kept that rock formula in mind: verse-chorus-verse, typical arrangements that are catchy and known throughout rock history as being successful. We’ve changed a bit in that throughout the records, but I think we kept that goal in mind to have an ongoing sound that was instantly recognizable as us, but also something that we could play with a little bit.

We’ve been doing on the later albums: incorporating different kinds of instruments, some acoustic stuff, some sort of symphonic stuff. The samples we’ve put in the songs has been a more recent development and the ability to do that live is something that we’ve gotten just within the last few years with Ritual and stuff. So that was a big jump for us, at that time it was like ‘Wow, we need to make things more dynamic’, so that was the idea: to incorporate other instruments and take things to the next level. I feel that at the heart of things, it’s still the same formula that we set out in the beginning. Highly Swedish influenced stuff, a little bit of American muscle, some of the heavy stuff. We just take little bits of things we like and we’re still doing that.

M: You guys, especially yourself, you share a lot of music by related bands to your one million circa Facebook fans. Why do you do that? Is it just fun? Is it a tribute to band’s you love or is there a greater play at hand here?

T: I think it’s just fun. It was something really to talk about in the downtime. I’m the one that’s always on Facebook, so I get kinda sick of just talking about us all the time and just being ‘Black Dahlia, Black Dahlia, Black Dahlia’. If they’re on our Facebook page it means they already like the band, and a million fans, a milion people that like extreme music, that’s a fucking lot! That’s a lot of people that could be turned on to these bands. So I’m trying to show the bands that I like and I definitely keep my nose to the ground and stay plugged in to the underground and watch all the small labels and stuff because it just provides me with so much joy.

The best bands in the genre are some of the most unknown. Nothing’s ever gonna happen for them. They’re not gonna tour, they’re not gonna get recognized. It’s just… they’re awesome. There’s a million great bands out there that just fly under the radar and so I figure if I just can show a few people out of a million these bands, and just change the way these young people think and hopefully leading them to check the underground more. I think what’s in the magazines and stuff, especially here in America... I think the best stuff flies under the radar and a lot of that stuff that the bigger labels in extreme metal are shoving down people's throat… there’s better stuff out there I think.

M: A lot of stuff doesn’t get past the gate-keepers.

T: Right. So having the magnifying glass and always paying attention to this stuff, has been such a fruitful thing for me and made me so happy and kept me grounded while this band has been having so much success. Our band has travelled down a lot of different avenues in terms of trying to get exposure. We just played the Warped tour, which is about as far from death metal you can get. So you know, staying in touch with the scene and buying a million CDs and stuff like that keeps me happy and grounded. It’s the least I can do. I try to show people new bands, and I’m always wearing shirts of bands I like, and always trying to advertise them that way. I just feel like your basic metalhead doesn’t really have a concept of what’s out there, so trying to raise the profile... I think there are so many killer bands out there and they deserve recognition.

M: You keep following straight into my questions, that’s brilliant! Basically, you won’t remember this, but I actually conversed with you on your Facebook page once when your iPod failed and you asked about cloud backup solutions. I was the guy who suggested Google Music and you said, ‘No way, I have way more than 20,000 songs!’.

T: Yeah, I never quite worked that out. I ended up just getting a hard drive that’s 2TB and I’m just gonna leave it at my house and try not to fuck it up this time.

M: Yeah, that’s a good idea.

T: I think I’m one of those people who’s on both sides of downloading, cos I think that downloading has been hugely instrumental for underground music and for the extreme. The internet has been the biggest voice for death metal and the biggest vehicle for communication. In the last few years a lot of these bands got exposed this way. The brutal, brutal death metal stuff... the scene is so small and the internet is what ties it all together. It’s quite an international scene and it brings everybody together, and makes it seem smaller and more intimate. And that’s cool! But then there are a lot of people losing their ass because of downloading. It’s kind of a catch-22, you know.

M: My next question is: you’ve obviously influenced a whole crop of new melodic death metal bands. How does that feel to know that you’re part of this great ecosystem of metal music?

T: That’s cool. It’s weird. I think that’s really the most flattering part is to have young bands be influenced by us. It’s insane to have grown that much as a band, and to see things really getting to that kind of a boil with the fans. We’ve been around a long time. We’ve had a lot of success and it’s a hard time to stick around right now. I think harder than it’s ever been. I think the climate of things is just hard dude. Kids can forget about you in one second, and the economy is also playing into things, making it harder for bands to exist. Less people are coming out to shows and every year is getting worse, so it’s definitely been an interesting time. For us to have that kind of success in spite of those factors has just been huge and we’re just blown away. To have young bands looking up to us and to have influenced some corner of metal is just mind-blowing to me.

M: Let’s talk a bit about the music industry. The industry is in a time of flux. This is well established. What changes have you personally observed since The Black Dahlia Murder started to make waves in the early 2000’s?

T: Well, I think we were in that first generation of the mp3, and having your mp3 up on different sites where people can hear it. Now it’s Facebook. The player in Facebook is pretty much the standard way to hear something, or YouTube, but back then mp3.com was the big thing. So you would have your song in the metal charts there and it would go up and down. We did pretty well on there and it was one of our selling points to kind of sell ourselves to Metal Blade when we sent them a package. It’s really just... from now to then there’ve been different trends that have been big.

At first we were called a metalcore band because that was the big thing, and we were in the magazine next to Killswitch Engage and Unearth and As I Lay Dying. We were lumped into that thing with the metalcore bands then and we were like ‘We are not a metalcore band’. Then deathcore comes along and all of a sudden we were a deathcore band and everybody was like ‘Hey, these guys are deathcore because they have short hair’. I never really saw how we were aligned to that because to me most deathcore is so clumsy compared to death metal and just so uninformed musically. They have some elements of death metal that I like, they have the low vocals and some blast beats, but that’s primarily it. There’s no song for the most part and just really a lot of stuff that’s from a generation that’s not influenced by the Big Four. These young kids started with Slipknot and Korn and a lot of Meshuggah influence in modern music now. And it’s just a different thing. The kind of low string, eight-string thing never really struck a chord with me. Anyways I’m going off a tangent here.

We were called deathcore and just... different trends have come and gone. Metalcore was so huge for that while there and I would never have predicted it would wane. Deathcore maybe is kinda in recession or at least not quite as popular as it was. We’ll see what happens next. We’ve just been trying to respond to whatever happens and keep our heads above the water, make smart decision and choose the right tours.

The business end of things is… There’s a lot more to it than people realise. There’s a lot more thought and planning and work. It’s harder all the time: dealing with other bands and putting a tour together. When you’re offering people money, there’s a lot of pride and ego stuff that comes up. Different visions don’t agree and putting tours together is a lot harder than I had ever imagined. I thought you just called somebody up and they’ll be like ‘Yeah man that’s cool, let’s just do it’, but there’s so much more to it. There’s a lot of stuff that can dishearten you I guess, the further you get into the business aspect of it. I just try to keep in touch with what I love about it and really, at the end of the day, playing at the show and connecting with the fans is just priceless. It’s just amazing. It’s really the best part of it, the part that makes me the happiest.

M: I was going to ask you about that. The live concert has become more and more important in recent years. Why is it so? Is it because music is available in ubiquity these days? Music is everywhere, so we have to have the experience? Or is there another reason you think?

T: I think that that might be it. Music is so readily available that the band has to respond to that and be readily available as well. I think for us to have the survival rate that we’ve had touring all the time is a large part of it, just always being visible to the fans. We’ve definitely taken it to a more global approach in these past few years, we’ve been everywhere. We go to Europe at least twice a year. Japan, Australia… freakin’ everywhere!

M: So basically, “Music is readily available, so the band has to be readily available too.” Right?

T: Yeah and I think that also, this Pro Tools era and the standard of sound, has really changed things. People have to keep up with Pro Tools and what these insane bands are doing out there, whether they can actually do it in real life or not. I think a lot of young musicians are influenced by this era of quantized drums and machine-like production. So they’re trying to hold themselves to that standard, which I think has definitely been an interesting part of the evolution of things. But there have been a lot of bands that bit off more than they could chew. Where the record sounds really complicated and stuff, and you go see ‘em and they just can’t do it. And a lot of times it’s the drummer. I think people just kind of go ‘Wow we can just fake it now and hope we can get the chops to do it later’. But it doesn’t always work that way man.

M: It rarely does! Okay, so here’s a selfish question. I’m a Black Dahlia Murder fan from a tiny speck of an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea in Europe. And my chances of seeing you guys live are minute. I’d have to be on the continent to see you basically. Now, your label mates Cannibal Corpse came here about three years ago. What would it take for you guys to consider playing tiny, tiny places like this one?

T: Hey man, we’d go anywhere. I want to go everywhere! I want to leave no fan unsatisfied and I realize that there’s a lot of ground we have yet to cover and every year I think we’re expanding our horizons a little bit. But, if Cannibal Corpse has been there then that’s a good precedent. I think that we can probably use that as leverage to get out there ourselves.

M: Cool! I just have a few more questions here. In your view, what is the most interesting recent development in the music business, especially in the extreme music business?

T: I mean I guess Spotify is somewhat of an interesting thing. It’s a bridge between paying for music and not paying for music, like, somewhere in between. Because the bands get a minute cut and the people that pay for it don’t feel guilty. I’d rather have people buying the album still. What else has happened? I guess the lyric video is kind of a recent fad. When somebody has an album coming out I think the cheap thing to do is to zoom around on the cool artwork and put lyrics on top of it. We didn’t want to fall into that trap with the new one because I just think it’s kind of cheesy…

M: It’s not for everyone.

T: It just reminds me of kid bands... young bands.

M: Although well-established bands like Born Of Osiris have done it too. I guess it’s the economics.

T: I think it’s definitely the economics. You can do it for no dollars, that’s the best part of it!

M: You can do it at home.

T: There was a Gorguts one. I’m not taking the piss out of every band that’s done it, but for us personally that was the opinion that, well we saw it a little on the cheesy side. I think that the prominence of YouTube has been an insane development. People find new bands from it all the time, people will listen to your album from YouTube. I think there are people out there that only listen to music through YouTube.

M: I find that completely weird!

T: It’s really freakin’ weird!

M: I work online and it’s weird to me that you use a video sharing site to share only audio. It just doesn’t compute! But I’ve fallen into that trap myself sometimes. It’s like, where can I get this album? Can’t buy it, they don’t ship here… screw it, listen to it on YouTube.

T: Yeah, it’s good for that. It’s kinda like an archive, you can really archive things. If you can find... you can really comb the annals of death metal because people have really been thorough there and have put up almost everything.

M: What are your views on crowdfunding?

T: Crowdfunding was another thing I was going to talk about because that was another recent development. I don’t know if we could do it. For me it’s weird because it’s like saying ‘Help, we’re in trouble’. That’s one thing. You’re like coming out and saying help we’re in trouble, we need you. The other thing is….. I feel like it’s allowing one person who has his heart in the right place to pay for the album, and then allowing another person who doesn’t feel like paying for it to just have it for free because some other sucker already paid for it. It’s still got a double-edge aspect going on to it.

I think that going completely solo with no label backing, like some bands have been doing... I’m not sure that would work for us because we’ve had such strong support from Metal Blade. I think that a lot of the success has been their advertising of us and they’ve been such a strong advertiser, and they’ve take us really seriously as a force since minute one.

When we got signed, Slagel realized we were very serious about getting out there and dominating and that we were a band with potential. He saw the potential in us from the beginning and was excited about the band. In our particular situation we’ve had an awesome experience with our label. There’s been no question about that. So that kind of has us sticking with the old ways. Even though it’s hard to sell a CD now, it’s hard to sell a record. It’s hard to be stuck in that old business model, so it’s an interesting time for sure like we were saying before.

M: Carrying on with interesting times, if you had to make a couple of well-informed suggestions for younger metal bands these days, what would you say?

T: I would say… I would almost say you don’t need label backing to get a good buzz, something to work with, to start out. If you have a good name and you have good artwork and you have a good sounding album, I would seriously just submit it to every blog that gives away music for free, the metal blogs. Because the blogs, a lot of times… a buzz for a band can start there. It can start small, we’re talking about death metal here, so every person counts and I just think there’s a lot of bombarding you can do with the internet now for free basically. That will get you into people’s houses without having to be on a label, will get your record into their hands.

Really, from what people see that ‘steal’ music is just a picture and a link. So if you have a high-quality product, you can just cut out the middle-man, throw it on the internet and start advertising the shit out of it. Put it on Soundcloud. Either have it free or have it be a couple bucks so that if people want to pay for it they can pay for it. That’s where I would start now if I were doing this again and coming out this time.

M: Where do you see The Black Dahlia Murder going in the future after this touring cycle is finished, and beyond that?

T: Well, it’s just gonna be more of the same man. More touring, more albums. What I want to see is just this thing to keep existing. The goal now is to be able to do this. There’s really no finishing line where you go ‘Well, we’ve won!’. It’s an on-going thing. We have to keep touring to maintain the band monetarily, to maintain the band’s popularity. What I hope will happen is what already happened. Just to keep going and keeping the demand and to hopefully make records that people care about still. And just to be relevant as times become increasingly hard. For the next few years it’s just gonna be more of the same. Just busy, busy, busy, Tonnes of tours everywhere. We’ve got some big tours down the pipeline that we can’t talk about yet because the details are still coming into fruition and stuff. Booking agents would crush your skull for that kind of stuff. There’s big stuff on the horizon for us. This has been our biggest album so far and what we wanted, to keep growing and growing. There’s definitely no signs of slowing down now man.

M: So, a couple of personal questions. In keeping with Ritual, what is your pre-show ritual?

T: There’s really not too much. I used to be superstitious about things. I used to be like ‘drink this hot water before you play’ or like ‘throat coat tea’ and the panic that I couldn’t get it going before the show. But I think things like that just end up being a crutch. I don’t want to be dependant on something or have a psychological kind of thing like that. So now I don’t really do anything. I just go up there, I’ll scream a little before I go up there. But I try not to think about it too much because I think most of it is just mental. Most obstacles that can derail you when playing live is just like a self-doubt or some kind of mental thing. I think to be in the right mindset is the most important part. I hang out with the guys, we joke around a lot before we play. We just all get together... everybody’s practicing their instruments. We just have a good time and I think that positive energy is an important thing to go up stage with that attitude.

And we’re all friends, so I think that moment there’s a good feeling kinda comes over you and we’re like ‘Well, here we are guys! We’re here by our own creation and we’re about to go do the thing’. Also a little alcohol could help get you in the right mindset. It takes your guard down, lets you talk up there and also gets you in that party mode and also that’s what the fans expect. We’ve given them that expectation: that we’re a party band and that we’re gonna come out and rage with them. And that’s what we like to do. And that’s where it gets hard. When the show goes well and there’s a million people there and it just was so fun that at the end of the show you’re like, ‘Well man, just gonna keep on drinking’.

M: But you’ve got to do it again all over tomorrow. Which can get hard.

T: That’s the problem dude. I’ve been there, I’ve definitely been there. When you’re sound checking and you’re so hung-over that you just wish you were dead pretty much.

M: Speaking of partying. On an average tour week, how much weed does the band consume?

T: A lot man! Brian and I are the big smokers nowadays. Alan smokes a little bit sometimes. But for the most part it’s Brian and I. As far as amounts go, I’m not sure man. Whatever comes along and we’re always in pursuit of it. In Europe it’s a little bit harder for us, we have to really put our feelers out there.

M: Yeah, sometimes on Facebook because I saw that once.

T: Yeah dude and that works great actually!

M: I’m sure it does!

T: People get sketched out, but it works really good. There’s always some fan that sells weed or deals with weed or smokes weed. They get to hang out for a minute and chill or whatever. So it works both ways. For me it’s necessary, especially for touring because there’s so much down-time and so much just sitting there like an idiot. The part that sucks about touring is just the waiting around. I don’t think most people realise that, that most of the day you’re just waiting around. The part of the day that’s cool is the show and the rest of it sucks. Like you’re out in the normal world and you look like a freak to other people. They’re looking at you weird, you’re not cool anywhere but in the show...

M: I get you completely. I’ve been on a couple of short tours myself. You eat like crap all day, and you wake up late and hungover, and drive insane amounts of hours just to play for 45 minutes at the end of the night.

T: That’s the thing. People think that it’s luxurious or that you’re being fed grapes backstage by naked women with big breasts. In reality it’s just us the five of us in some stinky shorts just hanging out.

M: I know exactly what you mean. Okay, right. last three questions. What do you look for in a metal band? And are there any new bands you’re listening to at the moment?

T: There’s so much I like in metal and it doesn’t have to be original. We never said we were original, it’s a melting pot of styles. So while there are bands that are original, I think that for the most part everything’s been done in metal. So there’s bands that are throwbacks that have that old tune style, that’s cool. Then there’s bands that totally worship the old school and want to sound like Incantation, that’s cool too. There’s so many directions that metal has gone in. There’s the super-produced tech metal stuff, where bands are trying to be as Olympic as they can and have as many sweeps and harmonics and crazy shit as they can to make your hand spin and I like that stuff too.

What do I look for in a metal band? It’s hard to say because I just like so much shit. I like aggression. I prefer if there were no clean singing involved cos that kinda crept into a lot of genres in the last years and that kind of crossing over. I guess it can be done well. There are a few bands that do it but for the most part I like to keep melodic singing out of my death metal, thank you.

And bands that I liked recently. Soreption I like a lot, from Sweden, fucking awesome. What else is awesome? Weapon is cool from Canada. Resurgency from Greece, kinda killer old school-sounding band. A lot of bands from Montreal, in Canada, there’s always cool bands coming from there. Beyond Creation is awesome. Vengeful is awesome and um… who else is from up there….. I like Tormented a lot, they’re not really new I guess… Tribulation I’ve been liking that album a lot this year. So yeah, I’m always keeping my eyes on the underground.

M: You might actually have heard a bit of Maltese stuff as well. You’ve probably heard of Beheaded.

T: Oh yeah, Beheaded is awesome. They’re back now, their new album is pretty good I think.

M: Yeah, it’s a solid album.

T: I pretty much love brutal stuff so I definitely keep my eyes open.

M: And Abysmal Torment? Maybe you’ve heard of them as well?

T: Yeah, Abysmal Torment from Malta. I’ve got some of their discs. They’re still going right? It’s been a while…

M: Okay, a ridiculous question for a death metal fiend like yourself. What are your top five metal albums of all time?

T: Fuck, this is tough. I don’t know if I can give them to you in order but I can at least give some to you.

M: No need for order.

T: Autopsy - Mental Funeral,
Entombed - Clandestine,
Morbid Angel - Blessed Are The Sick,
Cannibal Corpse - The Bleeding
Carcass - Necroticism

(Trev hums and ahs and keeps thinking….)

M: Well that’s five! Yeah, that’s five.

T: That’s five? Okay!

M: Brilliant Trev! Thanks a lot. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

T: Thanks for having me. See ya!


The Black Dahlia Murder - Everblack

Label: Metal Blade Records.

Link: The Black Dahlia Murder @ Facebook.

Trevor Strnad - Vocals
Brian Eschbach - Guitar, Vocals
Ryan Knight - Guitar
Max Lavelle - Bass Guitar
Alan Cassidy - Drums

Everblack (2013)
Ritual (2011)
Deflorate (2009)
Nocturnal (2007)
Miasma (2005)
Unhallowed (2003)


Interviewed by Mark Debono