INTERVIEW: The Black Dahlia Murder

Hot after the release of their latest DVD we spoke to Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder to talk about their latest offering.

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Where are you at the moment? What have you guys been up to?

We’ve been at home for now in Detroit, just relaxing, having some rare time off. We just got off an Asian tour and before that we did the full US thing with Carcass and Gorguts.

How was that tour for you?

Great. We went to some new places in Asia we’ve never touched before, went to China for the first time, Hong Kong, a few other places and that was pretty cool. Before that was the tour with Carcass and that’s pretty much my dream tour, that’s one of my favourite bands and that was just an awesome experience to be a part of that.

So your new DVD ‘Fool ‘Em All’ just came out, which is kind of like a mixture of behind the scenes and live footage. What’s one of craziest things you’ve ever seen at one of your live shows?

I’d have to say the naked guys, and that’s only in Europe that you get the naked festival goers. Like a dude that’ll be wearing mud as clothing, no clothes on but just brown over his junk basically. There’s always those guys at the big outdoor things in mainland Europe, the guys are always trying to outdo each other. I saw a guy carrying around a dead Muskrat, just to be the wildest guy at the fest, it’s funny. It’s a funny competition.

You always get those kinds of people at festivals, it seems like it’s a completely different reality once you get into a festival.

Yeah I like that about it, we don’t seem to really get those kinds of festivals over here, at least to that magnitude, so you don’t get the crazy festival guys, the Americans don’t get that pleasure sadly.

On your DVD it shows you guys doing a bunch of silly stuff, what’s the most stupid thing you’ve ever done?

I don’t know, as you can see we don’t have a lot of shame within our party so it’s hard to think about something I’ve done. Well, there’s the time that I drank everyone’s pee, it was an accident, but that sucked. It was this big plastic bottle that had been sitting around in the van, this was the first or second tour we ever did. Everybody was peeing in this giant bottle, and I ended up drinking out of it later on just mistaking it for bit of wrong ice. That’s the problem, ice tea is too close in colour to dehydrated man’s urine so that happened, that sucked.

If you could pick any song, what would be the soundtrack to your life?

It would have to be some Bee Gees I think, I can just imagine strutting around to that for a long time. Maybe that song ‘Tragedy’ that’s a good one, it makes people want to strut.

Have you had a lot of tragic moments in your life then?

No, not really, I can’t even understand have the lyrics to that song cause he sings so damn high, but it seems like a happy song, regardless, it makes me want to shake my butt.

Talking about song lyrics, what’s the most ridiculous song lyric you’ve ever heard?

That’s a tough one, in death metal there’s a lot of funny lyrics because of English as a second language. So they’ll be foreign guys having English error and that will lead to some funny lyrics sometimes. I’m trying to think of a specific one, the band Aeon from Sweden they have a few good ones. There’s a part when he says ‘Stand on your knees’, it’s just stuff like that where the English doesn’t quite match up. Standing on your knees is not going to work.

What is the weirdest thing you ever seen on the Internet?

There’s a lot of weird things on the internet there’s a lot of terrible things on the internet. I never saw two girls one cup, but that’s pretty awful. The Goatse (BEWARE before you click the link!) it’s pretty traumatising, I think that’s it. If you don’t know what the Goatse is, I don’t even recommend looking it up, it’s terrible.

What’s it about? Or can you not say?

It’s a man that’s bent over and he’s basically holding his butt hole open and it’s humungous, it’s terrifying.

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When you were younger what was the first ever album you bought?

The early stuff I liked was just really scattered weird stuff, just trickles in from your parents I think, so I had The Commodores, Def Leppard. Def Leppard I think kind of paved the way for me liking guitars, heading towards heavy metal and stuff like that. Then once I started to smarten out a little but bit Megadeth was pretty much my first love in metal and kind of blew my doors off. Metallica, the big four and all that, then that lead to me checking out heavier stuff, like Pantera and Sepultura and then eventually death metal came into my life and I’ve never gone back pretty much.

So I know you’re obviously a fan of death metal, but have you got any musical guilty pleasures, anyone you’re ashamed of listening to?

There’s all kinds of stuff that I just wouldn’t out rightly tell people, like Harry Connick Jr. I don’t think people would expect that, that definitely comes from my dad. A lot of corny eighties stuff, Eric Carmen, Boy Meets Girl, and all kind of cheesy stuff. Pretty much all eighties pop music, turn on the eighties pop station and I’m set pretty much.

I understand your name comes from the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, what made you drawn to that specific case?

I just thought it was crazy that so many people were still obsessed with it. There’s people writing books about it, there’s people theorising about it all the time. There’s people investigating it off the record, and all the weird stuff that’s surrounding the case, like there was over 100 false confessions, and just a lot of weirdness. It wasn’t just the crime itself but it has a significance here. Especially in the states because that crime signifies the darkening of times I think. People moving up to California with the idea of achieving the American dream, becoming a movie star, becoming famous and that’s what she (The Black Dahlia) wanted, that was her mission, so she moved up to California and she was brutally cut down. It just signifies the end of that happy go lucky era they were presenting in America, so it’s about the death of the American dream, there’s more to it than just the murder it has a potency to it.

So it’s the whole idea behind it?

Yeah, we were looking for a band name, something death metal that would be frightening, just try to stir people’s emotions. Once you know about the case and have looked into it it’s very grim and very much what I was looking for and when I learned about it, it pretty much scared the crap out of me, so I was like yeah this is definitely it.

So going back to your new DVD, I understand some of it is in 3D, why did you decide to do that?

I just thought it would be different, something goofy that the fans might like and that would go along with our sense of humour. Also, it was something that you wouldn’t be able to achieve just watching it on YouTube. It’s something to make you want to go out and get the real deal, get the package and 3D glasses, and hopefully something that would encourage a party element, you’d want to watch it with your friends and party. That’s kind of what the old DVD became, something of a party favour, so we were hoping to extend that scenario somewhat.

So you’ve been in a band for a long time now, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from being in a band and touring the world?

Just, I guess you’ve got to relax, take things in stride, there’s a lot of hardships touring, a lot of down time, it’s boring and a lot of uncomfortable travel. Really the best thing is to have a good attitude because you’re in circumstances that are uncomfortable a lot, so you need to surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook and just make the best out of everything. That’s why there’s a lot of the comedy you see on the DVD and in what we do, a lot of it is just necessary for survival. We are always cracking jokes to entertain each other, entertain ourselves and just having that kind of outlook have been crucial to the longevity of this thing.

I suppose if you’re with the same people constantly it can get a bit over powering.

Yeah, we’re in very close quarters. For the most part we’re always together, we’re in the van together. That’s our closest quarters I think, the seven of us in the van and that’s what we ride primarily over here in the states, it’s definitely a very tight family scenario. We always try to keep the band as friends first, we wouldn’t have anyone in the band that didn’t vibe with our personality and that we didn’t think was going to be a good addition to the band. We have always thought about the overall attitude of the band and how we want to present ourselves to people and the fans, so we’re always looking for people who are outgoing, not just can play the stuff but are going to be good to the fans and are going to be part of the bigger picture.

So I see your playing quite a few festivals this summer, what’s your favourite festival to play?

Wacken is really cool. It’s kind of like the championship of the metal circuit, as far as festivals go that’s the one that everyone wants to get on. We’ve had the pleasure of playing there a couple of times, it’s been really cool. Download is awesome of course, we’re coming back there and this looks like it’ll be the biggest time scale we’ve been to Download so that’s exciting, and it’s exciting to be one of the few representative of the extreme scene there. We’ll be in there with Dying Fetus and Behemoth on our day as well, so we’ll try to party with those guys. We played Deathfeast in Germany that was cool. Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic I think that’s probably my favourite over all, it just has a party atmosphere, lots of awesome distros to look through, so I’m like a kid in a candy store with a million death metal CDs to thumb through and death metal shirts up the ass, so yeah I think that Brutal Assault is probably my favourite.

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I can imagine it can be quite good because it’s almost a holiday, but still working at the same time I suppose.

Yeah, you just play for a little while, then the stress is over, you just have some beers and go out and get dirty. But I like the fest because you get to see a lot of bands you wouldn’t see here in the states, a lot of extreme bands that aren’t fortunate to come over. Especially with those festivals in the Czech Republic they really just get the craziest of bands out there. So, some of the coolest bands we’ve ever seen have been at festivals, it opens you up to a whole other opportunity to see bands that you just would not have over here.

Do you find it quite advantageous to be a death metal band from the US then, because a lot of them tend to be more European? so do you find it to your advantage, because obviously you’ve grown quite a big fan base in the US, whereas others might not have had the chance to, do you think that’s helped your career?

Yeah and we’ve always been striving to be a global band, not just worry about how we did in the states, but we started coming over to Europe and the UK and everywhere in 2004. With every album we’ve kind of been expanding where we go and what we can do, so yeah just being who we are, but also being from the US made us interesting to people, and made people want to check us out. I think just kind of being odd balls, being weird, overweight, ugly, short haired freakazoids and not your typical long haired leather jacket wearing guys, has also made us stand out to people. We have fans from all different walks, there’s punk fans, hardcore fans, there’s people calling us deathcore, melodic deathcore, death metal and pretty much everything in between. All those different people seem to like us, or you know some of them so it’s been cool and we’ve been very lucky. So yeah it’s afforded us opportunities that so many bands over here just don’t have. We never said that we were original, or an original band in any way, what we do is really just a mix of different classic elements and a few technical things too, but we’ve mostly just been a lucky band. I don’t know why but we’ve just been able to cross over to so many different kinds of people, and have been able to tour and become a career band, it’s just been amazing to say the least.

I’ve noticed with all your past releases they’ve always been every two years on the odd year, does that mean that next year we should expect a new album?

Of course, and sticking with that schedule’s been good for us. I’s kind of a reaction to people’s attention spans in the modern day, it’s good to have new music coming out and it’s good to constantly be on tour and constantly be visible as a band. That’s one of those strong suits, we tour more than half of the time, in the early days we were touring 10 months out of the 12 so it was a lot of work and it was really tiring. So we’ve gotten to step back a little bit in that respect and got a little more time at home, but for the most part we’re on the road a lot and it’s been the best type of advertisement for us I think just being out there.

I like the challenge, I like to write, I like to record, I like when it comes time to be creative again and we don’t really write on the road, typically we kind of just save up our enthusiasm and new ideas until it’s time to get together and start thinking about that kind of stuff. For me it’s cool every two years to go, wow, this is where the guys are at now, they’ve gotten even better at playing, better at song writing and I have to step up and try to hang with those guys, it’s exciting to create. You’d think that after doing it so many times and so many years that it wouldn’t be as fun but the further we push these things and the more successful it becomes, the more experimenting we’ve done over the last couple of records I think it’s made things just more satisfying and it’s makes us want to go even further.

It’s always good as well for the fans, they know exactly when to expect things, they’re not just hanging on for a year.

Right, it’s cool. We want them to expect quality from us, and we hope by now they expect that we’re at least never going to wimp out. We want to be one of those bands like Cannibal Corpse, which people just depend on, they know when they’re going to get it, they know that it’s going to be good, and they’re eagerly awaiting it, that’s what we’re hoping for.

Interview by Gemma Stevenson.

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— LIVE DATES —

13th June, 2014 – Jera On Air Fest, Ijsselsteyn (Netherlands)

14th June, 2014 – Download, Donington Park, Derby (UK)

15th June, 2014 – Les Cuizines, Chelles (France)

16th June, 2014 – Connexion Live, Toulouse (France)

17th June, 2014 – Shoko, Madrid (Spain)

18th June, 2014 – Razzmatazz3, Barcelona (Spain)

20th June, 2014 – Nummirock Festival, Kauhajoki (Finland)

22nd June, 2014 – Hellfest Festival, Clisson (France)

23rd June, 2014 – L’Undertown, Meyrin (Switzerland)

24th June, 2014 – Konzerthaus, Schuur, Lucerne (Switzerland)

25th June, 2014 – Le Grillen, Colmar (France)

27th June, 2014 – Mair 1 Festival, Montabaur (Germany)

28th June, 2014 – Logo, Hamburg (Germany)

29th June, 2014 – Grasspop Metal Meeting, Hasselt (Belgium)

1st July, 2014 – MTC, Cologne (Germany)

2nd July, 2014 – Kantine, Augsburg (Germany)

3rd July, 2014 – 007 Strahov, Prague (Czech Republic)

4th July, 2014 – With Full Force Festival, Roitzschjora (Germany)

5th July, 2014 – Vainstream Rock Fest, Munich (Germany)

6th July, 2014 – Roskilde Festival, Roskilde (Denmark)

9th July, 2014 – Union Scene, Drammen (Norway)

11th July, 2014 – Checkpoint Charlie, Stavanger (Norway)

12th July, 2014 – Garage, Bergen (Norway)

13th July, 2014 – Gregers, Hamar (Norway)

14th July, 2014 – Byscenen, Trondheim (Norway)