The Black Dahlia Murder recently toured the USA in support of Abysmal, which was named one of the best albums of 2015 by Metal Sucks, Metal Injection, Metal Insider, among many others. As an added treat, they also played their first full-length, Unhallowed (2003), in its entirety during the trek — and performed at intimate venues across the country that hadn’t seen the band since their debut was released! Capital Chaos TV were honored to have a sit down chat with original vocalist Trevor Strnad at their May 12th Sacramento stop @ The Boardwalk.
A: So Abysmal and Unhallowed I understand are a part of the plan, will you be playing both at every show this tour?
T: Yes we’ve been starting with Unhallowed, we do it front to back right from the beginning of the show starting with the intro like from the cd and stuff, so total throwback retro set. And then after that we stop for like 2 seconds, run the intro to the new record, play Receipt and then a bunch of other stuff too, a few new songs and a few more old sprinkled in there as well. It’s been really cool man, very successful. People have been excited about the whole Unhallowed thing coming back. We have a lot of people coming out the woodwork I haven’t seen in a long time too, which is really cool for me like just going down memory lane a lot, for me and Brian in particular being the original guys, having been there. But it’s really awesome hearing the songs sounding how they do now. I knew it would be. We are much tighter players than we were then. When we did that record we were just babies, we hadn’t even left the state. I think we were really reaching to play a lot of that stuff, and you can tell. It’s not the tightest record ever recorded. I like it still for what it was, I like the songs and hearing them now with these musicians, is just really I love it. It’s been really fun. Ya its cool, there’s one side of the coin where you’re like are we doing this already? Doing retro stuff? Are we that old? Are we the Eagles, like what’s going on? Especially it’s such a popular thing right now to be playing your cool album, the one they like. It kinda feels kinda like weak sauce to jump on that, but also the fans like it. They like it so much so it’s been cool.
A: I want to ask about your fans. Back in 2000 and then now, do you notice a change in the energy, in the demographic of your crowds or the fans that have been following you?
T: I think it’s gotten just more broad. When we first took off on tour and stuff, I imagined that we would just fit kinda in, in the death metal world you know, like be playing with Origin and stuff all the time. But they just didn’t see us like that, we had short hair, we looked kinda weird, we were nerds. I had these thick glasses and stuff. I just think we started to appeal to a bunch of different things. Different factions of the underground like, punk kids. And when I look in the crowd now I still see every kind of person. It’s an eclectic mix. That’s the reason we get to be on tour and be a self-sufficient band whereas death metal is not commercial music. There’s only a couple of bands that get to survive from their touring that play death metal, we’re very fortunate. But part of it has been this ability to crossover. People can’t quite pin point what we are and it seems like there’s always a genre fight online every time you look at any YouTube of us, it just follows us you know what I mean? Who gives a crap, as long as they like it, that’s the way I look at it. As long as they like us, I don’t care what they’re calling us. To me its death metal, it’s always been and that’s what it’s influenced by. I do see how it’s kind of transcended this glass ceiling that I thought, I never saw any of this coming as far as getting on Ozzfest, and then those kind of big out door festivals like Mayhem, I never predicted that for us. I thought we would just be playing shows strictly with death metal bands so I’m thankful for how it’s all played out. It’s been awesome. To have this be my entire life, it’s my dream. I hated school, fucking hate work, ya know I don’t look at this as work.
A: Do still like touring even though you’ve been doing it a long time? Is it still as exciting as it was, or is it more patterned behavior?
T: Oh ya, it’s hard. You have to kind of make a pattern out of it or it will make you crazy. Like it becomes so tiresome to just be on the road and be unpredictable all the time. There’s a big difference between how we do it, going to hotel rooms, compared to crashing at some weirdo’s place every night. I miss that though, you know I miss when it was good but I don’t miss when it was bad. I don’t miss going ok, sorry the place isn’t even finished, there’s no carpet and there’s ferrets running around. Is that cool? And also it’s 3 am and I got these 20 dudes that want to party with you. So I don’t miss that. And then there’s times we’re sleeping somewhere and the other roommate comes home and they don’t know we’re there and we’re not supposed to be there and then some big fight breaks out, not a physical fight but we get kicked out. So I don’t miss that part, but I miss when it was fun. Like meeting a lot of people.
A: Tell me about your lineup right now, who is performing in the band tonight?
T: We have Mr. Brian Eschbach, he’s the other original member, on rhythm guitar. Still here. He’s the other original with me. We’ve been in the band 15 years now I think. It’s crazy; I can’t believe it’s gone that far. We have Alan Cassidy on drums; he’s been on the last two records so he’s like old news to us now. And we’ve played hundreds and hundreds of shows with him and Max as well, the bass player. He (Max) used to play with Despised Icon, used to play with this band Goratory, huge fan of brutal death metal. He was a good friend of the bands beforehand so it was really natural bringing him in, he’s been here several years too. We’ve got the new fish, Brandon and it’s awesome. He’s incredibly good, incredibly professional. Basically when Ryan was leaving the band he warned us like a year in advance so we could work together to make it seamlessly, he helped us find Brandon and they both came from the same band Arsis. He still plays with Arsis and Cannibal Corpse. He’s so young and so hungry to tour and play that we’ll get off the road and he’ll be out with those guys. Its total mayhem with that guy. Ya know he’s 23, he’s young and virile and ready to rock, I was there one time. I just turned 35 the other day and I just feel like now I’m seeing in black and white. I’ve been judging myself like am I supposed to wear these anymore? Vans shoes? I’ve definitely suspended a juvenile time in my life, I guess, kind of like where I was so quiet and reserved and tight lipped in school, and such a pushover kind of person. This is where I found my strength. Meeting so many like minded people and that’s been the best part of it all for me is kind of the escape from reality that it’s been. To have this awesome thing and to put our energy into it so hard and see it come back in spades with fans and their dedication. It’s been my dream realizing I’m still keeping it alive with Brian, he’s really smart. He’s the number crunching last word, he’s the boss man, he’s the dad of the band. He’s the shit. Every band needs that dude that is the last word, the last call. But he’s also awesome and fair, it’s a democracy in this band. Were still kind of hazing Brandon, we haven’t really jumped him in yet. So he’s just suspended in limbo, doesn’t know his status or what’s going on. He knows he’s doing good obviously, it’s plain to see. He’s so fucking good. He’s really exciting on stage; it’s really cool to have someone like that on stage. He stage dives with his guitar on. He’s the perfect guy for Ryan to choose, so it’s all a family affair this whole thing. I got nothing but love for Ryan, for everything he did for us. We wrote a lot of great songs together, we played a lot of great shows and tours. I understand that as soon as we got him, he had a kid. He came literally from the kid’s birth to record and start playing with us. So I knew that there a shelf life but also that said a whole lot about his dedication. He was always so down for us and a great dad too. We always knew there would be a point where he had to go home and it just came. It was sad; we all had a few tears. Cause were best friends. With a lot of bands, they’re just hired guns or just fill the role. The only reason I can stay sane is everybody in this whole thing from tour manager down to everybody is just cool, good to be around. You have to be a positive person to live in that burgundy piece of crap over there. You just lay in there like a human sardine next to everybody. We have the seats pulled out and we just have two mattresses and were like a can of sardines. But they are my best friends and that’s why this has been possible. Why it’s been so fun. Why we’re so positive too is we’re in cahoots man. Everybody’s cool. We just kinda celebrate the victories. We’ve been on a very awesome incline this entire time. We’ve been so fortunate in these times when it’s hard to sell records. When it’s so over saturated with other bands. Somehow were still here even though were getting older and that’s exactly the goal was to survive and be a lifer band like Cannibal Corpse that survives the comings and goings of trends. Napalm Death you see still kicking. Bands from the first generation of death metal are still trucking and killing it. Obituary is amazing. There’s so much reason to just keep trucking. That’s a big inspiration to me is the old school. I love so many different factions of metal and so many different corners, different sounds. All different stuff even outside of death metal. But my heart is with old school death metal for sure.
A: Is there anything else you would like to include or say to your fans?
T: Were still out here. We’re still trucking. Come see us, we’ll have a blast. I think people from the outside think negatively about a death metal show like it must be a bunch of people trying to hurt each other but it’s fun man. It’s a family affair; it’s a lot of love. Its people appreciating a very niche kind of music, so you kind of have this automatic respect for people that are there, no matter what they look like, no matter anything about it. Its nerd music dude. Hello, we like fantasy! We like D&D and all that. Its metal. Were happy to be among our fellow freaks so come on down and have a great time with us.