I’m chatting with the easy-going vocalist of The Black Dahlia Murder (BDM), all round nice fellow Trevor Strnad, and amazingly Skype isn’t being a piece of shit.
Wonders will never cease.
BDM are doing a tour of Australia at the tail-end of September – and they’ll be bringing Belgian fiends Aborted, along with Australia’s very own Zeolite. My feeble old man blood throbs with excitement. But what is Mr Strnad up to? “I’m chillin’, dude; just getting ready to go back to Michigan to practice with the guys, and bounce out on tour and come out to Australia. It’s gonna be awesome.” So how’s the ‘between tours’ vacation going? “I’m at home relaxing so I’m definitely cherishing my time right now.”
So you’re looking forward to visiting our sunny shores, aye? He’s most enthusiastic: “I definitely love coming out there, and with the added muscle of Aborted – and a new album from those guys – it’s gonna be pretty sick, dude!” Yes, yes, yes. The band are bringing their Nightbringers (2017) album to us – and it’s the first album with Brandon Ellis on lead guitars, who admittedly has been in the band since 2016. He’s only twenty five years old – is it good having the young blood in the band? Again, Trevor is enthusiastic. “Yeah – and it’s exciting, dude. He has a really insane work ethic, and he’s kinda wise beyond his years – he’s done a lot of touring, and he’s about as professional as they come. It’s great – he’s given us a lot of energy, like a shot in the arm on stage – we’re tryin’ to keep up with him up there! He’s just full of energy and he puts on an insane show. He’s also brought a lot to the band in terms of writing.” Trevor explains that Brandon wrote a “good chunk of the songs for the last album” and praises him as “the perfect bandmate…it’s been really positive vibes with him.”
I mention how shitty some fans get when there’s a change to the band’s line-up, and how civilised it was that out-going guitarist Ryan Knight recommended Brandon. It’s obvious that Trevor was pleased with how the change was managed. “Yeah, man – this has been the smoothest transition as far as between us as bandmates, and also in so far as public reception. I think people have been a lot more welcoming to him. As you said certain people get shitty when you change members – they take it pretty personally – but Ryan was very cool stepping down; he warned us like a year and a half in advance in an effort to help us move smoothly and segue to the next one, and that very day that he wanted to step down he told us that he had a few different guys in mind, and top of the list was Brandon. It came together seamlessly, and it’s worked out awesomely, man. We’ve got nothing but love for Ryan and we’re still very close with him, and it’s been awesome – just about as good as it gets.”
We move on to how the tunes from Nightbringers have worked out on tour, and Trevor is pleased at how well the songs have translated from album to stage. In fact, it was “…so great that we decided to play all of them, which is something we haven’t done with most of the recent records.” He mentions that there are a lot of songs from previous albums that have never seen the bright lights of a live set “So it feels good to have such a demand for the new songs because I feel like the new album is pretty eclectic. It’s probably the most varied thing we’ve done up to this point which is something we’re always striving for as a death metal band; it’s more than just being a fast band but also hopefully holding peoples’ interest for an entire record. So the more detail you can put in, and the more variety within the album, the better, and I feel that this has been the ultimate culmination of that idea so far. I’m very proud of it.” We move into a discussion about the ordering of the songs on Nightbringers – bands obviously don’t write the songs in the order they appear on an album but I couldn’t imagine any other song but Widowmaker as the opener. “Yeah – that was the last song written, and we had eight songs and they were great, but I felt like we needed a very obvious opener as an intro to the album with a really good set up – and I put the pressure on Brian (Eschbach), and I was like ‘Hey man – it’s time to write that opener; we’ve got a sick-ass album here’ so I’m sure he felt a lot of pressure in that moment but he responded accordingly with a really kick-ass opener, and I think Widowmaker has really been a good success live. It comes across very easily and it’s a catchy tune, dude! It’s a proud moment for us.” I’m going out on a limb and calling it as the song that opens the set…
I’m not going to pimp the sites you write for but you do dabble in music journalism, yes? “Yeah, man – I’m writing for REDACTED REDACTED every so often. I basically just try to tip kids off to new albums that are coming out in the underground, mostly death metal, mostly brutal death metal. I’m an underground hound and I’m always buying albums so it’s my way to kind of give back to the scene a little bit.” Any fan who is that keen to read Trevor’s work shouldn’t have too much trouble tracking it down. Anyway, you listen to death metal, you write about death metal – blinking flip – you even earn a crust from death metal; do you ever need a break from it or a change of pace? “Yeah, definitely, man. I mix it up all the time. I like all kinds of music; in the last few years it’s been a lot of eighties music; really cheesy pop, just all kinds of different shit, man! The older I get, the more open I get. I just try to support the scene and spread the gospel, you know what I mean?”
Strnad recently did guest vocals on album opener The Accuser, on Metal Allegiance’s Volume II (2018), and when I ask if he gets a lot of guest vocal offers, he says “Yeah, I do – but that one’s been the biggest honour so far; doing an entire song for those guys – and first song on the album, no less! It was very cool.” He’s into helping bands out and the only criteria is that “It just has to be something I’m a fan of…”
I point out the number of social media platforms that he (and the rest of the band) are across – is it just a massive pain in the arse? Yes and no, according to Trevor. “I think it’s effective but it is a pain in the ass to have to keep posting so many different versions of the same thing as far as social media outlets are concerned – but I do see it’s one of the few means we have to advertise what we’re doing so…and also being computer savvy throughout the entire life of the band, the internet has been an immense tool for getting the word out there about our band so I’m definitely thankful for it but I see it for the tool that it is – but yeah, it‘s a pain in the ass!”
I mention my interview with Sven from Aborted and how the well-mannered frivolity of our youth (mostly) managed to avoid being captured. Trevor laughs, conceding that “It’s a different time now, man,” and he notes that many fans feel more connected to a band when there are endless clips of the studio, the stage, and the toilet. Yes, but what about that really fucking bizarre practice of those weirdos who are actually at a gig, watching the gig through their phones? “Yeah, I’m kinda getting used to that but I always think ‘What’s the freakin’ point?!’ – it’s gonna sound like shit and you’re just wasting your time…it’s kinda goofy but…” Yes, it’s what the young folk are doing…
So are you a beast on tour? “Out in Australia, I try to not get too tanked because we gotta fly every morning pretty early, and once you hit that turbulence, man, if you’re feeling nauseous from drinking, dude, that can fuck you up! They won’t let you get up once you start taking off; you gotta sit there and throw up in a bag in front of everybody!”
And some bastard’s got a phone and filming you. “Yeah! Not that that’s happened to me before…wink…wink…” And we laugh…