Bloodstock 2020 Interview: The Black Dahlia Murder.
Interviewed by Paul Hutchings
Formed in Waterford, Michigan in 2001, The Black Dahlia Murder have been at the forefront of the extreme metal movement for almost 20 years. The band released their ninth album Verminous in April, and it is a beast of a release. They were also due to be part of the Bloodstock 2020 line-up. Paul had a chat with front man Trevor Strnad in New York (Trevor, not Paul!) about the new album and Bloodstock.
The Razor's Edge: Many thanks for taking time to chat. I’d imagine you’ve been on a bit of treadmill with interviews in recent weeks after the release of the album.
Trevor: Actually, it’s slowed down a bit in recent weeks.
The Razor's Edge: I’m sure that’s good. How are you? You are in New York, aren’t you?
Trevor: Yes, I’m in New York, where the virus is definitely rampant; They’ve kinda got it under control now but it’s best to be cautious. The news has been pretty depressing lately, it’s been hard to keep the head above the water.
The Razor's Edge: And you’ve had a really rough couple of weeks with everything else that has been going on
Trevor: Yeah, definitely
The Razor's Edge: I’m really glad that you are okay and that you got the album out, it would have been a travesty not to have got such a cracking album out to the fans
Trevor: Thanks very much. It was certainly good for lifting the spirits, to have something positive to focus on. The best way to look at it is that we could have been stuck with no album coming out and have been at the end of an album cycle with no new album content. In a way, it’s cool that we have something to be positive about, there is time for people to slow down and listen to the album which is kind of a cool situation.
The Razor's Edge: And fingers crossed, you will have picked up more fans as people will be spending more time listening to music and picking it up on recommended sites
Trevor: That’s the hope man!
The Razor's Edge: Well, I think it’s a great album and congratulate you on it. Every album you release gets progressively better. Do you pay much attention to response? I assume you do from the fans. Reviews seem to be wholly positive around the record.
Trevor: Ah yeah, we had a really good wave of response, the fans are there, and I’ve seen a couple of reviews I didn’t care for, but this happens. It’s no big deal, nothing to take to heart. It’s one man’s opinion.
The Razor's Edge: The main reason we are doing this interview is because of the Bloodstock Festival which you were due to play in August. And you have played there before. 2012 was the first time you played there, and you’d already done 22 dates in the UK that year. What can you remember about it?
Trevor: We were on the ‘Ritual’ album at the time, and Bloodstock marked the last show with our drummer Shannon Lucas. He had been with us for a good deal of years, and yeah, it was a really good event. I remember there was sexual exchange going on in the crowd. That story has become something of a legend and I’m not sure it was oral sex or the whole nine yards because I’ve heard so many versions of the story but that is interesting and you can only hope to be that band that makes people that happy and free at that time!! [If you Google this you will indeed find that several options are available!] So that was kind of a cool thing in a way!
But it was an important show, because it was Shannon’s last show, and we ended our relationship as friends but it’s hard to see somebody go and it is definitely a big deal for the fans. I also remember we were asked to come on stage with Nile and sing along to ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’. We had toured with Nile twice. Once we were under them opening for King Diamond a long time ago, that’s how we met, and then we took Nile out in the States eventually. So that was a cool honour to be up there, there was me and Brian and Shannon doing our best mommy voices! That was a standout moment. The performance was cool, it felt like a big deal, one of those festival situations where you felt, yes, it’s happening. I compare it to Download in terms of how important it has been to our trajectory and how visible it has made us. It was a big deal and a big part of our conquest in the UK.
The Razor's Edge: The Bloodstock festival has mainstreamed a little in recent years which is completely understandable but certainly eight years ago it was the more extreme metal festival in the UK compared to Download [comparing apples with apples before we get a load of moans]. Did you notice any difference with the intensity of the fans at Bloodstock compared to the two shows at Download [2008 & 2014]?
Trevor: More receptive right out of the gate. More in tune. Being a bit more extreme gets people a bit more prepared than at somewhere like Download, I think. It was a more welcoming response.
The Razor's Edge: Did you know much about the festival? You obviously do the circuit across Europe during the summer months, but did you know much about Bloodstock?
Trevor: Not entirely. It was something that we knew of, we knew it was important and on our list of things to do to help our profile. We knew it was something to take seriously. It was definitely cool to see the environment. I went walking around the festival and watched some bands and hung out and kicked around some dust and some mud. It was good vibes. I enjoy the outdoor festival as compared to what we have in the States. We just don’t have it together like you guys have. It’s such a big culture and something to be admired.
The Razor's Edge: What’s the difference with the festival’s in the States. We have hundreds in Europe.
Trevor: I don’t know, it just hasn’t caught on in the way that it has in Europe and the UK. It feels like it affects how bands write their music. You know, you have dudes in a garage writing music with the ultimate aim of sounding live over a big PA outside; that’s the end game in Europe. The biggest festival environment. It’s a different scene over here
altogether, the festivals come and go, they try and do more touring festivals, where the bands come to you. They just haven’t played out the same way. There hasn’t been a really big underground festival. You have Maryland Deathfest which is awesome; you have the California Deathfest which is awesome but none on the magnitude of some of those in Europe with 60,000+. I don’t think the groundwork was ever laid out properly.
The Razor's Edge: I know you’ve said you enjoy playing the big festivals, but I’ve seen you indoors, where your shows are, let’s say intense. Is there a massive difference for you when you are playing a festival as opposed to an indoor gig, apart from the obvious, that you are likely to be the headliners?
Trevor: Yes and no. I feel like we go up there with largely the same approach. You have to be conscious with your stage presence and you have to make your moves bigger because you are a lot farther away. I do prefer the small shows, because it’s hard to break down that fourth wall that you get at festivals. From you as the singer to the guy in the front row is pretty far away, whereas in a club you can pull them on stage by the hair or stick the mic in their face so there is a challenge for us. There is no hiding, you really have to wave your arms and show them that you are there. A bigger stage presence and it’s a challenge. It feels really rewarding when you win a crowd over, because they don’t have to be there to watch you. With a show, they have paid to be there to see you, you have them trapped where you want them. At festivals, people will come over because they are curious, or have heard of you, there’s a lot of different levels of devotion and some people don’t like you at all. They just happen to be walking by, who knows. You are trying to sell yourselves much more. We try and put over what TBDM is about, we try and sell our personality, a bit of humour, it’s what we do, have a good time and make that small party vibe which we have and that can spread like wildfire and it’s amazing when you have control of a mass like that. You know, “all right you muthafuckers, on three I want you to make a fart sound” and they all do it! That’s our approach, to let it hang out, to be our juvenile selves and you see us smiling. We aren’t that band that is up there scowling, living in a coffin between sets. It’s too hard for me to keep that inside, I am too happy to be there, feeling so much love from the scene, surrounded by my people, you know, where I feel kinda isolated in life so that’s escape. I’m up there smiling and laughing my ass off, that’s all I can do. That’s who I am man.
The Razor's Edge: You guys are pretty regular visitors over here. Hopefully, you’ll be here in January. Is there something about the UK?
Trevor: It was one of the first experiences we had abroad, was playing that first Download and we played a small club show the night before and we were welcomed with open arms and people were cool and we got a glimpse of your metal scene and how passionate you were. That was my first-time seeing Slayer live and seeing thousands and thousands of fans singing along with Slayer, it was awesome. I’ve got a lot of love for the UK. A very storied history of extreme metal and everything revolving around Earache records and their influence on metal and extreme metal especially. Yeah, the UK has been really good to us. We tried to think globally from a young age, thinking about how we were going to last, beyond the trends and be global, not a US band.
The Razor's Edge: Well that is good to hear, and I really hope you are over here in January as I fear for the music scene at the moment.
Trevor: It seems like it’s getting worse and more information comes to light and it’s looking pretty bleak. I really have my fingers crossed for that tour but if it doesn’t happen, that’ll be the third tour we’ve burned because of this. It sucks to be side-lined and not out playing the new songs. But every other band is in the same position.
The Razor's Edge: They have announced some gigs in car parks and airfields over here, but I can’t see me watching you guys standing next to a car!
Trevor: That definitely steps on the fun of that. We are a band that thrives on the interaction and that is weird.
The Razor's Edge: So, if Bloodstock does go ahead next year, you are in this weird sandwich. When you played in 2012 you came on after Nile so there was a continuity in the extreme if you like. Next year you’ll be between Orange Goblin and Gloryhammer!
Trevor: That’s the perfect setup. We’ll be able to scare the shit out of people!
The Razor's Edge: When you do get over here, what do you have planned?
Trevor: A good chunk of the new record, we’ve been paying attention to what songs people have been reacting to the most, and I think we have a good feel for that but also a good selection of classics; we need to touch on every album and we enjoy playing the old stuff too. We will bring it harder.
The Razor's Edge: I’ll close by confirming that the rumours from 2012 was that the pit action was indeed full on action!
Trevor: We want to see the whole field fucking next year!