Interview with Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder (2009)

Trevor from The Black Dahlia Murder is the first person I’ve ever interviewed more than once. Â Unfortunately, he doesn’t remember that. Â When I talked to him, the guys were a start up band from Detroit that was soon going into the studio to record Miasma a record that went over, well, remarkably well. Â So well, in fact, that The Black Dahlia Murder has basically become one of the biggest American names in death metal. Â Their third record Nocturnal did even better on the charts than Miasma did, and I suspect that Deflorate will make the last two look silly.

With that in mind, it still blows my mind that these guys are still reviled by so many metalheads. Â I talk about that, the new record, what he’d like to say to all the kids downloading his new record and obscure death metal. Â Fun? Â I thought so.

AMG: Let’s jump right into this, it’s been like 6 years since you guys released Unhallowed and last time I talked to you you’d onlyTBDM_Deflorate-300-CD been to Europe once. Â How’s it going over there? Â How are you guys doing in the European market?

Trevor: It’s been really good, man. Â It’s been picking up quite a bit. Â We’ve been getting there a lot, you know, we go there a couple times a year. Â Usually try to hit the festival circuits in the summer if we can. Â It’s been cool, it’s been similar to the States, it’s just a little bit behind still. Â We’re definitely excited to be going back there. Â Especially seeing as how bands definitely seem to generate longevity over there, they just keep coming and keep their fans happy. Â That’s pretty much what we plan to do, you know, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in the long run, but yeah man, it’s been a very, very cool evolution.

AMG: When are you guys coming over here next then?

Trevor: We’ll be back in January for this tour called Bone Crusher which is like this tour that was dreamt up by us and our booking agent, Mark at Avacado. Â It’s sort of like a traveling fest, it’s us, 3 Inches of Blood, Necrophobic who I absolutely love, I can’t wait to see. Â Ingested from the UK they’re cool and they were one of our suggestions. Â Obscura they’re awesome. Â So yeah, it should be really cool and a little bit varied, you know.

AMG: But first you’ve got a couple legs of an American tour?

Trevor: Yeah, we have uh, we’re living in a couple days for Children of Bodom and Skeletonwitch which is actually mostly Canadian but there’s some American dates. And then we roll right into another tour with Skeletonwitch, which features Toxic Holocaust and Trap Them. Â That’ll be the whole US. Â So yeah, we have a lot on our plate as usual, I think more so on this tour cycle than ever, it’s going to be really, really, jam packed with dates.

AMG: When we had talked before you had said that you had been home like two weeks out of the year or something, is that the kind of schedule that you still have? Â You put out a record, tour like maniacs and go back into the studio right away?

Trevor: Yeah, it usually adds up to 8 or 9 months altogether that we’re gone. Â It’s a little bit spread out. Â It’s usually a little time at home, just enough to stay sane. Â This while coming up is looking pretty brutal, we have 2 months straight in the van between those two tours because we don’t get to go home in between and that’s a test of sanity right there, pretty much.

AMG: Yeah, I’ll bet. Â Does that have anything to do with the member swapping that’s been happening?

Trevor: That has a lot to do with it actually. Â People that just can’t commit to being a camper their entire life, you know. Â And I can understand. Â But another thing is just the amount of dedication, the amount of dedication to the person’s respective instrument. Â You gotta be on top of the ball, especially in the drumming department, you know, to play how we wanna play live. Â It takes a lot of upkeep you know. Â Also, you know, a lot of people have gone through the band because they just couldn’t keep their egos in check. Â There’s a lot of people complementing you all the time when you’re in a band. Â You gotta keep focused and being the best at your instrument. Â The main goal is to play a perfect show. Â If we play a perfect show, you know, or play the best we can and it’s tight, has balls, then the rest falls into place. Â Then we can be happy campers, you know. Â That’s kind of our mantra. Â I think now that we’re older and now that we have a really successful thing going we get to choose from the best of the best to come in and play in our band, you know. Â We’re not picking people that we know from the neighborhood in Michigan anymore. Â Now we got to shop around for these guys. Â Shannon has just been an amazing drummer and an amazing asset to this band. Â Just having him behind us… it gives us the confidence to be the band that we’re supposed to be, you know. Â We need to know that we’re going to be faced playing at these high speeds on stage, we need to know that he’s always going to be there to back us up. Â Now that we have that confidence I think that we’re even stronger as a force than ever. Â Bring Ryan in, you know, he’s on that same level of professionality [sic] you know, he’s an awesome player, he definitely brings our leads up to the next plateau on this new album, and he also contributed to the writing of this album. Â Which was cool, because he wasn’t really in the picture for that long. Â But you know, he felt comfortable with us. Â And we brought him in with the idea that he was going to write songs and be a part of the band, and it’s worked out great. Â He’s been sort of a breath of life into everything. Â The rest of us have been tu

The Black Dahlia Murder - Majesty

nnel-visioning on this band for a long time, you know what I mean, I’ve spent 8 years where this was my main focus and now we’re just surrounded by like-minded guys. Â It’s like a new dawn for us because we have Ryan contributing to writing, Bart our bass player actually co-wrote two songs. Â It’s like we have a whole new canon of people who are writing and it took the pressure off of Brian, you know, he was our sole writer for most of the material on most of the albums. Â Even though it’s our fourth album, I feel like we really hit our stride with the last one, you know, like it wasn’t kids stuff anymore. Â ‘Cause when we met I was a kid, you know. Â Now I’m almost 30, time’s flying but we’ve been having a lot of fun the whole way.

AMG: But at the same time, Deflorate is definitely still The Black Dahlia Murder it’s not like you guys are exactly branching out in a lot of new progressive directions. Â Do you think that we’ll see more experimentation on future records, or have you nailed that sound that you want?

Trevor: We try to do both. Â We realize our strengths. Â And our sound has been realized as far as we’re concerned, you know, and we try to do technical things and we played in so many time signatures that we’ve never touched on this album. Â We try give the songs their own identity and I think they’re a little bit stronger in that way on this album than on any previously. Â So, you know, it’s kind of like we try to keep a good balance of everything. Â We try to write concise death metal songs that have a catchy song structure and strong choruses, you know that’s always been our thing. Â But we try to keep going as a band and keep the fans coming along with us, you know what I mean, so, it’s definitely our sound, it’s definitely more recognizable as us, but it is more technical, there are moments that are faster than ever and then there are some songs that are pulled back a little bit like “Necropolis,” just letting the melodies and the catchiness do the talking. Â We just want to ride that fence and not do anything too drastic, you know, sometimes change, it scares people, you know what I mean? Â It’s not like we’re going to go start singing or something. Â And I think that now that we’re at our fourth record I think people are starting to see us, hopefully, our fans are starting to see us as an institution, something that they can depend on. Â They know that it’s never going to like pussy out on them or anything. Â Any of those opportunities that we’ve had and anything that we’ve been lucky enough to do, we’ve done without compromising our music in anyway. Â We do what we want to do and we’ve been lucky to have these great opportunities and stuff, so we’re just going to keep on doing it and hope that people will stick with us, and hope we can survive the changing of time in the way that Cannibal Corpse has. Â There’s been the rise and fall of death metal and now it’s coming back full swing in the US. Â In Europe it’s a little bit different, ’cause you know the fabric of the underground is very, very rich with history. Â You guys have a lot more big festivals and I think metal is a little bit more readily available in Europe.

AMG: It seems like it’s never been a trend, like it’s been more of a consistent underground in places.

Trevor: In the States it’s kind of lame, you know what I mean.  If it’s going to be like every other trend in the states then I guess it’s going to eventually taper off.  Right now it’s really hot, in the States.  We just want to survive the changing of times andPhoto 13 hopefully all these young fans that are into us will, you know, will grow up metalheads and will still stick with us and stick with metal.

AMG: Actually, I was going to say, apropos death metal I think it’s pretty interesting because when you guys first came out pretty much everyone was trying to say that you were metalcore because you don’t look like death metal guys, and now, even though you guys play melodic death metal (you pretty much sound like At The Gates with blast beats), but now it’s like the deathcore thing. Â Why do you think that nobody wants to call you death metal?

Trevor: I think they’re scared. Â They have their own… look, metal, I love it, I love the shit out of it, I’ve loved it for fucking almost 20 years now. Â But it has its own sets of rules and codes and it has its own safety zones, you know what I mean? Â They see us with short hair and they just want to put us in another box. Â They won’t except that I have a bigger CD collection than them. Â [Laughter] Â It has it’s own trappings I guess. Â The way I saw metal was that this is an escape from the world, the escape from reality. Â Like this secret society of people who have this greater understanding, you know what I mean? Â I don’t know where trying to keep everybody out of this picture really came into this, you know, I think the more metalheads we can find the more people that are into metal the better. Â Because frankly, as a whole… I don’t understand..

AMG: Yeah, but then it’s not exclusive, dude, it’s not exclusive.. Â If there’s a group of kids.. I don’t know, when I was at school I was one of four guys who liked metal if there had been 25 I wouldn’t have been special.

Trevor: [Laughs] Yeah, but It’s the music of the underground, so I don’t understand why we don’t have a home with those people. Â I guess in a way it’s given us another challenge, you know, another occasion to rise to. Â To prove to these people. Â If they hear the music they can’t deny it.

AMG: But dude, they can, I mean, they do it. Â You’ll read for example people comparing bands that don’t sound anything like you guys to you because that is sort of an image of something that is trendy and not metal.

Trevor: But I think a lot of this comes from.. I think it’s half people that just look at the band and haven’t heard it who may even like the band, but they just profile us as metalcore and never check it out. Â And then there are kids that are very young and coming in and I think they see a lot of bands that maybe… Â There are a lot of young bands influenced by this band that kind of take it and put a ton of breakdowns in it, you know. Â So I guess that for a young kid, I guess it seems like we’re in the same category as a lot of this deathcore bands because of a lack of awareness.

Photo 02AMG: That you guys don’t use breakdowns…

Trevor: Yeah, or that we’re influenced by a whole different set of music. Â It’s hard to pinpoint really. Â Having all these different genres and whatever, every time our name is mentioned on the internet there follows like a 55 page genre battle. Â [Laughs] But I think having all these different genres and things like that, that people can put us in has kind of given us the ability to play with all different kinds of bands, you know. Â We play with hardcore bands, we play with metalcore bands, we play with black/death bands everything in between. Â It’s made us more versatile, I think. Â It’s been a blessing in disguise. Â At first I used to be really anal about it and get kind of butt hurt about it, but I don’t really care anymore. Â It’s basically ignorance that’s put us in these different categories, so it’s like “fuck it man, what can I do?” Â You can’t change everybody’s mind in the world. Â As long as they’re talking about the band. Â I don’t care what they’re calling us as long as they’re calling us. Â I think, too that Nocturnal was kind of a big step in clearing our name to some of the more elite types. Â They see the artwork they can at least make the association, you know, having Necrolord artwork and stuff like that, maybe that was kind of a foot in the door to get them to catch on. Â And I’ve got high hopes for this one, too. Â That whole thing, I don’t spend too much time even worrying about that anymore.

AMG: Tell me about your new DVD.

Trevor: All the DVD’s I’ve bought of bands, I just watch once if I can even get through it.  You know, it’s usually just one concert shot from a few angles, by the third or fourth song you’ve pretty much just seen everything and you’re like “Oh, OK.”  And if there’s an interview it’ll usually be something really corny and not too informational.  I don’t know.  We just had this idea that we wanted to do a DVD our way, you know?  And a lot of it is just joking around and it just kind of shows you what tour is like.  There’s a whole segment on how to pee in a bottle [laughs].  It’s just shit like that that shows the humanity of the band and shows the kind of shit that we endure.  People look at our band, like.. sometimes kids ask us like “You guys are fucking rich, man!” or like “Why don’t you have Metal Blade buy you a bus?”  And we’re like “Wow, you know so little about what’s going on, I don’t have a whole day to explain it to you.”  So, I don’t know it’s kinda funny man.  We have kind of a unique vibe in our band asfar as I can see, we’re all friends and we have a good time.  We have a great time.  And even though we’ve had members come through this band, they were always you know friends.  Like friends from home.  And the guys we have are our friends now, one of our abilities—to have this much strength and to tour this relentlessly—is just our bond, you know, we have such a great time doing all this shit.  You can really see that in the DVD, that we have something unique going.  I think, it’s taken on its own life, you know.  A lot of people have been talking to me about it.  Some people have been turned onto the band I think through the DVD.  Like, the poop and pee jokes are the hook and then they find out about the music.  [More laughter abounds]

Photo 04AMG: Did you ever see Type O Negative’s After Dark?

Trevor: No, man. Â I’ve never seen it.

AMG: That’s like the only band video that I’ve ever seen that really sounds anything like that. Â It was basically a big fucking joke, t

hey got money from the label and then they just made asses of themselves.

Trevor: Yeah, that’s awesome.

AMG: Like you said, it was the only one of those videos that you can sit through, ’cause the rest of ’em.. are just “Eh.”

Trevor: The Pantera DVD, that’s awesome.

AMG: I never saw it.

Trevor: They just fuck around, man, it’s awesome.

AMG: OK, yeah, another one is Iron Maiden’s Rock in Rio, that was really good, too.

Trevor: I mean, some concerts are just great. Â I mean, Rock in Rio that is just that show is amazing. Â Everyone singing “Fear of

the Dark,” I mean, that is the shit.

AMG: I mean, could you imagine standing in front of that many people?

Trevor: No. Â [Laughs] That’s gotta be quite a feeling. Â I mean, I get good vibes when I’m standing in front of just a normal show, if it’s going well. Â I can’t imagine. Â Goddamn. Â That was like a sea of people.

AMG: Yeah, dude, and they all know every single word to every single song even though they don’t speak your language.

Trevor: That’s a trip dude. Â That’s the coolest shit ever.

AMG: That shit is impressive. Â But what is the biggest show you guys have ever played?

Trevor: It’s from festivals obviously. Â We stood probably in front of nine or ten thousand at a festival in Japan one time, that was cool. Â We played at Wacken, there was a good bit of people. Â We were the first band on the second day, we played at like 11 am. Â And there must’ve been about 10,000 people there watching and that was a good feeling. Â In Indonesia we headlined a show for about 4,000. Â That was pretty damn big.

AMG: Damn, that’s really big. Â What size venues are you guys playing now? Â Are you guys playing sort of middle sized venues now?

Trevor: Yeah, we’re in that middle room. Â I think it’s like, a good show out in the states will be like anywhere between 5-to-800. If we have a really good tour, you know, good package and stuff. Â It depends. Â We’re trying to play it safe on this next run you know because of the economy being down so hard right now. Â We’re planning our next round, I think we’re going for the mid-

sized rooms.  It’s been really fun, man, pretty much every time we play we don’t have to settle for anything but chaos, you know what I mean?  Crowd surfing and going nuts.  We just wanna have some fun and kinda get rid of  the loads of your normal life just for a minute, you know?

AMG: I guess I wanna know what you want to say to all the kids who are downloading your record right now instead of buying it…

Trevor: I’d tell ’em to pick it up. Â I think a lot of them don’t understand.. I think the common consensus out there is that “Well they don’t get any money from their CD sales,” and that’s pretty much true. Â But, uh, it still decides the pecking order of who plays over who, who has the clout to take what fucking bands, blah, blah fucking blah, blah blah blah.

AMG: Alright, alright…

Trevor: It’s very, very important that people buy the record. Â That our fans buy the record, I encourage them. Â Because if they love us, I’m asking them. Â Please.. [Laughs] Â Right now it’s a hard time, and hard times have fallen on a lot of bands. Â And, it would really make a statement if you picked up this album.

AMG: Are you down on your knees, by any chance?

Trevor: I’m on my knees. Â I’m asking [inaudable] of humanity.

AMG: [Laughing] Alright, sort nearing the end of our time here.. what are some really great obscure death metal records that you’ve picked up recently? Â Shit that isn’t.. you know.. On..

Photo 10

Trevor: Yeah, yeah, shit that’s not on Metal Blade. Â [Laughter abounds] Â I don’t know, as far as new bands. Â Um, let’s see.. Hmmmm… I’ve been on a real old school kick in the last while, finding a lot of old school CDs. Â There’s plenty of obscure shit in that realm, too. Â Recent bands I like, um, Dead Congregation, I like a lot from Greece they have the drummer from Voracity. Â They’re like the really dark death metal band, somewhat like Incantation, but like tight and really fast. Â I don’t know, I’ve been really falling in love with the really dark death metal stuff like that. Â Shit where they play on stage with a bunch of candles and cloaks and shit like that. Â And bone necklaces and shit, but they’re awesome.

AMG: Nice, nice.. Have you heard Fleshgod Apocaplyse? Â They’re more tech…

Trevor: Yeah, that’s the other Hour of Penance band… Fuckin’ rad.

AMG: [Laughs] Yeah, man, but they’re way more classical man, they’re way more melodic..

Trevor: Yeah, it has like a little bit of orchestrated stuff and…

AMG: Yeah, yeah, that’s like the one sort of techdeath record that I’ve been getting into. Â There’s a bunch of stuff that’s come out like Ulcerate and …

Trevor: Yeah, I like Ulcerate, we actually played with those guys out in New Zealand. Â And they were AWESOME, man. Â That drummer is real dude. Â There’s nothing fake there, man.

AMG: What’s up with the.. do you guys trigger?

Trevor: Uh, just the kicks.

AMG: What do you think of that? Â With the whole fact that drums sound like there’s no toughness in the drums anymore..

Trevor: Yeah, it’s been a bit of a trend and I think it stems from everyone’s excitement about ProTools. Â When it was first getting around everywhere, you know? Â But some of it was kind of influenced by what was going on in metalcore production, you know what I mean? Â Like, replacing the fuck out of every drum until it sounds like the hardest hit you’ve ever heard and it just doesn’t sound like a human you know what I mean? Â Like quantize the shit out of it. Â We tried to back off on that kind of sound on this record and go way more natural with the drums. Â Like, all real. Â The old school way. Â I think it has more of a live energy to it.

AMG: It sounds good, it stands out, man. Â So many bands are doing that now, it’s so.. You might as well be programming it, what’s the point of having a fucking drummer?

Trevor: [Laughs] And half the guys can’t even reproduce it live. Â So, I dunno man. Â We had some pretty fake sounding drums Photo 14on Miasma but we’ve definitely gone away from that.

And that was that. Â Sadly, our time was up. Â Anyway, there is some more to this interview, bits and pieces that unfortunately got missed due to shitty sound quality. Â Including a lot in the section about death metal bands. Â Bummer. Â Either way though, Trevor was a sport and you should buy the new record. Â He’s begging you…

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