An Interview with The Black Dahlia Murder: Breaking The Fourth Wall

November first may have become the first day of a horror-free society until next haunting season, but the fiends in death metal continue year-round to keep just a little bit of horror in the world—even if it’s just in the music industry. According to Trevor Strnad, vocalist of The Black Dahlia Murder, that’s the whole culture within the genre, which makes sense when taking a look at the band’s album titles. To these guys, every day is Halloween.

Although spooks are all fun and games, there is a more serious side to the origin of the death metal group’s name. While speaking with Trevor, he explained why they chose to name the band after one of the most heinous murders of the twentieth century. With their newest album, Abysmal, out, the group is making their way across the country, spreading some of that horror. But however dark the band may seem, there is still a hidden side to these guys, and during some down time, pajama pants are 100% necessary.

How are you?

            I’m good! Just relaxing at home. We’ve got about a month off and I’m just enjoying my pajama pants time, pretty much. That’s pretty much how I live outside of the band. I really hate wearing pants, I feel like they’re a prison. So, pajama pants is how it is.

I know the name is derived from the murder of Elizabeth Short, but why name the band after that?

            With death metal, it’s all about trying to find the most gross, heinous, terrible, most monstrous thing you can find to name your band after and the songs… It’s just part of the course with death metal. So, I was trying to think of what is going to be the most scary name possible for this band. When I learned about the case, it was just so creepy—it made my skin crawl and I was like, “This is it.” This case and crime is just so heinous that it gives the band name a lot of power.

If you check out the topics, it’s just really heavy. I figured if it scared me, then it would be a good band name. That was the ticket. It has a special context in the States even more so because her death kind of signifies the beginning of the dark times and the death of the American Dream in a way. She came to Los Angeles with stars in her eyes trying to become a famous actress and stuff, which is totally the American Dream, you know? Go to California and all your dreams will come true. But her murder was so significant that it just scared the whole nation at the time. It’s just powerful.

That’s so true. You guys just came out with an album in September, how do you think the fans have liked it so far?

            It’s been really big. We hit it right on the head with the last two records, so it felt like even more pressure than ever to deliver this one, but I think they liked Abysmal. Our next phase is just trying to write some good songs and proceed as usual but, they just really like it! The songs, the recording, the artwork, so it’s a really exciting time for us to still be creating so much excitement for people. It’s great. This is exactly what we wanted.

Yeah! And Everblack made it to number 18 on Billboard’s Top 200?

            Yeah! I mean, they’re all doing well. But it’s not our goal to be measured by Billboard. It’s so far away from the underground, but it just means that things are going well for us. It’s a good thing for sure.

Totally—now this is your seventh studio album. After all these records, what’s the writing process like?     

            Like I kinda touched on earlier, it wasn’t different from any of the other records. The guys pretty much write the music into Pro Tools and by the time I hear a song for the first time, it’ll have both guitars, bass, drums, and it sounds pretty good by the time I hear it. That’s typically how we do stuff.

We don’t do it all together in the same room anymore, it’s pretty much either Brian [Eschbach; rhythm guitar] or Ryan [Knight; lead guitar] and then I sit with the songs for a while and just write the lyrics with some kind of word program and that’s pretty much how we’ve been doing it for about a long, long time now. But I will say that when I first heard the first two songs, I thought that we were really on to something… That the album just had something more exciting than anything we’d done before. So there was definitely a level of excitement.

It must be so surreal at times.

            Oh, it’s really fun. The coolest thing about the entire thing is that it’s all ours. We made it, nobody told us what to do or try to censor anything that we did, it’s all just purely what we wanted to do. So, it’s going this well, and it’s a huge honor and it’s very exciting. And you’d think that after this many records that we’d be kind of over it, but no—this success is just bouncing and just how big this whole thing has gotten is beyond my wildest dreams, so I feel that I just have to see it through. I’m so excited to still see this going at this point. It’s very cool.

This music is basically you’re baby.

            Yeah—I mean, I traded in my whole life for this and the music itself, metal, saved my life. It changed everything for me. Now that my whole world gets to revolve around it and I get to say goodbye to the normal working world and everything like that, that’s just great. I never saw myself fitting in anywhere there. This is perfect. I get to be a nerd for the rest of my life—or for the time being. Got my nerd going on strong.

So, how’ve you been prepping for this tour?

            We’re just kind of sitting around at home, kind of recharging. We have guys that live outside of Michigan, so we don’t practice regularly like a normal band, so we’ll get together probably four or five days before this tour starts up and start hammering out the songs and get back up to speed. But I’m really looking forward to it. This is going to be the big one for the year. We’ve got major markets, the new record, got a lot of excitement, got a lot of cool bands…

The first leg of the tour went really well, so I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s gonna be a big one. It always picks up again when you make a new record. It’s part of why we try to put them out so fast. It’s to keep the excitement level high for everybody. The fans like to have new music, they like to have new t-shirts and artwork and tours… Albums seem to perpetuate everything. It’s necessary.

Is there a particular venue you’re looking forward to?

            I don’t know. I love the Masquerade in Atlanta, but I think they might’ve closed it already. But we’ve been told we were supposed to play there for, like, 10 years, and it’s one of my favorite spots, but I’m not sure if we’re going there. It’s on the poster, but it might be somewhere else. I’ll be bummed about that because it’s a great shithole (laughs). Had a lot of great times there. But there are a lot of great cities out there, it’s pretty much all what you would imagine. Like, New York City is one I always look forward to, Philadelphia, L.A., just big cities, man. They just tend to have the craziest shows, it seems.

Have you put together a setlist yet?

            I think we’ll be playing the same setlist we played on the last tour, but I think we’re gonna stick one more new song in there, so that’ll be four from Abysmal. But pretty much it’ll be the same set. I think it was about 15 songs, so an hour and 15 minutes. So, definitely a workout on our end.

Longer concerts are always the best!

            Yeah! Brian—Brian is our other original member—and he’s like, ultimately the boss-man, so he’s like, “We’ve gotta play more, guys. We’ve gotta do it.” You know, you’ve got Cannibal Corpse coming out for even longer, so we’re like, “How do they do that?!” So, we’re trying to work our way there. It’s definitely a workout, but it’s a really challenging type of music, and there’s a lot of work to be done to stay up on your chops…

So, this show is very physically demanding and, if it goes right, people are flying everywhere, running into you, and jumping off stage. That’s what I would prefer, but by the end of it, you’re drained. It kicks your butt. So, it’s definitely a workout!

But I like carnage. I like when a show just turns into a party with people coming on stage, I’ll stick the microphone in their face and let them sing… That’s just how I prefer things—the fourth wall broken down.

I guess you love interacting with fans?

            Yeah. Definitely. And I think, just being available to the fans before and after the shows, like going out and meeting everybody and just being part of the event helps prolong this band as well. We’re just really grateful for our fans. Like I said before, I consider this my escape from reality, so to meet everybody at the show and be around like-minded individuals, I can just dive into metal.

I saw that you guys do meet and greets; do you have any memorable stories you can share?

            We’ve only done that on one other tour so far, but there was a guy that was, like, crying. That was amazing because—I don’t know. It was just bizarre. He was just so excited that he was brought to tears. That just meant a lot to me. It was cool. But you obviously don’t really wanna cry in front of a death metal band, but emotions are strong. What can you do? If he cares that much about what we do, it’s just exciting. It’s really cool. The fans come and they’re shy at first, but then the five of us grab ‘em and shake the hell out of ‘em.

We definitely get hands-on with the fans, so… I kind of feel like the meet and greet isn’t necessary because we come out and we’re around. Like I said, we try to be very available, but the meet and greet will ensure that we’ll all be in one place and we’re gonna get ya. And they get exclusive merch that’s only for the VIP guys and we’ll sign everything, hang out, take pictures, and do whatever you want. At that point, we’re all yours.

That’s gotta be so sick. But once this tour is over, what do you guys have planned?

            Just more tours. We’re trying to hit globally, so… We have a tour of Europe coming up and then another tour in the States, which will be further down the road. But, yeah, just everything, man. The next two years are solid and are gonna be immense traveling and tours. I hope with the success of this record, a lot of other opportunities will pop up. We’ll see!


Don’t miss The Black Dahlia Murder as they pull into Union Transfer on Dec. 15 and Gramercy Theatre on Dec. 16. Their new album, Abysmal, is available now. For more information on these guys, visit