For over 16 years, Michigan-based death metal band The Black Dahlia Murder has been on a relentless mission of bringing its macabre, epic and technical brand of melodic-yet-evil sounding death metal to the masses—one show at a time. The band has undergone numerous lineup changes but has always prevailed. Touring is a lifestyle to The Black Dahlia Murder, which plays hundreds of shows a year. The band currently features guitarists Brandon Ellis and Brian Eschbach, drummer Alan Cassidy, bassist Max Lavelle and vocalist Trevor Strnad. Over the years, The Black Dahlia Murder has toured with everyone from Cattle Decapitation and King Diamond, to Napalm Death and Slipknot. The band’s fan base has grown steadily over the years, and last year, it released its most accomplished studio album, the eighth full length, entitled Nightbringers. Aside from death metal, one of the band’s hobbies and interests has always been cannabis. Strnad took time to speak with CULTURE about the band’s current tour, the difficulties of living on the road, his passion for extreme metal and cannabis.
What are the differences between performing at bigger outdoor festivals versus smaller, more intimate club shows?
I actually like both, but I think it’s cool at the smaller shows we play to be able to touch the crowd and stick the microphone in people’s faces and let them scream, as well as the crowd surfers. We like to break down the fourth wall at those types of shows. The bigger festivals are pretty cool too. It’s awesome to play in front of a huge crowd with lots of people who don’t know who you are. We love seeing tons and tons of metal horns up in the crowd. Both big shows and small shows are awesome in their own way.
Are there any difficult parts of life on the road?
It’s really boring a lot of the times, honestly. The shows are amazing, but the rest of the tour is boring. It’s just a long wait doing nothing, a lot of time in the van or bus literally on the road. In some ways, it’s like camping for a long time. That’s why we’ve had a lot of members in our band honestly; it can get rough out there. But lately, we are doing well. We are fortunate enough to have had a bus for the past couple of years; that’s a luxury for us [because] we are used to driving in a van. Either way, we love what we do. It is fun to travel and play music.
Tell us about the current tour and how the band is playing the new album, Nightbringers live in its entirety.
Yeah, we felt confident with that choice, this has been a huge album for us in so many ways, one of the biggest we’ve ever made. We wanted everyone to hear their favorite songs from this one live. But it has been challenging. The music is more difficult compared to our prior albums, but we are used to stepping it up each time around and always changing things up technically. It’s fun to challenge yourself. It’s been fun so far. We love the sound and tempo these songs bring live. We hope the fans enjoy the experience as well, and so far they have.
Does cannabis help with the creative process of writing music?
Oh for sure, it definitely helps you look at what you are creating with different eyes. To me it’s necessary. To me it’s simultaneous with music; it makes things sound so great. It’s super-tied into our band for this reason. Also, it helps when you have a lot of downtime on tour, as I was saying. It helps achieve laughs, we eat good food, listen to music and there are good vibes for everyone.
As a traveling band, are there places in the U.S. that are still uptight about weed in 2018?
I think the “Bible Belt” and places in the South yeah, and maybe they will be that way for a while. But overall, in most parts of the country we travel, it’s not a big deal anymore, which is great! So in that regards, we have seen lots of positive changes. It feels a lot less dangerous—we can tell you that.
Have you ever had any legal troubles because of cannabis?
Yeah actually. Well almost, not quite. Years ago we got close, this one time. We were meeting up with Hatebreed for the first day of a tour, and the cops pulled our van over and one of our band members had a giant jar of weed. The cops searched the car and made us smash our pipes in the road, and took all of our weed. Then, they took the guy who had it, and put him in a cop car; and we all thought we were fucked. But in the end, [the cop] was just trying to scare him, and they let us all go with no charges. It sucked, but we were lucky.
What is the cannabis scene like in your home state of Michigan?
Oh, it’s great. There are a bunch of stores and delivery services with good quality buds all over Michigan and the Detroit area. Lots of people are growing their own crops too. We love it—it’s everything we ever wanted here, after all these years. When we are not on tour, we enjoy it.
“To me [cannabis is] simultaneous with music; it makes things sound so great. It’s super tied into our band for this reason. Also, it helps when you have a lot of downtime on tour, as I was saying.”
What area of the U.S. has the best cannabis scene?
California, of course, has always had some of the best quality, both in northern and southern California. But this is now true in the northwest in general; Seattle, Portland and all those areas along the Pacific. There is a lot of progress, and they all know what they are doing in that part of the country. Those parts of the U.S. are where we have all tried some of the dankest weed for sure.
Tell us about the future plans after this tour.
Well, we’re definitely going to be milking this new record for a bit longer. There is still one more U.S. tour in the works we are making happen. We go to Europe after this tour for some killer music festivals, then we will have some other tours up our sleeves in the near future, that we will announce when we can. There is no sign of slowing down for us at all.