Reminiscing About Detroit's Metal and Hardcore Scenes With the Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad

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(Photo Credit: Jonathan Pushnik)

In a time during the turn of the millennium when the metal scene wasn't all that lively in the Detroit area, there was still a counterculture bubbling underneath with the hardcore punk scene. It's in these places where heavy music was kept alive by bands with sounds and energy that was a result of everything they did not like in the mainstream. Through the hardcore scene birthed one of Detroit's biggest black metal exports in The Black Dahlia Murder.

Formed in 2001, The Black Dahlia Murder has grown into a worldwide touring entity pretty much releasing new studio albums consistently about every two years. Back in September, the band released their seventh studio album Abysmal on their longtime home of Metal Blade Records. Recently, I was able to chat with The Black Dahlia Murder's lead singer Trevor Strnad and we waxed poetic about the early days of the band in the hardcore scene and how the metal scene has grown today.

Even though there really wasn't much of a metal scene around at the time, you were able to cut your teeth in the hardcore scene. Talk about how that scene was around that time of the early 2000s.

It was mostly based around this place Mr. Mugs that was in Ypsilanti. We used to play there so much that we would come down Friday, open the show, leave our equipment at the place, and come back Saturday and do it again on a different show. We were in pretty good with the owner. It's just like your standard kind of punk-run DIY venue. In the early days, we played with Creation Is Crucifixion. I remember that was a big deal then. Circle Of Dead Children, we used to play with them a lot and they were cool. There was a metal aspect to the scene definitely and at the time, it was a lot of Willowtip Records bands coming through, a lot of the early stuff there. It was fun dude! It was really fun! I remember sitting outside Mr. Mugs on the sidewalk and just people like it's the same 30 people that always come that we know. No hope that anybody was going to come to the show and that's just how it was. It's so weird to even think that was the same band. Now, that I've been away for so long touring and stuff, there's a really cool metal scene that has popped up here in Detroit. A lot of really cool bands that I try to go out and see when I can if I'm fortunate enough to be at home at the same time. There's definitely some cool shit here. Shitfucker is awesome, kind of like a Venom meets G.G. Allin I would say. They are just totally insane. I've seen the singer, bass player dude like pissed into the crowd (laughs!). Like just totally fucking nuts. Our ex-drummer Zach [Gibson] has a lot of great bands. Nightkin has our old bass player as well, Dave [Lock] that was on the second record Miasma. It's sort of like BDM I would say, black and death metal kind of stuff. Then he's got Gutrot, who's been going for a long time. Shit Life, another band with "shit" in the name, got to love that. There's a lot of great stuff that's popped up around here. We definitely didn't have anything to do with. We were gone just doing our thing and I was just tunnel visioning so long on everything that I just hadn't realized about all the great stuff that was going on here.

What is it about the Detroit area metal scene today that you think is so vibrant?

I think it's just a response to how shitty the actual city is. I think people just want something cool to do, something positive to do, and just somewhere to go, have a beer with your friends, and hang out. I think that's kind of what the metal scene is. A lot of the bands have this theme of being from the ruins of Detroit, playing up the apocalyptic nature of the place. A lot of the themes of the bands, like Nuke for example is another really cool band, they sing about Robocop, he's supposedly from Detroit of course, and Nuke, being the drug from Robocop 2. Just Detroit kind of lent itself to their theme. There's a big group bands and they are all kind of incestuous. Shitfucker, Nuke, Perversion, they're all cool bands and they're all on that crusty tip a little bit too.

When you were cutting your teeth in the hardcore scene, what was it about that all that influenced your band?

I guess it was just trying to keep up with the other bands. We'd be playing on stage with a band like Bane, we opened for Bane and we opened for Throwdown, we always liked hardcore too, we are fans, I still do. I think it was just seeing the intensity of hardcore bands and just insane their live shows was. We just didn't want to be up there just looking at our guitar necks like tech nerds, so I think it definitely influenced us to play hard and to go hard, and break down that fourth wall too where you interact with the crowd. In my ideal show, I'm able to pull people on the stage to stage dive and stick the mic in their mouth and they can sing if they know the words. That's what I prefer. I would say we learned that from hardcore. The idea of the show just being a rager I guess, a party. We were just trying to keep up I think, so we didn't look bad up there.

The Black Dahlia Murder will be playing the Black Christmas show at The Majestic Theatre in Detroit on December 26th with The Suicide Machines, BIGWIG, Mustard Plug, Koffin Kats, Counterpunch, War On Women, Break Anchor, Worlds Scariest Police Chases, Temple Of Void, Against the Grain, Empathy, The Lippies, Bastardous, Braidedveins, Multi-grain, DEAD CHURCH, GLITTER TRASH, Suburban Delinquents, and Thin Skin. For more information on The Black Dahlia Murder, visit tbdmofficial.com.