INTERVIEW: Brian Eschbach – The Black Dahlia Murder

WORDS: James Weaver

THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER have been a contemporary force in modern death metal for a number of years now. Blending the characteristics of the old school and more melodic elements, the Michigan metallers are more accessible than death metal’s other gory exports. Since their inception in 2001, the band are leading the charge of the modern death metal scene and during their current headline run of the UK for album number seven, Abysmal, we caught up with guitarist Brian Eschbach to talk about the tour, Star Wars, and the band’s influence on opening death metal to a wider audience.

So we are a couple of dates into the UK tour, how is it going so far?

Brian: Good! It’s a bit cold today so we’re going to have to power through that, but yeah the shows have been going good!

How has the reception been to the new material live?

Brian: Good! People seem to be really responding to it and it’s fun to play new stuff live so we’re thankful!

Abysmal has been out since September, how have you find the reception?

Brian: The feedback has been really great, especially at the shows people are digging it. So woo!

THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER have been going since 2001, 15 years as a band! How have you seen the death metal scene evolve since you guys first started?

Brian: It’s crazy! There are so many different bands and sub-genres. Even when we first started there was a bunch of different styles but it is crazy to look back over 15 years and think about all the bands that have popped up along the way. It’s just fucking awesome, it is kind of surreal to be part of it. But it’s fun, and definitely has played out as long as we have has definitely enabled us to keep in touch with the new stuff.

So would you say the death metal scene is in a good place right now?

Brian: As long as people are jamming and people are going to see bands, we are alright!

Compared to when death metal first exploded in the late 80s and 1990s, now with the internet everyone can access music. Does that, make the talent a bit more difficult to find?

Brian: I think so definitely, there is so much! There is so much music out there, how can you possibly be on top of it all? Even if something is total worship shit, like there was that one BEHEMOTH album that was total MORBID ANGEL revamp. I love that! There’s always bands that are coming out, I listen to that band FALLUJAH because they like take you out to space, it’s pretty fun to see something like that pop up.

So do you guys look for something that is different?

Brian: Yeah, with FALLUJAH they just really stick out, but I think it’s hard. It’s hard to find new music that I really love but that makes it all the more worthwhile when it does happen.

With Abysmal, it was your seventh record and it continued to build on the sound and style you first established back in 2003. How have you found new inspiration when it comes to song-writing?

Brian: Song-writing just sort of happens, I don’t necessarily feel inspired all the time. Sometimes I do, like when I’m in the middle of something I’ll get an idea but just starting off a song kind of happens naturally. I’ll be sat down messing around on the guitar and happen across something I like, and expand on it.

So do you listen to other death metal bands for inspiration at all?

Brian: I listen to death metal when I’m at home but not really when I’m on the road. So, it just does every once in the while.

So when you are on the road, what is your ultimate playlist?

Brian: My ultimate playlist? Well this is ridiculous but I’ve been listening to the scores of the first three Star Wars, from episode four through to episode six. Pretty much for about three months now! I probably gave myself a one week break for Christmas music!

Did you enjoy Episode VII?

Brian: yeah it’s fine, of course you can sit there and find problems with it. They are making something new out of this legendary thing so, like somehow in 30 years they turned a planet into a gun. Whatever. But it was a fun movie, I think it was one of the best ones they ever did, there’s no bad acting or reliance on slap stick, fucking Jar Jar Binks bullshit. Or anyone who played Anakin, except for the guy, James Earl Jones, but he was sat in a sound booth somewhere! But the guy who was under the mask when they pull it off was okay. But every young guy they got for the role fucking sucked!

But it’s Star Wars so it’s fine!

Brian: Yeah, you’re just waiting for lightsabres, which are cool. I liked it, it’s Star Wars so they are trying to rush through everything, there doesn’t seem to be that much room for development. Alright this happens, this happens. Fact stated, GO GO GO! All that being said, I enjoyed it and I saw it twice!

So back to touring! When it comes to playing live, how do you balance new material with your back catalogue?

Brian: That is something that just gets tougher and tougher every time we bring a new album out. We try to make sure that there is something from every album to keep it a good mix for everyone. But, yeah, we just set up knowing how many songs or how much time we have and then we go from there. We try to keep it a pretty even mix, unless we say “hey we’re going to play all these songs” but yeah usually it’s just slipping in a few new ones or pulling some old ones we have been playing a lot for a handful of years.

It seems that a lot of bands these days are getting on the bandwagon of playing an album in it’s entirety. I’m interested to know what are your thoughts about that?

Brian: I love going to a show when I know a band is playing an album I love all the way through, we haven’t done anything like that before but we definitely aren’t opposed.

With it being 15 years of THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, are there any plans in the works for an anniversary tour?

Brian: I can’t really spill the beans on that matter but to say that information is coming soon!

With TBDM, your style is classic death metal with a lot of melodic elements. Do you think your band acts as a gateway band for a lot of kids these days getting into extreme music?

Brian: I think for a small handful of years we have been a gateway band for a lot of super young kids. We are always getting messages on our Facebook, like saying “hey I got your albums when I was 15 and now I’m super into death metal”. And Trevor is always posting links to bands he likes so that’s a pretty active way we are a gateway band. We try to use the spotlight we have to educate people. There’s a ton of sick bands out there.

And you guys incorporate a lot of different elements within metal, I imagine at shows there can be a quite odd turnout?

Brian: We’ve always had a pretty diverse following which has been cool because it allows us to play with bands that people don’t necessarily think of. Like we went out with IRON REAGAN a couple of months ago and it’s like the first time we went out with a crossover band. But it worked great! People like variety. We toured with TERROR a bunch of times in the last few years and it’s great, always makes for a fun turnout!

Do you think that what tour packages need? Variety?

Brian: I personally prefer a show that has variety, shit that just doesn’t make sense. Like you have a pop-punk band, a metal band, a hardcore band. I love shows like that. It’s always a good vibe.

So really to round off, what’s your plans for 2016?

Brian: Well we are coming back to Europe in August to do some of the summer festivals and other than that, we are just putting shit together. We are going to have a couple of months off coming soon but we are trying to fill it up.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, thank you!

Brian: Thank you! Expect insanity, sonic insanity!