The Black Dahlia Murder – “The bong’s not here, the university won’t allow it!”

“The bong’s not here, the university won’t allow it!” is not how you usually expect an interview with Brian Eschbach to begin. His band is playing the University of London Union tonight, maybe you’ve heard of them, they’re called The Black Dahlia Murder.

It’s been less than 6 months since Deflorate landed and the band is doing what they do best – touring their asses off. A tour with Children Of Bodom just completed (“There was not a ridiculous amount of drinking, surprisingly!”), they’ve hit Europe once again on a month-long extravaganza, headlining a 7-band bill and playing to sold-out or nearly sold-out venues. Then it’s back to the USA for another gruelling jaunt across the country. All this in support of an album that landed at a more than merely respectable 43rd position on the Billboard charts. So what’s going through the guitarist’s mind now that the album has been received with such adulation?

The Black Dahlia Murder - Brian Eschbach

The Black Dahlia Murder - Brian Eschbach

“Has it been received well? Really?” he asks, without the slightest hint of irony, one might add, as he reclines on a plush sofa in what is clearly a makeshift dressing room. There’s a guitar by his side, which he keeps playing with, almost as though he can’t fathom being away from it for more than a few minutes.

“New songs can be hit-or-miss live, but with the majority of the new stuff, the people seem to be right there with it,” he says on being pressed a little more. “It’s hard to choose a set list with 4 albums, especially on a night like tonight – with 7 bands we can’t really do an hour at the end of the bill. So cramming the choice cuts from 4 albums into 45 minutes is kinda tricky. So we had a thing on our MySpace where fans could vote for what songs off each album they wanted to see live, so that was cool. We usually play most of the stuff they picked, it was just a question of what new songs they wanna hear.”

Indeed, being part of a 7-band bill that’s touring a foreign continent throws up some unique problems, like planning a daily routine. “It’s harder to keep the right energy throughout the day,” Brian explains. “If I try to pass out now, there’s no guarantee I’m gonna have a smooth wake up when it’s time to hit the stage. You have to get in earlier every day just so everyone can set up. Today there’s a good amount of space for everyone, but some clubs there’s not so much space and you have nearly 50 people on tour. So everyone gets crammed into a few rooms, slowly moving around each other!”

On the face of it, that sounds odd coming from a band that has also released a warts-and-all documentary DVD, the majestic, er… Majesty. A 2-disc celebration of the band, it included said documentary on the first disc, and with a camera constantly in the face of Eschbach and co. out on the road, so you wouldn’t think having tons of people milling around them would represent much of a change from the filming of the documentary. But, as it turns out, “We know Robbie Tassaro who did all the shooting and editing. We know him pretty well so it’s more like we were hanging out the whole day and we’re like ‘Hey Robbie, maybe you should get your camera.’ And then he’d go ‘Oh yeah! You’re right, I should go get my camera!’”

And what does he make of their other latest filmed appearance – the video of Necropolis, with its complete lack of narrative and Trevor getting, er, shall we say cosy, with Bart whilst teaching him to bowl? “We’re just bowling in the video man, it’s all bro love! There wasn’t really a concept behind the video, it just looked like a weird place to do a video so we did it. It’s 15 minutes from my house too, so I save fuel money and time! It was all shot in a couple of hours, just one morning at the bowling alley.”

The Black Dahlia Murder - Brian Eschbach

The Black Dahlia Murder - Brian Eschbach

Jokes and fun times aside, what makes The Black Dahlia Murder the undisputed kings of modern death metal is their ability to write memorable and simultaneously brutal songs that still sound fresh 4 albums into their career. This prodigious ability to stay unique, coupled with an unrelenting appetite to stay at the top of their game, regardless of numerous member changes, is what has made The Black Dahlia Murder the archetypal modern band – tireless and talented, yet fun.

“We have pretty high expectations of ourselves and each other in the band. Everyone is their own worst critic, it definitely keeps pushing us on,” says Brian, speaking sans a mischievous smile for the first time tonight. “If you think everything you do is awesome, it’s gonna start getting real far from there! Everyone knows what they can and can’t do, so you just have to do your best.”

Having a stable lineup has also helped, no dobut? “Yeah, it’s cool to have a stable lineup. No weird attitudes flowing around right now, no ‘special needs’ or anything like that. Everyone just wants to play and if we have some fun in between that works too. Everything feels nice and stable now. It’s nice not to have to constantly evaluate someone with you and see if they’re good enough, because that shit is BORING!”

So expect to see a happier-than-ever Black Dahlia Murder coming to your city soon. And they probably are coming somewhere near you, no matter where you live. A tireless trek across the USA is next, with later dates planned in south-east Asia and a return to Europe for a festival run in the summer. In fact, Brian even has a message for Black Dahlia-deprived fans in India: “I do promise to come to India, some guy has to offer us some plane tickets and food! That’s all it takes! Food…er, maybe a substantial amount of cash, and plane tickets! We’ll eat bread man! If someone wants to bring me weed, that’s cool too!”

And then, it’s time to leave. Pretty soon, The Black Dahlia Murder will put to shame all the 6 bands that played before them, until a power-cut knocks out the PA and forces them to call it a night early. Never mind, they did almost finish Deathmask Divine before that happened and, really, they were on such great form it didn’t matter. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What we have before us is a band that is riding the crest of a wave, and will go on doing their thing forever. Or will they? “I don’t know how long we can keep going. The first level will be how long people keep coming. I can’t do no Anvil set to 8 people and lose money doing it. At some point, you gotta think about retirement. But it’s not time to think about it yet; we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. Till then, there’s places to hit and we’re gonna try to hit ‘em all and hit ‘em quick!”

     

About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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