Interview with The Black Dahlia Murder’s Ryan Knight

Everblack – out now

Thanks once again to the folk at Metal Blade for organising this, and to Ryan himself for taking some time out to chat with me. Apologies for taking a while to get this typed up and published – been a busy week!

I had to make this interview fairly short as I had a cold/sore throat and had done a full day at work yelling at… I mean teaching kids, so it wasn’t up to anything strenuous by the time I talked to Ryan.

MT: Looking back – you’ve been with the band since 2009, when Deflorate came out. Were you involved with the album or did you join once it was ready for release?

RK: I joined right before we recorded it, so I played on it. I wrote a couple of the songs on it, and I wrote all the solos on it.

MT: Deflorate did really well. As the albums have gone on, looking at the Billboard charts in particular, they’ve gained 10-15 positions with each release. Ritual was at 31, Deflorate was at 43. Do you take that as a sign of progress for the music style as a whole, or for tBDM in particular?

RK: I hope so! It seems like we garnered a few new fans going from Deflorate to Ritual for sure. There was about 1000 albums difference that we sold from one album to the other. I think that we’ve been touring like mad. I think that’s made a difference – being exposed to people who’ve not seen you before. The work and effort we’ve put in to get more fans.

MT: We saw you just a couple of months ago with Cannibal Corpse and DevilDriver, and already you’re scheduled to come back in a couple of months time. Have you actually got a holiday at any time this year?

RK: We just had twelve weeks off! And I think we have a month off in August. But other than that I’m not sure. There’s definitely a lot of touring coming up. There won’t be too much time off.

MT: So what does a band do with three months holiday? I’m a teacher, so I’m used to long holidays – I’m lazy. It’s why I took the job!

RK: I have a daughter so I hang out with her a lot. I teach guitar, some. Watch a lot of baseball. Just hang out! Go out to bars now and then. Do regular, domestic sort of stuff you can do while you’re home. I try to be creative – write some music when I’m home. Always playing guitar though, for sure.

MT: Has that always been a hobby that you’ve been fortunate enough to take on as a career?

RK: Yeah, ever since I was about twelve years old. Ever since I picked up a guitar it’s like I never looked back. Before I played guitar I was really into baseball and I tell people if I wasn’t doing this I’d want to be playing Major League Baseball. But ever since I picked up a guitar, that’s just what I’ve always done.

MT: Which baseball team do you support?

RK: Atlanta Braves, for sure!

MT: A lifetime fan?

RK: Yeah, I’m from Georgia so the Braves are like my home team.

MT: Baseball never really caught on in the UK for some reason.

RK: Baseball’s a really American sport. There’s a lot of pitchers we get from Japan, and different players from Asia so I guess they like it over there.

MT: Back to the music, and you’ve got Into the Everblack coming out in under a month [note: UK release was June 10th, when I interviewed Ryan it was just about to be released in the US]. You’re touring around now?

RK: Within the week, we’ll be back out on tour yes.

MT: And that’ll be you out supporting the new album?

RK: Right.

MT: As I mentioned we saw you quite recently over here. How’s the set list going to change for the forthcoming dates? Are you really focussing on the new album?

RK: We’ll be playing a good many, maybe three or four new songs each night. This coming tour we only have a thirty minute set, but by the time we get back over there we’ll be headlining. So by them we’ll probably be playing between four and six new songs. We’ll be playing a good bit of the new album.

MT: Almost half the album – cool. The venue you’ve got in Glasgow this time is the Cathouse. Sound familiar?

RK: Yeah, yeah – I think the last time we were there was with Skeleton Witch.

MT: With the new album you’ve had three tracks that have been released as the modern day equivalent of singles. Are these a big factor in your sales or do you really focus on the album?

RK: The videos and songs we release is mainly just for hype. Especially right now with this album about to come out. It’s really to give people a taste of the album – to have people sharing it and talking about it. Hopefully that will translate into more album sales.

MT: I was looking at your back catalogue, and unlike a lot of bands (though I notice it’s coming back in) almost the entire thing is available on vinyl as well.

RK: Well, I don’t know the numbers exactly but I dare say that all the stuff we sell on vinyl sells out. There are so many people out there who collect vinyl. Vinyl’s a really cool thing! It’s like this big piece of art. It’s nice to have a copy where you can sit there, look at it – read the lyrics.

MT: Talking about lyrics and looking at things, the new album sleeve is by someone who’s well known for movie artwork.

RK: Yeah, I believe so. I don’t know too much about him, but he really captured what we were going for. It’s got that real dark, sinister vibe to it. I think he really nailed it.

MT: Going back to the band. You’ve always had a dark undertone, even the name of the band referring to the murder of an actress. A lot of the song titles and lyrics have quite horrific themes. The current one being publicised off the new album is “Raped in Hatred by Vines of Thorn” which is based on a scene from Evil Dead. Is this something you’re always thinking of? “Is this something else we can use as the basis for a new song…?”

RK: Trevor writes all the vocals, so I can’t really tell you what he thinks. I just think that horror movies in general are something that all of us in the band really like – especially Trevor. It just kinda goes along with the theme of the band. For me, death metal – the whole genre in general – is like the music version of a horror film. They just play so well hand in hand together.

MT: A random question, then – what’s your favourite horror film of all time? Orr a top three if it’s too difficult!

RK: I really like the Halloween series, but most notably the first couple. Always loved them. I just love the Fall, the whole Hallowe’en vibe. I just think it’s such a classic movie. Even my parents went to see that in the theatres when they were at college. I like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. They’re really cool. The originals, although I thought the remakes were pretty good too. I think the horror genre in general now… every so often you’ll get something that’s really good.  I thought The Descent that came out a few years back was a really good movie. High Tension, a French film – I thought that was really good.  Cabin in the Woods was really cool. An original take.

MT: So tell us a little more about the album. How many tracks are we getting?

RK: Well, there’s ten and a bonus track on the Japanese release. [note: you can get the 11-track “deluxe” edition on The final track, funnily enough, has a Japanese name: “Sepukku”]

MT: Can you step us through the album? Give us a quick idea of each track?

RK: Yep! OK:

  • the first track “In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me” is a track that has classic Black Dahlia sound. There’s also some new epic build-ups in the beginning as well as the end so it’s a very dramatic song which works well to be the opener.
  • “Through the Everblack” has a really epic middle to it. It’s one of those stop-n-go sort of Miasma-y… I don’t know how to describe that one! It sounds like us, though!
  • “Goat of Departure” is a really classic Black Dahlia sounding song. It’s got a black metal vibe to it in the middle.
  • “Raped in Hatred…” is pretty much another classic Black Dahlia sounding song. Very melodic.
  • “Phantom Limb Masturbation” – that’s one of the heavier tracks on the album, got a really dark vibe. If you like “Stirring Seas” or “Malenchanments” off Ritual then it’s like that.
  • “Control” is classic Black Dahlia, but the middle is kind of Megadeth, I would say.
  • “Blood Mine” sounds very European… Swedish to me.
  • “Every Rope A Noose”. That’s the oddball track. One of the parts reminds me of Goat Whore, and it has a pretty black metal vibe to it.
  • “Their Beloved Absentee” – that one’s got a Miasma-y sound to it. The chorus on that song is really awesome. It reminds me of Miasma-era Black-Dahlia that’s been stepped up to the next level.
  • “Map of Scars” has all the elements in it. It’s got the heavy, it’s got the black metal stuff, it’s got the Black Dahlia Swedish-inspired riffs, a really melodic chorus…

So that’s an “in a nutshell” run-down of the album. A little bit of everything. A lot of us in the band listen to so many genres of metal – and other music too – and we just try to throw it all together.

MT: The band are five albums down now. Are you finding it difficult to keep the sound fresh, looking for new influences to bring in while still keeping the core tBDM sound?

RK: It’s always a challenge, especially coming after Ritual. I think we all felt challenged to do something new after that one. You want to keep the sound of the band, but you want something different so it doesn’t sound like the same re-hashed album. I really felt like we attained that on this one. It’s still very hard for me to describe to people what this album is about, but I definitely think that people who liked Ritual will like this album. But Everblack is still a good bit different. Very accessible to new listener as well.

MT: Sounds great. Thanks very much for your time. I’ll be grabbing a copy of the album as soon as I can over here, and the September date is on my calendar.

RK: That’s great, man. We look forward to seeing you in the fall!

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