The Black Dahlia Murder
The Black Dahlia Murder is an American melodic death metal band from Waterford, Michigan, formed in 2001. Their name is derived from the 1947 unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, often referred to as Black Dahlia. There are just a few bands that retain underground appeal once they make it aboveground. It's less a matter of taste and style, more a matter of scene relevancy. The Black Dahlia Murder has reigned true and strong for over a decade, championing straightforward yet technical, familiar yet distinctive death metal with a special blackened twist. Just before the whole Covid-19 situation began at the beginning of this year 2020, we caught up with their bassist Max Lavelle. Max began playing bass at age of 10. This is where he developed and honed his distinct finger-style playing technique, resulting in very fresh and heavy-hitting performances on various records. In 2011 he joined The Black Dahlia Murder and he is currently also part of Serpent of Gnosis.
OBNUBIL: Hi Max. First and foremost, we know that we are not a conventional communication media, how do you feel giving interviews? Whether for a conventional media or for someone like us?
MAX: I personally like doing interviews most of the time, it gives me an opportunity to talk about music and how our lives work out here in the wild haha. If the questions are fun and interesting it's also pretty fun for me.
OBNUBIL: Without a doubt, you are a reference as a bass player in Modern Death Metal having gone through such relevant bands as Goratory or Despised Icon. You are currently part of Serpent of Gnosis and The Black Dahlia Murder. Have you always been so active? How do you combine working with both bands?
MAX: I guess I go through waves of creative purges. I love having multiple projects going if I have the time to do them. Especially something like Serpent of Gnosis, this really gave me a chance to go back to my roots a bit and write some more grindy / experimental parts. Doing this for so long I do kind of have a system for having multiple projects. For one TBDM is my primary focus, everything else is more of a studio project. I can write and record from wherever I am if I make sure to block out some time. Also very soon I will be releasing a black metal album separate from these two bands as well, I am very excited about this.
OBNUBIL: Serpent of Gnosis is a very interesting project with members of Job for a Cowboy and Deeds Of Flesh. How was the experience of setting up this project?
MAX: The members of this band have been with me my whole life personally and in this industry. Alan Glassman I grew up with, we started Goratort together when we were 15. Darren Cesca was later the Goratory drummer, Tony Sannicandro had been a auxiliary touring guitarist for despised icon towards the end of my career with them. Jonny Davy was a perfect fit for this project his vocals really gave this project some real creative texture. Initially Al and I had been trying to do a project like this while living together in Boston, Massachusetts in like 2009 but could not get the time or resources to really lock into it then. I think the way this unfolded currently couldn't have been better, I was very impressed with how everything came out.
OBNUBIL: "As I Drink From The Infinite Well Of Inebriation" has been the band's debut album. It went on sale on June 14th, 2019. How has it been received by the media and listeners?
MAX: Surprisingly well, it is a bit extreme for the standard TBDM fan I think but, I get people coming up to me all the time talking about it now and some people with Merch too.
OBNUBIL: The theme of the album moves away from the classic standards of bands similar in style to yours. Basically it is based on issues about addiction and how it affects the human mind. What is the reason for this theme?
MAX: Being a career artist / musician we are without a doubt tortured fucking souls. Minds, especially creative minds, can get very messy, maybe it's a look into that world. Jonny wrote these so this would be more of a question for him, but that is my small input on it.
OBNUBIL: Given the busy schedule you have, in your case it is worth mentioning the last tour with The Black Dahlia Murder, do you plan to take this project on tour? If so, also all around the world?
MAX: I don't think it is really an option, with everyone else's schedules but, who knows maybe a fest or some fly dates would be cool. I think this band would be great for something like brutal assault / obscene extreme.
OBNUBIL: Obviously in Obnubil we attach great importance to design and art. The artwork design of "As I Drink From The Infinite Well Of Inebriation" has caught our attention. Could you tell us something about the author?
MAX: Oh yeah, long time friend of all of ours growing up and in this business. Mark Fucking Richards, was our first choice for artwork for this project. He is more creative than any of us could be with this, he understands this genre extremely well being a musician in a ton of bands over the years. He has even done some art for TBDM as well.
OBNUBIL: In relation with this theme, we know that you had contact with graphic design before you could dedicate yourself professionally to music. Are you still making designs? What are or were your fields of design?
MAX: I work in design mostly in marketing and environmental design. This has always been a constant in my life, I still develop websites and design large displays to be fabricated in real life or applied to lathe structures. In the beginning I was an illustrator but later found myself getting work for outdoor advertising and marketing companies for almost 20 years now.
OBNUBIL: Our team had the opportunity to see you in Madrid performing with The Black Dahlia Murder, where you accompanied Insomnium on their Like a grave 2019 Tour. What has been or is the experience of sharing the stage with them? Apparently you are bands that don't have too much in common.
MAX: It is a bit different I will say. Insomnium are great guys and a great band for sure. This tour for us was about reaching new audiences and this is just that, we play in front of larger crowds most nights that do not know us or our music. It can be weird for us a bit, thinking "wow these people must not like us very much" its more we are totally new to them and getting our music out to new people is essential right now for growth.
OBNUBIL: In the different tours that you have been able to do all over the world, how different is the behavior of fans from different cultures like European, American, Asian or Australian?
MAX: For sure there are differences. In Europe parts of Europe seem to be more reserved with their emotions during the show but not everywhere in Europe. The US is our stomping grounds so the crowds are very intense, stagediving / moshing a lot. Asia is either crazy or super respectful and quiet during the show, Australia is similar the US for us we love going there. South America / Mexico though, they have the very most intense crowds for us. I absolutely love going there, it makes me feel like our music is really reaching people.
OBNUBIL: In 2017 The Black Dahlia Murder launched "Nightbringers", the eighth long-term work and the third one that you recorded with them. Each album that you are taking out, improves on the previous one in almost every way. What do you think you have contributed to The Black Dahlia Murder since you are with them?
MAX: What I have given to TBDM and the world since I have been with them I think is precision in my playing for 1, I always try and make sure my parts on the record are executed precisely and sound the best for the part. This can be very stressful for me because I care so much about what I do in really try and perfect my performance on the record as much as I can. Also live performance as number 2, I try and deliver and project a great performance for the fans every night so we sound and look the best at our shows. To me nothing is worse than when you see a band you absolutely love on an album, then you see them live and you're like "good on record, but cant pull it off live".
OBNUBIL: Are you satisfied with the work done on "Nightbringers"? What has been your favorite track and which one was the most difficult to record?
MAX: I loved tracking this record, I was very satisfied with my takes we spent a lot of time on them. On this one Ryan Williams (my predecessor) was with me helping me produce my parts for the best takes we could get. The most difficult track was "The lonely deceased" because of the very bass driven intro and song, I was very hard on myself to get the parts perfect and clear which was achieved for sure. My favorite track is "Catacomb hecatomb", the tempo and how the song flows is perfect for me I love this type of format.
OBNUBIL: At what point was The Black Dahlia Murder before Covid-19 changed our lives? Composition-wise, live shows...?
MAX: At the end of the euro tour we had something like 4 months off. The new album "Verminous" was finished already, and I am very happy with it.
OBNUBIL: As we have already said, we believe that you are an exceptional bass player. What have been your influences as a musician?
MAX: Growing up I obviously loved Cliff Burton, he played finger style and fast like I do, he would headbang all the time and looked like a badass. Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse for really setting the bar and seeing what is humanly possible, Blasko from Ozzy was another one, he always puts on a killer show and runs all over the place and same with Frank Bello from Anthrax.
OBNUBIL: Well, thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions and for giving us more information about you! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers of The Covenant and to your fans?
MAX: You're absolutely welcome these were great questions. I want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to read this and see my words about my life out here and a huge fucking thanks to all the fans and people I've met and seen throughout the years making this life possible for all of us. We would not be doing anything or going anywhere without the people behind us supporting us.
Photo taken by Max Lavelle.
Which of our t-shirts is he wearing in the picture? Do you like it? It is... THIS ONE