about%20-%20jpg.jpg reviews%20-%20jpg.jpg gigs%20-%20jpg.jpg theblackdahliamurder_interview_2012001006.jpg
16th January 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi Ryan. Thanks for the interview. How are you?
RYAN KNIGHT: I’m good, thanks.
(Ryan Knight on the lyrical essence of The Black Dahlia Murder's albums)
"...the way I look at it is that it’s death metal, a horror movie on CD… the same premise, only music."
Interview by Jason Guest; Photography by Samantha Knight
Official The Black Dahlia Murder MySpace:
Official The Black Dahlia Murder Facebook:
Unhallowed (2003)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
Touring in support of their latest album, ‘Ritual’, The Black Dahlia Murder have come to the UK on a 21-date tour bringing with them Fleshgod Apocalypse and Sekeletonwitch. Just before the show, the band’s guitarist Ryan Knight takes time out to discuss the album, his part in the writing, the production, his musical education, and the future of The Black Dahlia Murder…
Ryan Knight in the Academy, Birmingham, UK, 16th January 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Samantha Knight - www.metal-discovery.com
Miasma (2005)
Nocturnal (2007)
Deflorate (2009)
Ritual (2011)
MD: Can we start by talking about your history with the band? You were predominantly brought in to do solos for The Black Dahlia Murder…
RYAN: Yeah, on ‘Deflorate’, I wrote two songs on it and did the solos but this one [‘Ritual’] is like half and half between me and Brian.
MD: Why did that change?
RYAN: I could write songs I guess, because that’s what I was doing before. Y’know, Brian was so used to writing all the material all the time so maybe it’s a little easier for him, y’know, because he doesn’t have to stress about writing a whole album. Plus we have similar styles but they’re also different and I think it takes the band to new dimensions.
MD: The album’s songs are tied together with the themes – you have mysticism, magick, and Aleister Crowley, and all the different rituals – is that what you were working towards?
RYAN: Yeah, it’s kinda like a concept album I guess. When we started writing, I don’t think we were like, “we’re gonna write a concept album”, but when Trevor came up with the lyrics, the album title and everything, that’s just the way it flowed and it kinda is a concept album. I think it flows, I’d say this album all came together a bit easier and more naturally than ‘Deflorate’…
MD: It’s structured with the rituals following a magickal, mystical route with a lot of esoteric stuff in there. How do you marry the lyrics with the music?
RYAN: The music was done before the lyrics and the lyrics kinda guide what the songs are about.
MD: The lyrics, such as in ‘Blood in the Ink’ has the line, “Shoot your parents then yourself”. That’s pretty risky given heavy metal’s history. Are you looking for a Judas Priest moment?
RYAN: [laughs] Y’know, metal’s got no shock value anymore, it’s kinda all been done. The song ‘The Window’ has got some pretty messed up lyrics and even people in the band were like, “You sure you wanna say that?” We just figured we’d do something out there and maybe create some fear in some young kid’s eyes. It’s not the same as it once was. People have just seen and done everything nowadays. But the way I look at it is that it’s death metal, a horror movie on CD… the same premise, only music.
MD: You’ve brought in keys, orchestration, and acoustic guitar. Was that something you decided on early on in the writing?
RYAN: I know Brian has always wanted some strings in the songs. As far as, like, the acoustic and piano that was just something that wasn’t predetermined but it kinda made it on there. But the strings were something that we always wanted to do…
MD: MD: You worked with Mark Lewis again for ‘Ritual’…
RYAN: Yeah, Mark engineered it, did some producing on it, and Jason Suecof did mainly the vocals…
MD: He did a great job on ‘Deflorate’ and has worked with a lot of great bands such as Deicide, All That Remains, DevilDriver. Is that why you chose to work with him again?
RYAN: Mark and Jason, they’ve been working together for a long time and they’ve got their own thing going on but usually we work with them together. Even before I was in the band, I’ve known Mark, I guess, like, six years now so he was like a mutual friend between me and the band. But Mark and Jason are like cool dudes and they have really good ears for this style of music. They kinda know what we’re going for.
MD: What do they bring to the songs?
RYAN: Not really the songs. Like, when I was doing solos, those guys have good ideas, y’know, and I’ll listen to those and sometimes it’ll help me out with ideas or something. It’s like working with our friends, just hangin’ out and making music.
MD: What about your playing? Are you self-taught?
RYAN: Yeah. I mean I had a teacher years ago when I was fourteen, but I’m the type of person that when I want to know something, I’ll go on the internet or whatever. I mean nowadays, you can go on the internet and anything you wanna play on guitar is there. I mean when I was younger, when the internet wasn’t so predominant…
MD: You had to use your ears and figure out the technique yourself…
RYAN: Yeah. I decided, like, a couple years ago to go back to school and study jazz, not that I can actually play legitimate jazz or anything like that, but that’s the type of teacher I’ve been studying with now. But yeah, for the most part I’m self-taught. Playing with Jim [Malone] from my old band, Arsis, he studied at Berkeley School of Music in Boston, and playing with guys like that, it kinda rubbed off on me. But now, you just go on the internet…
MD: What do you think of the internet? On the one hand, there’s illegal downloading, and on the other it works as a great promotional tool. It’s like a double-edged sword…
RYAN: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Everyone can get everything for free; record sales aren’t very good. It’s totally changed the game. In some ways I think it’s great. Like with free promotion on the internet, a band can appear who’ve never done a tour can use it to advertise and a ton of people will be there for their shows. It’s good for promotion and stuff like that but it’s bad for all of the piracy. But the piracy, that’s just something that’s gonna happen. They’re never gonna be able to stop that, ever. They’d have to go to ridiculous lengths to even try. It’s like the wild west, a no-man’s land; it’s changed the game.
MD: Has it affected The Black Dahlia Murder?
RYAN: It’s definitely affected our CD sales. I was really surprised that we did sell… on ‘Ritual’, we sold a thousand more than we did on the last one in the United States. But I don’t know what the figures are but bands may sell 2,000 in the first week and there’ll be 3,000 downloads.
MD: What about writing for The Black Dahlia Murder? Do you guys write on the road?
RYAN: We’re not writing right now. Probably towards the end of the year, we’ll get back into writing. We don’t really write on the road but that’s not to say we don’t come up with riffs. For me, it’s not really the place where I can think. But it’ll be the end of the year when we start getting ideas together…
MD: Don’t get me wrong, ‘Ritual’ is more than enough to be going on with...
RYAN: We’re definitely touring this album for the most of the year, then 2013 will be a new album and tour…
MD: So you’ll be staying with the album-tour cycle?
RYAN: Yeah, I think so. For ‘Ritual’, we took six months off and just wrote and recorded it. I think that worked out pretty good but I don’t know if we’ll do it that way again…
MD: So you’ll be staying with the album-tour cycle?
RYAN: Yeah, I think so. For ‘Ritual’, we took six months off and just wrote and recorded it. I think that worked out pretty good but I don’t know if we’ll do it that way again…
MD: In a recent interview, Anthrax’s Charlie Benante said that the writing/recording and touring process is the wrong way around, that in playing the songs live you get to know them and figure them out on stage. With ‘Worship Music’, he was able to go back and re-record parts and even re-construct the songs…
RYAN: I can relate to that because when we were writing these songs, we have programmed drums. By the time we go to record them, a lot of the time we hadn’t played the songs together. Y’know, the drummer goes in there, plays his parts, and so on, and then you have to come back together to learn how to play ‘em. So yeah, it’s backwards… Sometimes we’ll put the album out and it’s been out for a couple of months, and I’ll listen to the solos and think, “I coulda done this or that” but of course can’t do a thing because that’s how it is on the record.
MD: Do you change them live?
RYAN: Not really. For the most part I keep ‘em the same. I think as a lead guitar player, you have to be careful nowadays because it’s recording, it’s not how it used to be, you don’t have to do it in one take. Y’know, you can record it one note at a time – not that I’m condoning this – I know guys that record three notes at a time and build on that one note at a time and they can’t even play it. Some of the stuff, I do it in the studio and then think, “Oh shit! This may be really hard to play live!” so I’ll figure out another way to play it live. I’ll write stuff that’s challenging but not impossible to play live.
MD: So what do you have planned for this evening? Have you been sticking to the same set from night to night for the tour?
RYAN: We’ve been sticking to the same set and depending on the crowd response, we’ll do an encore, maybe two songs, so between 14 to 16 songs and we’re up there for an hour, maybe an hour and ten…
MD: Great. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the interview, Ryan.
RYAN: Thanks for the interview and I hope that when we come back to England next time, people will come out.