When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, I was working for Kerrang! in Brooklyn. Trevor had just moved there, and though we were acquaintances via my work — I’d written the bio for the Deflorate cycle, I’d interviewed him a few times, and he smoked me out at the second Hell’s Headbash — that was when we became friends. Trevor would come out to our K! Pit nights in Williamsburg, and he and I would shoot the shit afterwards. Occasionally, we’d grab a shot and a beer when we were attending the same show. Hanging out with him was the easiest thing in the world.
A little ways into the pandemic, I was Instagram-messaging him about something – some stupid fucking list I was writing, I’m sure – and told him I was having a kid soon.
He said, “That’s great. I always thought you would be a good dad.”
Hand to heart. Heart in throat. One of those moments you live with forever.
That is who Trevor Strnad was. Anyone who knew him knows what I’m talking about. He saw you better than most. Yeah, he also made goofy-ass jokes about wrestling or let you hit some medical weed that made you want to crawl into bed and never leave. But all of that was backed up by something fundamentally human.
We all dream of being that exception. The death metal dude who elevates death metal, who makes everyone think, Fuck, if a guy like THIS loves, say, Grim Feast, or VHS, then it’s not all bad. But none of us were that the way Trevor was.
No frills, no mystique. Just an awesome dude. The best of us, a mirror in which we saw that we could be radder.
So, then, why?
Then again, it’s always why, right? It’s either, Why? or it’s, Of course. With Trevor, it was definitely the former. I never expected it. Now that I know, now that it’s all horribly out there, I’m picking through the bits and pieces, desperate for an answer. What was happening behind the scenes?
But maybe that’s too easy. It could be that I’m just in the why circle. Our friendship was always based on good times, so maybe that’s all I ever saw. Maybe there’s a closer circle, who know far more than I ever could. Who were crushed and horrified, but not surprised.
I didn’t know him on that level. I felt like I did, though. It felt like most of us did, even those of us who’d never met him. That was the dude’s superpower.
I’d liked Black Dahlia since they got going – I’d really liked Miasma when it came out – but I wasn’t all-in until the Majesty DVD. I had to review it for Revolver, and what started as a ho-hum assignment became an obsession with the band after watching the documentary about them. Here were these relatable potheads, making dumbass jokes while their tour manager dressed up like a cat in the van. They skateboarded and laughed at themselves constantly, and leading them was this baby-faced dude with the funniest tattoo in the world who loved the shit out of this gnarly-ass music. It’s called ‘death metal,’ check it out!
I gave the DVD five stars. My then-editor cocked an eyebrow, and asked if this was as good as some Nirvana documentary. I refused to budge on the rating.
The DVD led me to Trevor’s lyrics. And holy shit. That much magenta on their fucking shirts — this band’s lyrics had to be idiotic, right? Nope. Dude found brilliant rhymes. Dude wove classic literature into death metal overkill. By the time he and I became friends, I had a line from “Black Valor” tattooed on my calf and had storyboarded a hypothetical video for “On Stirring Seas of Salted Blood” with my wife during our honeymoon on 70,000 Tons, after we watched the band play the roof deck.
Every new Black Dahlia Murder song, I’d run straight to the lyrics, excited to see what Trevor had written this time. I knew it’d be good. Give him a true crime and he’d paint it for you in graphic, tangible detail. Give him an old-school horror story, and he’d find the seething heart of it. The title would never be obvious, and the story would feel fresh and relatable. Werewolves? It’s about fog. Evil Dead? It’s about thorns. The Gilles de Rais? It’s about a window in time. Wanna know which window? Read on if you dare.
I worship Halloween. Did you know that? If not, you’re going to learn that at great length starting in mid-September. Other than my family and friends, Halloween is the part of my life from which I take the most joy. And Trevor wrote the lyrics of the greatest death metal song about Halloween ever. He nailed it all. He got to the core of autumn, and he referenced Detroit’s history with arson on Devil’s Night, and he talked about why we wear costumes, and he touched on razor blades in candy apples, and he referenced the fucking Misfits. And he didn’t call it anything about pumpkins, or October, or the undead rites of Samhain or whatever. He called it “A Shrine to Madness.” How fucking cool is that?
He was so cool. He was the coolest dude. I can’t believe I got to know him. Isn’t that the only thing we can ask for? That some day we can say, I knew that person, the good one, and laughed with them, and at one time or another they thought of me as worthy of a few minutes of their attention, and for that I am grateful? Isn’t that all you can hope for, when it’s time to cash out?
Maybe I’m also filling in gaps here. Maybe Trevor didn’t look deep into my beating heart, he’d just heard me make enough corny jokes that he thought, Hey, he’d be a cool dad! But if that was the case, then he got me. Being in his presence must have just felt like a warm hug. But if you’ve read the countless tributes to Trevor that have popped up online since yesterday, you know that everyone felt that way.
So maybe it was real. Maybe he really was that huge of heart, that unfathomably kind. Maybe the worst part about this isn’t admitting that he wasn’t the guy I thought he was. Maybe it’s actually hard for me to admit that he was the real deal. That it was all true. Because now he’s gone. Some force on this earth, or inside of him, took him from us. And all I’m left wondering is, where did it come from? How can it be stopped?