When North Carolina’s prog metal trailblazers, Between The Buried And Me came to London to play two shows at Camden’s Underworld, thought it would be a ruddy great idea to sit down with vocalist, Tommy Giles Rogers and guitarist, Paul Waggoner about their recent EP and their plans for an album.
Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP and its sister record that is to follow it?
PW: “The EP starts with a character that’s actually from the last song of The Great Misdirect who has essentially decided to end his life by drifting off to sea. During a state of unconsciousness he starts having these visions of this other character that exists on some other planet, who knows how long ago in a different universe.
“This other person has been tasked with saving the people on his planet which is on the brink of total destruction. They find pre-life Earth and he has to travel over to plant these cloned souls and microbial life. When the guy returns to his home planet it’s gone. He literally comes back to a scorched planet and that’s where the full length will pick up. We can assume that these two characters, as they connected in some sort of way cosmically, will meet through time travel and maybe fix whatever problems ail humanity.
“Since Tommy writes lyrics in story form, it works out pretty good cos it tells this weird sci-fi story which goes along with our music well but at the same time it does have its message.”
The opening track Specular Reflection has quite cinematic feel to begin with. Are there any film scores in particular that have influenced you?
TGR: “A lot of us are Danny Elfman fans… that intro is inspired by him I guess because it was a story and felt like a movie to us, an introduction like that would really set the mood for what was about to happen. I’ve personally always liked soundtracks: Bernard Hermann, Clint Mansell has done great stuff like The Fountain and a few others. It’s always something you have to figure out when you write a record… we’ve done mellow, in-your-face and this time we thought we’d try something new.”
When can we expect to hear the second instalment?
PW: “Sometime next year. We have to write this damned thing unfortunately. If I was to be honest right now, I’d say it’s never gonna come out. But somehow we always end up writing the record, even though it feels like a crazy chore we have to do.”
What is the writing process like for Between The Buried And Me these days, and is it any different from the past?
TGR: “It’s been about the same since Colors – we all write a lot on our own, that’s the beginning process I suppose. We get a lot of ideas, parts and sections together and slowly start getting together and forming songs. We always try to record while we write and that way we really get to analyse what we are doing and change things. Get the record exactly how we want before we go into the studio so that way we’re not wasting any time once we’re there.”
The EP was produced by David Bottrill, rather than Jamie King who you had worked with many times in the past. What made you choose a different producer?
TGR: “Experimentation. It was awesome, David was cool. Jamie still had a lot to do with it which we were stoked about – he mixed it. We recorded in Toronto instead of North Carolina and it was good to be removed from our everyday lives. We went out there in the middle of winter, it was fucking cold and there was nothing else to do but concentrate on the music for 10-12 days.”
We heard that you will be playing Colors in its entirety. In retrospect, what was it about that album that made it so critically acclaimed?
TGR: “This lineup was on Alaska too but a lot of the members were very new and we weren’t 100% comfortable writing together as a band. Colors was when we really hit it off and we went in a proggier direction.”
PW: “When it came out our first bass player Jason King actually emailed me and said something like “It’s like the record we were always trying to make.” It was a turning point record, very creative, pushing the envelope as far as having one continuous piece of music. It came at a time when we had just been doing Ozzfest: the worst time of our lives and because of that we realised what kind of band we were not and what we wanted to be.”
Prog-metal has seen a bit of a resurgence recently with you guys and bands like Opeth, Protest The Hero and Devin Townsend Project bigger than ever. Why do you think this is?
TGR: “People get bored. Ever since the internet became popular it’s become a lot easier to find music that is not on the TV or radio. Once people figure this out they realise there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there. As a listener I think it’s cool to listen to a band and you can’t tell what direction they are going to go next.”
What were your main reasons behind signing to Metal Blade and what are the main differences you’ve noticed in comparison to your previous label Victory Records?
PW: “One of the big things for us was European presence which Victory doesn’t really have, not to the extent we would like. So Metal Blade is a heavier hitter over here which is great for us cos to be honest we are really behind the game in Europe – we’ve only been over three or four times! We were on Victory for a long time and if you look at their roster it just wasn’t right for us any more. We wanted something that matched what we were trying to do musically and felt Metal Blade were pretty much on the same page as us. So far it’s been great, no regrets at all – we made the right choice.”
You’ve often said you’d love to form a black metal band. What are your favourite BM artists?
TGR: “Emperor. The cream of the crop! I’ve always been into the weird black metal like Arcturus, old Satyricon… 1349 I like a lot. My favourite Emperor album is probably Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk though they are all great. I was really into the death metal / black metal hybrid a lot of bands were doing – the first Zyklon record was fucking awesome and the last Behemoth record was great.”
If you could pick anyone to play with you in this band, who would it be?
TGR: “That’s a tough one…”
PW: “Would you even be in it?”
TGR: “Probably not! Depends on what kind of black metal I was doing.”
PW: “Trym on drums.”
TGR: “I’d have Paul sing…”
PW: “Simon on bass. Simon from Borknagar, Dimmu – ICS Vortex – he’s badass.”
TGR: “Ihsahn should just get Emperor back together, that would be it!”