Latest release: Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade)Website: www.betweentheburiedandme.com
Between The Buried And Me are no strangers to Australian shores. Having toured here alongside various styles of bands ranging from metal core to instrumental, the band is set to return once again this momth. As a twin guitar band with a vast back catalogue of quality material and a very well received recent album, their live show promises to be a unique musical experience. Loud Online got a hold of founding guitarist Paul Waggoner to chat about the upcoming tour and various other topics including filling in on live guitar duties for the mighty Lamb of God.
The latest album, Coma Ecliptic is pretty complex and being a concept album, takes several listens to digest. Are you planning on playing the whole thing through within the live set?
No, we’ve decided not to do that this time. We’re going to play some new stuff, some favourites and maybe break some stuff out of the vault that we haven’t played in a long time. We decided that this time around, playing the whole album might be a little overwhelming for people that haven’t seen us in a long time or maybe have not seen us at all. We want to showcase our catalogue.
Tracks are not quite as long on the latest album as on The Parallax II: Future Sequence. So, it is probably not going to be a three hour set. How do you make a set list so that it is not too long?
Yeah that’s true. It is a challenge we deal with on every single tour. When you do have songs that are in the ten minutes or more range, realistically, you can only play six or seven songs when you’ve got over an hour of material. It is tough to pick songs that go over well live but also run seamlessly so that the songs make sense in context with all of the other songs that we’re doing. It is really hard to do and for this particular tour we are playing more songs than we’ve played in ten years or so. I think we are playing ten or eleven songs. So we’re fusing some of the older songs from the catalogue and then playing new songs, which aren’t quite as long. This time around we’re able to play more songs, which is kind of nice.
Do you make room in the set for the odd interchangeable song?
Sometimes we will switch one song out but it is more so when we play US tours or markets that are close to one another where there might be overlaps of people in our crowd so we can give them a slightly different set list. But for Australian and European tours, we generally have one set list that we stick to and then maybe we will switch out songs during an encore and do a different song.
There are a lot of style changes on the latest album as heard on songs such as ‘Turn on the Darkness’ and ‘Famine Wolf’. How do you do it so that it doesn’t turn into a free jazz mess?
Ha, that’s a good question and I think that we’ve learned how to do it over time. When the band first started we tried to incorporate a lot of different styles that were reflective of our tastes. Sometimes it doesn’t always come out as structured or balanced with the strongest sounding song and so was a little bit of a mess. But as we have grown as musicians and as we have matured, we’ve figured out a way to showcase all of our influences in such a way that the song still sounds like a song and there is still some structure to it. We are meticulous in how we compose the parts and try to make sure that everything is orchestrated. We do pay attention to the finer details of songwriting now whereas in the past, we probably did not do so, so much. It was more like a stream of consciousness, musically. Now it is much more thought out and planned.
Those uninitiated to BTBAM might struggle with some complex musical sections such as those finger tapped guitar lines. It is something that used to be a lead guitar figure but is now used as part of rhythm figures in the metal core and progressive metal scenes regularly. They may get thrown off at first but then start to really like it.
The thing with metal is that there has always been some level of fretboard acrobatics and that is always part of it. Again, I think that with our newer material we have tried to shy away a little bit from the technical aspect of playing music. That is still a part of what we do and we do some crazy tapping riffs and all of that stuff but we try to make sure that those kinds of things make sense for us. There will always be that kind of guitar riff orientated element to what we do but as we have gotten older we tend to emphasis that less now with a less is more philosophy. Really, we are more focused on how the guitars orchestrates with the other instrumentation on a given part of song. It is a kind of different approach that we have now but there is always going to be that metal guitar at the core of what we do.
Is instrumentation and arrangement a democratic process?
Yeah, we all write individually for the band but when we share parts with one another there is always collaboration. I might have a guitar riff but when Dan [Briggs – bassist] adds his bass line to it, it takes on a new personality and so all of a sudden there is room for a keyboard part. Everybody chips in and has creative input to bring out the potential or a given part or a given song. It is definitely a democratic process and I feel that with every new album, the synergy between us is even stronger. There is more room for exploration because as individuals, we don’t have anything to prove, we are all just trying to write and make the best music possible.
When writing, do you have to take into account staying in time for live performances?
Actually, when we write, we are not even thinking about how it is going to translate live. That is the furthest thing from our minds because we are just trying to write the song to then record it. We don’t really think about live presentation until after the album is done; recorded, mixed and mastered. Then we sort of analyse it and say, ‘okay, how are we going to do this live?’ because there might be some parts that are really challenging live but are easy to do in the studio, obviously. Live you’re worrying about having to hit a pedal with your foot and do this and that with your hands so you’re thinking, ‘oh boy, this is going to be crazy’. But you just practice it and rehearse to get it together. We try to play everything as closely to the album as possible. We play it at the same tempo and so on but we don’t think about it until after the recordings.
You’ve also got to consider not exhausting your drummer [Blake Richardson].
Well yeah, there is a stamina component to it and we’re not getting any younger so it does get harder to play for that long and to play these kinds of songs. But, yeah, we have to take that into account when picking a set list. You have to think about not playing three songs in a row with tonnes of blast beats and double bass or he’s going to have a heart attack back there. So we have to think about things like that whilst also creating dynamics throughout the set, not only for the artistic aspect of it but also for the physical aspect of not burning ourselves out halfway through the set.
Do you feel that making music videos are worthwhile anymore? Having said that, the video clip for ‘The Coma Machine’ is actually quite interesting.
Financially speaking, it is probably not [worthwhile]. For us, it is more of a creative outlet and we happen to know a lot of talented people. Our drummer’s brother, Wes Richardson, did the video so we fortunately get the family discount. It is more about presenting a new element or a visual component to the song. It is just something cool to do but I don’t know that it makes a whole lot of sense anymore financially because there is no real outlet for music videos anymore other than say YouTube but they are fun to do and we like to do them on occasion, just to add a new dimension to the experience of listening to BTBAM, adding a visual component. If nothing else, it does drum up a little bit of hype. If people are interested in the video, they might pick up the album or go to a show and buy a t-shirt. I guess there is some sort of payback but for us, we just like to do it because it is fun.
Vinyl has come back into vogue. Do you oversee the mastering and has it been a financial saviour?
We always have final approval of how a product comes out. It is coming back as a growing market and we do limited pressings which always sell. It is a new way for bands to legitimately monetise their music and it is also just a cool thing to have. There has always been something cool about having it on vinyl. It looks cool and it has a unique sound to it. It is a collector’s item more so than a CD. Ten years ago you might not have thought about doing a vinyl release for a metal band. But now it does makes sense as it is a growing market and it has saved not only bands but also small, independent record stores. We’re huge proponents of vinyl. We’re going to continue to do them and be as creative as we possibly can be with vinyl releases.
It is coming up to ten years since Colors was released. Any plans on doing an expanded vinyl version?
There are a lot of complexities there. Obviously we are not on that record label [Victory] anymore so we probably wouldn’t have much say on what happens with that unfortunately but that is just the way the industry works. They may have a plan for something like that but if they do, unfortunately we will have absolutely no input whatsoever into how it looks or sounds, etc. We won’t have anything to do with it.
You do a lot of touring. Nowadays a lot of people are getting a decent quad box thump sound out of that amplifier modeling gear. Are you using that as opposed to physical cabinets when touring?
We do use the Fractals [Axe-Fx II – Guitar Multi-Effects and Amplifier Simulator] but we don’t run them direct. Most people run them direct into the PA. We do a hybrid of both worlds where we run the Fractal through a tube Mesa Boogie power amplifier [amp] and then through cabinets. In Australia, we will probably use Mesa cabinets as well. That is what we prefer to get the best of both worlds. Amp modelling now is incredible, it sounds like a real pre-amp but then you get that sort of tube power amp roar that you cannot get running it direct. There is some sort of subtle difference there. So we just prefer to run it through power amps and cabs and to mike those up. It is just more organic sounding and sounds more like rock’n’roll to me but you cannot argue the fact that the Fractal stuff is incredible. The technology has come so far that it sounds great. Ten years ago amp modelling sounded terrible but now Fractal is totally flipping the whole industry on its head. It is just a great sound.
As an Ibanez guitar player and given you’ve toured with Animals as Leaders here previously, you’ve no doubt witnessed some amazing guitar playing from Tosin Abasi. Would you venture to say that Ibanez might be the future direction of guitar?
Ibanez has always had a killer artist roster with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Pat Metheny, George Benson and Paul Gilbert – the list goes on and on. So, I am obviously super proud to be a part of it now with my signature model but they are making ridiculously incredible guitars with Tosin. His signature guitars are crazy. Ibanez are always on the cutting edge and have a loyalty and real brand recognition on their older artists that have been around for a long time but they are also bringing in their newer guys that are also pushing the envelope of guitar playing. Because of that, I think that Ibanez will always be the prototypical heavy metal guitar just because of the artists that they work with and their willingness to evolve with the times whilst still creating that brand loyalty from the earlier guys. They are in it for the long haul and will have continued success because of that.
I noticed you played with Lamb Of God recently, filling in on the guitar spot for Mark Morton. How did that come about?
We toured with them in 2010 and so that is how I knew them. They mentioned that Mark was about to have a daughter and so they may need a fill in. I said I’d do it if needed but didn’t think anything would come of it. Sure enough, a couple of months later, I got the phone call saying, ‘Hey, we need you to go to South America to play some shows’. So I did it, it went really well and I’ve had to fill in a couple of other times too. I did a European tour, some shows in South Africa and then I did a festival up in Canada on very short notice. So I guess I have done three or four different stints with them. It has gone well, they’re great guys and I’ve been very fortunate to have made great friends with those guys and we do have a kind of a chemistry on stage and off that seems to work pretty well. So, whenever they are in bind, I am probably the first guy they call and if I am available, I’m always willing to help. I try to be pretty professional as being a musician goes but at the same time, I am pretty easy to get along with on the road. I am not high maintenance – it is one of those things, you try to be a likable person and be good at what you do, have a good work ethic and a willingness to perform well and usually good things happen because of it. I guess that is one of the fringe benefits in that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to play with Lamb of God a few times so I am definitely thankful for that.
Between the Buried and Me is touring with CHON this month:
25/2: Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA (+ Voyager)
26/2: Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA (+ Dyssidia)
27/2: Max Watts, Brisbane QLD (+ Weightless in Orbit)
28/2: Metro, Sydney NSW (+ The Helix Nebula)
29/2: 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC (+ I Built the Sky)