By Brian Leak
For the past decade, Between the Buried and Me have dominated the progressive metal scene with renowned releases. With some epic tracks spanning 20 minutes in length, it’s a wonder that the band can continually release such full, original content and still out-do their previous efforts. With five studio albums and one lengthy three-track EP on their resumé, the band has had plenty of material to headline tours with and continue to do so each year. Synthesis had the opportunity to speak with long-time guitarist Paul Waggoner about the group’s current tour, their influences, and what keeps them moving forward.
How’s the tour starting out?
It’s off to a good start. We’re on show four, day six.
What are you looking forward to the most on this tour?
Just the usual; playing in front of raucous crowds every night and hanging out with our buddies in the other bands and having a good time.
Have you gone on tour with either of the other bands on the bill before?
Not TesseracT. We’ve never toured with those guys but they seem really cool. We’ve toured with Animals as Leaders a few times and we’ve known those guys a really long time so they’re old friends by now. We just finished a European tour with them so this is kind of a continuation of that.
So what made you guys decide on the Counting Crows lyric as the band name?
Well, we just needed a band name and wanted to go with something that was a little bit different. We thought it was a just a cool phrase so we did it. It sounded neat and we’re open to different interpretations and here we are I guess 10 years later. (laughs)
How have the various side-projects in the band affected the writing and recording process?
Not at all. This band is obviously the priority for everybody. Some of the guys in the band have side things going on but they work on that during Between the Buried and Me down time. When it comes time to write and record, everyone is 100% focused on this and the side projects take up any of their spare time.
Are you personally working on any solo stuff?
Eh, no, not really doing any solo stuff. I might have a side project at some point but right now when I’m not playing in Between the Buried and Me, I’m not really doing anything.
What are some of your guys’ biggest influences that go into the writing process?
Well, we all like pretty much everything, so when you have five different guys that all like to write music you get a pretty eclectic sound going. Things from prog metal, death metal, black metal. Basically various forms of metal to jazz, fusion, classical, rock. Even pop. We’re into all that stuff so we try to interject it in where ever we can. It gives us kind of a unique sound and it’s a lot of fun and keeps us fresh while we’re writing.
Are you guys currently writing any new material?
We aren’t right now but after this tour we will be. We’ll finish this tour up and go home for the holidays and once the new year starts we’ll start kicking it into high gear, try to write a full-length and hopefully have it out this time next year. It’s definitely on the horizon.
Which cover that you guys did on The Anatomy Of are you most proud of?
Probably the King Crimson song. I was pretty proud of that one. The way we kind of put that one together was pretty cool. It was a little tricky. The guitar parts were a little tricky. I think it came out really well. But there were others on there that I liked also. The Depeche Mode song came out well, The Queen song obviously came out well. Probably for me though was the King Crimson track. It’s also my mom’s favorite.
How do you integrate some of your longer tracks such as “Swim to the Moon” into your live show?
Well, we actually don’t really play that song in its entirety anymore. There was one time when we were on a European tour and we only had a 20 minute set so we just played that song. But yeah, it’s really tough when all your songs are really long like that. I mean, we definitely play songs that are 15 minutes long live but it is hard to figure out a setlist sometimes. Sometimes we’re all banging our heads together trying to figure out what we can play depending on our time limit or whatever. It ends up being a heated discussion sometimes on what songs to play and what songs not to play.
How long is your set roughly on this tour?
About an hour and a half. It’s a pretty long setlist.
Between the Buried and Me has been recognized as one of the most progressive, experimental bands in recent years. How do you evolve from one album to the next without replicating your previous releases?
Well, I guess the simple answer would be that we start every album fresh so we’re never really trying to necessarily do what we did on the previous album or even do the previous album but better. Having a fresh mentality kind of forces you to think and evolve and get into a totally different mental state in terms of creativity. We just start from scratch and forget about the previous album. That’s kind of what keeps us moving, keeps pushing us forward and the desire to keep evolving like you said. Trying to do something different every time out.
How has the move from Victory Records to Metal Blade been for the band?
So far it’s been great. They’re really on the same page as us in terms of what we’re trying to do as a band. They give us the creative freedom to kind of do our thing and we give them their space. It’s a cool relationship. We’re very happy with it so far. I mean, we’re only one record in but they’ve been very cool with us and I definitely think we made the right decision.
What have you been listening to the most lately?
We’re all loving anything Devin Townsend puts out recently. He’s awesome and has been pretty prolific in the past couple years. I love the new Pain of Salvation record. It’s one of my favorites right now. Those are probably the tops on my list. Also the new Mastodon is killer. I’ve been listening to that a lot as well.
After numerous line-up changes in the past, what has kept the current roster together since Alaska?
I think it’s because everyone in this line-up is committed. We’re doing it for the long haul whereas sometimes it’s hard to find guys that are committed on that level to make all the necessary sacrifices. When you’re on the road together for six or seven months out of the year, it’s about finding that group that meshes well musically but can also live together on the road and all that little stuff that people don’t really think about. We kind of got lucky with five people that get along and have similar senses of humor and we all love playing music together. So hopefully that doesn’t change. Hopefully this is the Between the Buried and Me line-up. I can’t imagine it being any different.