EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME BASSIST DAN BRIGGS
MetalSucks recently had the opportunity to sit down with Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs to talk about the band’s upcoming new album Colors, due September 18 on Victory Records. Boy did he have a lot to say, not only about the recording process and music of the new album, but also about his prog-rock preferences, today’s metal scene, the karate-chop moshpit trend overtaking today’s youth, and more. Read the full interview after the jump.
You guys just finished recording a new album; tell us about it.
It’s called Colors, it’s got 8 tracks, 6 actual songs; one song is a two-parter and there’s an instrumental track. We’re stoked on it. It all kind of runs together as one kind of musical idea, though there’s no real lyrical or conceptual feel to the album. It’s a record that’s based around a few musical themes that pop up here and there throughout the record and really kind of come together. The last song brings the thing together. 65 minutes of non-stop music and we’re really excited about it!
Talking about the conceptual feel of the record, it seems like you guys have in the past been influenced by certain bands more than others… are there any bands that influence the way you go about writing a conceptual piece like that?
Well I think it has to do with each member’s influences, really. I’m kinda stuck in ‘70s progressive rock and so I guess I’m kind of the one really pushing to do something different, really trying to make an album that would thematically, musically, if not lyrically [fit together]. There are a lot of full blown concept records that, you know, we’re tryin’ to make it not cheesy, you know? But it kind of just worked itself out that way. We wrote the first song and the way it ended, the first song ended up being in the middle of the album – but we finished that song and we thought what if we ended it this way, and what if we went into this chord, and then started something completely new. And then right there it was like, if this works out we can just run the whole album together. And it was cool, it just made it so much easier to lay out the album and just sit back and look at it. It’s a lot more cohesive, it’s not just a collection of songs. Everything has a purpose on this album.
What is the writing process like for you guys? Do you get in the studio and jam it out, or does one guy come in with a finished idea, or do a few guys come in with ideas, or is it always different?
This time around was really nice because when we wrote Alaska, it was all 5 of us in our drummer’s bedroom. It was so cramped, and so loud, and it wasn’t very productive. We of course ended up writing the album but it wasn’t the greatest of circumstances. This time around we had a new space, spread out, and we were usually working as a trio or a quartet. Three or four of us would go in at a time, and it was pretty much Paul the guitar player and I, sort of writing and arranging these songs while we were at home then kind of coming together and putting it together with our drummer, Blake, then getting ideas from the other two members who were writing as well and then kind of putting everything together. But a lot of it was done as a trio or quartet and that made it a lot easier dealing with 2 people being out of town rather than having 5 people going at it at once, you know? It’s a lot of… we did work from home, and Paul and I sent files back and forth non-stop. We’ll just add on to stuff, or I’ll send him something and he’ll get really excited. He’ll send me something, and I’ll hear something…. I don’t know, it was a lot easier this time around. Even the recording… very relaxed.
What role does the producer play in the studio? I know you guys worked with Jamie King again.
Yeah, yeah, we actually had a chance, Paul, Blake and I, to go in with Jamie around February. By that time we’d had a few songs, and we’d recorded them, instrumental songs for a compilation that may or may not ever come out. Anyway we had a chance to talk to Jamie and pump him up on the songs and then I think a week before we went in we took all of our demos and sat down and listened to ‘em. But he’s really cool, he’s great. He doesn’t do – he just polishes the songs – he just offers advice, really. He kind of shines when he helps Tommy out with vocal parts, vocal harmonies, things like that. And that helped us a lot on the last few records we’ve done. He’s more of an idea guy then he is an arrangement guy. He just adds little production tips. Like “let’s put that trumpet here.”
Are you guys classically trained musicians?
Nah. I mean, Paul has taken lessons growing up. I was in school for music for a year and a half and I left to join the band, and Blake has background in lessons and theory too… but the three of us have that same similar background and we communicate really well together. We’ve had instruction for sure, but you really get a lot better on your own. Kids are always, “What should I do to get better? What should I do, what should I do?” And it’s like, you know, there’s the fundamentals that you have to learn, you have to know your instrument. But a lot of it, then after that, is just turning your brain on, and opening yourself up to music and new sounds and reeeeeeally listening to records. That’s something that’s fundamental to me the last couple of years especially these older bands – you know, I actually didn’t answer your question – a lot of the bands that we’re really inspired by, conceptual records, my favorite bands, all of ours, are bands like Pink Floyd, Genesis. When I listen to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, musically you might not take anything away from it, but God, it’s just genius if you listen to the way that they intertwine these songs. This theme that you’d completely forgotten about will come back on the second disc, and you’re like “God that sounds so familiar!” That feeling that a record like that, I don’t know, 80 something minutes of music, it feels like one very natural thing even though there’s so much that hits you on it. And obviously more recent bands like Dream Theater’s Scenes From a Memory. I think it’s safe to say that that is the band’s collective favorite album.
I love that album!
Well I got turned onto Dream Theater while I was in high school. When I was a sophomore, it blew my mind. It changed the way I thought about music. And to this day I get inspiration from every song from that record. I like their new record Systenmatic Chaos too, I think it’s really good.
[Your MetalSucks editor and Dan then proceeded to have a 5 minute dork-out digression about various Dream Theater albums and their musical merits and pitfalls. In short, we both agree that Dream Theater is awesome. Moving on…]
Any newer stuff that you personally are listening to or that the band collectively is listening to?
Some of the band members are more influenced by death metal. We have a few common ground bands like Dream Theater, Opeth. Opeth is a collective band favorite for sure. I guess Meshuggah. Any sort of forward thinking metal we get really stoked on. My buddies from St. Louis, Lye By Mistake. I’ve just been listening to them so much lately. I can’t get enough of them. They’re honestly out of control. They’re, I guess, you know, I hate to… they kind of have the Dillinger really intense, syncopated patterns and they’re really kind of jarring, the most musical fusion crazy stuff. It’s this balance of absolute insanity and really awesome, awesome brutality. They’re one of the newer bands that I’m really stoked on, who hopefully we’ll get something goin’ for them. They’re like Lambgoat’s first release or whatever, when they start putting out records. I’m really stoked on them. There’s really not a lot these days that really gets me super excited in that heavy music kind of stuff. Any time I hear a band that’s doing something different than I get REALLY excited, and it really pumps me up because, you know, it just seems like because metal’s getting bigger, people have stopped trying so hard. It seems like there’s a formula that you can follow and sell a bunch of records if you can fall into the right crowd. And it’s like, you know, well that’s fine, but don’t turn yourself off to thinking outside the lines again.
As you guys are kind of “thinking man’s metal” as it were, do you think that it alienates you to most of what’s going on in the current heavy music scene or do you think it’s an asset?
Well, it’s weird cause you know we were on Ozzfest last summer. And it’s funny, this album is a direct reaction to last summer. Last summer was the low point in the band. We were playing a three song set all summer long because we had 20 minutes. It is SO rushed on and off. We’re not that kind of band. You can’t give us 20 minutes and expect us to be satisfied or expect the audience to be satisfied, cause they’re getting hit with too much stuff, you know? So we played 3 songs and that was it, all summer long, and we got to the point where we didn’t want to play those three songs especially any more. And we got home and we busted out that first song for the new record, and it’s out of control. It ended up being in the middle of the record. Almost an all instrumental track. Vocals placed here and there in appropriate spots. But it’s just out of control musically. It’s been a while since the song was done, but we really haven’t sit down and practiced it yet. It’s gonna be hell to really learn but it’s awesome, it’s a great place to start for us, and lyrically the last song on the album is called “White Walls” and we based the title of the CD off that. It’s a direct reaction to Ozzfest. We’ve kind of broken away from some of those bands that we would be clumped in with. People hear the really abrasive metal side of us, and maybe without even thinking about it say ”That reminds us of so and so, and so and so.” They clump us in with that even though there’s a lot more going on than that. We’ve toured with a lot of those bands, and you know, it goes over fine, there’s nothing that really keeps the crowd from understanding us. It’s a lot of the same kids I think, listening to our stuff and the other stuff.
Yeah, there’s always those kids at Ozzfest who throw karate chops in the pit and all that. Side note: what the fuck is up with that?
[laughs] Honestly, you know, it’s weird because all five of us grew out of the hardcore scene, we all played in hardcore bands and stuff. And Between the Buried and Me got our start in the hardcore scene. And we — I don’t mean to sound prickish — but kind of evolved out of it really, more into the metal world. But, haha, I don’t know. It’s always interesting because I don’t go to a lot of shows when I’m home, to go back out on the road and to see how things have changed recently, how kids are reacting to music now as opposed to however long ago when I started going to shows. It’s interesting. The crowds on Ozzfest were interesting, though. Playing was fun, generally the 20 minutes you have even though it was rushed playing the same songs, generally it was cool because you’re playing for a lot of people. We’d never played outside before, so that was cool. We usually had bad monitor mixes and it was usually terrible sounding on stage but it was generally fun playing for that many people. We had to do meet and greets afterwards every day which we rolled our eyes at at first, but it ended up being cool. It was cool to connect to a few people who had never heard us before, to see what their initial reaction was after getting blasted with a 20 minute Between the Buried and Me set. For the most part I think it was alright, but there were definitely those days where it was a total bitch, and no one really got it, they were just waiting for someone else to come on or something.
Yeah, you guys and Strapping Young Lad kind of sailed over a lot of people’s heads.
We actually played back to back all summer, too. They played right before us. It was a rotating thing, sometimes they played before us and we’d play after, depending on the time slot. Gene, their drummer, had heard of us before. We had some conversations about King Crimson, he heard our cover record and was really into the song we chose. And that was really cool. The first conversation we struck up was all about that and yeah, it was awesome.
What’s the plan for this record as far as touring, package tours, promotions or anything? Do you even know yet?
Honestly, we usually plan that stuff a couple months before it happens. Our booking agent is always trying to get us on stuff a little bit before it happens. So right now we’re looking towards the Fall. But before that we have a two week tour with the Red Chord, Cephalic Carnage, and The End, that’ll be a lot of fun. A bunch of my friends. Then we’re gonna do another headlining full US tour for the album’s release which is really exciting cause we didn’t get to do a full US run the entire year and a half that we toured on Alaska. We did one before Alaska came out and then did a short, a little east coast thing headlining, and that was good. We know our fans enjoy long sets from us, I think they like to get a lot of different songs. So this fall we’ve already promised to do something special and we’re gonna have a really long, cool set planned.
Anything else, any shameless plugs, now’s your chance.
Haha. September 18th the album will be out, and we’re really excited and hope that certainly we’ll be seeing everyone in the fall. We’re trying to get all over the world with this album for the first time ever.
Thanks for taking the time Dan, been a pleasure, really appreciate it.
Yeah, take care dude!