THOMAS GILES [BTBAM’S TOMMY ROGERS]: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
I recently got on the phone with Tommy Rogers, aka Thomas Giles, to talk with the BTBAM vocalist about his new solo record Pulse. Tommy had some interesting things to say about his new solo record, the record industry in general, his thoughts on being a “career band” as opposed to a flash in the pan, and how a band can never really be sure of their standing with fans.
Of course we got to talking all things BTBAM as well, not the least of which was their forthcoming EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (which as of interview time had not yet been announced); Tommy tells us the EP is actually Part 1 of a two-part album suite, Part 2 of which will be a full album! Excite.
Read our chat after the jump.
You’ve got a new album out, are you pretty stoked on it?
Yeah, I am. It’s awesome that it’s out. It’s one of those projects that I’ve always had on the back burner and never knew if it would ever hit the light of day. It’s cool that it’s here and that it actually happened.
It’s just one of those things like I didn’t really plan on doing it, it just kind of happened. A lot of these songs are two or three years old. I write a lot at home, be it for Between the Buried and Me or whatever. I slowly started collecting these songs that didn’t feel right for what we do as a band, so I slowly started building a collection of songs. I had time to actually sit down and record everything properly. Motivation was hard. Sometimes I get lazy when I’m home. All those things put together, I was worried that it would never happen. Last year there was a small window where I had finally written all the songs and felt good about everything. I was confident enough to actually take the plunge. I think that was a lot of it too — I was still kind of breaking on the line of “do I want to do this?” or “do I not?” “Do I feel confident enough that these are going to be legit songs and actually represent me as a musician well?” When the time was right, it was right. I’m glad I did it.
What is the recording process actually like? You mentioned that you kind of worked on it piecemeal.
It was just me. All the music outside of the live guitars, bass, drums and vocals, I already had ready at home. It made it pretty easy. I had the songs completely finished before I got into the studio. That’s how Between the Buried and Me does it too. The guy I recorded with is named Jamie [King]. I’ve been working with him for 10 years now. It was a very smooth process. I kind of went in randomly, whenever he had free time. I think it was eight days total that I recorded with him, but it was kind of spread out with him over a month or two months.
Did Jamie help you with the arrangements of the songs at all or pretty much acted just as an engineer?
He didn’t really help with the arrangements but he’s always there for good ideas and cool sound ideas. The reason why we’ve liked working with him for so long, because he totally understands what we always do. He’s a great musician himself and has a really good ear. He can tell you if something is going to work out or not fairly easy. It’s always good to have that outside perspective too.
Definitely. What were some of the musical inspirations? Obviously this stuff is very different from Between the Buried and Me.
Yeah. I’m a huge music fan. I’ll still listen to a lot of heavy stuff, but I probably listen to less heavy music than I do heavy music nowadays (the last few years). Obviously I’m a huge Radiohead fan. I think you can tell that. I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan and Mars Volta fan. All those bands I’ve just been listening to for years, and they’ve always had an influence on me even with the Between the Buried and Me stuff that I write. The weird thing about influences is I think all the music that you listen to totally influences you, but I try to never think about that when I write. When I write a part, I don’t want to compare that section of the song to a band; I just leave that up to the people that hear it. Hopefully I do a good job at defining my own style.
Did you purposely try to differentiate the music that you wrote for this solo effort from the work that you do with Between the Buried and Me?
In a way, yeah. I really wanted to work with simple song structures and really build off of vocal melodies. Between the Buried and Me music has a lot going on at all times. I just wanted to step back and do songwriting a little differently than I have for the last ten years. It was something new, and I kind of wanted to step back and simplify some things and create a chill record.
Are you satisfied with it?
Yeah, I am. I am. It came out better than I expected. I’m happy with it. It’s obviously kind of all over the place at times, but that’s the way I like music. I like the fact that I don’t think you get bored easily because it kind of takes you on a lot of different journeys and genres within the record.
Absolutely. Do you pay attention to, and if so, are you satisfied with the reactions that you’ve been getting from the fans?
Yeah, I do pay attention to it. It’s been great. That’s one of the things, especially with [side-] projects, when you step outside of what you normally do, you never know how people are going to react to it. It’s been good. People have been really supportive and seem to be enjoying the record. I understand that not everyone is going to like it, as with anything, that’s always expected. I’ve been very pleased with how people have been liking it.
Was it a much different experience this time around working with Metal Blade as opposed to Victory?
It’s hard to say because it’s such a different record. It’s not going to be full-force marketing. It’s out there. It’s a test for all of us seeing… because I don’t know how it’s going to do and they don’t know how it’s going to do, I guess it’s a wait and see how people like it approach. So far, so good.
The entire world knows that you’re signed to Metal Blade. Why haven’t you announced that? [This question is outdated since Between the Buried and Me announced signing with Metal Blade this week, but I’ve chosen to leave it in because I enjoy Tommy’s answer. -Ed.]
We haven’t announced it. It’s one of those things where the time’s not right. We’re still kind of going over things and figuring out what our next move is. We want to take as much time as possible because we understand how the music business is right now, and we understand that rash decisions get you into trouble. We’re at a point in our career where we need to be careful with what we do because I think our decisions are going to determine our future. We want to do this for a long time.
Well you guys are certainly a career band. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. You don’t have to worry about…
I don’t know. I hope that’s the case, but when you’re in a band it’s hard to acknowledge that. “We’re going to be…” because you have that worry that people won’t dig it anymore, which happens. We’ve got to do what we do best and hopefully write some kick ass jams for everyone.
Absolutely. I know exactly what you mean. People tell me this and that about MetalSucks and what our role is in the overall community, and I’m like “I have no idea.” I just fucking write and hopefully people will continue to dig it. I’m saying from an outsider perspective, you guys have fans that are going to stick with it which I think is really cool for a band to get to that point.
Yeah, that’s definitely been a goal of ours. I think as long as we don’t go completely changing on everybody we should be okay. I don’t see that happening.
What’s the next EP like? No big changes musically then?
No, it sounds like us. That’s such a hard question. It’s a really heavy record. It’s some of the heavier material that we’ve written in awhile.
Why an EP and not a full record?
We wanted to get some music out quickly, and we wanted to keep our name out there. We’re going to make it a two-part record. The EP is going to be the first part and the full length is going to be the second. We’re kind of looking at the songwriting a little differently by doing that. I think it’ll be fun to kind of elaborate on some ideas that we did on the EP for the full length. It’s a 30 minute EP which is fairly long.
[Laughs] It’s three. I think it’ll keep people interested, and it’ll get them excited about what the future holds. We wanted to have something to tour on this year. I feel like bands over-tour records. The Great Misdirect isn’t that old, but we want to have some new material to play live.
Is there anything else about either the solo record or Between the Buried and Me, or anything else at all, that you would like to talk about?
I’m trying to think. It’s going to be a busy year. I’m excited. I’m probably going to play some [solo] shows in the next few months. I’m still trying to get that figured out as well. [Dates have now been announced. -Ed.] I hate how everything is up in the air right now, so I don’t have a lot of definite stuff to say but a lot of shit’s happened. I’m getting a band together for that, and I’m really excited. The first drummer of Between the Buried and Me is going to be playing with me. I’m really excited about that because he’s an old friend and I haven’t seen or played with him in awhile. That’ll be cool.
Oh, that’s really exciting. It’s exciting that you guys are going to be doing a tour… you as a solo artist. That’s excellent.
Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s going to be a tour. It’s probably going to be a handful of shows. I don’t really have the time or money to really take it across the country or anything. I want to play some shows and test the waters and see how it goes.
Yeah. It’ll certainly be something different than what you’ve been doing the past few years. It should be fun.
Yeah, exactly. That’s another reason too.
Very cool. Thanks for taking a few minutes. I appreciate it.
No worries, man. I appreciate it.