EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: TRIOSCAPES / BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME BASSIST DAN BRIGGS
“Blast Off,” the first song released by fusion threesome Trioscapes, impressed the hell outta us when it dropped just two months back. Since then we’ve been buzzing with excitement, counting down to the May 8th of Separate Realities via Metal Blade. This is different music for metal fans that choose to think a bit differently. And that’s why we like it so much.
Trioscapes bassist Dan Briggs, who also happens to play in a band called Between the Buried and Me, took some time to chat with me a couple of weeks ago in what would become his record-setting fourth interview with MetalSucks. This time we focused on Trioscapes — how the group came together, Briggs’ all-time favorite jazz and fusion artists, the making of Separate Realities and future plans for touring — but don’t worry, we also saved some time to chat BTBAM (he shared some tantalizing descriptions of what’s in store for the next record). Our chat follows.
I think you’re already the all-time record holder for number of MetalSucks’ interviews.
[Laughs] It’s been a little while though, right?
I don’t remember. Maybe 2 years, 1 year. I don’t fucking know, man. I lose track. I think this is, at least, your 4th one. Congrats! [Laughs] So, Trioscapes. Are you stoked?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a really fun group. I’m really excited now because it’s finally coming out. It’s always an exciting time when you’re working on material for months and months, and you’re finally to be able to hear it and talk about it. Any record, with any group. It’s nice.
Talk a bit about how the band came together and the different people involved, and all the steps leading up to the album release.
The way we got together wasn’t very planned out. I had the summer off for the first time in seven or eight years. I had booked a show in the town that I live in for a friend’s band. As luck would have it, no one around town was able to play. I’d been tossing around the idea to do something with Walter Fancourt, the sax player, and ultimately with Matt Lynch, the drummer. I woke up one morning and had that Mahavishnu Orchestra song “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters” in my head. It’s a weird thing to wake up to. I was like, “You know, I want to call these guys right now.” It was like 10 A.M. and I asked them “are you doing anything on June 22?” “No.” “No.” I was like “you know this song?” “Yes, but I don’t know it know it.” “Okay, cool. Would you like to jam it?” “Sure.” “Would you like to try to do some other stuff?” “Sure.”
At first I was just putting together a group for this one thing. Then I was going through even more covers of things that we might be able to do, pretty much all ’70s rock fusion stuff. I remembered a couple of original tunes that I had laying around, and those became “Blast Off” and “Curse of the Ninth.” I submitted them to Walter and then we started bouncing ideas off of each other. I went to Georgia and started jamming with our drummer, and before I knew it, we had a half hour’s worth of music. We played the show, then got together one more time to finish up the album. We recorded it in October in between Between the Buried and Me tours. We’ve been playing some weekend jaunts in the Southeast pretty much every month since then. I’ve been busy with Between the Buried and Me writing a new album for them, but Trioscapes are going to kick it up pretty hard after that comes out. I’m excited.
That’s awesome. For people who haven’t heard the music yet, how would you describe it?
That’s kind of a hard thing to do. We didn’t know what we sounded like at all at first. I didn’t know what heavily distorted bass was going to sound like mixed in with tenor saxophone – I had no idea what it was going to sound like. Even after recording, each song on the record is kind of its own thing. Some kind of lean towards being more fusion-y, whatever that means – jazz meets rock meets metal meets whatever. You could say a song like “Curse of the Ninth” is post-rock at times. A song like “Gemini’s Descent” is kind of like a nod to ’80s King Crimson. It’s all over the place, man. I don’t know what the hell it is. It’s experimental, progressive rock fusion, whatever.
Do you think this is something that will appeal to fans of Between the Buried and Me. How do you think it’s going to be perceived by those fans?
Yeah, I do. The focus of this group is just music. Over the years, Between the Buried and Me has expressed itself as sort of a musicians’ band. It’s kind of appealing to other musicians, which is great because we all strive constantly to get better at our instruments. That’s part of what makes us who we are and has helped us progress over the years. I think this is a pretty easy transition for people who are into Between the Buried and Me.
Do you expect some people will be like, “Oh, what is this crap? There’s no songs. It’s not heavy enough” blah, blah, blah?
[Laughs] I don’t really worry about that shit. I feel like I’ve noticed enough peoples’ responses to the songs or videos that have been posted so far, such as “oh cool, you’re doing a jazz project” or whatever. I think it’s funny that people in the metal/rock world, the second that they hear saxophone in an instrumental setting, it becomes jazz. Jazz to us is a funny thing. I don’t know what defines jazz as being jazz. To me it’s like sort of like a certain sound but sort of not. It’s kind of loose but so is the term “progressive”. It’s kind of funny to me. I’ve seen some reviews from publications who lean more towards jazz, but that word never comes up in those reviews.
Do you have any formal training in jazz yourself?
I do, but I don’t consider myself a jazz-head at all. I appreciate a lot of jazz artists, but I lean more towards the fusion side of things – the more experimental side of jazz. I can listen to earlier Coltrane stuff. It’s really the stuff in his later career when he got pretty wild and started doing 20-minute long pieces that I love the most. That stuff is almost more classically inspired.
Who would be some artists you would recommend for people to check out who are discovering this kind of music through Trioscapes and are looking to get more into the fusion-y type stuff?
I think one of the obvious ones that shares our exact same instrumentation, the only band that popped into my head when we started jamming (although I don’t think we sound like them), is this band called Zu. They’re an Italian band. They’re on Mike Patton’s label, Ipecac Recordings. They’re fucking phenomenal. Their instrumentation is really cool. It’s bass, drums, sax. The saxophone player plays a baritone and plays it with a lot of distortion on it. When you listen to the record, half the time you can’t tell what’s bass and what’s saxophone. What’s going on? It’s just a cacophony of really aggressive music. I fell in love with it a couple of years ago when their last record, Carboniferous, came out. I have never heard anything else like it. I think that’s a good, modern example.
For the older stuff, if people don’t know John McLaughlin’s catalogue from the ’70s, you have to get into Mahavishnu Orchestra, you have to listen to the Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire. When you listen to that stuff and realize that it’s from ’71 or ’72 or whatever, that’s the beginning of playing really aggressive, raw, loud music. People in rock at that time weren’t using those skills. They weren’t playing that fast. They weren’t trying to play in unison between guitar and violin. Countless bands from today could use them as an influence – the Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me, and The Mars Volta. John McLaughlin is just a beast.
When I first heard what you guys were doing, one of the first bands that I thought of in an extremely modern context is T.R.A.M. Are you familiar with them?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Good buds.
I figured. It’s kind of cool that within three or four months of each other, there are basically two jazzy, fusion-y metal records coming out.
It’s funny because we took Animals as Leaders out on their first tour a couple of years ago. We didn’t see them for a while after that because they were working hard and doing a million tours, but we were finally able to get back together this past fall. It was like “how have you been doing? What have you been doing?” “Oh we started this fusion thing and we cover Mahavishnu Orchestra and we have a saxophone.” “Wow, I started this fusion thing with a saxophone. We covered Mahavishnu Orchestra.” It was the weirdest chance thing. We’re very much on the same wavelength. Animals and our band go together really well and I think T.R.A.M. and Trioscapes go together really well. It’s one of those crazy, weird kind of chance things.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Maybe it says something about the state of where progressive, heavy music is going right now? Certain people who are a certain caliber of musician are looking to branch out a bit and that’s the next logical way.
I think it’s cool because whatever the definition of progressive metal is right now… maybe our two bands will help people who are interested in Between the Buried and Me and Animals as Leaders for the aspects that they each bring be open to new kinds of music. Maybe they could get into what’s influencing us and the music that we’ve grown up with that’s part of our musical makeup. Those guys are along with us and we’re neverending, evolving musicians. It’ll never stop.
I think when people hear what we’ve been writing for the last few months, they’re going to realize that we have evolved. [Laughs] It’s really hard to describe this record because I’m still taking it all in. Good lord, it was a lot of fun to write. We pushed it. We pushed it pretty hard. The Trioscapes stuff really helped me because I feel like it unlocked me back into the world of really, really pushing myself and opening myself up to new ideas.
Walter, the saxophone player in Trioscapes, is 20 (seven years younger than me) but he’s a wealth of musical knowledge far beyond the influences of what I have. I’ve showed him a lot of stuff, but it’s different stuff. It’s stuff that people in our world are very accustomed to. He’s never heard of Meshuggah, for example. He blows my mind with some afro-beat stuff that’s out of this world that I’ve never heard before. It gets me thinking in a new way and all of a sudden I’m hearing rhythms a little differently and melodies a little differently. I can bring that to Between the Buried and Me and raise a few eyebrows with those guys. They’re like “why not? Let’s try it”. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Is Parallax Part 2 going to be an afro-beat record?
Absolutely, yes, 100%. No, but it’s a very exciting record. I don’t want to talk too much about the difference between the Parallax EP and this one, but I knew going into writing the EP that we didn’t have a lot of time. We’d been touring for nine months straight, and when we had a little bit of time I went and toured with Orbs right away. I came back and we did the EP in a month or two. With this one I feel like it’s the next logical step after what we were doing with Colors and The Great Misdirect as far as a full album and really telling the story well. It’s a crazy, crazy full-on concept record, and it feels great and really cohesive. I really think it’s some of the most exciting music we’ve written. I’m really excited to get into the studio and make it happen.
That sounds really exciting. I can already see the Internet Metal Nerds’ comments on this interview when we publish it. [Laughs]
It’s going to be really evolved. Some people will hear it and go “oh that’s outside the box” but to me, finishing my bass parts to it, I’m thinking of stuff in an entirely different way because of the material that we have.
That’s awesome, dude. I’m a huge fan of the Trioscapes record personally. I heard the first song when they put it out, and I was into it from the very first listen. Congrats on a job well done. Unless there’s anything else you want to talk about, I’ll let you go.
I’m excited. I think people are never sure when side groups pop up what the intention is or what’s going to happen with it. I’ve got my year booked now. When Between the Buried and Me is not doing stuff in the studio or on tour, every available space is going to be the year of the crazy fusion trio for me. Just be on the lookout because we’ll be in your area some point this year.