Dan Briggs of Between The Buried And Me talks their tour with Coheed and Cambria, album shows and negative reviews
This past weekend in Chicago, my buddy, Durf Diggler, and I were fortunate enough to have caught an interview with Between The Buried And Me bassist, Dan Briggs. Considering this interview is fairly long, I won’t prolong your reading of it any further. Dive in and enjoy!
Sigma: We’re here with Dan Briggs from Between The Buried and Me and Dan, I know this is a generic question so I’ll try to make it a little more interesting…What has been unique about this tour so far for you guys?
Dan: For us so far it’s been playing venues that we haven’t played before; the only venue we’ve played before so far is the 930 Club in DC, and we were there for two nights. I don’t know if we’ve ever really toured with a band as massive as Coheed and Cambria before, we toured with Dream Theater and that was pretty big. So far, every night on this tour has been sold out; it’s just crazy, they’ve got a very intense following.
Sigma: I was gonna say, there has to be quite an eclectic crowd coming out to the shows considering fans of Russian Circles and Coheed And Cambria may be different from the BTBAM core.
Dan: Yeah, we did a co-headlining tour with Cannibal Corpse this summer and that was certainly another crowd. This is kind of reaching the farthest extreme for our band in the two support tours we’ve done this year, but that was another crowd where we were with a band that has diehard fans and we were thinking “What is this gonna be like?” I think there were only one or two nights where there were kids up front, flipping us off you know, and the Coheed crowd is a bit more subdued than that, but they are definitely diehard.
Sigma: Have the responses been as good as you were hoping for?
Dan: They have been, you know it started very slow; the DC shows, that’s not an area we play a lot, like headlining or anything, and those shows were kind of interesting, kind of funny, cause a lot of the crowd were a mix of sad and bored while we played, which is a very weird thing to see from the stage. We’ve definitely done tours before where we look out and see a crowd not into it, but not seeing kids that were legitimately so bummed out… but then we played Pittsburgh and Detroit, and those are places we play a lot headlining, and they were great.
Durf Diggler: I saw on your facebook the other night that you guys posted a show review from a gentleman who let’s just say wasn’t a fan. I assume you guys are able to brush that off pretty easily. But is there any sort of reaction from you guys when you see something like that? I believe he referred to your performance as having very little semblance to actual music.
Dan: I think we had to post that one because we’ve never seen a review that scathing, that was so unnecessarily harsh for a show that was really good; he made it seem like there was nobody that liked it and this and that, and that everyone was waiting for us to get off, but it was a great show. We could show him what we did in merch that night and probably blow his mind, y’know? It was amazing. That review was brought to our attention, and we were just laughing; we were balling and we were like “We should post this, I think our fans would get a kick out of this” and the response has been huge. I think I looked earlier and there were 800 comments; I thought “Oh cool, we know how to rile up our fans.” But that’s just one dingus dude who came out to the show.
Sigma: That brings up a point I’ve noticed about your band over the years. It seems you guys are very polarizing; either people get it and are totally on board with everything or they’re totally lost and just don’t see it. How do you guys interpret that?
Dan: Well it seems like our crowd is a bit diverse in terms of age and eclectic tastes in music; there are some people who are just metalheads that like it, there are some people that like progressive rock, that like the instrumental, noodle-y side of the band… I think that’s kind of cool. I think we have fans that can pick through a few different aspects of our music and really like it, and then I think we have people that like everything about it, that like the mix that is Between the Buried and Me, just the sound that it is…
Durf Diggler: This review was in a newspaper and I’m sure the readership of a newspaper is much different from that of an online music blog. Do you feel that response was because of that? He was maybe just going to the show just to review the show; not necessarily because he wanted to really see anyone.
Dan: I can understand that point of view, and it being something so outside his world, but there are other things he could have commented on; he could have been like “Oh, they had a decent light display,” or “When the singer did sing, it was quite nice, they created a nice mood…” Instead he was like “This is just trash; they don’t know what they’re doing.” And obviously our fans responded, telling him that he’s not in a position to have his job really (laughs).
Sigma: With this tour, you guys are supporting more new material from the new album (“The Parallax II: Future Sequence“). I think we can all agree that the new album is your guys’ most ambitious one to date, progressively speaking. It ties in the musical ambitiousness of “Colors” with an actual story that permeates the whole album and seems to be very much like a big culmination of all your previous work. Is this kind of album something you’ve all wanted to do?
Dan: Oh man, yeah; I mean so many of my favorite records are these conceptual records that tell a story through the lyrics, music, and artwork. That was something with the EP we didn’t think we got across so well, honestly; writing that was very fast, very jumbled. The thing that really stuck from that was we had this neat story that we really wanted to expand on. Going into this, we were kind of approaching it like a piece of rock theater, like a rock opera sort of, looking at The Wall, or Tommy by The Who, records like that, that are some of my favorites to listen to. You put them on, and you get taken someplace else, you get so wrapped up in the story, in the different dynamics, in the different quirks of the album, and that just makes for such a cool experience, I think. When I’ve listened to the album (Parallax II) in its entirety it doesn’t feel like it’s 73 minutes long or whatever, it’s got a really good ebb and flow to it, and that’s something I think we’ve gotten better at doing, we’ve gotten better at really focusing in, especially on this album, focusing in on where the focus of the song is, and really building off of that. A song that I can look at as an example of that is “Telos,” that’s a song that’s a little bit more heavy hitting, and so that’s something that I can say is like an older side of Between The Buried And Me, but a more mature take on that. But everything you hear through the clean melodic section is all built off of the first riff that Dusty wrote; he came up with this riff and it was in all our heads for a long time and I started picking little things out of that riff, where like “We could do this variation off of that” and the keyboard behind it, the “da da da da” it’s all based off the riff at the very beginning of the song. That’s kind of an example of how the songwriting has matured, off of just that song. But you know, we could pick a different song on that album that could be something completely new for us.
Sigma: Is that something you would describe your writing style as? Do you guys just come up with random riffs and then expand them as much as humanly possible?
Dan: Sometimes. You know, I feel like that riff in particular, at the beginning of “Telos,” was a riff that Dusty had been playing on tour for a year, just annoying us with you know, but it was in your head, and it was a great riff, and we were anxiously waiting to build on it. I remember it just being in my head, and I was like “Well, let me slow that down a little…” Sometimes it’s things like that, sometimes it’s… there are parts on this record where people would come in with big chunks of sections; I know we started off coming in with “Goodbye To Everything” through “Astral Body,” I had that altogether as a solid piece, and Paul came in with most all of “Melting City” put together and then when we got together on the spot we started really getting into it and arranging, cutting things or expanding things or being like “Oh before we get to that part, maybe we can do something a little heavier, a little groovier…” That’s what’s so fun you know, when you come in with something that is so solid in a direction and then you get together and kind of hash it out as a band.
Durf Diggler: Going back to when we were talking about the album as being conceptual, when you put together your setlists for the show….are they songs you want to play live for the musical side of things or because that’s the part of the story you want to tell? What kind of thought process goes into that?
Dan: Well for right now it’s playing the songs that we can actually perform (laughs). We were playing “Astral Body” and “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” in Europe, and those are great songs that we really feel represent the album well at this point, and they’ve been going over with the crowds well so far. They’re more melodic, almost like the metal focus is less, more in the background, and the rock and melodic side is a little bit more to the forefront. That works really well for this tour, and we’ve been playing “Extremophile Elite” on this tour, which is a song that we were just excited to really dig into. We were trying to pick around, we thought “Bloom” maybe, but then we thought we should just save that until we get to play the whole album, you know “Silent Flight,” same deal; you don’t want to play the finale before you’ve played the whole rest of the album you know? In that respect it was kind of good because it kind of limited us. We’d already played “Telos” over the summer, so we didn’t want to play that on the tour.
Sigma: Going forward, are there full album tours in the works for you guys?
Dan: Oh yeah, we’re gonna come out in the fall I think in September; we’re going to be headlining, playing the whole goddamned record finally. At that point it’s already going to be more than a year since we’ve recorded the record. And if you told me when we were in the studio that it’d be a full year plus til we actually got to play the thing that we were recording I would have said you’re crazy. That was actually the initial plan for this time of year and then the Coheed offer came, and we said “that’s good, we’ll do that and do the headline thing later.” But that’s good because at that point the story’s going to be engraved in people’s minds, they’re going to know the music so well that it’ll be good, you know?
Durf Diggler: You guys aren’t strangers to playing whole albums live. But I remember reading an interview with Mastodon that towards the end of their Crack The Skye tour, they got extremely burned out with playing the same songs night after night. Is there any fear of that kind of thing with you guys at all?
Dan: No, I think that set’s going to be really exciting, you know; on this set we have a good flow where we’re doing “Astral Body” into “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest” and then we’re kind of going right into “Ants Of The Sky” and “Prequel To The Sequel” off Colors, so it’s like there’s this non-stop half hour plus of music that’s just kind of happening. I feel like when we get to play the whole album it’s got such a good flow to it that it’s going to be really rewarding for us to do and also we’re just so confident that it’s our best work that I can’t imagine anything else we’d want to play, honestly. And like when we did the Colors tour, we probably played Colors sixty or more times, and you know it never really got old. We brought it back last year; we did two nights in London, and the second night we did it, so that’s kind of cool. I can remember reading stories about Pink Floyd on the Wish You Were Here tour they’d play Wish You Were Here and then encore with Dark Side Of The Moon, and you know that’s… that’s just so fucking cool, you know! I mean obviously those records are shorter than ours…
Sigma: It’s probably way too early to ask this, but it’s natural for people to always look forward to what’s next. Would you say you guys will stick with the kind of conceptual stuff you did on Parallax II or will it be a retroactive thing where you guys start from the beginning where everything will be more death-metal oriented?
Dan: Honestly, for me I can’t imagine moving forward and really getting in that mindset to move on until we’ve played the whole thing. We’re so excited to play “Melting City” and “Silent Flight” and “Bloom,” and you know the whole thing… I’m not in a position to move on yet and I just haven’t at all, and thankfully I have two other creative outlets that allow me to be creative and not have to continuously worry about spewing out Between The Buried And Me material, because that’s not really what the band is about, you know? I think that by the time we’re ready in a year, year and a half to work on something new it’s going to be fresh and we’ll be able to put Parallax II out of our system and do something completely new.
Sigma: Have you been keeping up on current releases this year at all? Anything particular on your playlist right now?
Dan: It comes out in a couple weeks, but I just got the new Steven Wilson album which is so good. I cannot get over it man, it’s like… even his last record, Grace For Drowning I liked a lot. You could listen to it and tell that it was a Steven Wilson record; it was a bit more out there than Porcupine Tree, but this one is something totally new and I think it’s great.
Sigma: Have you seen the music video for it yet?
Dan: I started to watch it yesterday, but the internet was so shot. I’m going to try and watch it later today. I love the director he works with; I think it’s the same person that did the Storm Corrosion video which just blew me away.
Durf Diggler: Did you like that record (Storm Corrosion)?
Dan: I liked it a lot, yeah. I’m so rooted in, my favorite music being from the 70s, 70s prog, which is obviously what Steven Wilson is heavily influenced by… That album, was really cool to me, because it came from a totally different angle of the progressive rock world, sort of a stripped down, eerie, creepy vibe you know? And I really liked that a lot.
Sigma: Well we like to leave interviews off on much lighter notes, and I know you guys all keep up on sports so to start….what were your general thoughts on the Super Bowl?
Dan: Yeah, we had a day off; we watched it. I would say our camp was pretty much torn Ravens-Gian… oop, 49ers, sorry I was thinking San Francisco Giants; spring training’s coming up… Go Tribe.
Durf Diggler: Uhh….go Tigers.
Dan: Oh, well the Tigers are ok, just as long as it’s not the White Sox. Yeah, but it was a great game. I don’t think it would have been as close if there hadn’t been the power outage; the Ravens would have just rolled.
Durf Diggler: Obviously, Beyonce had the stage for the halftime show and it seems like it’s always that kind of performer who ends up getting it.
Dan: Yeah, I’d much rather see like Tom Petty, when he did it a few years ago I thought that was great, or get fucking Huey Lewis up there, let’s have some fun. I mean, the Beyonce thing was fun to watch, it was a spectacle or whatever but it’s like… I was thinking about it, and is she really even really relevant right now? I don’t know, like I know she is, that she’s a big star or whatever, but who cares? Like that was all they can do? They just recycle the same few people right now; I saw Alicia Keys performing at the basketball All-Star game, and she just did the Super Bowl, do we really only have three performers to choose from right now?
Durf Diggler: I know we’re probably still decades away from a metal band playing the halftime show….but…
Dan: I think Metallica could do it; that would be incredible. They’re not at their best, you know, but if they got up there and did their thing, people would go nuts.
Sigma: Well Dan thanks so much for the interview. Good luck to you guys.
Dan: Yeah guys, no problem. Thanks for the interview.