April 22, 2014 Interview – Paul Waggoner of Between the Buried and Me
A new wave of progressive metal has risen in the past decade. One of the leaders of the pack are North Carolina based band Between the Buried and Me. Together now since 2000, fusing jazz, rock, death metal, and various progressive elements together, it is difficult to define Between the Buried and Me. Their diverse sound and style has fed the band’s rise to popularity over years of touring with a broad range of metal and rock acts converting music fans from all walks of life onto their sound. Now veterans on a the new generation of prog-metal, Between the Buried and Me raised the stakes with their concept The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (2011) and The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012) masterpieces. Recently we caught up with lead guitarist Paul Waggoner for an in-depth look at the force behind the music, the rise of progressive rock, touring, and a lot more.
CrypticRock.com – Between the Buried and Me has been together now for fourteen years. You have released six full-length studio albums in that time and toured extensively. Looking back on the past two decades of the band, how would you best describe them?
Paul Waggoner – It has gone fast. It has been a steady climb. We have not had peaks and valleys like a lot of other bands have, or a meteoric rise and then plummet like a lot of bands. It has just been steady, trying to build fans over a period of time. It has been kind of a blur, but now I am in my mid 30’s and I am still doing it. The biggest thing, it has been a while we have been together and it is still fun. To me it never gets old and I like doing it.
CrypticRock.com – As you said it has been a steady climb and has been very consistent over the years. The band has toured with everyone from Children of Bodom, to Cannibal Corpse, to Coheed and Cambria. What has the experience been like playing with such a diverse mix of bands and respectfully, different audiences?
Paul Waggoner – I think a lot of that is probably we don’t really belong anywhere. That affords us the opportunity to tour with a lot of bands. We will have a lot of people out there like us and then we will have a lot of people out there that don’t like us. It is cool, we all have that kind of European metal influence that is part of our side, we have a death metal element to it, we also have a modern progressive element to our band. It is cool, I love doing those kind of tours, hopefully it exposes us to people that might dig it. You find a couple of weird looks but it is all fun to me.
CrypticRock.com – Like you said the band fits everywhere but fits nowhere. It is great you have that diversity to play with such a wide range of bands. The band’s most recent album The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012) is an extremely dynamic piece of work. Looking back nearly three years after the writing and recording process of that record, how does it hold up to your own personal standards?
Paul Waggoner – It is still my favorite one, although usually the last one we did is always my favorite record because it is the freshest. I really like it, it came out really natural. We really pushed ourselves on it musically. We went into some territory I don’t think any of us were really comfortable with. It came out cool, it is really dynamic, it is a mood record, there is a lot going on, and a lot to take it. To us that gives it an appealing listening value; that you listen to it multiple times and get something new every time. I love it, I am happy about it, but at the same time I am excited about doing another one and see where we go from here. I still love playing those songs, they are still pretty fresh and I enjoy playing them live. I am super proud of it.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great record. The Parallax II: Future Sequence is the second part of that particular concept being with The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (2011). It is also your longest running studio album to date clocking in at over an hour. How did writing a conceptual album differ for you opposed to other material you have worked on before.
Paul Waggoner – It was pretty different. Funny enough the EP is the preliminary part of the story. The approach to writing the EP was very different than the full-length. We had never written an EP, and we had a very finite time period where it can’t be over 30 minutes, otherwise it is not an EP. That was weird for us because we are used to expanding on ideas and making long pieces. We were kind of, in a way, shackled by that and it was tough to write that record. With the full-length, we kind of went crazy with it. In general, writing conceptually is a little more challenging. When you are writing songs, you are just writing songs and everything is its own separate thing. When you are trying to write a piece that flows and meant to be listened to as an album you may want to repeat certain themes in different ways. We do that, and if you listen closely you can hear that. We try and have certain rhythmic and melodic elements that repeat throughout the record. You are thinking of things like that throughout the writing process and looking for opportunity to repeat certain themes, it is a lot more challenging, but it is fun too. It keeps you focused and does not allow you to stray from what you are trying to do. It is very focused, and mentally you have to be in it the whole time. For some reason we work well doing that kind of thing. I think we all feed off each other, and it seems to go really well when we write conceptual pieces. I don’t know, maybe we will continue doing that; it gives us direction lyrically and musically as well. Since we all write, it is good to have a common direction that everyone is going towards. I actually enjoy it even though it is challenging.
CrypticRock.com – It has to be challenging to be fixated on this one concept and everything is evolving around it. It also has to be fun and leave you to be determined to want to do it.
Paul Waggoner – Absolutely, you want to resolve the end, and you want it to resolve perfectly. Everyone is moving toward a similar goal with the album, and that is what I think is cool about it. It is a lot of fun to work together opposed to Dan wrote this song, Dustie wrote this song, and I wrote this song. Now it is more collaborative and everyone is in it, and that is what I think is really cool about it.
CrypticRock.com – That is very true, progressive metal really seems to have taken on a new level of popularity in recent years with yourselves and other bands like Tesseract and Periphery, among others. What do you think has caused the shift in fans interest to progressive rock and metal?
Paul Waggoner – I don’t know, I think it became cool to know how to play well. It became cool again to learn your instrument and practice. I don’t know what that is attributed to, maybe YouTube; the fact that you can see someone shred on guitar or blaze in a drum solo. At some point in recent years kids became inspired to really learn how to play music. I meet fans all the time that go to music school and that blows my mind because I came from the punk rock world that unless you played classic music or jazz, that was not an option. I think for some reason in heavy music it became cool to be musically talented, gifted, well practiced, and know what you are doing. I think that is a big part of it and kids just ran with it. It is crazy about these young kids that come out of the wood work and are just so talented.
You have bands like Animals As Leaders which use 8-string guitars, now you have kids getting 8-strings and learning how to play guitar on 8-string guitar, that just blows my mind. I don’t know if it is a trend. I hope it is not because I think it is cool that young kids are getting guitars and drum sets and learning how to play it, rather than just going in a garage and making a racket. With the rest of the music world going kind of electronic and computers, the bands that are really great players and writing cool music, it is awesome. I don’t know what is the cause, but whatever it is it is cool.
CrypticRock.com – Maybe people are just looking for something more musically, we are living in obscure times and people are looking for something more, possibly this is attributing to it. Being that 2013 brought a series of impressive progressive rock genre albums including Periphery, Dead Letter Circus, and Born of Osris; the stakes are really high for the genre in 2014 for progressive rock and metal. Are there any particular albums you are anticipating?
Paul Waggoner – I am kind of an old school guy, but I like newer bands, I think they are great. Like Tesseract , I think they are really talented and the direction they are going in is really cool because it is a more ambient rock centered thing. I am always looking forward to what they are doing next. I am a huge Devin Townsend guy so I am always looking forward to what he is going to do, because you never know what the hell he is going to do. I think the Kindred have a cool sound. They are getting a little hype signed to Summerian Records, they are doing cool things. I love their record and I want to see what they do in the future. Intronaut as well, I love the new Deafheaven record which is not really prog but it is a cool, different sound. There is a bunch of stuff that I am interested in. The new Periphery was cool. The new Animals As Leaders will be out soon. I am probably most looking forward to that, to see what direction they go. Their last record had programmed drums and with this one it is actually a drummer in the band which recorded. I am looking forward to seeing what he did on the record and how the three of them worked together. The record is produced by Adam “Nolly” Getgood from Periphery, so it is kind of a merger of multi-talented people who can write and produce. I am interested to see how that comes out, it will be a cool record to listen to. There are a lot of really good bands and young bands doing awesome stuff.
CrypticRock.com – You completed your first headlining tour of 2014 with Deafhaven, Intronaut, and the Kindred. How excited were you to start the new year with this great line-up of bands in the genre?
Paul Waggoner – I loved it, it was one of my favorite bills we ever toured on. I love all the bands and I think they are all cool. Intronaut has new stuff out, Kindred too, Deafheaven’s record is on everyone’s year end list for one of the best metal records of the year. Jack Shirley produced that record and I think he did a great job with the production. I love all the bands, and I think they all have a unique sound. To me it was the best metal tour going thus far in 2014. I think all the bands sound different so it is a nice diverse show where you get a different experience with each band, it is not four bands that sound the same. They are all bands which are really good at what they do and putting out good music.
CrypticRock.com – It really was a great line-up. The show had a lot of dynamics to it with the different tempos and sounds. What are some of your musical influences?
Paul Waggoner – They span the gamut, I am kind of a guitar nerd. I have always found inspiration with guitar players; earlier on metal guys like John Petrucci, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and guys like that. Then I got into the infusion thing. I love Allan Holdsworth and John Scofield; there are an infinite number of people. I love Devin Townsend, he is a huge influence on me; I love his guitar playing. Although he kinds of lays back he can totally shred, he is a great guitar player. Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders, I have known him forever and I have watched him evolve into the player he is. That is really inspirational to me to see where he has gone, it keeps me wanting to do better for myself. There are just a ton of guitar players I love. Even in the sort of country and bluegrass world, I love Danny Gatton and Johnny Hiland’s stuff. Brent Mason is a great player.
I try and get influence from all across the board and all genres. It keeps a fresh approach and you are not limited to one style. As far as bands, obviously all those prog bands of yesteryear like YES, Kansas, Gently Giant; Allman Brothers are one of my favorite bands ever. I have a 90’s influence as well, I love Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains; all that stuff kind of sneaks its way into our music as well. More of the modern stuff like Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom, In Flames, and At The Gates. Traditional metal stuff like Testament, Exodus, all that stuff is cool to me, I just like it all. It all found its way into what I do specifically.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like you have an extremely well versed taste in music. It definitely does bleed through in the music. It is important not to limit yourself in one type of music.
Paul Waggoner – I agree, I mean for us it may be a double edged sword because it means our songs don’t make any sense because we are trying to do too much. I think you have to keep an open mind and appreciate all kinds of music. In the metal world, it is sometimes not cool to like stuff that is not metal and you are doing yourself a disservice because there are great talented musicians who really play from the heart and are really great at what they do; so may as well give it a chance.
CrypticRock.com – That is extremely true. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Paul Waggoner – I am not a huge horror guy. In my late teens I was in a band with a guy who was obsessed with horror movies. He would order all these B-horror movies and watch them excessively. I think maybe I got burnt out before I even had the opportunity to appreciate it. If a good one comes out I will watch it. I liked Cabin In The Woods (2012), I think it was done really well. It was different, I think any good horror movie, there has to be some comedy in it. I don’t like when they take it too seriously, I kind of like it when they poke some fun. If it is going to be strictly a horror film you may as well have some fun.
CrypticRock.com – Do you like a particular type of film, like Sci-fi?
Paul Waggoner – Yes, I have grown fond in recent years of Sci-fi, which obviously Parallex stuff is very sci-fi. I am very interested in space and other life out there. That kind of stuff has intrigued me and inspired me to learn more in terms of physics. I have grown appreciative of Sci-fi. I love a good comedy and any kind of suspense movie, I am pretty open. Any movie that is well made and has good acting, that is what I am all about. I am a huge fan of any Coen Brothers’ films. Fargo (1996) is one of my favorite films of all time. I am trying to catch that new one they have Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), that is supposed to be good.
Between the Buried and Me tour dates as follows:
05/29/14 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA *
05/30/14 StickyzLittle – Rock, AR *
05/31/14 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX *
06/01/14 The Mohawk – Austin, TX *
06/03/14 The Nile – Mesa, AZ *
06/04/14 House of Blues – San Diego, CA *
06/06/14 The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA x
06/07/14 The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA x
06/09/14 Ogden Theater – Denver, CO x
06/11/14 House of Blues – Dallas, TX x
06/13/14 Bonnaroo Music Festival – Manchester, TN x
06/14/14 Pop’s – Sauget, IL x
06/15/14 Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL x
06/17/14 The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD x
06/18/18 House of Blues – Boston, MA x
06/19/14 Sound Academy – Toronto, ON – CANADA x
06/20/14 Amnesia Rock Fest – Montebello, QC – CANADA x
06/21/14 Best Buy Theater – New York, NY x
06/21/14 Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA x
* Headlining with support from Trioscapes
x Supporting Messugah