Interview: Between The Buried & Me
The band's vocalist talks film scores and space exploration.
Between The Buried & Me recently released their stunning (and seventh) full length studio album entitled Coma Ecliptic. The North Carolina progressive metal outfit have spanned an utterly diverse array of genres, sounds and ideas in their near 15 year tenure and are revered as technical and compositional masters. In the little downtime while on tour with fellow prog heavyweights Animals As Leaders and The Contortionist I spoke extensively with vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers about everything from musical influences to scoring films and playing gigs in space. Here’s what went down:
Hey Tommy, what’s going on?
Nothing much. I’m on tour right now... Ah we’re in Salt Lake City, in the US.
Awesome, what time of day is it?
It’s about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
Oh great, it’s 7 in the morning over in Australia.
*Laughs* Good morning.
First off do you have an Australian tour in the works?
Yeah… I know we’re talking about it, I know we’re trying to figure out sometime next year so we’ll definitely make it over there for sure.
Is it going to be for Soundwave by any chance?
Not that I have heard no.
What do you want to talk about in regards to the new record?
What do I want to talk about?!
Well yeah, I always ask the artists what they want to talk about because the interview is about them.
I don’t know man. Unfortunately I’m going to leave that up to you.
Luckily I’ve got a few questions armed up. The new record, it’s kind of got a Wizard Of Oz vibe to it, have you ever drawn this comparison before?
No, I know a few years ago someone made some sort of connection, we’ve always had a lot of connection made between Pink Floyd records and stuff. I don’t know, it’s definitely a journey and it definitely kind of represents a trip going through a kind of fantasy land, so to speak. That’s the theme behind it.
The first big riff also has a big likening to Bohemian Rhapsody. There have also been many comparisons to Broadway. What are some of the more obscure influences to Coma Ecliptic that people might not know about?
Influences come from a variety of different places. When you write music you write in the moment it’s not like I listen to something and go, 'Oh I’m going to write something like that'. I think your influences are just ingrained into you by the music you listen to. We’re all huge fans of all types of music. Influences can come from a TV show or something you read or something that you’ve dealt with in life. To say that a certain band influences you is pretty hard just because when we write we don’t write off of influences we write off of what naturally comes to us so I guess it’s something of a coincidence, it’s never on purpose.
So you would say it’s as if snippets of your subconscious experiences have influenced you throughout your entire life?
Yeah! I think writing in general is like that. If it’s not like that I think you’re just writing weird. I think it’s weird if someone is writing to sound like somebody else. With us we start with a clean slate and even though our band is very technical and very precise it’s still very organic and natural what we come up with.
Now I know that the story follows a person in a coma as they are given the opportunity to travel to a further dimensions or remain in the dimension they are in, whether people have read about the ending or not can you break down some of the different dimensions and which songs describe them?
He’s travelling to different past lives and then at the end he realises that none of it has actually happened as he’s been in a coma. The whole record is pretty much him in a coma and he’s dreaming. The reason I kind of want to tell everybody the end is because the meat of the story is all the different past lives he lived and I want the fans to be able to really dive into the songs and analyse that and figure it out. There’s a lot of different worlds. I’m not going to go through the songs and explain where each world is taken but some of the worlds are very sad and very bizarre, some are very dark and creepy and almost terrifying at times. He goes to all these different places and all these different worlds that I created and I thought it was interesting for him to be interacting with these situations that we as people don’t interact with ever.
Can you describe any of these dimensions visually or are they more conceptual or theoretical?
I don’t exactly want to give up what every song is about. I’m going to leave it at that. The record tells the whole story of what happened so I want to let the fans figure it out what worlds they actually go into.
In your studio live videos you guys have utilised many strings and other kind of instruments, The Coma Ecliptic seems rather fitting for it, could we ever see BTBAM play the record backed by a symphony orchestra or a large choir?
It’s not something that we have honestly talked about. It could be cool. There’s not a whole lot of that kind of stuff with this record. Most of it is instruments that we play, it’s all just keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums. But it could be cool, maybe if I were in the future to rearrange some things for a whole symphony but who knows. Anything is possible.
Do you know anyone who has been in a coma, or have any real life experiences relating to this record?
No I do not, I do not.
Okay. Now Tesseract have played on an ice stage as I’m sure you know, but I’ve always thought it would be awesome to perform in space, what do you think? There’d be a lot of Velcro involved!
I would love to do it! The details sound very dangerous and like it would be a headache to organise but if somehow it can happen I would do it. As long as I don’t have to deal with figuring out how to do it.
The beginning of Dim Ignition immediately screams sci-fi film scores to me, have you guys every been approached about writing a film score? Is this something you would be interested in?
I personally wrote a film score last year for a movie called Dotch Book and I loved doing it. I would love to do more work like that but as a band we’ve talked about how it would be cool to do it but the opportunity has never arose. It would be tough honestly, after doing one myself it would be tough to do it with a band because you would have a director plus five other people trying to figure out what music should go with what scene. I feel like it would get kind of overcrowded at times. I think if we got an opportunity then I’d do it.
Let’s talk a little bit about your solo effort. How is your sophomore release doing?
It’s doing great. Our fans respond really well to the solo stuff. I personally really like writing that music. It’s a nice thing to do on the side. Right now I’m starting to slowly write a little bit for the next one. I try to write when I’m on the road with the band just to fill in my day a little bit and give me a little more purpose and it’s a good therapy for me and I think the fans are being able to undo it more so that’s exciting on my end.
Will there be any solo touring and stuff like that?
Not as of now. Time and money is always a problem. I have a three year old so I don’t like to be gone more than I have to. In the future maybe something will happen. I’ve played a few shows a couple of years ago which was fun but it was a lot of work getting the band together and all that stuff is always kind of tough and especially when the money is not really there, then it’s all out of our personal pockets so it’s always tough.
Where to next after America?
We’re doing Europe for a little bit and then we’re doing another American tour later this year and then next year we’re slowly starting to figure out what the plan is but we should be going to a lot of different places.
Do you collect any vinyl?
A little bit. I hold back because I know that I shouldn’t spend money on that stuff. I have more important things and I have a tendency to get obsessed with things like that so I definitely try to buy the records I really love. I think Dan is probably the biggest collector in the band.
Speaking of vinyl and obsessions you’re sure to be obsessed with the new Between the Buried and Me Record entitled Coma Ecliptic. The record is available on a beautiful deluxe 2LP double gatefold vinyl and is available now at all good record stores and head to the band's FACEBOOK for more info on where to get it online and upcoming tour dates.