Interview: Between The Buried And Me

On Thursday September the 19th, Between The Buried And Me played their first show of the European part of their A Special Evening Engagement With BTBAM Performing Two Sets tour in the venue of Patronaat in Haarlem, The Netherlands. You can read our live review of that show here. Before the show, and after BTBAM’s soundcheck, DutchMetalManiac’s Tim van Velthuysen sat down with BTBAM’s bass player/keyboardist Dan Briggs for an interview.

Hey, how did the soundcheck go?

Okay. At home it’s hard to replicate the ambience with the lights. Sometimes there were some parts that were too dark. There’s keyboard stuff that I’m doing, sometimes there’s just shadows all over it, which is really scary. You’ll see black keys where there aren’t black keys, stuff like that. Just in general, I think it takes a couple of shows on any tour to feel comfortable, let alone a tour you’re doing by yourself and doing two hours of material. So it might take a couple of days.

I heard there were some light problems?

Yeah, we have our own light guy and stuff. So if there’s an issue, you just tell.

You are doing this tour because Between The Buried And Me exists almost 20 years. How do you look back at those years? You’re in the band since 2005, right?

Yeah, so almost 15 years for me, Blake and Dustie. It’s great. It’s just, I was 20 years old. So, you feel like looking back, I was just a kid, it was the first time I moved out of my parents house, moved down to North Carolina and joined the band, the first time getting to travel and see the world. It was the first time really being in a band with musicians I felt like were on my level. I could write something, show it to them and they could play it. That wasn’t always the case growing up. So, that was great. It’s weird, of course, looking back at some of the material, some of it we’re playing is from before me, Blake and Dustie joined. They almost feel like cover songs, because we haven’t played on them. Most of them we played with the lineup, but not in almost 15 years. It’s wild. It’s cool. It’s been fun, though, obviously.

Do you think that Between The Buried And Me can grow even more?

Yeah, I mean creatively we’re a band that’s always evolving, you hear that throughout the set. The second half of the set that we do is largely newer material. It’s fun to hear the differences and sometimes subtle things that have been along for the ride since 2000/2001. It’s weird.

You already said that it’s a four part arc around two sets, right?

It started as something like that, yeah. You’ll see tonight.

Can you already tell something about it?

Of course, it’s not a big spoiler. The first set is all about really interweaving as much older material that we can into an hour set. Sometimes that’s taking chunks or parts of a song and using them as segues between songs, finding a really interesting way to do that. So it’s like, if you know the material really well, it’s just a fun thing. For those fans, you know? Surely, there’s going to be people for who it’s the first time they’ve heard that stuff, maybe they only know the last couple of records. It’s kind of just designed to be something like that, for the people that have been with the band since the first record, to hear something and be like “Oh, shit, I didn’t think I’d hear that live”, have those moments. Then we also play the songs that you might expect us to play. We play them all on this tour.

So, you play something from every album?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s a bunch of songs. I don’t know how many songs but it’s a lot.

It’ll be the first time that I see you live. I listened to all your albums, but most to Colors and Alaska.

The more like extreme kind of the band.

I discovered you with Colors.

Perfect. Yeah, we play some of that of course.

In Between The Buried And Me’s 20 year career you put a lot of different musical styles into your progressive metal. That makes me wonder, are there any borders for Between The Buried And Me?

When we did The Parallax II album, I remember looking at the last track on that album, Silent Flight Parliament. It might have been the second to last song we did on that album, but I remember after finishing the whole thing, listening back to that song being like “Oh, that’s a good place to build off”. I think there’s a feeling of that after the albums but there’s never a conscious decision when we’re going into doing a new record that’s like “let’s try to go this way, let’s try to do that”. I think it’s just individually, we’ve evolved so much. I’m not the same musician I was 15 years ago, I’m just not. I’ve taken in a lot, I’ve played with a lot of different people, either than this group or any other groups that I’ve had. I’ve just learned so much. So the palette is just wider. So you have more to choose from. Then also you’ve just lived more life. So, you have life events that sometimes shape the place you’re in as well as the music. Of course, that all was also different than when I was 20 years old, I was just a kid who was just trying to write sick parts, now it’s just different.

Are there musical things that can’t be in Between The Buried And Me’s music in the future?

I don’t think so. The real shift on the last three or so records is that it’s just very song-focused. So instead of just trying to take this part and this part and find a way to make them work, it’s someone usually coming in either with the song, pretty well fleshed out, or they’ve written the beginning into a verse or a verse and chorus. Then you’re like you get the vibe of this song and we can work off it. We didn’t really used to that before.

What’s your favorite all time Between The Buried And Me track and why?

The song I mentioned, Silent Flight Parliament, that’s pretty high up there. Especially for that era. Then maybe The Proverbial Bellow off the new one, it’s kind of like our modern kind of epic, It’s a 13 minute long track. When we wrote that in 2018 that idea funneled through the band we were in 2018. I thought that was pretty cool, it’s neat to hear. Especially to compare those two songs, which are both pretty long songs.

Your latest album, Automata, a two-piece album is already a bit over a year old.

Yeah, I think of it as one.

In your Facebook biography you said that lyrically it also includes a lot of parallels to modern society with people often turning athletes, movie stars and musicians into commodities and forgetting that they are also real people with problems and issues.

That happens a lot in society, with anyone that’s put in a position where they seem like they’re more for some reason. People shut down to that concept. They get anxieties, stress and depression, just like everyone else.

You said that society perpetuates mental illness with those expectations.

Yeah. I think when Tommy was writing the record, it was right in the middle, Chris Cornell committed suicide. That definitely was one of the musician deaths that just shook me to my core. Soundgarden was like the first real rock band when I was about 10 years old, in 94, that I got into. They’re a band that’s always stuck with me, it was never just something that I liked when I was younger. I think that was weighing heavy on him, during that.

Was that the album’s inspiration?

Yeah, I think so. Even if that idea was already in his head, that definitely pushed it, for sure.

Do you or something else in the band also have personal experience with mental health issues because of those expectations?

Not really thankfully. In my life, my immediate family is all really good. Just like I said, from the time that me, Blake and Dustie were 20, Tommy and Paul were in their mid 20s, to now where Paul’s 40 and we’re in our mid 30s. We’ve all experienced a lot and had losses in different ways. Some of us have had friends that have passed away, drug abuse and stuff, all the way to a relationship ending. It feels like a seismic shift. Those are the times you dig deep and have to find yourself and be centered. I think that we’ve all had so in different ways, whatever the experience is, absolutely.

About society perpetuating mental illness with those expectations.

Yeah, I think that happens with artists in general. Anyone who’s in the arts needs a bit of seclusion to be able to create isolation and stuff, I think sometimes that idea can go both ways. Sometimes you can corner yourself, I’ve dealt with that sometimes, feeling like I can do so much because I live alone, then sometimes like a week and a half passes by and you haven’t seen anyone, except the people at the grocery store.

How do you think that could be changed for the better?

Well for me personally, a couple of years ago I got into meditation. That helps me, I’ll probably sit for about 10 minutes before the set today and to just get myself centered and calm. I focus on my breathing a lot, on stage and throughout the day. I try to keep the stress low. Sometimes it’s easier said than done. I also think conversation helps a lot. Sometimes we have stuff as a band, it’s like a business or whatever, that’ll boil us, then you just got to talk. I think that’s important with all relations in life, that’s the hardest thing.

What do you think society can do about that, except for just stop doing it?

Of course, there could just be some compassion all around. But otherwise I don’t know exactly.

Automata is already a bit over a year old. Are you already working on a successor?

No, I’ve been working on some of my own music and stuff. Everyone’s got other shit to do at home. Tommy’s got a kid, some of the guys are married. Our schedule is pretty much booked until next May, which seems far out from now, but I know that the rest of this year is going to go so fast. We’re home maybe about three weeks after this tour, then we leave for almost two months across North America. Then we take off until February when we’re going to Australia. I think once the year turns to next year we start shifting into that mindset a little bit and be writing some stuff in between tours. It’s hard when you have stuff that’s still ongoing to be like ready to flush out your brain. If you have two hours of music still in your head, it can’t really be like let’s put even more in there. When you’re writing, that’s all that’s going on. Just that, which is great.

Tonight is the first night of this Evening With tour. Are you looking forward to tonight’s show?

Yeah, I wish it were like two or three hours earlier in the day so that we would have all this wrapped up. You know what I mean? Because I think we’re hitting the stage in about just over an hour, we still have to warm up and stuff. It’s just like there’s so much that you can’t possibly go over everything. So you just trust that you’ve done the work and it’s in your subconscious. When we go out there, it’ll just happen. I’m sure it will and I’m sure that there’ll be some stuff that needs some more attention or whatever.

Can we also expect something special next year, when it’s exactly 20 years that Between The Buried And Me exists?

In America we’re going to do a tour that’s basically like this kind of tour idea. Then we’re going to shut down and work on new stuff.

Will that be released next year or later?

I guess that will be in 2021.

Thanks for your answers and enjoy your show.

Yeah, man. I appreciate it.

Is there anything you want to say to our readers?

Any city that we played over here is great, very welcoming. This venue is like pristine. It’s gorgeous. It’s so clean up there, it sounds great, so nice. It has cool artwork. We love specifically being over here, it’s great.

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