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6th October 2012
Last year, innovative American prog-metallers Between the Buried and Me released the first instalment of a planned two-part concept on new label Metal Blade in the form of lengthy, half hour EP, 'The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues'. And October 2012 sees them unleash its companion piece, 'The Parallax II: Future Sequence', a 70+ minute opus that's as ambitious and complex sonically as it is lyrically through a philosophically provocative narrative that sees the band marry music and words with exhilarating results. Embarking on a short run of UK shows with fellow metal innovators Periphery a few days ahead of its release, Metal Discovery hooked up with drummer Blake Richardson and guitarist Dustie Waring a couple of hours before the band's show in Leeds to find out more about BTBAM's latest musical masterpiece and to delve a little deeper into their perennially progressive proclivities...
METAL DISCOVERY: The new album, ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence’, develops the story of the two characters introduced on last year’s EP and I read they embark on a journey to “cure the flaws of humanity”?
BLAKE: Sort of yes and no. It deals a lot with alternate realities, other world possibilities and stuff like that. It gets pretty crazy. We could go further in depth but we’d probably be here for a couple of hours!
(Blake Richardson on Between the Buried and Me's progressive tendencies)
"...we’ve always tried to make the faster parts faster, the weirder parts weirder… trying to make it as eclectic as possible. But, yeah, that’s something we’ve always been about – pushing ourselves musically and as far as musicians as well."
Blake Richardson and Dustie Waring on their tour bus, Leeds, UK, 6th October 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: Was the narrative Tommy’s doing mainly or did you all have an input?
DUSTIE: I think, originally, Paul had an idea to do something like that and then him and Tommy got together and really thought on it a lot. I’m pretty sure that Paul might’ve had the original idea.
BLAKE: Yeah, as far as the concept, that was Paul.
DUSTIE: But Tommy, of course, writes all the lyrics.
MD: It seems like quite a long track listing for a BTBAM record with 12 tracks on there.
BLAKE: Yeah.
MD: So did it call for more discrete pieces of music to tell the story as it needed to be told?
BLAKE: Yeah, this is the first time we’ve done a concept record script-wise and musically. So we had to match the music with the flow of the story and it’s kind of a challenge because we’ve never had to do that before.
MD: So were you conscious when composing the music that the songs should tell the story sonically as much as lyrically?
BLAKE: Oh yes. Like, for instance, we knew we had to write a finale sort of song with the last two tracks of the record for the end of the whole story. We knew going into it we had to make anthemic, epic sort of finale type songs. So that’s just one specific example to go with the concept of the story.
MD: I think that without paying attention to the lyrics, and with some of the growled parts you can’t hear what’s being sung anyway…
BLAKE: Yeah! [laughs]
MD: …it feels like the music itself is actually telling a story.
BLAKE: Yeah.
MD: And there are subtle nods to the EP on there, like on ‘Extremophile Elite there’s a little passage of music that’s repeated so was it important for you to tie them together musically in that way so they feel more connected and as part of the same story?
BLAKE: Yeah, we knew that there were themes from the EP that we wanted to reintroduce to just draw back on and flashback towards a certain moment or mood in the original story. So just to touch on those and link it all together.
MD: Seeing as the EP and album are part of the same story, have you talked about ever playing both in their entirety at a future show?
DUSTIE: That would be really, really tough, man!
BLAKE: [laughs]
DUSTIE: That’s a shitload of music!
BLAKE: The EP was half an hour and the new one’s 72 minutes so yeah… [laughs]
MD: I’m sure your fans wouldn’t be complaining about a 100 minute set.
BLAKE: We’ve done it before, for the ‘Colors Live’ DVD.
DUSTIE: Yeah, we’ve played longer than that actually.
BLAKE: Physically, we know we could do it but I don’t know if I could fit that much music in my head!
BLAKE: I’ve already flushed some stuff out! When we do new material I have to let go of a bunch of other stuff!
MD: I gather ‘The Parallax’ EP took 10 days to record and just 2 of those days for the vocals so did you have a less rushed experience this time with the album?
DUSTIE: This time it was nice and comfortable. We got to spend way more time on actually building a tone from scratch to match what we hear for the part. And Blake had plenty of time to do his stuff, to come back in and do percussion and all that. And Tommy got all his vocals done… he doesn’t live in North Carolina anymore so he had to come in for that. I thought it was nice. They may have a different opinion but I thought it was pretty smooth!
BLAKE: Yeah, I thought it was way better.
DUSTIE: We got to play lots of sports which is always important!
BLAKE: [laughs] We had enough time so we could toss the baseball around every now and again so it was pretty relaxed.
MD: Definitely enough time then if you have time for baseball tossing!
BLAKE: Yeah!
MD: You have a very unique sound as a band and a genuinely progressive vibe rather than a generically progressive one but do you think it’s important to always keep progressing with your sound rather than settle into a style that’s unique to BTBAM?
BLAKE: Yeah, I believe so.
DUSTIE: It’s what we’re all about.
BLAKE: At the same time, it’s a challenge to do that because a lot of bands feel like they’ve found that sound and it’s worked out well for ‘em and then they just kinda stick with it and, all of a sudden, that itself becomes a little bland. And we try not to be one of those bands that puts out the same album every time we put out a record. We don’t want to be one of those bands. One could argue that we are one of those bands just because every record is full of styles and genres; it’s pretty eclectic but I’m very happy with how we’ve progressed as far as writing and material-wise.
MD: In what ways would you say the band has progressed with the new album?
DUSTIE: Every record we do, we get better as players because we’re writing stuff that’s a lot harder for us. I mean, most of the time you can’t play it right away; it takes a while. And then you have to learn how to play it all as the song and not just playing little sections. Definitely, for guitar at least, there are new techniques and all kinds of stuff you have to learn. His drums are fucking ridiculous on the new record.
BLAKE: Oh yeah, they are!
BLAKE: So ridiculous I can’t even play them!
DUSTIE: Everybody has to progress… that’s because that’s what we do. You know, we just push ourselves.
MD: So, in that sense, would you say challenging yourselves as musicians is as important to being a progressive band as writing music that’s innovative?
BLAKE: Oh, definitely. And as far as progressing stylistically, that’s always a challenge as well but we’ve always tried to make the faster parts faster, the weirder parts weirder… you know, trying to make it as eclectic as possible. But, yeah, that’s something we’ve always been about – pushing ourselves musically and as far as musicians as well.