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9th February 2011
METAL DISCOVERY: How you doing?
TOMMY ROGERS: I’m good, how you doing?
(Tommy Rogers on new solo album 'Pulse')
"...it’s a dear record to me. I think it kind of sums me up, in a way."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Thomas Giles MySpace:
Official Between the Buried and Me Website:
Giles (2004)
Pulse (2011)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Thomas Giles will be better known by Between the Buried and Me fans as Tommy Rogers. The frontman of said band has utilised his middle name once more on his second solo outing, 'Pulse', albeit this latest venture peripheral to BTBAM is disparate in style from his debut solo effort in 2005 under the moniker of just 'Giles' which was largely industrial infused electronica. 'Pulse', while containing sporadic electronic flourishes, is more about musical diversity that has been likened to Radiohead, Muse, Porcupine Tree and Nine Inch Nails. Add to that the progressive mentality of Pink Floyd and The Mars Volta, Tommy has created a record that effuses euphonic melodies and a whole gamut of emotions through his skilfully composed and executed musical heterogeneity. And never has a solo release been more deserving of the "solo" tag for he not only wrote all the songs himself, but recorded each and every instrument, as well as assuming production duties. The resulting music is nothing short of stunning. Metal Discovery sought to find out more about Tommy's autonomously created masterpiece through a twenty minute conversation...
MD: Yeah, absolutely fine, thank you. I have to say, absolutely amazing album; absolutely incredible.
TR: Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.
MD: Did it meet your own expectations of what you set out to create?
TR: Yeah…actually, it was one of those things where I had it on the backburner for so long and I finally found the time to record it. I always had a big picture of what I wanted but was always worried I wasn’t going to achieve it. But I think I achieved it so I’m very happy with it.
MD: Definitely. It’s received so many glowing reviews but what’s the biggest compliment that you’ve read so far about ‘Pulse’?
TR: I think just the fact that people recognise the diversity of the record. That’s really important to me…when I create music that’s how my brain works. I really like eclectic songs, and like taking the listener on a journey, so to speak. Just the fact that people are really digging it is a compliment in itself. When you kind of branch out and do something new you never know what to expect or how people are gonna receive it. It’s been a nice, pleasant surprise, I guess, to see that people are enjoying it.
MD: You said you had it on the backburner for a while – was the material developed over a long period of time or did you have a more concentrated period of writing for the album?
TR: Yeah, it’s been randomly over the last two or three years actually. You know, when I’ve had some free time I’ve written here and there. I had a lot of ideas that I needed to finish and I finally had some time last year to work on it. I got it all ready and just went into the studio and nailed it out in about a week, so pretty quick…
MD: Only a week?!
TR: Yeah, a lot of it I had already ready as far as all the electronic stuff and keyboards…I recorded everything at home, and I basically just went to the studio to do live drums, guitar, bass and vocals. It was a cool experience.
MD: And you’ve been something of a musical auteur in the whole process because you obviously composed, produced and recorded all the instruments yourself – how did that feel, being out of a band context and having complete autonomy in the creative and recording process?
TR: It was weird! [laughs] It was a little bit weird, you know! I’ve been in Between the Buried and Me for ten years now and you definitely have that level of comfort and what feels normal in the studio so, yeah, it was definitely very different having me and the engineer Jamie in there. It went by so fast I didn’t really think about it; I just, you know, got the work done. It was definitely long days. It was a lot more tiring than just doing vocals and keys or whatever. But it was a fun experiment and, definitely, if I ever write real crazy shit I’ll have to get some other people to help me out! [laughs]
MD: How was the experience of recording the drums? Have you had much experience before?
TR: I played drums in a band years and years ago, like thirteen years ago, but I’ve actually never recorded drums until this record. It was interesting; it was very different. I’ve always been a huge, huge fan of drummers, like big time, that’s one of my favourite instruments to listen to. I never played anything intricate or anything but just being behind the kit while recording makes me gain even more respect for drummers than I had before because it’s so…I don’t know, it’s just like any instrument where you’re under the microscope, and I played to a click so that was different. It was something new for me and it definitely made me mind-blown at people like Blake in our band and how the hell they can do that, playing all that crazy shit!
MD: The record has obviously got a much more chilled vibe than what people usually associate you with – did that require a whole different mind-set to the heavier stuff you do with Between the Buried and Me?
TR: Erm…no, it’s definitely a part of me still. I’ve always loved heavy music, and I’ve always loved mellow music, so it’s definitely something that’s always been there. It was the first time I’ve written straight songs like that, that are mellow all the way through. It was definitely a departure from what is comfortable for me. I guess that was…some of the most rewarding moments of it was branching out and doing something I’m not comfortable at all with.
MD: And the final recordings are pretty flawless, and there’s a very natural feel to the music as well and good flow, but what was the biggest challenge for you when making the album?
TR: Probably making it flow, yeah…because I had all these ideas and all these songs written, they’re very different in terms of genres and moods they create. I was worried it wasn’t gonna sound like an album. I really had to change a lot of stuff, and had to really work with that and making it feel like it’s the same person rather than just a bunch of random songs thrown together. I think I successfully did that; I mean, I’m sure there’s a few that would disagree but I’m happy with how that turned out.
MD: Oh, I think it flows amazingly well. So was it quite a headache getting the tracks in the right order to make sure it flowed?
TR: Yeah, definitely.
MD: There’s so much emotion in the music as well, but do you feel those emotions yourself now when you listen back to the recordings, or have you become too close to the recordings and kind of immune to the effects of those?
TR: Yeah, I mean as clichéd as it is to say it, it’s an emotional record, and I kind of exposed myself a lot more than I’m used to. There are a lot of personal lyrics and it’s very…I don’t know, I feel like nothing’s forced on it. You know, it’s stuff I’ve dealt with or that’s on my mind, and I wanted everything to feel very organic because it was a very natural writing process. When I felt motivated, I wrote, and that was part of why it feels like a genuine record. Nothing’s really forced sounding. But yeah, it’s a dear record to me. I think it kind of sums me up, in a way.
MD: Obviously it’s your record and you’re very close to the songs but, when you listen to it now, can you feel the emotion or have you become a bit detached from that and listen to it more objectively?
TR: Probably I do, but not as much as when I was creating and recording the music. Now I’m kind of looking at it…because I’m planning on playing some live shows, I listen to the music back as far as learning for a live setting rather than digging into how I felt when I wrote it.
MD: So you’re gonna tour with the ‘Pulse’ record then?
TR: I’m not gonna do any extensive touring but I’m planning on doing a handful of shows in the next few months.
MD: Any chance of a UK date?
TR: It’s one of those things…if the time’s right, and I can make it work, I would love to but, obviously, Between the Buried and Me is very busy and we don’t know how the record’s gonna do, and if there’s gonna be a demand for something like that.
MD: When you go out on the road with Between the Buried and Me, can’t you support yourself sort of thing?!
TR: [laughs]
MD: That would be awesome. A lot of fans would like to hear that, I think.
TR: That would be very easy but I don’t think I’m gonna pull that cord!
MD: Mike Patton used to do it! I’m sure he supported himself twice once at the same gig with Fantômas, Mr.Bungle and Tomahawk.
TR: He did all three of them together?!
MD: Yeah, I’m sure he has at least once. The press blurb recommends the album for people who like Muse, Porcupine Tree, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead amongst others – are those bands who’ve inspired you musically in any way, or is that just record company press talk?
TR: It’s record company talk but they hit the nail on the head, for sure. Radiohead’s been a huge influence of mine since I was a teenager, and Muse is a huge influence, and Nine Inch Nails I could listen to forever…and Porcupine Tree. So yeah, they did a good job with that…I can’t deny that those are all influences.
MD: There was no mention of Pink Floyd but I can definitely hear a Floyd influence too – am I right in saying that?
TR: Yeah, definitely.
MD: So you’re a Floyd fan as well then?
TR: Oh yeah, very much so.
MD: What's your favourite Floyd album if you had to pick just one?
TR: It’s tough, man! Probably…I really listen to ‘Meddle’ a lot; I really like that record.
MD: ‘Meddle’ is my favourite actually, mainly because of ‘Echoes’.
TR: Yeah, that’s a good song.
MD: I think if I had to pinpoint a favourite track of mine on ‘Pulse’, it’s ‘Hypoxia’, the final track. It has a very Anathema kind of vibe. Is that a band you’ve listened to much?
TR: Yeah, they’re a cool band, yeah. It’s not one of those bands I listen to non-stop but I have a couple of their records and they’re a cool band.
MD: You’re generally known in the metal world as Tommy Rogers, of course, but was the use of your middle name for this project supposed to be a statement of differentiation between who people know you as from Between the Buried and Me and your solo work?
TR: Yeah, I don’t know, I felt it fit the record. It sounds more proper to me, or something! [laughs] It sounds more like a grown up version of me! I’m just trying to show my English roots, you know! [laughs]
MD: Of course, yeah! More often than not artists seem to release solo work through the label they’re signed to with their day-job band but this has come out on Metal Blade, so how did that deal come about?
TR: I’ve actually known Brian, the owner, for a while now. I recorded a record, and I was actually finished and recorded with the record before I even told anyone I was doing it or shopped it around. It was one of those things where I sent it to a few labels and he was very interested. He was really into the idea of releasing something that expanded his roster a little bit and kind of do something a little different. I’m all about being the sore thumb sticking out, so it just made sense. He seemed to really enjoy the music and there was a fan element that was nice, which I think is important as far as record labels and all that. It seemed he genuinely enjoyed the record and wanted to see what we could do with it.
MD: Has it been a very different experience from Victory then, being with Metal Blade for this one?
TR: It’s so different just because this record, nobody knows how it’s going to do. I mean, it’s not like it’s full-force out there. With Between the Buried and Me it’s a hundred per cent promotion and everything just because it’s a fulltime band but, obviously, with ‘Pulse’ we’re all kinda taking it slow and seeing where it goes. If it gets bigger and bigger we’ll do more with it.
MD: You’ve made a video for ‘Sleep Shake’ which you filmed and edited yourself – have you had any previous experience of filmmaking because it’s quite minimalist but has a very professional look to it, I thought?
TR: Oh, well thanks. I wanted to have a studio video but I wanted to incorporate it into the song somehow rather than just have random clips. I wanted people to see the recording process. I don’t know, doing videos, it’s so different…it’s hard! [laughs] Even though that was like total elementary editing and all that, it still took a long time. It definitely helped me gain a lot of respect for those people as well.
MD: I saw it as like a statement of “this is me doing everything”, kind of laid bare, playing drums, singing, keys, guitar etc, just to let people know it’s you doing all of that.
TR: Yeah, it’s just easier, you don’t have to worry about…I don’t know, I figured I already recorded it all so was just like, ahhh, just put this video together. And rather than hiring somebody, you know, I don’t have the money to pay anybody anything, it was just the easiest route to go.
MD: I noticed on YouTube that the video’s had over 15,000 views in only a couple of weeks and there seems to be about ninety per cent positive comments in what people are saying about it – do you ever keep tabs on sites like YouTube to try and gauge the popularity of your music?
TR: I look at it here and there. I try not to too much because I have a weak spot for getting bummed out when I read mean comments, so…[laughs]
MD: You can be rest assured that if you go on there then it’s pretty positive!
TR: Yeah, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with…all the feedback’s been awesome so it’s definitely helped my low self-esteem get a little higher! [laughs]
MD: I think the only negative comments were mainly things like - “What’s going on with the drums? They sound pretty basic.” But then other people were defending that, saying - “Hey, but this is chilled out music, it’s chilled out drums. It’s not supposed to be all blast-beats, it’s not metal!”
TR: Yeah, exactly!
MD: I also noticed Metal Blade have uploaded ‘Hypoxia’ to YouTube and that’s had 15,000 views as well in the same sort of time period…do you think that’s how many fans you have for the album?!
TR: [laughs] Maybe! Yeah, maybe I have 15,000 fans, that’s awesome! [laughs]
MD: Just coincidence maybe! Finally, can fans expect another solo album in the future and what general plans do you have for the rest of the year?
TR: I assume I will, yeah. I’ll just do like I did last time and run it when I have time. I don’t want to force anything because I think that shows when people do that. Between the Buried and Me’s getting quite busy…we’ve been working on an EP so we want to get that all finished up and released this year, and start touring fulltime again. So yeah, and I’m gonna try and do some Thomas Giles shows…I’m not a hundred per cent certain yet but I assume it will happen.
MD: Do you have session musicians lined up yet?
TR: I’m in the process of getting those right now. It’s been kind of a headache but I hope they have it finished pretty soon.
MD: Right, thank you very much for your time.
TR: Thank you, man, I appreciate the interview.
MD: And massive good luck with the album – you deserve it; it’s absolutely incredible, like I said. I hope it sells a million!
TR: Well, thank you very much! [laughs] I know Between the Buried and Me will be over there at some point this year so we’ll see you over there.
MD: Yeah, definitely, I’ll be there.
TR: Awesome.
Tommy Rogers - promo shot
Photograph copyright © [unspecified year] David Shaw