Paul Waggoner, guitarist from Between The Buried And Me, mixes it up

Jazz, veganism and bluegrass - Not usually in your average metaller's vocabulary.

Last month Between The Buried And Me (BTBAM) released The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues EP and I spoke with guitarist Paul Waggoner about this and many other interesting things.

So is this EP a taster before an album release?  Indeed, it is...
“This is part one of two, so the next one will be a full length one; it will probably just build upon the sound that part one has.  It will be more of the same but with some other stuff too. It will be Parallax Part Two; it will have a name but we’re not too sure what yet. Parallax will probably be in the name somewhere.”

Producer David Bottrill of Metalworks Studio has produced, among others,Tool, King Crimson and Dream Theatre. So what was it like working with him? According to Paul it was a super-fantastic experience: “It was cool and it was something new for us. We went up to Canada, recorded and we did it relatively quickly - we tracked the whole record in little over a week so it was a pretty quick process for us. It was a new experience for us and it was fun to work with someone like David who has done such a wide array of projects and a lot of stuff that we really respect musically, such a lot of bands that we really admire. It was cool and really an honour to work with him.”

BTBAM recently switched record-labels to Metal Blade Records and around about the time of the Parallax release, their old label Victory Records released a ‘best of’ collection of BTBAM tracks; what did the band think about that sly little poke?
Paul says “We had nothing to do with that, that was Victory’s thing. That’s what they do; I guess a lot of companies do that – release a ‘best of’ album when a band leaves the label.  We had nothing to do with it; we didn’t pick the track listing or anything, that was all them. We didn’t really pay much attention to it.”

Speaking of the label switch, he adds “The main reason was that our contract with Victory was finished and we had the opportunity to explore other options.  At this point in our career we just felt like we wanted to go in a new direction. We had some good years with Victory but ultimately with the direction we were going in musically and the way things are in the music industry, we felt it was in our best interests to find somebody who was on the same page as us, and Metal Blade was the perfect fit so it really made sense for us to go with them. They were just really cool and understood what we were trying to do.”. A very diplomatic response...

Listening to the tracks on Parallax, you are immediately slapped by the changes in style; a hallmark of the band – one moment it’s all mellow then it’s screaming death metal vocals then it’s something else.  So what drives the band to create such diverse music?
"As we get older we’re always listening to new music and getting better as players and musicians. It’s really a natural evolution and we’re not afraid to bring all of our influences into the personal space – it’s a no holds barred approach and we’re willing to try anything and so it just comes out when we write songs.”

Listening to Lunar Wilderness, some of the guitar work is distinctly jazz orientated (I can hear the die-hard fans creaming “Noooo! Not jazz...”) but Paul’s open about his influences;  “As a guitar player, a lot of the jazz players are some of my favourites; some of the fusion guys like Allan Holdsworth, Pat Mckinney – and I really like Brett Garsed...a lot of the fusion guys think differently melodically than the average guitar players.  Those kinds of players are really inspiring to me, even though we’re a metal band those kinds of influences creep their way into the sound. It’s funny you should pick up on that because on Lunar Wilderness there’s definitely a big jazz influence on the beginning.”

And what was the album that made Paul say ‘Fuck yeah!  I wanna play guitar’?
He says “For me it was the Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream; the record was so big and the guitars were so huge sounding and I loved how it sounded. That was really the first record that when I first heard it I was like ‘Man! I wanna play guitar like that!’ and I still listen to that record today.”

Paul describes himself as straight-edge and vegan, and apparently he’s not the only one in the band to make those choices; but as he says “It’s just a life-style choice and really has nothing to do with music”. Quite right - just because he loves a soy-bean sausage, it doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own in the world of metal.
The band has their own Youtube channel and I was recently watching a three way video-link with some of the band members; it runs like a comedy sketch with everyone playing each other up; I guess it makes touring a lot easier when everyone gets along so well?

"We’re just a bunch of goof-balls and we’re just having a good time. Everyone seems to think we’re music nerds who just sit at home and practice but that’s not the case; we’re just normal dudes that hang out, talk shit, and have a good time. We all share a similar sense of humour so we’re always just riffing off each other and making fun of each other. When you live together for half the year in the very small confines of a bus or a van or a hotel room or whatever, you have to have a good time and you have to have fun. You need to be able to take some ribbing here and there so it’s all in good fun and makes the day go by faster. It also makes us have better chemistry as a group.”

The band toured Australia a few years ago and had a great time so they want to head back over here in the near future but the issue is the planning and logistics of such a tour; Paul says that Australia and Japan are two of their favourite places to play and when the new album comes out (hopefully in early 2012) then maybe the band will get back to this side of the globe. Fans will just have to watch the band’s website for news.
Speaking of the web, I ask Paul about the number of fan sites – is he a fan of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook? “I think it’s great; especially for bands.  It’s a way to connect to fans on a level that was unheard of before that. It’s really cool – it makes you more accessible to a lot of people all over the world. It’s a little creepy in a lot of ways but for the most part it’s really cool”
There you have it; creepy and cool. A pretty good summary.

The band will be touring Europe in September, and have just wrapped up a headlining tour of the U.S – they’ll be getting back into writing for the new album shortly but for now they’re just enjoying the start of the American summer. So how does Paul relax?
"Mostly music but I’m a bit of a sports junky – as you could probably tell from that video – I love basketball and American Football.  I’m usually pretty much glued to the T.V as the basketball play-offs are on right now.  I do watch a lot of sports and sports highlights. I’m into some outdoors stuff as well; I do a bit of kayaking at the beach.  Mostly it’s kind of chilled out.  I’m not a crazy thrill seeker and I don’t do skydiving or base jumping so I just kind of hang out.”

And what’s he listening to? “Right now I’m listening to a lot of weird music that I don’t think a lot of metal fans would be in to. I’m into some Bluegrass and Americana.  (I hear those die-hard fans screaming ‘Noooo!’ again) I’m listening to the new Alison Krauss record; she’s a really good singer and a really good fiddle player. She’s awesome and I follow her career pretty closely – she’s just come out with a new record so I’m listening to that a lot.  As far as metal goes, I’ve been listening to the same stuff for years and years; Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity and Pain of Salvation; the more progressive side of metal, stuff like that. I try to mix it up as much as possible.”

And mixing it up is what Paul and the rest of the band do best...