Interview with BTBAM’s Dan Briggs and Dustie Waring

With the passing of summer comes a slew of records coming from the some of the biggest names in metal. Converge, Neurosis, Devin Townsend Project, and Deftones all have new albums that sound very promising, but they’re not quite as headbang inducing as Between the Buried and Me’s newest prog masterpiece, Parallax II: Future Sequence. With the continuation of the concept they laid out with last year’s EP (which I thought was worthy of a #4 spot in my Top Ten Records of 2011), they bring many new additions to their already massive reservoir, and at 74 minutes, there’s a whole lot of groundbreaking material to go around. I got a great opportunity to sit down with BTBAM’s bassist and rhythm guitarist to chat a little about their new album, the recent djent craze, and even some Jerry Seinfeld. 

Bröötalisk: BTBAM is very well known for combining different musical elements, from blending metalcore and prog to my personal favorite “new wave polka grunge”. You’re the only band that I know of who’ve broken out into full on bar fight metal. Where do you get all these crazy zany ideas, and how hard is it to execute them and flesh them out into a comprehensive song?

[Dustie]: Well, it has to do with our sense of humor.

[Dan]: Yeah, I feel like as serious as the music is, as complex as it is at times, that might be the one time where people really understand that we’re just a bunch of doofuses and to not take us too seriously. Jamie King (album producer) adds a lot to those parts as well. He’s just as goofy as we are. He encourages us. He’s all about it. That’s just kind of a natural part of us too. The goofiness, the quirkiness, in writing or in every day life. It’s just how we are.

Bröötalisk: It seems to me that progressive metal has been gaining extreme popularity over the last few years. What’s your opinion on the direction it’s taking?

[Dan]: It really depends on who it is you’re referring to. The term gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes it’s kind of sad to see it used as more of a genre and less of bands really trying to do something new. There’s a whole group of bands that try to sound like Between the Buried and Me. But are they progressive or just a band that sounds like another band? There’s always going to be great bands that are pushing it and doing new things. The Faceless is one of those bands on this tour right now. They’re fucking phenomenal. I love them. There’s the bigger groups of course; Opeth and Mastodon. They always kind of move further and further from what the public would generally see as being metal, and those bands go way out there. And that’s great. It’s inspiring to see how well they do.

Bröötalisk: What do you think of the whole “djent” phase that everybody’s in right now?

[Dan]: I think it’s a phase, like you said.

[Dustie]: I don’t understand the craze.

[Dan]: Meshuggah’s been around for a long time!

[Dustie]: Yeah but I don’t understand how it’s become it’s own thing. They’re all bands just playing heavy shit. I think people focus too much on trying to classify people. It took me a long time to know exactly what they were talking about. It’s more of a sound then a style.

[Dan]: It’s so silly.

[Dustie]: I heard of thall? It’s like, the sound or something?

Bröötalisk: I think it’s interesting that people are basing their bands around a guitar tone, and not necessarily how the whole thing comes and flows together. Where do you think it’ll end up 5 or 10 years from now?

[Dan]: Oh, I don’t know man. At that time we’ll probably be a progressive bluegrass surfcore band.

[Dustie]: I want to be on tour with String Cheese Incident by then. With Widespread Panic. laughs

[Dan]: Yeah, Paul’s (guitarist) gonna be 42. No, 43 right?

[Dustie]: He’s gonna look like shit. Smell all fucked up.

[Dan]: laughs We’ll see man. No one can tell the future. We’re still gonna be writing weird shit and trying to do something new every record.

[Dustie]: I hope it never ends. I want to continue writing weird shit for the rest of my life.

Bröötalisk: How does The Parallax II continue the concept that was laid out by last year’s EP?

[Dan]: It continues it seamlessly. As far as the story and stuff. Musically it’s something completely new. There’s a couple small things that are very recognizable from the EP that carried over and have a new life. The EP laid the groundwork for the story and it gets pretty wild in this new record.

Bröötalisk: So would you say it’s a lot more different then last year’s EP?

[Dan]: Yeah, we just had more room to do stuff…at 74 minutes!

[Dustie]: It’s a very long record and it’s my personal favorite too so far. There’s a lot going on. We got to do a lot of stuff that we’ve never done. Even going all the way down to guitar tones and different instruments.

[Dan]: Yeah, we got some violin on it. Some tuba. Saxophone. Flute. All kinds of stuff.

Bröötalisk: I remember listening to a preview of the album on Amazon, and when I got to the song Bloom it sounded fucking weird and awesome and…really really cool.

[Dan]: Oh yeah, the Amazon preview is up…I’m curious what it’s actually showing! laughs Just wait till you hear the whole record man.

Bröötalisk: I have to ask, who is the genius behind the Parallax 2 Space Suit?

[Dan]: That was me and Tommy (vocalist). It just seemed so obvious. Why haven’t bands done that before!? We actually just put in our order for our own personal ones today for our crew. We’re gonna make them dress up on stage.

The sexy attire in question.

Bröötalisk: Is your new side project Trioscapes just a one off, or are they a more permanent band?

[Dan]: It’s hopefully a permanent thing. We’ve got a tour after I get home from this. I’d like to do more in 2013 and release a new record at some point. That’s one of those things where I feel like we can get together in 2 days and write half a record. That stuff came about very organically. It was just basically Walter (saxophonist) telling me that he wrote these two or three sax melodies, and then I wrote a bunch of different rhythmic variations for them, and working out a lot of different things with the drummer. It’s just a fun new different outlet for me. It’s guys that are into totally different and weird shit.

Bröötalisk: Trioscapes seem very similar to another side project, T.R.A.M. Are you familiar with the band? Did the two bands come together and say, “We should both write random jazzy fusion records!”

[Dan]: It was strange because last year in Europe with Animals as Leaders we were sharing a bus together, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. And we asked them what they’d been up to, and they said, “Oh, we started a fusion group this summer with a saxophone player! What have you been doing?” And I said, “…I started a fusion group with a saxophone player!” It was very weird, but it’s great because we have a lot of similar influences. Ever since I met Tosin (guitarist for Animals as Leaders) we talked about John McLaughlin (composer for Mahavishnu Orchestra) as being a very big influence. I hope, if anything, to introduce that kind of music to some people who aren’t familiar with it. On the Trioscapes record we actually straight up did a cover of a Mahavishnu Orchestra song, although it’s a way different interpretation of it. Hopefully that will lead people to time travel back to the 70s and see where people actually began being weird. They think it’s weird now? No, go back then. They were crazy.

Bröötalisk: Is it safe to say you and Tosin are BFFs?

[Dan]: Yeah, we’re buds. These guys go back, even before Animals as Leaders.

[Dustie]: My other band, with me and Blake (drummer), toured with them in 2003.

[Dan]: We’ve known those guys for a long time.

[Dustie]: Evan Brewer was in the band with them too.

[Dan]: We’re taking Animals as Leaders to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in November. It never ends. We’re trying to hit the whole world with them. We still gotta go to South America, Africa, gotta get up to Iceland.

[Dustie]: We should play Greenland. Play on a glacier.

Bröötalisk: Finally, just out of curiosity, I ask every single band I interview this: what are some of your favorite bands out there right now?

[Dan]: Well, I’m really excited about the new Faceless record. I love this band called Astra who’s on Metal Blade Imprint. They’re a totally psyched out 70s band. It’s really great.

[Dustie]: I’m not really listening to anything heavy at the moment.

Bröötalisk: I surprisingly get that a lot actually. A lot of people I’ve interview say that they don’t listen to too much metal.

[Dan]: I listen to a lot of Cab Calloway (jazz singer) and old music.

[Dustie]: Anything with Jerry Douglas (resonator guitarist) on it.

[Dan]: The Jerry Seinfeld album was awesome. laughs

[Dustie]: [In his best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation] What…was that? What’s…the deal… Well this guy…

Interview with The Contortionist’s Jonathan Carpenter

Every now and then, a band comes along that just blows everyone out of the water with each musical piece that they write. Right now, that band is The Contortionist. I recently got a chance to sit down (or rather, stand up) with their lead singer, Jonathan Carpenter, to talk about their newest release, Intrinsic.

Bröötalisk: Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Intrinsic is, to say the least, a powerful record. Can you give me your though process behind the transition from Exoplanet to Intrinsic? What did you want to accomplish with this record?

Jonathan Carpenter: When we did Exoplanet, we went with the space vibe and that was something that I think, even before I was in the band, was a goal for the end result to be a sci fi type of story. With this album, we had to make a choice of where to go. It’s kind of like a novel style of music. I think we just kept the elements that makes us different and stand out and what we’re good at and finally carved out all the shit we just didn’t want to do anymore. Kinda made a new sound that represents what we enjoy playing live and what we can play live well. We wanted to push ourselves further and know that we’re getting better at writing music and performing it. We tried to get our wide range of sound in the new album and diversified it. Keyboards are definitely more pronounced this record, but they also don’t take over the album. I think overall we’re really pleased with how production and our concepts turned out.

Bröötalisk: Where Exoplanet was about the destruction of our homeworld and our search for a new one, Intrinsic is more about the human mind and how we interpret reality. What inspired you to write such a complex album? Are these kinds of thought provoking themes something you plan to do with later records?

Jonathan Carpenter: There a bunch of books that I’ve read, mostly science, not necessarily science fiction, that talk about topics that are still being discovered, like neuroanatomy and different biotechnologies that are discussed on the album as far as story goes. Reading books like that inspired me to talk about things that could happen in the future. Things that could really change our daily lives and experiences of reality.

Bröötalisk: Misha Mansoor of Periphery mentioned that Intrinsic is more of a “grower album”. That is, you have to listen to it multiple times before you really understand and appreciate the record. Is that something you were going for with Intrinsic?

Jonathan Carpenter: No, I don’t think that necessarily motivated us. But we didn’t really have a goal to make music that could easily be understood either. We would ask ourselves, “Do we feel like these songs are any more commercial or simplified that represents pop music or anything that’s not thought provoking?” We still feel like the sounds and everything are very interesting and that they break expectations.

Bröötalisk: Speaking of Misha, he always speaks very highly of your band. Is it safe to say that The Contortionist and Periphery and are BFFs?

Jonathan Carpenter: Haha yeah, that’s a good term to describe it. Whenever we’ve toured with them, things were amazing. We got along really well. Buddying up with everybody in the tour. That was an amazing tour in general, but Periphery was definitely great to us. It was a lot of fun.

Bröötalisk: Is that when you first met the band?

Jonathan Carpenter: We had played one show with them before that, and it was just a one off day where two tours got combined randomly. It wasn’t expected. We were the first band to play out of 10 bands, so we played in front of like 15 people. They were one of the coheadliners. So yeah, we met them there, and a year later we toured together.

Bröötalisk: Many people have been speculating that Periphery and you guys might tour together some time soon. Is there any info you can give out on this?

Jonathan Carpenter: We don’t have anything solidified right now, but there have been talks between their manager and ours. Summer Slaughter was definitely something we tried to be in the running for, and unfortunately it didn’t work out this year. But who knows, maybe next year we’ll get that.

Bröötalisk:A little more off topic, I’m what you might call a vinyl enthusiast, so when I saw that Intrinsic wasn’t being pressed on vinyl, I was disappointed. Are there any future plans to release the album on vinyl?

Jonathan Carpenter: I’d imagine that’s very likely that will happen. The reason we just released a CD is because we wanted to focus on just getting it out there and then maybe later on do some secondary things and spice things up.

We just couldn’t keep our hands off of each other.

Bröötalisk: So, every time I mention that I listen to The Contortionist, almost every one seems to think I’m talking about something Cirque de Soleil. This made me wonder, where did you get the name “The Contortionist” from?

Jonathan Carpenter: I’m pretty sure that that originated from Joey, our drummer. I don’t know all the reasons for it. I think it’s kind of a mixture between sounding fucking awesome and the fact that we change our sound a lot. But I’m not really sure, it wasn’t me. I would say that it’s basically those two things. You know how it is when you have to pick out a name.

Bröötalisk: What are some of your favorite bands out there right now?

Jonathan Carpenter: There’s a lot of lighter stuff that have nothing to do with metal that I like to listen to, Deerhunter, Minus the Bear. I really like Wild Beasts a lot. As far as metal goes, the newest Textures album is still really sick, I like to jam that out. I also like Last Chance to Reason, busting out Level 2 never gets old. The new Periphery was also really awesome, I liked that. Other than that, I haven’t really been listening to music because I’ve been so busy finishing up recording. But now that that’s over, I’m starting to get back into the cycle again.


Interview with Baroness’ Peter Adams

Sometimes I wonder how I’ve gotten so lucky to be able to interview some of the greatest musicians in the metal scene. Peter Adams of Baroness is no exception. They’re arguably the most successful group to have combined progressive elements with sludge metal. They also have a new album coming out on July 17th called Yellow and Green. They even have a single out (linked below), with a new single coming in about a week. If you are even remotely interested in progressive metal, sludge metal, or awesome artwork, check them out!

Bröötalisk: I recently chatted with Athon and Andrew from Black Tusk, and Baroness came up in the conversation. It seems to me that your two bands are a very close knit group. Is there any truth to that?

Peter Adams: Absolutely. One hundred percent. Those guys are long time friends. Been friends with that band for many years now. They are great dude. We have had a lot of good times together. We’ve played some great shows together. There’s a lot of connections. We’re just friends. We’re friends like anybody’s friends, ya know? Our singer John does all their artwork too. So yeah, we’re tight. Savanah, where they’re from and where Baroness was based out of for years, is a small town. There’s just a few bands out of there. You’ve probably heard of them all: Kylesa, Black Tusk, and us. So yeah, we’re real tight. And it’s a tight knit group. So yeah, there’s a lot of truth to that. They’re our homeboys, through and through.

Bröötalisk: How’d you guys meet, if you don’t mind me asking?

Peter Adams: Years ago in Savannah, since it’s such a small town, and you just hang out. And when it’s just a small town, and you’ve only got a handful of people who are into just one thing, and you’re all musicians, you just kind of cling together. That’s how we all met, through mutual friends. Of course, we’re from Virginia. Baroness is originally from Virginia. But when we all ended up in Savannah one way or another, that’s who we hung out with because they’re cool and they’re awesome dudes.

Bröötalisk: One thing I asked Andrew and Athon is why they thought Savannah seems to be the center of the so called “sludge punk” scene, and they mentioned that the weather could be a contributing factor. What are your thoughts?

Peter Adams: Yes. It is extremely humid and just boiling hot in Savannah, most of the year. And it does create a vibe. And there’s no basements there, cuz its sea level. So you don’t have basements to play in, and everybody’s gotta find somewhere to play whether it be a warehouse or just a house or try to find a space if you can which are few and far between down there. I’d say weather is most definitely a contributing factor to the sludginess and it’s just swamp and it’s surrounded by swamp. And it’s off the beaten path. Savannah’s not this big hub where bands can readily access or hit, so there’s a bit of seclusion down there and I think that also contributes to it all. It gives you your time, if you know what I mean. You’re not bombarded all the time. And there’s like one venue to play down there. One. So it’s a small town.

Bröötalisk: I remember when we talked with him, his band practice space was just a very tiny hole basically, with a gigantic hole in the ceiling. I think he said he played with Kylesa also. Do you remember that?

Peter Adams: I don’t remember that space in particular, but I know what you speak of. Sounds about right. Sounds exactly right.

Bröötalisk: John Baizley has done an incredible job doing artwork for a ton of bands, including Black Tusk and Baroness. Where do you think he gets the inspiration and ideas for the art pieces?

Peter Adams: It’s definitely hard to answer that for him. I know that John pulls his influences from a lot of different spots. And he’s been developing this over years. John does artwork for bands that he can make a connection to. If he can connect to it it gives him that inspiration and influence record by record. Just about every band that he’s ever worked for gives him his artistic freedom to do his thing. And of course with Baroness he’s got nothing but freedom. But it’s hard for me to say what his precise influences are, but you can see a lot of it in his art.

Bröötalisk: To me, both of the covers to your albums seem to have a theme amongst them. Is that a valid conclusion?

Peter Adams: Yes, absolutely. Years ago I know that Allen (drummer for Baroness) and John talked about that a lot. They talked about doing it that way and it’s something that’s stuck during the early stages like what we did with Red and things just kind of followed in place. As you’ve noticed there’s the women that you’ll always see. The bare chested women in all the scenes. All of those are all reflections of an ongoing theme with John as an artist and graphic designer. Once again, it would be hard to answer that for him, and a lot of it is personal stuff for all of us, and a lot of his art really encompasses what’s going on here and now and what happened maybe last year.

Bröötalisk: Also, your album names are, obviously, based off of colors. Whose idea was it to do that, and why?

Peter Adams: Allen seems to think that he did in a dream. Yeah, Allen “dreamt” that. He had this idea. But it’s also kind of like Zeppelin. You know, they had I, II, III, and IV. In a weird kind of way, that’s our “I, II, III, IV”.

Bröötalisk: Your new album is slated to come out in about two months. Is there anything you can tell me about the album? What makes the record different from your last two?

Peter Adams: Here’s the best way I can put it. As a musician, you’re always trying to challenge yourself and take it somewhere new. At times it can be easy to repeat yourself because you know how to do that. But we write music for ourselves really. We think about what we want. Now, at the end of the Red Album cycle, we looked at the last bit of touring at the end of it, and that’s when I came in, and we looked at the set and said, “Now what do we need to do? What can we add to this set?” And that’s what happened with Blue. It was the same after two years on the Blue Record cycle. We played our last show in Portland, and there was this bit of relief that we were putting this set to rest cuz we’ve just been playing it playing it playing it playing it and touring. And when we sat down and finally got a chance to breathe, when we started writing last year in January, we asked ourselves, “What does our set need?” This is where it differs from the last two albums. It’s us taking a look at it as musicians and saying “What do we want?” We’re the ones that’s going to have to play this stuff for the next 150 days or 300 shows or whatever. So that’s where it differs, and that was something that we could all dig our teeth into. So it was wide open. It was a clean slate. We just want to the drawing board with it. We all had fresh ideas and we all got in the kitchen and started cooking. So what we really wanted to do in a nutshell is to have a more dynamic set with all the peaks and valleys.

Bröötalisk: Lastly, solely out of curiosity, who are some of your favorite artists out there right now?

Peter Adams: I tell you what, right now, I would have to say Royal Thunder. We just did three shows with them to start this tour off and I hadn’t been very keen on them. I knew very little about them. When I got to watch them live, I was blown away. Amazing musicians and a killer band that’s just doing it for me. So right now I’m impressed with Royal Thunder. They’re doing something right now that’s really inspirational. So yeah, Royal Thunder is the freshest band right now for me off the top of my head. But yeah, I tend to fall back on the classics, like everybody does. But definitely, Royal Thunder is the band right now that’s on my radar, and we had a great time touring with them, and I really hope we can do something more with them in the future. Everybody needs to keep their eyes out for them.

Bröötalisk: When I interviewed Misha Mansoor from a band called Periphery, I asked him the same question, and he responded that not many musicians in metal listen to metal because they’re so deep into the genre that it takes a very special metal band to really pop out at them. Is that true for you as well?

Peter Adams: Absolutely positively. I actually listen to very little metal these days, not that I don’t love metal. Here’s the difference: you put on any Priest record from the 70s and you’ve got my full on attention. But yeah it does take a very special band. Something’s got to really stand out and just hit you at that right angle. Backing up a little bit, this band called Earthling from Harrisonburg, Virginia, very young and new metal band, are delivering the goods right now. Nobody’s heard too much from these guys yet, especially from the west coast, but man. Keep your eyes peeled. I have a band called Valkyrie that’s a very classic metal type of band with my brother Jake, and we’re getting ready to do a split 7 inch with this band, and they’re finishing up the touches on their first full length record. So keep your eyes and ears open for them. Google them, get online, find them, they’re freaking amazing and talented and they bring it. All the energy is there. Just talking about it I can get excited cuz I can’t wait to hear their new record. I just heard about it yesterday. But yeah, that’s it right there. It takes something special, and those guys have something special. They’re got that special thing that’s perked my ears up. I first saw them in a basement in the dingiest darkest little dungeon you could possibly go to, and I said to myself, “Uh oh. Here we go.”, because I was waiting for something, That thing to that’s going to jump out. I’ll say one thing though, and I know you guys can relate, you know when you first started getting into heavy music or whatever and you first started going to shows and you get that energy and feeling and goosebumps and your heart rate picks up just standing in line for the show. Just that alone and getting inside and becoming floored like your life’s direction is changing by the day at that point. I’ve been to a million shows, and after a while you say to yourself, “I want that feeling back!” That first feeling that you got when you went to a show for the first time. That band did it for me. Watching that band Earthling play gave me goosebumps.