Before the final date of their “An Evening With” European tour, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Dan from Between the Buried and Me and have a chat about the almost 20-year legacy of the American progressive rock/metal outfit. Having completed 18 gruelling two-hour sets already, the band was reaching the end of this special tour and right before doors, at Electric Ballroom in London, I had a natter with the band’s bassist.
So, Dan, how are you doing?
Yeah, I’m very well thanks! It’s funny, as we’re doing the “An Evening With” tour, there’s no other bands. So, we rock up to the venue nice and early and then have all this space… Four dressing rooms – we don’t even have to look at each other!
Nice and roomy indeed! This is the last show of this batch of dates, how has the tour been so far?
It’s been good! We’ve never done a run of dates like this before. We did a set once back in 2008 for a live DVD recording of Colors which was little over an hour, then another set for an hour and then an encore. We’ve been basically doing that this whole tour! But that was one night in our twenties, this time round there has been so much preparation. Just preparing yourself for playing over two hours of music is hard. It’s not like I can go over the whole set whilst warming up, you’ve just got to trust yourself like any normal tour.
I can imagine, must be quite hard keeping focused especially when some of your tracks are pretty lengthy!
Yeah, there is definitely a bit of zen involved in the moment. Trying to keep your mind focussed and not slip up, whilst obviously trying to enjoy this very long performance. You can’t just wander off and think about what’s coming on later in the set, we have to be concentrated and just take things one song at a time.
How have the other dates been then?
It’s been a decent while since we’ve headlined in the UK/Europe, so it was great to be able to do that and just simply have the whole evening for us! We were in Manchester yesterday which was fun. The mainland dates were all good, we even managed to get down to Spain which is a place we don’t visit too often. I always really love going up to Scandinavia, I really connect going out there, it’s really serene and it’s great playing shows out there!
So, tell me more about tonight’s show! I’ve heard through the press release that it’s going to be 2 whole sets split into a couple of acts?
We knew we couldn’t do 2 hours of blistering BTBAM stuff, so we definitely wanted to showcase the full dynamic soup of what we do. There is a bit towards the backend of the first set where we really do bring it down for a good 10 minutes or so, just before the 15-minute interval. Just really gives both the audience and ourselves a chance to reset.
Moving away from the tour, I really wanted to dig into your latest record and the concept behind Automata 1 and 2. The whole arc of this dystopian future where there is an industry for selling dreams as a form of entertainment was very interesting! How did that all come about?
Well, Tommy is the one who came up with the story. He ran it by us, and we were like yeah super cool, and we’ll focus on the music. He’s based in California and we’re all based out East and we got writing via file sharing methods. When we write these albums that are musically conceptual, where you have themes that are reoccurring musically, it really helps him cue on things when we write like that. You’ll see in the second set tonight where we do a chunk from the second part of Automata, you’ll hear the keys part I’m playing in “Glide” come back in the end of the next song “Voice of Trespass”. It’s great to hear bits of lyrics reappear and resolutions happen in the story!
So, what’s next with the band given that this a summation of almost 20 years of the band? I know you’re off touring in the states with Chon soon, any plans afterward?
We’ve got a normal tour after this with Chon, but then we’re taking this to Australia and a few other places. So next year is filled up with that, but then the back half of next year we’ll start to shut down a little. Given that Automata as a whole has been out for little over a year there is still some juice left in that engine. There are possible plans to do this whole “An Evening With” tour back home, but we’ll see! This run was maybe a little test run for it.
Away from BTBAM, I know you’re involved in a bunch of other projects, what’s happening with those and how are you managing your time lately?
All creative projects are equal in my brain as far as what I put into them and importance to me. Given that Between the Buried and Me are active and touring and that I don’t write on the road, when I get home it’s just an explosion of stuff. I’ve got my own project, which is Nightmare Scenario – I’m probably not going to start recording the full length for that until next year. I’m also working on the second record for Nova Collective, which features Richard from Haken our favourite British buds! And I’m also involved in a jazzier/out-there project Trioscapes were we’re reworking the group into a quartet/quintet thing, and I’ll be jumping into that as soon as I get home. But yeah it’s all about keeping a good balance between all my activities music or not!
Back to tonight, I love asking this question to all the people I interview – do you have any cool or quirky preshow rituals?
Not really to be honest! At around 6:30 I’ll start going through my warmups trying to get as loose and comfortable as I possibly can. Playing a two-hour long set means that I’ve got to go through my stretches and just get into the groove as much as possible. I don’t have anything weird, but I just want to be calm and collected and locked in before the show.
Always good to be nice and prepped for the show! I must point out that Between the Buried and Me were one of the first bands to really get me into the progressive genre and I really admire the way you infuse your music with such a wide range of instruments and glimpses of other genres. On the way to the venue I was listening to some of your older stuff like off the self-titled album – it’s fair to say your sound has really come a long way!
Thanks Dhylon! Yeah, we are doing a track off the self-titled and to me that stuff is pretty wild, only two of the members were in the band at that time. I was in high school listening to bits of death metal and it almost feels as if we’re playing a cover of the stuff that was floating around at that time. It has been a very gradual progression album to album. It’s harder for me to connect to stuff pre-Alaska, but that stuff is obviously part of the band’s history. Colors forward is where I have a much stronger connection, 12 years on I still feel the excitement of writing and playing those tracks. Colors is where the story of the five of us really starts.
Progression not only has occurred in terms of our music but the way we write. Before we would be in the practice room all together several times a week, writing things in a much more intense way. But now we all have our lives, Blake is married, Paul owns a coffee shop, Tommy is way out in California – we write things more remotely but it’s super easy to ping ideas back and forth between us.
That’s interesting to hear! One final question, looking back at the history of BTBAM what are some of the standout memories for you personally?
One of them actually was the first time we headlined in London, where we did a two-night thing at The Underworld in Camden. On the second night we did Colors in full which was super fun and to be so far away from home but really connected to the crowd. Other memories include touring with giants like Dream Theater and Opeth, at that point in 2008 was an almost fanboy like moment for us. These moments just keep happening – we were nominated for a Grammy recently.
How did it feel attending the ceremony and being nominated for a Grammy?
It was a very surreal moment. It was never anything we were shooting for or had even thought about, but it was so strange. We did the whole red-carpet thing, and it just felt totally bizarre. What were we doing there? But then you realise probably everyone else nominated for our category were in the same boat as us! It was super fun, especially for our friends and family and they wore it like a badge of honour – I definitely fed more off that. But, yeah, these little things just keep happening and hopefully more exciting things occur along the way!