paul waggoner by nick budosh

Photo by Nick Budosh.

Audiences have never been larger or more receptive to the variety and power of progressive death metal and if you had to name the bands that were responsible for that, Meshuggah and Between the Buried and Me would have to be close to the top of that list.  Prog metal fans are getting a double dose of those bands with the current tour that has just kicked off in California.  Great New Metal’s Brian Shields sat down with BTBAM lead guitarist and co-founder Paul Waggoner after the second show on the tour in San Francisco to talk about the band’s past, its present, and its future.

As I sit with Paul Waggoner post-show in BTBAM’s cavernous green room downstairs at San Francisco’s Regency Center after enjoying some vegan cinnamon rolls, I note that the performance the band just finished is more diverse that their recent headlining tour playing Parallax II: The Future Sequence from beginning to end.

“Yeah, nothing pre-Colors,” Paul nods his head. “We’re doing a couple of songs off of Colors, I guess one off of Great Misdirect, and a couple of new ones as well.  2007-era BTBAM is the oldest we go but we’re trying to mix it up.

No “Naked by the Computer”, I kid him.

“You will probably never hear anything off of the self-titled, unless something weird happens, you’ll probably never hear that old stuff (live).”

Some of us love that old stuff, I insist.

“Yeah it has a special place in my heart as well but the reality is that most of our fans came on board with Colors or maybe Alaska so we have to cater to that, unfortunately.  We would like to play some old stuff but the fact of the matter is that most people have never heard it, don’t care, and don’t know what it is.”

BTBAM has arrived on the West Coast after playing some headlining shows on their way from North Carolina in partnership with Trioscapes, one of bassist Dan Briggs’ multiple side projects.   After several headlining tours playing Parallax II all the way through, this trek with Meshuggah is the end of the current cycle.

“This is the last tour on the Parallax.  We’re done after this tour.  It’s back to the beginning of the process which is writing.  It’s sort of a wash, rinse, repeat sort of thing. It’s write, record, tour, repeat.  We’re done with the tour part and back to the writing part.”

Indeed before we sat down to talk I had heard Paul chatting with vocalist and keyboardist Tommy Rogers about planning some writing sessions.

“I think everybody has already started writing individually but hopefully after this tour we’ll start to bounce things off each other and get things going.”

Another concept album, I wonder?

“I think it probably will be.  Probably.  Tommy has mentioned that he probably will do a concept but we haven’t talked about really what it will be.  He’s probably got some ideas and I definitely have some ideas too so we’ll have to figure that out.”

The next record completes the band’s current contract with Metal Blade, the label that has been home since the five-record deal with Victory expired after The Great Misdirect.

“This would be the last one on our current contract with Metal Blade but that’s not to say it will be our last record with Metal Blade.  We’ll see what happens in the future but we certainly have enjoyed making records with those guys.”

Before hearing new music, we are looking forward to a likely fall release of a new DVD of the Parallax II album all the way through.  The experience though will be far different from the Live Colors DVD so many fans love.

“We wanted to do something different where it was more stripped down, just us in a room jamming,” Paul remembers.  ” That was sort of what we were going for.  So it was just us playing the new record straight through. We had auxiliary musicians come in, like for example our first drummer Will Goodyear came in and did some percussion stuff.  We had a string quartet play some parts.  So wherever we could we had real musicians play some of the auxiliary instrumentation that you hear on the album.  So it’s pretty cool.  The whole idea was to sort of strip it down and just show us playing the music.”

So a new DVD, very successful records, multiple world headlining tours, sole support for Meshuggah, I observe to Paul that their success is a real inspiration to a lot of bands slogging it out everyday in a van going from show to show.

“The fact that we’re still doing it after 13 years or whatever it’s been is awesome,” he says with a genuine smile.  “It’s never been about money for us.  It’s still a labor of love.  It’s nice to make a living doing it but our accomplishments, you know what you just said if there’s bands that we’ve inspired along the way, that’s important.”

I tell him the truth which is that there are many bands that I love making music today who honestly wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for Between the Buried and Me.

“That’s a great compliment and the older I get I think that’s something that’s really important to me, if you see a young kid who says we inspired them to pick up a guitar or play the drums or whatever, those are certainly cool things that I’m really proud of.  I’m proud to be a part of that for somebody.”

If this Meshuggah/BTBAM tour is coming within spitting distance of you, get out there and enjoy it. Keep an eye out for the DVD.  Most importantly if listening to Paul Waggoner’s creations makes you want to pick up an instrument and perform, all the better because with the right mix of talent, hard work, and positive attitudes, you can succeed just like he and his bandmates have.

Remaining dates below:

06/09/14 Ogden Theater – Denver, CO
06/11/14 House of Blues – Dallas, TX
06/13/14 Irving Theater – Indianapolis, IN
06/14/14 Pop’s – Sauget, IL
06/15/14 Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
06/17/14 The Fillmore – Silver Spring, MD
06/18/18 House of Blues – Boston, MA
06/19/14 Sound Academy – Toronto, ON – Canada
06/20/14 Amnesia Rock Fest – Montebello, QC – Canada
06/21/14 Best Buy Theater – New York, NY


– BS

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