Between The Buried And Me (Interview)
Between The Buried And Me – and their consistently versatile vocalist Tommy Rogers – have had one hell of a year. As a band, they dropped their latest album Automata in two well-received and equally epic parts, while Rogers (aka Thomas Giles) also put out his own solo record, the widely acclaimed Don’t Touch The Outside. As BTBAM neared the end of a recent UK run with Tesseract that took in a monstrous London show at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I caught up with Tommy to look back at 2018 – and ended up discussing a unique BTBAM live experience that needs to happen as soon as the required technology exists…
You’ve got a lot going on right now! You’re finishing a UK tour, you’ve technically put out three albums this year, and you’ve got another tour in America coming up next February. So how are you feeling?
I’m great! Tour’s almost done, so I get to go home, ha ha! But yeah, it’s been a good year.
Musically, it always feels good to get all the stuff out, because we wrote and recorded most of this material last year – and I recorded my solo stuff in January this year. So it’s all been done for a while, and it’s definitely nice to get it all out. We’re all in a good place right now.
What was your favourite part of the tour you just finished with Tesseract?
Honestly, we played in London last night, and it was a great venue, sold out show, probably the most memorable of the tour. But there were a lot of really great shows – and one of the shows in Italy stood out as being a really good one, with a lot of energy and good-time vibes going on. The fans were very happy to be there, and they were obviously there for every band on the bill.
So yeah, it’s been a good run.
I have a few questions about Automata – and this is the obvious first question: How come that album was split into two parts?
Originally, the label brought up the idea to possibly do video content for the whole thing, and split it up that way. But due to time and money, we couldn’t get everything done on the video front. But the more we sat with it, we decided to try releasing our records in a different way. And we felt it was a great moment to experiment with that.
The pause in the album never happens for us, and Automata kind of has an intermission right in the middle. And there would be two points in the year for our fans to get excited, and us to get excited too. So there were quite a few reasons – but I guess the main one was just to try something different.
Records have been being released a certain way for a long time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t switch it up here and there.
What was your creative process while you were writing and recording Automata?
It’s tough talking about how an album came to be, because it just kind of happens. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’ve been working together for a long time. So it happens fairly quickly, but we write a lot of the material individually.
We’re all busy bees, at work, getting ideas together, and then once we start getting things put together with one another it takes off from there. It’s always very inspiring, because we all push and motivate each other with things to write.
For the lyrics, I switch it up with every album I do, just to get in a different headspace. As for the writing process, there’s no formula to how anybody writes. I think for any creative person, even people who paint or write poetry or do anything artistically, it just kind of pours out of you. And that’s a big part of how we write for the band, and how I write for solo stuff as well.
So your solo project works in a similar way?
The writing process is quite different. I write most of my solo stuff on the road, when the band’s touring. So it gives me a moment every day to be creative and not interfere with the writing I would do with the band.
The music I write is a lot more free, simplified, and it just kind of happens. I like the simplicity of it; I can build a song out of an idea or a riff. But with the band, it’s a lot of work.
It’s an extreme task when Between The Buried And Me start putting our albums together, including the lyrics and vocals and stuff like that. For my solo stuff, it’s a lot more laid back. Even the last record, I intentionally didn’t write any lyrics until I got to the studio, just so each morning I could literally write for what I was working on that day.
It kept things fresh, and I don’t think I could do anything like that with BTBAM.
Automata has been your most diverse album with Between The Buried And Me so far. Which bands were you all listening to while you were making it? There seem to be some quite interesting influences in there…
I have no idea, ha ha!
I think for anyone who writes music, I don’t really think you’re writing from what you’re listening to. Hopefully not, at least!
When I listen to music, I listen as a fan – I don’t listen to it and think “oh, I want to do that.” Obviously you get inspired by bands, or there are bands who’re just naturally in your DNA without you even noticing. But it’s not like we were listening to anything in particular to make us write a certain way.
We’ve never been the kind of band that’s like “we need to write in this style for this record.” Even though our music is very dense and intricate, it’s also very organic and we do just let it flow.
Are you planning on touring your solo album?
I don’t have any plans at the moment. It’s definitely something I’ve thought about, but in what way I’ve no idea.
If I do anything, I’ll do it slow, maybe some shows here and there before I do any full tours. And it depends on whether or not an offer comes that makes sense for what I’m doing musically. Then, maybe I’ll put some more thought into it. So we’ll see.
Creatively, obviously you guys have done a lot of work, and you have a reputation for being very organic, but also very precise in terms of how you pull it all off. Would you consider yourselves perfectionists as a band?
Yeah. I think we’re all perfectionists in our own way.
All the work for us [takes place] before we get in the studio. Before we record a note, we know exactly how the record’s laid out, and exactly what’s going to be played. So all the really intense work and changes we want to make, things we want to cut, everything is all pre-production. We have it all ready to go – so when we record, we can just focus on getting good takes and expanding on sounds, focusing on tone, and things like that.
We all have our strong suits as far as how we do things, and we’re all very particular, especially about our own instruments and how we work in the studio and write.
Next February, you’ve got another tour coming up with Tesseract in America. Do you have anything special planned for those shows?
We’re just now starting to talk about setlists. At this point, we’ve been a band for so long that we’ve got a huge catalogue. So for us, it’s more about finding a fit that flows like an album would.
I think the set we have right now is going to be really cool. We haven’t practised or done anything with it yet, but we’re always trying to incorporate themes from other songs to help put songs together and make them flow a little better. We just work on it like an album of older material that we’re trying to make super cohesive, so the set feels really comfortable for everyone.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at one of your live shows?
A young lady put our guitarist’s shoe in her mouth. I didn’t see it at the time, but he obviously saw it, and it freaked him out. That shoe was filthy, ha ha! I think that’s the weirdest one.
Final question: If money and good taste weren’t issues, what would your ideal stage show look like?
I’d want to fly in from the ceiling as my entrance. We’d have loads of pyro, and just go crazy. If money wasn’t an issue, we’d have tons of video, maybe do BTBAM on Ice! We’d try an anti-gravity chamber, so when we play there’s no gravity.
What about BTBAM on Ice, in an anti-gravity chamber?
There you go! Ha ha!
Head to the official BTBAM site for tour dates.
For more about Don’t Touch The Outside, visit the official Thomas Giles site here.
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