Originally meant for publication in Molten Magazine, this is an interview feature with Between the Buried and Me vocalist Tommy Rogers about new album The Parallax II: Future Sequence. Twice this year I’ve had the pleasure of interview a BTBAM member, and while it’s unfortunate that this interview never made it onto the page, please read and enjoy. I should also preface this by saying the interview was conducted while the band were on the Summer Slaughter tour, months before the new album was released. Also, I’m going to see BTBAM in London this Friday. If you are too, hit me up! Anyway, read on.
Future Sequence: Tommy Rogers interview
“We’re very anxious for the world to hear it,” says Tommy Rogers about Between the Buried and Me’s latest opus The Parallax II: Future Sequence. It’s their sixth album and since their 2002 debut, the North Carolinian band has matured and grown in ways once unimaginable, bringing them to a standing as modern progressive metal kings with a far reaching appeal. One of the very few bands that have toured with both Dream Theater and Cannibal Corpse, it’s with the latter that BTBAM have spent the summer of 2012, co-headlining the Summer Slaughter tour, with Periphery, The Faceless, Exhumed and more filling out the bill.
It’s from Milwaukee on that very tour that the vocalist and keyboardist is speaking with us. Eagerly waiting the moment when they can unleash their new album upon us, the band has to settle with playing just one new song in the live set – ‘Telos’.
Unsurprisingly a lengthy epic number, ‘Telos’ is, if anything, an appropriate introduction to the vast sounds on The Parallax II: Future Sequence, the band’s first concept album that swoops in and out of staggering peaks and troughs, much like all Between the Buried and Me albums. Beginning with last year’s EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, the concept tells an evocative tale, according to Tommy, coming to a climax and conclusion on this long player.
“The basic idea of the concept is that there is another planet exactly like ours,” he explains, “either in the past or in the future, and there’s an identical version of yourself.”
“It revolves around these two characters that we find out are indeed the same person but from different time periods. They come together and the universe is in their hands,” Tommy continues. “Paul [Waggoner, guitarist] initially came up with it. He came to me with the idea and I thought it would be something cool to work with. I thought it was something that I, as a lyricist, could elaborate on. It’s been a fun little process for sure.”
Writing lyrics for such a concept must surely have differed, when trying to tell a specific tale with a flow and logical timeline of events?
“I wanted to make sure certain things were happening in the story that fit well with the music. It was like doing it in reverse – not writing music to a movie, I was writing a movie to the music,” he admits. “The lyrics changed a lot. Usually when writing lyrics, I just write and write and write and I don’t even look at what I write for a few days, then I go back and analyse. It’s a big process.”
Concept albums, by their very nature, are more demanding listens and the process, as Tommy puts it, is “big” but in the case of Between the Buried and Me, their trusted tools have been utilised again. “It’s been the same process pretty much since Colors . It really works for us. We always start our records off writing individually”, he explains.
|"We just do our thing and that’s our approach"|
Each BTBAM record marks a stunning evolution for a band that rose from hardcore and metalcore backgrounds and with every year that maturation becomes clearer and clearer. “It’s just like any job or any art”, Rogers states. “The older you get and the longer you work with people, the better you get at it. I think with every year we’re in a band together, the more comfortable we are. We just click really well; the chemistry improves with every album and I think that’s very important in a band.”
“The more we write together, the more we understand and the better players we become. It’s all about getting older and pushing yourself and becoming better at what you do. We just do our thing and that’s our approach.”
It’s an approach that serves them well. The Parallax II: Future Sequence is a breath-taking journey that lunges through brutal metal, glistening melodies and hats tipped the classic prog of the 70s that has always influenced their sound in some way. The album’s climactic moment is the sprawling 15 minute epic ‘Silent Flight Parliament’, which allows everything that’s come before to manifest itself in beautiful clarity, and musically pushes the five men of Between the Buried and Me to new limits.
But there’s a sixth man involved that has given the band the room to unfurl their sound, producer Jamie King. “Jamie is just perfect for us,” enthuses Tommy. “He’s great at helping us achieve what we want with our sound. At this point he’s almost the sixth member of the band.”
Lending his production desk wizardry on every full-length from Between the Buried and Me, last year’s EP marked the first time he didn’t hold the studio reins over a BTBAM record. For once, the band enlisted famed producer David Botrill who counts Dream Theater’s Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory among the albums on his CV.
“We wanted to try something new and we figured the EP was a great way to try it. It was great working with David but travelling to Toronto was a headache in itself. We felt like we were barely getting by with the record, but with Jamie, it’s very relaxed and we had more than enough time if we needed [it]. He understands us; he’s been working with us forever.”
|"Just because you love something doesn't mean anything..."|
So despite the vast amount music within its 12 tracks and tricky lyric writing process, The Parallax II: Future Sequence was a relaxing recording experience once again, with King at the helm.
“It was so relaxed. There was no kinks, it was just”, says Tommy before a brief pause “… everything went smooth. It was fun and that’s important, after doing it this long you want to have fun with it. We love writing music and we love recording music. You want to make sure you’re in a studio that’s relaxed and fun. We definitely achieved that with this record.”
This is an album that marks another zenith conquered for a band that has done nothing but grow, particularly since 2007’s acclaimed Colors, an album that didn’t so much open doors for the band but rather forcefully kick in.
“When you’re in band you… you just write music and hope people like it,” explains Tommy. “Just because you love something doesn’t mean anything. We’re very fortunate to have a fan base that really loves what we do and get excited with each release and when we try new things.”
“You can only take it one step at a time; and do as well as we can and keep writing music that we love. Hopefully the future will be bright.