INTERVIEW: Between The Buried And Me’s Paul Waggoner

1381677_10151903073093189_1228305233_nBetween The Buried And Me’s critically acclaimed concept album The Parallax II: Future Sequence is a modern classic of progressive metal, swinging through various musical moods and sonic settings while miraculously bringing the band into more cohesion, which is no mean feat given their reputation for eclecticism. It’s the continuation of the band’s 2011 EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, and they’ll be playing it across Australia this month. Joining them on the tour are US Prog Metal alchemists The Contortionist, who combine influences of Rush, Dream Theater, Cynic and even BTBAM and mix it all up with their own personality, a frenzy of warped time signatures, percussive mathematics, spider-fingered fretwork, dazzlingly atmospheric keyboards and arresting vocals. In short, this tour will be an incredible opportunity to see a stunning, virtuosic night of musicianship. I caught up with Between The Buried And Me guitarist Paul Waggoner ahead of this unprecedentedly progtastic tour.

First up, you’re about to tour Australia, playing The Parallax II in full. What kind of preparation goes into doing something like that? 

A lot of practice, I guess! (Laughs). Individually we all have to practice on our own and get all of our individual parts to place where we can play them comfortably and seamlessly. And from a guitarist perspective there are quite a few different types of guitar tones that are needed, so a lot goes into dialling sounds. Then once you’re comfortably playing through the songs individually you’ve got to be able to play them with the other guys and make it sound cohesive as a unit. So yeah, there’s quite a bit of practice, more than anything.

Has the album evolved since its release? Have new things crept in, or do you keep it faithful to the recording? 

We try to keep it pretty locked in. We see the whole thing as one bit piece of music so we try to play it live in the same way that we recorded it, as one big piece. If you write a record that’s designed to be heard form start to finish that’s how you have to present it. I think some of the songs on the new record stand on their own as individual songs, but certain ones just go together.

You’re bringing The Contortionist on tour with you to Australia. Those guys are monsters. 

We just finished a US tour with them and that’s the first time we’ve toured with them. They’ve very talented. They’re very young – they’re a lot younger than we are for sure, and just really talented and with a really good knack for creating some really cool music. Rhythmically it’s very interesting and at times very moody. They have some dark-sounding parts that are kinda ominous. They’re really good and I can’t wait to hear what they do next. I think the sky’s the limit for that band. They’re really cool.

999189_10151797392833189_594678949_nWhat guitars are you playing at the moment? 

I’m back using Ibanez S-Series guitars. I had used Ibanez for a long time, really since I was a teenager, and when the band started doing well I got the opportunity to be an endorsed artist. So I played their guitars for a few years, and at some point I got the opportunity to move to PRS guitars, which I’d been playing since about 2008, but very recently I started speaking with Ibanez again, kinda like an old girlfriend or something, and I switched back. I used them on the last tour and I love ‘em. There’s a certain quality to them. There’s something about Ibanez guitars – they play great and they sound great, and they’re just great guitars. And really comfortable and durable as well. They’re built to tour and they do very well on the road. There are a lot of great guitars out there, but can they hold up night-in, night-out in all kinds of different climates and weather conditions? Ibanez has been good to me in that regard.

What pickups do you use?

Right now I have Bare Knuckle Black Hawks in both of ’em, which I really like quite a bit. Great pickups. They’re obviously really hot, especially for a passive pickup. They’re pretty high-output, but something about them, they’re able to still be pretty dynamic and do pretty well as far as some of the clean stuff and some of the more smooth lower-gain lead stuff. They sound really good and respond well to the pick. They don’t sound overly compressed like an EMG or something like that. You can actually get some dynamics out of them. So I really like ’em and I’ve been using those for maybe a year and a half now and they’ve worked pretty well for me.

And amps?

Amp-wise I’m going through a Fractal Axe-Fx. In the States I run the Axe-Fx through a Mesa 2:90 power amp and into a Port City 2X12 cabinet. Now, in Australia, because of expenses and everything like that, we’re gonna run the Axe-Fx direct to front of house so we don’t have to rent cabs and amps and all that stuff. My North American rig is a little bit different to my overseas rig but for the most part the sounds are coming from the Axe-FX, both amp-wise and effect-wise.

Now, this is always a fun question to ask because every player has a different answer: What goes through your mind when you’re playing guitar? How do you approach it? 

Well if I’m playing live I think the important thing is, at that point you should be as prepared as you’re gonna be. You try not to get nervous, you try not to second-guess yourself. You have to have confidence that you know what you’re doing up there, and I think that allows your fingers to kinda do the work, as opposed to your brain, and you just kinda feel the music and let your fingers make it happen. Y’know, I had a problem a few years back, especially for solos. I would almost overly concentrate on what I was doing, and ultimately that would lead to either making mistakes or just kind of a really stagnant playing style. I think all the technical stuff has to happen at home when you’re practicing, getting the metronome out and stuff like that. I think when you’re on stage you have to really just riff it, y’know what I mean? You just have to let it go and let it fly, and play with feeling as opposed to an overly concentrated effort on the technical aspect of playing. So that’s kinda my approach live. I just try to play and not worry about screwing up, because you’re going to make mistakes whether you try not to or what. They’re gonna happen, so you might as well have fun and let yourself be consumed by the moment. Let yourself be consumed by the song and just have fun.

Between The Buried And Me and The Contortionist Australian tour dates:

Friday, 15 November: The Zoo Brisbane 18+

Saturday, 16 November: Metro Theatre Sydney 18+

Sunday, 17 November: The Basement Canberra 18+

Tuesday, 19 November: The Corner Hotel Melbourne 18+

Thursday, 21 November Unibar Adelaide Lic AA

Friday, 22 November Amplifier Bar Perth 18+