Interview with Paul Waggoner of Between The Buried And Me: Still Digging

For about ten years, the North Carolinians collectively known as Between The Buried And Me have been carving out a niche of hardcore, metal and prog all their own. Best known for their long songs that emphasize technical prowess as well as synth-driven melodies that frequently play against each other and culminate in shattering breakdowns, the quintet’s mantra always has been moving forward.

But after 2007’s acclaimed Colors, which was essentially one continuous piece of work, the band, composed to Tommy Rogers (vocals, keys), Paul Waggoner (guitar), Dustie Waring (guitar), Dan Briggs (bass) and Blake Richardson (drums), was initially worried the follow-up would be a mere sequel to that album. Thankfully, The Great Misdirect widens their already huge palette of genres and influence and stands in contrast to Colors’ album-long work as instead a collection of distinct songs.

Waggoner checked in from the road (“somewhere in Texas”) to talk about the new album, the trouble finding a surround sound system and the trouble listening to your own material.

How’s the tour going so far?

Going great so far man. Turnouts have been awesome and crowds have been great. Definitely has exceeded our expectations so far. We’re all pretty stoked.

Have you been through the U.S. so many times that you know where all the good places are to eat in each city?

Pretty much. We pretty much know. A lot of us are vegan actually so we’ve been around so many times we know of a vegan restaurant or something vegan friendly in pretty much every city we play in. It’s pretty much set in stone at this point where we’re going to eat.

Tell me about this video for ‘Obfuscation,’ well, it’s really a short film isn’t it?

Yeah I guess that’s how it’s being portrayed, as a short film, mainly because we’re not in it at all. It’s based around Tommy’s lyrics for that song, and it’s just kind of a weird, weird video. It’s definitely pretty strange. It’s a short film and our song is sort of a backdrop for the film. I think it’s pretty compelling, some of the imagery and stuff is really cool, so we dig it.

How involved was the band in it?

Well, for one, we were on tour, so we didn’t have time to be involved in a physical sense. So the director sent us his idea from reading the lyrics and listening to the song and he sent us a treatment for it, and we were like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of cool, kind of out there.’ Sort of Twin Peaks-ish, had this David Lynch quality. We just put the ball in his court and he went for it and we were cool with it, so we weren’t really involved too much beyond just sort of approving his idea.

I was flipping out because the main jester dude looked like Rip Torn for a second. I was going, ‘How the hell did they get Rip Torn to be in the Between The Buried And Me video?’

That’s weird because I thought the same thing when I saw it.

For Colors, and in general, you guys haven’t really been into videos. Was this just a function of someone had a good idea and you went with it?

Yeah. For Colors obviously all the songs are really long and we were like, ‘A video’s not really going to help us out and we’re gonna have to edit the song, so screw it.’ This time came around and for some reason, I don’t know why, our mentality changed. We were just like, ‘Let’s do a video and see what happens.’ It’s part of our budget, I guess, that we can do a video. We just sort of went for it. Our mentality sort of did a 180. We went from thinking that videos were a waste of time to thinking that ‘Hey, maybe it would be cool to have a tangible video for one of the songs.’ We just decided to go for it.

It becomes sort of this viral internet thing. It’s just another marketing tool I guess. There’s not really a medium for a ten minute long metal video anymore other than the Internet. The Internet is so huge and such a big deal that maybe it is worth it and maybe it is more important than ever to have something floating out there for someone to see.

The Great Misdirect has been out for just about three months. Since you’ve had a little time away from creating it, have your thoughts on it changed?

Well, I’m still proud of it. It’s our best record I think, and I love the diversity in it, I love the moodiness of it, and we’re just starting to play some of this stuff live, and I think when you start playing it live, you have a different take on the material. For me it’s still fresh, I still feel like even though we recorded it a long time ago, we’re just now starting to play it out. The material is still fresh, it feels like the songs are still new. I’m sure at the end of this tour, I’ll feel differently about it, but I still look at it as fresh new music that we’ve created. I’m not bored of it yet. It’s still exciting to me. When we play the songs it’s still fun for me—I guess that’s how I look at it now.

Do you find yourself getting bored of old material?

Yeah, some of the old songs that we’ve been playing for six years or something, it gets a little tiresome. You feel like you’re on autopilot. Not that it’s not fun to play, obviously the crowd still loves though songs, but to keep your attention playing-wise, it gets a little old I guess.