I assume it’s easy to look back at the aughts and be dismissive of the entire decade particularly from the perspective of metal or punk fan. Nu-Metal was slowly being phased out as any goodwill from the previous decade had eroded and acts like Simple Plan and Good Charlotte made everyone realize that maybe the idea of Pop-Punk was a mistake. But those who kept their ear close to the ground knew better than to become jaded. Hard rock was alive and well and young bands were doing very exciting things. Young bands like Between the Buried and Me with their seminal Alaska (Victory Records 2005/Craft Recordings 2020).
It’s been a long two years of waiting for UK fans of prog metal pioneers Between the Buried and Me. Now, fresh from the summer release of the widely acclaimed Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade), Ghost Cult caught up with BTBAM’s guitarist Dustie Waring on their current world tour, ahead of their recent London show.
There have been some fantastic reviews for the new record; you must be really proud of it?
Yeah, we are. It was something really different for us, musically. We try to never repeat ourselves so the fact that people like it and support us is giving all of us a pretty incredible feeling.
When you’re in a band like BTBAM that have so many ideas going around, how do you decide between what’s working and going to work and what should be discarded?
There’s always a lot of ideas because everyone in the band contributes but the process is a fairly straightforward one: if we like something collectively, it’s in. If a piece doesn’t fit quite right in one place but is going to fit in another then we simply move stuff around: it’s pretty democratic and open.
Did you have any arguments you had when making the record?
You know, we don’t have arguments. At all. We are a very rare band in that regard. I guess we are like brothers, like family. Don’t get me wrong: we are all brutal with each other from a sense of humour perspective; we have a very dark sense of humour, but there’s never ever been arguments in our entire career – we just don’t do that.
When it comes to the live show, given the vast range of styles, how do you pick what should go into the BTBAM set?
Dan (Briggs, bass guitar) keeps a log of every set list from every tour so we look back and remind ourselves what we have been doing and what we have missed out on. Obviously, we are trying to promote a new record so we will be doing stuff off that, but we kinda just try to play the bangers off the important stuff. Stuff everyone likes. There’s songs from every record – almost- and a fun little encore that we do (Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, fact fans).
You’re known for having a fan base that is passionate and, dare we say, a little bit anal about everything you do; what’s the song that they always ask about that you don’t play?
Well, obviously you get some people who yell out once in a while who want some really, really old shit that was from before, like three of us were actually in the band.
So some people will shout for some stuff off the first record but those kids are like maybe 1% of our audience and we have done that and the majority of the crowd have joined us from the newer stuff, so when we are doing really old stuff they are going “Hey, is this new?!”
We understand that some people want the old stuff but, to be honest, it’s not actually that popular with the majority of our fans. Some people ask for ‘Swim to the Moon’ but that’s like 19 and a half minutes…or people ask for the full length version of ‘White Walls’ or ‘Selkies’.
We have done a version of ‘…Moon’; we do from the clean break which comes out cool. Mind you, having said all that, if people yell stuff and we are in the mood, we’ll usually find a way to play it.
When you are travelling from town to town, concert hall to concert hall, how do we keep yourselves motivated?
Honestly, it’s what we chose to do with our lives and so it’s not that much of a burden but there is another thing – there are so many bands who do so much amazing music and no one gives a shit about them and we have just this amazing opportunity to play music for a living- we aren’t rich or anything in this age of the music industry – no one is getting rich – so it cannot be about money.
I just want to play my fucking guitar. I have this great guitar company that make me my dream guitars and they customise them just for me and this band. These are the best people I could be playing with and people like us and support us and come to see us and they go nuts when we play and that’s what keeps you motivated.
We have the rare opportunity to create whatever the fuck we want and you know no one questions it. Our fans almost expect us to do weird shit now. Honestly, we all love to play music and we love our instruments and the fact that we can pay our bills just by doing this is a blessing.
You’ve spoken before of being a band with a wide range of interests and influences. What have been the things that you have loved this year?
I really, really love this new Ghost album. I was never really a fan of their older stuff – it didn’t really grab me – but the new record in particular I listen to a lot. I love it – I’d like to play with them one day. I listen to a lot of shit that people probably wouldn’t think I would listen to. For example, I have been listening to this Casey Musgraves record a lot; she is fucking awesome; I love her. I’ve been listening to a lot of SG Lewis too – really relaxed, ambient electronic stuff with pretty melodies, he’s just smooth and cool. The other band that I have been spending a lot of time listening to is Happy The Man from Washington DC. I’ve been listening to their records from the 1970s; I have been into them for a while and their album has been played A LOT.
I like a lot of country blues because the players are sooo good; I actually play with a Nashville artist when we are not on tour just to try and develop myself as much as I can and be as well rounded as I can be as a guitarist. Working with the Nashville guys is good because you have to change your phrasing completely to do that kinda stuff, it’s completely different to everything that I had learnt. I want to be good at all kinds of music not just a good metal guitarist so it’s good to test yourself; it’s good to able to improvise over a blues scale for example: that shit is important to me.
If you weren’t playing in BTBAM, who would you want to be playing with?
I have some friends from North Carolina who are in a band called He is Legend; I’ve always really enjoyed their records and Adam (Tanbouz, guitar) is a sick, seriously underrated guitar player and…. (mimes guitar picking) his hands, man – no one can sound like him. It would be cool to play with Casey Musgraves, for sure. There’s a guy in the USA called Sturgill Simpson who has this unbelievable guitar player from Estonia – can you believe that – this incredible, authentic Southern country playing and it’s a guy from Eastern Europe! It would be cool to play stuff like that….
As a working musician, have you found people more open-minded to different types of music or less so?
Oh with some bands, for sure. There still a lot of bands who keep writing the same record over and over; but over the last five years, there have been some bands doing new and interesting records. I’d say a lot is down to location and the fan bases. Fans are a lot more open-minded and accepting. Take us is an example. People totally accept us for who we are and what we do. Having said that, we are definitely taking time to build our audience. We are not an overnight sensation and we have been on a steady incline.
Do you think that is because you are not an easy band to define and because there is so much going on in your music?
Yes for sure; people have been telling us that they would listen to the record for 10-15 times and not like it and then – bang! – something happens and they are really into it. That’s cool by us. Over fifteen years we have realised that we are not doing this to get rich. We are doing this because we love music and we love playing and we hope, ultimately, that people like us.