Trioscapes Interview with Dan Briggs ‘Bassist’ by Ben Spencer

Between The Buried and Me have had a busy and meteoric rise in their career over recent years. Having released Colors in 2007 the band have produced some of the best and most versatile Progressive Death Metal in around and toured with Dream Theater and Opeth, two of the many big names that these guys have earned the right to share a stage with.

Last year the band was signed to Metal Blade records and subsequently released The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues which is the first instalment of a two piece concept record.

Stepping aside from their recent success, Bass guitarist Dan Briggs, forms a jazz fusion side project called Trioscapes; where today I get to chat to him at home through Skype!

Hey and Thanks for joining me today!
Dan: No Problem

Trioscapes is three piece featuring a saxophonist, a drummer and yourself on bass.
Could you tell me how you guys met and formed?

Dan: It started last summer. It was my first summer off in 7 years and I wanted to do something with the drummer Matt for a few years, he played drums in my other band Orbs, it just so happened that he had nothing going on either. Our Sax player had talked for a while about writing music, it just seemed that it was the right time for people’s schedules and I wasn’t actively writing for Between The Buried and Me or Orbs it seemed like the perfect time to start something fresh.

So you guys formed back in 2011, with the intention of playing a one-off show.
How did you guys progress from this to recording a whole album and booking up several shows?

Dan: We put the basis of our set together and one of the songs ‘Separate Realities’ and had an easier arrangement, I guess and it basically once we got together an started practising together we were like “Ok not only is this really intense music that requires alot of concentration it was also something that was really fun”.
It was something that was pretty different for all three of us, so it seemed like something that would go beyond one show.

Your bio also states that the popular demand you received from “Blast Off” also played a part in your decision to continue making music together.
Could you tell me a bit more about the reception you’ve received so far?

Dan: It’s been pretty good. I never usually read much into reviews, be in fan or critic. I’ve kind of learned that over the years with Between the Buried and Me,I don’t really think much into it. It seems like the people who understand what Trioscapes is an instrumental fusion of sorts. I feel we’ve kind of fused progressive rock with sort of quasi-jazz elements. People who seem to understand that seem to like the music.
There are those who don’t really get instrumental music at all who probably never have heard fusion music before. I read a review stating that we had too many Sax solos going on, I didn’t really know how to react to that it’s like “Have you ever listened to fusion music?”, that’s a part of it!

I think a lot of people think that our music is largely improvised but it’s not at all. A lot of Walter’s solos are improvised and so are some of mine but there’s a lot of focus with composition and arrangement of the group, but I think some people get that and some people don’t. I think it’s more fun to play live, there’s a lot of energy and people can see the three of us going nuts.

How does playing bass in Between The Buried And Me and Trioscapes differ?
Are there any new challenges that you face playing in this band that you haven’t found previously?

Dan: Yeah (pauses to think)
Doing this group has made me really re-connect, with bass being my main instrument I write alot of music on guitar with Trioscpaes and I made a very conscious decision to stick to bass with some underlying keyboard melodies, but mainly just on bass.
I think it’s really improved my playing alot.
Whether it’s being really solid; as I’m the only electrified instrument in the band, with the distortion on it feels like I’m playing lead guitar lines.
As well I’m creating extra layers, which I’ve never done before in another group, but just seemed really appropriate for this.

With this in mind, In Between the Buried and Me, your bass solo moments certainly don’t go overlooked, especially in songs like ‘Viridian’ and ‘Disease, Injury, Madness’ I was wondering if these moments played any part in the motivation of forming your own side project?

Dan: I think it just naturally happened as there’s only the three of us.
I think when we were putting music together for the first show we were playing that it was almost kind of like ‘Let’s get together as much as we can’, so I thought that’d leave more room for solos. But I think really the main thing is really seeing what we really can do with just the three of us. Whether that means having bass solos, bass playing lead melody while Walter is playing over it. We’re really just trying to see how much we can do with the three of us, it’s basically a fun experiment.
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On a personal note, could you tell me when in your life you started playing bass guitar? How long did it take to become to reach the level your at now?

Dan: I started playing when I was 12. I was playing guitar a few years before that as my mum got me started as she was a music teacher. I went to classical guitar lessons and I switched because I wanted to be in a concert band, but there wasn’t room for guitar, so my teacher told me I could play bass instead.
I was reading music and obviously playing completely different music from what I play now (laughs).
When I was in middle school I was able to be in a jazz band so I was reading actual bass charts and in high school I started playing the upright Bass in an orchestra. I did that all through high school and then I studied upright bass for a year and a half at college.
Then I moved down here to join Between The Buried and Me and I would say it was probably when I was 16 when I decided playing bass was for going to be my focus.
I was playing bass in my first band and it just kind of clicked with me.

What was the first song you ever learnt to play on Bass?

Dan: Honestly, I wish I could remember!
When I started playing Bass I was trying to do everything, I could do on guitar.
Right from the get go when I picked up a bass it was like, I was all trying to shred.
The stuff I was into on guitar at the time was Metallica: Master of puppets and I would always learn the leads and rhythms, which then led to 90’s hardcore which then somehow led to Dream Theater.
I never studied electric Bass, naturally I started playing with my fingers, I might not have the greatest 100% technique on earth, but I’ve always been able to make my small hands do whatever I wanted to do.
As time went on I found a series of bass players I really loved, which I tried to emulate their style as well as maintaining my own.

If you could have a guest vocalist, anyone in the world to feature on one of your tracks (regardless of how big or small they may be) who would it be and why?

Dan: It would have to be someone who uses there voice as an instrument, kind of like Mike Patton, in certain groups his done and John Zorn projects and stuff. I don’t know, I’d be curious to even work with bands where I’ve worked with like Adam from Orbs and Tommy from Between The Buried and Me.

In a lot of metal bands these days I feel that the bass guitar can sometimes be an overlooked instrument within a band, with guitarists shredding away, blast beats pounding from drummers and with throat tearing shrieks from singers, I was wondering if whether there are any other bass guitarists out there that you particularly admire?

Dan: I love the way the bass is used in Cynic all their records in the mid 90’s when their first record came out, they’d use a fretless bass, but it’s tough as there’s so much going on in metal music that the bass kind of gets buried.
Some of my bass influence comes from bock, when he wrote his music either in a small group or his bigger orchestral stuff, there was also an emphasis on using the Bass as in like a counterpoint/counter-melody sense where the melody would get tossed around from the violins, Chellos, bass and back around.

When I was in high school and really working on building a repertoire in classical music I really fell head over heels for his stuff and just Baroque music in general and I think you can hear alot of that influence of that in Between the Buried and Me.
With the music me and Paul have written over the years, Paul (Between The Buried And Me lead guitarist) writes alot of lines that are kind of in that vibe and since Colors, I’ve written alot stuff like that too. Paul will write a melody and I’ll write a counter-melody on guitar with him, then I’ll totally re-arrange another layer of that on Bass.
I’ve honestly tried to that in parts that aren’t even Baroque sounding, I do it over Death Metal parts and melodic parts.
When I’m given a riff by Dusty (Between The Buried And Me rhythm guitarist), who writes the more straight forward Death Metal parts, he usually gets a part where I’ll try an hear the accent in it and those accents are things I have to pick up.
I’ve always heard a bouncy bass part in there and I think it’s always been a natural inclination to add that extra layer.

I think with alot of metal bands they don’t even think about it.
Bands will either write a reduction of what the guitars are doing or they’ll just follow it 100 per cent and I think that me being someone who doesn’t really come from a metal background I think let’s bring up the bass more in our music naturally.

If Trioscapes were to hit the road and go on tour, are there any bands that you’d like to tour with? Are there any other bands out there that you think would complement the sound you guys have got going on right now?

Dan: I’ve been thinking about that!
I just heard a band called Diablo Swing Orchestra and they’re so cool, it’s really dark/heavy cabaret circus music and it’s so awesome.
So far in the shows we’ve played with metalcore bands, free- jazz bands, indie rock bands, rock progressive bands and its really cool.
I feel there’s a freedom with this band to where we can kind of break boundaries and we’re not stuck with playing with just instrumental bands, so I’m curious to see who we get matched up with in the future.
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What are your plans for the rest of the year once the album ‘Separate Realities’ is released on 5th August 2012?

Dan: The rest of the year is pretty much mapped out!
Tomorrow I’m back in the studio with Between The Buried and Me and Blake will start tracking drums.
Yesterday was the first day I was able to play throughout he record from start to finish and that was a good feeling. We will probably be in there for mid to late June, after that we hit the road with Trioscapes for a couple of weeks.
Mid July to late August Between The Buried And Me will be out in the States and then September I’ve got a tour with Trioscapes, then October Between the Buried and Me will be in the UK and Europe and our album will be out around then and then in November!

I’m trying to be out there with Trioscapes and once the New Year hits it’ll be our time to do The Parallax tour in the States. So it’s going to be an exciting year!!

Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you!