Since forming in 2000, The North Carolina-based progressive/tech-metal quintet Between the Buried and Me has issued a number of cosmic opuses such as Coma Ecliptic, The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, and The Parallax II: Future Sequence. The band’s newest offering, Automata [Sumerian]—a daring double-CD concept album—takes things even further by asking the question, “What if dreams could be broadcast for the purpose of entertainment?”
The group’s guitar team of Dustie Waring and Paul Waggoner layers 3-D cinematic soundscapes throughout Automata, but they don’t skimp on scorching 6-string solos. When asked if they consider themselves shred stars for a new generation, they both answer in the affirmative.
“Count us in!” says Waggoner. “It’s a big compliment to be called a shredder—particularly in this world of insane guitar players.”
“In our formative years, all Dustie and I wanted to do was shred,” adds Waring. “To me, what’s cool about shred guitar is that it’s always changing. You had guys who put the genre on the map in the ’80s, but look where we are now with guys like Tosin Abasi. Part of the shred tradition is to always push things forward.”
How exactly would you say you’re helping to redefine shred guitar?
Waggoner: Well, we’re not trying to play faster and faster. Instead, we want to be creative with song structures and the heaviness of the music. With us, it’s not about sweep arpeggios at 250bpm—although, we do like to play fast when it sounds good [laughs].
Waring: Like with this new record, when you’re writing riffs and solos to further the narrative flow of a storyline, you want your dynamics to match the concepts. That’s an important thing, because a lot of shred guitarists don’t think about dynamics. Everything is fullburn all the time.
Which shred guitarists were the meat and potatoes of your diets growing up?
Waggoner: Definitely, Dimebag [Darrell] for both of us.
Waring: Being in a progressive band, we’ve always enjoyed John Petrucci, as well. He’s so creative. Andy Timmons is another guy. He might be my favorite shredder. He’s super tasty, but he can do all the wild stuff.
Waggoner: I love Andy’s phrasing and his sense of melody. I would also say that every guitar player in our peer group has had an ongoing Steve Vai obsession. He dominates the instrument in a way that few others ever have. Plus, there are the old-school fusion guys, such as Allan Holdsworth, Pet Metheny, and John Scofield. They’re not prototypical shredders, but they have a uniqueness that really appeals to me. They have such feel.
That’s interesting, as shred often gets a bad rap because its critics say it lacks feel.
Waring: Some of it does. There’s stuff out there that’s just tons of notes. Guys like Eddie Van Halen and Dimebag played serious riffs and solos, but they always had beautiful melodies. So it is possible to knock people out with speed, but still have feel.
There are some non-shred elements in your music—even some jazz-like splashes on Automata.
Waggoner: We cut out teeth on shred, but as the years have gone by, we’ve broadened our listening tastes. Now, we probably listen to non-shred music more than anything else, and we try to incorporate it all into our stuff.
Your rhythm-guitar sound owes more to grunge than what we think of as shred.
Waggoner: Hey, I’m a child of the ’90s, and grunge was huge with me. The Smashing Pumpkins impacted my tone a great deal. If it weren’t for Siamese Dream [Smashing Pumpkins’ second studio album, 1993], I don’t think I would have played guitar. To me, that was one of the most inspiring guitar albums of the whole generation.
Paul, you have an Ibanez signature model, and Dustie plays a signature PRS. Did you choose specific brands to complement each other’s sound?
Waring: We both wanted a saturated and spongy gain sound, but I’ve always been kind of a dark guy, and Paul was more the bright guy. I think the two brands we play facilitate that sonic difference.
Waggoner: When you put those sounds together, it produces a wider sonic spectrum, and we’re not fighting each other in the mix.
Are your amp and effects setups vastly different?
Waring: Paul and I both run very similar setups. We both use the Fractal Axe-FX II XL+ through a Mesa/Boogie Stereo Simul-Class 2:90, and we get tremendous low-end clarity with Port City vertical 2x12 OS cabs. We’ve never been into running direct, so by using a tube power amp, the tones are exactly like the amps we’re modeling. I also use a Port City Salem Boost to give me a little extra volume for solos and clean tones. All my tones and effects are from the Axe-FX.
Waggoner: I control the Axe-FX with a Rocktron MIDI Raider. That system allows me to get all the amp tones and effects for our entire catalogue, but I can still retain the warmth and feel of tube power. I run a select few stompboxes, as well, but 90 percent of my effects are sourced from the Axe-FX.
What kind of practice routine do you guys have these days?
Waring: I’m not sure that either of us sits down and practices shredding. At this point in our lives, hitting 57 notes a second isn’t as important as doing something that’s tasteful and has attitude.
Waggoner: I don’t want to sound like a geezer, but I’m 38 years old, and I feel like I’m kind of done practicing. Sitting down with a metronome and running scales is uninspiring. I did that for hours and hours when I was younger, but now I want to write music from the heart.
Waring: That doesn’t mean we don’t like to rip, though. We still want to shred—we just like to do it our own way.
Waggoner: As people should. Take the best from the past and go forward. Do your own thing.